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Pope on interviews: Church must listen, respond to people's questions

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Replying to questions and giving interviews are a "pastoral risk" Pope Francis said he is prepared to take, because it is the best way to know and respond to people's real concerns.

"I know this can make me vulnerable, but it is a risk I want to take," the pope wrote in the introduction to a new book collecting transcripts of question-and-answer sessions he has held all over the world.

The collection in Italian, "Adesso Fate le Vostre Domande" ("Now, Ask Your Questions"), was edited by Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro and scheduled for release Oct. 19. The pope's introduction was published Oct. 17 in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

"I want a church that knows how to enter into people's conversations, that knows how to dialogue," Pope Francis wrote.

The model is the Gospel account of the risen Lord's meeting with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. "The Lord 'interviews' the disciples who are walking discouraged," he said. "For me, the interview is part of this conversation the church is having with men and women today."

The interviews and Q&A sessions "always have a pastoral value," Pope Francis said, and are an important part of his ministry, just like inviting a small group of people to his early morning Mass each day.

The chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives, "is, let's say, my parish. I need that communication with people."

And, in interviews, the journalists often ask the questions that are on the minds of the faithful, he said.

The most regular appointment he has for responding to questions is on the flights back to Rome from his foreign trips when he holds a news conference with the journalists who travel with him.

"There, too, on those trips, I like to look people in the eye and respond to their questions sincerely," he wrote. "I know that I have to be prudent, and I hope I am. I always pray to the Holy Spirit before I start listening to the questions and responding."

His favorite interviews, he said, are with small, neighborhood newspapers and magazines. "There I feel even more at ease," the pope said. "In fact, in those cases I really am listening to the questions and concerns of common people. I try to respond spontaneously, in a conversation I hope is understandable, and not with rigid formulas."

"For me," he said, "interviews are a dialogue, not a lesson."

Even when the questions are submitted in advance, the pope said he does not prepare his answers. Watching the person ask the question and responding directly is important.

"Yes, I am afraid of being misinterpreted," he said. "But, I repeat, I want to run this pastoral risk."

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Catholic group will accept Scouts' decision to allow girls to join

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By

IRVING, Texas (CNS) -- The leaders of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, which has its headquarters in the Dallas suburb of Irving, said they "accept and work with the new membership policy of the Boy Scouts of America" to admit girls.

"We were informed this morning" of the policy change, said an Oct. 11 statement by George Sparks, the national chairman of the group, and the committee's national chaplain, Father Kevin Smith, a priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York.

"Once we have had more time to review the policy and a chance to consult our national membership, we will be able to comment further about how this new policy will reflect changes in the makeup of Catholic-chartered units," they said.

Sparks told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 13 telephone interview that a member of the Scouts' executive board came to the Catholic Committee's meeting shortly after the board vote "and brought us up to speed on it."

Afterward, "we took an informal straw poll, and everybody at our meeting -- there were about 18 people at our meeting -- thought this was the right thing to do," Sparks said.

The Boy Scouts currently have 2.3 million members, less than half than the 5 million the organization had at is peak in the 1970s.

The vote to accept girls as members was unanimous, according to a spokeswoman for the Boy Scouts.

The Boy Scouts allowed gay members in 2015, gay troop leaders in 2015 and transgender members last January.

Admitting girls to the Scouts has "really been an issue that's been there, although it hasn't been on the top of the list because of the other membership-related issues the Boy Scouts of America has faced. But it was an issue that was definitely brought up at the Boy Scouts' executive meeting in May of 2017, and it was carried forth to this board meeting," Sparks said.

"It is the mission of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting to utilize and ensure the constructive use of the program of the Boy Scouts of America as a viable form of youth ministry with the Catholic youth of our nation," said the Oct. 11 statement from Sparks and Father Smith.

"The National Catholic Committee on Scouting seeks to sustain and strengthen the relationship between the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church and to work cooperatively with the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry and various other groups involved in youth ministry in the United States."

Girl Scouts leaders expressed displeasure over the summer when the Boy Scouts sought advice from its 270 councils on whether to accept girls. Girl Scouts of the USA's president, Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, in a letter to her Boy Scouts counterpart, Randall Stephenson, said the Boy Scouts should stick to recruiting "the 90 percent of American boys not currently participating in Boy Scouts."

Joseph Carballo, 70, a member of St. Helena Parish in the Bronx, New York, has two grown sons who were both Eagle Scouts. "And we all have the same view: no girls," he told The New York Times Oct. 11.

"Boys and girls should have separate organizations for activities," Carballo added. "There is an organization for girls. It's called the Girl Scouts."

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Contributing to this story was Mark Pattison in Washington.

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

Pope announces Synod of Bishops dedicated to people in Amazon

IMAGE: CNS photo/Fernando Bizerra Jr., EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Addressing the challenges of evangelization in one of the world's most remote areas and the connection between faith and environmental concern, Pope Francis announced a special gathering of the Synod of Bishops to focus on the Amazon region.

"Accepting the wish of several episcopal conferences of Latin America as well as the voice of pastors and faithful from other parts of the world, I have decided to convene a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region, which will take place in Rome in October 2019," Pope Francis announced Oct. 15.

Speaking at the end of a Mass in St. Peter's Square, the pope said the synod would seek to identify new paths of evangelization, especially for indigenous people who are "often forgotten and left without the prospect of a peaceful future, including because of the crisis of the Amazon forest," which plays a vital role in the environmental health of the entire planet.

The Amazon rainforest includes territory belonging to nine countries in South America and has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity.

The pope prayed that the synod would highlight the beauty of creation so that "all the people of the earth may praise God, the Lord of the universe, and, enlightened by him, may walk along paths of justice and peace."

The pope had spoken about a possible synod with a variety of bishops from South America, who have been making their "ad limina" visits to Rome this year. The groups included the bishops of Peru; about 60 percent of the country is in the Amazon.

In an interview published May 16 in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Archbishop Salvador Pineiro Garcia-Calderon of Ayacucho, president of the Peruvian bishops' conference, said one of the primary challenges of evangelization in the Amazon is the difficulty in physically reaching the native populations.

For example, he said, although they are in the same church province, one bishop is five hours away and another is 17 hours away.

"It's easier to meet in Rome," he told L'Osservatore Romano. "It isn't an easy area and the pope is very concerned."

The church, he said, has been the only voice speaking out in defense of the indigenous people of the Amazon. In the early 1900s, St. Pius X strongly denounced the mistreatment of the native population in the rubber plantations of Peru, Archbishop Pineiro said.

A synod, he said, would expand that message and strengthen current efforts to evangelize.

"It is difficult to evangelize the native population," Archbishop Piniero said. "Recently, the seeds have begun to be sown. Some of my brother bishops who are in that area have learned to speak the native language in order to draw closer to the population."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Christian life is a love story with God, pope says at canonization

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Like the Catholic Church's newest saints, Christians are called to live their faith as a love story with God who wants a relationship that is "more than that of devoted subjects with their king," Pope Francis said.

Without a loving relationship with God, Christian life can become empty and "an impossible ethic, a collection of rules and laws to obey for no good reason," the pope said during Mass Oct. 15 in St. Peter's Square.

"This is the danger: a Christian life that becomes routine, content with 'normality,' without drive or enthusiasm, and with a short memory," he said during the Mass.

At the beginning of the Mass, Pope Francis proclaimed 35 new saints, including: the "Martyrs of Natal," Brazil, a group of 30 priests, laymen, women and children who were killed in 1645 during a wave of anti-Catholic persecution; and the "Child Martyrs of Tlaxcala," three children who were among Mexico's first native converts and were killed for refusing to renounce the faith.

Tapestries hung from the facade of St. Peter's Basilica bearing images of the martyrs as well as pictures of Sts. Angelo da Acri, an Italian Capuchin priest known for his defense of the poor, and Faustino Miguez, a Spanish priest who started an advanced school for girls at a time when such education was limited almost exclusively to boys.

An estimated 35,000 pilgrims -- many of them from the new saints' countries of origin -- attended the Mass, the Vatican said Oct. 15.

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the day's Gospel reading from St. Matthew in which Jesus recounts the parable of the wedding feast.

Noting Jesus' emphasis on the wedding guests, the pope said that God "wants us, he goes out to seek us and he invites us" to celebrate with him.

"For him, it is not enough that we should do our duty and obey his laws," Pope Francis said. "He desires a true communion of life with us, a relationship based on dialogue, trust and forgiveness."

However, he continued, Jesus also warns that "the invitation can be refused" as it was by those who "made light" of the invitation or were too caught up in their own affairs to consider attending the banquet.

"This is how love grows cold, not out of malice but out of preference for what is our own: our security, our self-affirmation, our comfort," the pope said.

Despite constant rejection and indifference, God does not cancel the wedding feast but continues to invite Christians to overcome "the whims of our peevish and lazy selves" and to imitate the church's new saints who, he said, not only said yes to God's invitation, but wore "the wedding garment" of God's love.

"The saints who were canonized today, and especially the many martyrs, point the way," Pope Francis said. "The robe they wore daily was the love of Jesus, that 'mad' love that loved us to the end and offered his forgiveness and his robe to those who crucified him."

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To fight hunger and forced migration, end war, arms trade, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- It makes no sense to lament the problems of hunger and forced migration if one is unwilling to address their root causes, which are conflict and climate change, Pope Francis said.

"War and climate change lead to hunger; therefore, let's avoid presenting it as if it were an incurable disease," and instead implement laws, economic policies, lifestyle changes and attitudes that prevent the problems in the first place, he told world leaders at the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization.

Pope Francis received a standing ovation after he addressed the assembly at FAO's Rome headquarters to mark World Food Day Oct. 16, the date the organization was founded in 1945 to address the causes of poverty and hunger. The FAO was holding a conference on the theme "Changing the future of migration."

Food insecurity is linked to forced migration, the pope said, and the two can be addressed only "if we go to the root of the problem" -- conflict and climate change.

International law already has all the instruments and means in place to prevent and quickly end the conflicts that tear communities and countries apart, and trigger hunger, malnutrition and migration, he said.

"Goodwill and dialogue are needed to stop conflicts," he said, "and it is necessary to fully commit to gradual and systematic disarmament" as well as stop the "terrible plague of arms trafficking."

"What good is denouncing that millions of people are victims of hunger and malnutrition because of conflicts if one then does not effectively work for peace and disarmament?" he asked.

As for climate change, he said, scientists know what needs to be done and the international instruments -- like the Paris Agreement -- are already available.

Without specifying which nations, the pope said, unfortunately "some are backing away" from the agreement. U.S. President Donald Trump announced in June that the United States would withdraw from the accord as a way to help the U.S. economy.

"We cannot resign ourselves to saying, 'Someone else will do it,'" he said. Everyone is called to adopt and promote changes in lifestyle, in the way resources are used and in production and consumption -- particularly when it comes to food, which is increasingly wasted.

Some people believe reducing the number of mouths to feed would solve the problem of food insecurity, but, the pope said, this is "a false solution" given the enormous waste and overconsumption in the world.

"Cutting back is easy," he said, but "sharing requires conversion and this is demanding."

"We cannot act only if others are doing it or limit ourselves to having pity because pity doesn't go beyond emergency aid," the pope said.

International organizations, leaders and individuals need to act out of real love and mercy toward others -- particularly the most vulnerable -- in order to create a world based on true justice and solidarity.

Arriving at the FAO headquarters, Pope Francis presented a gift of a statue depicting the tragic death of Alan Kurdi (also known as Aylan), the 3-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on the shore of Turkey when a small inflatable boat holding a dozen refugees capsized in 2015. The statue, made of pure white Carrara marble, depicts a child-like angel weeping over the boy's lifeless body.

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Victims of Las Vegas shooting remembered at funeral Masses, vigils

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Immediate makeshift memorials in Las Vegas to the 58 victims killed during the Oct. 1 outdoor country music concert are being replaced by memorial services, vigils and Catholic funerals at the victims' hometowns across the country and in Canada.

Many of the services are taking place in California since 33 of the victims, more than half of those killed at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, were from the Golden State.

Bakersfield, California, two hours north of Los Angeles, was home to three victims of the shooting. A memorial service was held there Oct. 6 at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church for Jack Beaton, a 54-year-old father of two who worked with a roofing company.

More than 800 people attended the service where Beaton was remembered as a fun-loving friend, a hard worker, a kindhearted neighbor and a devoted husband and father of an 18-year-old daughter and 20-year-old son. He and his wife, Laurie, attended the concert to celebrate their 23rd wedding anniversary. He died in her arms after putting his body on top of hers to protect her.

"I knew every day that he would protect me and take care of me and love me unconditionally, and what he did is no surprise to me," Laurie Beaton told The Associated Press before the service, adding: "He is my hero."

In San Francisco, a funeral Mass was celebrated Oct. 12 at St. Mary's Cathedral for Stacee Etcheber, a 50-year-old hairstylist and mother of two children, 10 and 12, who was attending the Las Vegas concert with her husband, Vince, a San Francisco police officer.

At the funeral Mass, so close to where the devastating wildfires are happening, the San Francisco Chronicle said it was not lost at anyone that Etcheber was exactly the kind of person the area needed at this time.

She was described as someone who wouldn't have thought twice about volunteering and doing what she could for the thousands affected by the fires. She also would have been the "the incident commander" getting horses to safety, Father Michael Quinn, pastor of St. Mary Star of the Sea in Sausalito, California, told the congregation.

The Etchebers had been separated during the chaos of the shooting. Her husband, who survived, was helping many of the wounded at the concert.

Although Stacee was not a member of the San Francisco Police Department, her funeral included many of the honors of an officer's funeral. Bagpipers played as officers with the department's mounted unit stood their horses at attention outside the cathedral.

Some of those in attendance wore orange ribbons for Stacee's favorite color.

The same day, a funeral Mass was celebrated for 28-year-old Christopher Roybal, a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Navy at St. Matthew's Church in Corona, California.

Roybal had gone to the concert with his mother, and like many others, they were separated in the confusion during and after the shooting took place.

"He always made me feel so beautiful, so amazing, and I'm sure that a lot of you in here understand exactly what I'm saying because he was such an amazing soul," his mother said at the funeral, according to the local ABC news affiliate KABC, which also reported that the priest encouraged the congregation to sing Roybal a country song as a final goodbye.

Roybal's father said his son's Navy training immediately kicked in when the gunfire started.

He suspected that his son "immediately went into that mode of protecting everybody around him like he did in Afghanistan -- the sound nobody will understand -- Christopher just started saving lives and not for one second thought about his own life," he said.

In Alberta, Canada, a candlelight vigil took place just two days after the Las Vegas shooting at St. Rita's Catholic Church in Valleyview for Jessica Klymchuk, a 34-year-old mother of four and educational assistant at St. Stephen's Catholic School, across the street from the church.

"I just really, really miss her," said a 10-year-old at the vigil. An 11-year-old described her as the kindest person he knew, reported CBC News in Canada.

Klymchuk, one of four Canadians killed in the mass shooting, attended the festival with her fiance. She wore several hats at the school where she was a bus driver, a classroom aide and librarian.

"She had this heart of gold," said Christine Ikonikov, a friend of who organized the vigil, and described her to a reporter as a "wonderful woman, strong, always put other people first."

A celebration of life for Sandy Casey, a newly engaged 35-year-old resident of Redondo Beach, California, was scheduled to take place Oct. 17 at the United Church of Dorset and East Rupert in Dorset, Vermont, where her family lives.

Casey, who was a special education teacher at Manhattan Beach Middle School near Los Angeles, attended the College of St. Joseph in Rutland, Vermont, and received a master's degree in special education in 2005 from Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Catholic college is planning to hold a memorial for Casey. The school's president, Francesco Cesareo, said in a statement that the mass shooting is a "harsh reminder of the darkness that attempts to consume the world in which we live."

"Despite that darkness," he said, "the light of hope can be found illuminating such tragedies in the selfless actions of those that put their own lives in jeopardy assisting others."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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

New saints inspire Christians to build peaceful world, bishop says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The church's newest saints represent a diverse group of people who offer encouragement and hope to Christians today through their example, a Brazilian bishop said.

Saints like the "Martyrs of Natal," Brazil, offer a "new opportunity, hope and a renewal of faith" that can bring peace to a world battered by injustice, war and violence, Archbishop Jaime Vieira Rocha of Natal told journalists Oct. 13 during a press briefing.

"The grace of their canonization will certainly help create a society that is less vengeful, less violent, more fraternal," and encourage Catholics to stand up "for the dignity of the people," he said.

Ornate tapestries depicting each of the soon-to-be canonized saints -- who hail from Brazil, Italy, Mexico and Spain -- draped the facade of St. Peter's Basilica as workers busily prepared the square for the Oct. 15 Mass to be presided over by Pope Francis.

The "Martyrs of Natal" -- Blessed Andre de Soveral, a Jesuit priest; Blessed Ambrosio Francisco Ferro, a diocesan priest; Blessed Mateus Moreira, a layman; and 27 others -- were killed in 1645 in a wave of anti-Catholic persecution carried out by Dutch Calvinists in Natal, Brazil.

Father Julio Cesar Souza Cavalcante, an expert on their cause, told journalists that the 30 Brazilian martyrs -- which included priests, laymen and laywomen, families, husbands, wives, children and youth -- are models for all Catholics, especially in Brazil today, who want to follow the pope's call for a "church on the move" that goes out and gives public witness to their faith.

"Martyrdom is always this witness. And to give this witness of faith in a country that today is in an economic, security and health crisis, it is a witness that it is possible to go forward, it is possible to do more," Father Souza said.

The "Child Martyrs of Tlaxcala," Mexico -- Blesseds Cristobal, Antonio and Juan -- will also be declared saints by Pope Francis at the Mass.

The children, whose ages range from 12 to 13, were among the first native converts in Mexico and were killed between 1527 and 1529 for refusing to renounce the faith and return to their people's ancient traditions.

Msgr. Jorge Ivan Gomez Gomez, vicar general of the diocese of Tlaxcala, Mexico, told Catholic News Service that despite their age, the young martyrs proved that "grace acts and that not everything relies on human effort."

With a Synod of Bishops focusing on young people taking place in 2018, the child martyrs "are a motivation so that young men and women may be agents of the evangelization in their own families" and confront the idols of the modern world.

"Young people are immersed in a series of idolatries, which they sometimes passively accept," Msgr. Gomez said. "The martyrs, at their age, had the capacity to confront idolatries that were common in so many places" at the time.

The pope will also canonize Blessed Angelo of Acri, an Italian Capuchin priest who was born Luca Antonio Falcone. He died in 1739 and was beatified by Pope Leo XII in 1825.

A famed preacher, Blessed Angelo proclaimed the good news of the Gospel "in a simple, concrete way and not just by saying words," Capuchin Brother Carlo Calloni, postulator of Blessed Angelo's cause, told CNS.

He was also known for his defense of the poor and "knew how to raise his voice against the powerful of that time," Brother Calloni said.

However, he added, Blessed Angelo combined his sharp wit and intelligence with mercy when it came to the confessional, often spending long hours listening to repentant men and women seeking forgiveness.

Brother Calloni said the Capuchin priest's zeal for saving souls can serve as an example for the church's mission in reaching out to those who have become distant from their faith.

"Blessed Angelo can be the model for those who seek a new way to bring the proclamation (of the Gospel) to the world and that it may be heard by the people," he said.

Pope Francis will also canonize Blessed Faustino Miguez, a Spanish priest and a member of the Piarist Fathers born in 1831. He started an advanced school for girls at a time when such education was limited almost exclusively to boys.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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

Vatican: Canada did not seek extradition for diplomat with porn charges

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By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Canadian authorities did not request the extradition of a Vatican diplomat who has been charged by police in Canada of accessing, possessing and distributing child pornography, a Vatican spokesman said.

"No request for extradition has come from Canada and no trial has been set at the Vatican" for the diplomat, Msgr. Carlo Capella, who had been working in the United States, said Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, in a written statement Oct. 12.

The Vatican investigation "requires international collaboration, and it has not ended yet," he added.

The Italian monsignor, who had been working at the Vatican nunciature in Washington, was first recalled to the Vatican after the U.S. State Department notified the Holy See Aug. 21 of his possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images.

"The Holy See, following the practice of sovereign states, recalled the priest in question, who is currently in Vatican City," the press office said Sept. 15. The press office said that the Vatican promoter of justice, the chief prosecutor for Vatican City State, had opened an investigation into the matter and that it had begun "international collaboration to obtain elements relative to the case."

Police in Canada then issued a nationwide arrest warrant Sept. 28 on charges of accessing, possessing and distributing child pornography.

"Investigators believe that the offenses occurred while the suspect was visiting a place of worship in Windsor," the police statement said. A spokesman for the Diocese of London, Ontario, which includes Windsor, confirmed at the time "that it was asked to, and did, assist in an investigation around suspicions involving Msgr. Capella's possible violations of child pornography laws by using a computer address at a local church."

While the Associated Press had reported that the U.S. State Department had asked the Vatican to lift the official's diplomatic immunity and that that request was denied, the Vatican said no extradition request had come from Canada.

The latest Vatican statement came after ANSA, the Italian news agency, cited unnamed sources Oct. 12 saying that Msgr. Capella would not be extradited to Canada because of the suspect's diplomatic immunity and that he would be tried in a Vatican tribunal.

Criminal charges against the Vatican diplomat were made possible after Pope Francis approved new and expanded criminal laws in 2013, which are applicable to all Vatican employees around the world. Any direct employee of the Holy See, which includes those working in a Vatican office or nunciature, can face a criminal trial at the Vatican as well as face criminal prosecution in the country where the crimes occurred.

The new amendments, which went into effect in September 2013, brought Vatican law into detailed compliance with several international treaties like the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Vatican's updated laws define and set out penalties for specific crimes against minors, including child prostitution, sexual violence against children and producing or possessing child pornography.

 

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Find ways to keep migrant families together, Vatican official says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Overly strict immigration laws do not discourage migration, and more must be done to keep migrant families together, a Vatican representative said.

"The migrant family is a crucial component of our globalized world, but in too many countries the presence of the families of migrant workers is often legally impeded," said Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, Vatican observer to U.N. agencies in Geneva.

"If we truly wish to leave no one behind, we must devise frameworks that help keep families together, including migrant families. The human vacuum left behind when a father or a mother migrates alone is a stark reminder of the toughness of the choice to migrate and of the fundamental right to be able to stay at home in dignity," he said.

Archbishop Jurkovic spoke Oct. 12 about regularized migration during a U.N. session preparing for a global compact for migration dedicated to facilitating safe, orderly and regular migration around the world.

"A tangible sign of increasing inequalities, socio-economic imbalances and unregulated globalization," he said, is the fact that there are some 1 billion people in the world with some sort of migratory status.

The constant and increased recourse to irregular or illegal ways to migrate is yet another symptom of a system that does not manage migration effectively, he said.

"Regrettably, all too often, the response to irregular migration is a short-term one, with a strong emphasis placed on security," he said.

"But while it is right and just to respect the legitimate interests of the receiving countries, it is possible and highly recommended to reconcile these interests with migrants' rights," he added.

Some ways to do that, he said, would include keeping migrant families together as well as making available more legal and "dignified pathways" for migration.

"Overtly strict immigration laws and restrictive immigration policies, including limits to migrants' access to social services, hardly discourage migration," he said.

"Desperation and hope always prevail over restrictive policies. Unfortunately, the same is true for profits, hence, turning to an irregular workforce becomes the likely response when there is a strong demand for 'cheap' labor," he said.

Policies should also be attentive to the hidden problems migrants may face when in a country illegally, the archbishop said.

"They find themselves ignored and neglected, gripped by the constant fear of expulsion or deportation. Out of desperation, they are compelled to accept dangerous work conditions, and often end up being exploited and abused," he said.

"Indubitably, every state has the sovereign right and responsibility to regulate the movement of people and should do so with a clear system of migration laws," Archbishop Jurkovic said.

"However, the approach to migration in all of its aspects, including irregular migration, should begin first and foremost from the perspective of the human person, and his or her fundamental rights as such, with special attention given to unaccompanied minors, the elderly, and those with special needs.

"In this regard, states should avoid the criminalization of irregular migrants and ensure the respect of the principle of non-refoulement," that is, to forbid countries from forcibly returning asylum seekers to a country where they would likely be persecuted.

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Have courage, pray fervently, pope tells churches facing persecution

IMAGE: CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- No matter how much suffering Christians face in the world, God never forgets those who trust in and serve him, Pope Francis told leaders of Eastern Catholic churches.

The courage to "knock at the door" of God's heart and "the courage of faith (are) needed when you pray -- to have faith that the Lord is listening," the pope told patriarchs, metropolitans, bishops, priests and lay members of the Eastern churches during his homily in Rome's St. Mary Major.

The special Mass of thanksgiving Oct. 12 marked the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, an office that supports the Eastern Catholic churches, and the Pontifical Oriental Institute, which offers advanced degrees in Eastern Christian liturgy. During the morning Mass, the Sistine Chapel choir sang with a choir of Eastern seminarians studying in Rome, and an Eastern priest chanted the day's Gospel reading in Arabic.

In his homily, the pope recalled the congregation was founded during the tumultuous time of World War I and that, today, another kind of world war continued to rage with "so many of our Christian brothers and sisters of the Eastern churches experiencing tragic persecutions and an ever-more disturbing diaspora."

The 23 Eastern Catholic churches include the Chaldean, Syriac Catholic, Coptic Catholic, Melkite and Maronite churches as well as the Ukrainian Catholic Church, the largest of all the Eastern churches. Their presence in the East and Middle East has been threatened by decades of crises, oppression and war.

Pope Francis said the difficult situations they face beg many questions, most of all, "Why?"

How many times do they hear from the lay faithful or experience the feeling that "We see the wicked, those with no scruples, look out only for themselves, crushing others, and it seems that everything goes so well for them, they get whatever they want, and they only think about savoring life," the pope said.

Like in the day's first reading from the prophet Malachi, the people wonder why evildoers prosper. But God tells them he listens "attentively" and has noted all those who fear the Lord and trust in him no matter what, the pope said.

"God does not forget his children, his memory is for the righteous, for those who suffer, who are oppressed and ask, 'Why?' and yet they do not stop trusting in the Lord," the pope said.

"How many times the Virgin Mary, on her journey, asked herself, 'Why?' But in her heart, which reflected on everything, God's grace made her faith and hope shine," he said.

What is needed is the courage to "knock on God's heart" and pray. "When you pray, you need the courage of faith," the "courage to knock at the door" and the faith that God is listening, he said.

Like the Gospel says, "Ask and you will receive," God will always give his greatest gift: his Spirit, he said.

Before the Mass, Pope Francis visited the nearby Pontifical Oriental Institute and greeted the members of the Congregation for Eastern Churches as well as the patriarchs and major archbishops the congregation supports.

With students gathered in the garden, the pope blessed a cypress tree, and then he met with guests and the Jesuits who run the educational institute.

The pope gave them a written message asking them to reflect on ways the school can continue to fulfill its mission given that the dictatorships of the past have often left behind fertile terrain for the spread of global terrorism.

"No one can close their eyes" to the current situation of persecution against Christians and their forced exodus from their homelands, he said. Many now find themselves settled in Western nations where Latin-rite parishes and dioceses are the norm.

He invited the pontifical institute, which helps members of the Eastern churches strengthen their faith before the many challenges they face, to prayerfully listen to "what the Lord wants in this precise moment."

It may be, "for example, encouraging future priests to instill in their Eastern faithful, wherever they find themselves, a deep love for their traditions and the rite they belong to; and at the same time, to sensitize bishops of dioceses of the Latin rite to take on the task" of offering adequate spiritual and human assistance to these families and individuals.

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Devotion to Padre Pio evident in thousands who turn out to venerate relics

IMAGE: CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Chicago Catholic

By Joyce Duriga

CHICAGO (CNS) -- When the relics of St. Pio of Pietrelcina -- commonly known as Padre Pio -- stopped at two Chicago churches, more than 19,000 people turned out to venerate them, organizers said.

The relics, which included a lock of Padre Pio's hair, blood from his wounds, a glove used to cover his stigmatized hands and part of his religious habit, visited St. Francis Borgia Church Sept. 25 and St. Ita Church Sept. 26.

They were part of a national tour Sept. 16-Oct. 8 sponsored by the St Pio Foundation to mark the 130th anniversary of Padre Pio's birth and the 15th anniversary of his canonization. Almost a dozen U.S. dioceses and archdioceses hosted the relics.

Born in Pietrelcina in southern Italy in 1887, Padre Pio was a Capuchin priest who, in 1918, received the stigmata -- an occurrence where the five wounds Jesus' passion appear on a person's body. Those wounds stayed until his death.

People flocked to Mass and confession with Padre Pio during his lifetime. He was known to have the gifts of bilocation (ability to appear in two places at once), healing and levitation.

In 1956, he established Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (Home for the Relief of Suffering), a hospital that today is considered one of the best in Italy. Padre Pio died in 1968 and was canonized by St. John Paul II in 2002.

The tour of his relics began at St. Joseph Seminary in the Archdiocese of New York, and ended at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church in the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida. The relics also traveled to the Diocese of La Crosse and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in Wisconsin; the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut; the Archdiocese of St. Louis; the Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan; the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island; the Archdiocese of Atlanta; and the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

In Chicago, those who turned out to venerate Padre Pio's relics Sept. 25 and 26 all had a story to tell. Some saw him in person. Others knew someone who met the saint. Still others came across his story along their spiritual journey and pray to him fervently.

For Carole Klein, it was a book belonging to her parents that was passed on to her after they died. Not a practicing Catholic, Klein read about the relics' visit in the Chicago Tribune and stopped by St. Ita to see them.

"Padre Pio's just sort of been an object of conversation in our house," she said. "It (the book) was an object of fascination for me. I was young. There were pictures in it."

Her family talked often about the book while Klein's parents were alive.

"My daughter who's 30 even knows about it," she told the Chicago Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The devotion to Padre Pio was evident in those who visited the relics along with her.

"I'm not surprised by it," Klein said.

Ronald Wiese, a parishioner at St. Barnabas Parish in Beverly, learned about the saint through a biography he purchased around 1999 and said Padre Pio is a "modern-day saint."

"You can see a part of him in this church in regard to his relics, whether it was a part of his person or something that he wore, something that he had," Wiese said.

St. Francis Borgia and St. Ita reported a steady stream of visitors from the time veneration started at 9 a.m. through the start of Mass each evening. They counted the number of people as they came in and priests blessed religious objects and heard confessions.

During Masses each evening, the faithful filled all available space in the churches. They were in the pews but also in the aisles, the vestibule, on the street outside and, in the case of St. Ita, sitting on the steps of the sanctuary.

Organizers expected large crowds but not quite the more than 19,000 who turned out. It shows the love people have for Padre Pio.

"He's truly a unique saint in the sense that he cuts across cultures, boundaries, ages and somehow resonates with such a wide group of people," said Conventual Franciscan Father Bob Cook, pastor of St. Ita.

However, the interest in relics doesn't surprise him.

"Relics are a reminder that the saints were human beings at one point. They're still human beings but they are in heaven. With that comes everything that is human - temptation, forgiveness," Cook said.

Padre Pio was known to be short-tempered and, like many people, probably brought that up in his own confessions, Cook said.

"He lived like we did and aspired to become a saint and did. That's the route for all of us," Cook said.

Relics are also a way to keep in touch with heaven.

"In the church we have canonized saints and uncanonized saints. My mother is an uncanonized saint. I have things of her that I hold on to, that remind me of her, that bring me into communion with her," the friar said. "The saints are our relatives in heaven and this is a tangible way to be in communion with those relatives."

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Duriga is editor of the Chicago Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

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Death penalty is 'contrary to the Gospel,' pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

The death penalty, no matter how it is carried out, "is, in itself, contrary to the Gospel," Pope Francis said.

Marking the 25th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church at the Vatican Oct. 11, Pope Francis said the catechism's discussion of the death penalty, already formally amended by St. John Paul II, needs to be even more explicitly against capital punishment.

Capital punishment, he said, "heavily wounds human dignity" and is an "inhuman measure."

"It is, in itself, contrary to the Gospel, because a decision is voluntarily made to suppress a human life, which is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator and of whom, in the last analysis, only God can be the true judge and guarantor," the pope said.

The death penalty, he said, not only extinguishes a human life, it extinguishes the possibility that the person, recognizing his or her errors, will request forgiveness and begin a new life.

The church's position on the death penalty, he said, is one example of how church teaching is not static, but grows and deepens along with a growth in faith and in response to modern questions and concerns.

In the past, when people did not see any other way for society to defend itself against serious crime and when "social maturity" was lacking, he said, people accepted the death penalty as "a logical consequence of the application of justice."

In fact, he said, the church itself believed that, and the death penalty was a possible punishment in the Papal States. It was only in 1969 that Pope Paul VI formally banned the death penalty, even though it had not been imposed since 1870.

"Let us take responsibility for the past and recognize" that use of the death penalty was "dictated by a mentality that was more legalistic than Christian," Pope Francis said. "Remaining neutral today when there is a new need to reaffirm personal dignity would make us even more guilty."

The first edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published by St. John Paul II in 1992, recognized "as well-founded the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty." At the same time, it said, "bloodless means" that could protect human life should be used when possible.

But the language was formally changed in 1997 after St. John Paul II issued his pro-life encyclical, "Evangelium Vitae." Since then, the catechism has specified that the use of the death penalty is permissible only when the identity and responsibility of the condemned is certain and when capital punishment "is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor."

The development of church teaching, Pope Francis insisted, is not the same as contradicting or changing church teaching. "Tradition is a living reality and only a partial vision would lead to thinking of 'the deposit of faith' as something static."

"The word of God," he said, "cannot be saved in mothballs as if it were an old blanket to protect against insects."

The Christian faith, he said, always has insisted on the dignity of human life from the moment of conception to natural death. So, the church has a continuing obligation to speak out when it realizes something that was accepted in the past actually contradicts church teaching.

"Therefore, it is necessary to reiterate that, no matter how serious the crime committed, the death penalty is inadmissible, because it attacks the inviolability and dignity of the person," Pope Francis said.

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Pope tops 40 million followers on Twitter, 5 million on Instagram

IMAGE: CNS photo/Kacper Pempel, Reuters

By Matthew Fowler

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' @Pontifex Twitter accounts reached more than 40 million followers just a few months before the fifth anniversary of when Pope Benedict XVI launched the initiative.

The papal Twitter accounts, in nine different languages, have grown by over 9 million followers in the past 12 months, representing the interest and attention of "the people -- ordinary people, Christians and non-Christians, political leaders -- for the Holy Father's tweets," the Vatican Secretariat for Communication said Oct. 11.

The accounts, it said, are a way for Pope Francis to personally connect with people around the world.

"Every day, through his tweets, Pope Francis makes himself available to men and women through social media, at times offering a spiritual thought," it said, "other times sharing with his followers a reflection on events of great significance for the international community."

The secretariat's prefect, Msgr. Dario Vigano, told Vatican Radio that "the pope takes great care of his social profiles, to such an extent that he closely and carefully checks all the tweets, which are then published."

It shows the pope's concern and "care for relationships" even over the internet, even though the pope has admitted he is not savvy with new technologies, Msgr. Vigano said. The pope knows, he said, that the web is "a network not of wires but of people."

In a recent report on Twitter by Twiplomacy.com, which ranks world leaders' impact on the social media platform, the @Pontifex accounts had the second-most followers among world leaders, only 200,000 followers behind the U.S. president, @realDonaldTrump. Since the report, both the president and the pope's followers have continued to grow, with Trump's account exceeding the 40.3 million mark, maintaining a tight lead over Pope Francis.

Twiplomacy ranked the pope as coming in third among world leaders with the most interactions and being the most influential because of his average of 41,000 retweets.

The pope also communicates digitally via Instagram, the social image channel. His account, @Franciscus, was approaching 5 million followers since its creation March 19, 2015. The majority of Instagram followers are from the ages of 25-34, with the United States and Brazil being the countries where it is most followed.

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Nothing is in vain, nothing is resistant to love, pope says at audience

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians are never pessimistic, resigned or weak, thinking life is an unstoppable train careening out of control, Pope Francis said.

Throughout history, every day is seen as a gift from God and "every morning is a blank page that Christians start writing on" with their good works and charity, he said Oct. 11 during his weekly general audience.

Continuing his series of audience talks on Christian hope, the pope reflected on a reading from the Gospel of St. Luke, in which the disciples are asked to be like faithful and vigilant servants, who stand ready for their master's return -- the day Jesus will come again.

Jesus wants his followers to never let down their guard and to be on their toes, ready to welcome "with gratitude and amazement each new day God gives us," the pope said.

Even though "we have already been saved by Jesus' redemption," he said, the people of God are still awaiting his second coming in glory when he will be "all in all." Nothing in life is more certain than that -- that he will come again, the pope said.

This time of expectant waiting, however, is no time for boredom, but rather for patience, he said.

Christians must be perseverant and life-giving, like wellsprings to irrigate a desert.

For that reason, "nothing happens in vain" and no situation is "completely resistant to love. No night is so long that the joy of dawn is forgotten," he said. In fact, the darker the night, the sooner the light will come, he added.

By staying united with Christ, nothing can stop the faithful, even "the coldness of difficult moments do not paralyze us." And no matter how much the world preaches against hope and predicts "only dark clouds," Christians know everything will be saved and "Christ will drive away the temptation to think that this life is wrong."

"We do not lose ourselves in the flow of events to pessimism, as if history were a train out of control. Resignation is not a Christian virtue. Just like it is not Christian to shrug your shoulders or lower your head before a seemingly unavoidable destiny."

Having hope means never being submissive or passive, but being a builder of hope, which demands courage, taking risks and personal sacrifice, he said.

"Submissive people are not peacebuilders, but they are lazy, they want to be comfortable," he said.

At the end of the general audience, the pope reminded people that October was World Mission Month and the month of the rosary.

As celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the end of the apparitions of Mary at Fatima were to wrap up Oct. 13, the pope invited everyone to pray the rosary, asking for peace in the world.

"May prayer stir the unruliest of souls" so that all violence may be banished from their hearts, words and actions, and they become artisans of peace, he said.

The pope also launched an appeal for concrete study and action to safeguard creation and reduce the risks people face with natural disasters.

He asked that International Day for Disaster Reduction Oct. 13 encourage leaders and groups to promote a culture that aims to reduce people's exposure to natural disasters, particularly people who are already very vulnerable. 

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Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

 

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Bishop says Trump proposals do not reflect U.S. immigrant tradition

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Trump administration's newly released immigration policy proposals "do not provide the way forward for comprehensive immigration reform rooted in respect for human life and dignity, and for the security of our citizens," said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas.

"They are not reflective of our country's immigrant past, and they attack the most vulnerable, notably unaccompanied children and many others who flee persecution," the bishop said in an Oct. 10 statement as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration.

"Most unfortunately, the principles fail to recognize that the family is the fundamental building block of our immigration system, our society and our church," Bishop Vasquez said.

His remarks came in response to a 70-point immigration policy proposal from President Donald Trump released the evening of Oct. 8.

Bishop Vasquez also urged Congress to act quickly on a bill to legalize the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and allow the approximately 800,000 youth -- known as "Dreamers" -- who have benefited from DACA stay in the country.

"We exhort Congress to take up legislation and move forward promptly to ensure true protection for Dreamers once and for all," the bishop said.

Trump said that in any bill to legalize DACA, Congress must include funding for a U.S-Mexico border wall and more Border Patrol agents -- as laid out in his policy proposals -- or he won't sign such a measure.

On Sept. 5, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the program, which began under then-President Barack Obama in 2012, would end under the Trump administration.

DACA provides a work permit and temporary reprieve from deportation for youth brought to the U.S. as children without legal permission, if they meet certain criteria. Sessions said the program was "unilateral executive amnesty," and said its beneficiaries had taken away jobs from "hundreds of thousands of Americans."

Trump campaigned on a promise that he'd get rid of the DACA program, but after Sessions' announcement on ending the program, Trump was working with Democrats to find a way to help the "Dreamers" stay in the country.

Late Sept. 13, the two top Democrats in Congress, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader in the House of Representatives, and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader in the Senate, said they met with the president to hash out a deal, and they reportedly had agreed to "a fix."

Since the release of Trump's 70-point immigration proposal, Pelosi and Schumer have said any DACA deal with Trump was off. Trump's proposal includes 27 different suggestions on border security; 39 improvements to enforcement on immigration laws in the U.S.; and four major changes to the legal immigration system.

"Since July, Congress has introduced legislative solutions for Dreamers, including the Dream Act," Bishop Vasquez said in his statement. "The administration should focus attention on ensuring that a legislative solution for Dreamers is found as soon as possible.

"Every day that passes without that solution, these youth experience growing apprehension for their futures and their families," he continued. "Each passing day brings us all a step closer to March 2018, when DACA recipients will begin to lose legal work privileges, and far worse, face the threat of deportation and family separation."

Bishop Vasquez added: "Together with so many others of goodwill, we shall continue to offer welcome and support to these remarkable young people, and we shall not stop advocating for their permanent protection and eventual citizenship."

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Vatican releases pope's schedule for visit to Myanmar, Bangladesh

IMAGE: CNS photo/Soe Zeya Tun, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh will offer moments to recognize each nation's struggle for independence, underline interreligious respect and encourage the local minority Catholic communities.

Pope Francis will visit Myanmar Nov. 27-30, just months after the Holy See announced it had established full diplomatic relations with the southeast Asian nation. He will meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's de facto leader and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The visit also comes as serious questions have been raised about her government's treatment of the Rohingya people, who are Muslim.

Pope Francis has appealed for their protection on several occasions, calling the Rohingya, "good people" who "are our brothers and sisters. They have been suffering for years. They have been tortured, killed, just because they want to keep their traditions and their Muslim faith."

Another highlight on the trip -- the pope's 21st trip abroad in his five-year pontificate -- will be meeting with the high-ranking Buddhist monks at the capital's peace pagoda.

According to the Vatican's latest statistics, Myanmar has about 659,000 Catholics out of a population of about 51 million.

The pope will visit the capital of Bangladesh Nov. 30-Dec. 2; he will ordain new priests and visit a Missionaries of Charity center for assisting poor children. 

According to Vatican statistics, there are about 375,000 Catholics in Bangladesh, about 0.3 percent of the population. The vast majority of people in the country are Muslims.

Here is the detailed schedule released by the Vatican. Times are local, with Eastern Standard Time in parentheses:

Sunday, Nov. 26 (Rome)

-- 9:40 p.m. (3:40 p.m.) Departure from Rome's Fiumicino airport.

Monday, Nov. 27 (Yangon)

-- 1:30 p.m. (2 a.m.) Arrival at Yangon International Airport.

Tuesday, Nov. 28 (Yangon, Naypyitaw, Yangon)

-- 2 p.m. (2:30 a.m.) Departure by plane for Naypyitaw.

-- 3:10 p.m. (3:40 a.m.) Arrival at Naypyitaw airport.

-- 3:50 p.m. (4:20 a.m.) Welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace.

-- 4 p.m. (4:30 a.m.) Courtesy visit to Htin Kyaw, president of the republic, at the presidential palace.

-- 4:30 p.m. (5 a.m.) Meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, state counselor and foreign minister, the country's de-facto leader.

-- 5:15 p.m. (5:45 a.m.) Meeting with government authorities, members of civil society and the diplomatic corps in the city's international convention center. Speech by pope.

-- 6:20 p.m. (6:50 a.m.) Departure by plane for Yangon.

-- 7:25 p.m. (7:55 a.m.) Arrival at Yangon airport, transfer to archbishop's residence.

Wednesday, Nov. 29 (Yangon)

-- 9:30 a.m. (10 p.m. Nov. 28) Mass at Kyaikkasan sports ground. Homily by pope.

-- 4:15 p.m. (4:45 a.m.) Meeting with the Sangha supreme council of Buddhist monks at the Kaba Aye pagoda. Speech by pope.

-- 5:15 p.m. (5:45 a.m.) Meeting with the bishops of Myanmar at St. Mary's Cathedral. Speech by pope.

Thursday, Nov. 30 (Yangon, Dhaka)

-- 10:15 a.m. (10:45 p.m. Nov. 29) Mass with young people in St. Mary's Cathedral. Homily by pope.

-- 12:45 p.m. (1:15 a.m.) Farewell ceremony at Yangon International Airport.

-- 1:05 p.m. (1:35 a.m.) Departure by plane for Dhaka, Bangladesh.

-- 3 p.m. (4 a.m.) Arrival at Dhaka's international airport. Welcoming ceremony.

-- 4 p.m. (5 a.m.) Visit to national martyrs' memorial in town of Savar.

-- 4:45 p.m. (5:45 a.m.) Pay homage to the late-Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, known as "father of the nation," at the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum.

-- 5:30 p.m. (6:30 a.m.) Courtesy visit to President Abdul Hamid at the presidential palace.

-- 6 p.m. (7 a.m.) Meeting with government authorities, members of civil society and the diplomatic corps in the presidential palace. Speech by pope.

Friday, Dec. 1 (Dhaka)

-- 10 a.m. (11 p.m. Nov. 30) Mass and ordination of priests in Suhrawardy Udyan park. Homily by pope.

-- 3:20 p.m. (4:20 a.m.) Visit with the country's prime minister at the apostolic nunciature.

-- 4 p.m. (5 a.m.) Visit the city's cathedral.

-- 4:15 p.m. (5:15 a.m.) Meeting with Bangladesh's bishops at a residence for elderly priests. Speech by pope.

-- 5 p.m. (6 a.m.) Interreligious and ecumenical meeting for peace in the garden of the archbishop's residence. Speech by pope.

Saturday, Dec. 2 (Dhaka, Rome)

-- 10 a.m. (11 p.m. Dec. 1) Private visit to the Mother Teresa House in the capital's Tejgaon neighborhood.

-- 10:45 a.m. (11:45 p.m. Dec. 1) Meeting with priests, men and women religious, seminarians and novices at the Church of the Holy Rosary. Speech by pope.

-- 11:45 a.m. (12:45 a.m.) Visit the parish cemetery and historic Church of the Holy Rosary.

-- 3:20 p.m. (4:20 a.m.) Meeting with young people at Notre Dame College. Speech by pope.

-- 4:45 p.m. (5:45 a.m.) Farewell ceremony at Dhaka International Airport.

-- 5:05 p.m. (6:05 a.m.) Departure by plane for Rome.

-- 11 p.m. (5 p.m.) Arrival at Rome's Ciampino airport.

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Venezuelans with HIV make tough choices as medicine becomes scarce

IMAGE: CNS photo/Cody Weddle

By Cody Weddle

CARACAS, Venezuela (CNS) -- Gloria Gallardo, 59, and her granddaughter Diana Diaz, 14, woke before dawn for the two-hour bus ride into Caracas. Although they had made the journey hundreds of times before, this time felt different. They worried about the news they might receive from Diaz's doctors.

Normally chatty, today they mostly remained silent, with different scenarios running through their heads.

Diaz was born with HIV and hepatitis B and has lived with diabetes since she was 9. Several weeks earlier, she learned her antiretroviral drug, Viraday, might become the latest medication added to the growing list of medicines not available in the country. Further complicating her health, Diaz had lost 11 pounds because her unemployed grandmother could not afford to buy enough food.

In their home, pasta, rice, bread and condiments have all been eliminated in favor of yuca, pumpkin, plantain, and whatever other vegetables they can afford. The diet changes helped control Diaz' diabetes, which is good because stores did not have the medicine to control her blood sugar.

"The doctor said if she continued losing weight, they would take 'measures,'" said Gallardo. "Those 'measures' were that they would send her to a shelter."

Although Diaz had been given two alternative medications in case Viraday was not available, Gallardo did not know how that might affect her health. And neither knew what living a shelter might entail.

The night before their trip to Caracas, Gallardo heard that Viraday was not available in some places.

"It terrified me even more," she said.

During medical trips to Caracas, the two stay at Nuestra Senora de la Esperanza (Our Lady of Hope) house, run by the San Luis Home Foundation. The foundation offers lodging to mothers and children with HIV who live outside of the capital and travel to the city for medical treatment.

Giant teddy bears line the couches in the common area; a bookshelf is full of children's' books; and a large dining room can serve dozens. Mothers and their children sleep in dorm-like rooms with bunk beds.

The foundation provides food, transportation to and from medical appointments, and even pays for checkups in private clinics if needed. It operates solely on private donations.

Father Jose Luis Lofrano has managed the home since 2011.

"There was a serious problem here, that children with HIV came to the city, they couldn't stay, and they would leave without their medicine," he said.

He said he has seen how the conditions for those with chronic conditions like HIV have, in many cases, turned from worrisome to dire as the country endures its fourth year of an economic crisis.

Venezuela's economy has collapsed in recent years, with inflation projected this year to reach 720 percent. As oil prices have dropped, the government has run out of money to import many foods and medicines at affordable prices. Over 90 percent of the country's foreign revenues come from oil sales.

Many Venezuelans have cut back on the number of meals per day. One study showed that 75 percent of people in the country have lost an average of 19 pounds.

That means that many managing medical conditions like HIV must worry not only about their medication, but about putting food on the table.

"This is a vicious cycle," said Father Lofrano.

He explained how he has seen many of the families his foundation helps unsuccessfully try to juggle the various problems they face. This year he noticed some mothers living with HIV were selling their medications to buy food.

"She may have fixed the problem for a day, but in the long run, maybe in a few months, she will die," he said.

And that's what happened.

Four women who stay at the home with their children have died this year after stopping their HIV treatment. Two others who had previously been enrolled in the program also have died.

Father Lofrano said those mothers did not have much choice. They could either not feed their children or they could sell their treatment.

"We've had people who arrive at the home and faint from the hunger," he said. "The only good meal they had received in weeks was with us."

He also has seen HIV-positive mothers with infants decide to breastfeed their infants as a last resort after not finding baby formula. Their babies contracted the virus as a result.

Organizations like the San Luis Home Foundation that help HIV patients have struggled to keep up with the growing need.

For decades an HIV diagnosis meant a death sentence. But today the virus can be controlled by daily medication, and those with proper treatment can live a relatively normal life. Stopping treatment allows the virus to attack the body's immune system, and those with the condition can develop AIDS, leaving them susceptible to common infections that can turn fatal.

Aid for AIDS founder Jesus Aguais has sent HIV drugs to Venezuela since 1997. He warns that the situation in the country could start to resemble that of the '80s and '90s, before effective HIV medications had been developed, when many HIV patients developed AIDS and died.

While official numbers are not released, his group estimates that 80 percent of the 77,000 Venezuelans being treated for HIV have not had access to their medicine for the past nine months. Some doctors have said that figure could be around 40-50 percent.

Such people are "being mentally tortured," he said from his office in New York. "Knowing that you need a medication, and the government is supposed to give to you, and you don't know if you're going to get it. It's torture."

Numbers tracked by his group show that 2,100 people died of HIV-related causes in 2012. This year in one state alone, Carabobo, 1,600 people have died.

Aid for AIDS has stepped up its fundraising efforts to help those living with HIV. This year it hopes to send $4 million worth of medicines as well as baby formula for thousands of babies.

Aguais must find ways to sneak those supplies into the country. The government recently revoked the group's permit to donate medicine. Venezuelan officials have continually denied the country is suffering from a humanitarian crisis.

Aguais said he worries not only about HIV patients, but also about the broader public health concerns of having a large percentage of patients unmedicated. HIV patients who don't take their medication are much more likely to pass on the virus. Complicating the problem are shortages of the kits to detect the viral load and CD4 count, which indicates whether one has a healthy immune system.

That multitude of issues could result in a spike of new HIV infections in the country, where the last official figures estimated that 120,000 people could be living with the condition. Aguais believes that number could be far higher.

"We are talking about a catastrophe however you look at it," he said.

For now that catastrophe has not fully struck Gallardo and Diaz. Gallardo stared sternly at the hospital nurse attending the window at the children's hospital where she picked up Diaz's medicine.

"Vidaray," she said, passing the prescription under the metal bars separating her from the nurse.

She sighed as the nurse turned her back, clearly heading to the shelf to look for the medicine. They had it.

Also to their relief, Diaz had gained back a few pounds, which Gallardo credits to the help offered at the San Luis home. It was the only place they had been able to eat rice.

In one month, they'll need to look for another bottle of pills in Caracas. Gallardo will need to scrape together enough money to buy food so her granddaughter can continue to put on weight. Gallardo has lost 23 pounds.

At Nuestra Senora de la Esperanza, Father Lofrano and his team will keep tabs on Gallardo and Diaz as best they can.

"This is our second home," said Diaz as she sat on the couch surrounded by teddy bears. "Here, the doors are always open."

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Poverty, violence hinder progress for many women, girls, says nuncio

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By

UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- Conditions in many parts of the world force women and girls to bear the burden of carrying out everyday chores for their families and communities, keeping many of them from getting even a basic education, the Vatican's U.N. nuncio said Oct. 6.

Females are often the victims of sexual and other violence, which prevents them from improving life for themselves and their families, said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican's permanent observer to the United Nations. Migrant women and girls are particularly vulnerable to these situations, he added.

He addressed the issue of women's advancement during a session at the United Nations of the Third Committee, which focuses on social, humanitarian and cultural issues.

"Young women in rural areas are disproportionately involved in unpaid domestic work and especially bear the greatest burden when access to clean water and sanitation is not readily available," Archbishop Auza said. "They are forced to spend considerable time and effort collecting water for the community, and in doing so, their access to basic education is often thwarted, not to mention that, in many isolated places, they are also exposed to risks of violence."

Failure to achieve "that basic human right" of universal access to safe drinkable water "can undermine other human rights, as it is a prerequisite for their realization," he said.

Pope Francis in his encyclical "Laudato Si'" points to "the abandonment and neglect ' experienced by some rural populations which lack access to essential services," Archbishop Auza said, quoting the document. In many areas, the pope noted, "some workers are reduced to conditions of servitude, without rights or even the hope of a more dignified life."

Women and girls often bear "the heaviest burden from these deprivations," the archbishop said.

Regarding education, "significant progress has been made toward parity between boys and girls from families of relative wealth or decent economic standing," the archbishop said, but women and girls who live in poverty lack schooling, literacy skills and opportunities for adult education.

Adolescent girls "are at the greatest risk of exclusion from education due to social and economic hardships," Archbishop Auza said. "Whenever young women and girls do not have access to education, they are hindered from becoming dignified agents of their own development."

To change this reality, the "basic material needs of every school-age girl living in rural areas must be addressed," Archbishop Auza said. One initiative that has "proven efficient," he said, is providing school meals to reduce girls' absenteeism. Such efforts should be encouraged "to guarantee access to education to each and every girl," he added.

A current partnership between local farmers, including women, and the World Food Program of the United Nations to provide "homegrown school meals" in 37 countries is "a hopeful example," Archbishop Auza said. The effort "attends to the needs of girls and boys, fosters education and increases market access for women, all at the same time," he said.

Based in Rome, the World Food Program is the world's largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security. It provides food aid to an average of 80 million people in 76 countries each year.

Addressing the violence women and girls face, Archbishop Auza again quoted Pope Francis in saying that eliminating violence is impossible "until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed."

"Through poverty and exclusion, adolescent girls, especially those in rural areas, also experience heightened vulnerability to sexual exploitation, child marriage and other unacceptable forms of violence," the archbishop said. "The horrifying prevalence of violence against women, thus, remains a salient and sad example of the deep connection between economic exclusion and violence."

Archbishop Auza also discussed the current global migration crisis and its effect on migrant women and girls in particular, reminding the global community it has a responsibility "to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate" migrants and refugees.

"Millions of women and girls are fleeing violent conflicts or extreme poverty only to find themselves exploited by traffickers and manipulators along perilous routes and even in host communities," the archbishop said.

The Vatican's U.N. delegation, he said, "strongly supports the international community in its efforts to raise awareness and take concrete steps to prevent the abhorrent phenomenon of violence perpetrated against migrant women and girls."

"Women often heroically defend and protect their families, sacrificing much to achieve a better life for themselves and their children," Archbishop Auza said. "They deserve to be assisted and supported in order to realize their legitimate aspirations to a better life for themselves and for their loved ones."

He said the Vatican "remains strongly committed" to endeavors aimed "at truly protecting women's dignity, while promoting their integral development and advancement within the family and society."

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Survey shows most Americans support celebrating Columbus Day

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CNS) -- A new survey shows that almost six in 10 Americans, or 57 percent, believe that celebrating Columbus Day is a "good idea," while only 29 percent oppose the holiday.

Almost two-thirds of respondents who said they were Catholic, or 65 percent, expressed a "favorable" or "very favorable" opinion of Columbus and the national holiday that honors him. Overall, the poll found that Americans support Columbus and the observance of Columbus Day by nearly a 2-to-1 margin.

The survey results were released Oct. 3 by the Knights of Columbus, which is based in New Haven. The Marist Poll conducted the survey, funded in partnership with the Knights of Columbus.

Columbus Day is a national holiday in many countries in the Americas and elsewhere to officially celebrates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Americas Oct. 12, 1492. The federal holiday in the U.S. this year is Oct. 9.

The survey showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans -- 76 percent -- believe that Columbus and other historical figures should be judged by the standards of conduct of their own lifetimes, as opposed to modern standards. Sixteen percent disagreed. Fifty-six percent view Columbus either "favorably" or "very favorably"; half as many, or 28 percent, take a negative view of the navigator.

Accusations by some historians that the Italian explorer opened the Americas to enslavement, genocide and "cultural destruction" have led some U.S. cities to cancel local Columbus Day parades and other commemorations and rename the holiday Indigenous Peoples' Day. New York City still has one of the nation's largest Columbus Day parades.

Father Michael McGivney, a candidate for sainthood, who founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882, chose to name the organization after Columbus "because he was a widely acclaimed Catholic figure from American history during a time when Catholics were frequently discriminated against and marginalized," said a news release from the Knights announcing the results of the survey.

"The Knights of Columbus joins the vast majority of Americans in celebrating Columbus Day," said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, the organization's CEO. "He was a man ahead of his time, who brought two worlds together and began the process that led to the founding of this country. It is a testament to Americans' commitment to a fair reading of history that the explorer's popularity has endured despite the unfair and hateful attacks by British propagandists, the Ku Klux Klan and revisionist academics."

The Marist Poll conducted the survey of 1,224 adults Sept. 11-13. Survey participants were 18 years or older and residing in the continental United States. They were reached through randomly selected landline or mobile numbers. Live interviewers recorded their responses.

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Trump administration expands exemptions on contraceptive mandate

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Trump administration Oct. 6 issued interim rules expanding the exemption to the contraceptive mandate for religious employers, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, who object on moral grounds to covering contraceptive and abortion-inducing drugs and devices in their employee health insurance.

Leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops praised the action as "a return to common sense, long-standing federal practice and peaceful coexistence between church and state."

The contraceptive mandate was put in place by the Department of Health and Human Services under the Affordable Care Act.

While providing an exemption for religious employers, the new rules maintain the existing federal contraceptive mandate for most employers.

President Donald Trump had pledged to lift the mandate burden placed on religious employers during a White House signing ceremony May 4 for an executive order promoting free speech and religious liberty, but Catholic leaders and the heads of a number of Catholic entities had criticized the administration for a lack of action on that pledge in the months that followed.

From the outset, churches were exempt from the mandate, but not religious employers. The Obama administration had put in place a religious accommodation for nonprofit religious entities such as church-run colleges and social service agencies morally opposed to contraceptive coverage that required them to file a form or notify HHS that they will not provide it. Many Catholic employers still objected to having to fill out the form.

The HHS mandate has undergone numerous legal challenges from religious organizations, including the Little Sisters of the Poor and Priests for Life.

A combined lawsuit, Zubik v. Burwell, made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices in May 2016 unanimously returned the case to the lower courts with instructions to determine if contraceptive insurance coverage could be obtained by employees through their insurance companies without directly involving religious employers who object to paying for such coverage.

Senior Health and Human Services officials who spoke to reporters Oct. 5 on the HHS rule on the condition of anonymity said that the exemption to the contraceptive mandate would apply to all the groups that had sued against it. Groups suing the mandate all the way to the Supreme Court include the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Archdiocese of Washington, the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Eternal Word Television Network and some Catholic and other Christian universities.

In reaction immediately after the 150-page interim ruling was issued, religious groups that had opposed the mandate were pleased with the administration's action.

An Oct. 6 statement by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB's Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, said the new rule "corrects an anomalous failure by federal regulators that should never have occurred and should never be repeated."

The church leaders also said the decision to provide the religious and moral exemption to the HHS mandate recognizes that faith-based and mission-driven organizations and those who run them "have deeply held religious and moral beliefs that the law must respect."

Cardinal DiNardo and Archbishop Lori said the decision was "good news for all Americans," noting that a "government mandate that coerces people to make an impossible choice between obeying their consciences and obeying the call to serve the poor is harmful not only to Catholics but to the common good."

Michael Warsaw, chairman of the board and CEO of the EWTN Global Catholic Network, said the television network's legal team would be "carefully considering the exemptions announced today and the impact this may have on our legal challenge to the mandate, but we are optimistic that this news will prove to be a step toward victory for the fundamental freedoms of many Americans."

Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket, told reporters in a telephone news conference an hour after the rule was released that it is a "common sense and balanced rule and a great step forward for religious liberty."

He said the rule "carves out a narrow exemption" and keeps the contraceptive mandate in place for those without moral or religious objections to it.

He noted that it does not provide immediate relief for those groups who had challenged it, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, which Becket represents. They will "still need relief in courts," he said, but was confident now that it would happen.

"We've traveled a long way," he added, of the multiple challenges to the contraceptive mandate in recent years, which he described as an "unnecessary culture war fight."

Rienzi, noted that the HHS rule could have eliminated the contraceptive mandate completely but it did not do so. He also said the new rule is open for comments for a 90-day period and will likely face legal challenges, which already began in a lawsuit filed Oct. 6 by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of members of the ACLU and Service Employee International Union-United Health Care Workers West who say they are at risk of losing their contraception coverage because of where they work or attend school.

In the lawsuit, the ACLU said the interim rules violate the establishment clause regarding religion in the First Amendment and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment in the Constitution "by authorizing and promoting religiously motivated and other discrimination against women seeking reproductive health care."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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Julie Asher contributed to this story.

 

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