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  • Eleven cardinals urge maintaining church rules on marriage

    By Cindy Wooden

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Eleven cardinals, at least four of whom will participate in the world Synod of Bishops on the family in October, have urged fellow church leaders to maintain the church's rules regarding marriage and strengthen Catholic education about marriage and family life.

    Their book, "Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family," is scheduled to be released in English in the United States Sept. 15 by Ignatius Press, which provided copies in advance to the media.

    With the contributing cardinals coming from Europe, Asia, South America and Africa, the essays include personal pastoral reflections as well as urge extreme caution in considering any plan to readmit to Communion Catholics who have divorced and remarried civilly without having received an annulment.

    While several of the cardinals insist that the media in general and many church leaders mistakenly tried to make it appear that the situation of the divorced and remarried was the primary focus of 2014 extraordinary Synod of Bishops, most of the 11 essays also discuss the problem. The issue is expected to be raised again at the world Synod of Bishops on the family Oct. 4-25.

    Italian Cardinal Carlo Caffarra of Bologna, who was not elected by his peers to attend the synod, said showing mercy to such couples without requiring their conversion -- demonstrated by at least refraining from sexual relations with the new spouse -- "is the mistaken pity of an incompetent and/or weak physician who contents himself with bandaging wounds without treating them."

    German Cardinal Paul Cordes, the retired head of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," knows for a fact how long some church leaders and theologians have been seeking a possible penitential process or other procedure that would allow the divorced and remarried to receive Communion without an annulment or that promise of sexual abstinence.

    In the 1970s, he was appointed secretary of a task force set up by the bishops of Germany, Switzerland and Austria to find what he described as a "loophole of mercy." The experience, he wrote, proved that even "theological and canonical acrobatics" cannot defend giving those couples Communion while effectively teaching that marriage is indissoluble.

    Dutch Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk of Utrecht, who was elected to the synod, said it is neither pastoral nor merciful for the church's ministers to pretend that without an annulment a civil remarriage is anything other than "a form of structured and institutionalized adultery."

    But one change in church practice absolutely must occur, he said. After decades of weak catechesis, "true pastoral ministry" means presenting church teaching, "transmitting and explaining its foundations more adequately and clearly than we have done in the last half century."

    Czech Cardinal Dominik Duka of Prague, who was not elected to the synod by the Czech bishops, also placed at least some of the blame on the failures of the church's ministers. Too many Catholics, he said, have no idea what it means to give their word and make a vow forever.

    "The synod should never forget the past and present scandal of the basic destruction of the word" seen in the broken "promises of a large number of religious and priests in the latter half of the past century," he wrote. It is "a scandal that we must confess humbly in the presence of husbands and wives who, amid the thousand difficulties of their life in this era of degradation, are fighting to remain faithful to their promise, to their word, to the oath that they made to each other and to God."

    All of the cardinals emphasized the importance of marriage preparation and the fact that it cannot be just a weekend of talks a few months before the wedding. It begins in the family with real examples of love, care, self-sacrifice, sharing and celebrating together.

    Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, who as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments is automatically a member of the synod, urged the church's ministers to find committed Catholic couples to serve as witnesses to Catholic youths.

    "Even though deep down they desire an indissoluble union," he said, too many young people "cannot manage to believe that it is possible. This is a crisis of trust and faith in God and consequently a crisis of confidence in human love and in the human ability to be faithful."

    Venezuelan Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas, who is not one of his country's delegates to the synod, urged a renewed emphasis on how seriously the Catholic Church takes the vocation of marriage.

    "The church not only promotes, praises and defends marriage, but also celebrates it liturgically," he noted. "In fact, she considers it one of the seven sacraments, instruments and signs of grace and salvation for the contracting parties and their children, and gives it a legal structure so as to protect the rights and specify the duties of the spouses."

    While it is true that growing segments of societies across the globe no longer understand marriage the way the church does, that does not mean the church should "yield," he wrote. "The truth does not depend on acceptance by a majority. Neither does pastoral practice."

    The other cardinals contributing to the book were: Indian Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal of Trivandrum, who will attend the synod as head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church; German Cardinal Joachim Meisner, retired archbishop of Cologne; Nigerian Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja; Spanish Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, retired archbishop of Madrid; and Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini, retired papal vicar of Rome.

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  • Pope asks prayers for refugees after 71 found dead in truck

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis joined Austrian church leaders in praying for the 71 refugees found dead in an abandoned truck near Vienna and he condemned the smuggling of migrants as an offense "against the whole human family." Reciting the Angelus prayer Aug. 30 with thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, including Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, Pope Francis asked the crowd for a moment of silence to pray "for all migrants who suffer and for those who lost their lives." He noted in particular the presence of four children among the refugees, believed to be from Syria, who were discovered in the truck Aug. 27; police believe they suffocated and had been dead at least two days before they were found. Cardinal Schonborn, president of the Austrian bishops' conference, told the Kathpress news agency Aug. 28: "Such refugee suffering should awaken us, like a bolt from the blue, to the need for more generous attitudes and courageous decisions. The joint handling of the refugee tragedy in the face of such inhumanity is a test for European values. My sympathy is with those who've suffered this imaginably agonizing death, and I cannot find words for the contempt for human life shown by the traffickers," the cardinal said. Police in neighboring Hungary, the truck's departure point, said Aug. 28 that they had arrested three Bulgarians and an Afghan in connection with the deaths of the 59 men, eight women and four children.

    Eleven cardinals urge maintaining church rules on marriage

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Eleven cardinals, at least four of whom will participate in the world Synod of Bishops on the family in October, have urged fellow church leaders to maintain the church's rules regarding marriage and strengthen Catholic education about marriage and family life. Their book, "Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family," is scheduled to be released in English in the United States Sept. 15 by Ignatius Press, which provided copies in advance to the media. With the contributing cardinals coming from Europe, Asia, South America and Africa, the essays include personal pastoral reflections as well as urge extreme caution in considering any plan to readmit to Communion Catholics who have divorced and remarried civilly without having received an annulment. While several of the cardinals insist that the media in general and many church leaders mistakenly tried to make it appear that the situation of the divorced and remarried was the primary focus of 2014 extraordinary Synod of Bishops, most of the 11 essays also discuss the problem. The issue is expected to be raised again at the world Synod of Bishops on the family Oct. 4-25. Italian Cardinal Carlo Caffarra of Bologna, who was not elected by his peers to attend the synod, said showing mercy to such couples without requiring their conversion -- demonstrated by at least refraining from sexual relations with the new spouse -- "is the mistaken pity of an incompetent and/or weak physician who contents himself with bandaging wounds without treating them."

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  • Guatemalan bishops call for president to resign

    MONTERREY, Mexico (CNS) -- The Guatemalan bishops' conference called for the country's president to step down as corruption scandals consumed the country's political class and citizens took to the streets in protest. "Unfortunately it is evident and regrettable that large sectors of the population no longer have confidence in the president," the bishops said in an Aug. 27 statement signed by the conference president, Bishop Rodolfo Valenzuela Nunez of Vera Paz, and secretary-general, Bishop Domingo Buezo Leiva of Izabal. "The cases of corruption involve various collaborators; the accusations against him, the resignation of members of his Cabinet have made him lose leadership and (lose) solid backing that guarantees he can continue with his mission of governing," the letter continued. "For the love of the truth and our responsibility to promote peace, we think the president should reflect in his conscience on his decision not to resign." President Otto Perez Molina said Aug. 23 that he would not resign and would remain in office. He is scheduled to leave office in January, though the country holds elections Sept. 6. The decision followed the imprisonment of Perez's former vice president, Roxana Baldetti, who resigned earlier this year after being accused of being bribed in a customs duty scandal. Baldetti remains imprisoned, but denies any wrongdoing, including the charge of accepting $3.7 million from businesses not wanting to pay import duties.

    'See the Lord': Chinese American Catholic group helps needy people see

    SANTA CLARA, Calif. (CNS) -- Dr. Kelly Kao is no longer making a top salary as a Silicon Valley optometrist and researcher for Google Glass. Instead, Kao and her friends, motivated by their Catholic faith, are using their skills to help poor people see in the Far East and even California's San Joaquin Valley. In the past three years, the Catholic nonprofit See the Lord has brought eyeglasses, and vision health care to thousands of poor people in rural areas of Taiwan, the Philippines and Sanger, California. "I walked away knowing that God had a different path for me, knowing I was called to do missionary work at that point in my life," said Kao, now 30. Kao decided the day her mother died in February 2011 after a nine-year bout with cancer that she had to "love big" with her life. "There were a lot of people trying to talk me out of it," she said. When she quit all her jobs at age 28 in 2012, Kao was in full-time private practice, teaching at the University of California, Berkeley School of Optometry, and doing research for Google. See the Lord is staffed almost entirely by volunteers, young professionals who became friends through their faith and involvement in the San Jose Chinese Catholic Mission in Santa Clara. Kao, the only one who works full time for the organization, receives a small stipend as chief executive officer.

    Paul Durand-Ruel: Catholic art dealer helped establish the impressionists

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- With his full beard and sometimes wearing a beret, Claude Monet looked like an artist, and it's easy to imagine him creating those short, thick brushstrokes that museum visitors see, often from a few steps back, as the play of soft sunlight on poplar trees, water lilies or the Paris countryside. Less obvious is the contribution of a conservatively dressed businessman named Paul Durand-Ruel, an initially reluctant art dealer who gambled his career on Monet and the other impressionists he came to represent, such as Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro and Mary Cassatt. Simply put, without Durand-Ruel, their paintings might not be hanging on museum and gallery walls -- or reproduced on countless posters and calendars in homes and offices throughout the country. Immensely popular today, impressionist paintings can command high prices at auctions. In April, Sotheby's sold a group of five Monets in London for $84 million, and last year sold a single painting of his "Nympheas" for $54 million. But at the time Durand-Ruel began representing Monet and the others, they were unknown and impressionism was new. For a long time they were ignored or, worse, ridiculed. "Without Durand, we would have died of hunger, all us impressionists," said Monet. "Fortunately for us," Renoir reportedly said, "painting was his religion."

    Colombians who flee to Ecuador face discrimination, and fear remains

    QUITO, Ecuador (CNS) -- Carlos Leon and Carmen Barrera thought the worst was over when they escaped the death threats in Colombia. Caught between a gang of extortionists and the owner of the property where he was working as a construction foreman, they left on a plane with their twin daughters, each carrying little more than a change of clothes. The couple's three older children, all in their 20s, would follow. Then came the phone call. The older children were being held hostage in their home by the landlady, a police officer and several other people who were demanding hundreds of dollars to allow them to leave, even though the rent was paid. Frantic phone calls brought help, and the family was reunited in Quito, said Leon, tears welling up in his eyes as he recalled his children's terror. But even here, in Ecuador's apparently peaceful capital city, they do not feel safe. "It's like an octopus," Barrera said of the organized crime group that forced her family to flee. "They know who you are and where you are. They have an entire organization. They must have people here. We're vulnerable. We're defenseless."

    New 'Catholic Values' stock fund comes in for scrutiny

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Aug. 20 announcement of a new "Catholic Values Index" stock fund for investors who want their stock buys to hew to Catholic teaching has come under scrutiny by some with a long track record in corporate social responsibility. "The launch of this fund is particularly appropriate as we prepare to welcome Pope Francis to the U.S.," said Oblate Father Seamus Finn, chairman of the board of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, in an Aug. 27 email to Catholic News Service from Bangladesh. "This adds to the number of funds that are available for Catholics to integrate more complete their Catholic values and beliefs into their investment approaches and planning and respond actively to the call by the Holy Father to put planet and people into priority as we look for ways to use our assets to support our missions and other needs," Father Finn said. But Frank Rauscher of Dallas-based Aquinas Associates, when he saw a similar statement by Father Finn earlier, told CNS he asked the priest if he had given an A-OK to the fund specifically or to the notion of socially responsible investing. Rauscher said Father Finn told him it was the latter.

    CRS worker says Mali violence has not disrupted Christian-Muslim ties

    OXFORD, England (CNS) -- A Catholic aid worker in Mali said Islamist violence failed to disrupt friendly ties between Christians and Muslims, and he called for a coordinated development strategy as "the best means to combat extremism. The tensions here aren't between Christians and Muslims -- if people are left in peace, they get on as well as they always did," said Niek de Goeij, country representative for Catholic Relief Services in the North African country. He said young people cannot find jobs, and when "someone comes with a motivating agenda, using religious arguments about fighting some enemy, and offering a gun and $50 a month, it's easy to see how they get sucked in." In June, Mali's government and the northern Tuareg and Arab rebels who hoped to establish a separatist state signed a peace agreement, brokered by Algeria. Under the agreement, northern rebel fighters are to be integrated into government security forces, and regional assemblies are to be elected, but without full autonomy, to prevent separatism. However, rebel attacks have continued since the agreement, which was witnessed by Muslim and Christian religious leaders.

    Nigerian cardinal joins #BringBackOurGirls to mark 500 days of captivity

    ABUJA, Nigeria (CNS) -- Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja and Sheik Nura Khalid, chief imam of Apo Legislators Quarters Jumu'at Mosque, joined the members of the #BringBackOurGirls movement Aug. 27 to mark the 500 days that more than 200 girls of the Government Secondary School, Chibok, who were abducted by Boko Haram in their dormitory in Borno state April 14, 2014. Speaking during the commemoration, Cardinal Onaiyekan expressed sadness that the students were still in the hands of their captors. "The Joint Task Force kept telling us that it had combed the Sambisa Forest where the abductors alleged to have kept the children, but we have not got an inkling regarding their whereabouts,'' he said. He expressed hope that the 500 days would be a symbolic catalyst to move the Nigerian community into recognizing the serious problem on its hands and finding a solution. "I have always identified with this group. That is the reason I came this day; we are commemorating the 500 days they, Chibok girls, were abducted. This is a serious matter. Our girls taken from us," the cardinal said.

    Former nuncio dies in Vatican residence while awaiting sex abuse trial

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A Vatican official has ordered an autopsy on the body of former archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, who was found dead Aug. 28 in the Vatican residence where he was awaiting trial on charges of child sexual abuse and possession of child pornography. Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, Vatican spokesman, said Wesolowski's body was found at 5 a.m. by a priest who also lives in the building, which houses the Franciscans who hear confessions in St. Peter's Basilica and offices of the Vatican police force. Wesolowski was in front of a television, which was on, the spokesman said. Officials from the Vatican police, medical service and court arrived quickly, he said, for an "initial verification, which indicated the death was from natural causes. The promoter of justice ordered an autopsy, which will be carried out today," the spokesman said. "The results will be communicated as soon as possible." In the statement, issued less than four hours after Wesolowski's body was found, Father Benedettini said Pope Francis had been informed.

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  • Philippine bishops: Look at family planning through lens of faith

    MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- More than a year after a controversial reproductive health law took effect in the Philippines, the church was mustering clergy and lay church workers to reignite the formation of the faithful with regard to family planning. Bishop Gilbert Garcera of Daet, head of the Philippine bishops' Commission on Family and Life, said his office wants individual Catholics to see issues or reproductive health through the practice of their faith. He told Catholic News Service that, in recent conferences with clergy and church workers, his office has been reiterating the church's message that a Supreme Court ruling on the law allowed for conscientious objection. Church officials have emphasized "individual or group assessment of how (Catholics) are responding to the teachings of the church" on family planning, he told CNS. "We will teach, we will remind them, but remember, we have been doing that for so long, but truly we have to consider, at what level are they (in their formation)?" After more than a dozen years of trying to get such a law passed, the Philippines enacted the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, commonly called the RH Law. Many considered it a victory in a developing country that has seen population growth of 2 million per year. Among its provisions are free contraceptives for the poor.

    Portland Archdiocese to stay in conversation with school on job offers

    PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- The Archdiocese of Portland plans to stay in talks with an all-girls school that now says it will welcome employees who enter same-sex unions recognized as marriages by civil authorities in Oregon. St. Mary's Academy, the oldest Catholic school in Oregon, expanded its hiring policies Aug. 26. The Portland school faced pressure after rescinding a counseling job offer to Laura Brown, 27, who told St. Mary officials that she planned to marry another woman. Before the late-night policy reversal, Portland Archbishop Alexander K. Sample had voiced support for the school and the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, saying they were upholding teachings of the Catholic Church. But after the academy's board of directors flipped course, the archdiocese simply said it is aware of the decision and will continue conversations with school officials. Earlier Aug. 26, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and one of the school's top donors -- Tim Boyle, CEO of Columbia Sportswear -- criticized the cancellation of the job offer. He was joined by students who spoke out on social media. Some alumnae threatened to withdraw financial support for the prep school that enrolls 725 girls.

    For Latinos, shared parishes offer chance to shape church's future

    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CNS) -- In September, Latino Catholics from the Smoky Mountain towns of western North Carolina will descend on downtown Charlotte for a eucharistic procession of Catholic associations, ethnic traditions, Marian statues and prayer. There, on Sept. 12, the Smoky Mountain delegation will join thousands of other Catholics from North Carolina and South Carolina walking a morning pilgrimage to the Charlotte Convention Center for the diocese's Eucharistic Congress. The 11th annual event draws strong participation -- an estimated 50 percent of the 13,000 registrants -- from the burgeoning Catholic Hispanic population of the Carolinas. Many are Mexican-Americans who work in the construction and service trades, illustrating the presence of an estimated 15,000 Catholic Hispanics living in border region of North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. Diocesan Hispanic ministry officials said Latino Catholics in the region have cultivated a kind of seamless lifelong approach to Catholic formation, encompassing youth, young adults, married couples, charismatic groups and the wider community working together in a multigenerational catechesis. That approach will be on display at the congress and is becoming more evident overall, said Carlos Castaneda, a Hispanic ministry coordinator for the Charlotte Diocese.

    Auxiliary Bishop Thomas A. Donato of Newark, N.J., dies of cancer at 75

    NEWARK, N.J. (CNS) -- Auxiliary Bishop Thomas A. Donato, a native of New Jersey who ministered and served in the Archdiocese of Newark throughout his 50-year priesthood, died Aug. 25 of cancer at the age of 75. In his role as auxiliary bishop, he served as regional bishop of Hudson County, New Jersey, and as pastor of St. Henry Parish in Bayonne. Prior to being named a bishop by Pope Benedict in 2004, he had served in parish ministry and as spiritual director of Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University. Newark Archbishop John J. Myers said Bishop Donato "saw Christ in everyone he met. Bishop Donato embodied the priestly ideal," Archbishop Myers said in an Aug. 26 statement. "I am grateful that I, too, came to know this holy man who influenced and helped deepen the faith of so many people in parish ministry, and of many men studying for priestly service for the Archdiocese of Newark."

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  • Iraqi archbishop: Plight of fleeing Christians has challenged his faith

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil, Iraq, placed his face in his hands when asked how his faith has been challenged and changed in the crisis he has helped manage over the past year. He said he has outwardly encouraged the Christians whom he welcomed to Irbil when they fled Islamic State, but within his heart he would frequently "quarrel with God. I don't understand what he is doing when I look at what has happened in the region," Archbishop Warda said. "I quarrel with him every day." However, the arguments take place within his intimate relationship with God, one that, with the help of grace, withstands even the previously unimaginable challenges to his faith that he has faced over the past year. "Before going to sleep, I usually hand all my crises, wishes, thoughts and sadness to him, so I can at least have some rest," Archbishop Warda told The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. "The next day, I usually wake up with his providence that I would never dream about."

    Maryland priest, editor to pace pilgrimage to Philadelphia papal Mass

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- As the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Catholic Review Media finalized preparations in early summer to transport hundreds of pilgrims to the only public Mass Pope Francis will celebrate on his first trip to the U.S., the wheels turned. Planners thought about the possibility embarking on the ancient concept of pilgrimage, and walk from Baltimore to Philadelphia in September. Hours after the idea was bounced off Father John J. Lombardi, pastor of St. Peter and St. Patrick parishes in Washington County, Maryland, was on board. He is a veteran of dozens of such walks, most recently in Ireland, and in 2012 from St. Peter Parish in Hancock, to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore to promote awareness of the inaugural Fortnight for Freedom. Father Lombardi and Paul McMullen, managing editor of the Catholic Review, newspaper of the Baltimore Archdiocese, will lead a group of as many as 20 pilgrims, departing from that same Baltimore basilica Sept. 20, through Baltimore City, Baltimore, Harford and Cecil counties, and then into Pennsylvania on the way to the Sept. 27 papal Mass in Philadelphia.

    Priorities, preaching, personal touch reflect Pope Francis' background

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A self-described "homebody," Pope Francis will make the 10th foreign trip of his pontificate in September, visiting Cuba and then, for the first time in his life, the United States. The visit of the 78-year-old Argentine pope comes in a year packed with important events for him: the publication in June of "Laudato Si'," his encyclical on the environment; the world Synod of Bishops on the family in October; and the opening Dec. 8 of a special Year of Mercy. The former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires was not a household name to most North American Catholics when he was elected to succeed Pope Benedict XVI March 13, 2013, but his brothers in the College of Cardinals knew who he was. The Argentine Jesuit had been second on the balloting in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict to succeed St. John Paul II in 2005. His growing up with four siblings in a family with strong ties to its Italian origins, his training and ministry as a Jesuit -- including what he says were mistakes as a provincial superior -- and his regular contact with the poorest residents of Buenos Aires are influences seen in his preaching, priorities, style of governance and, especially, in the way he interacts with individuals.

    Pope's encyclical cited as totem pole blessed on way to coal mines

    PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- Portland Mayor Charlie Hales got a roar of approval Aug. 24 when he told a packed Catholic church that he opposes new fossil fuel projects that would affect his city. The crowd of more than 400 at St. Philip Neri Church had convened for the blessing of a totem pole that residents of Washington state's coastal Lummi Nation carved as a symbol of opposition to coal export facilities along the Columbia River. Hales discussed his July trip to the Vatican, where he had been invited by Pope Francis to discuss how cities are leading action on climate change. Hales said the takeaway was this: Climate change is serious, and it's affecting the poor, but it's not too late. "We have an obligation here in Portland to keep moving," he said, announcing that he would push for the city to divest from fossil fuel companies. The mayor, who is running for re-election, also announced hopes to quadruple solar power use by city government. In his encyclical, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," the pope said that human life depends on the well-being of the planet. Matt Cato, director of the Portland Archdiocese's Office of Life, Justice and Peace, told the crowd that the encyclical is a moral document, not a political one.

    Family prayer time can start with small, simple gestures, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Parents who juggle packed work and family schedules deserve a Nobel Prize in mathematics for doing something not even the most brilliant scientists can do: They pack 48 hours of activity into 24, Pope Francis said. "I don't know how they do it, but they do," the pope told thousands of people gathered Aug. 26 for his weekly general audience. "There are moms and dads who could win the Nobel for this!" Focusing his audience talk on the family and prayer, Pope Francis said he knows modern life can be frenetic and that family schedules are "complicated and packed." The most frequent complaint of any Christian, he said, is that he or she does not have enough time to pray. "The regret is sincere," the pope said, "because the human heart seeks prayer, even if one is not aware of it." The way to begin, he said, is to recognize how much God loves you and to love him in return. "A heart filled with affection for God can turn even a thought without words into a prayer."

    Pope urges prayers for creation Sept. 1

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation should be a time for individuals to examine their lifestyles and the way they impact the environment, Pope Francis said. At the end of his weekly general audience Aug. 26, the pope asked Catholics and "all people of goodwill" to join members of the Orthodox Church in the special day of prayer Sept. 1. "We want to make our contribution to overcoming the ecological crisis that humanity is experiencing," the pope said, explaining why he decided the Catholic Church should mark the annual day of prayer begun by the Orthodox Church in 1989. Around the world, the pope said, church groups are planning prayer and reflection initiatives in order to make the day of prayer a key moment for "assuming coherent lifestyles" that have less negative impact on nature.

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  • Puerto Rico debt crisis faces crucial date; church opts for jubilee

    AGUADILLA, Puerto Rico -- As Puerto Rico's government marches on toward a critical financial deadline regarding its $72 billion "unpayable" debt, the local Catholic Church, too, has been increasingly feeling the fiscal crunch all the way down to the pews, and there are hopes for a jubilee as espoused in Scripture. Even this city's central parish, located in one of the island's few financially sound municipalities, is struggling. "I'm not an economist," Father Delroy Thomas Scott, pastor, told Catholic News Service. "But we hear of how many people have left for the U.S. ... so naturally, there are fewer coming to the Eucharist" and donating to the parish. He also spoke of families' harsh economic situation, despite the local boom: "Despite our town's boasting about progress, salary increases to municipal employees, etc., there are still many families in precarious situations." Father Scott echoes other pastors, all of whom expressed concern over the economic questions facing the island. Others, such as Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves of San Juan, have shown diverse opinions about the effects of the crisis. His recent column in Time magazine was tinged with pastoral, political and solidarity overtones.

    Cardinal Levada arrested in Hawaii on drunk-driving charge

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (CNS) -- Cardinal William J. Levada was arrested in Kailua-Kona, on the island of Hawaii, for driving under the influence of alcohol. The arrest was made at about midnight Aug. 19. Cardinal Levada, 79, was released after posting $500 bond. He is due to appear in court Sept. 24. Cardinal Levada, the former archbishop of San Francisco and of Portland, Oregon, and the retired prefect for the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said in a statement issued Aug. 24 by the Archdiocese of San Francisco, "I regret my error in judgment. I intend to continue fully cooperating with the authorities." The news was first reported by the Hawaii Tribune Herald daily newspaper, which said he was vacationing with priest friends in Hawaii at the time of the incident. Cardinal Levada, in retirement, lives in Menlo Park, California, near San Francisco. "'Punishment' is not a factor" in Cardinal Levada's case, San Francisco archdiocesan spokesman Michael Brown said in an email to the Huffington Post.

    Back-to-school homework for students includes preparing to meet pope

    NEW YORK (CNS) -- Being called to the principal's office during the school year can cause angst even among the most mischievous students. But for those who typically demonstrate their best behavior, being summoned during the summer may be more daunting. Fortunately for 24 well-behaved youngsters from four Catholic elementary schools in Harlem, such a phone call from the principal proved to be more pleasing than a splash in the pool. The pupils learned they will represent their schools when Pope Francis visits Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem late in the afternoon on Sept. 25. Timothy McNiff, archdiocesan superintendent of schools, outlined details of the papal visit to the school during an Aug. 20 news conference along with the principals and two students from each of the four participating schools. "This school represents so many of our schools in that it's a doorway out of poverty to so many recent immigrants," McNiff said.

    Receiving pallium, Archbishop Cupich asks faithful to minister with him

    CHICAGO (CNS) -- When Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago received the pallium on his shoulders Aug. 23, he did so in a demonstration of unity that he said extended from the people in the pews to the bishops who joined him in the sanctuary to Pope Francis. He was invested with the pallium by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, after receiving it from Pope Francis in the Vatican on June 29. Archbishop Vigano spoke before placing the pallium on Archbishop Cupich's shoulders, telling the congregation, "It is first and foremost a symbol of the unity of your archbishop with the Holy Father, and of the unity of your archbishop with his brother bishops," Archbishop Vigano said. The pallium is a strip of white wool, about two inches wide, with six black crosses. The ends, which hang down about a foot in the front and back, are black and look like the hooves of a lamb carried on the archbishop's shoulders. Three of the crosses have gold pins through them, reminiscent of the nails of Christ's crucifixion. Overall, it serves as a reminder of the role of the archbishop as shepherd to his people. In his homily, Archbishop Cupich reflected on the readings of the day, especially the Gospel, in which Peter speaks for the apostles and says they will stand by Jesus because they are convinced he is the "holy one of God."

    Pope Francis to see 'Homeless Jesus' during U.S. visit

    WASHINGTON -- When Pope Francis approaches the Catholic Charities building in downtown Washington during his U.S. visit in September, he will encounter a "homeless person" covered in a blanket laying on a park bench. The scene actually is a sculpture. And it's not a work of art depicting any homeless person; it's the bronze image of "Homeless Jesus." "I hope Pope Francis blesses our 'Homeless Jesus' when he's here," said Roland Woody, a Washington resident who was homeless until earlier this year. "It's kind of a symbol of hope for the homeless in D.C. If the pope blesses it, it will be even more special." If the pope does bless the 7-foot-long statue, it will be the second one of its kind that he'll have done that for. Pope Francis blessed a smaller version of the "Homeless Jesus" sculpture during a late November, 2013, general audience at the Vatican in front of thousands of pilgrims.

    Ten years after Katrina, Mississippi resident is back where he belongs

    BILOXI, Miss. (CNS) -- After evacuating for Hurricane Katrina, Malcolm Ware couldn't wait to get back to his apartment at the Santa Maria del Mar Retirement Community and the shrimp awaiting him in his deep freeze. "Somebody had given me five pounds of shrimp, which I had put in the deep freeze the night before we left," he said. "I thought, 'Boy, I hope the power doesn't go off because, when I get back, I can eat my shrimp.'" Unfortunately, the power went off, never to come on again and he never got the chance to enjoy his shrimp feast. But Ware, who is 82, survived Katrina and after nearly a decade away from his beloved Mississippi Gulf Coast, was able to return Biloxi and a new and, much improved Santa Maria, one of seven retirement communities sponsored by the Biloxi Diocese. He said two days before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, Franciscan Sister Rebecca Rutkowski, director of Catholic Social and Community Services, came to the retirement home to warn residents that they needed to evacuate. "But then she came back later in the day and told us to disregard everything she had said earlier because the hurricane was going over toward New Orleans," he said. "Well, by late that evening, she came back again and called another meeting and told us to disregard everything that she'd said earlier because the hurricane was coming this way and we were going to have to leave. If we didn't leave, she said, we would be arrested and taken to a shelter."

    Catholic agencies use clown, puppets to help Gaza kids overcome trauma

    JERUSALEM (CNS) -- Catholic aid agencies having been using various counseling techniques, even a live clown and puppets, to help the Gaza Strip's children overcome the trauma of lost loved ones and homes in the year since the cease-fire ended the conflict. But they warn that only a political solution can hope to remedy the increasingly desperate situation there. "Almost everything we do as an international nongovernmental organization -- and most peers would say the same -- is like putting a Band-Aid on a pretty serious injury," said Matthew McGarry, Catholic Relief Services' country representative for Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza. McGarry and other aid officials told Catholic News Service that the long-festering conflict between Israel and Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, has created a man-made humanitarian and psychosocial crisis that politics alone must solve. "It's cumulative. Children as young as 7 have lived through three wars in the past 7 years -- that's your lifetime," McGarry told CNS of the psychological toll Gaza's multiple wars have taken on its youngest residents. The U.N. estimates that at least 370,000 children in Gaza need psychosocial support following last summer's war, which cost the lives of more than 2,250 Palestinians, 65 percent of whom were civilians. Sixty-six Israeli soldiers were killed, along with six civilians, it said, before the Aug. 26, 2014, cease-fire was reached.

    Katrina evacuees found shelter, relief in Baton Rouge Diocese

    BATON ROUGE, La. (CNS) -- Ten years later the memories still linger for Carol Spruell, as if they happened yesterday but perhaps were a lifetime ago. She remembers the chaos, despair, uncertainty and the cries for help from so many and workweeks that had no end in the days and months following Hurricane Katrina. She also remembers the lines, droves of desperate people who had lost everything in Katrina's floodwater, who were seeking any modicum of relief, whether it was articles of clothing, a bus ticket to a relative's house outside of the area or assistance in finding a place to live. "I remember pulling into the parking lot at 7 or 7:30 in the morning, and there would already be a line of people down the driveway," said Spruell, communications director for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge. "There were probably 300 people before we even got close to opening our doors. That was with very little publicity; strictly word of mouth about what we were doing. We knew if we did a lot of publicity about what we were doing, what kind of assistance we were giving, we would get mobbed," she said. The routine varied little. Each morning, the number of caseworkers available for that day and how many evacuees they would be able to assist were determined. The staff would go down the line and count to that number, giving each person a ticket. Those not fortunate enough to receive a coveted ticket were told to return the following day. "It was tough," she said. '"Just the physical toll was one thing. We worked really long days, 12-hour days, seven days a week. We had our families to take care of. That life still had to continue."

    Court grants visitation rights to father of Pakistani woman on death row

    LAHORE, Pakistan (CNS) -- A Pakistani court has directed the Punjab provincial government and police to give the father of death row convict Asia Bibi prison visitation rights, a family lawyer said. The directive came Aug. 25, two days after Soran Masih filed a petition in the Lahore High Court demanding access to his daughter, reporting Masih said authorities had repeatedly blocked him from the prison following Bibi's conviction for blasphemy in 2012. "Judge Muhammad Anwar ul Haq issued directives to the jail superintendent of Multan and the Home Department to let Soran Masih and his family members see Asia Bibi," Sardar Mushtaq Gill, Masih's lawyer, told Aug. 25. "We are thankful to the high court for a swift action on our petition," Gill said.

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  • Diocese of St. Augustine prepares for 450th anniversary of settlement

    ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (CNS) -- The Diocese of St. Augustine will join the city of St. Augustine in celebrating the 450th anniversary of the first permanent settlement of European origin in what became the continental United States. Bishop Felipe Estevez of the St. Augustine called the founding of the city providential. "The founding of St. Augustine is all about evangelization, the sharing of Christianity with the Native Americans," he said. Conversion of the native people of Florida was an important motivation for Pedro Menendez de Aviles of Spain, who established the community in 1565. And so was commercial development, said historian Michael Gannon. "That evangelical impulse was nowhere more apparent than in his words at court, addressed to King Philip II in March 1565 when he asked for an 'asiento' (license) to colonize Florida," Gannon explained. He cited the words of Menendez: "I would choose the settling of Florida before any other command or dignity that your majesty might bestow upon me." The king responded by telling Menendez that "you will include 10 to 12 religious ... so that there may be religious instruction in the said land and the Indians can be converted to our holy Catholic faith and to our obedience ..."

    Kentucky priest faces federal charge of accessing child pornography

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CNS) -- A Kentucky priest was arrested in Florida on a federal charge of accessing pornographic images of children online. Father Stephen Pohl, who resigned as pastor of St. Margaret Mary Church in Louisville Aug. 20, was arrested in Florida a day later. The priest was placed on administrative leave Aug. 12, when the Archdiocese of Louisville learned he was under investigation by the FBI. The action by the archdiocese means Father Pohl may not present himself as a priest, wear clerical clothing or serve in ministry. Louisville Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz said during a news conference Aug. 21 hours before the arrest that the archdiocese is cooperating with the FBI and concentrating its efforts on the pastoral care and safety of those affected. "I personally and all of our archdiocese are deeply grieved," he said. "Our effort to provide pastoral care and especially to reach out to families has already begun and will continue."

    Baton Rouge parishes helped Katrina's youngest and oldest victims

    BATON ROUGE, La. (CNS) -- After the devastating impact of Katrina, many of the most vulnerable victims -- newborns and elderly from New Orleans -- found refuge at parishes in the Diocese of Baton Rouge. St. Patrick Church in Baton Rouge provided one of only a few shelters in the area specifically for evacuee families of newborn babies, according to volunteers there at the time. Dr. Stephanie Cave, who practices family medicine and is a longtime St. Patrick parishioner, said the local hospital delivered as many babies as possible but could not keep them as long as they needed to be kept. Babies in stable condition, even if born premature, were sent to St. Patrick and the other baby shelters. "These tiny babies were coming into the shelter," Cave recalled. "We went and talked to the mothers. We had a number of women who offered to help the moms who were trying to breast-feed their babies -- some for the first time." She said there were many first-time mothers who were unsure of what to do. Their difficulty was compounded by the fact they had been forced from their homes and were in an unfamiliar place sleeping on cots.

    Labor Day statement: Reflection, action 'critical' for care of workers

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- "Individual reflection and action is critical" when it comes to improving the conditions of workers in the United States and elsewhere, said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in the U.S. bishops' annual Labor Day statement. "We are in need of a profound conversion of heart at all levels of our lives. Let us examine our choices," Archbishop Wenski said in the statement, dated Labor Day Sept. 7, but issued Aug. 24 in Washington. "How do we participate in this wounding of human dignity," he asked, through choices about the clothes we wear, food we eat, and things we buy -- most of which is unaffordable to the very workers who make it? Do we give a thought to this truth, that for our wants to be met, economic realities are created that cause others to live in ways that we ourselves would not?" Still, "individual effort should not stand alone." Archbishop Wenski said. "Sufficient decent work that honors dignity and families is a necessary component of the task before us, and it is the Catholic way."

    Judge orders release of immigrant families within 60 days

    WASHINGTON (CNS) - A federal judge Aug. 21 gave the Obama administration 60 days -- until Oct. 23 -- to release the hundreds of immigrant mothers and children being held in locked detention centers. Central California District Court Judge Dolly Gee reiterated her order of a month earlier, in which she said a long-standing court settlement over treatment of juveniles in immigration custody is violated by the government's policy of detaining mothers and children while they pursue asylum or other ways of remaining in the country. The administration had appealed Gee's order, repeating many of its original arguments for why it should be allowed to detain families and saying a system is already in place to reduce how long the families are held. Gee's response clarified some parts of her July order, and in other places criticized the government's appeal. For instance, she said it was "speculative at best, and, at worst, fear mongering" when the government argued that her orders to release the families "could heighten the risk of another surge in illegal migration across our Southwest border by Central American families, including by incentivizing adults to bring children with them on their dangerous journey as a means to avoid detention and gain access to the interior of the United States."

    Teachers ratify contract underscoring high schools' Catholic mission

    SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- A new labor agreement between the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the union representing teachers at the four archdiocesan high schools states that Catholic teachings must remain paramount in the classroom and that teachers are accountable for personal conduct that could negatively affect their ability to serve the Catholic mission. Marin Catholic High School president Tim Navone said the agreement, which follows months of contention that made national headlines, brings the focus back on teaching. "I am most excited that our teachers are going to be able to be fully focused without distraction on what they are going to do best, and that is teaching," he said Aug. 20. "As an administrator, my hope and goal is they have the sole focus of educating our students." Navone told Catholic San Francisco, the archdiocesan newspaper that he is "filled with a lot of gratitude for those on all sides. The union executive committee really worked hard." Ted DeSaulnier, a religion teacher at Archbishop Riordan High School and a member of the executive committee of Archdiocesan Federation of Teachers Local 2240, said he felt relieved to settle a disagreement he described as "one of those perfect storms."

    Former seminarian finds silver lining from post-Katrina rescue

    NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- New Orleans attorney Brandon Briscoe was a second-year pre-theology student at Notre Dame Seminary in 2005 when he took a photograph of Department of Wildlife and Fisheries workers evacuating him and 20 others from the seminary on the afternoon of Sept. 1 -- three days after the landfall of Hurricane Katrina. From there, the stranded were taken to dry land. Briscoe joined the rescuers on the back of their pickup truck and was taken to Lafayette, where he rented a car to join his displaced family in Mississippi. About 40 Notre Dame seminarians, faculty, staff and guests had chosen to hunker down at the seminary during the storm for various reasons, Briscoe said. "A number of us did not realize what we were in for," said Briscoe, who was 24 at the time. "The building is a four-story brick building with generators, so we thought we could ride out a typical storm. We had enough food in the freezers to feed 100 seminarians for a month." They stayed for other reasons, too. Before the storm, a number of them were busy helping frail residents of a New Orleans nursing home onto evacuation vehicles. After the hurricane's landfall, the young men were enlisted to patch the seminary's roof and clean up water that had leaked into the basement.

    Katrina odyssey brought many blessings for New Orleans priest

    NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- Like many of his brother priests, Father Dennis Hayes decided to take his chances and stay put as Katrina teased the Louisiana coast, hoping the storm's Category 5 fury would spare his parish of St. Louise de Marillac in Arabi. Surely Katrina would veer away at the last minute as so many hurricanes had done before. And even if the storm did cause some damage, thought Father Hayes, at least he would be available to his parishioners. After successfully weathering Katrina on the second floor of St. Louise's concrete-and-steel school building -- with the Blessed Sacrament, his parish's sacramental registers and his pet dog Badooki -- Father Hayes assumed the worst was over by Monday morning, Aug. 29, 2005. But that sigh of relief turned into alarm when the town of Arabi began filling up like a bathtub. "Within one hour -- between about 8 and 9 a.m. -- I saw the water cover all of the homes and the entire parish plant," recalled Father Hayes, now pastor of Blessed Trinity Church in New Orleans. "In just that little bit of time the water rose from the ground to the wires of the light poles. That night I could hear cries and wailing of people for help," he said.

    Reputed mafia don's extravagant funeral raises questions in Rome

    ROME (CNS) -- Television programs, coffee bars, Italian Twitter accounts and the corridors of political power were abuzz Aug. 20-21 with news and commentary about the extravagance surrounding the funeral of the reputed boss of an organized crime ring in Rome. The funeral Mass for Vittorio Casamonica, 65, was celebrated at St. John Bosco Church in southeast Rome Aug. 20. His body was carried to the church in an antique gilded black hearse drawn by six black horses. When it arrived at the church, a band outside played the theme song from the film "The Godfather." A poster hung over the entrance to the church said, "You conquered Rome, now you will conquer heaven." Another, taped to a column alongside the entrance, proclaimed him "King of Rome" and featured a photo of Casamonica dressed in a white suit and wearing a large cross, a photo of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica and one of the Colosseum. After the Mass, a helicopter flew over and dropped rose petals, and the coffin was transported to the cemetery in a Rolls-Royce hearse. The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, called the funeral a "scandal."

    Pope marks Ukraine's independence calling for peace

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Marking the 24th anniversary of Ukraine's independence, Pope Francis sent a letter to the nation's president and asked Catholics to join him in prayers for peace. After reciting the Angelus prayer Aug. 23 with visitors in St. Peter's Square, the pope told the crowds, "With deep concern I am following the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has accelerated once again in the past few weeks. "I renew my appeal that the commitments made for achieving peace would be respected and that, with the help of organizations and people of goodwill, there would be a response to the humanitarian emergency in the country," the pope said. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is monitoring the situation in Eastern Ukraine where Russian-backed separatists are fighting national troops, has reported increasing violations of a cease-fire agreement signed in February. The United Nations estimates fighting since April 2014 has claimed at least 6,800 lives; more than 1.4 million Ukrainians are displaced within the country and another 925,000 have sought refugee outside Ukraine.

    Pope urges visitors to really get to know Jesus by reading Gospels

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis asked thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square to be quiet for a moment and ponder the question, "Who is Jesus to you?" After the moment of silence Aug. 23, the pope introduced the midday Angelus prayer by asking Mary to help Christians purify their faith, removing "worldly incrustations and fears." Commenting on the day's Gospel reading from St. John, the pope said people were scandalized when Jesus told them he was the "bread of life" and "clearly alluded" to the fact that he would sacrifice his life for them. The people were upset, he said, because such talk did not fit in with their idea of the Messiah. They thought "he should speak and act in a way that his mission would have success immediately. They understood Jesus' words so well that they did not want to listen to him because they were words that put their mentality in crisis," he said. The words of Jesus challenge people's ideas today, as well, he said.

    Pope in the pews: Monsignor surprised to have Pope Francis at his Mass

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- From the time he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Pope Francis has said special prayers for catechists on the feast of St. Pius X, who wrote a catechism in 1908. Pope Francis celebrated a private Mass in his residence very early on the feast day, Aug. 21, but decided to pray for catechists at the tomb of St. Pius in St. Peter's Basilica. About 70 people were sitting or kneeling at pews in front of the tomb waiting for a 7 a.m. Mass when the pope arrived, so he joined them, sitting in the front pew. According to the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, a basilica employee hurried to the sacristy where Msgr. Lucio Bonora, an official at the Vatican Secretariat of State, two other priests from his office and altar boys from Malta were beginning their procession to the altar. "The pope's at the altar of St. Pius X!" the employee told the monsignor. "What do I do? Turn back?" the monsignor asked. "No, no, go ahead," the employee told him, according to L'Osservatore.

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  • Theology teacher says life as consecrated virgin is her place in church

    FORT WAYNE, Ind. (CNS) -- Jessica Hayes, a popular high school theology teacher in Fort Wayne, said her consecration as a virgin is her place in the Catholic Church. Hayes said she felt a "deep gratitude for the church and for being Catholic, knowing whatever desire is placed upon our hearts by God, the church has a place for us. "And this is my place," she told Today's Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. On Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption, Hayes' students from Bishop Dwenger High School, graduates of the school, friends and fellow parishioners of St. Vincent de Paul Parish -- along with priests, brothers, seminarians and religious sisters -- filled the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne for her consecration. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend celebrated the rite. "God has called Jessica to be more closely united to himself and to be dedicated to the service of the church," he said in his homily. "It is God who gives the grace of virginity. He gave this grace to the young woman of Nazareth, to Mary, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit to choose the life of virginity. Mary made a personal decision in faith to remain a virgin, to offer her heart to the Lord. She wanted to be his faithful bride."

    One court OKs stay for Little Sisters; another says no to religious agencies

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two federal appeals courts acted Aug. 21 in cases related to the contraceptive mandate for employee health insurance. One court said the Little Sisters of the Poor and fellow plaintiffs need not comply with its July ruling against them while the sisters appeal to the Supreme Court. The second court ruled against Michigan and Tennessee Catholic Charities agencies, Aquinas College and other church-run institutions, saying that their religious rights are not substantially burdened by a process created by the federal government for opting out of providing contraceptive coverage due to religious objections. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that while the Little Sisters of the Poor and fellow plaintiffs appeal its July ruling against them, they need not comply with the mandate to provide contraceptive coverage or follow procedures to hand off that responsibility to others. The 10th Circuit had ruled July 14 that the Little Sisters are not substantially burdened by the process set out by the Department of Health and Human Services by which they can avoid requirements to provide contraceptive coverage to employees as mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

    Catholic schools need 'strong priestly presence,' says foundation head

    HUNTINGTON, N.Y. (CNS) -- A Catholic school needs "a strong priestly presence" or it "is going to move in a problematic direction," said Father Peter M.J. Stravinskas, executive director of the Catholic Education Foundation. "The school effort rises and falls with the priest. If he's engaged, it thrives," he explained. "If he's indifferent, the best efforts get undermined." Catholic schools are critical to the mission of the church because they teach the faith, and identify and develop priestly vocations, Father Stravinskas said. The priest led a two-day seminar at the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington Aug. 18 and 19 for priests from 13 dioceses. The program combined history and church teaching about Catholic education with practical advice on how priests can be valuable witnesses to the faith by their presence in the schools. Priests should build time into their schedules to be with students on the playground, in the cafeteria, at sporting events and in the classroom. "You don't have to be a theologian to teach high school religion. If you can teach hormone-raging juniors and seniors, you can do anything," Father Stravinskas said. "But you have to be authentic, or they can smell it a mile away."

    Central African religious leaders share U.N. prize for reconciliation

    GENEVA (CNS) -- Three religious leaders -- including a Catholic archbishop -- have been honored for promoting interfaith reconciliation in the conflict-torn Central African Republic. "This award doesn't belong to us," Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui, president of the Central African bishops' conference, told the British Catholic aid agency CAFOD. "It honors the dedication of ordinary people from all walks of life who have refused to be overwhelmed by the violence and instead, with brave hearts, go and talk peace and reconciliation in their communities," the archbishop said in a statement shortly before receiving the 2015 Sergio Vieira De Mello Prize in Geneva. He shares the award with Imam Omar Kobine Layama, president of his country's Islamic Council, and the Rev. Nicolas Guerekoyamene-Gbangou of the Evangelical Alliance. A De Mello Foundation press release said the award, commemorating a Brazilian U.N. diplomat killed in an August 2003 bomb attack in Iraq, was intended "to draw world attention to unnoticed efforts by an individual, group or organization having done something special and unique."

    Priest says meals program illustrates pope's emphasis on serving poor

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Gospel of St. Matthew records Christ telling his disciples that whatever they do for "the least of these," they do for him. One way Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington is serving Christ is by providing hot meals to homeless and other disadvantaged people every Wednesday evening outside the agency's headquarters in downtown Washington, adjacent to St. Patrick in the City Catholic Church. The St. Maria's Meals program serves between 300 and 500 individuals, with the line beginning around 4 p.m. and wrapping around the building. Robert Dolan, a homeless man who has lost two homes through foreclosure, was among those getting a meal on a recent Wednesday evening. He told Catholic News Service he is so grateful for the weekly meal and Catholic Charities. "Some days I don't eat at all because I don't have any food, but this is wonderful. I would starve if I did not have this on some days," he said. Shelters provide meals to their residents, but those meals cost an average of $1.10 per person, per meal, per day and are not as robust as what Catholic Charities provides, according to Msgr. John Enzler, president and CEO of the agency.

    New Orleans Archdiocese: Forever changed by Hurricane Katrina

    NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- They are calling it "Kat 10" -- Hurricane Katrina plus 10 years -- which carries with it the double meaning of an ominous meteorological warning. How could a Category 5 storm that engulfed the entire Gulf of Mexico but dropped in intensity to a Category 3 just before landfall on Aug. 29, 2005 -- burying one of the world's most iconic cities in a flood of biblical proportions -- become the watershed moment in New Orleans' nearly 300-year history? The simple answer: Poorly engineered and constructed federal levees gave way under pressure, dooming a topographically challenged city that sits mostly below sea level. The more complex answer: In a city founded near the mouth of the Mississippi River by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville May 7, 1718 -- and buffeted over the centuries by storm, flood, fire, yellow fever and Civil War -- no single event has had the sudden, powerful and indiscriminate impact of Katrina. It was the death of a great city, the deaths of more than 1,800 people in their homes and attics, the deaths of family, neighborhood and church relationships, the death of hope. And yet, 10 years later, New Orleans -- in so many ways new and improved and utterly resilient -- is a resurrection city.

    Coptic Catholics welcome terrorism laws but warn on personal freedoms

    OXFORD, England (CNS) -- Egypt's Catholic Church has welcomed tough new anti-terrorism laws, but warned the military-backed government not to violate personal freedoms. "Recent bomb attacks have shown terrorism is a major problem here, so we really need strong laws to help the police and Interior Ministry combat it," said Father Hani Bakhoum Kiroulos, patriarchal vicar of the Coptic Catholic Church. "But such laws must be applied in ways that protect personal freedoms. Although the Catholic Church does not intervene on specific laws, especially when they're already passed, it will go on repeating this message," he said. Human rights groups criticized the laws, which prescribe tough penalties against citizens judged to be supporting terrorism or spreading propaganda. Amnesty International warned the legislation would expand the use of emergency powers and restrict freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

    Philadelphia Archdiocese sees largest incoming seminary class in decade

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- The largest incoming class of seminarians in a decade has arrived at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, even before the Archdiocese of Philadelphia launches a major new initiative in the fall to drive up priestly vocations. Auxiliary Bishop Timothy C. Senior, who is rector of St. Charles, said Aug. 19 that of the 52 "new men" -- those who for the first time are entering seminary to study for the priesthood -- 20 will be studying for the Philadelphia Archdiocese at its seminary. "That is the highest number in more than 10 years," he said. Only six new men for Philadelphia entered last year, he added. The new Philadelphia seminarians are part of a new class of 52 men from various dioceses and religious orders, including two congregations that are sending seminarians to St. Charles for the first time: the Vincentians and the Oblates of St. Joseph. The new men enter the seminary in different stages including college, pre-theology studies or a relatively new one-year program of immersion in Catholic spirituality.

    Popemobile shipped to U.S. ahead of pope's arrival

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- More than a month before Pope Francis was scheduled to arrive in the United States, his ride landed on U.S. shores. "A Jeep Wrangler will be used as the popemobile in the USA (like the one used in Ecuador in July 2015)," the Vatican press office said in a statement Aug. 20. Of course, an official said, there will be more than one. Pope Francis will need a popemobile in Washington, New York and Philadelphia, and besides, "there is always a reserve" in case of malfunction. The vehicle or vehicles, the Vatican said, have "already been given to the Secret Service" for safekeeping before the pope's arrival. An air cargo company is used for sending the popemobile abroad before papal trips. The Vatican's popemobile fleet has included vehicles from Mercedes, Toyota, Isuzu, Kia, Hyundai and Land Rover as well as Jeep. And in the Philippines in January, locals adapted their typical "jeepney" bus into a popemobile.

    Through the Holy Door: Vatican to have pilgrim reservation system

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Drawing on the experience of the public exposition of the Shroud of Turin, Vatican officials are adopting a reservation system for pilgrims who want to cross the threshold of the Holy Door at St. Peter's Basilica during the Year of Mercy. The free, online registration will not be activated until October, but in late August the Vatican published a brief explanation of the plan on, which is the website for the Year of Mercy that begins Dec. 8. "Since a large number of pilgrims is anticipated, it is strongly recommended that pilgrims register their arrival in Rome and the possible times at which they wish to make their pilgrimage," the notice said. People with special needs, particularly regarding mobility, can enter that information on the reservation form and be assured of assistance when they arrive. Knowing how many pilgrims to expect on a given day and giving them an appointment so they can avoid hours of waiting in line will "ensure that the pilgrimage remains prayerful," the Vatican said. The Archdiocese of Turin used a similar system to regulate the pilgrim flow April 19-June 24 for the public exposition of the Shroud of Turin.

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What is Catholic News Service?
Catholic News Service (CNS), the oldest and largest religious news service in the world, is a leading source of news for Catholic print and electronic media across the globe. With bureaus in Washington and Rome, as well as a global correspondent network, CNS since 1920 has set the standard in Catholic journalism.

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