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  • Pope's tip for becoming a saint: Pray for someone who doesn't like you

    IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

    By Cindy Wooden

    ROME (CNS) -- A practical first step toward holiness -- as well as for assuring peace in one's family and in the world -- is to pray for a person who has caused offense or harm, Pope Francis said.

    "Are you merciful toward the people who have harmed you or don't like you? If God is merciful, if he is holy, if he is perfect, then we must be merciful, holy and perfect as he is. This is holiness. A man or woman who does this deserves to be canonized," the pope said Feb. 19 during an evening parish Mass.

    "I suggest you start small," Pope Francis told members of the parish of St. Mary Josefa on the extreme eastern edge of the Diocese of Rome. "We all have enemies. We all know that so-and-so speaks ill of us. We all know. And we all know that this person or that person hates us."

    When that happens, the pope said, "I suggest you take a minute, look at God (and say), 'This person is your son or your daughter, change his or her heart, bless him or her.' This is praying for those who don't like us, for our enemies. Perhaps the rancor will remain in us, but we are making an effort to follow the path of this God who is so good, merciful, holy, perfect, who makes the sun rise on the evil and the good."

    The day's first reading included the line, "Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy," and in the Gospel reading, Jesus said, "Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."

    "You might ask me, 'But, father, what is the path to holiness?' 'What is the journey needed to become holy?' Jesus explains it well in the Gospel. He explains it with concrete examples," the pope said.

    The first example, he said, is "not taking revenge. If I have some rancor in my heart for something someone has done, I want vengeance, but this moves me off the path of holiness. No revenge. 'But he did this and he will pay.' Is this Christian? No. 'He will pay' is not in the Christian's vocabulary. No revenge."

    In people's everyday lives, he said, their squabbles with their relatives or neighbors may seem a little thing, but they are not. "These big wars we read about in the papers and see on the news, these massacres of people, of children, how much hatred! It's the same hatred you have in your heart for this person, that person, that relative, your mother-in-law. It's bigger, but it's the same hatred."

    Forgiveness, the pope said, is the path toward holiness and toward peace. "If everyone in the world learned this, there would be no wars."

    Wars begin "with bitterness, rancor, the desire for vengeance, to make them pay," he said. It's an attitude that destroys families and neighborhoods and peaceful relations between nations.

    "I'm not telling you what to do, Jesus is: Love your enemies. 'You mean I have to love that person?' Yes."

    "'I have to pray for someone who has harmed me?' Yes, that he will change his life, that the Lord will forgive him," the pope said. "This is the magnanimity of God, of God who has a big heart, who forgives all."

    "Prayer is an antidote for hatred, for wars, these wars that begin at home, in families," he said. "Think of how many wars there have been in families because of an inheritance. "

    "Prayer is powerful. Prayer defeats evil. Prayer brings peace," the pope said.

    As is his custom for parish visits, Pope Francis began this three-hour visit to St. Mary Josefa by meeting different parish groups, including children, who were invited to ask him question.

    One asked how he became pope and Pope Francis said when a pope is elected "maybe he is not the most intelligent, perhaps not the most astute or the quickest at doing what must be done, but he is the one who God wants for the church at that moment."

    Pope Francis explained that when a pope dies or resigns, like Pope Benedict XVI did, the cardinals gather for a conclave. "They speak among themselves, discuss what profile would be best, who has this advantage and who has that one. But, above all, they pray."

    They use their reason to try to figure out what the church needs and who could provide it, he said, but mostly they rely on the Holy Spirit to inspire them in their choice.

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  • Trump administration urged to do all it can to 'care for creation'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Quoting Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si'," three Catholic leaders wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Feb. 17 urging the Trump administration to do all it can to care for creation both domestically and globally. "The Judeo-Christian tradition has always understood the environment to be a gift from God, and we are all called 'to protect our one common home,'" the leaders told Tillerson in a joint letter. It was signed by Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Domestic and Human Development; Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, who is chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace; and Sean L. Callahan, who is president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency based in Baltimore. The letter emphasizes the importance of adaptation policies and specifically calls for continued U.S. support of the Paris climate agreement as well as the Green Climate Fund, which provides poorer nations with resources to adapt to and mitigate changing climate realities.

    Michael Novak, noted theologian, philosopher and author, dies at 83

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Michael Novak, a Catholic philosopher, theologian and author who was highly regarded for his religious scholarship and intellectual independence, died Feb. 17 at his home in Washington. He was 83. His daughter Jana Novak told The Washington Post the cause of death was complications from colon cancer. No funeral arrangements were announced. Since last August, Novak had been a faculty member of The Catholic University of America's Tim and Steph Busch School of Business and Economics in Washington. He joined the business school's Arthur and Carlyse Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship last year as a distinguished visiting fellow. He taught special topics in management and gave a series of lectures on campus on the topic of human ecology. Novak studied at Catholic University in 1958 and 1959 and had lectured at the university several times prior to last year's appointment. John Garvey, the university's president, remembered him as "a man of great intellectual honesty. Unlike some scholars, Michael Novak made it a point to reflect on new and different topics, always with a fresh and dynamic perspective," Garvey said in a statement. "We are immensely grateful that he could end his academic life as he began it, as a member of our community."

    Catholic Charismatic Renewal marks 50th anniversary of founding this year

    NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- For the past 50 years, Patti Gallagher Mansfield has kept the Champion Wiremaster stenographer's notebook, 5-by-8 inches, safely tucked away among her most cherished, sacred items in her dresser drawer. The notebook has 80 ruled pages. It cost 25 cents. One was given to each of the 25 students from Duquesne University and La Roche College who attended a weekend retreat in February 1967 at The Ark and The Dove Retreat House just outside of Pittsburgh. Between the slightly faded, tan covers are page after page of Mansfield's handwritten reflections in blue ballpoint pen of the mysterious things that happened on that three-day retreat, a weekend that ultimately changed the course of the Catholic Church worldwide. "Who would have ever imagined -- 80 pages, Patti Gallagher -- that what I would record in this notebook would have any significance to over 120 million Catholics all over the world?" Mansfield, now 70, said. "It is amazing." The weekend -- now called the "Duquesne Weekend" -- is acknowledged as the birth of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement in the United States, which has spread throughout the world. The Charismatic Renewal centers on the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" in which God's Spirit renews and fills a person with grace. Mansfield talks about releasing the graces already conferred through baptism and confirmation.

    Vancouver archbishop: Overdose crisis is 'devastating families'

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CNS) -- Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver called on Catholics to respond to a drug overdose crisis that had been sweeping the city, "cutting across every segment of society, devastating families and communities." In a pastoral letter released Feb. 16, Archbishop Miller said that following Jesus' teaching would require Catholics to "scrutinize the sign of the times" and, in Vancouver, "these signs are calling the church to address today's lethal crisis of drug overdoses." A report released by the British Columbia Coroners Service revealed that 914 people died of illicit drug overdoses in 2016; those statistics prompted the provincial government to declare a public health emergency. That number represented an 80 percent increase in overdose deaths from the previous year. Archbishop Miller said three factors contributed to the overdose crisis: overprescription of opioid painkillers, social isolation and mental illness.

    New Mexico school a beacon of hope, faith for Native American youth

    SAN FIDEL, N.M. (CNS) -- National Catholic Schools Week has come and gone, but the work of forming students in a faithful Catholic environment is never finished for teachers, principals and school administrators across the country. The presence of Catholic schools is especially needed in some of the poorest areas of the country. By providing a quality education, the church helps young people in poor communities to realize their potential. This is exactly what principal Antonio Trujillo is accomplishing at St. Joseph Mission School in rural San Fidel in the Diocese of Gallup. Trujillo arrived at the school six years ago and saved it from the brink of closure. By integrating Catholic values into the students' everyday education, Trujillo and his staff are creating a hopeful future for the largely Native American student body in an area of the country where hope can sometimes be hard to find. "We service about a 10,000-square-mile radius of Native Americans who live in the area," Trujillo said in an interview with Extension magazine and in an accompanying video, "We are a mission diocese and we just don't have the resources because there is no major source of employment or population center."

    Vietnam-born priest offers to swap U.S. citizenship to allow refugee in

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A Vietnamese-born Salesian priest has offered to President Donald Trump that he would trade his own U.S. citizenship with a refugee to allow into the United States someone from one of the countries Trump listed in his Jan. 27 travel ban. Father Chuong Hoai Nguyen, a Salesian of Don Bosco, who is serving in California, is a refugee-turned-U.S. citizen. He came to the United States as one of the Vietnamese "boat people" following the 1975 collapse of South Vietnam. His citizenship offer came in an open letter to Trump Jan. 27, the same day the president issued an executive order that suspended the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days and banned entry of all citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries for 90 days. The order has been held up in court. Father Nguyen said he has heard nothing from the White House since his open letter to Trump was published. The date on the letter, which has appeared on Commonweal magazine's blog and been the topic of a number of stories, also was the beginning of the Vietnamese New Year, called Tet. The priest told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview that he has talked with his superiors in the order about ministering in the country native to the refugee who would be the beneficiary of the swap. "Whenever you're ready, we'll pick you up and reassign you," he said, is the message he got from his conversation with his superiors.

    Bishop, advocates oppose Mississippi bill to outlaw sanctuary cities

    JACKSON, Miss. (CNS) -- A bill that would keep agencies, cities and college campuses in Mississippi from offering sanctuary to unauthorized immigrants would not keep communities safe and goes against the Christian tenet of caring for those in need, said Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz of Jackson. He issued a statement Feb. 15 opposing S.B. 2710, also known as the "sanctuary cities" bill, which passed the state Senate in a 32-16 vote Feb. 9. The bill goes to the state House for consideration. The measure would prohibit cities and institutions of higher learning from declaring themselves sanctuary cities. There are currently no sanctuary cities in the state, although the city of Jackson proposed such a declaration last year. "As Christians we are called to welcome the stranger and care for those in need. As citizens, we are called to keep our communities strong and safe. We feel that the so-called 'sanctuary cities' bill being debated right now in the Mississippi Legislature damages both of those efforts," wrote Bishop Kopacz. In a sanctuary city, local law enforcement would not be forced to act as federal immigration agents, like the officers of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In fact, they would be prohibited from asking a person they detained about his or her immigration status. S.B. 2710 would prohibit cities from enacting sanctuary policies.

    Church leaders hope Trump does not repeal conflict-minerals provisions

    OXFORD, England (CNS) -- Church leaders and organizations in Africa, Europe and the United States said it would be disastrous if U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order telling companies they no longer had to disclose whether their firms use "conflict minerals" from Congo. Western firms have been accused of working with violent gangs in Congo to obtain minerals used for producing mobile phones, laptops and other consumer objects, and of allowing trade in resources to perpetuate human rights violations. In the United States, the chairman of the U.S. bishops' International Policy Committee wrote the acting head of the National Security Council urging Trump not to suspend the rules related to Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act. "Congolese die every day in the illegal mines and at the hands of the armed groups that destroy communities in order to expel them from potential mining sites," wrote Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, committee chairman. "The estimated death toll in the Congo is the highest since the end of World War II. The international community, including our own nation, nongovernmental agencies and the church, provides emergency assistance to displaced and traumatized persons and families -- assistance that has real financial costs that do not appear on the balance sheets of corporations."

    Pope greets U.S. grass-roots groups, saying they help 'communities thrive'

    MODESTO, Calif. (CNS) -- Pope Francis congratulated more than 600 representatives of grass-roots organizations for responding with mercy to society's hurting people during the opening of the four-day U.S. regional World Meeting of Popular Movements. In a letter to the assembly Feb. 16 read alternately in English and in Spanish, the pope said the work of the organizations and the people involved "make your communities thrive." Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, read the pope's message in English. The letter encouraged wide-scale community organizing because it achieves social justice. The pope expressed hope that "such constructive energy would spread to all dioceses because it builds bridges between peoples and individuals. These are bridges that can overcome the walls of exclusion, indifference, racism and intolerance." The message earned applause at points throughout its delivery, especially when the pope reiterated that "no people is criminal and no religion is terrorist and as he encouraged people to "defend creation" in the face of "disturbing warming of the climatic system."

    Counteract vitriol by toning it down, talking less, listening more, pope says

    ROME (CNS) -- Addressing the fear of immigrants, dissatisfaction with a "fluid economy" and the impatience and vitriol seen in politics and society, Pope Francis told Rome university students to practice a kind of "intellectual charity" that promotes dialogue and sees value in diversity. "There are lots of remedies against violence," but they must start first with one's heart being open to hearing other people's opinions and then talking things out with patience, he said in a 45-minute off-the-cuff talk. "It necessary to tone it down a bit, to talk less and listen more," he told hundreds of students, staff and their family members and friends during a visit Feb. 17 to Roma Tre University. Arriving at the university, the pope slowly made his way along a long snaking pathway of metal barricades throughout the campus, smiling, shaking hands and posing for numerous selfies with smiling members of the crowd. When handed a small baby cocooned in a bright red snowsuit for a papal kiss, the pope joked whether the child was attending the university, too. Seated on a platform facing an open courtyard, the pope listened to questions from four students, including Nour Essa, who was one of the 12 Syrian refugees the pope had brought to Rome on a papal flight from Lesbos, Greece, in 2016.

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  • Jesuit named to lead San Francisco seminary at 'major turning point'

    SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone has appointed a bilingual and eclectic Jesuit theologian and social ethicist who is well respected as a spiritual director of seminarians as the new president-rector of St. Patrick Seminary & University at what is a critical juncture for the 118-year-old West Coast seminary. The appointment of Jesuit Father George E. Schultze, announced by the archdiocese Feb. 16 and effective July 1, marks a "major turning point" for the seminary as the Sulpicians, who held a teaching and administrative role at the seminary since its founding in 1898, will depart at the end of this school year, said Sulpician Father Gerald Coleman, who was president rector from 1988 to 2004. "I was very happy to hear about the choice of Father Schultze as rector," Father Coleman told Catholic San Francisco, the archdiocesan newspaper. "He's well respected, not just in the seminary but outside the seminary," Father Coleman said. "As the seminary moves forward it is obviously going to have to develop its own traditions. Having been there, he knows that tradition and he knows the positive points about the Sulpicians' traditions: how one relates to students, to faculty."

    America Media in 'greatest transformation' since 1960s, says top editor

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- America magazine, the Jesuit journal, and its affiliated website,, are in the midst of their "greatest transformation" since the 1960s, according to Jesuit Father Matt Malone, who was named editor-in-chief of America in 2012. More content is being placed on the America website, which has undergone a redesign. America magazine is trimming its publication schedule from 39 issues a year to 26, but half of the content will appear first in the magazine. Moreover, instead of about 70 percent of the magazine's submissions being the work of unsolicited contributions with 30 percent solicited, those percentages will switch to 70 percent of the content being solicited, Father Malone told Catholic News Service in a Feb. 15 telephone interview from New York. To finance the changes, America sold the building it had inhabited in Manhattan and used some of the proceeds, with the rest being banked to fund future projects, Father Malone said. The changes are the culmination of a strategic plan that started shortly after Father Malone assumed his current post. "We decided at that point that we were going to not so much transition from print to digital, but transition in mindset and operations from an organization that was producing content exclusively for print as one that was producing content across all platforms, one of which was print," he said. The magazine relaunch in January was meant, he added, to "give everything a new fresh look and feel, of course, and bring it up to date, and spoke in such a way to our current audience and emerging audiences."

    USCCB leaders urge Trump to protect religious liberty

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic Church leaders in a Feb. 16 statement said they were encouraged that President Donald Trump may be considering an executive order to protect religious freedom and said they would be grateful if he would move forward with the pledge that his administration would "do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty. As Christians, our goal is to live and serve others as the Gospel asks. President Trump can ensure that we are not forced from the public square," said the statement from committee chairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The statement was jointly issued by: New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. The church leaders said an executive order would "implement strong protections for religious freedom across the federal government in many of the areas where it has been eroded by the preceding administration, such as health coverage, adoption, accreditation, tax exemption, and government grants and contracts."

    Refugee family now in Chicago shares experiences of fleeing persecution

    CHICAGO (CNS) -- The Sharifs were living contentedly in Pakistan when life turned into a nightmare in 2012. An al Qaida-related group called BLA targeted Amir Sharif, a Catholic and a well-known professor at a university in Quetta. He was told to embrace Islam or leave the country. Amir, 45, and his wife, Saira, 30, a high school math teacher, and their two sons, Unss, 9, and Runaan, 10, were under threat. Persecution of and discrimination against Christians in Pakistan is a common occurrence, Amir said. They, like others, lived in fear of being accused of violating the part of the country's penal code that criminalizes blasphemy against Islam, the state-recognized religion. "When I came to know that they are after me, I discussed it with my bishop over there," said Amir, who recounted the events on a recent Saturday morning in his family's apartment in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood. "My bishop said, 'It is good to save your lives. Don't think of any other thing.'" Within a week they fled, leaving everything behind -- their home, belongings, bank accounts. Later, the extremist group seized all of that. "We were unable to move around that week," he told the Chicago Catholic, newspaper of the Chicago Archdiocese. "We left our home in the middle of the night."

    Victims want more action against Sodalitium abusers, including founder

    LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- A Peru-based Catholic movement has acknowledged that its founder sexually, physically and psychologically abused minors, teen and young adult members. An internal investigation of Sodalitium Christianae Vitae found that Luis Fernando Figari, who founded the organization in 1971 and headed it until 2010, and three other high-ranking former members abused 19 minors and 10 adults. The report, which Sodalitium posted on the internet Feb. 14, summarizes an investigation that included interviews with 245 victims and witnesses and with 17 current or former members accused of abuse. The authors, who have been involved in investigations of sexual abuse of minors by priests in other countries, including Ireland and the United States, said they considered the accounts of abuse credible, but the report was not meant to be a formal finding under criminal or canon law. In a video posted on YouTube Feb. 13, Alessandro Moroni, superior general of Sodalitium, said the report described a "sad and painful" situation and that the information would be submitted to Peruvian judicial authorities. The report was released two weeks after the Vatican informed Moroni that it had ordered Figari, who has been living in seclusion in Rome, to remain there and not to have any contact with the organization or give interviews to the media.

    Help a neighbor, visit grandparents as part of Lent, pastor suggests

    SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) -- Holy Cross-Blessed Sacrament sixth-graders started Lent on Valentine's Day -- sort of. Father Daniel Rupp, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in Sioux City, took time Feb. 14 to talk to the students about the importance of Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten season. This year it is March 1. "How many days is Lent?" the priest asked. "Forty!" was the nearly unanimous response. The 40 days associated with Lent is an imitation of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness after his baptism, explained Linda Harrington, former associate professor of theology at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City. "There are other 40s in the Bible -- the 40 days it rained when Noah took the animals into the ark and the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the desert after leaving Egypt before entering the Promised Land," she said. "Some sources say periods of 40 days -- or years -- designate times of testing or trial." Harrington pointed out that since Sundays are not fast days, counting back 40 days beginning with Holy Saturday, and skipping the Sundays, one lands on a Wednesday. "Hence, Lent begins on Wednesday," she told The Catholic Globe, Sioux City's diocesan newspaper. "Since we use ashes as a symbol of our intent to 'turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel,' it's called Ash Wednesday."

    Border bishops call for dignity regardless of 'migration condition'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a joint statement, Catholic bishops whose dioceses are along the U.S.-Mexico border spoke of the "pain, the fear, and the anguish" they're seeing in immigrants and vowed to follow the example of the pope in building "bridges, rather than the walls of exclusion and exploitation." The Feb. 14 statement was read at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle in Texas after a visit by the bishops to an immigration detention center as well as to a humanitarian respite center at Sacred Heart Parish in McAllen, Texas, in the Brownsville Diocese. The statement came after two days of a gathering of bishops whose dioceses are along the U.S.-Mexico border. The apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, also attended. The meeting of about 20 bishops included Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville and Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio. The biannual meetings began in 1986 "to address the life and pastoral needs of our migrant brothers and sisters," the statement said, adding that "in this difficult moment in our history, we hear the cry of our migrant brothers and sisters whose voices reflect the voice of Christ himself."

    After years in war zone, burnout rises among those who serve Syrians

    TORONTO (CNS) -- Humanitarian aid workers in Syria and Lebanon are exhausted, said Helene Tremblay-Boyko, who recently traveled to the region. It's not the kind of exhaustion a person feels at the end of a long day, she said. This exhaustion comes from working in the same desperate conditions as the people they serve. "We do not know here (in Canada) what is going on there," said Tremblay-Boyko, vice president of the Development and Peace national council. "They need peace. They need to be able to start rebuilding their lives. We need to do everything we can to enable a peace accord." From Jan. 29 to Feb. 9, Tremblay-Boyko visited the Middle East as part of a joint delegation by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and Development and Peace, the official international development organization of the Catholic Church in Canada. "Right now, there is a huge humanitarian crisis," said Tremblay-Boyko. "People are in dire need of basics. They don't have food security. Many of them who escaped with just the clothes on their back, they have nothing and so they need everything."

    Special Olympians show world that 'every person is a gift,' pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The athletes of the Special Olympics witness to the world the beauty and value of every human life and the joy that comes from reaching a goal with the encouragement and support of others, Pope Francis said. "Together, athletes and helpers show us that there are no obstacles or barriers which cannot be overcome," the pope told representatives of the Special Olympics World Winter Games, which will take place in Austria March 14-25. "You are a sign of hope for all who commit themselves to a more inclusive society," the pope told the group Feb. 16. "Every life is precious, every person is a gift, and inclusion enriches every community and society. This is your message for the world, for a world without borders, which excludes no one." Pope Francis praised the passion and dedication of the Special Olympians as they train for their events, and said sports are good for everyone, physically and mentally. "The constant training, which also requires effort and sacrifice, helps you to grow in patience and perseverance, gives you strength and courage and lets you acquire and develop talents which would otherwise remain hidden," the pope told the athletes.

    God will ask an account for blood spilled in today's wars, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Humankind will have to answer to God for the bloodshed of the innocent victims of war, and the blood spilled by greed and arms trafficking, Pope Francis said. While God has given peace to the world, inside all human beings "there is still that seed, that original sin, the spirit of Cain who out of envy, jealousy, greed and the desire for domination, makes war," the pope said Feb. 16 during his early morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. "Today in the world, blood is being spilled. Today the world is at war. So many brothers and sisters die, even innocents, because the great, the powerful want a bigger piece of the earth; they want a little bit more power or want to gain a bit more through arms trafficking," he said. The pope centered his homily on the day's first reading in which God makes a covenant with Noah and all of humanity after the flood and warns that he "will demand an account for human life." This covenant, along with the rainbow and the dove holding an olive branch, are signs of "what God wanted after the flood: peace; that all men and women would be in peace," the pope explained.

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  • For African-Americans, new history museum 'tells our story'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Washington's newest monument -- the National Museum of African American History and Culture -- opened in September 2016 to wide acclaim. Its dedication was attended by dignitaries including then-President Barack Obama, the nation's first African-American president, and former President George W. Bush, who had signed the 2003 act of Congress creating the museum. Located near the Washington Monument, the new museum designed by architect David Adjaye has a three-tiered shape inspired by a traditional Nigerian column and crown, with 3,600 bronze-colored cast aluminum exterior panels inspired by ornate ironwork fashioned by enslaved craftsmen in 19th-century New Orleans. In its first four months, the museum has become one of the most popular attractions in Washington, as it welcomed nearly 750,000 visitors, and its allotment of hourly timed passes reserved online months in advance, with a limited number of passes available online and for walk-up visitors each day.

    Rallies held nationwide call on Congress to defund Planned Parenthood

    CHICAGO (CNS) -- The organizers of rallies held across the country Feb. 11 to call for defunding Planned Parenthood said their message to Congress is to redirect taxpayer's money to facilities that "do a better job meeting the real health care needs of women and families without specializing in abortion." More than 15,000 people attended 229 rallies held in 45 states. Average attendance was around 75, but in some cities, crowds numbered as high as 600, according to a new release issued after the rallies. Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League in Chicago, was the national organizer of the rallies, or #ProtestPP. Other groups coordinating the events included Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, Created Equal, 40 Days for Life and the Susan B. Anthony List. "This is a nationwide event, but at the same time, it is a local community concern," Schiedler said in a statement. In rallying to tell "Congress to quit sending money to an organization that specializes in killing children," participants also declared "that they do not want Planned Parenthood to continue operating in their neighborhoods." According to its 2014-15 annual report, Planned Parenthood receives $553.7 million annually in government health service grants and reimbursements, which is 43 percent of its overall revenue. Federal money is allocated to the organization through Medicaid and public family planning services. Planned Parenthood performs 34 percent of U.S. abortions.

    Need for Catholic health care has never been greater, says cardinal

    COLUMBUS, Ohio (CNS) -- As society has placed the dignity of human life under constant attack, there has never been a greater need for the Catholic approach to health care in response to the needs of the sick, Cardinal Raymond L. Burke told participants in a medical ethics conference in Columbus. "In a totally secularized society, there is more than ever a hunger for the witness to the meaning of human life and human suffering which Catholic health care gives," said Cardinal Burke, who lives in Rome, where he serves as patron of the Knights of Malta. A former archbishop of St. Louis, the cardinal is a church law expert and former prefect of the Vatican's highest court, the Apostolic Signatura. Cardinal Burke spoke on "The Economy of Life and the Catholic Identity of Catholic Hospitals in an Age of Secularization" at the Feb. 7 conference held at Ohio State University's College of Medicine. It was organized independently of the college by Dr. Kimberly Klapchar, a resident physician in Columbus, and Giovanni Battista Bellomo, a law student at Bocconi University in Milan, who is a friend of hers. "Our country suffers the scourge of an attack on the dignity of human life," Cardinal Burke said. Signs of that include "direct abortion on demand, the termination of the life of those who have special needs or are weakened because of illness or advanced years, and the pervasive view of the human body as a tool to be used for achieving maximum personal convenience and pleasure."

    'Radical hospitality' drives founders of Houston food truck park to serve

    MAGNOLIA, Texas (CNS) -- Above a row of dozens of craft beer taps, a handwritten line from the Rule of St. Benedict declares a mission: "Hospites Tamquam Christus Siscipiantur." Translated from Latin, it says, "Greet others as if they were Christ," or "All guests have been received as Christ." It's the mandate that motivates Kevin Mims and Joey Muckenthaler, co-owners of Deacon Baldy's Bar and Food Truck Park, to serve all who visit their newer Magnolia business venture as if they were Christ. Northwest of Houston, Deacon Baldy's features a rotation of several gourmet food trucks with a curated selection of 40 craft beers from breweries in California to neighboring Conroe, among dozens of others, and it was named after the late Deacon Mike Mims of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in The Woodlands. Deacon Mims, who was Kevin Mims' father, died in a helicopter accident in January 2015. According to Mims, he and his father were already developing the idea for a food truck park in the area. And when the deacon died, Mims brought on high school friend Muckenthaler to make the dream a reality. Just outside the pavilion, a lofty tower bears a stylized image of Deacon Mims himself. A pair of glasses keeps watch over the road and the families who pass by and through Deacon Baldy's. Mims said the Deacon Baldy's team did a lot of work, building the long community-style picnic tables, as well as the bar's hanging door. Back inside the pavilion, small crosses, images of Mary and other signs of faith pepper the structure, almost organic symbols of the duo's faith lives.

    Cardinal Burke presides over trial investigating Guam archbishop

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, a church law expert and former head of the Vatican's highest court, arrived in Guam Feb. 15 as the presiding judge in a church trial investigating allegations of sexual abuse leveled against Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron of Agana. The Vatican press office confirmed a "tribunal of the first instance" was constituted by the Vatican Oct. 5 and its presiding judge is Cardinal Burke. Four other judges, all of whom are bishops, also were appointed, the press office said. "When an action is in a 'first instance' court, that indicates that it is in the initial trial phase," according to the website of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles accusations of clerical sexual abuse. Three men have publicly accused Archbishop Apuron of sexually abusing them when they were altar boys in the 1970s. The mother of a fourth man, now deceased, also accused the archbishop of abusing her son. Archbishop Apuron has refused to resign, but in late October, Pope Francis named former Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Byrnes as coadjutor archbishop of Agana and gave him full authority to lead the archdiocese.

    Bishop Cantu urges administration to pursue deeper nuclear arms cuts

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The chairman of a U.S. bishops' committee urged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to pursue additional reductions in the nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia. "We urge bold and concrete commitments to accelerate verifiable nuclear disarmament," Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote in the letter dated Feb. 14. It was released Feb. 15 by the USCCB. The correspondence pressed the secretary of state to ensure that both countries build on the New START agreement, a pact negotiated in 2010 that calls for reducing their strategic arsenals -- weapons deployed on intercontinental ballistic missiles, bombers and submarines -- to 1,550 each by 2018. Bishop Cantu's letter comes as Tillerson begins his time as the chief foreign affairs adviser to President Donald Trump. It also follows days after Reuters reported that Trump denounced New START in an hourlong telephone call Jan. 28 with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The status of the treaty was broached by Putin, who asked Trump if the pact should be extended beyond 2018, Reuters reported Feb. 9, citing as sources two unnamed U.S. officials and one unnamed former U.S. official with knowledge of the call.

    Catholic theologian urges closer ties with Russian Orthodox

    OXFORD, England (CNS) -- A prominent Catholic ecumenist has urged a better understanding of the Russian Orthodox Church. "Those suspicious of the Russian Orthodox stance should go and see what's happening," said Barbara Hallensleben, a consultor with the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. "Of course, nationalist and ideological tendencies are always at work. But a lot of people in Russia are promoting Christianity -- and by creating relations, we can strengthen church life and proclaim the faith with them," said Hallensleben, who hosted anniversary commemorations of Pope Francis' 2016 meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill. The Feb. 12 anniversary symposium at Switzerland's University of Fribourg included participation by Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Christian unity council, and Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the Russian Orthodox church's foreign relations director. In a Feb. 13 Catholic News Service interview, Hallensleben said Pope Francis' encounter with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in Cuba had initiated "new common paths."

    Pope, cardinal advisers discuss church tribunals, Curia offices

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis and members of the international Council of Cardinals advising him on church governance discussed the functions of the Vatican tribunals that handle marriage, appeals and indulgences. Meeting with Pope Francis Feb. 13-15, the Council of Cardinals also continued its discussion of the process of selecting bishops and received updates on economic and communication reform initiatives. Paloma Garcia Ovejero, vice director of the Vatican press office, told reporters the tribunals studied by the council included: the Apostolic Penitentiary, a church court that deals with indulgences; the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature, the Catholic Church's highest appeals court; and the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, the Vatican court that deals mainly with marriage cases. Continuing their examination of individual offices, the cardinals also looked at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Congregation for Eastern Churches and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Garcia Ovejero also read the statement that the cardinals issued Feb. 13 assuring the pope of their "full support for his person and his magisterium."

    Americans grow warmer toward religious groups, Pew study finds

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Americans are feeling more positive toward various religious groups than they did less than three years ago. While Americans still feel less positive about Muslims and atheists when compared with people of other religions, those participating in a Pew Research Center survey in January viewed people in those two religious groups more positively than in June 2014. The survey overall, part of Pew's American Trends Panel series of studies, found that warmer feelings toward various religions were expressed by people in all of the participating major religious groups. The same holds true when the sample of 4,248 respondents is divided into groups such as Democrats and Republicans, men and women, and younger and older adults. The study used a "feeling thermometer" that asked 93 percent of the respondents -- 3,939 -- to move a slider on a scale from zero to 100 degrees. The remaining 7 percent responded in other ways. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. Jews and Catholics received the highest positive feelings, rising to 67 degrees and 66 degrees, respectively, from 63 degrees and 62 degrees in the earlier survey. Every other religious group measured except evangelical Christians moved upward on the scale this time around with Buddhists rising to 60 degrees from 53 degrees; Hindus to 58 degrees from 53 degrees; Mormons to 54 degrees from 50 degrees, atheists to 50 degrees from 41 degrees; and Muslims to 48 degrees from 40 degrees. The full study can be found online at

    Advocates expect to see more asylum seekers cross U.S.-Canadian border

    TORONTO (CNS) -- Canada can expect to see more asylum seekers crossing its nearly 6,600-mile, mostly unguarded, border with the United States as enforcement toughens at the U.S.-Mexican border and President Donald Trump continues to issue executive orders to restrain refugee arrivals, advocates said. "It appears things will get worse for refugees (in the U.S.)," Scalabrinian Father Vincenzo Rosato told The Catholic Register, Canadian Catholic weekly. "The whole situation is creating a lot of uncertainty." The Scalabrini order is dedicated to serving migrants and refugees worldwide and runs safe houses for refugees along several borders, including the U.S.-Mexican border. The forces that have driven about 300 refugee claimants to cross into Manitoba from Minnesota and North Dakota since last April -- including more than 40 who have arrived in Emerson, Manitoba, in just two weeks -- may mean that the Scalabrinis have to set up similar safe houses near the Canada-U.S. border, Father Rosato said. "This could become a real exodus and a new phenomenon," he said. "If we have to provide for the immediate needs, I think we would be ready." Down at the U.S.-Mexican border, migrants have begun talking about the Canadian option, said Joanna Williams, director of education and advocacy for the Jesuit-sponsored Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Arizona.

    Italian organist performs with Syrian symphony, 'passionate' musicians

    AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) -- A famed Italian Catholic cathedral organist is believed to have been the first Western musician to perform in Syria since the start of the civil war nearly six years ago. "It has been awesome. It was something unbelievable," Eugenio Maria Fagiani told Catholic News Service by phone of his recent performances in the Syrian capital, Damascus. "It has been a great privilege to make music with people so passionate, so full of life and joy," Fagiani said of the camaraderie shared with members of the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra and its maestro, Missak Baghboudarian. Together they performed Joseph Jongen's "Symphonie Concertante" and Camille Saint-Saens "Symphony No. 3" at the Damascus Opera House Feb. 9. "I chose these pieces (because) they make people feel really joyful," Fagiani said, remarking of the 1,100-person packed audience. The concert was recorded and is expected to be broadcast in Syria. "I was welcomed by these colleagues with such a warm feeling that I will never forget," the organist said of the experience. "This moment will be forever part of my heart."

    Consult, respect indigenous peoples and their land, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Development projects involving indigenous communities must be planned in consultation with them and must respect their traditional relationship to the land, Pope Francis said. Having the "prior and informed consent" of the native communities who could be impacted by development projects is essential for "peaceful cooperation between governing authorities and indigenous peoples, overcoming confrontation and conflict," the pope said Feb. 15 during a meeting with about three dozen representative of indigenous communities. The representatives from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean were in Rome for continuing discussions with the U.N.-related International Fund for Agricultural Development. Their talks aim at ensuring development projects impacting native communities are carried out in consultation with them and that they respect their land, cultures and traditions. "I believe that the central issue is how to reconcile the right to development, both social and cultural, with the protection of the particular characteristics of indigenous peoples and their territories," the pope said. "This is especially clear when planning economic activities which may interfere with indigenous cultures and their ancestral relationship to the earth."

    Even in dark times, never lose hope in God's love, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians must never lose hope and should remind themselves that God loves them even at their worst, Pope Francis said. God's love provides "security" both in difficult moments and even when "I have done something terrible and evil," the pope said Feb. 15 during his weekly general audience. "No one can take this security from us. We must repeat it like a prayer: God loves me. I am sure that God loves me!" he said. Among the thousands of pilgrims present at the Paul VI audience hall were numerous student groups from Europe, including several children's choirs from Italy and Spain. When greeting the Italian-speaking pilgrims, the pope was interrupted by each choir who broke out in song to greet him. Despite several applauses, one choir continued singing to the amusement of Pope Francis. He laughed heartily while praising them for their persistence in finishing the entire song.

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  • Convalidation ceremonies bring couples married civilly fully into church

    CHICAGO (CNS) -- The brides gathered at the back of Immaculate Conception Church in Chicago complimented one another, adjusted their veils and kept their eyes on the small children who darted around their skirts before lining up for the entrance procession. The grooms, fidgeting in a room next to the sacristy, cracked nervous jokes and waited for the signal to take their places in front of the congregation. All told, nine couples -- all of whom have been civilly married for years -- participated in a recent "community wedding" at which their marriages were convalidated by the church. Civil ceremonies confer the legal benefits of marriage, but by receiving the sacrament of matrimony that day at Immaculate Conception, the couples were brought into full communion with the church, allowing them to receive the Eucharist. "I haven't had Communion since I was 15," said Melissa Ortiz, 29, who had been together with her husband, Antonio, since they were in high school. The couple, who now has five children, was married civilly for 11 years. "My daughter did her first Communion and I was so embarrassed I couldn't go up with her."

    Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals merging into CPA

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals has agreed to merge into the Catholic Press Association sometime later this year. As part of the merger agreement, the CPA will "consider a name or brand identification change," according to a Jan. 30 letter sent to CPA and Catholic Academy members signed by their respective presidents. "While the name Catholic Press Association is more than 100 years old, the convergence of print, video and electronic media channels limits the CPA identity to print only," added the letter, signed by CPA president Matt Schiller and Catholic Academy president David Hains. News of the merger also appeared in the February issue of The Catholic Journalist, the CPA's monthly newspaper. The Catholic Academy had originally been known as the Catholic Broadcasters Association at its founding more than 60 years ago. It adopted the name Unda-USA -- "unda" being the Latin word for "wave," as in radio and television waves -- in 1972, as an affiliate of the Vatican-sanctioned Unda-World. The Unda moniker remained until 2002, when it formally changed its name to the Catholic Academy, also encompassing film, as had its international parent, known as Signis.

    People with mental health issues often seek out faith leaders for help

    NEW YORK (CNS) -- Religious leaders are the "trusted soldiers" people turn to when dealing with mental health issues, and their ability to identify God's presence in people's lives gives hope and strength to hurting members of the community, according to speakers at a Mental Health Summit for faith leaders in New York Feb. 13. Mental health challenges are part of the human experience, and one in every five New Yorkers deals with a mental issue each year, said Chirlane McCray, New York's first lady. Her experience as the daughter of two depressed parents and the mother of a depressed, anxious, drug-addicted daughter inspired her to help launch Thrive NYC, a comprehensive municipal initiative to improve mental health awareness and services, she said. McCray is the wife of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. In her keynote address to representatives of faith communities and social service organizations, she said, "When people are dealing with sensitive issues, they seek out those they trust. There's a good chance they'll turn to one of you," because clergy are part of people's life from early on and reflect their experiences and priorities. Dr. Derek H. Suite, founder of Full Circle Health, a counseling center, said mental health providers and clergy can integrate therapeutic treatment and prayer to provide different paths to healing. He is a medical doctor and an ordained minister and offers a faith-based counseling option to clients.

    Arizona mother deported from U.S. taken in by shelter just across border

    PHOENIX (CNS) -- The mother who made headlines as possibly the first unauthorized immigrant to be deported from the United States under President Donald Trump's immigration orders was being sheltered overnight by the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Mexico, Feb. 9. Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, the initiative's executive director, confirmed in an email to Catholic News Service that Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos was being assisted by the migrant advocacy group. "She arrived at our comedor (dining room) and she is staying in our shelter this evening," the priest wrote. "Overall, she is doing well." U.S. Immigration agents arrested and deported Garcia de Rayos after she arrived at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix Feb. 8 for a mandatory check-in. She had been doing yearly or biyearly reports to the ICE office since 2008, after her arrest and conviction for giving a fake Social Security number to an employer. According to her family, each other time she had reported to ICE, she was questioned and allowed to return to her home in Mesa, a suburb east of Phoenix. When asked Feb. 9 if she would have done anything differently, Garcia de Rayos answered, "I have no regrets, because I did it all out of love for them."

    Diocesan phase of Fatima visionary's sainthood cause completed

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Diocese of Coimbra concluded its phase of the sainthood cause of Carmelite Sister Lucia dos Santos, one of the three children who saw Our Lady of Fatima in 1917. Bishop Virgilio Antunes of Coimbra formally closed the local phase of investigation into her life and holiness Feb. 13 in the Carmelite convent of St. Teresa in Coimbra, where she resided until her death in 2005 at the age of 97. The ceremony included the sealing of 50 volumes -- 15,000 pages -- of evidence and witness testimonies detailing the life of Sister Lucia. The documents sealed at the ceremony were to be shipped to the Congregation for Saints' Causes at the Vatican. After a thorough review of the materials and a judgment that Sister Lucia heroically lived the Christian virtues, her cause still would require the recognition of two miracles -- one for beatification and another for canonization -- attributed to her intercession. The Marian apparitions at Fatima began on May 13, 1917, when 10-year-old Lucia, along with her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, reported seeing the Virgin Mary. The apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.

    Cardinal urges U.K. to review plan to limit unaccompanied child refugees

    MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- The president of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales has asked the British government to review its decision to limit the number of unaccompanied child refugees it accepts from Europe. Robert Goodwill, Britain's immigration minister, told the House of Commons in London that local authorities lacked the capacity to accept the proposed number of 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees. He said there was room for little more than 400 unaccompanied refugee children, with 200 already relocated in the U.K. under the plan. The children are predominantly Syrian, and many of them have congregated around the French port of Calais in the hope of finding a way across the English Channel into Britain. In a Feb. 12 statement, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster said that in the eyes of many people, the government was "abandoning its statutory and moral duty to take effective action for the protection of vulnerable, unaccompanied child refugees. If this is the case, then it is truly shocking," he said.

    Priest recovers from assault, asks for prayers for robber who harmed him

    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CNS) -- For his silver jubilee as a priest almost a decade ago, Franciscan Father Ed Mundwiller prayed for God to keep calling him beyond the boundaries of his own comfort zone, into places he never thought he would go. "The old 'normal' and the old certainties go away, and God fills in the void with a call to justice and decency," he said in a 2007 interview with The Catholic Missourian, newspaper of the Diocese of Jefferson City in central Missouri. Father Mundwiller, who goes by "Friar Ed," believes that is exactly what happened while he was walking in his St. Louis neighborhood the afternoon of Feb. 2. He spoke briefly with a teenager and gave him a dollar. The teen followed him into an alley and attacked him, pummeling his face and breaking his leg while trying to get his billfold. Friar Ed was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was treated and released pending surgery to mend a fractured bone. As he continues to recover, he asked people to pray for his assailant "and everyone like him, the ones who for whatever reason fall through the cracks of our ministries and wind up feeling hopeless and invisible, those who need to have God's mercy shown to them."

    Bishops seek food relief as Kenya declares drought area national disaster

    NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- The Kenyan government declared the country's drought a national disaster, three days after Catholic bishops requested such an action. The bishops appealed for food relief Feb. 7, in an effort to get help from other countries. Reliefweb, a specialized digital service of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said in the last year, Kenya's food insecurity had nearly doubled, so that now 1.25 million people are affected. The drought has also affected livestock and wildlife in 23 of Kenya's 47 counties. On Feb. 10, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the drought a national disaster and said the government had allocated $105 million to fight it. Observing that all purchases of food and other items would be made in a transparent way, he said he would "not tolerate anybody who would try to take advantage of this situation to defraud public funds." The bishops said they were receiving reports from diocesan and parish officials with "tales of suffering, desperation, hopelessness and in some cases, imminent loss of life." They said as many as 2.4 million Kenyans were in dire need of food; the Kenyan Red Cross says 2.7 million people face starvation if more help is not provided.

    Catholic Charities agencies eye layoffs over uncertainty on refugees

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Local Catholic Charities agencies are scrambling to save staff jobs as they respond to President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily suspending the country's refugee resettlement program. Although the order remains on hold after a three-judge federal appeals court panel Feb. 8 denied a government request to overturn a temporary restraining order against Trump's action, agencies across the country are shifting staffers into other programs should the courts reinstate the resettlement ban or the administration issues a new order. Dominican Sister Donna Markham, CEO and president of Catholic Charities USA, said up to 700 workers are affected in some way by the order, with many of them losing their jobs. Sister Markham and her national staff at Catholic Charities USA's Alexandria, Virginia, headquarters are so concerned for the workers and the refugees they serve that the agency launched a campaign Feb. 2 to raise $8 million to save jobs in 80 dioceses nationwide. "It's a mess. It's just a mess. If we're talking about American jobs, this is laying off people in these public-private partnerships," Sister Markham told Catholic News Service. "We'd like to see if we can raise $8 million to make a dent in (the impact on) some of these jobs so we can retain some of these positions to continue the programming for those already here," Sister Markham said.

    Pope chooses Franciscan friar to lead his Lenten retreat

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has chosen a Franciscan professor of biblical theology to lead his annual Lenten retreat. Franciscan Father Giulio Michelini, 53, will lead meditations on the Gospel of Matthew's description of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, according to the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano. Pope Francis and top members of the Roman Curia will make their annual retreat March 5-10 at the Pauline Fathers' retreat center in Ariccia, 20 miles southeast of Rome, the newspaper reported Feb. 14. Father Michelini, who was born in Milan, took his vows as a member of the Order of Friars Minor in 1992 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1994. He earned his doctorate in biblical theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He currently teaches at the Theological Institute of Assisi, which is connected to the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. The Lenten retreat will begin with eucharistic adoration and vespers the evening of March 5. The next three days will begin with Mass at 7:30 a.m., a meditation from Father Michelini at 9:30 and another at 4 p.m., followed by adoration and vespers. The final day, March 10, will include one final reflection by the Franciscan friar.

    Vatican official: Religions must promote dialogue in war-torn world

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Growing tension, conflict and violence around the world challenge religious leaders to support dialogue and work together to promote universal moral values, a Vatican official said. "At the origin of all these dramatic situations there is a limited vision of the human person that paves the way for the spread of injustice and inequality, thus leading to conflict situations," said Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, Vatican observer to U.N. agencies in Geneva. Participating in a discussion Feb. 9 on "Faith, Peacebuilding and Development," the archbishop urged religious leaders to promote "a universal ethical message. Indeed, as it is in the mind and hearts of men that wars begin, it is from within our hearts and minds that the search for justice and peace must begin," he said. Interreligious dialogue, Archbishop Jurkovic said, is necessary for spreading a shared ethical message and for promoting the cooperation necessary to respond to global issues such as human rights violations, climate change and migration.

    Vatican canon law official explains provisions of 'Amoris Laetitia'

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The provisions of "Amoris Laetitia" allow people in irregular marriage situations access to the sacraments only if they recognize their situation is sinful and desire to change it, according to the cardinal who heads the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. The fact that such a couple also believes changing the situation immediately by splitting up would cause more harm and forgoing sexual relations would threaten their current relationship does not rule out the possibility of receiving sacramental absolution and Communion, said Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the pontifical council that is charged with interpreting canon law. The intention to change, even if the couple cannot do so immediately, "is exactly the theological element that allows absolution and access to the Eucharist as long as -- I repeat -- there is the impossibility of immediately changing the situation of sin," the cardinal wrote. Cardinal Coccopalmerio's short booklet, "The Eighth Chapter of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia," was published in Italian by the Vatican publishing house and presented to journalists Feb. 14. It includes material compiled from articles and speeches the cardinal has given about the pope's document on marriage and family life.

    Lack of prayer turns God's word into philosophical idea, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Without spiritual courage and a love for Jesus, the word of God will be proclaimed as just "a good, philosophical or moral idea," Pope Francis said. A preacher "may say something interesting -- something moral, something that will make you feel good, a philanthropic good -- but there is no word of God," the pope said during Mass in the chapel of Domus Sanctae Marthae. In his homily Feb. 14, the feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, Pope Francis said the world needed missionaries and "brave heralds" of the Gospel like the two great evangelists and co-patron saints of Europe. Reflecting on the day's first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, in which Paul and Barnabas announce the good news to the Gentiles, the pope said the word of God must be preached with "frankness and strength." He also commented on the day's Gospel of St. Luke in which Jesus sends out 72 disciples to preach the good news, noting that Jesus highlights how necessary it is for those who preach the Gospel to also pray. "The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest," Jesus said.

    For members of Siervas, ministry spans service, music for the soul

    LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- When people wave at members of the pop band Siervas as they drive through the city, the nuns in the musical group know they've arrived on the world stage. The 12 women religious in the group -- The Servants in English -- have taken their inspirational music to other countries and created hits that their fans sing and carry in their hearts. But although music is a big part of their lives, the sisters, members of the Servants of the Plan of God, also are focused on serving others. Since mid-January, their main concern has been tending to the people recovering from mudslides and floods that affected the area where their convent is located. "I have been living here for the last 18 years and, until this year, we had only ever had one mudslide," Sister Monica, a Peruvian, told Catholic News Service in late January. "Now we have had four in the last month." The sisters helped 30 local families get back on their feet after their homes were seriously damaged by rushing water.

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  • Stalled action on proposed religious freedom order raises concerns

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Talk of President Donald Trump possibly signing an executive order on religious freedom -- which drew both criticism and praise -- has been replaced with discussion about what happened to it and what a final version, if there is one, will look like. A draft version of the executive order, called "Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom," had been widely criticized in late January by those who said it would legalize discrimination and was too far-reaching. It then failed to appear on the president's desk while rumors circulated that a scaled-back version might appear eventually. "We hope that President Trump and his administration will take action soon, especially to provide relief from the onerous HHS mandate," said Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, referring to the mandate issued by the federal Department of Health and Human Services requiring most religious employers to provide coverage of artificial birth control for their employees even if they are morally opposed to it. "Now that some of the Cabinet posts are being confirmed, we hope that concrete and immediate action is taken to protect religious freedom," he said in a Feb. 10 email to Catholic News Service.

    NCEA leader says school choice support can help Catholic parents

    SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- The Trump administration's apparent endorsement of parental school choice could present a "huge opportunity" for Catholic school parents, the president of the National Catholic Educational Association told a group of Catholic high school teachers in San Francisco. "This could be a huge opportunity for parents wanting to choose the right school for their children," Thomas Burnford, NCEA president, told participants at the Archdiocese of San Francisco's annual high school teachers' consortium Feb. 3. "Whatever your politics, the current administration proclaims some understanding or belief in support of school choice," Burnford said in his talk at Archbishop Riordan High School. In his remarks, he did not mention President Donald Trump directly, saying in later comments he did not want to politicize the subject of parental choice. His speech was given four days before Betsy DeVos was confirmed by the Senate as the nation's education secretary following a tiebreaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence in his capacity as president of the Senate. DeVos, former chairman of the American Federation for Children, a school choice advocacy group, has long been an advocate of school choice. She told the senators during her confirmation hearing: "Parents no longer believe that a one-size-fits-all model of learning fits the needs of every child."

    With nation divided, Rev. King's words still resonate, say church leaders

    HOUSTON (CNS) -- At a time when the nation is politically divided, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy of seeking peace between races has particular resonance. "I believe Dr. King's message of tolerance, human dignity and peace is just as meaningful and necessary today as it was in the 1950s and 1960s," said Deacon Leonard Lockett, vicar for Catholics of African descent for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. "We find ourselves at this hour in a nation of unrest and the wonderment and beauty of Dr. King's message is that it transcends time," the deacon said. "Dr. King reminded us over and over during his ministry that we are all created in the image and likeness of God and therefore share in a sacred brotherhood and sisterhood." Deacon Lockett said that as citizens of this nation -- not just citizens of African descent, but all citizens regardless of one's race, creed or political philosophy -- must learn to live every day of the year as if it was Martin Luther King Day, which is observed every January. This year the King federal holiday was Jan. 16.

    Pope praises abuse survivor for breaking silence

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The sexual abuse of children by those who have vowed to serve Christ and the church is a horrendous monstrosity that represents "a diabolical sacrifice" of innocent, defenseless lives, Pope Francis said. The church, which must protect the weakest, has a duty "to act with extreme severity with priests who betray their mission and with the hierarchy -- bishops and cardinals -- who protect them," the pope wrote in the preface to a new book written by a man raped as a child by a Capuchin priest. The book, "My Father, I Forgive You" ("Mon Pere, Je Vous Pardonne"), was written by Daniel Pittet, 57, in an effort to describe how he fell victim to a predator abuser when he was 8 years old growing up in Fribourg, Switzerland, and the challenges he faced when came forward two decades later with the accusations. The book, currently published only in French, was to be released Feb. 16. News outlets released the text of the pope's preface Feb. 13. Pittet -- who had been a monk, but later married and had six children -- had met the pope at the Vatican during the Year of Consecrated Life in 2015.

    Council of Cardinals publicly expresses support of pope

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After a handful of public challenges to Pope Francis' teaching and authority, the members of the pope's international Council of Cardinals began their February meeting expressing their "full support" for his work. Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, coordinator of the council, began the meeting Feb. 13 assuring the pope of the cardinals' "full support for his person and his magisterium," according to a statement published by the Vatican press office. The statement said the cardinals' support was offered "in relation to recent events." No specific events were mentioned, but the statement came just a few days after a fake version of the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, was emailed to Vatican officials and a week after posters were put up around Rome questioning the pope's mercy in dealing with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and other groups over which the pope had placed special delegates. It also came several months after U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke and three retired cardinals publicly questioned Pope Francis on the teaching in his document on the family, "Amoris Laetitia."

    Jealousy threatens fellowship in families, among clergy, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Envy and jealousy create division and destroy fellowship and brotherhood among people, especially within families and among members of the clergy, Pope Francis said. The biblical story of Cain murdering his brother Abel is a cautionary tale on the consequences of allowing bitterness to persist in one's life, the pope said Feb. 13 during Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives. "That is how people destroy themselves; that is how enmity destroys families, peoples, everyone! That gnawing (feeling) in your gut, always obsessed with that. This happened to Cain and in the end, he got rid of his brother," he said. Looking at the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, the pope said Cain allowed his jealousy to "simmer" and grow, thus destroying "the bonds of fellowship and brotherhood. That is how enmity between us grows: It starts with one small thing, a jealousy, envy. Then this grows and we see life only from that point of view and that thin straw becomes a beam," he said.

    Be Christians of substance, not appearance, pope says at Angelus

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Obeying the true spirit of the commandments and not just a literal interpretation of them is what makes Christians become authentic witnesses, Pope Francis said. As seen through Mary's example, following the commandments "is possible with the grace of the Holy Spirit which enables us to do everything with love and to fully carry out the will of God," he said Feb. 12 before reciting the Angelus with visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square. "May the Virgin Mary, woman of docile listening and joyful obedience, help us to approach the Gospel not just having a Christian 'facade,' but being Christian in substance," he said. The pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from Matthew, in which Jesus explains to his disciples the Mosaic law and warns that "unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." This righteousness, the pope said, must be "animated by love, charity and mercy" in order to fulfill the true purpose of the law and "avoid the risk of formalism," which is strict adherence to prescribed laws. In the Gospel reading, Jesus focused on three specific commandments: against murder, adultery and swearing.

    Historic Israeli church reopens in Galilee 20 months after arson attack

    JERUSALEM (CNS) -- Twenty months after having suffered serious damage from an arson attack, the atrium of the Benedictine Church of the Loaves and Fishes was reopened Feb. 12. German Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Cologne, president of the German Association of the Holy Land, celebrating a Mass to mark the event. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who visited the church in Tabgha immediately following the attack in June 2015, was also among the official guests after the Mass. "We are bound together. We are all equal before God, and equal before the law," Rivlin said. "The state of Israel is ... deeply committed to the freedom of religion and of worship for all religions and believers. We stand up for religious freedom because, as a people, we know very well what it means to suffer religious persecution. And we stand up for religious freedom because we are a democratic state. "The last time I was here, we stood together and looked at the burned walls and the terrible graffiti," the president said. "Today, I visit here again, and see the renewal of this historic, special, and holy place. I want to thank all the people who worked hard to restore this place, and to say clearly; that hate cannot win."

    Pope names envoy to study pastoral care of faithful in Medjugorje

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Without commenting on the authenticity of alleged Marian apparitions in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Pope Francis has appointed a Polish archbishop to study the pastoral needs of the townspeople and the thousands of pilgrims who flock to the town each year. The pope chose Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Praga as his special envoy to Medjugorje, the Vatican announced Feb. 11. "The mission has the aim of acquiring a deeper knowledge of the pastoral situation there and, above all, of the needs of the faithful who go there in pilgrimage, and on the basis of this, to suggest possible pastoral initiatives for the future," the Vatican announcement said. Archbishop Hoser's assignment has "an exclusively pastoral character," the Vatican said, making it clear his task is separate from the work of a commission set up in 2010 by now-retired Pope Benedict XVI to investigate the claims of six young people who said Mary had appeared to them daily beginning in 1981. Some of the six say Mary still appears to them and gives them messages each day, while others say they see her only once a year now.

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  • Congress urged to pass conscience protections for health care providers

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore have urged the House and Senate to past the Conscience Protection Act of 2017. They called it "essential legislation protecting the fundamental rights of health care providers ... to ensure that those providing much-needed health care and health coverage can continue to do so without being forced by government to help destroy innocent unborn children." The two prelates made the plea in a joint letter dated Feb. 8 and released Feb. 10 by the USCCB. Cardinal Dolan is chairman of the bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Archbishop Lori is chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. In the Senate, the Conscience Protection Act of 2017 is known as S. 301, and in the other chamber it is H.R. 644. The companion bills would provide legal protection to doctors, nurses, hospitals and all health care providers who choose not to provide abortions as part of their health care practice. In the House, Republican Reps. Diane Black of Tennessee and Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska introduced the measure Jan. 24. Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma sponsored it in the Senate Feb. 3 and it now has at least 16 co-sponsors.

    Bishop Burns pledges to work 'side by side' with all in Dallas Diocese

    DALLAS (CNS) -- Seeking the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe and vowing to exhaust himself for Jesus Christ by working side-by-side with his new flock, Bishop Edward J. Burns was installed as the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Dallas at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe Feb. 9. With three cardinals -- including Bishop Burns' predecessor, Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell -- and dozens of bishops and priests from throughout the country in attendance, as well as his family, Bishop Burns was greeted by a jubilant crowd of well-wishers outside the cathedral during the procession. Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio welcomed Bishop Burns to Texas, saying that he was coming to a vibrant and faithful area of the country and that his brother bishops would be holding him in prayer as he begins his new ministry. Since 2009, Bishop Burns had been the bishop of the Diocese of Juneau, Alaska, a 37,600-square-mile expanse of territory in southeast Alaska, but one of the smallest dioceses in terms of parishes and Catholics. It has approximately 10 parishes and 10,000 Catholics out of a total population of 75,000. It has one Catholic school with approximately 40 students enrolled. The nine-country Dallas Diocese, in contrast, is home to more than 70 parishes, 15,000 students in diocesan and private Catholic schools and 1.3 million Catholics. Several parishes eclipse the entire population of Catholics in the Diocese of Juneau.

    Legal suicide, marriage redefinition, contraceptive bills bow in Alaska

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CNS) -- A bill to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide in Alaska has been reintroduced in the Alaska Legislature. The bill would permit doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to patients for the purpose of suicide. A similar bill was proposed in 2015. Opponents of the practice believe that patients -- including those with terminal illness -- need proper care, not a way to end their lives. In 2015, Access Alaska, a disability advocacy group in Anchorage, posted a strongly worded rebuttal to doctor-prescribed suicide shortly after the bill was introduced. "What looks to some like a choice to die begins to look more like a duty to die to many disability activists," Access Alaska posted to its Facebook page. "If the values of liberty dictate that society legalizes assisted suicide, then legalize it for everyone who asks for it, not just the devalued old, ill and disabled. Otherwise, what looks like freedom is really only discrimination." The post was a quotation from Diane Coleman, president and CEO of Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights group that opposes doctor-prescribed suicide. The Catholic Church also opposes suicide -- doctor-prescribed or otherwise. "We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of," states the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The bill is part of a national drive by the group Compassion & Choices, formerly the Hemlock Society. To date, doctor-prescribed suicide is legal in Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Montana, Colorado and the District of Columbia.

    Couple donates Ethiopian religious manuscripts to Catholic University

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A massive donation of Ethiopian religious manuscripts to The Catholic University of America in Washington makes the school one of the largest holders of such texts outside Ethiopia. The value of the donation, by Gerald and Barbara Weiner of Chicago, is estimated to be more than $1 million. The collection includes more than 215 Islamic manuscripts, 125 Christian manuscripts, and 350 so-called "magic" scrolls with prayers to protect the owner or reader from particular illnesses. What makes the manuscripts valuable is that they're handmade, according to Aaron Butts, an assistant professor of Semitic languages and literature at Catholic University. What makes them rare, he added, is that such texts are rarely seen outside Ethiopia, and that the East African nation's rainy season often renders the books and scrolls unusable or illegible after repeated use. That so many texts -- most of which date back to the 18th and 19th centuries, with a few even older -- still survive, and in a usable condition, he told Catholic News Service, is "amazing. Every one of them is a treasure," Butts said. The donation makes Catholic University the holder of the fifth largest collection of Ethiopian Christian manuscripts in the United States, and the largest collection of Ethiopian Islamic manuscripts outside of Ethiopia. Butts said Gerald Weiner had hoped to collect holy books from Ethiopian Judaism, but "when he realized how few were available, he started collecting books from Ethiopian Christianity and Islam."

    Immigrant teacher fears Trump undermining what she has fought to lift up

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (CNS) -- An immigrant teacher and White House honoree fears President Donald Trump is undermining the community she has fought to lift up. "It's only been two, three weeks since he was sworn in and I can see the fear and uncertainty in my students and their undocumented parents," said Maria Dominguez, who teaches first grade at Rodriguez Elementary School in Austin, Texas. "A couple of parents that I've met with this week have mentioned that they're afraid of what's going to happen to their children if (the parents) were to be deported," she said in a phone interview with Catholic News Service. Dominguez said some fear that their children could be placed in foster care and they would not know where they are or how they are doing. Her first-grade students have expressed their own anxieties. "My kids tell me that they don't want to go to Mexico," she said. "They were born here, and most of them have never even traveled to their parent's home country." She said the U.S. is all they know. "It's devastating to see how much fear there is right now," Dominguez said. "I'm surrounded by people who could be hurt by what's happening, and that breaks my heart."

    U.S. bishops call for solidarity with Middle East victims of violence

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Christians and all people in the Middle East need the solidarity of the U.S. Catholic Church, said the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the head of the Catholic Relief Services board. "A concern for our Christian brethren is inclusive and does not exclude a concern for all the peoples of the region who suffer violence and persecution, both minorities and majorities, both Muslims and Christians," said a Feb. 10 statement from four bishops. "To focus attention on the plight of Christians and other minorities is not to ignore the suffering of others," the statement said. "Rather, by focusing on the most vulnerable members of society, we strengthen the entire fabric of society to protect the rights of all." The group included Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace; Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration; and Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, New York, chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services. The group pointed to the findings of a recent USCCB delegation to Iraq, which confirmed that Christians, Yezidis, Shiite Muslims and other minorities had experienced genocide at the hands of the Islamic State group.

    Bishop Vasquez welcomes federal appeals court ruling on refugee ban

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration welcomed a federal appeals court ruling that upheld a temporary restraining order against President Donald Trump's travel ban on refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries that also temporarily suspended the country's refugee resettlement program. "We respect the rule of law and the American judicial process. We remain steadfast in our commitment to resettling refugees and all those fleeing persecution," Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, said in a statement Feb. 10. "At this time we remain particularly dedicated to ensuring that affected refugee and immigrant families are not separated and that they continue to be welcomed in our country," the statement said. The bishop pledged that church agencies would continue to welcome people "as it is a vital part of our Catholic faith and an enduring element of our American values and traditions." A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the government's argument to lift the freeze on the president's order and maintained that the court's had jurisdiction in the case as a check on executive power.

    Church in North Africa hosting migrants from south, seeks support

    DAKAR, Senegal (CNS) -- Catholic bishops from North Africa urged greater support for church life in their region, where migrants from sub-Saharan Africa now make up a large proportion of Catholic communities. In a statement following its Feb. 2-5 plenary in Senegal, the Regional Bishops' Conference of North Africa said Catholic communities in the Maghreb, as the region is known, had taken in sick migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, as well as single mothers, unaccompanied children, uprooted students and those in prison. The bishops said they had met in Senegal, one of the world's poorest countries, to get to know more about one of the nations from which migrants fled. They said they were grateful to church organizations for helping tackle "one of the major dramas of the new century. In North Africa, we are in the heartland where this life-and-death drama is being lived out. Migrants are not just a political issue, but real people," the bishops said. "We emphasize the immense need of migrants to be heard, given the loneliness and interior ordeal so many are living through," said the bishops. "We are confident the conscience of peoples, and above all of ecclesial communities, will know how to encourage and support those seeking worthier and most just ways forward."

    Health care is not a business, but a service to life, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A nation's health care system cannot be run simply as a business because human lives are at stake, Pope Francis said. "If there is a sector in which the 'throwaway culture' demonstrates its most painful consequences, it is the health care sector," the pope told patients, medical professionals, pastors and volunteers attending a meeting sponsored by the Italian bishops' national office for health care ministry. Anticipating the celebration Feb. 12 of the World Day of the Sick and marking the 20th anniversary of the bishops' office, the pope said Catholics obviously give thanks for the advances in medicine and technology that have enabled doctors to cure or provide better care for the sick. He also praised medical personnel who carry out their work as "ministers of life and participants in the affectionate love of God the creator. Each day their hands touch the suffering body of Christ, and this is a great honor and a great responsibility," he said.

    Russia's Catholics ponder 'historic lessons' on revolution anniversary

    WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- As preparations get underway for this year's 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, the country's small Catholic Church is keeping a low profile. However, because some Russian Catholics support the policies of President Vladimir Putin, the church is looking to remain neutral and focus on prayer services and discussions of the church's history of the last century. "Although we won't be commemorating the revolution, our church communities will naturally reflect on what happened," said Msgr. Igor Kovalevsky, secretary-general of the Russian bishops' conference. "We'll pray for Russia, and for all those who died for their faith during those dreadful years. But the Catholic faithful hold various political views, so the church won't try to promote any one position," he said. Russia's observance will include the 1917 overthrow of Czar Nicholas II, which occurred in March under the country's modern calendar, and the seizure of power by Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin the following November, which ended hopes of democratic rule.

    Don't dialogue with the devil, pope says at Mass

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Satan is a liar and a cheat who promises people everything then leaves them with nothing, Pope Francis said at his early morning Mass. In his homily Feb. 10, Pope Francis contrasted the way Eve interacted with the serpent in the garden of Eden and the way Jesus reacted to the devil after spending 40 days in the desert. With Eve, "the father of lies" demonstrates how he is a specialist in tricking people, the pope said. First, he makes her feel comfortable, then he begins a dialogue with her, leading her "step by step" where he wants her to go. "He's a trickster," the pope said. "He promises you everything and leaves you naked," like he left Adam and Eve. Jesus, on the other hand, does not enter into a dialogue with the devil, but responds to his temptations by quoting Scripture, Pope Francis said.

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  • Catholics, Protestants release Bible translations in joint service

    STUTTGART, Germany (CNS) -- Five centuries after the start of the Protestant Reformation, leaders of the Catholic and Lutheran churches came together in a demonstration of unity to release new Bible translations. At an ecumenical service at St. Eberhard's Catholic Cathedral, clergy from both churches gathered to release revised German translations of the Catholic and Lutheran Bibles. The release came as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation neared. It began in 1517 when theologian Martin Luther developed his 95 Theses challenging long-held Catholic practices. Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, president of the German bishops' conference, emphasized the sacred Scriptures as a strong bond shared by Catholics and Protestants. "It is an effervescent fountain," Cardinal Marx said of the Bible. "The water drawn from it does not decrease, but increases. The more we debate the holy Scriptures, the more we experience the mystery of Christ."

    'Dead Man Walking' opera comes to Washington

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The statement "preaching to the choir" had double meaning Feb. 6 at the Washington National Cathedral where religious leaders spoke against the death penalty and members of the Washington National Opera sang arias from the "Dead Man Walking" opera. The discussion, interspersed with song, was meant to highlight the upcoming opera at Washington's Kennedy Center of Sister Helen Prejean's 1993 book of the same name telling the story of her role as spiritual adviser to an inmate on Louisiana's death row. The book was made into a movie two years later starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. "The opera takes you on a spiritual journey," said Sister Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille, adding that it "brings us to places we'll never go." She hopes the experience will not just move audiences in the moment but also stir them to do more. "In prayer, you can work out what it is we are called to do," she said. Ever since her own experience in the early 1980s as a spiritual adviser to a death-row inmate who was executed, Sister Prejean has dedicated her life to advocating against capital punishment. She told the crowd of about 500 people at the cathedral that the first execution she witnessed changed her life forever.

    Latin patriarchate: New law governing lands poses 'serious consequences'

    JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem warned of "serious consequences" from a new law that allows the government to seize private Palestinian lands where unauthorized Israeli settlements have been built. "Such a law undermines the two-state solution, further eliminating hopes of peace," the patriarchate said in a Feb. 8 statement. "The Latin Patriarchate strongly condemns this unjust and unilateral law that allows the de facto annexation of Palestinian private land for the benefit of Israeli settlements. Strongly concerned about the future of peace and justice in the Holy Land, the Latin Patriarchate calls on leaders to take decisive decisions in favor of peace, justice and dignity for all," the statement said. The Israeli Knesset passed the law Feb. 6. It will affect settlements or outposts built in "good faith" or on instructions of the government and will deem those lands as government property. The legislation was quickly passed in the wake of the evacuation of the illegal outpost of Amona in the West Bank. The Feb. 1-2 evacuation took two days and was first ordered by the Israeli Supreme Court in 2014, but repeatedly had been pushed back because of legal appeals, until a final deadline of Feb. 8 was set in December.

    Hong Kong cardinal: Consensus on bishops helps solve other issues in China

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- China and the Vatican have reached consensus on the appointment of bishops, which will lead to the resolution of other outstanding problems, said Hong Kong Cardinal John Tong. "From now on, there will be no more the crisis of a division between the open and underground communities in the Church in China," the cardinal said. "On the contrary, these two communities will gradually move toward reconciliation and communion on the aspects of law, pastoral care and relationships. The church in China will work together to preach the gospel of Jesus on the soil of China." In a letter published Feb. 9, Cardinal Tong note that China and the Vatican have different interests, so they will prioritize remaining problems differently. "The Chinese government is concerned with problems on the political level, while for the Holy See, the problems are on the religious and pastoral levels," he said. The Vatican and China, which severed diplomatic ties in 1951, have had on-again, off-again talks since the 1980s. Under Pope Francis, the two restarted a formal dialogue in 2014. The dialogue has been examined from a political perspective, but Cardinal Tong said he wanted to offer a religious perspective. He first wrote of the dialogue last August and said he received much positive feedback.

    World needs women, not for what they do, but who they are, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The exploitation of any person is a crime, but the exploitation of a woman "destroys harmony" in the world, Pope Francis said. Commenting on the Genesis story of God creating Eve, Pope Francis told people at his early morning Mass Feb. 9 that the creation story emphasizes how the world needs the qualities women have. Men and women "are not the same, one is not superior to the other, no," the pope said. "It's just that men do not bring harmony. She is the one who brings that harmony that teaches us to caress, to love with tenderness and who makes the world something beautiful." After the creation of Adam, the pope said, "God himself notices the solitude" of Adam, who "was alone with all these animals." God could have said, "'Hey, why don't you take a dog, who will be faithful, to accompany you through life and two cats to pet.' A faithful dog is good, cats are cute -- at least some think so, others no, for the mice no!" the pope said.

    Catholic legal staff, priest visit Haitian detainees in Colorado, Arizona

    MIAMI (CNS) -- In 2010, after a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, the governments of Mexico and Brazil took in a number of Haitians seeking to temporarily work in those Latin American nations, particularly to help Brazil prepare for its Summer Olympics and World Cup soccer events. But recently, as those nations entered new economic recessions, many of those same workers and their families have made their way north and appealed for asylum in the United States. The result has been many Haitians placed in temporary detention centers throughout the country, often in places lacking any Creole-speaking detention and legal staff. "About 4,000 were in detention somewhere in the United States in December alone, in places like Texas, Tennessee and Washington state, where they often can't access Creole-speaking assistance," said George Francis, a lawyer on staff at the Archdiocese of Miami's Catholic Legal Services. In December, Francis and three other staff members from his office made two trips out west to meet with Haitian detainees in the Denver and Phoenix areas. They were asked to bring their Creole-speaking and immigration legal skills by the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project in Arizona, and the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network in the Denver suburb of Westminster.

    Pope: Speechless before horror of Holocaust, pray it never happen again

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Anti-Semitism is absolutely contrary to Christianity, and the church has a duty to denounce and repel such hatred, Pope Francis said. There are no words, however, that could ever adequately address "the horrors of cruelty and sin" of the Holocaust, he added. There is only prayer "that God may have mercy and that such tragedies may never happen again." The pope made his comments Feb. 9 at the Vatican during an audience with a delegation of the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that fights anti-Semitism. "Sadly, anti-Semitism, which I again denounce in all its forms as completely contrary to Christian principles and every vision worthy of the human person, is still widespread today," the pope said. He reaffirmed that the Catholic Church "feels particularly obliged to do all that is possible with our Jewish friends to repel anti-Semitic tendencies." More than ever, the fight against anti-Semitism needs effective tools of education and formation that teach respect for everyone and protection for the weakest.

    Church needs religious orders' courage, witness, pope tells superiors

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholic religious orders must have the courage to start new forms of outreach, knowing that the only people who "never make mistakes are those who never do anything," Pope Francis said. "We will get things wrong sometimes, yes, but there is always the mercy of God on our side," Pope Francis told 140 superiors general of men's religious orders. A transcript of questions and answers from the pope's three-hour meeting with members of the Union of Superiors General last November was published Feb. 9 by the Jesuit-run journal, La Civilta Cattolica. Running through Pope Francis' responses to the questions on youth ministry, religious life, his personal approach to the papacy and evangelization was an emphasis on prayer, courage and, especially, discernment. A lack of expertise in discernment, he said, "is one of the greatest problems that we have in priestly formation," which focuses too much on "black and white" answers rather than on "the gray areas of life."

    Colombian nun kidnapped in southern Mali

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Mali security forces arrested two suspects who they believe were involved in the kidnapping of a Colombian nun Feb. 7 in southern Mali. Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez Argoti, 56, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate, was taken by armed men in Karangasso village near the Burkina Faso border, according to Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Around 9 p.m., a group of armed men broke into the parish, grabbed Sister Narvaez, and took off in an ambulance that belonged to the church. The news agency Agence France-Presse reported Feb. 8 that a security source said the two suspects were stopped while heading toward Burkina Faso in the ambulance. "The abductors initially threw her into the ambulance of the church, which led to their arrest," the source stated. A church worker told AFP that Sister Narvaez was one of four nuns living in Karangasso. The worker also stated that she was the the only one abducted.

    Rigid thinking isn't divine, pope tells staff of Jesuit magazine

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Discernment is needed to understand life's ambiguities, not rigid thinking that tends to silence the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis said. True discernment can only be achieved by interpreting the signs of the times and listening to the sufferings of others, especially the poor, the pope told editors and staff of an Italian Jesuit journal. "Rigid thinking is not divine because Jesus assumed our flesh, which is not rigid except at the time of death," he said. The pope met Feb. 9 with the editors and staff of La Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit-run magazine founded by Pope Pius IX in 1850. The Rome-based biweekly continues to be reviewed by the Vatican Secretariat of State before publication. Commemorating the journal's 4,000th issue, the pope said it was "a truly unique milestone." He also encouraged the editors and staff to continue their journey and "to remain in the open sea."

    Vatican summit participants vow efforts to stop organ trafficking

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A Vatican summit on organ trafficking called for greater efforts to prevent the exploitation of those vulnerable to corrupt health professionals and criminal networks making the sale of human organs possible. "We, the undersigned participants of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences summit on organ trafficking, resolve to combat these crimes against humanity through comprehensive efforts that involve all stakeholders around the world," said the final statement, released to the public Feb. 9. The summit, held at the Vatican Feb. 7-8, brought together government ministers, judges, law enforcement personnel, medical professionals, human rights activists and journalists -- in all, representing more than 50 nations, especially those plagued by organ trafficking, like China, Mexico, India, Pakistan and Iran, where the sale of human organs is legal. One of the summit's goals, according to its brochure, was to build an alliance comprised of prosecutors, legal experts, governments and healthcare professionals from all over the world to encourage each other to put pressure on their own nations to implement measures to stop organ trafficking and transplant tourism.

    Educators form lives that are ready to face the future, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholic schools and universities play a key role in evangelization and in creating a more humane world built on dialogue and hope, Pope Francis said. Future generations who are "educated in a Christian way for dialogue, will come out of the classroom motivated to build bridges and, therefore, to find new answers to the many challenges of our times," he said. The pope made his remarks Feb. 9 to members of the Congregation for Catholic Education, who were meeting at the Vatican for their plenary assembly. The Vatican office oversees church-affiliated schools and colleges around the world. Catholic schools and universities are important places for reflecting on and developing new ways to evangelize the world and today's cultures, the pope said. These institutions should serve the church's mission of helping humanity grow, build a culture of dialogue and plant the seeds of hope, he said.

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