Menu

Different nations, but one faith unites Panama's World Youth Day pilgrims

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Rhina Guidos

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Jorge Soto wore a wrestling mask typical of Lucha Libre fighters in Mexico and every few steps he took, others would sidle up to have a picture taken with him. The mask was fun to wear, and it was something associated with his native country, which he was proud to represent at 2019 World Youth Day in Panama, he said.

Other pilgrims wore the flags of their respective countries like a cape on their backs: Australia, El Salvador, Guatemala. Though World Youth Day had not officially started, it seemed as if it unofficially began Jan. 21 on the observation deck overlooking the locks of the Panama Canal, where the young -- and the young-at-heart -- formed a conga line as some beat the drums and others chanted or cheered to honor the Catholic Church, Pope Francis or Mary.

It's a time when "you feel good about everything," said Soto, attending his second World Youth Day, an experience he said helps him meet an international cast of thousands of young Catholics and find meaning in life and in his faith.

As his native country struggles with secularism, he said, "it's up to us to come up with solutions and help others not slip away from their lives of faith." Part of what World Youth Day provides, he said, is a kinship and strength in spiritual beliefs, even if people come from different parts of the world.

For 16-year-old Charlie Martin of Australia, the event presents the opportunity to come in contact with a physical reality of a Catholic Church that was alive in the Americas centuries before his native country became an independent nation in 1901, one told by the many historic buildings where Catholics in the region worship and where they have built lives of faith. But he also experienced different expressions of that faith than he's used to.

"It's been an amazing, you feel like a celebrity," he said, explaining the warm greetings expressed by Panamanians when they see the pilgrims walking about. "We walk into shopping centers and people are clapping for us."

And indeed, locals wave at buses carrying pilgrims and local businesses have placed posters on storefronts welcoming them and Pope Francis to Panama.

"It's been amazing," said 15-year-old Aubrey Tedd, also traveling with Martin. "Everyone comes together with great energy."

Though it was clear that some did not speak the same language, they still stopped to shake hands, to sing, to have photos taken together, and ultimately to spontaneously dance near the Panama Canal with people they had never met but with whom they shared some of their deepest set of beliefs.

Though most were just passing through to visit the canal, it became clear, by the flags, by the wearing of pins featuring saints and crucifixes around their necks, that most of those gathered at the site of the historic waterway had arrived for more than just tourism. So, even though there was no official plan, some, perhaps inspired by the spirit, just began shouting.

"Que viva la virgen!" some of the Mexican pilgrims began shouting, cheering on the Virgin Mary. "Que viva el papa!" they shouted, cheering on the pope. Lined against the observatory deck, they also began shouting into the warm winds near the canal "Esta es la juventud del papa!" or "This is the pope's youth."

Their joy made seminarian Hien Vu, 30, of Xuan Loc, Vietnam, smile.

"I want to experience this enthusiasm," he said. "And see the hope of the Catholic Church."

Even those who weren't Catholic, such as Jose Gonzalez, a Protestant who was visiting the canal with his Catholic wife, Silvia Lopez, from Huehuetango, Guatemala, were enjoying the moment. Gonzalez said there was much to learn from the experience of faith World Youth Day brings. In fact, it was Gonzalez who encouraged Lopez to attend World Youth Day with him; they just happened to be visiting the canal when the large group of pilgrims arrived.

"We'd heard good things about (World Youth Day)," from one of his brothers, said Gonzalez, adding that he was looking for something he and his wife could benefit from spiritually. People with different beliefs need not be at odds with one another, he said, or be afraid to learn from what the other might be able to teach because the goal is the same: unity and the need to make the world better.

Shortly after, the conga line began. The young pilgrims started it and then some of the chaperones followed.

"It's a lot of fun to be with them," Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Donald F. Hanchon told Catholic News Service.

Having spent time studying in Mexico, he is familiar with the joyful expressions of faith, particularly from the Mexican youth, he said. Hosting the event in a Latin American country can only benefit Catholics from other parts of the world, who may experience something different than what they're used to, he said.

"It's a part of the world that's worth visiting," he said.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

After initial outrage, claims of racism, clearer details of exchange emerge

IMAGE: CNS photo/Kaya Taitano, social media via Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- An exchange between Catholic high school students and a Native American tribal leader in Washington Jan. 18 was vilified on social media the following day, but the immediate accusations the students showed racist behavior have been stepped back as more details of the entire situation have emerged.

Many say the incident still needs to be investigated or discussed and others have pointed out that what happened can still provide a teaching moment not just about racism but also about news coverage and social media's rapid response.

The student most prominent in the footage, junior Nick Sandmann of Covington High School in Kentucky, issued a statement Jan. 20 saying he has "received physical and death threats via social media, as well as hateful insults" based on reaction across social media. He also said he would cooperate in any investigation church leaders plan to undertake.

The group's chaperones, also criticized on social media, said later the students "were targeted from the get-go."

On Jan. 18, tens of thousands gathered in Washington for the annual March for Life, a march along Constitution Avenue after a rally on the National Mall to the Supreme Court to mark the court's Jan. 22, 1973, decision that legalized abortion.

The march, held a few days before the actual anniversary this year, took place on the same day as the first Indigenous People's March where marchers walked in the other direction on Constitution Avenue to draw attention to injustices against indigenous people.

At the day's end, while students from Covington Catholic High School who had attended the March for Life were waiting for their buses to pick them up near the Lincoln Memorial, they met up with members of the Indigenous People's March, in particular Nathan Phillips, tribal elder for the Omaha Tribe.

In clips from a video that went viral almost immediately, students are shown surrounding the leader, who is chanting and beating a drum. They appear to be mocking him and one student in particular, who is inches away from the drummer and never moves, was accused of flagrant disrespect.

Some students in the crowd were identified by their Covington High School sweatshirts but the attire that drew the most rage was the "Make America Great Again" hats worn by a few in the group. That phrase, which President Donald Trump coined during his successful presidential campaign, has been deemed to be "racist" by his opponents.

The clip caused immediate outrage.

In response to the escalating fury and disgust on social media against these students, Covington High School and the Diocese of Covington issued a joint statement Jan. 19 saying they condemned the students' actions "toward Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general."

"We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. This behavior is opposed to the church's teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person," it said, adding that the incident was "being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion."

The school and diocese also said the event "tainted the entire witness of the March for Life" and they apologized to those who attended and "all those who support the pro-life movement."

March for Life president Jeanne Mancini also issued a statement that day saying the encounter did not represent her organization or "the vast majority of the marchers" and that the students' behavior is not welcome at the march and never will be.

The next day the March for Life said it in a tweet had deleted its original tweet about the students "given recent developments.

"It is clear from new footage and additional accounts that there is more to this story than the original video captured. We will refrain from commenting further until the truth is understood," the tweet said.

The day after the initial clip of the exchange went viral, extended footage of how the situation unfolded appeared on social media, and the students issued their own statements about it, like Sandmann, who was directly in front of the Native American drummer.

Longer videos shown online reveal that another group at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial included members of the Hebrew Israelites, who also were attending the Indigenous People's March to share their own beliefs that African-Americans are God's chosen people and the true Hebrew descendants.

Members of this group, as shown in video footage, taunted the students and some responded back. Phillips, the Native American, walked over to the students and the group, as an intervention, singing and beating a song of prayer.

Sandmann, in a statement, said Phillips "locked eyes with me and approached me, coming within inches of my face."

"I did not speak to him. I did not make any hand gestures or other aggressive moves. To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me. We had already been yelled at by another group of protesters. ... I was worried that a situation was getting out of control."

Sandmann said the group started doing school spirit chants to "counter the hateful things that were being shouted at our group" and they had asked for chaperone permission to do so.

He said he stayed motionless to help diffuse the situation and also prayed silently that it would not get out of hand.

"During the period of the drumming, a member of the protester's entourage began yelling at a fellow student that we 'stole our land' and that we should 'go back to Europe.' I heard one of my fellow students begin to respond. I motioned to my classmate and tried to get him to stop engaging with the protester," an action that can be seen on the video where he motions to the student to stop and points and nods to the tribal leader.

The student said he didn't understand "why either of the two groups of protesters were engaging with us, or exactly what they were protesting" and that his group was just there to meet a bus, "not become central players in a media spectacle."

"I was not intentionally making faces at the protester. I did smile at one point because I wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation. I am a faithful Christian and practicing Catholic, and I always try to live up to the ideals my faith teaches me -- to remain respectful of others, and to take no action that would lead to conflict or violence," he added.

The student said he has been called "every name in the book, including a racist" and has received death threats and hateful insults.

"I am mortified that so many people have come to believe something that did not happen -- that students from my school were chanting or acting in a racist fashion toward African-Americans or Native Americans. I did not do that, do not have hateful feelings in my heart, and did not witness any of my classmates doing that," he said. His statement was posted on the CNN website, https://cnn.it/2FOLNCC.

A local CBS-affiliate, WKRC in Cincinnati, also received statements from students, some who asked to remain anonymous, also saying they were unfairly portrayed in media coverage of this incident.

Chaperones, also criticized on social media, spoke to the TV station reiterating that the students had been taunted. "They were targeted from the get-go. Immediately, there were people running around filming and this isn't going to be a truthful depiction of what happened," one chaperone said.

Jesuit Father Jim Martin, an author and editor of America magazine, who was critical of the students' behavior on Twitter Jan. 19, said in a tweet the following day that he would be "happy to apologize for condemning the actions of the students if it turns out that they were somehow acting as good and moral Christians. The last thing I want is to see Catholic schools and Catholic students held in any disrepute."

He also tweeted: "We may never know exactly what happened and the various 'sides' may continue to disagree and condemn one another. But I hope the truth emerges."

He said the situation can provide a teachable moment with "important lessons about racism and marginalization, about dialogue and encounter, and about truth and reconciliation, during this coming week, which is, believe it or not, Catholic Schools Week."

Eileen Marx, a religion teacher at Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, who also is the faculty moderator of the school's diversity club, told Catholic News Service Jan. 21 that she certainly planned to discuss this incident with her classes this week in light of Catholic social teaching which "so clearly states that we are meant to live in relationship with one another, not as enemies. We are all part of the human family."

She also acknowledged that there is more to discuss now as more details of what happened after the march are emerging.

As this story continues to be sorted out, she said, she also will bring up the role of social media with her students and its power to "build up and to knock down individuals."

- - -

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

Rev. King called 'artisan of peace' and 'true witness to power of Gospel'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Yoichi Okamoto, courtesy LBJ Library

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Societies today need "artisans of peace," like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., "who can be messengers and authentic witnesses of God the Father, who wills the good and the happiness of the human family," said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Rev. King "was a messenger and true witness to the power of the Gospel lived in action through public life," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston in a statement issued for the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day Jan. 21, the federal holiday marking his birthday.

The civil rights leader was born Jan. 15, 1929, and was fatally shot April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.

"This year, as we again mark the anniversary of his life, and reflect upon the 51st anniversary of his death, we are thankful for the path forged by Dr. King and the countless others who worked tirelessly and suffered greatly in the fight for racial equality and justice," the cardinal said.

He added that the United States, "as a nation and as a society," faces "great challenges as well as tremendous opportunities ahead."

Cardinal DiNardo made reference to Pope Francis' annual message for the World Day of Peace Jan. 1. The pope said that in today's climate of mistrust, rejection and nationalism, the world urgently needs peacemakers and politicians who protect and lovingly serve others.

The cardinal also reminded U.S. Catholics that the body of bishops at their November general assembly approved a pastoral letter against racism, "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love." The full text can be found at https://bit.ly/2bRijUK.

"The letter's goal is to again name and call attention to a great affliction and evil that persists in this nation, and to offer a hope-filled Christian response to this perennial sickness," Cardinal DiNardo said in his statement, released Jan. 18. "Racism is a national wound from which we continually struggle to heal. As we wrote in the pastoral letter, 'Racism can only end if we contend with the policies and institutional barriers that perpetuate and preserve the inequality -- economic and social -- that we still see all around us."

In recalling how Rev. King "contended with policies and institutional barriers of his time, many which persist today," Cardinal DiNardo said, "we renew our pledge to fight for the end of racism in the church and in the United States.

"We pledge our commitment to build a culture of life, where all people are valued for their intrinsic dignity as daughters and sons of God. We encourage Catholics and all people of goodwill to study the pastoral letter, and to study and reflect upon Dr. King's witness against the destructive effects of racism, poverty and continuous war."

The U.S. bishops "call on everyone to embrace our ongoing need for healing in all areas of our lives where we are wounded, but particularly where our hearts are not truly open to the idea and the truth that we are all made in the image and likeness of God," Cardinal DiNardo wrote.

In conclusion, he quoted Rev. King: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

Marchers urged to stand strong, fight for life with 'compassion, hope'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Those who stand up for the dignity of life in all its stages and want to see this respect for all life enshrined once again in U.S. law have a friend in the Pence family and the Trump administration, Vice President Mike Pence told the March for Life crowd on the National Mall Jan. 18.

Pence and second lady Karen Pence were a surprise addition to the roster of speakers at the rally, and after his remarks, the vice president introduced a videotaped message by President Donald Trump, which also was unexpected.

"We're the Pences and we're pro-life," the vice president said to the cheering crowd.

"We gather here because we stand for life and believe as our Founding Fathers did that life born and unborn is endowed with certain unalienable rights, and the first of those is life," Pence said.

In his message, Trump said the pro-life movement is "founded on love and grounded in the nobility and dignity of every human life. I will always defend the first right in our Declaration of Independence: the right to life."

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, welcomed the crowd and thanked them for coming once again to march to end abortion, what she called "the greatest human rights abuse of our time."

She asked the crowd if they will keep marching to fight abortion, to march for the "poorest of the poor" and those who cannot march for themselves until "we no longer need to march" and abortion "is unthinkable." She received a resounding "yes" to each question.

Looking out from the speakers' platform, she declared the crowd to be bigger than she has ever seen in her seven years as head of March for Life.

No official crowd counts are available for such events, but ahead of this year's rally and march, organizers expected more than 100,000 to participate.

"We must keep marching for life every day of the year," Mancini said, and she asked each marcher to share his or her pro-life story on social media because even of those stories about "why we march" can change others' minds about abortion.

Before she gave her remarks, Mancini introduced Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-life Activities. He offered the opening prayer for the march and also urged the crowd to go "change the world!"

In a statement issued later in the day to mark the upcoming Jan. 22 anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Archbishop Naumann called on the faithful "to pray for an end to the human rights abuse of abortion, and for a culture of life, where through God's grace all will come to know they are made in his divine image."

The theme for this year's March for Life was "Unique From Day One: Pro-life Is Pro-science," focusing on how scientific advancements reveal "the humanity of the unborn child from the moment of conception."

In his remarks, Pence urged the pro-lifers to stand up for God's creation, spread their message with compassion and hope, and not let their detractors dissuade them.

In 1973 with its Roe decision, he said, the Supreme Court turned "its back on life" but the pro-life movement was born, "motivated by love and truth," and has been "winning hearts and minds ever since," he added.

"We know in our heart of hearts, life is winning in America once again," he said, pointing out the many pregnancy centers helping women across the nation, adoptive families "who open their hearts and homes," and pro-life leaders who have stepped up to serve in the government.

Other speakers included Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire; three members of Congress -- Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, and Reps. Dan Lipinski, D-Illinois and Chris Smith, R-New Jersey; a Democratic member of the Louisiana Legislature, Rep. Katrina Jackson; Alveda King, Priests for Life's director of civil rights for the unborn; and Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus.

Shapiro said the Democratic Party has "embraced abortion as a sacrament," but he also was critical of Republicans in Congress for not stepping up to halt federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

He said the pro-life movement has been deemed to be "out of line with society," noting that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just said that recently. The media "will ignore us," Shapiro continued, and will pay more attention to "the five who show up tomorrow," referring to the Women's March scheduled for Jan. 19 in Washington.

But it's OK to be "out of line," Shapiro said, because "righteousness doesn't have to be popular, just righteous."

Smith told the crowd that the new Democratic majority in the House "has made it clear that they want to eviscerate all pro-life protections including the Hyde taxpayer abortion funding ban which alone has saved over 2 million people from death by abortion."

After the rally, the massive crowd began heading up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court. Marchers carried signs big and small -- and some had huge banners proclaiming respect for life.

It was a multicolored sea of people, old and young, with some sporting bright blue knit hats, others wearing neon yellow hooded sweatshirts. Mixed in were Franciscans and Dominicans and other men and women religious in their habits.

Some predicted the partial government shutdown would alter the plans for the March for Life, or at least keep crowds from coming. Some worried bad weather predicted for parts of the Midwest and the Washington region would impede travelers heading East and reduce the numbers.

But there was no weather event to speak of, and the sun even shined for a time midday. The worst obstacle was a muddy Mall and some mounds of icy snow here and there -- the result of a snowstorm early in the week, and as Mancini told the crowd, pro-lifers come whether it is raining, sleeting or blizzarding.

As the March for Life rally was about to get underway, Caitlyn Dixson of Des Moines, Iowa, stood not too far from the main stage. It was her first March for Life.

She told Catholic News Service how five years ago she came close to getting an abortion but changed her mind while she was at a Planned Parenthood clinic.

Today her baby, Caden, is 4 years old and Dixson recently became executive director of Iowa Right to Life, so, she noted, it was time for her to make the march.

"Now I spend every day of my life to help young girls like me to make it possible for them to save their babies like I did mine," she said.

- - -

Follow Asher on Twitter: @jlasher

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

Youth at Mass for Life thanked for offering sign of hope for the future

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By Mark Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- They came from near and far, and even from Down Under, united in prayer and in standing together for life at the Archdiocese of Washington's annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life, held Jan. 18 at the Capital One Arena in Washington.

The estimated crowd of 18,000 came from the Washington area and from across the country and were joined by young adults from Sydney on their way to World Youth Day in Panama.

The main celebrant at the Mass, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, entered and left the arena smiling and waving a blessing to the spirited crowd of teens and young adults, many of whom wore colorful, matching hats or sweatshirts along with their school uniforms.

They had come, the archbishop said, for a day of prayer for the legal protection of unborn children and to stand up and speak out for all those who are vulnerable in society, and also "to give thanks to God for the gift of life."

"Dear young people, thank you for the witness of your Catholic faith, both now in holy Mass, on the streets of Washington, and more importantly, when you return home to your families and neighborhoods," he said.

Archbishop Pierre read a message from Pope Francis, who said he was united in prayer with the thousands of young people who had come to Washington to join the March for Life. The pontiff in his message said the challenging task for each generation is "to uphold the inviolable dignity of human life." The pope's message said respect for the sacredness of every life is essential in building a just society, where every child, and every person, is welcomed as a brother and sister.

Fifteen other bishops concelebrated the Mass including the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher who was accompanying the Australian pilgrims. About 175 priests also concelebrated the Mass, assisted by about 30 permanent deacons.

The arena crowd also included an estimated 500 seminarians and 100 women religious.

Opening his homily at the Mass, Father Robert Boxie III, the parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish in Largo, Maryland, said, "To see this arena filled with the Body of Christ, I'm looking out and seeing hope for the future of our church, and hope for the future of our country. It's an awesome and beautiful sight!"

Noting that the first reading at the Mass included the passage from Jeremiah 1:5, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you," the priest added, "The womb is the first place God encounters us. God encounters us in the womb and seeks to encounter us in each moment of our lives."

He said abortion is a symptom of a sickness in society and it shows "our failure to encounter one another and see the image of God and the face of Jesus Christ in our brothers and sisters. Simply put, it's our failure to love."

Echoing concerns raised by Pope Francis, the priest called on young people to counteract society's culture of indifference with a culture of encounter.

"Truly building a culture of life depends on how we encounter each other," he said, encouraging people not only to march for life, but to "stand up for every human life inside and outside the womb," including people in all stages of life, and also the poor, the neglected, immigrants and refugees. "All of these lives," he added, "are sacred and precious in the eyes of God."

Archbishop Fisher then greeted the young people at the arena with a friendly, "G'day!" and jokingly added that is the Australian way of saying, "The Lord be with you."

He said it was a great joy for him to accompany the young Aussies on the March for Life.

The Australian prelate said he hoped some of the young people in the arena would become priests or women religious or become "spouses and parents of the next generation of Christians' Whatever God's plan for you, know you are precious in his eyes," from the moment of conception until death, he said.

Sister Maria Juan, a Religious Sister of Mercy of Alma, Michigan, served as a master of ceremony for the youth rally, and at the end of Mass, she noted the bishops and the large numbers of priests, women religious and seminarians there, and the crowd gave them sustained applause. Some of the young people stood to indicate that they were discerning a vocation, and they too were applauded.

The sister noted that "in the church today, we are experiencing a lot of trials," but she added through the 2,000-year history of the church, "at those exact moments, God also raises up great saints to be light in the darkness."

She added, "Always remember it is Jesus Christ calling you to this, the church loves you and the world needs you."

The Mass's program encouraged young people to continue their advocacy for life after the march, by doing things like volunteering at a pregnancy center, starting or joining a pro-life club, educating peers on chastity and the church's teaching on life, being open and loving to teens in crisis, and praying for mothers, fathers and unborn children.

The Mass ended on a joyful note, as the congregation sang the song, "Your Grace is Enough," and some of the bishops and priests as they processed out, waved to young people in the different sections of the arena.

- - -

Zimmermann is editor of the Catholic Standard, archdiocesan newspaper of Washington.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

Report says accurate number of children separated at border is unknown

IMAGE: CNS photo/Leah Millis, Reuters

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A report published Jan. 17 says the number of immigrant children separated from their parents at the border last year is unknown and the number given out by government officials at the end of 2018, saying that 2,737 children were separated, is not accurate. The number may be much higher.

The separations officially reported were those that took place between July and November 2018, when then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced what he called a zero tolerance policy, which meant that undocumented migrant parents caught crossing the border with their children would risk being separated from them. After some lawsuits were filed and much public outcry, the policy was reversed.

But the report from the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services, says children had been separated from parents or guardians long before then and the Department of Homeland Security which implemented the policy, even saw an uptick in separations in 2017. Some children may also have been separated after the policy officially ended.

Several Catholic bishops last year spoke out against the separations.

"Refugee children belong to their parents, not to the government or other institution. To steal children from their parents is a grave sin, immoral (and) evil," said San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller on June 14 via Twitter. "Their lives have already been extremely difficult. Why do we (the U.S.) torture them even more, treating them as criminals?" he continued.

Bishop Daniel E. Flores of the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, also said via Twitter on May 31 that "separating immigrant parents and children as a supposed deterrent to immigration is a cruel and reprehensible policy. Children are not instruments of deterrence, they are children. A government that thinks any means is suitable to achieve an end cannot secure justice for anyone."

At the height of the separations in July 2018, Bishop Flores joined a group of top prelates who visited one of the detention centers where the minors were detained and the "respite center" for families who had recently crossed the border near the McAllen, Texas run by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.

Catholic organizations such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Migration and Refugee Services and Catholic Charities USA helped reunite some of the families in the summer and fall of 2018. They were among the faith organizations that helped provide food, shelter and facilities to reunite the children with their parents once again.

The report says the real number of separations may exceed into the thousands, but it's hard to pin down accurate information because of a poor tracking system and poor communication among the agencies that were involved. The office took on the task of looking at the numbers of children separated, the inspector general report said, "given the potential impact of these actions on vulnerable children."

In October, the same office that issued the report said DHS, the department tasked with implementing the policy, "was not fully prepared to implement the administration's zero tolerance policy or to deal with some of its after-effects. Faced with resource limitations and other challenges, DHS regulated the number of asylum-seekers entering the country through ports of entry at the same time that it encouraged asylum-seekers to come to the ports. During zero tolerance, (U.S. Customs and Border Protection), also held alien children separated from their parents for extended periods in facilities intended solely for short-term detention."

The department "also struggled to identify, track, and reunify families separated under zero tolerance due to limitations with its information technology systems, including a lack of integration between systems," the Office of Inspector General said in October. "Finally, DHS provided inconsistent information to aliens who arrived with children during zero tolerance, which resulted in some parents not understanding that they would be separated from their children, and being unable to communicate with their children after separation."

 

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope says it's 'grave sin' to deny God has blessed other Christians

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- Just as divisions in society grow when wealth is not shared, divisions within Christianity grow when the richness of gifts God has given to one Christian church or community are not recognized and shared, Pope Francis said.

"It is easy to forget the fundamental equality existing among us: that once we were all slaves to sin, that the Lord saved us in baptism and called us his children," the pope said Jan. 18 during an ecumenical evening prayer service at Rome's Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

At the beginning of the service, Pope Francis, Orthodox Metropolitan Gennadios of Italy and Malta and the Rev. Tim Macquiban, minister of Rome's Ponte Sant'Angelo Methodist Church, paused for a moment of prayer before the presumed tomb of St. Paul.

The prayer service marked the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The theme for 2019 -- "Justice, Only Justice, Shall You Pursue" -- was chosen by a group of Christians in Indonesia.

Members of the group, Pope Francis said, chose the passage from Deuteronomy because "they are deeply concerned that the economic growth of their country, driven by the mentality of competition, is leaving many in poverty and allowing a small few to become immensely wealthy."

And, he said, "that is not simply the case in Indonesia; it is a situation we see worldwide. When society is no longer based on the principle of solidarity and the common good, we witness the scandal of people living in utter destitution amid skyscrapers, grand hotels and luxurious shopping centers, symbols of incredible wealth."

"We have forgotten the wisdom of the Mosaic law: If wealth is not shared, society is divided," the pope said.

In an analogous way, he said, Christians also tend to forget that they are brothers and sisters, equally saved through baptism.

"It is easy to think that the spiritual grace granted us is our property, something to which we are due, our property," the pope said. Or one group of Christians can be so focused on the gifts they have received from God that they are blind to the gifts God has given others.

"It is a grave sin," he said, "to belittle or despise the gifts that the Lord has given our brothers and sisters, and to think that God somehow holds them in less esteem."

God's grace, the pope said, must never "become a source of pride, injustice and division."

The path to Christian unity, the oneness that Jesus prayed his disciples would have, begins with humbly recognizing that "the blessings we have received are not ours by right, but have come to us as a gift; they were given to be shared with others," he said.

Connected with that, he said, is an acknowledgment of "the value of the grace granted to other Christian communities."

"A Christian people renewed and enriched by this exchange of gifts will be a people capable of journeying firmly and confidently on the path that leads to unity," the pope said.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

'So small a thing' can be a big deal, bishop says at march vigil's end

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Bishop Barry C. Knestout of Richmond, Virginia, quoted from Catholic author J.R.R. Tolkien to make a pro-life point during his homily at the Jan. 18 Mass that closed the Vigil for Life.

"In J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings,' there is a passage where Boromir, a lord of Gondor, is tempted by the Ring of Power. He holds it up, while being tempted to use its power to defend his people, and he says: 'The ring! Is it not a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt for so small a thing? So small a thing!'"

But those small things can be big deals, Bishop Knestout said at the Mass, celebrated at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

He pointed to three small things: the splitting of the atom, the invention of the microchip, and the development of the birth control pill.

With the first, "unbelievable destructive power is unleashed when that stability and union of the atom is broken," Bishop Knestout said. "When these are in their right relationship, stability and peace are the result." When they are not, he added, the result can be destruction "almost beyond our imagination."

Because of the microchip's ubiquitousness, "communication and communicator are divided," he said. "Before this technology, both communicator and communication were present at the same time, and you must deal with the person in front of you -- not some anonymous, abstract entity or idea that can be attacked or discarded easily."

With the pill, Bishop Knestout said, "life and love, husband and wife are divided. Union and communion with one another and with God is broken. From this is unleashed the destruction of the family, right relationships between human beings. What results are broken families, societies and cultures."

Bishop Knestout remarked on how Washington, site of the March for Life, has also been the site of division.

"We celebrate this Mass for Life just a few months after the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of 'Humanae Vitae,'" which proscribed the use of artificial contraception, he said.

"We celebrate this Mass for Life in the city of Washington, the nation's capital, where the pill was approved by the FDC in 1960, where the American 'Humanae Vitae' crisis was centered in 1968, where the Supreme Court decided that abortion was a constitutionally protected right in 1973, and where the sexual abuse and church leadership crisis has been centered in 2018," Bishop Knestout added.

"It is a strange fate that these have all occurred here, but it has a lesson for us. These secular and ecclesial crises can be linked together through a small but challenging teaching."

Many of the things St. Paul VI predicted "if society came to accept the idea that the unitive and procreative ends of marriage could be separated" have come to pass, Bishop Knestout said.

The bishop included among them "the general lowering of morals in society," "the objectification and attacks on the dignity of women," "widespread pornography, and addiction to it," and "coercion by the state in matters of reproduction and family life."

"Promiscuity, abortion, in-vitro fertilization, surrogacy, homosexual activity, same-sex marriage, partial-birth abortion, sex-selection abortions, genetic abnormality abortion -- all flow from this division," he said.

The "remedy" Bishop Knestout suggested: "We must return to the Gospel, and the teachings of Christ. ... The remedy is embracing the face of God in each person and embracing what the church teaches about human life. When we do that, we need not fear the dark of night, or the discord of nations."

- - -

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

'Deception' guided court cases that legalized abortion, archbishop says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The two Supreme Court cases that legalized abortion virtually on demand in the United States were based on "deception," said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas.

"The late Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade, lied about being gang-raped," said Archbishop Naumann, new chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities. "After her pro-life conversion, Norma acknowledged that she was deceived by her attorneys about the reality of abortion. For the last 20 years of her life, Norma McCorvey labored tirelessly to overturn Roe v. Wade."

In his homily at the Jan. 17 March for Life vigil Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, Archbishop Naumann said, "The late Sandra Cano, the Jane Doe of the Doe v. Bolton decision, never wanted an abortion."

He added, "Her lawyers, whom she had engaged to assist with regaining the custody of her children, used her difficult circumstances to advance their own ideological goal to legalize abortion. She actually fled the state of Georgia, when she feared that her lawyers and family members intended to pressure her to actually have an abortion."

Archbishop Naumann also touted another early figure in the abortion debate, Dr. Bernard Nathanson.

"Nathanson, one of the founders of NARAL and himself an abortionist, became pro-life not because of theology or any religious sentiment, but from his own study of the scientific advancements in embryology and fetology," he said. "While it is true that Dr. Nathanson eventually became Catholic, it was long after he had become a pro-life advocate because of science."

Archbishop Naumann criticized one of the consequences of legal abortion.

"Protecting the life of the unborn children is the pre-eminent human rights issue of our time, not only because of the sheer magnitude of the numbers, but because abortion attacks the sanctuary of life, the family. Abortion advocates pit the welfare of the mother against the life of her child," he said.

"Every abortion not only destroys the life of an innocent child, but it wounds and scars mothers and fathers who must live with the harsh reality that they hired someone to destroy their daughter or son. In reality, the welfare of parents and their child are always intimately linked."

Archbishop Naumann also took note of the legal and political landscape surrounding abortion.

"We assemble in 2019 with some new hope that the recent changes in the membership of the Supreme Court may result in a re-examination and an admission by the court of its tragic error 46 years ago," he said, referring to the addition of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. "We pray that state legislatures and the people of this country will again have the ability to protect the lives of unborn children."

He added, "At the same time, we are sobered by the ferocity and the extremism of the proponents of legalized abortion as evidenced in the recent confirmation process to fill a vacancy on the U. S. Supreme Court. Recently, two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned the suitability of a judicial nominee because of his membership in an 'extremist organization'" -- and here he paused to make a face, as if he couldn't believe what he was about to say next -- "the Knights of Columbus."

The Mass, which brought an estimated 10,000 people into the basilica's Great Upper Church, was not as filled with pomp and grandeur. The entrance procession, for instance, lasted 17 minutes -- less than half the 35 minutes recorded in some past years.

Also, after the prayers the faithful, all at Mass read aloud a "Prayer for Healing Victims of Abuse," which read in part, "Gentle Jesus, shepherd of peace, join to your own suffering the pain of all who have been hurt in body mind, and spirit by those who betrayed the trust placed in them. Hear our cries as we agonize over the harm done to our brothers and sisters."

Archbishop Naumann also mentioned the abuse crisis in his homily.

"For all Catholics, the last several months have been profoundly difficult. We've been devastated by the scandal of sexual misconduct by clergy and of past instances of the failure of bishops to respond with compassion to victims of abuse and to protect adequately the members of their flock," he said.

"The abuse of children or minors upends the pro-life ethic because it is a grave injustice and an egregious offense against the dignity of the human person," he said. "Moreover, the failure to respond effectively to the abuse crisis undermines every other ministry in the church."

- - -

Follow Mark on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

Take charge of your roots, culture, pope tells indigenous youths

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said that in order to face the challenges ahead, young indigenous men and women must protect and never forget their roots and their cultures.

In a video message sent to the World Meeting of Indigenous Youth in Soloy, Panama, Jan. 18, the pope urged the young people to "be grateful for the history of their people," which will help them "go forward full of hope."

"Return to your culture of origins," he said. "Take charge of your roots, because from your roots comes the strength to make things grow, flourish and bear fruit."

According to a press release, over 2,000 indigenous young people were expected to attend the Jan. 17-21 meeting to prepare for World Youth Day in Panama.

The pope, who will arrive in the country Jan. 23, said he looked forward to meeting them at WYD and said their presence would be a way "of showing the indigenous face of our church" as well as being a confirmation of the church's "commitment to protect our common home."

The gathering of young indigenous men and women, he added, will "stimulate the search for answers from an evangelical perspective to the many scandalous situations in the world such as the marginalization, exclusion and impoverishment that condemn millions of young people, especially youths from the original peoples."

"Take charge of your cultures, take charge of your roots!" Pope Francis exclaimed. "A poet once said that 'everything that blooms from a tree comes from that which is underground,' the roots. But roots that grow toward the future, projected toward the future. This is your challenge today."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

Without a voice at home, Nicaraguans ask Washington-based OAS for help

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rhina Guidos

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- For a few hours, Gio Gomez left the warmth of the Florida sun and headed north toward an arctic blast in Washington. She protected herself from the winter breeze while wrapped in a yellow and white Vatican flag outside the building of the Organization of American States, the place where diplomats and an array of officials from the three American continents Jan. 11 were weighing "the situation in Nicaragua."

She made the trek from her home in the Miami-Dade area to Washington, she told Catholic News Service, to show support for the Catholic clergy in the Central American nation of Nicaragua.

Her native country has, for almost a year, been undergoing a crisis involving a government accused by detractors, like Gomez, of killing and injuring its citizens, violating their human rights (as well as their right to free and fair elections), threatening independent media and usurping power.

In the middle of it all, the Catholic Church in Nicaragua, from its bishops to the laity, has been in the thick of the drama. The country's bishops attempted to dialogue with the government after massive protests and unrest erupted in April 2018 when Ortega administration officials announced a plan to reduce pensions as a cost-cutting measure while increasing employee contributions to the social security system.

Though the government rescinded the proposal, the violent reactions toward it yielded hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries after police and pro-government forces clashed with dissenting civilians.

The country, which had showed modest but stable economic growth, also plummeted financially, resulting in even more public demonstrations of discontent. Those demonstrations migrated beyond the borders of Nicaragua. They regularly occupy space on Twitter via the hashtag #SOSNicaragua and expanded abroad in places like Washington and Florida, where Nicaraguan expats who feel they cannot be heard at home, are urging multilateral organizations such as the OAS to act against the government of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, whom they largely blame for the crisis.

"Gentlemen, ladies, don't be indifferent, they're killing people," Gomez shouted in Spanish. She was with about 200 other Nicaraguan immigrants outside the OAS building in Washington, as the regional forum met to weigh what action, if any, to take.

Luis Almagro, secretary-general of the Washington-based OAS, an organization of 35 independent states from North, Central and South America, called for the urgent session in January to address the allegations against Nicaragua, an OAS member state.

During that meeting, Paulo Abrao, executive secretary for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH for its Spanish acronym), said the organization had determined that 325 Nicaraguans had died and at least 2,000 had been injured since anti-government demonstrations began in April 2018.

At least one of those deaths included the killing of a student from a Jesuit high school in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua. Alvaro Conrado Davila, 15, a student at the Loyola Institute, died April 20, 2018, after being hit in the throat by a rubber bullet.  

But Nicaragua Foreign Minister Denis Ronaldo Moncada Colindres disputed the accusations against his government. In a scene reminiscent of the Cold War, he accused the OAS secretary-general during the meeting of being a pawn of the U.S., reminded representatives of member states gathered in the room of "Yankee troops" marching into other Latin American countries and of past interventionism in the region, and said if illegal action was taken against Nicaragua, they could be next.  

"The government of Nicaragua rejects and condemns this convocation," he said, accusing Almagro of supporting terrorist groups that advocate overthrowing legitimate governments such as the one run by Ortega and Murillo.

But even the legitimacy of the Nicaraguan government is in question. The Ortega administration, which has ruled the country for more than a decade, has been accused of using the country's judicial system to quash any significant political opposition groups. The administration exerts control over all branches of government.

Moncada Colindres classified those opposing Ortega as terrorists or as paid actors of the "ultra-right" of the United States, posing as pacifist workers for nongovernmental organizations, he said, but intent on attempting a coup. He used the example of a priest in Nicaragua threatening violence against local police. Media reports said the priest was trying to calm the situation by marching through the streets with the Eucharist.

Though the relationship between the government and a church on the side of the Nicaraguan people seems tense at best, it wasn't always so.

In a Jan. 3 telephone interview with CNS from Managua, Catholic journalist Israel Gonzalez Espinoza explained that in the past Catholic authorities had worked with the Ortega government, including in an effort that resulted in 2006 with getting a national law approved that banned abortion. The relationship between the church hierarchy and government was "cordial," Gonzalez said, and differences were discussed privately.

In 2014, the country's bishops met with Ortega and presented him with a document, an "X-ray," of the country's problems, Gonzalez said, including the need to guarantee free and fair elections in 2016. They also pointed out in the document the need to stop "political manipulation of religious symbols for political interest" and the "appropriation of terminology and values of the Catholic religion" incorporated into partisan slogans.

"They never received a response" from the administration, said Gonzalez, who covers the Catholic Church for the Spanish-language online site Religion Digital.

By the time the Nicaraguan bishops met with the Ortega administration last year to try broker peace and open a dialogue following the protests, government officials had dug in their heels.

"They just wanted to talk about the economic situation, that was their 'war horse,' saying that at the international level, Nicaragua was an economically stable country" and the government shouldn't be questioned, Gonzalez said.

But since then, the economy contracted. The Inter Press Service news agency reported in September that "more than $900 million have fled the financial system" in Nicaragua since the conflict started. The economic instability seemed to fuel public shows of discontent.

Catholic churches have served as places of refuge during some of the clashes, especially since young Nicaraguans, many of them Catholic, have been involved in some of the demonstrations.

Prelates such as Managua Auxiliary Bishop Silvio Baez have come under fire and even physical attack by pro-government groups for speaking out against the Ortega administration. That's what prompted Nicaraguans abroad, such as Gio Gomez, to seek help abroad, not just for other Nicaraguans, but also the Catholic Church as an institution in Nicaragua.

"Their rights are under attack," said Gomez, waving a blue and white Nicaraguan flag as OAS members left the building. Though no action was taken against the Ortega administration Jan. 11, the OAS is considering various upcoming diplomatic options.

Though OAS representatives from Venezuela and Bolivia backed Nicaragua, many seemed to side with Secretary-General Almagro, who offered strong rebuke during the meeting saying that the "grave" situation in Nicaragua prompted a deeper look at the country because democracy cannot exist amid repression and violation of human rights.

When a government openly violates basic human rights, he said, "it's obvious that it has forgotten that sovereignty is rooted in the people."

Referencing the OAS meeting, Nicaragua's Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes said to online news site Confidencial in early January that "if an observation has merit, I think it has to be evaluated well, and those things that need to be changed, well, they need to change, for benefit of the country."

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

Australia delegation makes pre-WYD stops at March for Life, Guadalupe

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- About 1,000 young Catholic Australians left their homeland to participate in World Youth Day in Panama.

But, since they were in the neighborhood -- well, make that hemisphere -- about half of them made a visit to Washington prior to World Youth Day to take part in the annual March for Life. The other half made a pilgrimage to Mexico City to see the site where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego.

Why, though, would Australians want to participate in the march when American law plays no role in Australian law?

"What America does in this (issue) does affect the whole world," said Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, Australia's largest city, citing the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, and how state laws are affected.

Australian law, according to Archbishop Fisher, similarly makes distinctions on what belongs in the federal purview and what is germane to its states, such as New South Wales, where Sydney is located.

Abortion is still outlawed in Australia's states, "but the courts have ruled that to save the life or health of the mother, an abortion may take place," he said.

"It's hard in Australia to get late-term abortions," the archbishop said, defining "late-term" as the third trimester.

Australia's biggest pro-life challenge is euthanasia, Archbishop Fisher said. A couple of states have already legalized the practices, and advocates of physician-assisted suicide would like to alter the law so that medical professionals "legally be required to cooperate" with any euthanasia wish, he added.

Another challenge for the Catholic Church in Australia is a Royal Commission report issued last year on clergy sex abuse.

The Royal Commission said the bishops should urge the Vatican to change canon law so that "the pontifical secret" -- the confidentiality surrounding a canonical investigation and process -- "does not apply to any aspect of allegations or canonical disciplinary processes relating to child sexual abuse."

Further, the Royal Commission asked that the bishops urge the Vatican to eliminate the "imputability test" of canon law when dealing with cases of clerical sexual abuse. This test means, in essence, that a person's level of guilt for a crime is lessened to the degree that he or she was not aware that the action was wrong; if the imputability is diminished, canon law would recommend a lesser penalty for the guilty.

The commission also recommended the bishops work with the Vatican to amend canon law to remove the time limit for commencement of canonical actions relating to child sexual abuse, but the bishops, in a response to the report, said this was already the practice in Australia.

Archbishop Fisher said two Australian states have already made it law requiring for priests to break the seal of the confessional -- a law that, as reported by Australia's state broadcaster ABC, priests have said they will not follow.

The archbishop said it was presumptuous of the Royal Commission to think that one nation's bishops would ask the church worldwide to "alter its universal teaching." He added he found it ironic that, following a recent case where a criminal defense attorney turned out to be a police informant, Australia's legal community wants to "enshrine" lawyer-client confidentiality in Australian law, yet not extend "confessional privilege" to the church.

Changes in the law, Archbishop Fisher said, would not help uncover more abuse, but would likely hinder it, as any priest considering confessing to abuse would instead not confess to keep the abuse from being reported.

Be that as it may, he added, confession is an "underutilized" sacrament in Australia. There are "church centers in the cities where thousands" of Catholic go to confession, Archbishop Fisher said, "but in the parishes, it's much, much less."

The archbishop said he hopes the Vatican meeting with the heads of bishops' conferences worldwide on clergy sex abuse drives home a few points: "that it's not Anglo-Saxon, it's not a media beat-up and it's of world proportions."

The problems surrounding the issue are "severe, they're real and they're universal" Archbishop Fisher said. "Sadly, I think there are bishops around the world who still do not get it," Archbishop Fisher said, but they should, he added, "learn from the American, the Irish and the Australian experience" before the issue comes knocking at their own door.

- - -

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Vatican releases guidelines to help church fight human trafficking

IMAGE: CNS photo/Guglielmo Mangiapane, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican has created a set of pastoral guidelines to inspire and improve the church's work in addressing the crime of human trafficking and the care of its victims worldwide.

The Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development released its "Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking" Jan. 17 at a Vatican news conference.

"Pope Francis' insistent teaching on human trafficking provides the foundation for the present pastoral orientations which draw also from the longstanding practical experience of many international Catholic NGOs working in the field and from the observations of representatives of bishops' conferences," the text said.

"While approved by the Holy Father, the orientations do not pretend to exhaust the church's teaching on human trafficking; rather, they provide a series of key considerations that may be useful to Catholics and others in their pastoral ministry, in planning and practical engagement, in advocacy and dialogue," it said.

The Migrants and Refugees Section also released a separate publication, "Lights on the Ways of Hope," which compiles Pope Francis' teachings on migrants, refugees and human trafficking.

"Its purpose is similar to that of the 'Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church,' to serve one and all as an instrument for the moral and pastoral discernment of the complex events" concerning the movements of people today, and as "a guide to inspire" people to look to the future with hope, the book's introduction said.

The nearly 500-page volume collects more than 300 complete or excerpted speeches, messages and reflections by the pope on the three themes.

Additionally, the collection is available online at https://migrants-refugees.va/resource-center/collection/ with a robust search engine to help people who are looking to study more in-depth what the pope has said, Scalabrinian Father Fabio Baggio, the section's undersecretary, said at the news conference.

While the printed volume compiles Pope Francis' teachings from 2013 to the end of 2017 in Italian and English, the online version will offer other languages and be updated with more recent talks by Pope Francis as well as the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II on migrants, refugees and human trafficking, said Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, the section's other undersecretary.

While the collected teachings offer a more academic service, the pastoral guidelines on human trafficking have the specific aim of inspiring action, aiding current efforts and reaching the long-term goal "to prevent and ultimately dismantle this most evil and sinful enterprise of deception, entrapment, domination and exploitation," Father Czerny said.

The International Labor Organization estimates there are more than 40 million victims of human trafficking around the world. It estimates 81 percent of victims are trapped in forced labor, 25 percent are children and 75 percent are women and girls. It also estimates that the trafficking of human beings for forced labor or sexual exploitation generates $150 billion a year, making it the third-largest crime industry in the world behind drugs and arms trafficking.

The complex and global nature of human trafficking requires a global and multidisciplinary response, the guidelines said.

"The booklet will help the church play its important role in this struggle," Father Czerny said, also announcing his office will host a three-day conference in April at the Vatican to discuss implementing the guidelines.

The orientations are "offered to Catholic dioceses, parishes and religious congregations, schools and universities, Catholic and other organizations of civil society and any group willing to respond," he said.

"They are for planning and evaluating practical pastoral engagement as well as advocacy and dialogue," adding that many of the points "should be read as proposals for policy" for governments.

"It is up to citizens to make it clear to their state that this is something that is going on within our borders" and requires action by the state, which is ultimately responsible for protecting the human rights and security of those within its borders, Father Czerny told reporters.

One area of concern, he said, is that the large numbers of migrants and refugees moving across borders are providing "fertile ground" for traffickers.

Looking specifically at North America's border concerns regarding "caravans" of people escaping Central and South America, he said it is "very important to see that migration policy and trafficking are linked."

"The more difficult you make it for people to move, the more likely they are to be trafficked so that is a very important consideration if we are really concerned about human rights and human dignity," said Father Czerny.

While the church has been actively engaged on multiple levels and places in the fight against trafficking for many years, "this handbook is really the first coherent publication pulled together" on the subject, making it "an important step" in this battle, he said.

The guidelines present pertinent quotes and teachings from Pope Francis and detailed input from church leaders, scholars and experts working in the field of trafficking.

They offer a reading and analysis of "Why does the depravity of human trafficking persist in the 21st century? How can it remain so hidden?" as well as an understanding of "How does the ugly, evil business of human trafficking operate?" Father Czerny said.

It concludes, he said, with action guidelines addressing, "What can be done to alleviate and eliminate human trafficking? How can it be done better?"

The 40-page booklet is available at https://migrants-refugees.va/resource-center/documents/ in formats suitable for professional reprints or for sharing online.  

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

Julliard-trained violinist returns to N.J. roots to record first album

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Lauren Desberg

By Carl Peters

CAMDEN, N.J. (CNS) -- In recent months, violinist Alana Youssefian has performed at New York City's Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall at Yale University and venues in Texas, California, Washington and Canada.

But she's coming home to New Jersey -- her hometown parish in particular -- to record her first album.

The recording will take place at St. Rose of Lima Church in suburban Haddon Heights, where her mother still is involved in the parish music program.

Youssefian, 26, attended the parish school, sang in the parish children and teen choirs, and listened to the Spice Girls with her friends. She holds degrees from Oberlin Conservatory, Rice University and The Julliard School, and she makes her living as a traveling soloist, performing Bach, Haydn and Vivaldi.

She told the Catholic Star Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Camden, that her specialty is "historical performance," often working with musicians playing historical instruments.

Because of that, Youssefian easily can be viewed as the image of sophistication and high art. And she is given to saying things such as, "I can't recommend Johann Sebastian Bach's cantatas enough."

Don't think stuffy though.

In her spare time, she reads escapist fiction and listens to the Rolling Stones and the Beastie Boys.

Moreover, those who have seen her on stage describe a magnetic and exuberant performer. One admirer has referred to her as a baroque Lady Gaga.

Pre-performance excitement is always overcome by "a feeling of pure joy," she said in an email interview.

Once a performance concludes, she said, "the joy is compounded with a feeling of gratefulness to my colleagues and audience for the support and love they give back to me."

"The most rewarding part of the job for me," she added, "is when someone comes up after a concert and says, 'I used to think classical music was boring, but you changed my mind!'"

Youssefian grew up in an atmosphere of music and faith. Her mother is a pianist, her brother is a violinist and guitarist, and her father is a drummer and guitarist.

"My mother, Ellen Youssefian, has been involved in the music program at St. Rose Church since I was a baby, and she got me and my brother involved very young," Youssefian said.

She started playing the violin at the age of 4 and eventually learned to improvise while playing hymns during church services.

"My favorite memories of Saint Rose are centered around my time in the choir, sharing beautiful music with my friends and the church community. Music has its own language and its own ability to touch people," she said.

"My mom always told me and my brother that our music was a gift to be shared with the community, and I continue to remember that even in the craziness of the professional world," she added. "I definitely consider my music as an expression of my spirituality; it has always felt like something bigger than me. I'm thankful every day that I've been given a gift that can bring so much joy to those who experience it."

As a student at Oberlin Conservatory, Youssefian became interested in historical performance.

"The approach to the music and the sound the historical instruments produce is so alive, way more relative to singing and speech," she explained. "The historical repertoire also gave us some of the most beautiful sacred music you will ever hear."

The album she will record beginning Feb. 25 is titled "Brilliance Indeniable: Virtuoso Violin in the Court of Louis XV." It will feature never-before-recorded works for violin and chamber ensemble by the French composer Louis-Gabriel Guillemain, a virtuoso violinist in 18th-century Paris.

Youssefian will be joined by friends Stephen Goist on violin, Matt Zucker on cello and Michael Sponseller on harpsichord.

The violinist chose to record the album in St. Rose of Lima Church for personal and professional reasons. She calls the church "the home of my musical upbringing." Just as importantly, the church has excellent acoustics, which she considers better than a studio.

"The type of music we will be recording is for historical instruments, which sound especially beautiful in the resonance of a church," she said.

Youssefian also will perform music from the album she is recording during a concert at the church Feb. 28.

- - -

Editor's Note: More information about Youssefian can be found online at www.alanayoussefian.com.

- - -

Peters is managing editor of the Catholic Star Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Camden.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Cardinal Wuerl acknowledges he knew of one accusation against predecessor

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a second letter issued in mid-January about what he knew and didn't regarding abuse allegations involving his predecessor, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, Washington's retired archbishop, apologized Jan. 15 for what he called a "lapse of memory," clarifying that he knew of at least one abuse allegation against former U.S. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, but he had "forgotten" about it.

In the letter sent to priests of the Archdiocese of Washington, Cardinal Wuerl acknowledged that he became aware of the allegation against now-Archbishop McCarrick after receiving a report in 2004 about a different allegation, but the "survivor also indicated that he had observed and experienced 'inappropriate conduct' by then-Bishop McCarrick."

The former cardinal is now an archbishop, having stepped down from the College of Cardinals in July 2018 following accusations that he abused minors in the past. Other accusations followed about inappropriate behavior with seminarians. He has denied the accusations, but the Vatican is reportedly considering whether to laicize him. He now is living in a Capuchin Franciscan friary in Kansas.

Cardinal Wuerl was bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 2004 and he said in the Jan. 15 letter that back then, he received a report from the Pittsburgh Diocesan Review Board, which reviews allegations of abuse, about a separate case and "at the conclusion of this report, the survivor indicated the 'inappropriate conduct'" he observed by McCarrick.

Previously, Cardinal Wuerl had said in a Jan. 12 letter that when "the allegation of sexual abuse of a minor was brought against Archbishop McCarrick, I stated publicly that I was never aware of any such allegation or rumors." But the context, he said, was in discussions about sexual abuse of minors, not adults. He said in the Jan. 15 letter that the survivor in the Pittsburgh case had asked that the matter be kept confidential, he heard no more about it, "I did not avert to it again," and "only afterwards was I reminded of the 14-year-old accusation of inappropriate conduct which, by that time, I had forgotten."

The latest letter from the cardinal came after the person who had brought up the "inappropriate conduct" allegations in Pittsburgh spoke with The Washington Post newspaper in mid-January to say that Cardinal Wuerl, indeed, knew about the concerns he had then voiced.  

Cardinal Wuerl, in the latest letter, said he apologized to this survivor "for any of the pain and suffering he endured" during the abuse he suffered, and also "from the actions of then-Bishop McCarrick."

He also said "it is important for me to accept personal responsibility and apologize for this lapse of memory. There was never the intention to provide false information."

Cardinal Wuerl has been under fire since an August 2018 report from a grand jury in Pennsylvania that painted a mixed record during his time as bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh as it pertained to handling abuse cases. The report has recently been under scrutiny, however, and since then there have been calls for the cardinal to step down from his current post.

Now 78, he had submitted his resignation to the Pope Francis when he turned 75, as required by canon law. The pope accepted it last fall and named Cardinal Wuerl as apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Washington; he' ll remain in the post until a successor is named.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope wants abuse summit to lead to clarity, action

IMAGE: CNS photos/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- At the upcoming meeting on protecting minors, Pope Francis wants leaders of the world's bishops' conferences to clearly understand what must be done to prevent abuse, care for victims and ensure no case is whitewashed or covered up.

"The pope wants it to be an assembly of pastors, not an academic conference -- a meeting characterized by prayer and discernment, a catechetical and working gathering," Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office, told reporters Jan. 16.

The Feb. 21-24 meeting on the protection of minors in the church "has a concrete purpose: The goal is that all of the bishops clearly understand what they need to do to prevent and combat the worldwide problem of the sexual abuse of minors," Gisotti said, reading from a written communique in Italian and English.

"Pope Francis knows that a global problem can only be resolved with a global response," he said.

The pope announced in September that he was calling the presidents of the world's bishops conferences, the heads of the Eastern Catholic churches and representatives of the leadership groups of men's and women's religious orders to the Vatican to address the crisis and focus on responsibility, accountability and transparency.

Gisotti said, "It is fundamental for the Holy Father that when the bishops who will come to Rome have returned to their countries and their dioceses that they understand the laws to be applied and that they take the necessary steps to prevent abuse, to care for the victims and to make sure that no case is covered up or buried."

He acknowledged the "high expectations" surrounding the meeting and emphasized that "the church is not at the beginning of the fight against abuse."

"The meeting is a stage along the painful journey that the church has unceasingly and decisively undertaken for over 15 years," he said.

In a separate communique, the Vatican press office said the meeting's organizing committee met with Pope Francis Jan. 10. The committee members are Cardinals Blase Cupich of Chicago and Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, president of the Centre for the Protection of Minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

The members informed the pope about their preparations for the gathering, which will include plenary sessions, working groups and moments of common prayer and "listening to testimonies."

Pope Francis has asked Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the former director of the Vatican press office, to moderate the plenary sessions.

The meeting will include a penitential liturgy Feb. 23 and a closing Mass Feb. 24, Gisotti said.

"Pope Francis guaranteed his presence for the entire duration of the meeting," the communique said.

The organizing committee has already informed participating bishops that they should prepare for the gathering by meeting with survivors of abuse.

"The first step must be acknowledging the truth of what has happened. For this reason, we urge each episcopal conference president to reach out and visit with victim survivors of clergy sex abuse in your respective countries prior to the meeting in Rome to learn firsthand the suffering that they have endured," said the committee in a letter released to the public by the Vatican Dec. 18.

Without "a comprehensive and communal response" to the abuse crisis, the committee said, "not only will we fail to bring healing to victim survivors, but the very credibility of the church to carry on the mission of Christ will be in jeopardy throughout the world."

The members also had sent participants a questionnaire so they could "express their opinions constructively and critically as we move forward, to identify where help is needed to bring about reforms now and in the future, and to help us get a full picture of the situation in the church."

Pope Francis, they had said, "is convinced that through collegial cooperation, the challenges facing the church can be met. But each of us needs to own this challenge, coming together in solidarity, humility and penitence to repair the damage done, sharing a common commitment to transparency and holding everyone in the church accountable."

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

Lord's Prayer is reaching out for father's loving embrace, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To pray well, people need to have the heart of a child -- a child who feels safe and loved in a father's tender embrace, Pope Francis said.

If people have become estranged from God, feel lonely, abandoned or have realized their mistakes and are paralyzed by guilt, "we can still find the strength to pray" by starting with the word, "Father," pronounced with the tenderness of a child, he said.

No matter what problems or feelings a person is experiencing or the mistakes someone has made, God "will not hide his face. He will not close himself up in silence. Say, 'Father,' and he will answer,'" the pope said Jan. 16 during his weekly general audience.

After greeting the thousands of faithful gathered in the Paul VI audience hall, the pope continued his series of talks on the Lord's Prayer, reflecting on the Aramaic term, "Abba," which Jesus uses to address God, the father.

"It is rare Aramaic expressions do not to get translated into Greek in the New Testament," which shows how special, important and nuanced "Abba" is in reflecting the radical and new relationship God has with his people, the pope said.

St. Paul, he said, wrote to the Romans that they were now "children of God, for you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, 'Abba, Father!'"

Jesus teaches his disciples that "Christians can no longer consider God a tyrant to be feared," but instead feel a sense of trust growing in their hearts in which they can "speak to the creator, calling him 'Father,'" the pope said.

The term "Abba," the pope said, "is something much more intimate and moving that simply calling God, 'father,'" It is an endearing term, somewhat like "dad," "daddy" or "papa."

Even though the Lord's Prayer has been translated using the more formal term, "Father," "we are invited to say, 'papa,' to have a rapport with God like a child with his or her papa."

Whatever term used, it is meant to inspire and foster a feeling of love and warmth, he said, like a child would feel in the full embrace of a tender father.

"To pray well, one must have the heart of a child, not a heart that feels adequate" or self-satisfied, he said.

People must imagine this prayer being recited by the prodigal son after he has been embraced by his father, who waited so long, who forgave him and only wants to say how much he missed his child, Pope Francis said.

"Then we discover how those words take on life, take on strength," he said.

People will then wonder, "'How is it possible that you, God, know only love? That you don't know hate? Where inside of you is revenge, the demand for justice, the fury over your wounded honor?' And God will respond, 'I know only love.'"

The father of the prodigal son also displays the maternal qualities of forgiveness and empathy, the pope said. Mothers especially are the ones who keep loving their children, "even when they would no longer deserve anything."

"God is looking for you even if you do not seek him," he said. "God loves you even if you have forgotten him. God sees a glimpse of beauty in you even if you think you have uselessly squandered all of your talents."

"God is not just a father, he is like a mother who never stops loving" her child.

At the end of the general audience, in preparation for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Jan. 18-25, Pope Francis said, "ecumenism is not something optional."

The purpose of the week of prayer and encounter, he said, is to foster and strengthen a common witness upholding "true justice and supporting the weakest through concrete, appropriate and effective responses."

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

Visiting bishops see 'incomprehensible complexity' of Holy Land situation

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Mazur via catholicnews.org.uk

By Judith Sudilovsky

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- Visiting with Christian communities in northern Israel and the northern Palestinian Territories has helped bishops participating in the annual Holy Land Coordination see "the great need" to promote an understanding between Israelis and Palestinians, said Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor, Ireland.

"There is ... a need to devise ways for both people to understand that, ultimately and finally, for the common good of all, a permanent and sustainable solution is needed," said Bishop Treanor. "The kind of issues at stake here are not easily resolved, but some kind of solution has to be found. It is difficult to know when that will be achieved."

"It does not make sense that people living in such close proximity should be a source of conflict," he added.

He said every generation has the responsibility to take the necessary steps to promote mutual respect and understanding. Based on the Irish experience, he highlighted the important role the international community plays in finding solutions to such conflicts.

"The kind of problems faced here ... are part of the human condition," Bishop Treanor said. "An emphasis must be on the role of the international community. The world has become more interdependent ... and the international community must be involved so that people may live in peace and harmony."

The annual Holy Land Coordination includes bishops from North America, Europe and South Africa. Based this year in the northern Israeli city of Haifa Jan. 12-17, it has focused on the challenges and opportunities for Christians in Israel. The bishops visited Christian hospitals, schools and villages in Israel. They also met with Christian religious leaders, Christian mayors from Israeli towns, members of the Israeli Knesset, academics and internal refugees from the Melkite Catholic village of Ikrit.

The diverse meetings have helped highlight the "incomprehensible complexity" of the situation, said Bishop Treanor.

"We have also seen people working for peace and justice and the promotion of mutual understanding. Those are the ingredients for a sustainable solution and hope," he said.

On Jan. 13, the bishops celebrated Mass at the Church of the Visitation in the northern Palestinian village of Zababdeh and visited the Jenin refugee camp and a school run by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine.

The school has been adversely affected by the U.S. government's withholding of funds to UNRWA, noted Archbishop Timothy Broglio, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace.

"The cutoff of USA aid is a very aggravating factor, which makes life more difficult," he said, noting that class sizes have increased to about 45 students per classroom and job training and job promotion programs had to be closed. "Those are innocent people caught in a battle."

Job promotion is critically important in helping young Christians remain in the Holy Land, he said.

He also noted the importance of meeting with the Christian community in Israel to learn about their perspective.

"They are Israeli citizens and do form a bridge. They can be loyal members of Israel as well as loyal members of our faith tradition," he said.

Archbishop Broglio said that while Christians in Israel have opportunities, they also face challenges and discrimination such as the newly passed Nation State Law, which recognizes Israel as "the national home of the Jewish people." Opponents say the law reduces non-Jews to second-class citizens.

The bishops' visit also inspires hope in the local Christian community that people abroad care about them and that will advocate for them to their governments.

In his homily at the Church of the Visitation in the West Bank, South Africa Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town told parishioners that the bishops understood the challenges they face and the importance of their presence in the Holy Land.

"We know and understand the difficult circumstances in which you live, and we also understand the important vocation you have of keeping the flame of Christianity alight in the place of the Messiah's birth, ministry, death and resurrection," he said.

Catholics cannot remain silent in the presence of untruth, injustice, hatred and violence, Archbishop Brislin said.

"The promotion of truth, love, justice and peace are integral to the mission of the church. In the presence of untruth, injustice, hatred and violence we cannot remain silent. We have an obligation to witness to the kingdom. We cannot be silent, nor can we be neutral," he said.

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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: Parish of teen who escaped abduction credits power of prayer

IMAGE: CNS photo/FBI handout via Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- For nearly three months, parishioners at St. Peter Catholic Church in Cameron, Wisconsin, were praying for the safe return of one of their own -- 13-year-old Jayme Closs.

When parishioners heard the news that she had escaped her abductor Jan. 10 and was safe, their prayers switched to gratitude.

The parish sign said, "Praise God Welcome Home Jayme," after its Mass times listing. It joined dozens of messages that had sprung up in signs and storefronts across the Wisconsin town and neighboring towns cheering the teen's safety.

"Our prayers have been answered and God is good," parishioner JoAnn Trowbridge told the local NBC affiliate, WEAU, after Jan. 13 Mass at St. Peter. She also said she thinks their prayers may have been answered because "God got sick of us nagging him."

St. Peter, in the Diocese of Superior, is where Jayme attended religious education classes and Mass with her parents, James and Denise, who were murdered Oct. 15, 2018. Their funeral Mass was celebrated at the church Oct. 27.

Superior Bishop James P. Powers said in a Jan. 11 message to priests and parish leaders that he hoped all parishes would add a "thanksgiving petition to God" during Masses that Jayme was found alive and safe. He said that during her nearly three-month captivity, she had to endure "God knows what kind of physical and mental torture as we kept her in our prayers asking for her safe return."

"We now want to keep her in our prayers asking God's healing touch on her body, mind and spirit," he said in a message posted on the Facebook page of the Catholic Herald, Superior's diocesan newspaper.

Jake Patterson, 21, has been charged with couple's murder and with kidnapping Jayme, both of which he has confessed to, according to a criminal complaint released Jan. 14 by the Barron County District Attorney.

Jayme was found in the town of Gordon, about 70 miles from her home in Barron, when she escaped the cabin in the woods where she had been held for 88 days and met a woman walking a dog who took her to a nearby home and called police.

Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald told reporters when he announced the teen's return that she was back through the "hope and the prayers in this community and what everybody did."

He also primarily praised the teen saying: "She took that first step. Taking that step was just unbelievable." He said when people talk about this kind of situation with their kids they need to advise them: "Never give up hope, keep your prayers alive. When you get into a situation, you never give up."

Jayme is currently staying with an aunt. Her grandfather told The Associated Press that she is "in exceptionally good spirits."

St. Peter Church will hold a special service of Thanksgiving for her return Jan. 20.
During the parish's Jan. 13 Mass, parishioners prayed for Jayme and her family and for all who had searched for the teen while she was missing.

They said they want her to know of their support in the weeks, months and years ahead, particularly that she can "handle this and get her life back together," as one parishioner put it.

- - -

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

Foster dialogue, promote solidarity, pope tells Academy for Life

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Marking the Pontifical Academy for Life's 25th anniversary, Pope Francis encouraged the research and advisory body to promote human solidarity and fraternity as part of its mandate to promote human life.

A sense of fraternity between people and nations has been weakened with an erosion of mutual trust and "remains the unkept promise of modernity," Pope Francis said.

"The strengthening of fraternity, generated in the human family by the worship of God in spirit and truth, is the new frontier of Christianity," the pope said in a letter addressed to Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the pontifical academy.

Speaking to reporters at a Vatican news conference Jan. 15, Archbishop Paglia said the letter's title, "The Human Community," indicated how the pope wants pro-life concerns to include a concern for human relationships -- in the family, in society, among nations as well as with creation.

"Life is not an abstract universal concept, it is the human person," and the way human beings live embedded in a specific context interwoven with others, he said.

Christians must rebuild and strengthen human bonds and relationships, the archbishop said, because "the weakening of fraternity, whether we like it or not, contaminates all the human and life sciences."

The pope sent the letter to mark the 25th anniversary of the academy's establishment by St. John Paul II on Feb. 11, 1994.

St. John Paul, the pope said, recognized the "rapid and sweeping changes taking place in biomedicine" and saw the need for greater research, education and communication aimed at demonstrating "that science and technology, at the service of the human person and his fundamental rights, contribute to the overall good of man and to the fulfilment of the divine plan of salvation."

Pope Francis said the academy's new statutes, issued in 2016, were meant to encourage its activities, expand its fields to include the rapid and complex discoveries and changes unfolding in science, medicine and technology, and recognize the social and relational effects of these new developments.

Today, the pope wrote, the human dimension is being lost.

"Mutual distrust between individuals and peoples is being fed by an inordinate pursuit of self-interest and intense competition that can even turn violent. The gap between concern with one's own well-being and the prosperity of the larger human family seems to be stretching to the point of complete division," he wrote.

People's estranged or strained relationship with others and with the earth is "the result of the scarce attention paid to the decisive global issue of the unity of the human family and its future," the pope said. It reflects the existence of an actual "anti-culture," which is not only indifferent to the community, it is "hostile to men and women and in league with the arrogance of wealth."

Progress has produced a "paradox," he said. Just when humanity has developed the economic and technological resources that make caring for the whole human family and its home possible, "those same economic and technological resources are creating our most bitter divisions and our worst nightmares."

People's awareness of this paradox often leaves them "demoralized and disoriented, bereft of vision," he said, and in even greater need of the hope and joy offered by Christ and of a taste for the beauty of a life lived in fraternity with others on the earth as a common home.

"It is time for a new vision aimed at promoting a humanism of fraternity and solidarity between individuals and peoples," Pope Francis wrote. "We know that the faith and love needed for this covenant draw their power from the mystery of history's redemption in Jesus Christ."

But, he wrote, Christians must reflect whether they have been "seriously focused on the passion and joy of proclaiming God's love for the dwelling of his children on the earth? Or are they still overly focused on their own problems and on making timid accommodations to an essentially worldly outlook?"

"We can question seriously whether we have done enough as Christians to offer our specific contribution to a vision of humanity capable of upholding the unity of the family of peoples in today's political and cultural conditions," he said.

Perhaps, he said, "we have lost sight of its centrality, putting our ambition for spiritual hegemony over the governance of the secular city, concentrated as it is upon itself and its wealth, ahead of a concern for local communities inspired by the Gospel spirit of hospitality toward the poor and the hopeless."

The Pontifical Academy for Life has an important role to play in facing this difficult challenge, the pope said. Its scientific community has shown for the past 25 years how it can enter into dialogue with the world and "offer its own competent and respected contribution."

"A sign of this is its constant effort to promote and protect human life at every stage of its development, its condemnation of abortion and euthanasia as extremely grave evils that contradict the spirit of life and plunge us into the anti-culture of death," the pope wrote.

"These efforts must certainly continue, with an eye to emerging issues and challenges that can serve as an opportunity for us to grow in the faith, to understand it more deeply and to communicate it more effectively to the people of our time," he said.

Pope Francis expressed his hope that the academy would be "a place for courageous dialogue in the service of the common good," a dialogue unafraid of advancing "arguments and formulations that can serve as a basis for intercultural and interreligious, as well as interdisciplinary, exchanges" along with discussions about human rights and duties, "beginning with solidarity with those in greatest need."

- - -

Editors: The pope's letter, "Humana Communitas" can be found in English at:
http://www.academyforlife.va/content/dam/pav/documenti%20pdf/
2019/LETTERA%20PAPA%2025anni/HC%20ENG_DEF_ENG_.pdf

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.