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  • Update: Catholics urged to appeal to lawmakers in Congress to pass DACA bill now

    IMAGE: CNS photo/Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA

    By Julie Asher

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- By day's end Feb. 15, members of the U.S. Senate had rejected four immigration proposals, leaving it unclear how lawmakers will address overall immigration reform and keep the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in place.

    Late that afternoon, Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, issued an urgent alert to Catholics in his archdiocese to raise their voices "to support the 'Dreamers'" and contact their senators and representatives to vote for a bipartisan measure to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which is set to expire March 5.

    "Time is running out for them," he said in a statement. "Congress must pass bipartisan legislation that would provide urgently needed relief for Dreamers."

    Needing 60 votes for Senate passage, a bipartisan measure that included a path to citizenship for an estimated 1.8 million Dreamers -- those eligible for DACA -- and $25 billion for a border wall failed by six votes. The final vote was 54-45. A bill the Trump administration was supporting was defeated 39 to 60. Two other bills also failed.

    The U.S. House was pressing on with its own bill, which by mid-day Feb. 16 was not yet up for a floor vote. Described as "hard line" by opponents, it includes keeping DACA in place, funding a border wall, ending the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, limiting family-based visas, requiring employers to verify job applicants' immigration status and withholding federal grants from so-called "sanctuary" cities.

    "As Catholics, we believe the dignity of every human being, particularly that of our immigrant and refugee children and youth, must be protected," Archbishop Wester said in his statement. "The sanctity of families must be upheld. The Catholic bishops have long supported undocumented youth brought to the United States by their parents, known as Dreamers, and continue to do so."

    Other Catholic leaders decried lawmakers' failure to provide protections for DACA recipients.

    Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, called it "deeply heartbreaking."

    "While thankful for the bipartisan majority support for protecting DACA youth, it is unconscionable that nearly 800,000 will continue to live in fear and uncertainty," she said Feb. 15.

    "As it has for more than 100 years, Catholic Charities will continue to stand with and advocate on behalf of migrants and others in need. Not because they are migrants but because they are children of God," she said.

    Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, echoed that disappointment, saying: "These young women and men have done nothing wrong and have known life only in the United States. The Dreamers who are enrolled at Notre Dame are also poised to make lasting contributions to the United States.

    "We pray that our leaders will end the cruel uncertainty for these talented and dedicated young people who have so much to offer our nation," he said. "Regardless, Notre Dame will continue to support them financially, maintain their enrollment, provide expert legal assistance should that become necessary and do everything it can to support them."

    Even if the legislation seems to be stalling, some like Kevin Appleby, senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies of New York, still see hope.

    "This is a setback, but the game is not over," he told Catholic News Service Feb. 16. "The silver lining is that the president's framework was roundly rejected, which could clear a path for a narrower bill that provides citizenship to undocumented youth without decimating the family immigration system. The U.S. bishops and the Catholic community can take the lead moving forward by continuing to highlight the moral necessity of offering protection to these young people."

    Since September, when President Donald Trump announced he was ending the Obama-era program and told Congress to come up with a legislative fix, the U.S. Catholic bishops individually and as a body have been urging Congress to protect DACA.

    Since 2012, DACA has allowed some individuals brought as minors to the United States by their parents without legal permission to receive a renewable two-year period of protection from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit. As of 2017, approximately 800,000 individuals had DACA status.

    Since Trump rescinded the program, many immigration advocates have urged members of Congress to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, which has long been proposed. The bill is what gives DACA recipients the "Dreamer" name.

    In Arizona in late January, Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger of Tucson and his predecessor, now-retired Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, urged passage of a "clean" bill, like the DREAM Act, to preserve DACA. Their commentary was posted on the diocesan Facebook page.

    "While all would agree that reasonable border protection is needed and while clearly countries have a right to protect their borders, it is wrong to barter the lives of these young people by making their protection contingent on a wall or stringent border protection that is unreasonable and a waste of taxpayer's money. Congress should pass the DREAM Act as a stand-alone bill," they said.

    "We are at a moment in our nation's history that could define who we are as a people. Traditional American values of fairness and compassion are in conflict," they wrote. "This is a situation that is a moral test for our society; we must not fail."

    In a Feb. 2 letter to Arkansas' senators and representatives in Congress, Little Rock Bishop Anthony B. Taylor called for grass-roots bipartisan support for "a just and humane solution for the Dreamers whose fate is in your hands." He, too, urged they pass a narrowly focused bill to save DACA.

    "If enough members of Congress commit to focusing on a narrowly-tailored bipartisan solution, DACA-only legislation is possible (to) provide urgently needed relief for Dreamers," he wrote. "They and their families who have worked hard and made valuable contributions to our country deserve certainty and compassion. Dreamers should not be used as a political bargaining chip for other legislative proposals."

    In a Feb. 2 op-ed in the Daily News, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York, struck the same tone, predicting that if Congress tied the fate of these young people to a broader immigration reform measure backed by Trump, it would be "a recipe for getting nothing done, at least in the short term."

    "There are times that our elected leaders must act because it is the right thing to do as human beings. This is one of those times," he said. "If the Dreamers are left unprotected, it will leave a stain on our nation's character for years to come. If we pursue justice and welcome them as full Americans, it would be one of our finest hours."

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    Rhina Guidos contributed to this story.

     

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CNS News Briefs

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.
  • Thirsty souls are quenched by God, not world, priest tells pope, Curia

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The yearning for one's soul to be quenched must not be confused with longing for worldly desires, a Portuguese priest told Pope Francis and senior members of the Roman Curia during their Lenten retreat. The spiritual significance of thirst is a reminder that all Christians must distinguish between a true desire to satisfy their spiritual needs and the false satisfaction given by worldly possessions where "pleasure, passion and joy are exhausted in a wild consumerism," Father Jose Tolentino de Mendonca, vice rector of the Catholic University of Lisbon, said Feb. 19, according to Vatican Radio. "Let us not confuse desire with need. Desire is a lack that is never completely satisfied, it is a tension, a wound that is always open, an endless" need for something from outside oneself, he said. The 52-year-old Portuguese priest was to deliver 10 talks on the theme "In Praise of Thirst" during the retreat Feb. 18-23 at the Pauline Fathers' retreat center in Ariccia, 20 miles southeast of Rome.

    Update: Christian leaders in Jerusalem protest plan to tax church properties

    JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The heads and patriarchs of Christian churches in Jerusalem strongly denounced the city of Jerusalem's plan to force churches to pay property taxes. The proposal to levy taxes on some properties would run contrary to unofficial historical tax-exempt status the churches have enjoyed for centuries, the leaders said in a Feb. 15 statement. "The civil authorities have always recognized and respected the great contribution of the Christian churches, which invest billions in building schools, hospitals, and homes, many for the elderly and disadvantaged, in the Holy Land," the statement said. The leaders called on city officials to retract their intention and to "ensure that the status quo, which was sanctioned by the sacred history, is maintained, and the character of the Holy City of Jerusalem is not violated. We declare that such a measure both undermines the sacred character of Jerusalem, and jeopardizes the church's ability to conduct its ministry in this land on behalf of its communities and the world-wide church," they said. "We stand firm and united in our position to defend our presence and properties."

    Parents who give children up for adoption often are fragile, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When people are unable to love or accept a child with problems or illness, many times it's because they are too weak themselves to be able to bear someone else's vulnerabilities, Pope Francis told a group of children and young people who are wards of the state. "If I have a giant rock, I can't put it on top of a cardboard box because the rock will crush the box," he said, explaining how some adults "don't have sufficient strength to bear fragility because they themselves are fragile." The pope met with the group, which included minors living in foster care or receiving other forms of support and help from the Romanian-based NGO, called "FDP: Protagonists in Education." The Vatican released Feb. 19 a written transcript of the meeting, which was held at the Vatican Jan. 4. The pope said he received the group's questions beforehand so he could better prepare to answer them. One question in particular, he said, had made him cry. The question, which the young man read aloud at the audience, was why his mother didn't want or accept him. He said he was given up when he was two months old and when he turned 21 he got in touch with his birth mother and even stayed with her for two weeks; but he said it didn't go well and he was forced to leave. "My father is dead. Am I at fault if she doesn't want me? Why doesn't she accept me?" the unidentified man asked the pope.

    Pope says Paul VI will be declared a saint this year

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis told pastors in the Diocese of Rome that Blessed Paul VI would be canonized this year. The pope's announcement came at the end of a question-and-answer session with the priests Feb. 15; the Vatican released the text of the exchange three days later. Archbishop Angelo De Donatis, papal vicar for Rome, had told the priests that they would be receiving a book of "meditations" about priesthood drawn from speeches from each pope, from Blessed Paul VI to Pope Francis. That prompted Pope Francis to comment, "There are two (recent) bishops of Rome who already are saints," Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II. "Paul VI will be a saint this year." The sainthood cause of Pope John Paul I is open, he noted, before adding, "Benedict (XVI) and I are on the waiting list; pray for us."

    Pope names U.S. military auxiliary bishop as Rockville Centre auxiliary

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop Robert J. Coyle of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services to be an auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York. Bishop Coyle, 53, was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Rockville Centre in 1991 and was an associate pastor in the diocese in the 1990s. He served 24 and a half years on active and reserve duty for the U.S. Navy. He retired from the Navy Reserve Jan. 1, 2013. The appointment was announced in Washington Feb. 20 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

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  • U.S. bishops declare national call-in day to urge Congress to save DACA

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After the Senate failed Feb. 15 to garner the 60 votes needed to move a bill forward to protect the "Dreamers," officials of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced a "National Catholic Call-In Day to Protect Dreamers" Feb. 26. "We are deeply disappointed that the Senate was not able to come together in a bipartisan manner to secure legislative protection for the Dreamers," the USCCB officials said in a joint statement Feb. 19. "With the March 5th deadline looming, we ask once again that members of Congress show the leadership necessary to find a just and humane solution for these young people, who daily face mounting anxiety and uncertainty," they said. The joint statement was issued by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president; Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB vice president; and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration. "We are also announcing a National Catholic Call-In Day to Protect Dreamers," the three prelates said. They asked U.S. Catholics "to call their members of Congress next Monday, Feb. 26, to protect Dreamers from deportation, to provide them a path to citizenship, and to avoid any damage to existing protections for families and unaccompanied minors in the process."

    Church's Lenten observance dedicated to shooting victims, their families

    PARKLAND, Fla. (CNS) -- A parish community less than two miles away and directly impacted by the Feb. 14 school shooting at a Broward County high school is finding new purpose in Lent this year, according to the parish administrator. "We decided to hold Stations of the Cross on Fridays during Lent as is our tradition but this (past) Friday we decided to celebrate those stations in memory and in solidarity with those who died and all their families, and those at school who experienced this violence on Wednesday," said Polish-born Father Ireneusz Ekiert, who became administrator of Mary Help of Christians Parish in December. At least one member of the suburban parish northwest of Fort Lauderdale -- 14-year-old freshman Gina Montalto, 14, who had attended Mary Help of Christians Elementary School -- was among the deceased. Her funeral is set for Feb. 20. "We have a couple of families with kids who were wounded and one that has died," the priest told the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Miami Archdiocese. "This was a perfect opportunity to bring all those who died, and their families, those who suffered, all those who experienced that violence to bring them into prayer in the Stations today." Troubled 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of first-degree premeditated murder after stalking the halls of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an AR-15 rifle on Valentine's Day.

    Pope accepts resignation of bishop after ordering priests to accept him

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Eight months after ordering priests in a Nigerian diocese to pledge their obedience to the pope and accept the bishop that now-retired Pope Benedict XVI had named for them, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of the disputed bishop. Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke, who since 2012 has been prevented from exercising his ministry as bishop of Ahiara because most of the priests in the diocese refused to accept him, said in a statement, "I am convinced in conscience that my remaining the bishop of Ahiara Diocese is no longer beneficial to the church." Bishop Okpaleke's appointment was met by protests and petitions calling for the appointment of a bishop from among the local clergy. Ahiara is in Mbaise, a predominantly Catholic region of Imo state in southern Nigeria. Bishop Okpaleke is from Anambra state, which borders Imo to the north. The Vatican announced Feb. 19 that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of Bishop Okpaleke, who will turn 55 March 1. The pope named as apostolic administrator of the diocese Bishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji of Umuahia. "I do not think that my apostolate in a diocese where some of the priests and lay faithful are ill disposed to have me in their midst would be effective," the bishop wrote in a letter to the diocese Feb. 14, according to Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

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  • Pope renews membership of child protection commission

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has named nine new members to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, including abuse survivors or the parents of survivors, the Vatican said. However, respecting "the right of each person to disclose their experiences of abuse publicly or not to do so," the commission said Feb. 17, "the members appointed today have chosen not do so publicly, but solely within the commission." Pope Francis re-appointed Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston to be president of the commission, which the pope originally established in 2014. The terms of the original members had expired in December. The first group of members had included two survivors who were very public about their experience of abuse as children. Peter Saunders, a British survivor and advocate, was asked by the commission to take a leave of absence in 2016; Marie Collins, an Irish survivor and advocate, announced in March 2017 that she had resigned. The new members, whose appointments were announced by the Vatican Feb. 17 include: Benyam Dawit Mezmur, an Ethiopian who was chair of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2015-17; Indian Sister Arina Gonsalves, a certified counselor and consultant on abuse cases; Neville Owen, a judge and former chair of the Australian Catholic Church's Truth, Justice and Healing Council; Sinalelea Fe'ao, chief education officer for the Diocese of Tonga and Niue; and Myriam Wijlens, a canon law professor from the Netherlands.

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

  • Update: Catholics urged to appeal to lawmakers in Congress to pass DACA bill now

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- By day's end Feb. 15, members of the U.S. Senate had rejected four immigration proposals, leaving it unclear how lawmakers will address overall immigration reform and keep the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in place. Late that afternoon, Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, issued an urgent alert to Catholics in his archdiocese to raise their voices "to support the 'Dreamers'" and contact their senators and representatives to vote for a bipartisan measure to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which is set to expire March 5. "Time is running out for them," he said in a statement. "Congress must pass bipartisan legislation that would provide urgently needed relief for Dreamers." Needing 60 votes for Senate passage, a bipartisan measure that included a path to citizenship for an estimated 1.8 million Dreamers -- those eligible for DACA -- and $25 billion for a border wall failed by six votes. The final vote was 54-45. A bill the Trump administration was supporting was defeated 39 to 60. Two other bills also failed.

    Catholics urged to affirm beauty, 'liberating truth' of 'Humanae Vitae'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The "liberating truth" of Blessed Paul VI's encyclical "Humanae Vitae" is as relevant today 50 years after its promulgation, and maybe even more so, said Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila in his new pastoral, "The Splendor of Love." "The 50th anniversary of 'Humanae Vitae' is an occasion to celebrate the gift of Blessed Paul VI's teaching and an opportunity to renew our commitment to sharing this liberating truth with a world that is increasingly confused about sexuality," Archbishop Aquila wrote. He said he wrote the pastoral "to affirm the great beauty of the church's consistent teaching through the centuries on married love, a love that is so desperately needed today." "Humanae Vitae" ("Of Human Life'') reaffirmed the church's teaching against the use of artificial birth control and contraceptive sterilization. Promulgated July 25, 1968, the encyclical was Blessed Paul's last. "He prophetically defended the integrity of married love and warned us against the danger of reducing sexuality to a source of pleasure alone," Archbishop Aquila wrote. "Married love reflects the love of Christ, the love which caused him to become human to save us and to give his life for his church. Married love, 'from the beginning' is also by nature fruitful, bringing new life into the world so we can participate in the gift of God's own creation."

    Jim Lackey, longtime CNS editor who embraced old and new media, retires

    FALLS CHURCH, Va. (CNS) -- Jim Lackey, recently retired longtime editor at Catholic News Service, would be hard-pressed to choose between old and new media. As Web editor and manager for CNS for the past decade, Lackey certainly got the importance of new media -- and its broad outreach on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube -- but he also saw, and still sees, the importance of old-fashioned print publications and doesn't think they are going away anytime soon. Sitting at his kitchen table in the Washington suburb of Falls Church Feb. 15 -- just two days after his CNS retirement party -- Lackey said he is a "firm believer" in every Catholic family receiving a diocesan or archdiocesan newspaper "even if it just sits on the coffee table." As he sees it, a paper just sitting there has the chance to be picked up and read. He says this from experience, remembering The Catholic Telegraph, archdiocesan newspaper of Cincinnati, at his home with his parents and two siblings in Dayton, Ohio.

    Chaldean archbishop: Time to be 'honest' in dialogue with Muslims

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- If Christians in the Middle East are going to be "honest" with their Muslim dialogue partners, said Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil, Iraq, Muslims will have to acknowledge that the persecution of Christians in the region did not start with the Islamic State's rise to power in 2014. "We experienced this not for the last four years, but 1,400 years," Archbishop Warda said during a Feb. 15 speech at Georgetown University in Washington, sponsored by the Religious Freedom Research Project of the university's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs. Christians are partly to blame, too, in the dialogue, according to Archbishop Warda. "We did not push back against the recurring periods of terrorism that inflicted cruel pain upon our ancestors," he said. He added that Christianity also needs to return to a "pre-Constantine vision" of the church, recalling Jesus' words shortly before his crucifixion: "My kingdom is not of this world." Given the scope of the Islamic State's campaign to erase Christians and all non-Muslims from the territories it had controlled prior to a counteroffensive that decimated its ranks and holdings, "there is nothing left but to speak plainly," he said. "When there is nothing left to lose, it is very liberating."

    Nuns withdraw from ministry in Mexican city wrought by violence

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- An order of nuns has withdrawn from an especially violent city after the parents and sister of one of the women religious were kidnapped and killed. The Diocese of Chilpancingo-Chilapa, where two priests were murdered Feb. 5, said in a statement that the nuns from the "Comunidad Guadalupana" (Guadalupe Community) had withdrawn because of a lack of security, leaving a school it operated in the city of Chilapa without staff. Schools in Chilapa had suspended classes from September to December because of the insecurity, the statement said. The nuns' withdrawal from Chilapa is but the latest hardship for the Diocese of Chilpancingo-Chilapa, which serves parts of southern state of Guerrero, where the heroin trade has exploded in recent years. At least six priests have been murdered there since 2009. Two priests, Fathers Germain Muniz García and Ivan Anorve Jaime, were shot dead as they drove back from Candlemas celebrations with four other passengers, three of whom were injured.

    Head of Catholic physicians' group warns of threats to conscientious objection

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- No physician should be forced to choose between violating his or her conscience and facing professional sanctions when defending human life, said the president of the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations. Dr. John Lee, the federation president, wrote a letter in early February to the World Medical Association protesting proposed changes in the WMA's ethical policy statements on abortion and on euthanasia. The changes apparently will be discussed at the WMA council meeting in Latvia in April. The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, reported on Lee's letter on its front page Feb. 16 under the headline, "Conscientious objection in danger." The two proposals, Lee said, would "facilitate worldwide abortion and euthanasia by curtailing doctors' conscientious objection" by using "deceptive language, pressure on doctors by national regulatory bodies and legal force to weaken national laws protecting human life."

    Update: Florida school shooting an act of 'horrifying evil,' says Miami archbishop

    MIAMI (CNS) -- Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski urged community members to come together "to support one another in this time of grief" after a shooting rampage Feb. 14 at a Broward County high school left at least 17 people dead and at least 14 injured. "With God's help, we can remain strong and resolute to resist evil in all its manifestations," the archbishop said in a statement. "May God heal the brokenhearted and comfort the sorrowing as we once again face as a nation another act of senseless violence and horrifying evil." In a late-night telegram to Archbishop Wenski, Pope Francis assured "all those affected by this devastating attack of his spiritual closeness." "With the hope that such senseless acts of violence may cease," he invoked "divine blessings of peace and strength" on the South Florida community. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called for prayer and healing and urged all work for a society "with fewer tragedies caused by senseless gun violence." Law enforcement officials identified the shooting suspect as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who had been expelled for disciplinary reasons from the school where he opened fire -- Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

    Acknowledge sin, but look for signs of God at work, pope tells priests

    ROME (CNS) -- While it is true that the world is full of sin and sinful behavior, priests must learn to scrutinize the "signs of the times" for new trends and attitudes that are good and healthy and holy, Pope Francis told pastors from the Diocese of Rome. While there is "moral conduct that we aren't used to seeing," such as the normalization of living together before marriage, there also is a greater awareness of human rights, a push for tolerance and equality and appreciation for the values of peace and solidarity," he said Feb. 15. "We should not be frightened of the difficulties, but discern the signs of the times, the things that come from the Spirit" and then "help with the others," he said, according to RomaSette, the diocesan newspaper. As is customary on the day after Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis spent the morning with the pastors in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Rome cathedral. The session began with a penitential liturgy and with the pope spending almost an hour hearing confessions.

    Philippine bishop orders investigation into Ash Wednesday burns

    MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- A bishop in the Philippine capital has ordered an investigation into reports that several Massgoers developed rashes after having their foreheads marked with ash on Ash Wednesday. Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan said a thorough investigation will be carried out, and even suggested the ashes used at San Roque Cathedral might have been purposely contaminated. "Rest assured that we will not leave a single stone unturned in order to find out what caused this unfortunate incident," the prelate said to ucanews.com. Bishop David said several Massgoers reported feeling a burning sensation on their foreheads immediately after being marked. When the people washed the ashes off, rashes and blisters appeared on their skin. The ashes in question were not used after reports were received.

    Update: Captain of men's Olympic hockey team played for Catholic schools

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Brian Gionta, captain of the U.S. men's Olympic ice hockey team, competed in the 2006 Winter Games and played on three NHL teams, but his skating roots go back to his Catholic high school and college teams. Before playing with travel teams in high school, Gionta was on the hockey team at Aquinas Institute, a Catholic middle school and high school in Rochester, New York. In college, he played for the Boston College Eagles and was the team captain in 2000-01, when the team won the national championship. Now, as the Olympic team captain, he carries a torch of sorts as the 25th former Boston College player to have a spot on the U.S. men's Olympic team and the second player from the Jesuit-run school to be named the team's captain. "We are thrilled for Brian to represent the maroon and gold in this year's Winter Olympics," said Jerry York, Boston College men's ice hockey head coach "Brian has always been a leader I point to when I think of someone who embodies the Boston College hockey program. He will be a terrific captain for Team USA in their quest for gold." Gionta's role will not just be on the ice but as a team leader with experience. At 39, the New York father of three is the oldest U.S. athlete at the 2018 Winter Games.

    No youths should feel excluded from pre-synod meeting, cardinal says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As the Catholic Church prepares to welcome youths from around the world to a preparatory meeting for the Synod of Bishops on youth, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri said the church is using every means of communication available to listen to young people from all walks of life. Speaking to journalists Feb. 16, Cardinal Baldisseri, the general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, said social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will allow young people to follow and interact "with their peers in Rome" attending the March 19-24 pre-synod meeting. "In short, even through the new technologies of communication, the pre-synod meeting wants to broaden as much as possible the audience of young people involved so that no one should feel excluded," Cardinal Baldisseri said. Announcing the pre-synod meeting last October, Pope Francis said he hoped Christian and non-Christian young people from around the world would attend so the church could listen to the hopes and concerns of all young men and women. "Through this journey, the church wants to listen to the voices, the sensibilities, the faith as well as the doubts and criticisms of young people. We must listen to young people," Pope Francis had said.

    Fasting during Lent includes sharing, treating others kindly, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Loudly boasting or complaining about fasting during Lent and treating others unkindly is not what God wants, Pope Francis said. "Does my fasting end up helping others? If it doesn't, it's fake, it's contradictory and it leads to the path of a double life. I pretend to be Christian -- righteous like the Pharisees, the Sadducees -- but inside I am not," he said in his homily Feb. 16 at morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae. The pope preached on the day's first reading, taken from the prophet Isaiah, which condemned the false ways the faithful were fasting on a day of penance and the ways that are "acceptable to the Lord." Catholics who fast and boast aloud about their penitential acts are engaged in deception and are "rigging" true virtue, he said. The only coverup people should commit is covering their face with a genuine smile so others are unaware they are fasting and doing penance, he said.

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  • U.S. bishops who've seen gun violence up close call for end to 'madness'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput knows all too well the pain left behind after incidents like the 2018 Valentine's Day shooting that has so far taken 17 lives at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. As archbishop in Denver, he took part in the funerals of Catholic high school students killed by fellow classmates at Columbine High School almost two decades ago. The Feb. 14 Florida killings, which authorities suspect were perpetrated by Nikolas Cruz, a former classmate of many of the dead, seemed to bring back the pain of April 20, 1999. "I sat with the parents of children murdered in the Columbine High School massacre, and buried some of their dead," Archbishop Chaput said in statement released a day after the Florida high school shootings. "Nothing seems to change, no matter how brutal the cost. Terrible things happen; pious statements are released and the nation goes back to its self-absorbed distractions." The Washington Post reported Feb. 15 that an analysis of online archives, state and federal enrollment figures, and news stories revealed that "more than 150,000 students attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus" since the massacre perpetrated by senior high school students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold at Columbine.

    Archbishop: Church's Christian anthropology is basis for social teachings

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- The Catholic response to today's widely debated societal issues -- from abortion to immigration to racism -- must be rooted in the church's fundamental teaching about human dignity and the "destiny of the human person," said the archbishop of Indianapolis. In a pastoral letter addressed to the clergy, religious and lay Catholics of central and southern Indiana issued Feb. 14, Ash Wednesday, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson said he explores a number of issues widely debated in society from the perspective of Christian anthropology, which he described as "the way Christians view human dignity and the end or purpose of human society." Catholics' response to issues such as immigration, abortion, racism, religious liberty and drug abuse, Archbishop Thompson said, should be "deeply rooted in the church's understanding of the origin, nature and destiny of the human person as revealed in Jesus Christ. Where we come from, who we are and where we are headed as individuals and as diverse communities of people," he noted, "determines our rights and responsibilities in human society."

    Cardinal Cupich decries fatal shootings in Chicago, at Florida school

    CHICAGO (CNS) -- Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich decried the fatal shooting of Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer Feb. 13 while he was "protecting the people of our great city." Bauer was "a husband, father, son, brother, friend, police officer and hero," said the cardinal in a statement. "Each day, those who answer the call to protect and serve leave their families and risk their lives to keep us safe. Commander Bauer's loved ones are experiencing the nightmare all first responders' families pray will never come." Two days later, the cardinal issued a statement in response to other fatal shootings -- this time at a high school in South Florida. A shooting rampage Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland left at least 17 people dead. The shooting suspect was identified as Nikolas Cruz, 19, who had been expelled for disciplinary reasons. He was apprehended about an hour after shots were reported at the school. In a Feb. 15 statement, Cardinal Cupich called it "an act of madness carried out in what should be a safe haven, an American school. These victims have been robbed of their futures, but so have their parents, classmates and our nation."

    Pope updates resignation norms for bishops, prelates in Roman Curia

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Updating the norms and regulations governing the resignation of bishops and of Roman Curia department heads who are not cardinals, Pope Francis said they will continue to hold office until he accepts their resignations. The update was published in a document titled "Imparare a congedarsi" ("Learning to say farewell") and was given "motu proprio," meaning on the pope's own initiative. The new rules went into effect Feb. 15, the same day it was released by the Vatican press office. The Code of Canon Law previously stated that a resignation that requires acceptance "lacks all force if it is not accepted within three months" while one that does not require acceptance "takes effect when it has been communicated by the one resigning." However, the pope said that after consultation, he "became aware of the need to update the norms regarding the times and methods of resignation from office upon reaching the age limit." Under the new norms, "the acceptance or extension, for a specified or unspecified amount of time, is communicated to the person" resigning.

    South African bishops: Zuma's resignation was long overdue

    CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) -- Jacob Zuma's resignation as president of South Africa is long overdue, the country's bishops said, noting that his scandal-plagued presidency fostered corruption and dereliction of duty at all levels of government. "The fact that Mr. Zuma has been allowed to hold on to the highest position in the land despite long-standing and overwhelming evidence of his unfitness for office has done immense harm to our country's international reputation, to its economy and, especially, to its poorest and most vulnerable citizens," said the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference. Zuma, 75, resigned Feb. 14 after nine years in office. In a televised address to the nation, he said he disagreed with the way the ruling African National Congress had pushed him toward an early exit, but would accept its orders. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was confirmed as president until 2019 general elections. While for some Zuma's resignation "may be a painful event, we call on all to accept his decision as part of our democratic process," the bishops' conference said in a statement issued by its president, Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town.

    Islamic State has landed in lawless Somalia, bishop says

    NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- As it loses its grip in the Middle East, the Islamic State is finding a foothold in Somalia, said a bishop who oversees the Catholic Church in the troubled country. The insurgent group -- linked to mass killings, abductions and beheadings in Iraq and Syria, where it is facing defeat -- see Somalia as a suitable base due to its lawlessness, Bishop Giorgio Bertin, apostolic administrator of Mogadishu, Somalia. "I think they have chosen Somalia because there is no central authority. The country also represents a good possibility for them to continue their search for an Islamic state or, at least, they can continue their ideology without many obstacles," Bishop Bertin told Catholic News Service. Somalia has experienced chaos since 1991, when warlords overthrew President Mohammed Siad Barre. The conflict remains one of Africa's longest civil wars. But in 2006, the war took a different twist with the emergence of the al-Shabab extremist group, which swept across the country, enforcing a radical form of Shariah (Islamic law). Since then, the country has served as the traditional base for the militants who are the al-Qaida network affiliate in East Africa.

    Vatican denies report Pope Benedict has degenerative disease

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican denied that retired Pope Benedict XVI has a degenerative neurological disease or paralyzing condition after his brother, 94-year-old Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, told a magazine that Pope Benedict had a debilitating disease. In an interview published Feb. 13 in the German weekly entertainment magazine, Neue Post, Msgr. Ratzinger said Pope Benedict suffered from a nerve disease that was slowly paralyzing him. "The greatest concern is that the paralysis could eventually reach his heart and then everything could end quickly," Msgr. Ratzinger was quoted as saying. "I pray every day to ask God for the grace of a good death, at a good moment, for my brother and me. We both have this great wish," he added. Although news about the interview also was published on the German edition of the Vatican News website, the Holy See press office said in a statement Feb. 15 that "the alleged news reports of a paralyzing or degenerative illness are false."

    Pope says he prays for those who call him a heretic

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said he tries to dialogue with those who disagree with him in the hope that he will learn something; but he just prays for those who call him a heretic. "When I perceive resistance, I seek dialogue whenever it is possible; but some resistance comes from people who believe they possess the true doctrine and accuse you of being a heretic," the pope told a group of Jesuits during a meeting Jan. 16 in Santiago, Chile. "When I cannot see spiritual goodness in what these people say or write, I simply pray for them," Pope Francis said in response to a question about the "resistance" he has encountered as pope. The exchange was part of the usual question-and-answer session Pope Francis has with Jesuit communities during his papal trips abroad. With the pope's approval, the Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica publishes a transcript of the conversation several weeks later. The text from the January trip was released Feb. 15.

    Vatican releases pope's Holy Week, Easter schedule

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican released Pope Francis' liturgical schedule for March and April, including Holy Week and Easter. The schedule includes a special Mass April 8 with priests who served as "missionaries of mercy" during the Holy Year of Mercy 2015-2016. More than 1,000 priests received a special mandate from Pope Francis to preach and teach about God's mercy and be a living sign of God's welcome to all those in search of his forgiveness during the holy year. The pope has invited the priests back to Rome April 8-11 for moments of sharing and formation. As usual, the Vatican schedule does not say where the pope will celebrate the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper; normally the location is announced closer to the celebration. Since the start of his pontificate, Pope Francis has celebrated the Holy Thursday Mass and foot-washing ritual with people who are often marginalized, such as prisoners, refugees, the elderly and disabled.

    Updated: Pope told Jesuits he regularly meets abuse survivors, journal reports

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis told a group of Jesuits in Peru that he often meets on Fridays with survivors of sex abuse. The meetings, which he said do not always become public knowledge, make it clear that the survivors' process of recovery "is very hard. They remain annihilated. Annihilated," the pope had told the Jesuits Jan. 19 in Lima. The scandal of clerical sexual abuse shows not only the "fragility" of the Catholic Church, he said, "but also -- let us speak clearly -- our level of hypocrisy." The director of the Vatican press office Feb. 15 confirmed that the pope's meetings with abuse survivors is regular and ongoing. "I can confirm that several times a month, the Holy Father meets victims of sexual abuse both individually and in groups," said Greg Burke, the director. "Pope Francis listens to the victims and tries to help them heal the serious wounds caused by the abuse they've suffered. The meetings take place with maximum reserve out of respect for the victims and their suffering."

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  • DACA, TPS recipients face uncertain future, but say their love will endure

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Love has its ways. And so does Facebook. That's how Sadhana Singh and My Ford Noel met last April. She's a "Dreamer" attending Trinity Washington University. He moved to Washington from Palm Beach, Florida. Both received scholarships from TheDream.US, and both now face uncertain futures. Singh is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and her permit under the program expires this October. Noel, a Haitian, has Temporary Protected Status that ends in July 2019. "We don't want our lives to be just defined by this," said Singh, sitting next to Noel on their Valentine-red couch in their small apartment. "Beyond our status we're planning for a future. And together we can do that no matter where we are." With three associate degrees and a bachelor's in supply chain management, Noel said they are considering a move to Canada. "We may talk about the future, but we tend to wait until we are very happy because sometimes there's a lot of (political) uncertainty," he told Catholic News Service. "The last thing you want to do is talk about things while you're upset and things are going wrong, and then you have that bad view of the future and you're scared."

    Catholic Valentine's Day card has a message for lawmakers

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Politicians are probably some of the last people most Americans would send Valentine's Day cards to, but that's just what one parish in Washington did, as a group of members from Holy Trinity Catholic Church delivered hundreds of cards to lawmakers, urging them to "love your neighbor" and support migrants and refugees. Following a morning Mass Feb. 14, a small parish group, with ashes still smudged on their foreheads, set off for Capitol Hill, dropping off more than 200 Valentine's Day cards to their local lawmakers as well as to politicians from throughout the country. The activity was part of an Valentine's Day effort by the Ohio-based Ignatian Solidarity Network, which collected signatures from Jesuit universities, parishes and organizations, from around the U.S. "The Valentines arrive to Capitol Hill as U.S. senators debate immigration proposals, including a solution for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, offered by President Trump as well Senate members of both parties," said the network in news release.

    U.S. Catholics urged to join pope in prayers for South Sudan, Congo

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops encouraged Catholics across the nation to join with Pope Francis Feb. 23 for a special day of prayer and fasting for peace, with special prayers for Congo and South Sudan. "Tragically, violent conflict rages in both nations" and "innocent families suffer" in both countries, said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston in a Feb. 14 statement. He noted that South Sudan won its independence in 2011 "only to find itself a victim to corruption and a bloody civil war." In Congo, "the government fails to honor the constitution as the Catholic Church courageously promotes a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the ruling and opposition parties," Cardinal DiNardo said. Pope Francis announced the special day of prayer as he recited the Angelus prayer at the Vatican Feb. 4.

    'Dreamers' say they're not asking for handouts, just chance to stay

    HOUSTON (CNS) -- Angelica Velazquez came to the United States at age 3 when her parents brought her from Mexico to the United States. They came on tourist visas that they then overstayed. Now 20, Velazquez applied for, paid her fees and was accepted as part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The program has become a political football during a season of a government shutdown, a border wall proposal and pending mid-year elections. In Houston, about 35,800 -- out of 800,000 nationwide -- so-called "Dreamers" who have so far been shielded from deportation are anxious. "We are not asking for free things or handouts. All we want is to be able to work and be part of this society. We are not taking anything away from people, we are contributing," said Velazquez, who has a job, attends college and has obtained a driver's license. A member of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Aldine, she said, "I've led a youth and young adult music ministry and faithfully participate every Sunday in the choir."

    Cardinal Tagle says everyone has a little migrant in their soul

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- There's a little bit of migrant in everyone, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, said during a U.S. visit. The story of human history is one based on people moving around the planet in search of a better life and it is humanity's responsibility -- and the church's -- to welcome travelers and meet their needs, Cardinal Tagle told Catholic News Service Feb. 14 at Catholic Relief Services headquarters in Baltimore. To ignore the needs of another person is to ignore the needs of a brother or sister, he said. And by understanding that each person, especially those who are migrants or forcibly displaced from their homeland, is a on a journey to God, then perhaps the barriers that keep people separated from each other can be overcome, he said. "Our basic contribution as church is to put the human face on the person" and help share their journey to hope, security and freedom, he said, referring to the two-year Share the Journey campaign of Caritas Internationalis, which aims to raise awareness of the needs of migrants worldwide. Cardinal Tagle, Caritas' president, spent the day with CRS staff, helping open the 75th anniversary observance of the U.S. bishops' overseas humanitarian relief and development agency.

    In Vancouver, Catholics adapt ancient Lunar New Year traditions

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CNS) -- For Asian Catholics in North America, marking the Lunar New Year can be tricky when the traditional feast falls during Lent, because part of the traditional celebrations include large family meals. This year, Lunar New Year begins Feb. 16, a Friday in Lent. In the greater Vancouver area, home to more than 400,000 people of Chinese origin, Archbishop J. Michael Miller granted a special dispensation to the city's Asian Catholics, but asked them to keep in mind the Lenten spirit of charity and to pray for ongoing talks between the Vatican and China. The archdiocese's Chinese Ministry offered another way for Chinese Catholics to celebrate the traditional festival: a lunar thanksgiving Mass celebrated Feb. 12 by Archbishop Miller, followed by a traditional lunch. Feb. 12 was a civic holiday, Family Day, in British Columbia, and approximately 300 people were able to attend the celebration without missing school or work.

    Lent: Giving up, doing extra, or both, aren't one size fits all

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- People often talk about giving up something for Lent such as candy, soda or more recently, social media, while some commit to doing something extra including praying more, reading spiritual works or helping others. And, it turns out, many do both. This reporter conducted an unofficial poll Feb. 12 on Twitter where 57 percent of respondents said they planned to do something extra and 43 percent said they would give something up for Lent. But without the added option to do both, a few Twitter respondents commented that their true choice was a combination of the two practices for Lent's 40 days. "Since both\and is in the nature of the Catholic (Church) I strive for one of each," wrote Susan Timoney, secretary for pastoral ministry in the Washington Archdiocese. Father Mario Amore, associate pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Farmington, Michigan, said the two ways to observe Lent really go hand in hand. "We should be going beyond ourselves out of love to lend a helping hand, be an encouragement or assist others with the necessities of life. We should also be going out of our way to fast from something that we really like," he said in an email.

    La Civilta Cattolica editor describes pope's 'diplomacy of mercy'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of the influential Rome-based magazine La Civilta Cattolica and a close associate of Pope Francis, outlined the pope's "diplomacy of mercy" that he has used with both political leaders and their citizens throughout his papacy during a Feb. 13 talk at Georgetown University. Pope Francis, according to Father Spadaro, spoke of his diplomatic aims during his 2016 World Communications Day message: "Our political and diplomatic language would do well to be inspired by mercy, which never loses hope." "This is precisely the meaning of 'mercy' in politics: Do not consider anyone or anything as definitively lost in relations between nations, peoples and states," the priest said in his talk, "The Francis Factor at Five Years: Pope Francis' Global Vision and His Work for a More Just and Peaceful World." It was sponsored by Georgetown's Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life. Father Spadaro outlined five aspects of Pope Francis' diplomatic ministry, and dwelt at length on the ongoing talks between the Vatican and the Chinese government over the appointment and recognition of bishops there. The five aspects, Father Spadaro said, are: "a geopolitics that dissolves fundamentalisms and fear of chaos"; "a geopolitics that does not see Catholicism as a political guarantor of power"; "field-hospital diplomacy"; "an 'incomplete' and 'open' diplomacy"; and "a diplomacy of solidarity."

    U.S. lay Catholic leaders, activists still feel 'Francis effect'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As Pope Francis observes his fifth anniversary as the successor to St. Peter, the gifts and style he brings to the papacy are still felt strongly by American Catholics. Catholic News Service asked a number of participants attending the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington in early February about the pope, elected March 13, 2013. "The Francis effect -- whoever coined that, it's been like a healing salve on a hurting church," said Lynne Betts of Seaford, Delaware, one of two East regional leaders in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul's Voice of the Poor program. "I don't want to sound cliched, but he's like a good parent who picks you up and dusts you off and says life is still good. He's been able to do that." Rita Sloan, coordinator of the Life, Peace and Justice Commission for the Diocese of Reno, Nevada, has long felt the church could be more vocal on justice issues, and now the church has Pope Francis speaking on the issues of the day. "Could there be a more wonderful person in the world? I love that man," Sloan said. "My biggest wonder is why more Catholics are not more outspoken on the issues because we have him leading the way."

    Lent is time to notice God's work, receive God's mercy, pope says

    ROME (CNS) -- Lent is a time for Christians to get their hearts in sync with the heart of Jesus, Pope Francis said. "Let the Lord heal the wounds of sin and fulfill the prophecy made to our fathers: 'A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh,'" the pope said Feb. 14, celebrating Mass and distributing ashes at the beginning of Lent. After a brief prayer at the Benedictine's Monastery of St. Anselm, Pope Francis made the traditional Ash Wednesday procession to the Dominican-run Basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome's Aventine Hill for the Mass. He received ashes on his head from 93-year-old Cardinal Jozef Tomko, titular cardinal of the basilica, and he distributed ashes to the cardinals present, three Benedictines, three Dominicans, an Italian couple with two children and members of the Pontifical Academy for Martyrs, which promotes the traditional Lenten "station church" pilgrimage in Rome.

    Archbishop calls for renewed focus on Rev. King's call to nonviolence

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The upcoming 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. prompted Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori to write a pastoral letter on the civil rights leader's principles of nonviolence. The new document comes almost three years after riots shook the city of Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray Jr. from injuries sustained while in police custody. It also follows on the archbishop's call in a New Year's service and in columns and other discussions encouraging people to "change the narrative" about Baltimore. "The Enduring Power of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Principles of Nonviolence: A Pastoral Reflection" was formally issued on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14. In it, the archbishop says, "Now is the time for all of us to reconnect with Dr. King and his teaching." A pastoral letter is an open letter about Catholic teaching or practice from a bishop to his people. The archbishop's first pastoral, "A Light Brightly Visible," laid out his goals for missionary discipleship and evangelization in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

    Update: Case on transfer of prelate's body returns to original N.Y. court

    NEW YORK (CNS) -- The case involving the transfer of the remains of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen from New York to Peoria, Illinois, has been sent back to the original court by the New York Supreme Court's appellate division for an evidentiary hearing. Archbishop Sheen, a Peoria diocesan priest, gained fame in the 1950s with a prime-time television series called "Life Is Worth Living." He died in New York Dec. 9, 1979. The transfer of the archbishop's remains is seen as a key factor in the continuing progress of his sainthood cause, officially opened in 2002 by the Diocese of Peoria. The causes was suspended by the diocese in September 2014. "We are confident that the new hearing and ruling will be completed in short time," Msgr. James E. Kruse, vicar general of the Diocese of Peoria, said in statement. He predicted the court will rule in favor of Joan Sheen Cunningham, Archbishop Sheen's niece and closest surviving relative. Cunningham is seeking to have the prelate's remains removed from St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York and transferred to St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria, where a crypt is being prepared for his re-interment.

    People have right to receive God's word, so preach it well, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Everyone who goes to Mass has the right to hear the word of God in all its fullness, which means it must be read well and explained well with "fervor," Pope Francis said. People have the right to hear God's word in a way that "knocks at the heart and changes hearts," he said at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square Feb. 14. Before beginning his prepared talk, the pope greeted some 10,000 people braving a cold drizzle under umbrellas or raincoats by saying, "Good morning! It's a little bad out today, but if the soul is joyful, then it is always a good day. So, good morning!" The pope continued his series of audience talks on the Mass, underlining the importance of receiving "abundantly from the treasury of God's word" present in the Mass readings and the homily. "Each one of us, when we go to Mass, we have the right to receive abundantly God's word, read well, well-spoken and then explained well in the homily," he said. "It is a right."

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  • RISE challenges all men to live 'fullness of their vocation' every day

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- The co-authors of a new program called RISE and their collaborators aim to do nothing less than "awaken today's man." Calling it more a "movement" than a program, Chris Stefanick and Bill Donaghy said RISE is a 30-day challenge that encourages men to walk with a "brother" -- a friend or relative -- through a 30-day period to strengthen their bond, hold one another accountable and "live the fullness of their vocation every day -- at home, at work and in their communities." The start date for the next 30-day challenge is Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14. Other official dates will be announced for spring, summer and fall. The cost is $32 per participant. Information on registering can be found at MenRiseUp.org. Men also can choose to start RISE at any time throughout the year. Participants are equipped with several tools -- a series of videos, daily challenges and other resources that walk them "through a battle plan for life." RISE is organized as an individual journey for each man who participates up, but free leadership guides also are made available to parishes that might want to hold a weekly meeting for men in the parish enrolled in RISE.

    U.N. officials, church leaders decry escalating situation in Syria

    ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan (CNS) -- As Syria's war soon enters its eighth year, many decry the recent dangerous escalation in the conflict, whether in the country's north, between Turkey and the Kurds, or in the south, between Iran and Israel. Speaking from the sprawling Zaatari Refugee Camp housing 80,000 Syrians near Jordan's border with Syria, the head of the U.N. refugee agency condemned the recent Israeli-Iranian confrontation over Syria, which threatens to open a new and unpredictable front in the war. The "escalation in the last few days of war in Syria is of extreme concern," Filippo Grandi told reporters during his Feb. 12 visit. "We are witnessing an extended failure of political action by states to find a solution to this war" and "an increasing internationalization of the conflict," Grandi said. "This is extremely worrying" because it "makes a solution more difficult." Israel carried out a series of airstrikes in Syria Feb. 10, hitting Syrian as well as Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah military targets after it said an Iranian reconnaissance drone had entered its airspace. Israel also lost one of its aircraft during these attacks.

    U.S. Olympic women's hockey team includes five Boston College players

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Boston College is paying close attention to women's ice hockey at the Olympic Games. That's because five players on the team's roster of 23 are from the Jesuit-run school -- two are recent graduates and three are current students taking a leave of absence for the Pyeongchang Games. "We're extremely proud of our Boston College players who made the Olympic team," said Katie Crowley, head coach of the Boston College women's hockey team. "It's an exciting time for them and their families. They've done a tremendous job working to get themselves prepared, and it's an awesome achievement for them. We're just really excited for them." The Olympics are not new to Crowley, who competed three times in the Winter Games with the U.S. team, starting in 1998 when women's ice hockey became an Olympic event. She also played on the team in 2002 and 2006. In the three games, Team USA won the gold, silver and bronze, consecutively. Boston College also had two graduates and a student play on the 2014 Olympic women's hockey team.

    'Lean on each other,' advises couple married 75 years

    SAVANNAH, Ga. (CNS) -- Married for 75 years, Joseph Farr and his wife, Ann, say that they believe they've found the secret to making a marriage last. "What it takes to really make a marriage last is to not think everything should be blue and rosy. Hardships come and you have to stand together. That's the secret," Ann told the Southern Cross, newspaper of the Savannah Diocese. "Stand together and support each other no matter what the hardships and how hard it is, but if you have each other and support each other together, you can withstand it all." They were married Jan. 3, 1943, at Sacred Heart Church in Savannah. Both were well under age 21 and barely alumni of Savannah High School -- Ann completed the last three weeks of her senior year after her wedding. The couple doesn't deny they have had, as Ann describes, an overdose of problems. Between the two of them, they can account for more than 20 major surgeries and illnesses, the loss of their youngest daughter, Margaret, as well as a time away from each other in the early years of their marriage when Joe served as an aerial gunnery instructor in Europe during World War II. Recounting that he heard about the birth of his first child, Joseph Jr., through his brother William's affiliation with Gen. George Marshall, who was chief of staff of the United States Army at the time, Joe said that he even had to wait six months before he left the Army to could see his newborn son for the first time.

    Five years a pope: Francis' focus has been on outreach

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope just a few days after telling the College of Cardinals that the Catholic Church faced a clear choice between being a church that "goes out" or a church focused on its internal affairs. After the cardinal from Buenos Aires, Argentina, was elected March 13, 2013, and chose the name Francis, he made "go out," "periphery" and "throwaway culture" standard phrases in the papal vocabulary. Catholics have a wide variety of opinions about how Pope Francis is exercising the papal ministry, and many of his comments -- both in informal news conferences and in formal documents -- have stirred controversy. But, as he wrote in "Evangelii Gaudium," the apostolic exhortation laying out the vision for his pontificate: "I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security." But there are two areas of internal church affairs that he recognized needed immediate attention: the reform of the Roman Curia and the full protection of children and vulnerable adults from clerical sexual abuse. The organizational reform of the Curia has been taking place in stages, but Pope Francis has insisted that the real reform is a matter of changing hearts and embracing service.

    Ashes, daily fasting: Eastern Catholics focus on God during Lent

    BEIRUT (CNS) -- At the Monastery of St. Francis of Assisi in Bayada, north of Beirut, faithful gathered for Ash Monday Mass in the chapel Feb. 12. In the Maronite Catholic Church, ashes are distributed on Monday, two days ahead of the Latin rite's traditional Ash Wednesday distribution. This allows Catholics to observe 40 days of Lent, but also celebrate two church feasts for which fasting is not required: the feast of St. Joseph and the feast of the Annunciation. "To change our character, it is difficult, but we ask God for the grace to be able to fast," Melkite Father Nidal Abourjaily said in his homily before distributing ashes. "Fasting will help us to grow closer to God as we unite our sufferings with him, and this is the most important thing," said Father Nidal, a Franciscan Capuchin and superior of the monastery. Typically, in Lebanon, Catholics follow the recommendations of their respective rites regarding their fast for Lent. The Maronite Church, for example, asks for fasting daily from midnight until 12 noon, and abstinence from meat and dairy products for those in good health. Sundays are not considered days of fast or abstinence.

    Pope, Melkite patriarch formalize full communion

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Formalizing their unity in the intimate setting of the chapel of the papal residence, Pope Francis and Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi concelebrated Mass together in the presence of members of the Melkite synod of bishops. Instead of giving a homily at the early morning Mass Feb. 13, Pope Francis explained the special nature of Patriarch Absi's visit. "He is the father of a church, a very ancient church, and he comes to embrace Peter, to say, 'I'm in communion with Peter,'" Pope Francis said during the Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae. The Melkite church, one of the many Eastern churches in full union with Rome, "has its own theology within Catholic theology, it has a marvelous liturgy and a people of its own. At this time, a large portion of that people is being crucified like Jesus," the pope said, referring especially to Melkites who, like Patriarch Absi, are from Syria. "We offer this Mass for the people, for the people who suffer, for the persecuted Christians of the Middle East."

    Update: St. Louis Catholic groups assemble 'best practices' after Ferguson

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, near St. Louis, in the summer of 2014, Catholic organizations in the Archdiocese of St. Louis took a long, hard look at what they were doing to serve poor communities in the archdiocese -- and what they could be doing better. More than three years after the killing, and the cycle of protests that sprang up in its wake, there is not only more collaboration within the archdiocese, but also between Catholic agencies and other public and private groups who share at least in part a similar mission. That was the assessment of four speakers from the archdiocese as they unspooled a "best practices" workshop Feb. 4 during the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington. "What drives wealth inequality, which is far bigger than income inequality?" asked Ray Boshara, of the archdiocesan Peace and Justice Commission. He said there are three economic drivers: "the year you were born, race/ethnicity and education." He said he also suspects two-parent vs. one-parent families and gender also have a part to play, but the first three factors have data to back them up. And those factors, Boshara said, count for more today than they did a generation ago.

    Guam archbishop under investigation greets pope at general audience

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Waiting for a Vatican verdict on allegations that he sexually abused several boys in the 1970s, Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron of Agana, Guam, attended one of Pope Francis' weekly general audiences in February. The archbishop's presence at the audience Feb. 7 was not announced by the Vatican. However, Vatican media did not attempt to hide his presence in photographs and a video of the audience. The Italian website, Vatican Insider, published a story Feb. 10 claiming that when Archbishop Apuron personally greeted the pope at the end of the audience, he told the pope, "Holy Father, I wanted to see you before I die." The archbishop sat in a wheelchair during the audience. When the cardinals and bishops present on the stage went up to the pope, Archbishop Apuron walked with them, although with some difficulty. Archbishop Apuron continually has denied the abuse allegations.

    Muslims who desecrated statue ordered to memorize Quran verses about Mary

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Three young Muslim men who were found guilty of desecrating a statue of Mary were ordered by a Lebanese judge to memorize passages from the Quran that praise the mother of Jesus. The defendants, who live in a mostly Christian village, were apprehended after circulating online a video of themselves desecrating the statue, news media reported. At their sentencing Feb. 8, Judge Jocelyne Matta ordered the young men to memorize verses from the Al Imran chapter of the Quran, which describes the birth of Mary, her virginity and the annunciation of Jesus' conception by the angel Gabriel. Matta, reading her verdict at the court in Tripoli, said her decision was meant to teach the young men about Islam's respect and love for Mary, reported the website Al Arabiya English. Maronite Father Rouphael Zgheib, national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Lebanon, spoke about the sentence to Fides, the news agency of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

    Update: Report shows NGOs follow policy barring use of aid for abortion

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A Trump administration report on its reinstatement of the "Mexico City Policy" shows that nongovernmental organizations "are willing and able to comply with this policy," said the U.S. bishops' pro-life committee chairman. "That compliance does not appear to undermine delivery of appropriate health services," said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York in a Feb. 8 statement. The cardinal, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, made the comments in reaction to the administration's release of a six-month report on implementation of the policy, now called Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance. The policy ensures that U.S. foreign aid does not subsidize foreign nongovernmental organizations that perform or promote abortion on demand. In a Jan. 23, 2017, executive memorandum -- issued three days after his inauguration -- President Donald Trump, reinstated and expanded the policy, which his predecessor, President Barack Obama, rescinded Jan. 23, 2009, three days after his inauguration for his first term.

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

  • Fleeing gangs in El Salvador, woman finds safe haven in U.S.

    OMAHA, Neb. (CNS) -- Belinda, a native of El Salvador, lights up a room with her smile -- until she recounts her fear of violent gangs in San Salvador, fleeing to escape them and spending months in jail in the United States. Then her sparkling eyes cloud over, her face falls and tears flow freely. "I have nightmares. I get headaches. I'm thankful I'm alive, but I wonder how I got through it," she said. Speaking through an interpreter, Belinda, 36, now living in a city north of Omaha in the archdiocese, recently described 12 years of extortion, forced criminal behavior including prostitution, and escalating violence from one of her brothers and his fellow gang members. Her life of terror began in 2003 and lasted until she fled the country in 2015, after gang members beat her and her then-15-year-old son who was trying to protect her, nearly killing him, Belinda said through interpreter Mercy Sister Kathleen Erickson of Omaha. "They used a machete and nearly cut off his legs," Belinda told the Catholic Voice, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Omaha. "That's when I felt the most fear." Belinda, who asked that her real name be withheld to protect another family member who lacks legal status in the United States, fled with her then-4-year-old son, Adan (also a pseudonym), on a bus to Guatemala, then into Mexico, where she called her parents in San Salvador and learned gang members had been to their house demanding to see her. "They were going to kill me," she said. Belinda is not alone in her fear of gangs in El Salvador. Many others flee El Salvador, as well as Mexico and other Central and South American countries, to escape criminal gangs that bribe police, threaten politicians and contribute to a breakdown in society. Others flee political persecution or poor economic conditions.

    Bishop McKnight installed in Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri

    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CNS) -- The belief that Jesus rose from the dead brings "uplifting joy to those who are burdened or downcast, heals the broken and brings liberty to those held captive by sin, Bishop W. Shawn McKnight said during his episcopal ordination. Speaking Feb. 6 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph, the fourth bishop in the Diocese of Jefferson City's 61-year history, said he looked forward "to sharing our ministry together." Bishop McKnight, 49, is one of the youngest bishops in the United States. He succeeds Bishop John R. Gaydos, 74, who retired for health reasons in November and has remained in Jefferson City. It was important to bring "hope to the poor in spirit and the materially impoverished, to heal the broken and wounded hearts of our community, to help others live in freedom, less selfishly and more sacrificially for others because Jesus has risen," he said. The new bishop added that he would be praying through Mary that each of the 1,200 people in the cathedral would deepen their sense of gratitude to God.

    Late Edmonton archbishop recalled as humble shepherd with common touch

    EDMONTON, Alberta (CNS) -- Retired Archbishop Joseph MacNeil, who died Feb. 11 after a stroke, was remembered as a man as comfortable with popes and priests as with students at the high school named after him. The archbishop, who led the Archdiocese of Edmonton for 26 years, was 93. Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith said his predecessor was "rightly celebrated across the country as an attentive and caring shepherd of the people entrusted to his care, a distinguished churchman and servant of God, and a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ. Here in Edmonton, while we experienced and were grateful for all of that, we came to know and love him as something more. He was our father, and, in his later years, our grandfather. That's how we are mourning his death." In an online tribute, Archbishop Smith described Archbishop MacNeil as a master storyteller, "a true friend and reliable confidante, always ready to listen and offer advice, quite often over some very fine scotch." He also had an uncanny ability to remember people's names, hometowns, family backgrounds and professions. Friends, colleagues and fellow priests say Archbishop MacNeil will be remembered most for his humble leadership.

    Producer: New sitcom 'Living Biblically' avoids bad language on purpose

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Just because the new CBS sitcom "Living Biblically" has landed a spot in the network's decades-dominant Monday night comedy lineup does not automatically guarantee it an audience. So if viewers are going to be suspicious about a TV series dealing with faith, they don't need an excuse to change the channel. That's the view of Patrick Walsh, one of the executive producers of "Living Biblically." "I knew this show would get a lot of attention from religious viewers," Walsh told Catholic News Service during a Feb. 8 telephone interview from Hollywood. "I knew that going in, just from internet comments, religious people get nervous and they get scared about religious comedy. They fear they would be mocked. I figured, why give them a reason to turn it off?" he said. "We hope that the language would be clean enough for families to be able to discuss" the show after watching it together, Walsh added. "Living Biblically" is adapted from the A.J. Jacobs book of the same title, in which he kept a yearlong diary of trying to live his life entirely according to biblical precepts. It will air at 9:30 EST Mondays on CBS starting Feb. 26.

    Indiana couple's marriage strengthened by journey to U.S., shared faith

    GOSHEN, Ind. (CNS) -- Felipe Garcia and Maria Morales and their children are originally from Mexico City. Like so many immigrants from all over the world, they came to the United States seeking a better life. They found not only that better life, but also a deeper relationship with the Lord through their struggles to get here; they also found it through their new home parish, St. John the Evangelist in Goshen. Morales was 19 and Garcia 24 when they met through his sister and began dating. Two years later, they were married in the Catholic Church, and children soon followed: Laura, now 40; Jose de Jesus, who died soon after birth; Jasmine, 36; Araceli, 34; Naomi, 32; and Yareli, 26. Garcia first came to the U.S. in 1997 and started working in a local factory. A year later, Morales joined him, and a year after that the children joined them. The couple said that they always attended Mass together before coming to the U.S., but they weren't involved in their church. Garcia said one of the first things he did when he arrived was to look for a Catholic church. He said it was "one way to give thanks to the Lord for everything -- for everything (I had) to pass through to get here."

    Sisters from Minnesota Catholic schools play on separate Olympic teams

    ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- Few schools can claim an Olympic athlete among their alumni base. Even fewer schools have more than one, especially from the same family. But Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood and St. Odilia School in Shoreview -- both Catholic schools -- are proud to make this claim. That's because Hannah and Marissa Brandt, graduates of both schools, play on women's Olympic ice hockey teams competing in this year's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Hannah Brandt, a recent standout with the University of Minnesota women's hockey team, is a forward for the U.S. Olympic team, which defeated Finland 3-1 on Feb. 11 and will play Olympic Athletes from Russia Feb. 13. Marissa Brandt, who was adopted as a baby from South Korea, used her birth name, Park-Yoon Jung, for the Olympics and plays defense for the combined Koreas, which lost 8-0 to Switzerland Feb. 10. Hill-Murray and St. Odilia recognized the sisters' achievements in the weeks leading up to the games. The St. Odilia school office has a display of the Brandts' successes.

    Clients of prostitution are promoting human trafficking, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Prosperous nations where foreign women are forced into prostitution need to drop their hypocrisy and "face the idea that they are part of the problem, rather than turning away, proclaiming their innocence," Pope Francis said. "If many young women victims of trafficking end up on the streets of our cities, it is because many men here -- young men, middle aged, older men -- ask for their services and are ready to pay," the pope told a group of adults and teenagers who had taken part in a reflection on human trafficking. Meeting the group Feb. 12, Pope Francis responded to questions from the high school students and from young migrants about ways they could help fight trafficking and reach out to survivors. One of the migrants asked the pope why there was such a "surprising silence" about the reality of trafficking. Part of it is ignorance, the pope said, but much of the silence comes from embarrassment. Citizens must be "courageous and honest" enough to acknowledge people working in prostitution or slave-like conditions and reach out to help them.

    Catholic institute: Kids could be harmed if Scotland changes gender law

    MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- A Catholic bioethics institute warned the Scottish government that children will be at increased risk of harm under proposed changes to the law on gender recognition. The Anscombe Centre for Bioethics said proposed reforms to allow people to change gender by "self-declaration" will encourage vulnerable children to make life-changing decisions they may regret. In a seven-page briefing paper on the Scottish Review of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, the center said children in particular "should not be encouraged or assisted to make life-changing and potentially permanent legal changes of status or medical changes to their bodies." At present, people may obtain certificates of new gender recognition under the act if they are diagnosed as having "gender dysphoria" and have "transitioned" into a gender of their choice for at least two years. A Feb. 9 briefing paper from the Anscombe Centre said there was evidence that, "with the onset of puberty, most children with gender dysphoria come to identify as the gender congruent with their birth sex."

    African-Americans celebrate faith, family, heritage at San Diego Revival

    SAN DIEGO (CNS) -- In the 1930s, Christ the King Parish in a neighborhood just southeast of downtown San Diego was the "mother church" for black Catholics in the city. Racial segregation was the law of the land. Some 50 years later, much has changed in that neighborhood and surrounding ones. A series of landmark laws and rulings ended official segregation at work, schools, housing and public settings though the fight for equality and social justice continues there and across the country. Blacks started moving away, settling elsewhere in San Diego County or even out of state where the cost of living was lower. "We're all spread out now," said Deacon Marvin Threatt, from Holy Spirit Parish, one of three parishes with active African-American ministries in the city. "We don't have the collective community." The mother church needed a way to invite black Catholics to return to their traditional faith home. Thus began in 1980 the first Revival, a three-night celebration of African-American culture and spirituality at Christ the King. The 38th annual Revival took place this year Feb. 5-7, this time at St. Rita's Parish, which also is in southeastern San Diego.

    4.5 million displaced in Congo 'struggling to survive,' says aid worker

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Just as people are "struggling to survive" in Congo, aid agencies are struggling to meet their needs, said one aid worker. Political unrest in and around the capital, Kinshasa, is just the latest malady to afflict the Congolese citizens, said Chiara Nava, an adviser to the AVSI Foundation, an aid agency focusing on education and child protection and inspired by Catholic social teaching. She worked in the country for two-and-a-half years before taking on an advisory role. Still, the difference between the country she worked in and the country she visited in January is noticeable to Nava. "The political situation is not good at all," she told Catholic News Service in a Feb. 9 telephone interview from her home in Raleigh, North Carolina. "There are lots of public demonstrations, especially in the capital."

    Bishop Stowe joins Pax Christi USA board as episcopal president

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- For the first time in six years, Pax Christi USA has a bishop president. Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, has joined the national council of the Catholic peace organization. Sister Patricia Chappell, Pax Christi USA's executive director, said Bishop Stowe was a good fit with its values of peacemaking, disarmament, and racial and social justice. "Pax Christi USA traditionally has had a bishop president," she told Catholic News Service. She cited the bishop's ministry to poor and marginalized people throughout his priesthood as why the organization asked him to consider joining the council. He also serves as bishop liaison to the Catholic Committee of Appalachia. "Bishop Stowe, being a bishop in one of the poorest dioceses in the U.S. brings a pastoral dimension to his ministry, listening to the struggling people of his diocese," explained Sister Chappell, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

    Nun's recovery recognized as 70th official miraculous healing at Lourdes

    ROME (CNS) -- As the Catholic Church celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, a French bishop announced the 70th officially recognized miraculous cure of a pilgrim to the Lourdes grotto where Mary appeared 160 years ago. Bishop Jacques Benoit-Gonnin of Beauvais formally declared Feb. 11 "the prodigious, miraculous character" of the healing of Sister Bernadette Moriau, a French member of the Franciscan Oblates of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who had been partially paralyzed for more than 20 years despite repeated surgeries to relieve pressure on the nerve roots of her lower back. In November 2016, the International Medical Committee of Lourdes confirmed the nun's "unexplained healing, in the current state of scientific knowledge." But it is up to the bishop, not the physicians, to declare a healing miraculous. Lourdes, close to the Pyrenees in southern France, attracts millions of visitors each year and has been a place of pilgrimage since St. Bernadette Soubirous reported the first of 18 visions of the Virgin Mary while gathering firewood in February 1858.

    Help people find healing in the wounds of Christ, pope tells priests

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A devotion to and meditation on the five wounds of Christ "may sound a bit medieval," but anyone who recognizes he or she is wounded will find mercy and healing in the passion of Christ, Pope Francis said. Meeting Feb. 10 with members of the Stigmatine order, the pope distributed his prepared text and then spoke off the cuff about the significance of naming a religious order after the stigmata or wounds of Christ. In his meditation of the wounds of Christ, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the Cistercian who died in 1153, referred to Jesus as a "bag of mercy," who poured that mercy out on humanity through the crucifixion wounds to his hands, feet and side, the pope said. "The Lord's stigmata, the Lord's wounds, are precisely the door through which mercy comes. If I'm depressed, if I've sinned too much, if I've done this or that, I take refuge in the wounds of the Lord," the pope said, paraphrasing St. Bernard. Forgiveness and healing, he said, come only from uniting one's wounds to those of Jesus.

    Only sin can make one impure, pope says at Angelus

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- No disease makes a person impure; only sin does that, Pope Francis said. While being sick can impact a person's whole being, "it in no way impairs or impedes one's relationship with God. In fact, a sick person can be even more united to God," the pope said Feb. 11, commenting on the day's Gospel reading about Jesus healing a leper. "Sin is what makes us impure," the pope said. "Selfishness, pride," corruption -- "these are the diseases of the heart which must be purified by turning to Jesus like the leper did, 'If you wish, you can make me clean.'" Speaking to an estimated 30,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis asked them to take a moment in silence and think about "your own impurities, your own sins," and then, in silence, tell Jesus, "If you wish, you can make me clean." Every time someone goes to confession with a repentant heart, he said, Jesus responds as he did to the leper, "Yes. Be made clean."

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

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