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  • Bishops' migration chairman asks for extension of immigration status

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    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The head of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration said some migrants from Honduras and El Salvador cannot safely return to their home countries in the near future and should have a special immigration permit extended.

    The U.S. government will consider in early November whether to extend, for some migrants hailing from the two countries, what's known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS. The designation is for those who come to the U.S. from certain countries because of a natural disaster, continuing armed conflict or other extraordinary conditions. The status for Honduras and El Salvador is set to expire in early 2018.

    "There is ample evidence to suggest that current TPS recipients from Honduras and El Salvador cannot return safely to their home country at this time," said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration. He cited a report issued by bishops' Office of Migration and Refugee Services titled "Temporary Protected Status: A Vital Piece of the Central American Protection and Prosperity Puzzle."

    The report recommends that the U.S. government extend TPS for some 257,000 people from El Salvador and Honduras in the U.S., who currently have a work permit and reprieve from deportation.

    In a letter of introduction to the report, Bishop Vasquez said: "As you read this report, I urge you to keep the people of El Salvador and Honduras, including TPS recipients, in your thoughts and prayers. I encourage you to engage the administration in requesting a TPS extension for El Salvador and Honduras . . . and to reach out to your elected congressional leaders to request they support a legislative solution for TPS recipients who have been in the United States for many years."

    Advocates worry because the Department of Homeland Security, under the Trump administration, has signaled reluctance to extend the status for other countries.

    In mid-September, the Trump administration announced the end of TPS for nationals from the North African nation of Sudan, prompting outcry from Catholic groups who say they worry about the conditions the migrants will face upon their return. Though the administration said it is safe for them to return, the U.S. Department of State warned against travel to the country because of "risks of terrorism, armed conflict and violent crime."

    Haitians who obtained TPS after the country's devastating 2010 earthquake, also are waiting to learn whether they'll have to return to an unstable country, since DHS also has signaled it plans to end TPS status for the Caribbean nation. Catholic groups and others have said it is not safe for them to return because of instability on the island.

    In a similar way, the report says Honduras is a "fragile state" and unable to accommodate the return of a large number of its nationals. El Salvador, too, has a pervasive crime problem, as well as other social ills, and, too, would face hardship with a return of large numbers of nationals, it says.

    The report is based on the findings of a delegation from the USCCB and MRS that visited Honduras and El Salvador Aug. 13-19 to examine conditions in those countries and whether they can "adequately receive and integrate the possible return of existing TPS recipients."

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    Editors: The full text of the report can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/fact-finding-mission-reports/upload/el-salvador-honduras-report-20171016.pdf.

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Brief versions on news stories from Catholic News Service. Catholic News Service provides news from the U.S., Rome and around the world in both English and Spanish, in written coverage, images and video reporting.
  • Pope names Bishop Joseph M. Siegel to lead Diocese of Evansville

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis named Auxiliary Bishop Joseph M. Siegel of Joliet, Illinois, to head the Diocese of Evansville, Indiana. He succeeds Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, who was appointed in June to lead the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The appointment was announced in Washington Oct. 18 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Bishop Siegel, 54, has been vicar general of the Joliet Diocese since 2011. He will be installed as the sixth bishop of Evansville Dec. 15. "Over the past six years, I have come to appreciate Bishop Siegel's many gifts and talents," Joliet Bishop R. Daniel Conlon said in a statement. "It has been a blessing to work with him. "He has been a great asset to the Church of Joliet, both as a priest and a bishop," said. "I am confident that he will prove to be an effective and loving pastor in Evansville. May God bless him and the people he has been called to serve."

    Archbishop says Katrina ordeal prompted pastoral visit to Harvey victims

    TEXAS CITY, Texas (CNS) -- Meandering slowly, retired New Orleans Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes greeted each student and teacher inside the Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in Texas City. If it weren't for different logos on their uniforms, students of True Cross Catholic School in Dickinson were blending right in with Our Lady of Fatima students. True Cross students are meeting for classes and activities at Our Lady of Fatima while the Dickinson parish works on repairing damage to its facilities after Hurricane Harvey decimated the school and church. Nearly all 153 students made the temporary transition to Our Lady of Fatima's campus in nearby Texas City. The New Orleans archbishop visited the schools Sept. 25. Harvey dumped nearly 44 inches of rain in Dickinson, swelling the nearby bayou straight into True Cross. Our Lady of Fatima was spared, but Texas City still saw nearly 30 inches of rain. Both cities sit less than a half-hour drive from the Gulf Coast. The experience of recovering after a disastrous hurricane was nothing new for Archbishop Hughes, who was at the helm of the New Orleans Archdiocese when Hurricane Katrina wrecked the Crescent City in 2005. The stories and images from Houston reminded the archbishop of his experiences during Katrina and he felt called to help.

    Bishops' migration chairman asks for extension of immigration status

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The head of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration said some migrants from Honduras and El Salvador cannot safely return to their home countries in the near future and should have a special immigration permit extended. The U.S. government will consider in early November whether to extend, for some migrants hailing from the two countries, what's known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS. The designation is for those who come to the U.S. from certain countries because of a natural disaster, continuing armed conflict or other extraordinary conditions. The status for Honduras and El Salvador is set to expire in early 2018. "There is ample evidence to suggest that current TPS recipients from Honduras and El Salvador cannot return safely to their home country at this time," said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration. He cited a report issued by bishops' Office of Migration and Refugee Services titled "Temporary Protected Status: A Vital Piece of the Central American Protection and Prosperity Puzzle." The report recommends that the U.S. government extend TPS for some 257,000 people from El Salvador and Honduras in the U.S., who currently have a work permit and reprieve from deportation.

    Wisconsin parish's 'Apple Pie Ambassadors' welcome new neighbors

    MONONA, Wis. (CNS) -- "Hello, we're from Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Monona. We understand that you recently moved into the area. We just wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood." That greeting -- along with an apple pie, a bulletin and a smile -- are what the parish's "Apple Pie Ambassadors" have given out nearly 50 times since May. Earlier this year, the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish Council came up with the idea for the ambassadors to serve as a "welcome wagon" for people who recently moved into the area, both Catholics and otherwise. They are invited to check out the parish, which is in the Diocese of Madison, and they also are informed of some of the bigger events that have a presence in the neighborhood such as the parish festival and fish fries. An Immaculate Heart of Mary parishioner who is a realtor sends program leader Sharon Coffey a list of the new homes sold in Monona every month. "We'd eventually like to get to the whole parish boundaries," Coffey told the Catholic Herald, Madison's diocesan newspaper. "Right now, we're just getting started and we kind of want to feel our way through these houses (in Monona)."

    Irish folklife expert says Halloween traditions began in Ireland

    DUBLIN (CNS) -- As the seasonal carving of pumpkins gets underway, an Irish folklife expert said there is evidence that the tradition, which is synonymous with Halloween jack-o-lanterns in the United States, actually began in Ireland. Clodagh Doyle, assistant keeper at the Irish Folklife Division of the National Museum of Ireland, told Catholic News Service that records in the folklore archives at University College Dublin document what people traditionally did at Halloween in the past. One tradition recorded, dating to the 19th century, is the making of Halloween lanterns, usually with a turnip but sometimes a large potato. However, Doyle threw cold water on the likelihood of finding evidence to link a particular emigrant with taking this tradition to the U.S. "I don't think we are going to find the direct connection, but we can definitely say they were being made in Ireland," she said.

    Utah Catholics, Lutherans celebrate 'connectivity' of their churches

    SALT LAKE CITY (CNS) -- Bishop Oscar A. Solis told Lutherans and Catholics from parishes throughout the greater Salt Lake area gathered to pray together Oct. 8 that he felt joyful and inspired "to see our unity and solidarity as one God's family. Especially, he said, "as we gather in prayer to give praise to our loving God and to invoke his blessings for all of us and for the world." The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City and Bishop Jim Gonia of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's Rocky Mountain Synod presided at the gathering at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, and each delivered a homily. Many clergy from both churches were in attendance. Congregants commemorated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and celebrated the efforts at unity of the two churches in recent years. As the clergy processed in, many of those standing in the pews joined the choir in singing "In Christ Alone," a hymn familiar to members of both churches. The choir was comprised of members of several Catholic and Lutheran churches.

    Minister general: Pilgrims imitate Franciscans' Holy Land hospitality

    JERUSALEM (CNS) -- Franciscans serving in the Holy Land have had an impact on Christian pilgrims, said Franciscan Father Michael Perry, minister general of the order. "The Franciscans' care for pilgrims, their attention to detail, their efforts to demonstrate the love of God, the mercy of God through different religious services and ... how they welcome people in hospitality houses, these become elements that people themselves, Christians and others, take back to (their) countries," said Father Perry. Father Perry spoke to Catholic News Service in Jerusalem during official celebrations of the 800th anniversary of the presence of the Franciscans in the Holy Land. The celebration included three days of prayer, reflections, music and conference meetings, which discussed the history and archaeology of the Franciscans in the Holy Land. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, head of the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches, was among those who attended. The service of the Franciscans "should be a call to go beyond division, a call to recognize each other truly as brothers and sisters belonging to the one same family, whether you call it family of God or the one human family," Father Perry told CNS following the celebrations' opening ceremony Oct. 16. "I think their service is absolutely essential; that is why in the 14th century, the Holy Father at the time asked the Franciscans to dedicate energy and personnel to care for the holy sites."

    Ukrainian bishop sees 'real chance of peace' in country's crisis

    WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Catholic bishop responsible for eastern Ukraine has backed calls for the deployment of international peacekeepers and praised "pressure from below" to end the nearly four-year war. With the Ukrainian government ready to establish conditions for a peacekeeping force, "there are now good signs this could happen," said Bishop Stanislav Szyrokoradiuk of Kharkiv-Zaporizhia, whose diocese includes rebel-held Donetsk and Luhansk. "Although some politicians still hope to use this conflict for their own power interests, pressure for reconciliation is spreading up from below among the people who've had enough of it. This is a positive change, and it brings a real chance of peace," he told Catholic News Service Oct. 18. Peacekeeping proposals were being debated by European Union and U.N. officials in mid-October to end the conflict between the Ukrainian government and Russia-back separatists. Bishop Szyrokoradiuk said he has been in continual contact with people on both sides who believe pressure from the U.S. and Western governments would induce Russian President Vladimir Putin to "talk and reach agreements."

    Italian priest kidnapped in Nigeria freed

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Italian Father Maurizio Pallu, who was kidnapped by several gunmen in Nigeria and held captive for nearly a week, was freed Oct. 17. Father Pallu, a 63-year-old missionary affiliated with the Neocatechumenal Way, and a group of pilgrims were on their way to Mass in Benin City Oct. 12 when they were ambushed. The priest told the Italian website Vatican Insider that contrary to initial reports, two members of the group were taken hostage. "We were very scared, especially the two young people who were with me: a young man employed by the parish and a female student, both from Nigeria, both very young," Father Pallu told Vatican Insider Oct. 18. Under guard, "we walked for several hours, hoping that someone would notice us," he said. "Instead, we were taken to an isolated place."

    Cardinal Vidal dies at 86; pope praises him as man of dialogue, peace

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Ricardo Vidal of Cebu, Philippines, died Oct. 18 at the age of 86 after a series of health complications. In a telegram to Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, Pope Francis expressed his condolences and "profound gratitude for the late cardinal's untiring and devoted service to the church." The pope also praised "his constant advocacy of dialogue and peace for all the people in the Philippines" and commended the cardinal's soul "to the infinite love and mercy of our heavenly father." Born Feb. 6, 1931, in Mogpog, Philippines, Ricardo Vidal was ordained a priest in 1956. He served as a spiritual director of a local seminary and then as its superior, attending to the formation of candidates to the priesthood until 1971. He was ordained a bishop in 1971 and served as coadjutor of the Diocese of Malolos. Just two years later, he became archbishop of Lipa at the age of 42.

    Faith brings hope even at moment of death, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians can find hope even at the hour of death, which faith teaches is not a closed door but a wide-open passage to a new life with Christ, Pope Francis said. While all men and women are "small and helpless in front of the mystery of death," Jesus' victory over death assures Christians of the joy of the resurrection, the pope said Oct. 18 during his weekly general audience. Despite chilly temperatures in Rome, thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square to greet the pope who rode around St. Peter's Square in the popemobile, stopping frequently to greet pilgrims and kiss babies. Making sure one child was kept warm, the pope pulled up the hood of the baby's jacket before he was taken back to his parents. Continuing his series of talks on Christian hope, Pope Francis reflected on death, which is "a reality that our modern civilization tends to eradicate" so completely that "when death comes to us or those around us, we are unprepared."

    Pope condemns deadly terrorist attack in Somalia

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis prayed for the victims of a terrorist attack in Mogadishu, Somalia, that left hundreds dead and countless wounded in one of the deadliest attacks in the country's history. Before concluding his weekly general audience Oct. 18, the pope expressed his sorrow and denounced the "massacre which caused more than 300 deaths, including several children. This terrorist act deserves the fiercest condemnation, especially because it victimizes people that are already so tried," the pope said. Mogadishu erupted into chaos Oct. 14 when a minivan and a truck carrying military grade explosives exploded near a security checkpoint. Investigators believe the attackers were targeting a heavily guarded compound that housed many embassies, United Nations' offices and African Union peacekeeping forces.

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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.

  • Federal judge in Hawaii blocks Trump's new expanded travel ban

    HONOLULU (CNS) -- A federal judge in Hawaii Oct. 17 blocked the Trump administration's expanded version of its travel prohibitions issued in late September. In a 40-page ruling issued hours before the new travel ban was to take effect, U.S. District Court Judge Derrick K. Watson granted the state of Hawaii's request for a temporary restraining order and blocking Trump's order nationwide. The new ban now includes travel prohibitions for some Venezuelan government officials and their immediate family, as well as nationals from North Korea, the Central African country of Chad, Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen and Somalia. The new restrictions were to take effect Oct. 18. With the addition of North Korea and Venezuela, some say the administration was hoping to avoid previous charges that it is targeting Muslims from entering the United States, which the president had told his supporters he would do while campaigning. In his decision, Watson said the latest ban "suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor: it lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be 'detrimental to the interests of the United States.'"

    St. John Paul gave his life 'completely to God through Mary,' says priest

    NEW YORK (CNS) -- St. John Paul II "looked at the world with Mary's eyes and saw man in need of mercy," the postulator of the pope's canonization cause told Massgoers Oct. 12 at St. Vincent Ferrer Church in New York. "Mary's eyes are the eyes of a mother. Her gaze embraces us and reads what is in our hearts," said Msgr. Slawomir Oder, who was the homilist at a special vigil Mass to mark the 100th anniversary of the last Marian apparition at Fatima, Portugal. Mary appeared to three shepherd children at Fatima in 1917. She first appeared May 13, and the apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13. "Mary looks at us with a mother's tenderness and she is able to reach our hearts to see our deepest needs," Msgr. Oder said. "In her eyes, there is no judgment and condemnation. There is only maternal love. She looks at us in the same way as she looks at her Son beneath her heart. The tenderness of Mary's maternal glance is a prelude to mercy. It invites us to come to her, so that we can experience it ourselves."

    Groups settle in lawsuit against HHS contraceptive mandate

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Dozens of Catholic groups that challenged the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act have reached a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, they announced late Oct. 16. The groups, including the Archdiocese of Washington and the Pennsylvania dioceses of Greensburg, Pittsburgh and Erie, were represented by the Cleveland-based law firm Jones Day. Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl wrote an Oct. 16 letter to archdiocesan priests saying the "binding agreement" ends the litigation challenging the Health and Human Services' mandate and provides a "level of assurance as we move into the future." The Washington Archdiocese was one of dozens of groups challenging the mandate, which went to the Supreme Court last year in the consolidated case of Zubik v. Burwell. Although it was most often described as the Little Sisters of the Poor fighting against the federal government, the case before the court involved seven plaintiffs and each of these combined cases represented a group of schools, churches or church-sponsored organizations. Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik, whom the case is named for, said he was grateful for the settlement which he described as an "agreement with the government that secures and reaffirms the constitutional right of religious freedom."

    Protesters arrested for blocking pipeline work through nuns' property

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Nearly two dozen people, including a juvenile, were arrested as they blocked workers from starting construction of a short leg of a natural gas pipeline on property owned by the Adorers of the Blood of Christ congregation in Columbia, Pennsylvania. Singing traditional protest songs, the protesters from the group Lancaster Against Pipelines were charged Oct. 16 with defiant trespass and taken away one by one. They were released after a brief court hearing. Those arrested were among more than 100 people who had peacefully gathered as construction workers arrived to begin working on a leg of the 183-mile Atlantic Sunrise pipeline being built by Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Williams Partners to carry gas from the Marcellus Shale in northeastern Pennsylvania. "We will continue to have a presence here. How can we not? We live here. This is our home. These are outside marauders who have come in and seized our property," said Ann Neumann, a member of the anti-pipeline group. She said her nephew, Ashton Clatterbuck, 16, was among those arrested. He is the son of Mark Clatterbuck, one of the group's leaders. The elder Clatterbuck was not arrested.

    Senate confirms Callista Gingrich as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Senate confirmed Callista Gingrich as the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. Voting late Oct. 16, senators approved her nomination 70-23. More than 20 Democrats joined Republicans in supporting Gingrich, the wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a vocal ally of President Donald Trump. Gingrich, 51, a lifelong Catholic and a former congressional aide, has been president of Gingrich Productions, a multimedia production and consulting company in Arlington, Virginia, since 2007. She was expected to present her credentials at the Vatican in the coming weeks. Gingrich's associates welcomed the vote. Among them was Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, where Gingrich has been a longtime member of the choir. "Callista has been part of our shrine family for two decades and so, as any family rejoices when good news arrives, we rejoice with Callista," Msgr. Rossi said in an Oct. 17 statement. "Both Callista and Speaker Gingrich are wonderful supporters of our ministry here at Mary's shrine, most especially our music program.

    Vatican asks Indonesian bishop to repay funds he allegedly stole

    RUTENG, Indonesia (CNS) -- The Vatican has asked Indonesian Bishop Hubertus Leteng, who recently resigned over allegations of theft and having an affair, to return the church funds he is accused of stealing. The request over the missing money was not mentioned in an Oct. 11 announcement by Vatican of the resignation. However, Father Robert Pelita, who participated in a meeting between officials of the Vatican, Indonesian bishops' conference and Ruteng Diocese, told ucanews.com the request was made directly to Bishop Leteng. "The Vatican representative said that, in principle, the money must be returned," Father Pelita told ucanews.com Oct. 13, although the Vatican did not say when the bishop should pay it back. Pope Francis approved the resignation of the 58-year-old bishop following the investigation into allegations that he secretly borrowed $94,000 from the Indonesian bishops' conference and $30,000 from the diocese, without providing an accountability report.

    Franciscans in Holy Land sow peace, fraternity, respect, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Franciscans assisting the Christian minority and caring for the churches and shrines in the Holy Land are "ambassadors" of all the people of God, Pope Francis said. Marking the 800th anniversary of the order's presence at the places where Jesus was born, lived and died, the pope sent a letter to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, an administratively autonomous province of the Franciscan order. The custody keeps "the Christian witness alive, studying Scripture and welcoming pilgrims," he said in the letter, dated Oct. 17, and addressed to Franciscan Father Francesco Patton, the official custodian, or custos, of the Holy Land. The pope recalled how St. Francis of Assisi sent members of his recently founded order out on mission in 1217 to all nations on earth as witnesses of "faith, fraternity and peace."

    Respect, don't just tolerate other religions, Vatican officials say

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Peace and harmony will not result from members of different religions simply tolerating each other; respect and appreciation of customs and cultural diversity is required, top Vatican officials said in a message to the world's Hindus. "Respect creates space for every person and nurtures within us a sense of 'feeling at home' with others. Rather than dividing and isolating, respect allows us to see our differences as a sign of the diversity and richness of the one human family," said the message from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Bishop Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, respectively the president and secretary of the pontifical, extended their best wishes to the world's 1.1 billion Hindus for the feast of Diwali, a three-day religious festival, which was to begin Oct. 19 in most parts of the world. The festival focuses on the victory of truth over lies, light over darkness, life over death and good over evil. The path to mutual respect between communities has no room for intolerance, which spawns "violence in many parts of the world," the message said. Thus, a true culture of respect is required for peacemaking and harmonious living between communities.

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

    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.

    Not listening to God's word turns Christians into fools, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians who do not really listen to the word of the God and are only concerned with outward appearances are corrupt and idolatrous, Pope Francis said. Foolish men and women believe they listen but instead do their "own thing always" and they transform the word of God with their own "concept of reality," the pope said Oct. 17 during his morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae. "Fools do not know how to listen," he said. "And this deafness will bring them to corruption. The word of God doesn't enter, there is no place for love and, in the end, there is no place for freedom." The pope reflected on the day's Gospel from St. Luke (11:37-41) in which Jesus rebukes a Pharisee who "was amazed to see that (Jesus) did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal."

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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.

  • True dialogue respects deeply held beliefs of others, say speakers

    UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- Genuine intercultural and interreligious dialogue is based on personal, practical encounters that acknowledge and respect the deeply held beliefs of others, according to speakers at an Oct. 13 United Nations panel. The permanent observer mission of the Holy See to the United Nations and the Catholic lay movement Communion and Liberation co-sponsored a lively two-hour exchange among diplomats, academics, religious leaders and representatives of nongovernmental organizations. They addressed a complex topic: "The 'other' is a good for me: the role of interreligious and intercultural dialogue in addressing violence, conflict and building a lasting peace in the world today." Unprecedented global interconnectedness coexists with divisive conflicts of identity, culture, religion and politics, moderator Paulo Carozzo said. He is director of the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

    Bishop at Mass recalls aunt's story of being at Fatima for miracle of sun

    MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. (CNS) -- Auxiliary Bishop Dominick J. Lagonegro of New York celebrated Mass Oct. 13 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Middletown to mark the 100th anniversary of the last vision at Fatima and the miracle of the sun. During his homily, Bishop Lagonegro held up one of the iconic Fatima photographs of the crowd estimated at 70,000 people, and pointed to two figures. "This is my uncle, and this is my aunt," he said of the late Herminia and Antonia Caixerio, who remarkably were in Fatima, Portugal, for the miracle of the sun. Though the couple was married in the United States, they happened to be visiting family in Portugal Oct. 13, 1917. They "heard what was going on" at Fatima and went to see for themselves, he said. On a day of dreadful weather, they tracked through mud to get to the "cova," or field, where Mary appeared, and they were drenched. "But when the (three Fatima) children arrived, the rains stopped, the clouds opened and there was the sun," he said, telling his aunt's story. "It went up and down and turned back and forth, almost as if it were dancing."

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

    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.

    Catholic cemeteries bury the poor and forgotten

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- It is not as if anyone has organized a parade or a public relations campaign to say so, but Catholic cemeteries around the country have, do and will bury the indigent and those whose bodies have gone unclaimed. "It's a way to help those in need. A program to help the poor," said Stephen Bittner of the Cincinnati Catholic Cemetery Society and president of the Catholic Cemetery Conference, the Illinois-based nationwide association for diocesan Catholic cemetery organizations. The national association, on Nov. 1, will sponsor "Cemetery Sunday," in advance of All Souls' Day, which is Nov. 2. The day's activities will include discussions with interested Catholics about the burial of indigents as well as other services Catholic cemeteries provide. Burial of the poor "is a very common experience across the United States, and many dioceses have many services, and provide the services in a different way," said Roman Szabelski, who oversees matters for the 45 Catholic cemeteries in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Szabelski was at the Catholic Cemetery Conference's national convocation in Nevada in September, where these and other initiatives were discussed.

    Neglected works of mercy: burying, praying for forgotten dead

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When a friend's beloved dog died, Adrian Cruz dug a grave, prepared a box, cleaned the dog and helped bury the animal in a way that helped his grieving friend mourn the loss of her pet. Earlier the same day, Cruz, a Catholic mortician, tried to comfort an acquaintance who was devastated to find out what would happen to a friend who died and whose family was unwilling to give him a proper burial. "While driving home and thinking about that day, I realized that my friend's pet dog had more of a dignified burial than the unclaimed bodies I buried for the government. It troubled me, thinking of how I whispered prayers while burying these poorest of the poor as the government machines unceremoniously dumped dirt on their unmarked graves," he told Catholic News Service. The work of mercy that often gets most overlooked, he said, is burying people who died poor, estranged from family, abandoned in old age or as wards of the state or babies who were aborted. Also, funerals, even cremation, are expensive and "churches can often drive people away from Christian burial because of the costs. Families are often embarrassed that they can't afford" them, Cruz said in a series of email responses to questions in mid-October.

    U.S. bishop concerned about impact of Trump's health care order on poor

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A part of President Donald Trump's Oct. 13 executive order on health care that would end subsidies to health insurance companies aimed at helping individuals with low to modest incomes is of "grave concern," a U.S. bishop said. "The Affordable Care Act is by no means perfect," said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, but he warned that attempts to improve it "must not use people's health care as leverage or as a bargaining chip. To do so would be to strike at the heart of human dignity and the fundamental right to health care. The poor and vulnerable will bear the brunt of such an approach," he said in an Oct. 14 statement. Bishop Dewane, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said the USCCB "will closely monitor the implementation and impacts of this executive order by the relevant administrative agencies." He said flexible options for people to obtain health coverage are important strategies but he also cautioned that "great care must be taken to avoid risk of additional harm to those who now receive health care coverage through exchanges formed under the Affordable Care Act."

    Video of Baltimore Catholic school choir closing in on 10 million views

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- A hurricane-stricken Puerto Rican and a local fan who dropped off pizza are among the admirers of a video of the choir from Cardinal Shehan School in Baltimore that has gone viral and been clicked on at least 8.5 million times. That was as of lunch hour Oct. 12. By week's end, Kenyatta Hardison's quick thinking and the talent of the children at the Partners in Excellence School on the campus of St. Matthew Parish in Northwood will likely top 10 million views. ABC's "World News Tonight" broadcast a story about the middle school choir's video the evening of Oct. 15. Hardison has fielded media queries from USA Today, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun and CNN, and her students have even auditioned via Skype for a producer of a national daytime talk show. On Sept. 30, nearly 1,000 people saw Cardinal Shehan students anchor an archdiocesan Catholic Schools Choir at a gala with an uplifting performance of the Andra Day song "Rise Up." As her students prepped for the event, Hardison asked them to give a little more in rehearsal, and she began recording a video on her phone and sharing it on Facebook Live.

    St. Vincent de Paul inspired people to pray and reach out, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Love for God always translates into an active love of the poor, leading Christians to get up and go out to anyone in need, Pope Francis told members of the religious orders and charitable groups inspired by St. Vincent de Paul. "One who loves doesn't sit in an armchair and watch, awaiting the coming of a better world, but gets up and goes with enthusiasm and simplicity," the pope told more than 10,000 members of the "Vincentian family" Oct. 14. After making his way around St. Peter's Square in the popemobile, Pope Francis paused on the stage to venerate a reliquary containing the heart of St. Vincent de Paul. The relic was a focal point of the international celebration Oct. 12-15 of the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul and later the men's Congregation of the Mission. The Vincentian family also includes the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and other Catholic charities that draw inspiration from him. St. Vincent de Paul's "passion for charity" has endured for four centuries because it is grounded in prayer and flows from adoration, Pope Francis told the crowd. Being aware that God awaits and welcomes each person, transforms hearts into those that welcome others and prompts them to set out in search of anyone in need.

    Kenyan Catholic bishops urge calm in the face of political crisis

    NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- Kenyan Catholic bishops have urged the citizens to guard the country's peace, as a prolonged election standoff took its toll on the economy and the social conditions of ordinary people. The bishops said the matter is grave, while highlighting growing anxiety among the people and increased polarization along political and ethnic lines. "God has given us given us only one country, our nation Kenya, and it is upon every Kenyan to stand firm and say no to everything that will take away from the peace," the bishops said in an Oct. 12 statement signed by Bishop Philip Anyolo, chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops Conference. "If the election goes on as scheduled, we call upon Kenyans to turn out and exercise their democratic right peacefully," said Bishop Anyolo. "If for any reason the election is rescheduled, we call on Kenyans to remain calm and peaceful."

    Pope announces Synod of Bishops dedicated to people in Amazon

    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.

    Ex-head of Vatican hospital found guilty of abuse of office

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A Vatican court found the former president of the Vatican-owned pediatric hospital guilty of abuse of office for using donations belonging to the hospital's foundation to refurbish a Vatican-owned apartment used by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, former Vatican secretary of state. Originally charged with embezzlement, Giuseppe Profiti was sentenced to one year in jail and fined 5,000 ($5,900) euros on the reduced charge, but the sentence was suspended. The three-judge tribunal dismissed charges against Massimo Spina, the hospital's former treasurer. The judgments were handed down Oct. 14. The original indictment said Profiti, who was president of Bambino Gesu hospital from 2008 to 2015, and Spina extracted 420,000 euros for non-institutional ends from 2013 to 2014 by using hospital foundation money to refurbish Vatican property in order to benefit a construction company owned by Gianantonio Bandera. The company, Castelli Re, went bankrupt in 2014. Profiti argued in court that the money had been an investment because the apartment's refurbished areas were to be used for fundraising events to benefit the hospital.

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

    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.

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

    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.

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  • Catholics say diplomacy with North Korea, Iran needed to keep peace

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- More than 750 Catholics called on President Donald Trump and Congress to seek diplomatic solutions to defuse rising tensions between the United States and North Korea and to assure that the U.S. remains a party to the Iran nuclear deal. The leaders of dozens of religious congregations, officials at Catholic organizations and individual parishioners said they were concerned by the president's recent threats to "totally destroy" North Korea and to withdraw the U.S. from the Iran accord because both actions would bring the world "to the brink of nuclear catastrophe." "Responsible, moral leadership would recognize the Iran deal as an important example of successful diplomacy and conflict transformation that engaged many nations in an arduous, nonviolent process to build trust and avoid military confrontation. Similar honest and respectful, if difficult, diplomatic engagement should mark our approach to North Korea," the letter said. Trump in a mid-day announcement Oct. 13 said he would not to recertify that Iran was in compliance with the P5+1 agreement negotiated by the U.N. Security Council's five permanent members -- China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. -- plus Germany. The countries joined together in 2006 in diplomatic efforts with Iran regarding its nuclear program.

    Planned giving called 'key part' of future of parishes, schools, ministry

    LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Colleges, hospitals and universities "are well-established" in the area of planned giving, but such programs are just as applicable to Catholic parishes, schools, dioceses and many other institutions, said one of the organizers of an upcoming national seminar in Los Angeles. "It is a key part of our future," said Kimberly Jetton, director of the Office of Planned Giving of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Jetton made the comments in an announcement that the archdiocese is partnering with the National Catholic Planned Giving organization based in Omaha, Nebraska, to hold a seminar Nov. 1-3 in Long Beach for parishes, high schools, elementary schools and entities in the archdiocese and around the country. Organized under the theme "21st Century Mission and Ministry," the seminar will focus on key topics such as the theology and ministry of planned giving; communications; estate planning; how to present estate planning seminars; tax-smart stewardship; IRA charitable giving; charitable trusts and gift annuities. Registration and hotel information can be found online at www.codesweb.com.

    Victims of Las Vegas shooting remembered at funeral Masses, vigils

    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."

    Sessions' memo praised for reaffirming laws protecting religious liberty

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' memo on religious freedom issued for all federal agencies and departments to follow "helpfully reaffirms that the law protects the freedom of faith-based organizations to conduct their operations in accordance with their religious mission," a U.S. archbishop said. The guidance "helpfully reaffirms that the law protects the freedom of faith-based organizations to conduct their operations in accordance with their religious mission," said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. His Oct. 12 statement addressed Sessions' memo of Oct. 6 that identifies 20 "high-level principles," as it terms it, "that administrative agencies and executive departments can put to practical use to ensure the religious freedoms of Americans are lawfully protected." The principles say, for example, that "religious employers are entitled to employ only persons whose beliefs and conduct are consistent with the employers' religious precepts, and that "religious organizations are entitled to compete on equal footing for financial assistance used to support government programs."

    Mary's heart 'gate of heaven,' San Francisco archbishop tells Massgoers

    SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone consecrated the Archdiocese of San Francisco to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Oct. 7, telling thousands of pilgrims packed shoulder-to-shoulder in St. Mary's Cathedral that "her heart is the gate of heaven." The consecration combined the celebration of the centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917 with the archdiocese's annual rosary rally procession. Just as Mary had a special role in mothering God's son, she has a special role in mothering each of us into life in her son, the archbishop said in his homily. We don't need Mary to point us to Jesus, he said. "We know where he is," said San Francisco's archbishop. "He's in the tabernacle, in the sacraments, in his word. He is present in the church. Rather, what we need is someone to pick us up and carry us to him, because we are too weak to get there on our own. In her maternal presence, Mary is there to advocate for us."

    Long-term recovery ahead for California communities hit hard by wildfires

    SANTA ROSA, Calif. (CNS) -- The Diocese of Santa Rosa "has been hit hard" and "is in an ongoing state of uncertainty" because of Northern California wildfires that began the night of Oct. 8, said Bishop Robert F. Vasa. Fanned by warm winds, they devastated a vast swath of North California's wine country and forced 20,000 to evacuate. The fires left at least 31 people dead, and hundreds of others were missing. News reports said that 21 fires spanned 300 square miles and that as of late Oct. 12, most were zero percent contained. In Southern California a destructive wildfire broke out in the Anaheim Hills, but by Oct. 12 it was 65 percent contained. However, fire weather warnings remained in effect for Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. "Santa Rosa is extremely smoky with the sun a mere red ball," the bishop said in an Oct. 10 statement. He also noted that for the many hundreds who have lost their homes, "the sense of great helplessness is palpable." In an Oct. 13 telegram and in an Oct. 12 statement, respectively, Pope Francis and the chairman of the U.S. bishops' domestic policy committee expressed solidarity with all those suffering through the disaster and offered prayers.

    New saints inspire Christians to build peaceful world, bishop says

    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.

    Togo bishop condemns 'indiscriminate brutality' by security forces

    DAPAONG, Togo (CNS) -- A Catholic bishop in Togo condemned "indiscriminate brutality" by security forces against anti-government protesters and warned of a "climate of psychosis" in the West African country. Bishop Dominique Guigbile of Dapaong said he was saddened by the "blind violence" being carried out by Togolese against each other. "Innocent people should not be punished instead of the guilty, and everyone should be guaranteed humane treatment, with respect for their rights and dignity," he said in an Oct. 9 pastoral message in response to the actions of police and military troops as they confronted opponents of President Faure Gnassingbe in several towns. The bishop explained how he had witnessed homes, shops, offices and cars "burned, vandalized and pillaged," as well as deaths, injuries, arrests and abductions, and the flight of citizens to other countries. "People are deeply shocked, traumatized and bruised by this kind of urban guerrilla warfare -- these unfortunate events have further weakened the peace and social cohesion, which were already endangered by social and political tensions," Bishop Guigbile said.

    In Holy Land, Franciscan finds peace in prayer, ministering to pilgrims

    JERUSALEM (CNS) -- On his first pilgrimage to the Holy Land just at the outbreak of the intifada, Franciscan Father Wladyslaw Brzezinski was awed by the quiet contemplation with which a fellow friar was able to pray under a sprawling sabra cactus in the courtyard of the Church of the Visitation. Little did he know that his life's path would eventually lead him back to this Franciscan shrine which, according to Christian tradition, marks the home of Elizabeth and Zachariah and commemorates the meeting between Mary her cousin, Elizabeth, when Mary recited the Magnificat as Elizabeth announced she was pregnant. Father Brzezinski, who wanted to be sent as a missionary to Africa, followed his vow of obedience and remained in Poland. In 2003, his superiors sent him to the Holy Land, where the Franciscan custos and his staff serve as guardians of the Catholic holy places and welcome pilgrims. Upon his arrival, Father Brzezinski, now 53, spent seven months serving at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and four years at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, three of them as the superior. But for the past 10 years, he has been superior at the Church of the Visitation.

    Bishop pleads for peace as Yemen crisis worsens

    BONN, Germany (CNS) -- The bishop who oversees the Catholic Church in Yemen called for immediate peace talks to end the violence among warring factions, warning the country's population and infrastructure were being destroyed by the current war. "Yemen has suffered internal conflicts for decades, but the civil war and intervention by Saudi Arabia and its allies have created a catastrophe," said Bishop Paul Hinder of the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, based in Abu Dhabi. "While the United States certainly has something important to say, Iran must also be brought on board so negotiations stand a chance. But as long as people in the world's weapon-producing countries feel they're winning, this war will continue," the bishop said in an interview with the German Catholic news agency KNA. The bishop's plea came as fighting continued in Yemen, where Saudi forces intervened in early 2015 to defend the central government against mostly Shiite Muslim Houthi rebels.

    Franciscan friar named director of Vatican publishing house

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Conventual Franciscan Father Giulio Cesareo has been appointed head of the Vatican Publishing House. The 39-year-old member of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual replaces Salesian Father Giuseppe Costa, who ended two five-year terms in June 2017. Father Cesareo's appointment was announced Oct. 12 while he was attending the Frankfurt Book Fair with Msgr. Dario Vigano, prefect of the Secretariat for Communication. The monsignor told reporters that Father Cesareo's appointment was "a new important part in the process of reform requested by Pope Francis." Father Cesareo was born in Chivasso, Italy, and studied moral theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He earned his doctorate at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland on the theology of peace and war.

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

    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.

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  • Pope Francis names Peru native as auxiliary bishop in Miami Archdiocese

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Enrique Delgado, a priest of the Archdiocese of Miami, to be an auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese. The appointment was announced in Washington Oct. 12 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States. Born in Lima, Peru, Bishop-designate Delgado, 61, is pastor of St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Weston, Florida. He was ordained a priest for the archdiocese in 1996 in his home country. He worked in private business managing a company before immigrating to the United States. Bishop-designate Delgado began studying for the priesthood in 1991. He served in parish ministry in the archdiocese for virtually all his priesthood, first as parochial vicar of St. Agnes Church in Key Biscayne, and then at Nativity Church in Hollywood. He was pastor of St. Justin Martyr Church in Key Largo before being assigned to St. Katharine Drexel Church. Bishop-designate Delgado's episcopal ordination Mass will be Dec. 7 at Miami's St. Mary Cathedral, and Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski will be the main celebrant. He will be the first U.S. bishop born in Peru.

    Missouri conference praised for 'boldly' embracing mission of advocacy

    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CNS) -- Pope Francis' diplomatic representative to the United States hailed the Missouri Catholic Conference as a shining example of missionary discipleship and the joyful proclamation of the Kingdom of God. "For 50 years, the Missouri Catholic Conference has boldly embraced its responsibility and mission," Archbishop Christophe Pierre, stated in a keynote address at the conference's 50th anniversary celebration Oct. 7. Six Missouri bishops and about 400 Catholic laypeople, priests and religious from all over the state attended the anniversary event at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Jefferson City. The daylong event included a video presentation on the conference's history; workshops on Catholic education, pro-life and social justice; a catered lunch; and Mass with the bishops. Founded in 1967, the Missouri Catholic Conference, on behalf of the state's four dioceses, advocates in a nonpartisan manner for laws and policies that reflect Christian values in the public square, such as family life, the dignity of human life, care for people who are vulnerable and marginalized, fairness in education, religious freedom and the common good.

    Iowa court upholds state's requiring 72-hour waiting period for abortions

    DAVENPORT, Iowa (CNS) -- An Iowa District Court judge Oct. 2 upheld the state's 72-hour waiting period for abortions, signed into law in May by former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland had filed a petition for injunctive relief immediately after the bill was signed into law May 5, claiming that it would place an undue burden on patients, particularly low-income women who have to drive long distances for abortion services. The Iowa Supreme Court ordered a temporary injunction halting enforcement of the law the same day, according to news sources. Polk County District Court Judge Jeffrey Farrell upheld the law, ruling that it is legal because it does not place an undue burden on a woman's constitutional right to abortion. However, this does not mean the law will be enforced immediately. Although he denied Planned Parenthood's petition for an injunction, Farrell stayed implementation of the law to allow time for an appeal and for the Iowa Supreme Court to act. Planned Parenthood, backed by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, immediately filed an appeal to the state's high court seeking a new temporary injunction blocking enforcement of the law.

    Mexican state plans 147-foot Our Lady of Guadalupe statue

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- State and municipal officials in the north-central state of Zacatecas have unveiled plans to build the world's biggest statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the national patroness -- hoping the giant image would increase tourist visits. The proposed statue would stand 147 feet, taller than other famous religious landmarks in Mexico such as the Christ the King statues in the states of Aguascalientes and Guanajuato. In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI flew past the Christ the King statue in Guanajuato and celebrated Mass nearby. The proposed statue also would be taller than a 75-foot statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the town of Xicotepec de Juarez in Puebla state, to the east of Mexico City. The statue in Puebla was also built with the idea of attracting tourists, according to press reports. Local officials project the statue in Zacatecas will cost $4.25 million, with 62.5 percent of the money coming from the private sectors, according to the newspaper El Universal.

    Catholic schools in Miami find room for Puerto Rican students

    MIAMI (CNS) -- Catholic schools in the Miami Archdiocese are accepting students and enrollment inquiries from Puerto Rican families displaced to Florida after the devastating impact of Hurricane Maria. An informal survey conducted in early October by the Miami Archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools indicated that some 50 students from Puerto Rico -- including two from the U.S. Virgin Islands -- had already been placed in Catholic elementary and secondary schools within the archdiocese and more enrollments are expected in the coming months. "They are still in the process of arriving since flights out of Puerto Rico are difficult to get and very expensive. We expect to receive more students in the coming weeks," said Hope Sadowski, coordinator of foreign students and administrative executive assistant in the Office of Catholic Schools in Miami. Sadowski said the Miami Archdiocese is asking the schools to keep a tally of the Puerto Rican enrollments and to do everything they can to facilitate the emergency enrollments wherever possible. She said Catholic schools are working with the families on an individual basis to determine financial arrangements and in some cases may offer a waiver or partial waiver of tuition fees in the short term.

    Bishop says decline of faith in West hurts Nigerian church

    LIVERPOOL, England (CNS) -- A Nigerian bishop said the Catholic Church in his country is beginning to lose its public influence partly because of the decline of religious faith in the West. Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto accused European and American politicians and diplomats of publicly "pandering" to Islam at the expense of Christianity. The result, he said, was the ascendancy of Islam and evangelical Christianity in Nigeria and the decline of Catholicism. He told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 10 interview in Liverpool that the widespread loss of Christian faith in the West was "absolutely" among the causes of the diminishing influence of the Catholic Church in his own country. "From my own experience, I find that the British high commissioner, the ambassadors from European countries, the American ambassador -- they are pandering more to Islam than to Christianity, because most of them have turned their backs on Christianity," Bishop Kukah said.

    Find ways to keep migrant families together, Vatican official says

    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.

    Have courage, pray fervently, pope tells churches facing persecution

    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."

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

    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.

    Supreme Court dismisses an appeal in case against earlier travel ban

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a one-page order, the U.S. Supreme Court Oct. 10 dismissed an appeal in one of the legal challenges of President Donald Trump's now-expired travel ban. The Trump administration had asked the court to drop the case after Trump signed a new expanded version of the travel prohibitions in late September. Release of the new version effectively made the appeal moot, ruled the justices, who also said, "We express no views on the merits." The case came from U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Virginia, one of two federal appeals courts that had struck down major portions of Trump's travel ban. The case began with a federal court in Maryland, which is covered by the 4th Circuit. Hours before part of a version of the Trump administration's travel ban of six majority-Muslim countries was set to expire, officials rolled out the new version late Sept. 24. The new ban now includes travel prohibitions for some Venezuelan government officials and their immediate family, as well as nationals from North Korea and the Central African country of Chad. Officials say the new restrictions go into place Oct. 18.

    Parish's nightly outdoor Bible study, rosary walk now a beloved tradition

    GREENVILLE, Texas (CNS) -- For more than four years, parishioners of St. William Catholic Church in Greenville and some Catholics from far beyond Texas have gathered nightly for a 9 p.m. outdoor Bible study and rosary procession honoring Our Lady of Fatima. The parish had a particularly high turnout for the Oct. 7 feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, and Father Paul Weinberger, pastor of St. William since 2004, expected high participation as well for Oct. 13 -- the 100th anniversary of the last of the six Marian apparitions at Fatima, Portugal. The parish is celebrating the centennial of Our Lady of Fatima's appearances to Sts. Jacinta and Francisco Marto and Lucia Santos and marking St. William's 125th anniversary this year by not letting an evening go by without opening wide the church doors and processing across the street to a foliage-shrouded park for what has become a beloved tradition. Greenville, with a population of about 27,000, is 50 miles northeast of Dallas. "By 9 p.m., it is dark and the people of Greenville see the front doors of the church wide open," said Father Weinberger, who inaugurated the candlelight rosary walk June 15, 2013.

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

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- 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.

    Catholic high schools have varied stances on athletes 'taking a knee'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest of racial injustice has been a hot topic for professional sports teams and the president of the United States, but it also has played out on Catholic high school sidelines as well. The discussion about what Catholic high school players can and can't do during the singing or playing of the national anthem has involved not only pregame locker room talks but also school community sessions with parents, and in some cases, diocesan directives. Lansing Catholic High School in Lansing, Michigan, went back and forth on what to do with players planning to "take a knee" during the anthem, which four of them, including the starting quarterback, did during the Oct. 6 homecoming game. The players were not allowed to play for much of the first half, but they were not benched for the entire game as had been predicted. Just before the anthem, a prayer was read over the loudspeaker reflecting some of the school's tensions. The Lansing State Journal quoted the prayer in part: "We need your grace to overcome all division and all anger, all bigotry and all hatred. The absence of physical violence does not mean the automatic presence of peace. Authentic peace is a gift from you that must be cultivated in human hearts." At Bellarmine College Preparatory School, a Jesuit school in San Jose, California, about 12 players knelt during the anthem prior to the Oct. 6 game surrounded by players who chose to stand. The players who took a knee spoke to school administrators, teammates and coaches about their decision prior to the game.

    Much of Puerto Rico still has no power; aid distribution facing obstacles

    CAGUAS, Puerto Rico (CNS) -- The only way a military veteran who works for the Diocese of Caguas could get a message out from Puerto Rico to contacts elsewhere illustrates conditions in Puerto Rico nearly three weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island Sept. 20. "He sent the email from his car in the mountains -- the only place where he can charge his phone and get some periodic reception," reported Joe Boland, vice president of mission at Chicago-based Catholic Extension. He got word from the veteran "that they have armed guards at gas stations. Communications and transportation are still a mess," Boland said in an email sent to Catholic News Service in Washington Oct. 10. After surviving the devastation wrought by Maria, Bishop Eusebio Ramos Morales of Caguas finally reached a functioning land line at one of his parishes and the first phone call he made was to Catholic Extension. The bishop reached Boland and described the island of 3.4 million people as being in a total state of chaos. He said the Catholic Church was paralyzed due to the inability for anyone to travel or communicate. He reached out, hoping that Catholic Extension could help in some way.

    Iraqi-Kurdish war could be deadly for Christians, warns U.S. adviser

    LIVERPOOL, England (CNS) -- Two millennia of Christianity in Iraq could be wiped out completely if war breaks out between Iraqi forces and Kurdish nationalists, warned a U.S. adviser to the Chaldean Catholic Church. Stephen Rasche said the international community must act quickly to prevent a new conflict in Iraq following the Sept. 25 referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan, where 93 percent of 3.3 million voters chose independence. The poll triggered a hostile reaction from the Iraqi government, which immediately halted flights over Kurdish air space and stopped recognizing visas issued by the Kurdistan Regional Government. Rasche said unless tensions between Baghdad and Irbil are defused, Christian refugees returning to towns on the Ninevah Plain could find themselves in the midst of a "greater war" than that fought against Islamic State. If the refugees were unable to resettle because of a new conflict, then "Christianity in Ninevah is gone," he said.

    South Korean Catholics pray for Olympics as tensions build in North

    OSAKA, Japan (CNS) -- Parishes in the South Korean province that will host the 2018 Winter Olympics are praying for the event's success as tensions increase between Washington and Pyongyang, a spokesman for South Korea's Diocese of Chuncheon told Catholic News Service. The prayers are included in general Mass intentions every Sunday, said Father Apostle John Kim, diocesan spokesman in Chuncheon, South Korea. The diocese, which straddles the border between South Korea and North Korea, expects demand for pastoral services from athletes, coaches and others at the games in February 2018. Priests will offer Mass and confessions at the Olympic Village. "It is important because the athletes need support, confidence, courage and resilience," Father Kim said. Some countries have said they may not send delegations if tensions worsen. The Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic sites are about 50 miles from the border, within the range of North Korean artillery and missiles.

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

    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."

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

    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.

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

    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.

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  • After public procession, bishop consecrates Jackson Diocese to Mary

    JACKSON, Miss. (CNS) -- In a state where the Catholic population hovers at 3 percent, a Mississippi bishop in a very public way made the community aware that he was consecrating the Diocese of Jackson to Mary. Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz led a procession through the streets of downtown Jackson at the end of an afternoon Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle and before the consecration. Seminarians carried a statue of Mary as part of the procession and more than 100 Catholics joined in. The crowd then returned to the cathedral for a litany and the prayer of consecration written by Deacon Aaron Williams. The act marks two events, the 100th anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady at Fatima and the official liturgical launch of the diocese's pastoral priorities. Bishop Kopacz and his pastoral team have been working for almost two years to get the priorities written and introduce them to the parishes. The process included listening sessions in each deanery of the diocese and a year of prayer, reflection and work with a consultant from Catholic Leadership Institute.

    Variety of Catholic rites in India is not threat to unity, pope says

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- For centuries, Catholics in India have drawn support from and expressed their faith through the liturgies, traditions and spiritualities of three different rites; Pope Francis said it is time that all of them, no matter where they live in the country, have their own bishops. The Vatican announced Oct. 10 that Pope Francis had created two new eparchies, or dioceses, for the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and extended the boundaries of two others. A letter from Pope Francis to all the bishops of India explained the move. In many parts of the world, especially North America and Australia, Catholics of different rites living next door to each other could belong to different dioceses -- the dominant Latin-rite or one of Catholicism's Eastern churches. But in India, bishops worried that having two or three dioceses covering the same territory would splinter the Catholic community or at least give the Hindu majority the impression that the Catholic community was fragmented. Therefore, for decades bishops of the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic churches were found only in Kerala state, where the majority of their faithful live. Any of their faithful who moved north or east of Kerala were cared for under the direction of Latin-rite bishops.

    Catholics voice concern about EPA efforts to dismantle Clean Power Plan

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- An Environmental Protection Agency decision to roll back an Obama-era regulation to curb carbon dioxide emissions from power plants met with disapproval and pledges to work to keep key components of the plan in place from Catholic organizations. Advocates said that rescinding the Clean Power Plan, President Barack Obama's signature policy to meet U.S. commitments under the Paris climate accord to limit global warming, would adversely affect the health of people around the country, especially in low-income communities, and would harm the environment. The concern is that if greenhouse gas emissions are not limited, thousands of people will become sickened or even die from increased air pollution in communities located near coal-fired power plants. Faith-based environmental advocates also expressed apprehension that not cutting power plant emissions would hasten climate change and negatively impact the planet. Coal-fired power plants are the nation's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. "This continues to be the way that the Trump administration has decided to tackle climate change, which is to pull back on just about everything the previous administration has done," said Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant. "It's unfortunate. It's wrong. If they do try to replace it with something, I hope it's as robust as the Clean Power Plan, but I think that's unlikely."

    Syriac Catholic bishops lament threat to presence in Middle East

    HARISSA, Lebanon (CNS) -- Syriac Catholic bishops meeting in Lebanon for their annual synod lamented the suffering of the Syriac church and other sister churches and the "grave threat" to the future of their presence in the Middle East. In their final statement for the Oct. 3-7 gathering, the bishops said they studied the current situation in the region and "the suffering of the Syriac church and other sister churches as a result of the terrible crises and conflicts in Syria and Iraq, the instability and disturbances in the Holy Land, and the tragedies of Christians in Egypt. These situations cause pain and persecutions that lead to forced displacement and uprooting from the land of parents and grandparents, with a grave threat to the future of our presence in the East and the continued martyrdom of God ... in this part of the world where we were born and God wanted us to be," the bishops said. Pointing to Syria, the prelates expressed their satisfaction with a "gradual return to security and stability after more than six years of war imposed" on the country. They called on the international community "and all those with good will to make efforts to achieve a just political solution and to accelerate the return of displaced persons to their homes," so they can contribute to the reconstruction of their country.

    Pope names U.S. cardinal at Vatican as envoy to shrine dome dedication

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has named U.S. Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, to be his special envoy at the Dec. 8 dedication of the Trinity Dome at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl will celebrate the Mass, which takes place on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the patronal feast day of the United States and the national shrine. The cardinal, who is chairman of the national shrine's board of trustees, also will be the homilist for the Mass, which will take place in the Great Upper Church and will be open to the public. Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, rector of the national shrine, said he and all associated with the shrine, including the staff and Cardinal Wuerl, are honored the pope named a special envoy to the dedication. "I am delighted that Pope Francis has appointed Cardinal Kevin Farrell to fulfill this role," Msgr. Rossi said in a statement. "Since his days as a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, Cardinal Farrell has been a great friend of the national shrine and was ordained a bishop in the Great Upper Church in 2002."

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

    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.

    Venezuelans with HIV make tough choices as medicine becomes scarce

    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."

    International stewardship speakers examine faith practices of millennials

    ATLANTA (CNS) -- With two youngsters in tow for Sunday Mass, things can get forgotten, like cash, which Ryan Johnson admitted he rarely carries. He'd love the option to use his mobile phone to donate to a cause at the parish on the spur of the moment. "We like cashless, paperless, checkless," said Johnson, a millennial Catholic. The family gives money to the church with an automatic electronic check from his bank. Faith is so important to him that the 35-year-old Johnson knits it together with his career as an energy engineer by nurturing a network of Catholic young professionals with Catholic Charities Atlanta that he hopes to see grow. Ryan and his wife, Caroline, 30, joined St. Ann Church in Marietta, selecting from five nearby parishes in part because they can use their phones to read its website, keep up to date with parish news by reading an electronic newsletter, and interact with the 2,500 Facebook followers. "You want to feel like, if I am talking about the parish, the parish is listening. If I'm commenting sometimes (on the Facebook page), I want an answer. I want to be engaged," Johnson told The Georgia Bulletin, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

    Vatican bank launches legal action in Malta over major investment loss

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican bank has initiated legal action in Malta against unnamed third parties because of "significant damages" incurred after a 17-million-euro investment. The bank, formally known as the Institute for the Works of Religion, recently turned to judges in Malta to start civil action "against various third parties deemed liable of having caused significant damages" regarding "certain investment transactions in which it participated," the Vatican press office said Oct. 10. Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, told journalists the transaction involved "an initial investment of 17 million" euros made at the beginning of 2013. Determining the amount of total damage incurred would be up to the court in Malta, he added. Launching the legal action demonstrates the bank's desire "to accept responsibility for abuses in the past," he said. According to the written communique, such a move also reflects the bank's "commitment, in the interest of transparency, to report to the competent authorities any potential abuses perpetrated against it and to take, as in this instance, any appropriate action to protect its financial and reputational interests, including outside of the Vatican City State."

    Pope recognizes martyrdom of Franciscans killed in Guatemala

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis advanced the sainthood causes of nine men and women, including a Franciscan priest who championed the land rights of farmers in Guatemala. During an Oct. 10 audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, the pope recognized the martyrdom of Italian Father Tullio Merluzzo, a Franciscan priest who died alongside Luis Obdulio Arroyo Navarro, a Guatemalan layman who belonged to the Third Order of St. Francis. A recognition of martyrdom means the two can be beatified, a step toward sainthood, without a miracle attributed to their intercession. Born in Vicenza, Italy, in 1929, Father Merluzzo was ordained in 1953 by Cardinal Giuseppe Roncalli, the future St. John XXIII. Seven years after his ordination, Father Merluzzo was sent to the Guatemalan department of Izabal, where he helped run several schools and hospitals as well as served as pastor in several parishes. Many priests and religious in Guatemala became targets during the country's 1960-1996 civil war as government forces cracked down on leftist rebels supported by the rural poor.

    Caritas Philippines appeals for help, fears malnutrition in Marawi

    MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- Caritas in the Philippines is appealing for help for 400,000 people displaced in Marawi as fears grow of malnutrition and displacement problems resulting from ongoing terrorist attacks. Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, also is seeking help to restore Marawi's St. Mary's Cathedral, reported ucanews.com. He said it was important to restore the central place of worship of the Catholic community in the predominantly Muslim city on Mindanao Island. The Maute group, which claims to have links with Islamic State, launched terrorist attacks May 23, resulting in a standoff with Philippine security forces. Gunmen took the cathedral's vicar, Father Teresito Soganub, hostage and destroyed religious images, including photographs of Pope Francis and retired Pope Benedict XVI, as they rampaged inside the church. Father Soganub was freed Sept. 17. Government casualties have continued to rise as the conflict drags on, despite repeated promises by Philippine military commanders that it will soon be resolved. As of Oct. 8, at least 158 soldiers and police had been killed in action and more than a 1,000 wounded. The military said Oct.9 that 774 militants had been killed and up to 48 militants were holding their positions -- about 12 acres -- with the aid of improvised explosive devices.

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

    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.

    Chaldean bishops urge perseverance, preserving identity

    ROME (CNS) -- Chaldean Catholic bishops urged their people -- particularly those who have immigrated to other countries from their homelands -- to persevere and to hold onto their Chaldean faith and identity. Meeting in Rome for their annual synod Oct. 4-8 with Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako presiding, the bishops stressed that, "in these difficult circumstances" in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Syria, "we wanted to take a realistic and courageous view of all the challenges facing our countries, our church, and the Christians of the region, and thus our dioceses and our people, especially our families who were forced to flee and take refuge in the countries of expansion." In a final statement, the bishops urged the faithful "to keep the covenant of your baptism in your hearts and consciences." They reiterated that "after all the types of persecution we have experienced through our history, we persevered and kept ' faith and hope in our hearts." They said their faith included "a spirit of solidarity, sacrifice, mutual love, and a spirit of responsibility."

    Spanish church leaders seek unity as Catalonia considers independence

    MADRID (CNS) -- A Spanish cardinal defended his country's unity as a "moral good" and condemned "sedition and fraud" by secessionists, as politicians in Catalonia prepared to debate independence at an Oct. 10 regional parliamentary session. "Many of us feel intense pain, as if a dagger had been thrust into our guts," said Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera of Valencia. "What has happened is very serious -- an act of sedition, fraud and betrayal, a coup against the rule of law and a violation of the nation's constitutional order and the coexistence in freedom of all Spaniards." The cardinal's comments appeared in a newsletter circulated Oct. 7-8, as hundreds of thousands of Spaniards in Madrid, Barcelona and other cities rallied against Catalan independence. He said Spanish Christians should follow the Gospel's "calls not for fragmentation and division, but for unity and integration," and resist a "reprehensible act contrary to truth," which would "inflict wounds and cause confrontation between families, friends and neighbors."

    South Carolina students, Catholic Charities mobilize to aid storm victims

    CHARLESTON, S.C. (CNS) -- In a demonstration of what charity is all about, students in the Diocese of Charleston -- like people across the nation -- are trying to help victims of the three massive hurricanes that unleashed their fury on the U.S. mainland and islands in the Caribbean. One after the other, in a span of about three weeks, hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria wreaked havoc with destructive tornadoes, floods and winds so strong they bent and twisted an iron cross outside a Jesuit school in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Debbie Wilfong, principal of St. Andrew School in Myrtle Beach, said a group of fifth-grade girls, "upon their own initiative," met with her to get permission for a bake sale. They set a date, created posters to advertise the event, and assigned jobs to all the fifth-graders. They even tapped Father Roger Morgan, administrator of the school's parish, for baking duties, which he accepted. St. Andrew's volleyball team also joined the outreach, deciding to donate all proceeds from their weekly bake sales to hurricane victims.

    Australia's top bishops visit Vatican for talks on restoring trust

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The top leaders of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference and chair of the church's Truth, Justice and Healing Council met with Vatican officials to discuss issues emerging from national investigations into the abuse of minors. "Topics covered included the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the relationship between the church and society at large, the restoration of trust, and greater participation of the laity in decision-making roles in the church," the Vatican press office said in a written communique Oct. 7. The bishops' delegation met Oct. 5 with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican foreign minister; Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; and Archbishop Giacomo Morandi, secretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, conference president, and Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, vice president, took part in a "wide-ranging discussion concerning the situation of the Catholic Church in Australia at this time," the Vatican said.

    Help defend democracy, vote for governors, say Venezuelan bishops

    CARACAS, Venezuela (CNS) -- Venezuela's bishops urged citizens to vote in upcoming gubernatorial elections. "Given the very stormy situation that our country is going through, these elections are a light for those who believe in and defend democracy," said the seven-point statement, released Oct. 6. Venezuelans will elect governors for all 23 states Oct. 15. Divisions remain among government critics regarding the process; many advocated continuing street protests against the government instead of participating in the election. Four months of continual street demonstrations ended in August after the government successfully installed a new assembly to rewrite the country's constitution and the opposition coalition agreed to participate in elections. More than 120 people died during the conflicts, and many in the opposition boycotted the election. A high turnout in the gubernatorial election could give an overwhelming victory to the political opposition, but if most of its supporters stay home, the results could be more balanced.

    'I'd sure want my kid in school,' even as a refugee, singer says

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- James McMurtry, outside of the poetry of his songs, can be plainspoken. McMurtry is one of a fistful of performers crisscrossing the western United States as part of the Lampedusa tour that benefits Jesuit Refugee Service's Global Education Initiative for refugee families. When he learned the purpose of the tour, McMurtry said he had to agree. "It's a good idea to get schools going in refugee camps," he told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 5 telephone interview from Austin Texas, his home added. "If I were in a refugee camp, I'd sure want my kid in school." Recording artists are weaving in and out of the tour as their own concert schedules permit. In addition to McMurtry, one of the many name acts taking the stage is Emmylou Harris, who headlined last year's Lampedusa tour of the eastern United States. McMurtry joins the tour Oct. 12 in Tucson, Arizona. It winds up in Dallas. There is ample opportunity for concertgoers to make contributions to Jesuit Refugee Service. More information can be found at https://www.concertsforrefugees.org. Lampedusa is Italy's southernmost island and has become a way station for North African refugees fleeing their homeland in the hope of safety and shelter elsewhere.

    Canon law must serve Vatican II vision of the church, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church's Code of Canon Law is an instrument that must serve the church's pastoral mission of bringing God's mercy to all and leading them to salvation, Pope Francis said. Just as the first full codification of Catholic Church law was carried out 100 years ago "entirely dominated by pastoral concern," so today its amendments and application must provide for a well-ordered care of the Christian people, the pope said in a message Oct. 6 to a canon law conference in Rome. Leading canonists, as well as professors and students from all the canon law faculties in Rome, were meeting Oct. 4-7 to mark the 100th anniversary of the first systematic Code of Canon Law, which was promulgated by Pope Benedict XV in 1917. Work on the code began under the pontificate of St. Pius X and was a response not only to the need to examine, systematize and reconcile often conflicting church norms, Pope Francis said. After the Vatican lost its temporal power, he said, St. Pius knew it was time to move from "a canon law contaminated by elements of temporality to a canon law more conforming to the spiritual mission of the church."

    Legionaries pledge renewal as former rector admits fathering children

    ROME (CNS) -- The Legionaries of Christ pledged its ongoing commitment to renewal and reform as it released information about a former rector who has publicly acknowledged being the father of two children. Legionaries Father Oscar Turrion -- who served as rector of the order's seminary in Rome -- informed his superiors of "his intention to leave priestly ministry" in light of the recent revelations, the order said in an online communique Oct. 6. "We are conscious of the impact that the negative example of a formator and rector has" on the Christian faithful and on those responsible for institutions dedicated to the formation of candidates to the priesthood, the order said. "We are deeply saddened that the recent history of our congregation has quenched the fervor of some of our members. We are firmly committed to accompanying our brothers in moments of difficulty. Likewise, we reiterate our commitment to the path of renewal that we continue to follow led by the church," it added. The Legionaries of Christ provided a timeline of events concerning Father Turrion, who also released his own letter describing the affair, offering his apologies and asking for prayers. Father Turrion had been a formator at the college since 2007 and was named rector in 2014 for a three-year term.

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