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  • Archbishop Chaput: Synod does include 'lobbying' in search of truth

    IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

    By Cindy Wooden

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When a big group of people gathers to discuss something important, people start lobbying, even if that group is the world Synod of Bishops, said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia.

    Pope Francis told participants Oct. 6 "we should avoid thinking of each other as conspiring against one another, but to work for unity among the bishops," Archbishop Chaput told reporters at a synod press briefing at the Vatican Oct. 7.

    "I have never been at a church meeting where there aren't groups that get together and lobby for a particular direction and that's going on, I assure you," the archbishop said. "That's what happens when human beings get together. We shouldn't be surprised or scandalized by that as long as it's done up front and honestly and not in a way that tries to win rather than to arrive at the truth."

    French Archbishop Laurent Ulrich of Lille told reporters he heard Pope Francis' admonition as an encouragement "to safeguard serenity in our discussions."

    "And the pope told us last year, didn't he, that we should speak with all freedom and listen to each other with all humility," added Peruvian Archbishop Salvador Pineiro Garcia-Calderon of Ayacucho.

    A journalist asked the bishops about the possibility that national or regional bishops' conferences would be given more responsibility for some matters, including pastoral approaches to marriage, given the diversity issues impacting families around the world.

    The reporter cited Pope Francis' exhortation, "The Joy of the Gospel," which said: "A juridical status of episcopal conferences which would see them as subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority, has not yet been sufficiently elaborated. Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the church's life and her missionary outreach."

    Archbishop Chaput responded, "The Catholic Church is described as 'catholic' if it reaches everywhere and reaches out to everyone in welcome, but also it believes the same thing everywhere about our relationship with God and our relationships with one another. Some of that can be handled better universally and some of that can be handled better locally."

    "At the same time, diversity is always in the service of unity in the Catholic Church," so "I don't think we would say it is appropriate for bishops' conferences to decide matters of doctrine and things like that."

    Belgian Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp had told the synod Oct. 6, "In their local churches bishops encounter a great variety of questions and needs to which they must provide a pastoral answer today."

    Responses to the questionnaire set out by the Vatican before the synod and the consultations bishops carried out in preparation for the synod showed that many of the most important questions raised "clearly differ between countries and continents," Bishop Bonny said.

    "There is, however, a common theme in those questions, namely the desire that the church will stand in 'the great river of mercy.' It is important that the synod give space and responsibility to the local bishops to formulate suitable answers to the pastoral questions of that part of the people of God which is entrusted to their pastoral care. The individual bishops' conferences have a special role in this.

    "The synod not only deals with 'the family as church,' but also with 'the church as family,'" he said. "Every family knows what it means to work on unity in diversity, with patience and creativity."

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CNS News Briefs

Brief versions on news stories from Catholic News Service. Catholic News Service provides news from the U.S., Rome and around the world in both English and Spanish, in written coverage, images and video reporting.
  • Catholic feminist sees beauty of marriage and pitfalls of 'gospel of me'

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Helen Alvare is a law professor at George Mason University, a consultant to the Vatican and the U.S. bishops about marriage and life issues, and has been a recognized defender of Catholic teaching on marriage and the family for many years. She also is a wife and mother. But being an expert on such issues wasn't always the case for her. She remembers at age 10 or so -- in a conversation with her own mother, who in college had been first in her class and an accomplished musician -- exclaiming, "Wow! You could have been something," not yet appreciating her mother really was something -- she was a loving wife and parent. "I was rooted in the gospel of me," Alvare recalled. She made the comments in an address on "Creating the Future: the Fertility of Christian Love" at the recent World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. During her own college years, she thought, "Why would I spend all this time getting an education and then forking it over to children? Where was the decade of fun I had coming to me?" It was only later that she had a reconversion to the beauty of Jesus Christ, she said, in keeping with the words from Chapter 6, Verse 68, in the Gospel of John: "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

    More open approach at synod can ease fear of manipulation, cardinal says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Greater emphasis on small-group discussions and incorporating that work into the synod's final draft document is helping alleviate any suspicion of the synod being manipulated, said one of the four synod presidents. Cardinal Wilfrid F. Napier of Durban, South Africa, told Catholic News Service Oct. 7, "I think this time we are aware of and I think the secretary of the synod (Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri) is aware that there are these suspicions and, therefore, I think there's going to be a much more perhaps open-handed approach to the synod." As a member of the synod's ordinary council, the cardinal was part of the group that planned this year's general Synod of Bishops on the family as well as last year's extraordinary synod. Last year, Cardinal Napier had openly criticized the publication of a midterm report during the synod and the decision not to release summaries of the speeches participants gave in the synod hall. He and several other synod fathers at the time suggested that the midterm report did not accurately reflect the assembly's views and that the press had no way of assessing the report's accuracy. Speaking to CNS on the sidelines of this year's synod, Cardinal Napier said he had found it "strange" last year that the media had been given a detailed midterm report before the issues facing the synod had been fully discussed.

    Venerating saint's relics on U.S. tour a chance for renewal, says priest

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- The major relics of St. Maria Goretti, known as the "patroness of purity," are on a "pilgrimage of mercy" in the United States this fall. It the first time that her body has been in the United States. Before the relics are scheduled to be flown back to Italy Nov. 13, they will have been venerated in close to 20 states, including Pennsylvania. According to the website, plans for a 2016 tour of the western half of the U.S. "are currently being studied." "It is a most wonderful thing to see a parish, a school, a prison renewed after an exposition," said Father Carlos Martins, who is leading the pilgrimage. "This is the basis for this ministry's existence, and I cannot wait to see where St. Maria will take it." The relics consist of virtually all of the skeletal remains of St. Maria, encased in a lifelike wax effigy within a glass-sided casket. Her relics are on tour while her major shrine in Netunno, Italy, is under renovation. In keeping with Pope Francis' declaration of the upcoming Year of Mercy, she was presented as a patroness of mercy, which seemed especially appropriate for the first stop: Sing Sing Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in New York. The exposition, held Sept. 21, was not open to the public but gave inmates an opportunity to venerate the relics.

    Ugandan bishops ask Catholics to prepare spiritually for papal visit

    KAMPALA, Uganda (CNS) -- The Ugandan bishops called on all Catholics to prepare spiritually for Pope Francis' Nov. 27-29 visit to their country. "The nature of this visit is primarily pastoral and spiritual," the bishops said in a letter signed by Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu, president of the Uganda Episcopal Conference. Pope Francis' visit has the theme, "You will be my witnesses." The bishops said the pope will help Ugandans celebrate the 50th anniversary of the canonization of the Uganda Martyrs, who were burned to death for their faith between 1885 and 1887. The martyrs were canonized in 1964. The bishops urged Christians to do penance and undertake acts of charity for the poor so they can receive the papal blessing in a worthy manner. "In a country like ours, where unity and national consensus has eluded us for decades, the pope comes as a bridge builder," the bishops said. They said the visit provides a golden opportunity for Ugandans to be instruments of unity, peace and reconciliation in the family and among various religious and cultural and political groups.

    Archbishop Chaput: Synod does include 'lobbying' in search of truth

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When a big group of people gathers to discuss something important, people start lobbying, even if that group is the world Synod of Bishops, said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia. Pope Francis told participants Oct. 6 "we should avoid thinking of each other as conspiring against one another, but to work for unity among the bishops," Archbishop Chaput told reporters at a synod press briefing at the Vatican Oct. 7. "I have never been at a church meeting where there aren't groups that get together and lobby for a particular direction and that's going on, I assure you," the archbishop said. "That's what happens when human beings get together. We shouldn't be surprised or scandalized by that as long as it's done up front and honestly and not in a way that tries to win rather than to arrive at the truth." French Archbishop Laurent Ulrich of Lille told reporters he heard Pope Francis' admonition as an encouragement "to safeguard serenity in our discussions." "And the pope told us last year, didn't he, that we should speak with all freedom and listen to each other with all humility," added Peruvian Archbishop Salvador Pineiro Garcia-Calderon of Ayacucho.

    Church and society must learn from families, pope says at audience

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Society and the church have much to learn from the family and, in fact, the bond between the church and the family is "indissoluble," Pope Francis said. Families bring needed values and a humanizing spirit to society and, when they mirror God's love for all, they teach the church how it should relate to all people, including the "imperfect," the pope said Oct. 7 during his weekly general audience. While members of the Synod of Bishops on the family were meeting in small groups, Pope Francis held his audience with an estimated 30,000 people in St. Peter's Square. He asked them to accompany the synod with their prayers. While the Catholic Church insists that governments and the economy need families and have an obligation to give them greater support, Pope Francis said, the church itself recognizes that it, too, must have a "family spirit." Using the Gospel story of Jesus telling the disciples he would make them "fishers of men," Pope Francis said, "a new kind of net is needed for this. We can say that today families are the most important net for the mission of Peter and the church."

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  • South Carolina bishop asks for prayers, support for families affected by floods

    CHARLESTON, S.C. (CNS) -- Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston asked for prayers for the families of those killed as well as for those whose homes were destroyed in what officials called a 1,000-year storm that brought extreme rains that deluged South Carolina. Authorities said at least 14 people died and media reported that rescuers have had to pluck hundreds from swamped cars and flooded houses. Some residents remained in danger Oct. 6 from residual effects of saturated grounds that can unearth weakened trees and collapse roads. "We simply ask for prayers, especially for the families of those who lost their lives in this horrific ?storm," Bishop Guglielmone told The Catholic Miscellany, newspaper of the Charleston Diocese. "Many people lost homes, cars and other possessions, but in time and with assistance these can be replaced. The strong spirit of our people in South Carolina and their lively faith will get us through this difficult time and will sustain us." State officials declared a state of emergency Oct. 1 as unprecedented rains and flash flood conditions raged throughout the state. Bishop Guglielmone canceled the On Fire With Faith conference set for Oct. 2-3 in Simpsonville, 200 miles northwest of Charleston. Other diocesan events were postponed and rescheduled.

    Catholic, Lutheran leaders shaken by reports of harvesting of body parts from abortions

    ST. LOUIS (CNS) -- Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis and the Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, said they were shaken and shocked by reports that the body parts of babies were being harvested. In an Oct. 5 statement, the religious leaders cited the undercover videos released in recent weeks by the Center for Medical Progress showing Planned Parenthood officials and others discussing the transfer of body parts from aborted babies for research as cause for great concern. "Like millions of Americans, including those in the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, we have been shaken to the core by what we have witnessed: intact babies, at times still alive, having their body parts harvested as a commodity," the statement said. "We are shocked at the image of tiny hands and feet seen in a glass pie plate. We are horrified at what we have seen and heard. Such actions and attitudes have no place in our society." A series of 11 edited videos has been released by the Irvine, California-based Center for Medical Progress since July. The revelation has prompted investigations by state and federal officials into Planned Parenthood's activities across the country.

    Bishops, Vatican confirm Pope Francis will visit Mexico in 2016

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- The Mexican bishops' conference and the Vatican have confirmed Pope Francis will visit Mexico in 2016, marking his first trip to this heavily Catholic country in throes of unrest over unresolved issues such as violence, crime and corruption. Auxiliary Bishop Eugenio Lira Rugarcia of Puebla, conference secretary-general, told Catholic News Service that the pope would travel to Mexico next year, though dates and details were still to be determined. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, provided similar information to the Televisa network, adding the trip would likely take place during the first half of 2016 and include a stop in the capital, Mexico City. Pope Francis has previously mused about visiting Mexico, home to the world's second-largest Catholic population. After visiting the Philippines last year, the pope said he wanted to walk from Mexico into the United States "as a sign of brotherhood and of help to the immigrants," along with visiting the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the world's most-visited Marian shrine. He said in September that he had planned to enter the United States at a border crossing, going from Ciudad Juarez to El Paso, Texas, but opted to instead visit Cuba after the communist country and the United States ended their estrangement, with Vatican assistance.

    California bishops disappointed assisted suicide measure signed into law

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CNS) -- California's bishops expressed disappointment with Gov. Jerry Brown's Oct. 5 signing of a measure legalizing physician-assisted suicide in the state, saying the law "stands in direct contradiction to providing compassionate, quality care for those facing a terminal illness. This bill does nothing to validate the lives of the vulnerable," said the California Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops, in a statement soon after Brown's action. The conference added that the legislation "isn't compassion" and does not support or promote the common good. "As Catholic bishops in California, we join hands with the disability rights groups, physicians, other health care professionals and advocates for the elderly in opposing physician-assisted suicide as the wrong way to advance the human dignity for those facing a terminal illness," the conference said. The prelates also pointed out that the 48 Catholic hospitals in California "provide excellent palliative care services as all medical facilities for terminally ill patients should but often do not."

    'Unite suffering' with those grieving, archbishop tells Oregon Catholics

    PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- St. Joseph Parish in Roseburg hosted an emotional Mass the evening of Oct. 1 for 10 people who died in a shooting that morning at Umpqua Community College. Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith traveled from Portland for the liturgy. Authorities in Roseburg, in green rolling hills 180 miles south of Portland, identified the shooter Oct. 2 as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer, but did not give details about him. The names of those he fatally shot had not yet been released. Nine others were wounded. FBI investigators say the gunman brought six legally purchased weapons to the small college and was wearing a flak jacket. A witness reports he asked students what their religions were before he began shooting. One student at the college and the sister of a second student both told news organizations that Mercer 26, told people in classrooms to stand up and declare whether they were Christian. If they responded yes, they were shot in the head. If they answered no or gave some other answer, they were shot elsewhere. The attack ended when the gunman shot himself on campus.

    U.N. mission not yet fulfilled after 70 years, Vatican official says

    UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- The United Nations mission is not yet complete 70 years after its founding, said Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican's secretary for relations with states. While the U.N. has done much commendable work, there remains much yet to be done, said Archbishop Gallagher, whose position is comparable to that of a foreign minister. "We must acknowledge that over the past 70 years, the United Nations has succeeded in avoiding a great global conflict and the outbreak of many wars between member states," Archbishop Gallagher said Oct. 2 at the U.N. General Assembly. "Nonetheless, there are presently at least 50 conflicts or situations of latent conflict, to say nothing of the actions of international terrorist and criminal organizations, set up as quasi-states and as a sort of 'alternative' international community," he said. "It is a bitter irony that the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Organization is accompanied by an exodus of peoples which is the greatest seen since those caused by the Second World War," which ended in 1945, the year of the U.N.'s founding, Archbishop Gallagher added. "Entire populations are being displaced, as they flee from war, persecution, exploitation and poverty."

    Philadelphia couple joins family synod as marriage experts

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Cathy and Tony Witczak of St. Isaac Jogues Parish, in Wayne, Pennsylvania, were taken by surprise when they were notified Pope Francis had invited them to participate as observers at the Synod of Bishops on the family meeting in Rome through Oct. 26. It was not explained to them why they were chosen, but they assume it is because participated in meetings of the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Council for the Laity while they were the international lay leaders of Worldwide Marriage Encounter from 2009 to 2014. Other than Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who will be one of 45 voting members of the synod, the Witczaks are the only other participants from the Philadelphia Archdiocese. They are joined by only two other lay persons from the United States as nonvoting auditors or experts. Exactly what the role of observers is, the Witczaks are not sure, although they did talk to a couple who were invited to a similar synod in the past. They can give advice to the synod but only if asked, and they also may participate in English-language group discussions.

    Archbishop prays at Red Mass that God guides those who administer justice

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The archbishop of Atlanta called on worshippers to invoke the Holy Spirit for guidance and support of people in the legal profession so that they may "reach greater wisdom" in administering justice. Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, speaking at the 63rd annual Red Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington Oct. 4, told lawyers, educators and government officials in attendance that they work in a noble endeavor that becomes "more essential with each passing generation." He also stressed that their duty is to uphold religious freedom, a vital right in the country. The Red Mass is celebrated the Sunday before the opening of the U.S. Supreme Court's new session on the first Monday in October. Sponsored by the John Carroll Society of the Archdiocese of Washington, the liturgy drew more than 1,000 attendees, many serving as judges, lawyers, diplomats, government officials, law school deans, professors and students. Archbishop Gregory emphasized the importance of "using words that are truthful, precise and unifying" in the law for the good of society and the nation. "It is the duty of those involved in the administration of justice to provide the words and interpretations of the words that are so vital to our national identity, our future and our unity," he said.

    Pope says ministry to divorced, remarried is not only topic for synod

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As the discussion began at the world Synod of Bishops on the family, Pope Francis urged members not to act as if the only question that mattered was the pastoral care of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, his spokesman said. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters Oct. 6 that the pope took the microphone that morning to affirm again that "Catholic doctrine on marriage has not been touched or put into question." Pope Francis told the bishops that the only documents that are "official" for their work are the speeches he gave at the opening and closing of last year's synod and the final report voted on by synod members in October 2014. The report, along with additions made based on responses to a questionnaire, is the working document for this year's synod, Father Lombardi said. The pope also said, "We should not let ourselves be conditioned by or to reduce the horizons of our work as if the only problem were that of Communion for the divorced and remarried or not," Father Lombardi said. The Vatican did not release the text of the pope's remarks. Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, writing on his blog, said that during the hour of open discussion at the synod Oct. 5, some bishops were "uneasy about the impression given by the presentation of Cardinal (Peter) Erdo in the morning that some key questions are already decided and seemingly off the table. They felt that such a stance was premature."

    Synod should reflect on possibly allowing female deacons, says archbishop

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Canadian Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec, said the synod should reflect on the possibility of allowing for female deacons as it seeks ways to open up more opportunities for women in church life. Where possible, qualified women should be given higher positions and decision-making authority within church structures and new opportunities in ministry, he told Catholic News Service Oct. 6. Discussing a number of proposals he offered the synod fathers to think about, he said, "I think we should really start looking seriously at the possibility of ordaining women deacons because the diaconate in the church's tradition has been defined as not being ordered toward priesthood but toward ministry." Currently, the Catholic Church permits only men to be ordained as deacons. Deacons can preach and preside at baptisms, funerals and weddings, but may not celebrate Mass or hear confessions. Speaking to participants at the Synod of Bishops on the family Oct. 6, Archbishop Durocher said he dedicated his three-minute intervention to the role of women in the church -- one of the many themes highlighted in the synod's working document. The working document, which is guiding the first three weeks of the synod's discussions, proposed giving women greater responsibility in the church, particularly through involving them in "the decision-making process, their participation -- not simply in a formal way -- in the governing of some institutions; and their involvement in the formation of ordained ministers."

    Trinity Health seeks dismissal of lawsuit related to pregnancy services

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A Michigan-based Catholic health care system planned to seek dismissal of a lawsuit by a civil liberties organization challenging the emergency services it provides to pregnant women. Officials at Trinity Health Corp., of Livonia, Michigan, said in a statement that the system's 88 hospitals across the U.S. provide quality health care under the "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services" developed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The lawsuit filed Oct. 1 contends that Trinity Health violates provisions of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act and the Rehabilitation Act by denying the full range of emergency care, including pregnancy termination when necessary. "A federal court already dismissed a similar ACLU claim, and we will seek dismissal of this suit for the same reason," the Trinity Health statement said. "The ethical and religious directives are entirely consistent with high-quality health care, and our clinicians continue to provide superb care throughout the communities we serve." The Catholic Church opposes abortion. The directives state, "Catholic health care ministry witnesses to the sanctity of life 'from the moment of conception until death.'"

    Chinese nuns say orders face curbs on work, decrease in vocations

    KONSTANCIN-JEZIORNA, Poland (CNS) -- Catholic female religious orders have expanded rapidly in China over the past decade, but are now facing restrictions and a decrease in vocations, said religious sisters from various parts of China. "Religious sisters are highly important here -- they do most of the missionary work in parishes, as well as providing educational and medical help," said Sister Teresa Yu, a member of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. "But the government is now demanding licenses, so conditions have become more difficult. Some of our clinics and homes have had to close, and we fear more curbs will follow, while people are less willing to see their children enter religious orders because of the (government's) one-child policy." Sister Yu and other Chinese sisters spoke to Catholic News Service in mid-September, during a European Catholic China colloquium, co-organized by Germany's Catholic China-Zentrum, which fosters encounter and exchanges between cultures and religions in the West and in China, and the Polish Catholic Church's Sinicum institute. The colloquium brought together Catholics from China, clergy and scholars from the United States and a dozen European countries. Sister Yu told Catholic News Service that nuns run catechism and Bible study classes in most Chinese parishes, as well as help the sick, homeless and elderly, but were frequently impeded by "unnecessary restrictions."

    High school students in D.C. to see pope witnessed 'moment in history'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Here are the fun facts about just one group of high school students who hoped for a glimpse of Pope Francis on the National Mall in Washington Sept. 24: Number of students: 26. Adults with them: four. Chartered bus ride overnight from Springfield, Massachusetts: More than seven hours, arriving shortly after 5 a.m., when many thousands were lined up to pass through security. Wait time on the Mall, as close to the Capitol as they could manage: More than five hours. Distant view of pope on the Speaker's Balcony after his speech to Congress, enhanced by Jumbotron screens: All of 10 minutes. Exhausting, of course. Totally worth it, though, said Sandy Pollette, campus minister for Holyoke Catholic High School. The trip was intended as a Francis tribute. Holyoke Catholic and Cathedral high schools are merging next year to form Pope Francis High School in Springfield. A new school building is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Massachusetts, who taught history at Cathedral years ago, provided the tickets and hosted the group at his office for pizza and wings. The group included students and teachers from St. Mary and St. Joseph high schools in the Springfield Diocese.

    'Mutts' comic strip features a week's worth of quotes from Pope Francis

    WASHINGTON (CNS) --Those uninterested in the news coverage of Pope Francis' U.S. visit might have ditched the front page and turned to other sections of the newspaper for a break. Not likely. Patrick McDonnell, creator of the "Mutts" comic strip that appears in 700 newspapers, used the week of Sept. 21 -- the week of the papal visit -- to feature seven quotations from Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si'." The reception was terrific, according to McDonnell, a Catholic born on St. Patrick's Day in 1956. "We posted the cartoons on our Facebook page. We just had an amazing response, a phenomenal response of people reading it and enjoying it," McDonnell told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 2 telephone interview. "The people that run my Facebook page said it was one of the most successful as far as getting people liking and responding." Nor did McDonnell get much pushback from his editors at King Features Syndicate about the source of the quotations. "Actually, none at all," he said.

    Experience and rejoice in God's mercy, pope says at Mass

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Old Testament shows that even a prophet who is chosen by God and preaches God's word can end up thinking his work is more important than God's mercy, Pope Francis said at his early morning Mass. Preaching at Mass Oct. 6 in the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the pope focused on the attitude of Jonah not only in the day's first Scripture reading -- Jonah 3:1-10 -- but also in the chapter that follows. In Chapter 3, Jonah preaches to the people of Nineveh that in 40 days God will destroy their city; the people believe him and change their "evil ways." God sees their repentance and relents. But Chapter 4 says Jonah was angry at the Lord's compassion. Jonah's preaching "truly worked a miracle because he set aside his stubbornness and obeyed God's will and did what the Lord commanded," the pope said at the Mass, which took place on the second day of the Synod of Bishops on the family, although the Mass was not part of the synod agenda.

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  • In Missouri, critics call report on Planned Parenthood 'incomplete'

    ST. LOUIS (CNS) -- Several critics have called the Missouri attorney general's new report on Planned Parenthood in St. Louis incomplete, saying it raises questions about how state law holds the abortion provider accountable for its handling of human remains from abortions. Attorney General Chris Koster said the organization is complying with Missouri law in how it disposes of human tissue from abortions. As part of the review, Koster's office interviewed representatives from Planned Parenthood and Pathology Services Inc., a third-party lab that examines human tissue from abortions at Planned Parenthood. Koster's office also obtained documents for a representative 30-day period tracing the pathology lab's process for disposing of the remains. Records show a relationship with MedAssure, a medical waste management company and its treatment location in Indianapolis and transfer facility in Boonville. "The evidence reviewed by my investigators supports Planned Parenthood's representation that fetal tissue is handled in accordance with Missouri law," Koster said in a statement Sept. 28. "We have discovered no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Planned Parenthood's St. Louis facility is selling fetal tissue."

    Bishop calls Catholic men to get off sidelines, step 'into the breach'

    PHOENIX (CNS) -- Catholic men must reclaim and live the virtue of Christian masculinity, Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted says in his newly released apostolic exhortation, "Into the Breach." Addressed to Catholic men in the diocese -- "my spiritual sons" as the bishop calls them -- it charges them to be prepared for spiritual battle for their souls and the souls of their families is aimed. The name of the exhortation is taken from a passage from the Book of Ezekiel: "And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land." Citing statistics about the decreasing involvement in parish life and participation in the sacraments, the bishop notes that "while we know that Christ welcomes back every repentant sinner, the truth is that large numbers of Catholic men are failing to keep the promises they made at their children's baptisms -- promises to bring them to Christ and to raise them in the faith of the church." In defining what it means to be a Catholic man, Bishop Olmsted says that Jesus, fully God and fully man, is the perfection of masculinity. "Only in Jesus Christ can we find the highest display of masculine virtue and strength that we need in our personal lives and in society itself."

    Unrest flares again in West Bank, Jerusalem

    JERUSALEM (CNS) -- Unrest flared in early October throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem, which has experienced tensions during September, largely over the status of the contested holy site of the Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif. Four Israelis were killed in the Old City of Jerusalem: a couple driving near their West Bank settlement with their four children in the back of their car, and two men, one of whom was on his way to pray at the Western Wall at the end of the Jewish Sabbath; his wife and toddler were injured in the attack. An ultra-Orthodox teenage boy was later stabbed near the same place. Catholic News Service was unable to reach the Franciscan custos of the Holy Land or the Franciscan St. Saviour Parish in the Old City for comment. Palestinians said the attacks were reprisals for the killing of a young Palestinian woman by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint near Hebron, West Bank, as well as the shooting of another Palestinian man on the eve of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, not far from where the couple was murdered. Media reported the 19-year-old Palestinian who carried out the Old City attack had posted on Facebook that Palestinians would not accept Israel's attack on Al-Aqsa Mosque and declared the start of the third intifada, or Palestinian uprising.

    Obama appoints Covenant House CEO, CUA professor to faith-based panel

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- President Barack Obama has appointed two Catholics to his third Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Kevin Ryan, CEO and president of Covenant House International, and Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America, were among the 18 appointed. The appointments were announced Sept. 24. The presidential advisory council brings together religious and secular leaders as well as scholars and experts in fields related to the work of faith-based and neighborhood organizations. It focuses on steps the government should take to reduce poverty and inequality and create opportunity for all, including changes in policies, programs, and practices that affect the delivery of services by faith-based and community organizations and the needs of low-income and other underserved people. Ryan has led Covenant House since 2009. From 2008 to 2009, he served as chief operating officer of the U.N. Special Envoy for Malaria. From 2006 to 2008, he was the first commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. From 2003 to 2006, Ryan served as the first state child advocate in the Office of the Child Advocate in New Jersey.

    Time for cautious diplomacy is over, says Ukrainian Catholic leader

    VIENNA (CNS) -- The head of the Ukrainian Catholic church has urged the Vatican to show greater support for his country, as a senior Vatican diplomat warned the country risked becoming "a kind of Somalia. I would have expected a lot more involvement by the Vatican -- the time for cautious diplomacy is at an end," said Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. "The fact that 70 percent of Ukrainian army regulars fighting against separatists and Russian soldiers have Russian as their mother-tongue shows the unity of our people and our army. What we are seeing is a foreign invasion of Ukrainian territory by Russian troops," he said. In an interview with Austria's Kathpress agency, Archbishop Shevchuk said a cease-fire appeared to have held during September in most disputed eastern areas, although a prisoner exchange and other moves still had to be negotiated. Meanwhile, a former Vatican nuncio to Ukraine warned the country risked becoming "a kind of Somalia in the middle of Europe. Ukraine desperately needs support from abroad, so it doesn't become a so-called failed state -- this risk is unfortunately very great," U.S. Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, who was nuncio in Kiev from November 2011 until early September, told Vatican Radio Oct. 2.

    Devil tricks, seduces with promises of wealth, power, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Every day, the devil tries to trick and seduce people with promises of riches, grandeur and power, Pope Francis said. Satan "sows snares and is a seducer. He seduces with charm, with diabolical charm, he leads you to believe everything. He knows how to sell with this charm, he sells well, but he pays badly in the end," the pope said in a morning homily. Pope Francis celebrated Mass Oct. 3 for the Vatican gendarmes, the police force that works together with the Swiss Guard to protect the pope and provide order and security at papal events. The Mass was celebrated in honor of the gendarmes' patron saint, St. Michael, the Archangel, whose feast day was Sept. 29. In his homily, Pope Francis told the gendarmes that the future battle St. Michael is envisioned to lead against Satan is a war that is being waged everyday throughout history -- in the hearts of men and women, Christians and non-Christians. "There is a war between good and evil where we have to choose which we want: good or evil," he said.

    Pope says synod is not parliament, but place to listen to Holy Spirit

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The world Synod of Bishops on the family is not a parliament where participants will negotiate or lobby, Pope Francis said, but it must be a place of prayer where bishops speak with courage and open themselves to "God who always surprises us." Opening the first working session of the synod Oct. 5, the pope said the synod's 270 voting members need courage, "pastoral and doctrinal zeal, wisdom, frankness and to keep always before our eyes the good of the church and of families and the supreme law -- the salvation of souls." Arriving about 15 minutes before the session began, Pope Francis welcomed to the synod hall the members, delegates from other Christian communities and the men and women who will serve as experts and observers. The synod is not a convention or a parliament, Pope Francis said, "but an expression of the church; it is the church that walks together to read reality with the eyes of faith and with the heart of God." Synod members must be faithful to church teaching, "the deposit of faith, which is not a museum to be visited or even simply preserved, but is a living spring from which the church drinks to quench the thirst and enlighten" people, he said.

    Fidelity, truth, love must guide church outreach to families, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a world filled with challenges to marriage and family life, the Catholic Church is called "to carry out her mission in fidelity, truth and love," Pope Francis said at the Mass opening the world Synod of Bishops on the family. Formally opening the synod Oct. 4 with a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, the pope said the church must encourage families and defend faithful love, the sacredness of every human life and "the unity and indissolubility" of marriage. At the same time, he said, the church must carry out its mission with charity, not only "not pointing a finger in judgment of others," but also seeking out all who are lonely and in pain, caring for "hurting couples with the balm of acceptance and mercy." The synod was scheduled to last until Oct. 25, discussing ways to strengthen the church's support of families and its outreach to those struggling to live fully the Catholic ideals of marriage and family life. Marriage preparation, sexuality, procreation, communication, support for couples at risk of separation, accompaniment of divorced Catholics and possible ways to bring back the divorced and civilly remarried were all expected to be on the synod's agenda.

    On synod's eve, Vatican official declares his homosexuality

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- On the eve of the start of the Synod of Bishops on the family, a Polish monsignor who works in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, publicly declared he is homosexual and has a stable partner. Msgr. Krzysztof Charamsa, 43, gave interviews to Polish and Italian media Oct. 2 and planned a news conference the following day outside the offices of the congregation. The conference, however, was moved to a restaurant nearby. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said Oct. 3 that Msgr. Charamsa and his reflections on his life and sexuality were deserving of respect, but "the decision to make such a pointed statement on the eve of the opening of the synod appears very serious and irresponsible, since it aims to subject the synod assembly to undue media pressure." The world Synod of Bishops on the family was scheduled to begin Oct. 4 with a Mass. "Msgr. Charamsa will certainly be unable to continue to carry out his previous work in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the pontifical universities," where he had been teaching: the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, Father Lombardi said.

    Hunger is a 'scandal,' a 'sin' in a world of plenty, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Hunger is a "true scandal" that threatens the life and dignity of millions of people while tons of food go to waste, Pope Francis said. "We must face this injustice, this sin," the pope told more than 7,000 volunteers and coordinators of Italian food banks, along with representatives from food banks in other countries. Pope Francis met the volunteers and coordinators Oct. 3 in the Vatican at a meeting sponsored by the Italian Food Bank Foundation, which assists the local food-distribution outlets and has a special focus on encouraging large-scale food producers to donate their excess or imperfect products to local food banks rather than destroy the products. The pope praised their efforts "to fight the waste of food, recover it and distribute it to families in difficulty and to the poor." Developing nations are not the only countries with a hunger problem, he said. Even the richest countries seem to struggle to feed their poor despite the world being able to produce enough food to feed everyone.

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  • House passes measure to allow states to defund Planned Parenthood

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The House Sept. 29 passed the Women's Health and Public Safety Act to give states the authority to defund Planned Parenthood. Speaking from the House floor in support of the measure, which was sponsored by Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wisconsin, Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, cited the pope's Sept. 24 address to a joint meeting of Congress. "Pope Francis admonished a joint session of Congress to follow the Golden Rule -- to 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' -- and said that the Golden Rule compels us to 'protect and defend human life at every stage of development,'" Smith said. State and federal funding of Planned Parenthood has come under scrutiny after a series of videos, filmed undercover, were released by the Center for Medical Progress, based in Irvine, California. The videos show physicians and others associated with Planned Parenthood describing the harvesting of fetal tissue and body parts during abortions at their clinics. Also discussed are what researchers are charged for the tissue and parts.

    Syriac patriarch in Detroit: 'We are begging' West to help refugees

    FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. (CNS) -- It's a situation reaching biblical proportions: Thousands of refugees fleeing religious persecution, leaving behind their homes, their memories and their lives. With Iraqi and Syrian Christians escaping the terror inflicted by radical Islamic extremists, Syriac Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan made a plea to Western Christians to save his people, his culture and his homeland during a pastoral visit to the Detroit area Sept. 19-21. The spiritual leader of the world's 158,000 Syriac Catholics spoke at St. Toma Syriac Catholic Church in Farmington Hills Sept. 21, briefing the congregation on the situation in the Middle East and what needs to be done to save thousands of Christians in the region. "The situation is very devastating and tragic," Patriarch Younan said, speaking in both English and Arabic. "For Iraq, this has been happening for two generations. For Syria, the war has been taking place for the last three years, with no hope on the horizon for Christians in the area." Patriarch Younan spoke before media members and the St. Toma congregation following celebration of the Divine Liturgy -- what Eastern Catholics call the Mass -- describing the atrocities taking place at the hands of the Islamic State, including the destruction of churches, the trafficking of women and girls as sex slaves, and the forced conversion of Christians to Islam.

    'Living stones' help maintain Christian presence in Holy Land

    JERUSALEM (CNS) -- A Palestinian Catholic tour guide whose family has lived in Jerusalem for generations and whose spiritual heritage stretches as far back as the first century church laughed as he recounted the story. "An Israeli official once asked me if I was a Jerusalemite," quipped Rimon Makhlouf, his voice full of incredulity at such a question. "I told him that even my great grandfather helped to build the famous spire of St. Saviour Church," one of the Old City's most notable towers dotting the limestone cityscape. Makhlouf and other Catholics are the "living stones" of the Holy Land, whose presence is vital to maintaining Christianity in the place where Jesus was born, ministered, died on the cross and rose to life. However, Catholics such as Makhlouf, who fuse their vibrant faith with their vocation, face many challenges as their community continues to shrink because of economic and political hardships. "I hate to see Christians vanish from Jerusalem," Makhlouf told the Catholic News Service. "So I am creating a committee of laypeople seeking partnership. Firstly, with the clerical authorities in sharing the daily decision-making affecting all of our lives."

    Religious freedom critical to health of world's societies, says bishop

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Senate passed legislation to reauthorize the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Sept. 30, but the measure was awaiting action by the House. A day earlier Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, urged Congress in a letter to pass the bipartisan measure quickly so the commission could continue its "vital mission" to protect religious freedom, which he called "critical to the health of societies around the world." "The Catholic Church has long viewed protection of religious freedom as a 'cornerstone of the structure of human rights' since it is rooted in the dignity of the human person," said the bishop, writing as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace. "At a time when international religious freedom is increasingly imperiled, it is vital that USCIRF be reauthorized so that it can continue to highlight the need to protect those who are discriminated against, harassed and even killed for their faith," he said, noting the USCCB has been a strong advocate of the watchdog body for years. The commission is an independent government agency charged with reviewing violations of religious freedom throughout the world and making appropriate policy recommendations to the president, secretary of state and Congress.

    People with disabilities 'welcomed, valued' during Pope Francis' visit

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When Pope Francis encountered and blessed children during his apostolic visit to the United States, there were events everyone saw because they were on live TV, with others known only their participants. These were sometimes by chance. Other times, there was advance planning. Memorable chance encounters included his blessing of Michael Keating, a 10-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, at the tarmac at Philadelphia International Airport when the pope arrived there for the Festival of Families Sept. 26. Iris Chavez of Manassas, Virginia, spent three days figuring out how to get her 5-month-old son, Loukas, clad in a tilma, handed up to the pope during the popemobile "parade" outside the White House Sept. 23. When Sophia Cruz, a 5-year-old girl from Los Angeles, broke through security fences at that event to hand the pope a letter about immigrant laborers, it was the result of a full year of planning by an immigrant rights group. "They deserve to come out of the darkness and be recognized for the hard work that they do," Sophia's letter said. Janice L. Benton helped plan participation by people with disabilities in the pope's events in Washington and Philadelphia. Most of that never attracted the same media coverage as the papal hugs and kisses. The participants' joy, Benton said, was undimmed. "We built a nice little community, too, which was special for us," Benton said in an interview with Catholic News Service.

    Vatican says pope's meeting with Kentucky clerk is not endorsement

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' meeting with Kim Davis, the county clerk from Kentucky who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses, does not equate support for her "position," the Vatican spokesman said after discussing the issue personally with the pope. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the spokesman, issued a statement Oct. 2 saying the pope had met with "several dozen persons who had been invited by the nunciature to greet him" in Washington and that "such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the pope's characteristic kindness and availability." Father Lombardi made a distinction between the brief greetings and more official meetings by saying, "The only real audience granted by the pope at the nunciature was with one of his former students and his family." Late Oct. 2, Father Lombardi said in a statement that the former student was Yayo Grassi of Argentina. Grassi, an openly gay man, was accompanied by his partner, his mother and several friends in the meeting at the nunciature Sept. 23. Father Lombardi said Grassi, "who had already met other times in the past with the pope, asked to present his mother and several friends to the pope during the pope's stay in Washington. As noted in the past, the pope, as pastor, has maintained many personal relationships with people in a spirit of kindness, welcome and dialogue," the statement said.

    Ethiopian priest first African elected as Comboni Missionaries superior general

    NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- A priest from Ethiopia became the first from Africa to be elected superior general of the Comboni Missionaries. Father Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie, 46, welcomed the Sept. 30 vote of the Comboni delegates meeting during the order's general chapter meeting in Rome. He also thanked the delegates for their "trust and mercy," reported the Catholic News Agency for Africa. He succeeds Father Enrique Sanchez Gonzalez, a Mexican. Father Gebresilasie had been assistant general of the Comboni Missionaries since 2009 and was responsible for basic formation and the provinces and delegations of English-speaking Africa, with the exception of Eritrea, and Mozambique. The priest told the Missionary International Service News Agency that he was eager to begin his new position. "It is a great responsibility for me and those who I represent. Africans have for decades been members of the congregation, but this time, for the first time, one of us has been elected as superior general. Africa is now at home," he said.

    Lesson for synod seen in joy evident at World Meeting of Families

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- It's difficult to forget Pope Francis' passionate Sept. 26 speech, his gestures and the tone of his voice when he addressed the value of the family in Philadelphia. A "society grows strong, grows in goodness, grows in beauty and truly grows if it is built on the foundation of the family," said the pope, addressing the Festival of Families on the city's Benjamin Franklin Parkway that Saturday evening. "All of the love that God has in himself, all of the beauty that God has in himself, all of the truth that God has in himself, he gives to the family," he continued. "And a family is truly a family when it is able to open its arms and receive all of this love." It is the passion shown that evening that many hope will drive the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family set for Oct. 4-25 in Rome. Msgr. Duarte da Cunha, general secretary of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences, which represents the 33 bishops' conferences in Europe, said the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia "is the door to enter the synod ... and we will enter the synod with joy, not with the weight of problems but with the experience of the joy of the families."

    Philippine church leaders link tribal killings in Mindanao to mining operations

    MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- Church leaders in the southern Philippines said the killings of tribal leaders and the harassment suffered by indigenous peoples in Mindanao are related to mining operations in the area. "The (tribal people) who firmly stand against mining activities were the ones being intimidated by paramilitary forces," Father Bong Galela, social action director of the Diocese of Tandag, told In Surigao del Sur province, indigenous peoples, collectively known as Lumads, have been under attack by gunmen of the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary force. Human rights groups alleged that the Philippine military trained and funded the group to go after communist rebels in the hinterlands of Mindanao. The allegation was supported by diocesan clergy. "We call for the disarming and arrest of the members of the Magahat-Bagani group," Father Galela told a Philippine Senate panel inquiry Oct. 1. "We also demand the government to ensure that there will be no cover-up in the investigation of these gruesome murders," the priest said.

    Everyone has a guardian angel to protect, guide in life, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Everyone has a guardian angel who is advising and protecting each individual on earth, Pope Francis said at morning Mass. Whenever people hear a little voice in their head, "'Well, do this. That would be better. You mustn't do this ...' Listen! Don't turn against him" because it is the guardian angel's voice, he said Oct. 2 during the Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. Marking the day's memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels, the pope's homily focused on these angels, saying they were "like an ambassador of God." Even when God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, God didn't abandon them and tell them, "Make do as best you can," the pope said, according to Vatican Radio. God gave everyone a guardian angel to accompany and protect people on their journey in life and prepare the way toward heaven, he said. One's guardian angel "is always with us. And this is a fact," he said. Therefore, people should be mindful and respectful of the angel's presence. "For example, when we do something bad and we think we are alone. No. He's there."

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  • Archbishop visits Congress, White House in push to ease Puerto Rico debt crisis

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Concerned that Puerto Rico's debt crisis is inflicting hardship on poor and middle-class households, Archbishop Robert Gonzalez Nieves of San Juan met with congressional leaders and the White House to push for a resolution. The crisis has led to school closings, cuts in social services and health care and job layoffs and reductions in employee benefits as Puerto Rico struggles to make payments on the $72 billion in debt the U.S. territory holds. "We want to create more awareness of the urgency of the situation in Puerto Rico and the dangers that more austerity measures would create. In terms affecting human lives, especially the poor, we already have approximately 50 percent of our people living under the poverty level and obviously the impact of the current situation is creating unemployment and a new exodus of people," Archbishop Gonzalez told Catholic News Service Sept. 30 after meeting with congressional leaders. The archbishop and the Rev. Heriberto Martinez Rivera, general secretary of the Puerto Rico Bible Society, met with Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, House minority leader; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts; the chief of staff for Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough in a whirlwind tour of Washington political leaders. "They listened. They asked many questions," the archbishop said on the way to White House. "They promised to do more research and to become better informed. I sensed a desire to help."

    Pope pleads for commutation of death sentences

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Less than a week after Pope Francis told a joint meeting of Congress that he backs U.S. efforts to abolish the death penalty, news came of his U.S. nuncio's letters to authorities in two states appealing on the pope's behalf to commute death sentences. On Sept. 29, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano unsuccessfully appealed on the pope's behalf to Georgia officials to commute the death sentence of Kelly Gissendaner, who was executed shortly after midnight the next day. Within hours of receiving the letter on the pope's behalf, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected Gissendaner's request for clemency and her execution proceeded. Earlier, speaking for Pope Francis, the nuncio weighed in Sept. 19 on another highly publicized execution scheduled in Oklahoma for Sept. 30, that of Richard Glossip, whose challenge to the state's lethal injection protocol was rejected by the Supreme Court in June. In the letter to Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, Archbishop Vigano cited both Pope Francis and St. John Paul II as well as Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul S. Coakley. At mid-afternoon Sept. 30, Fallin issued a last-minute stay, prompted by confusion over Oklahoma's supply of lethal injection drugs. Her action was followed by a statement from the state's attorney general, E. Scott Pruitt, asking that three scheduled executions be stayed indefinitely.

    Survivor of failed abortion testifies at hearing on Planned Parenthood

    SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) -- Melissa Ohden wants Congress "to give a voice to other survivors like me." What Ohden "survived" was a saline abortion at a hospital in Sioux City. The founder of the Abortion Survivors Network, Ohden told her story in early September in testimony at a House Judiciary Committee hearing. She admitted later that was not easy, but she found a greater challenge in listening to "Democratic representatives" defend the act that was meant to end her life," she said in an interview with The Catholic Globe, newspaper of the Diocese of Sioux City. "However, my greatest joy is knowing that I did something that God called me to do," explained Ohden, who now resides in Kansas City, Missouri. "I really do believe that testifying was part of his plan for my life. I also am getting immense joy from hearing from even more survivors who have seen my testimony, and from the outpouring of support that I've received from people around the world." The hearing came about as part of the Judiciary Committee's probe into Planned Parenthood's activities spurred by the release of 10 videos by the Center for Medical Progress, based in Irvine, California.

    Survey gives glimpse into faith practices of young Catholic families

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A survey commissioned by Holy Cross Family Ministries provides insights into the faith practices of young Catholic families. One of the more surprising findings is that Hispanics now make up a solid majority of Catholic families where the parents are ages 25-45, the age group targeted by the survey. Another is that more than two-thirds of families make no provision for the faith formation of their children, either by sending them to a Catholic school or by enrolling them in a parish religious education program. The prevalence of Hispanics as the heads of young families "really tells us a lot about where we need to focus a lot of our resources, time, energy and our own prayer as well," said Holy Cross Father Willy Raymond, president of Holy Cross Family Ministries, in an Oct. 1 interview with Catholic News Service. Holy Cross Family Ministries, which is based in Easton, Massachusetts, and includes the Family Rosary and Family Theater Productions, is developing a strategic plan that it hopes to fine-tune when its board meets in November, aiming for a rollout in January, according to Father Raymond. The catechesis issue is not in Holy Cross Family Ministries' purview, he said, but a lack of faith formation in families "really bodes ill for the future. If they're not exposing their children to the richness of the faith in all its dimension, it's very hard to see how they will have a sense of identity as Catholics, or a sense of affection for the church or the body of Christ in a place that is truly their home for a lifetime and beyond. That's really some distressing news."

    Indian cardinal: Syro-Malabar church can teach about family-based parish

    MISSISSAUGA, Ontario (CNS) -- The major archbishop of the Indian-based Syro-Malabar Catholic Church said he believes his church can teach the Synod of Bishops about parishes centered on families. Cardinal George Alencherry said Syro-Malabar parishes are divided into family groupings or units of no more than 40 people. Each group of families meets at least once a month for an evening spent studying essential questions of faith and speaking with each other about family challenges. Twice a year, all of the family groups come together for a larger catechetical event. "So there is a sharing," Cardinal Alencherry told The Catholic Register, Canadian Catholic weekly. "And then there is a sharing of all these family units together at least two times a year. That kind of uniting together of families is a great help in our church." The cardinal said he did not expect that Latin-rite parishes would begin to imitate the organization of Syro-Malabar parishes, but he said he believes Western Catholics could learn from the close bond between parishes and families in his rite. "I will say that the Syro-Malabar church can play a great role in this task of evangelizing by the universal church. It's a kind of sharing of one's own experience," the cardinal said. "There are many elements that the Syro-Malabar church can also take from the Latin church."

    Central African archbishop to continue peace mission, despite violence

    OXFORD, England (CNS) -- An archbishop in the Central African Republic has vowed to continue an interfaith peace mission, after new communal violence left at least 36 dead two months before a planned visit by the pope. Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui, president of the Central African Republic bishops' conference, said he would gather Catholics in parishes to pray for the success of a national agreement to end the violence. The archbishop said that, despite the violence, he was confident a Nov. 29-30 visit by Pope Francis would occur as planned. A tentative calm returned to the capital, Bangui, after five days of clashes between Muslim and Christian groups left more than 27,000 residents displaced, according to U.N. sources. The violence erupted Sept. 26 after a young Muslim was killed in a Christian neighborhood of Bangui, provoking gun battles. On Oct. 1, the archbishop told Catholic News Service he had not yet been able to visit Catholic parishes caught up in the violence, because of barricades erected by rival groups and a curfew by international peacekeeping troops. However, he added that he had visited local hospitals to "comfort the injured and pray with the bereaved" and would tour all affected communities with other members of the country's Interfaith Peace Platform.

    Street cop says crowds for pope prompted frustration, but excitement too

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Anyone who attended the pope's visit to Philadelphia Sept. 26-27 could not help but notice the massive security apparatus that was set up around the events. The U.S. Secret Service, FBI, Border Patrol, Transportation Security Agency and a cornucopia of other government entities, including the Pennsylvania National Guard, patrolled the streets and manned checkpoints. Right in the middle of everything were the officers of the Philadelphia Police Department, the organization usually responsible for keeping the streets safe on a day-to-day basis. What was the papal visit like for the average cop on the street? Officer Rollie Ramos knows. On Sept. 27, after the closing Mass that drew hundreds of thousands of people to Benjamin Franklin Parkway was over, the officer was directing traffic at Broad and South streets, the border of an area known by locals as "the box." After South Street, a section of the center city was closed to all vehicles in a squared-off area extending in all directions. A large stream of people came up to Ramos' corner in waves as they headed to tour buses or other areas beyond the barriers. "This is the most people I've seen in the last two days," he said, in between directing pedestrians to cross and dealing with vehicles making turns. Many of the city's cops put in a lot of extra hours before and during the pope's visit -- Ramos himself was in the middle of a long shift on the night of the Mass and had worked 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. shifts in the previous few days.

    Yearning is a grace that propels growth in faith, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Content and comfortable Christians tend to be joyless Christians because they stop remembering the goodness of God and yearning to be closer to him, Pope Francis said. "I ask myself, and it would be good for all of us to ask ourselves: 'Am I tranquil, content? Do I need nothing spiritually speaking? Is my yearning extinguished?'" he said, celebrating an early morning Mass Oct. 1, the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux -- one of his favorite saints. The day's first reading, from the Book of Nehemiah, recounts how the people of Israel gathered together to listen to the reading of "the book of the law of God" after returning from exile in Babylon. The people were weeping, but they also celebrated "with great joy." "The people not only found their city, the city where they were born, the city of God," the pope said. "This people heard the law, found their identity and for this reason they were joyful and wept." Often, the pope said, people lose a sense of their true identity on the journey that is their life. "It is lost in our many deportations or self-deportations, when we build a nest here or a nest there, but not in the house of the Lord."

    Silence and indifference to migrant crisis lead to complicity, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Indifference to the crises and tragedies today's migrants and refugees are facing leads to complicity when people remain silent or refuse to act, Pope Francis said. Jesus' call to welcome the stranger and show mercy is clear, the pope said in a message released at the Vatican Oct. 1. "Yet there continue to be debates about the conditions and limits to be set for the reception of migrants, not only on the level of national policies, but also in some parish communities, whose traditional tranquility seems to be threatened," he said. The pope made the comments in his message for the 2016 World Day for Migrants and Refugees, which will be celebrated Jan. 17 in most countries. In the United States, National Migration Week will be celebrated Jan. 4-9. Pope Francis chose "Migrants and Refugees Challenge Us. The Response of the Gospel of Mercy" as the theme for next year's commemoration. All migrants are "our brothers and sisters in search of a better life, far away from poverty, hunger, exploitation and the unjust distribution of the planet's resources, which are meant to be equitably shared by all," the pope said in his message.

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  • Parking policy forces unexpected closure of vendor exhibits at meeting

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- It was a parking policy that created a glitch during an otherwise smoothly run World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, forcing vendors to shut down their exhibits early. During late afternoon breakout sessions Sept. 24, most of the 320 vendors in the exhibit hall of the Pennsylvania Convention Center unexpectedly started to break down their tables and booths. World Meeting officials informed the unhappy vendors that even though they were under contract to display their wares until 1 p.m. (EDT) Sept. 25, the City of Philadelphia would begin closing parking garages in Friday morning ahead of Pope Francis' scheduled arrival in the city Sept. 26. The vendors were told they would need to vacate the "Marketplace" area consisting of two very large exhibit halls at the convention center by 10 a.m. Sept. 25. So vendors began packing up the evening before. Vendors and representatives of religious organizations including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and its various affiliates, the Knights of Columbus, Eternal Word Television Network, Catholic publishers, numerous religious orders, shrines, lay organizations and food outlets had paid up to $8,000, according to some vendors, to be present in the hall.

    Protesters at New York gas storage plant arrested while reading encyclical

    READING, N.Y. (CNS) -- Accompanied by oversized replica of Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si'," former Catholic seminarian Paul Flansburg took his place on the line with 18 others in a human blockade. Their goal Aug. 18 was to stop business as usual at a natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas storage facility operated by Houston-based Crestwood Midstream Partners along the southwest shore of Seneca Lake in New York's picturesque Finger Lakes region. And they did for 25 minutes. As the sun rose behind them over the hills to the east in a light early morning fog, participants in the civil disobedience action took turns reading from the pope's historic document. Flansburg was fourth. Within minutes two tanker trucks approached, their drivers intending to enter the facility. Seeing the people, their banners and the cardboard model of the encyclical, they kept going, turned around and parked alongside New York Route 14, several hundred feet from the gate. It was only a matter of time before deputies from the Schuyler County Sheriff's Department would arrive. Flansburg and the others, most wearing light blue T-shirts with "We Are Seneca Lake" printed in black on the front, soon were arrested, taken to nearby Watkins Glen to be cited for trespassing and released. It has been a ritual that has been going on every few weeks since October. Since June 30, the protesters have brought the words of Pope Francis to the site. A Catholic, Flansburg of Henrietta, New York, outside of Rochester, told Catholic News Service he decided it was time to take a stance on behalf of the environment after quietly supporting the blockades for months. Pope Francis' encyclical inspired his action, he said.

    Church in Congo criticizes West for failing to stop abuse of resources

    OXFORD, England (CNS) -- Congo's Catholic bishops criticized the failure of Western governments to stop the abuse of the continent's natural resources and urged church groups to follow the pope's call to mobilize. "It is our profound conviction that exploiting these resources can contribute to improving our population's conditions of life," the bishops' commission for natural resources said in a statement in late September. The commission said "awareness by the major polluting countries comes nowhere near to any concrete commitment, or to the efforts required in countries whose forests provide the lungs for conserving the world's bio-diversity." The statement, issued Sept. 25 in Kinshasa, said experts on mining, hydrocarbons, forestry and environmental protection had all stressed an urgent need to combat the "illegal, clandestine, irrational and irresponsible exploitation" of Congo region's resources. "The fact is that these resources are being exploited without responsibility, and that this now constitutes an increasingly serious menace to our common home, environment and planet," the commission said.

    The family is the answer to world's brokenness, blandness, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The family is the answer to the two extremes facing the world -- fragmentation and "homogenization," in which everything is forced to be the same, Pope Francis said. The family based on marriage between a man and a woman is the answer because "it is the cell of a society that balances the personal and communal," he said at his general audience Sept. 30 in St. Peter's Square. The family also can be "the model of a sustainable management of goods and the resources of creation" against today's culture of consumerism, he added. The pope dedicated his audience talk to reviewing his Sept. 19-27 trip to Cuba and the United States, where he visited Washington, New York, the United Nations and Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. He thanked Cuban President Raul Castro, U.S. President Barack Obama and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for their warm welcomes and extended his thanks to all the bishops and everyone who worked to make the trip possible. The pope made special mention of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia "for his commitment, piety, enthusiasm and his great love for the family," which were seen in his work organizing the main focus of the pope's trip -- the World Meeting of Families.

    Pope Francis makes unscheduled stop at St. Joseph's University

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop at Jesuit-run St. Joseph's University Sept. 27, greeting campus officials, students and religious leaders. The pope made the visit on his way en route from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, where he was staying, to downtown Philadelphia for the closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families. The campus is right along the road near the seminary, and the pope had passed it three times before this stop. He was greeted by hundreds of students, faculty, staff and alumni. During the afternoon stop, he blessed the newly dedicated statue on campus called "Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time." The bronze work by Philadelphia artist Joshua Koffman commemorates the 50th anniversary of "Nostra Aetate," the Second Vatican Council Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions. St. Joseph's, one of 28 Jesuit colleges and universities, was one of the first the first U.S. institutes of higher education to establish a center for Jewish-Catholic relations. It was founded in 1967. The oldest center in the world dedicated to Catholic-Jewish relations was established in 1953 at Catholic-run Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. "Since his election, the Holy Father has inspired us in so many ways," said St. Joseph's president, Mark Reed. "His ministry and leadership style have been a topic of discussion and an example in our classrooms. He has re-energized and strengthened our student body in their Catholic faith."

    Vatican astronomer: Discoveries on Mars may reveal God's personality

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A Vatican astronomer said the latest discovery of flowing liquid water on the surface of Mars was exciting. "You can see the traces of the rivers changing over the course of a Martian year. So we are not talking about water that was there a long time ago or water that is frozen under the surface, but actual liquid water on the surface," Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory, told Vatican Radio Sept. 29. NASA scientists confirmed Sept. 28 that liquid water flows, at least during the summer months, on the surface of Mars. The latest discovery adds to the debate of whether life ever existed, or could exist, beyond the planet Earth. Brother Consolmagno told Vatican Radio, "We have no idea whether life is so rare that it never occurs anywhere, or so common that it occurs everywhere, and that's why we have to look at places life could be to see just how rare or how common it actually is." Brother Consolmagno said discovering if there were or were not life found beyond Earth would reveal something about God's personality.

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  • Serra canonization should awaken mission spirit, says head of Extension

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- For Catholic Extension, the canonization of St. Junipero Serra Sept. 23 marked a renewal of the 110-year-old organization's help to the marginalized. "We have to awaken our mission spirit in the United States," said Father Jack Wall, president of Catholic Extension, in a phone interview with Catholic News Service. "You can't do that just by being in the sanctuary. The good news is meant to be shared joyously. And it's meant to be in the poorest places in the United States." This is especially true in California, where St. Junipero, a Spanish-born Franciscan friar, carried out his mission work in the 18th century. Six of the state's 12 dioceses are still considered mission dioceses "because of the high number of people who are economically poor," Father Wall said. They're part of the 94 out of 196 Catholic dioceses nationwide that are classified as mission dioceses. Since its founding in 1905, Chicago-based Catholic Extension has been supporting the work and ministries of these dioceses, "where the faith is thriving but the resources are scarce." Father Wall, a Chicago archdiocesan priest, said he attended the "quite stunning" outdoor Serra canonization Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Pope Francis celebrated the Mass from an altar constructed on the steps of the national shrine's east portico. Massgoers gathered on the lawn in front on the adjacent campus of The Catholic University of America.

    European Catholic groups pledge to back Sustainable Development Goals

    BRUSSELS (CNS) -- More than 30 European Catholic justice and peace commissions have pledged their support of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and said they were grateful Pope Francis called the goals an "important sign of hope." The group said the pope's Sept. 25 address to the U.N. General Assembly was akin to a "Catholic pledge" to reduce world poverty, hunger and disease and said they would encourage European member organizations to do all they can to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. With 17 goals and 169 targets, there can be a lack of priorities, the group said in a Sept. 27 statement, which said the commissions would focus, as the pope stressed, on issues surrounding the right to life and "the right to existence of human nature." Funding, they said, is the most critical issue for reaching these goals by the 2030 deadline. They also said the task of implementing these goals will be "complex and complicated" on both the national and international level and will also require reorganization within the United Nations. To successfully meet these goals will require "sustained efforts to communicate their contents and conception and active engagement of religious and civil society groups," the commissions said.

    Virginia infant, clad in a tilma, gets kiss, blessing from Pope Francis

    ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- For the three nights leading up to the pope's arrival in Washington, Iris Chavez, 25, worked on a tilma for her 5-month-old son, Loukas, to wear to see the pope along Constitution Avenue. She used an apron, stamped the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe on it and attached brightly colored flowers. "Ever since we heard the pope was coming, we said we had to go," said the parishioner of All Saints Church in Manassas. Iris, her husband, Rigoberto, 28, daughter Emily, 2, and Loukas, spent the night before at her father-in-law's home in Washington. At 4 a.m. (EDT) Sept. 23, when the security gates opened, the four were there to claim their spot on the White House side of Constitution Avenue across from the Washington Monument. "We'd been praying for the pope and for the trip and we had to take the kids," said Iris. "We thought, who knows, the pope loves babies." Loukas was sound asleep when the pope was leaving the White House to begin his popemobile procession down Constitution Avenue. She tried to wake him up so he could see the pope, but it wasn't until the motorcycles in the motorcade came past that he woke up suddenly. She was afraid he'd start crying, but he was fine, just looking around and smiling. She held him up high so he could see. "The popemobile stopped right in front of us. I'm not sure if it was Secret Service or Vatican (security), but a man rushed over to us." Iris said she wondered what was going on. One of her church friends in the front grabbed Loukas, and before she realized what was happening, her baby boy was heading to see the pope in his new tilma, pacifier in place. The pope blessed him and kissed him on the head, and then handed him back.

    Pope has been invited to Canada, but Vatican says nothing confirmed

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Now that Pope Francis' trip to the United States has ended, many wonder when he will visit Canada, as he has been invited to visit Montreal in 2017. Asked about this possibility, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said there is no plan to visit Canada at the moment. "I understand your desire to see the pope in your city (Montreal), and you have the right to hope," a smiling Father Lombardi said in French during a news conference in Philadelphia Sept. 27. He immediately added that he is not aware of any "concrete plan for a trip to Canada." Earlier this year, Pope Francis was invited to visit Montreal in 2017 by Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, Montreal Archbishop Christian Lepine and Quebec Prime Minister Philippe Couillard. The biggest French Canadian city will celebrate the 375th anniversary of its foundation in 2017. Father Lombardi reminded that, for now, only two papal trips are confirmed: Africa in November, and Poland in July for World Youth Day. He said other papal trips are just "suppositions."

    Sistine Chapel becomes recording studio for papal choir's newest CD

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- One of the oldest choirs in the world recorded a CD of their repertoire of sacred music surrounded by the famed frescoes of Michelangelo, Perugino, Pinturicchio and Botticelli. Marking the first professional studio recording to take place in the Sistine Chapel, the pope's Sistine Chapel Choir features on a new CD titled, "Cantate Domino." Produced by Deutsche Grammophon and Universal Music Italia, the new 16-track CD was released Sept. 25 with the proceeds earmarked for the poor through the pope's charitable efforts. The Sistine Chapel Choir, made up of 20 men and 30 boys, sings music that had been written specifically for papal celebrations in the Sistine Chapel and for the papal choir during the Renaissance. The pieces include Gregorian chant and works by Renaissance masters Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Tomas Luis de Victoria, Orlande de Lassus and Felice Anerio. It also features a world premiere recording of Gregorio Allegri's original composition of "Miserere" -- found archived in a codex from 1661 in the Vatican Library. Msgr. Massimo Palombella -- director of the Sistine Chapel Choir -- said in a press release Sept. 28: "It is my hope that these masterworks will touch millions of listeners worldwide, and connect them to the historical culture and deep spirituality of the Catholic Church."

    Theme for 2016 communications day to focus on mercy, dialogue

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- For World Communications Day 2016, Pope Francis has chosen the theme "Communication and Mercy: A fruitful encounter." As the church celebrates the extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy, which begins Dec. 8, the pope also wanted to invite deeper reflection on the link between communication and mercy, said a statement from the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. The Vatican announced the theme Sept. 29. "The theme highlights the capacity of good communication to open up a space for dialogue, mutual understanding and reconciliation, thereby allowing fruitful human encounters to flourish," the statement said. "At a time when our attention is often drawn to the polarized and judgmental nature of much commentary on social networks, the theme invokes the power of words and gestures to overcome misunderstandings, to heal memories and to build peace and harmony," it said. The pope is reminding people, it said, that "good communication is never merely the product of the latest or most developed technology, but is realized within the context of a deep interpersonal relationship" and people's desire to be more welcoming and forgiving.

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  • Grotto highlights needs of poor, image of Mary as 'Undoer of Knots'

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- In front of Philadelphia's Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul stands a visible representation of Pope Francis' favorite religious image: "Mary, Undoer of Knots." The "Knotted Grotto" is a dome-shaped lattice-work frame that stands about 10 feet high with an approximately 20-foot circumference and features tens of thousands of white ribbons knotted into a lattice structure. In an unplanned gesture before the papal Mass Sept. 27 on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the pope stopped his motorcade to visit the grotto devotion, which by then had 100,000 ribbons tied to it. When the World Meeting of Families opened Sept. 22, more then 10,000 ribbons were being added daily. Each ribbon represents a prayer intention, which visitors may read and offer in their prayers, as well as add a new ribbon. Above all the ribbons hangs a large portrait of Mary, the Mother of God, as one who unties the knots of people's lives. Project HOME, the Philadelphia organization serving homeless people in the city, has been collecting the pieces of cloth throughout the Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey, regions. Over the past several months, the group canvassed prisons, soup kitchens and workshops, collecting petitions that reflect poignant prayers for topics ranging from personal issues to social justice to health concerns.

    Statue of St. Junipero Serra defaced at California's Carmel Mission

    CARMEL, Calif. (CNS) -- Days after St. Junipero Serra was canonized by Pope Francis in Washington, a statue of the 18th-century Franciscan missionary and other property at the Carmel Mission where the saint is buried, were defaced. The vandalism occurred Sept. 26, three days after the canonization ceremony. Vandals damaged statues, gravesites and signs and poured green and white paint on doors, Carmel Police Sgt. Luke Powell told the Salinas Californian daily newspaper. "Saint of Genocide" was written on a headstone, green paint was splashed on a toppled Serra statue and headstones were splattered with dark red paint. A police report noted that the paint splattered on gravesites was on graves of Europeans, not Native Americans. The vandalism occurred the night before a Mass was celebrated at the Carmel Mission honoring the saint. Volunteers cleaned up most of the destruction before the Mass began. Some people had objected to the canonization of the Spanish missionary, who founded nine California missions, because of questions about how he treated the native peoples of California and about the impact of Spanish colonization on native peoples throughout the Americas.

    Connecticut composer's song performed at closing Mass in Philadelphia

    BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (CNS) -- A song by composer Julian Revie, who has "been performing pretty much weekly" as a church organist since he was 11, was performed at the closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families Sept. 27 in Philadelphia. Revie, the composer in residence at the Center for Music and Liturgy of St. Thomas More Chapel at Yale University, composed the piece "The Love of God" as a meditation on Christ's ultimate sacrifice. The song was sung by a choir of more than 300 adults and a children's choir and was accompanied by the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin. The selection is part of the Mass of the Divine Shepherd, which Revie composed, and is the first major setting of the Mass in the revised English translation. It premiered at Carnegie Hall in June in front of a nearly sold-out crowd. In attendance was Bridgeport Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, called the concert a "graced moment" for the audience. "The music was magnificent" and people "were clearly moved on many levels," he told the Fairfield County Catholic, Bridgeport's diocesan newspaper. Revie, who lives in Monroe and is part of the Catholic community at the St. Thomas More Chapel at Yale, said that performance alone "would have been a once in a lifetime experience." And then his song was picked to be performed at the papal Mass on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which drew as close to 1 million people, according to some estimates.

    Argentine family on 13,000-mile road trip to Philadelphia to see pope

    RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Walker family filed through the side entrance of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Raleigh. A bag on her shoulder and a 3-year-old on her hip, mom Noel Zemborain smiled. A pack at his waist, dad Catire Walker held the door as their three older children passed by. At least 50 adults from Father Chesco Garcia's Bible study were awaiting the arrival. They clapped and cheered at the announcement; some of their children twirled in the aisle. It isn't every day one meets travelers who've logged 13,000 miles in a 1980 Volkswagen Kombi bus. The Walker family departed Buenos Aires, Argentina, in March. Their goal was to reach Pope Francis and the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, which opened Sept. 22 and officially ended with a Mass celebrated by the pope Sept. 27 on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Earlier that day the whole family got their wish -- they were granted an audience with the pope. CBS News reported there were laughs and hugs all around, and the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, said meeting the family touched the pope "very, very much."

    Expert: Healing possible for victims, perpetrators of domestic violence

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Help and healing is possible for Catholic families suffering with violence in the home, said psychologist Christauria Welland. A presenter at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, Welland's session "When the Wound Comes From Within: Domestic Violence in Catholic Families" was the only session on violence within the home. In an interview with Catholic News Service Sept. 24, Welland said no firm statistics exist on domestic violence in Catholic families. However, about 30 percent of women worldwide have been victims of sexual or physical violence at least once in their life, she said. Based on this percentage, she extrapolated that as many as 135 million Catholic women today are abuse victims. A professor and author, Welland began her work in the field of domestic violence 45 years ago, some time before it came to the fore as a social issue in the 1980s. She has worked extensively in Catholic communities, first with victims of domestic abuse for 25 years and then, for the past two decades, with abusive men. "When you work with the abuser, you actually have an opportunity to help that person to change and as a result for the family to become a much happier place and a holier place, if you're working with couples, who really want to live the sacrament in their daily lives with their families," she said.

    China's media focus on Xi, black out papal visit to U.S.

    HONG KONG (CNS) -- Competing with Pope Francis was never going to be easy. So China's state media gave their leader a helping hand over the past week, all but ignoring the pope as President Xi Jinping made his own tour of the United States, reported By the time the pontiff flew out of Philadelphia late Sept. 27, China's national broadcaster CCTV had made no mention of his trip, reported. "My impression is that coverage of the pope's visit to the U.S. was minimal in mainland China, if at all," said Yuen-ying Chan, a director of the China Media Project at the University of Hong Kong, which monitors media coverage in China. Xi was featured at the top of news bulletins in China since he landed in Seattle Sept. 22, the same day the pope touched down in Washington. By contrast, U.S. media coverage of the pope outstripped that of Xi. Pope Francis was mentioned 25 times more than China's president on television and four times more in U.S. press in the month leading up to Sept. 25, according to news tracking firm MediaMiser. said in China, where the state controls news media and issues censorship orders to private newspapers, the situation was reversed.

    Attendees of World Meeting of Families help break Guinness world record

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- As confetti rained down and cheers filled the air on the final day of the World Meeting of Families Sept. 25, a family from Argentina applied brushstrokes to a mural depicting Pope Francis -- pushing the number of contributors to the paint-by-numbers mural past 2,263 and into the Guinness Book of World Records. Catire Walker and Noel Zemborain and their four children had traveled 13,000 miles through 13 countries to attend the World Meeting of Families, joined hundreds of people at the gathering in helping to paint the mural that will eventually be permanently displayed at the future home of St. Malachy School in Philadelphia. Carlos Martinez, director of records for Guinness World Records, certified the accomplishment. Cesar Viveros, the Philadelphia muralist who designed the artwork, told the Catholic Review, newspaper of the Baltimore Archdiocese, that he was overwhelmed and surprised to see so many people contribute. "Since this is the city of murals, it made total sense to make a mural as a monument for this special moment in history marking the pope's visit," he said. "It's very rewarding to know that people really care about building things together."

    By train, cramped bus, roundabout routes, pilgrims make it to parkway

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Among the pilgrims gathered for Pope Francis' Mass on Benjamin Franklin Parkway Sept. 27 was Nga Bich Tham, who was wearing a traditional hat of her native Vietnam. The hat bore the words, "I came here for Jesus and Pope Francis." "I designed it myself," she said. Tham, 56, fled Vietnam in 1975. She made her way to Boston and made a living as a chemical engineer taking time to raise her newborn son. After seven years, she went back to school to get her master's degree in education and taught at Catholics schools in the Boston Archdiocese. She told Catholic News Service that when she got to age 50, she was going to quit working and "devote most of my time at church, doing charity work, giving out Communion to the sick." She works part time now translating educational documents for autistic children. "I'm happier that way," she said. Tham worships at a Vietnamese community at St. Patrick Parish in Lowell, Massachusetts. Vietnamese Catholics from Lowell as well as Manchester, New Hampshire, and Toronto -- 150 in all -- left at 1 a.m. (EDT) Sept. 26 to be part of a 5,000 strong Vietnamese Catholic contingent in Philadelphia.

    Dublin to host next World Meeting of Families -- in 2018

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Irish pilgrims in Philadelphia shared their excitement after Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, announced the 2018 World Meeting of Families would be held in Dublin. Irish pilgrim Mary Fitzgibbon's reaction was raw when she spoke with Catholic News Service. She had traveled to Philadelphia with her husband, Michael, and five children, ages 2-14, but had missed Archbishop Paglia's announcement Sept. 27. She heard it first from CNS. "I'm shaking," she said, explaining she had written a letter of appeal to the papal nuncio to Ireland, asking if the next World Meeting of Families could be held in Ireland "because we need it." "The faith is still deep there and has taken such a beating," she said. She described present-day Ireland as being in "a very difficult place, where there's been a push for a secular agenda" and "strong anti-church sentiment, particularly driven by the media. Marriages are in a bad way. Many people have lost the sense of what marriage is," said Fitzgibbon, who lives in Tralee, County Kerry.

    With adoption, family grows in compassion, not just in number, says mom

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Best friends, the Lopez and Santamaria families traveled together to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. And like best friends, they also share lots in common. They are both Cuban-American. They both attend St. Timothy's Parish in Miami. They both have large families by today's standards, five and four children respectively. And they're both adoptive parents, offering a witness of family, different from the thousands of other families present at the international gathering. Their journeys toward adoption, however, somewhat differed. Angelique and Richard Lopez experienced a period of infertility when they were first married 12 years ago, and they believed God was calling them to consider adoption. They filled out the application forms and, about one year later, they welcomed their eldest son, Emmanuel, from Vietnam. Nowadays, Emmanuel, 9, is big brother to four siblings, who Angelique and Richard conceived naturally: Sebastian, 8, twins Madeleine and Anabelle, 6, and Nicholas, 2.

    After monthlong strike, Christian schools open in Israel

    JERUSALEM (CNS) -- Christian schools opened in Israel Sept. 28 after an almost monthlong strike demanding equality in budgeting. School officials and the Ministry of Education reached an agreement just before the Jewish Sukkot holiday. "We see this as a wonderful achievement as we ... not only got a one-time sum but (also) a committee (dealing) with the change of the legal status of the schools will be established, and that will bring a long-term solution," the Secretariat of Christian Schools in Israel said in a statement released Sept. 27. According to the agreement, the Israeli Treasury will allocate a one-time sum of $12.7 million to the Christian schools in the current school year. Christian school teachers also will be included in the different professional development programs of the Ministry of Education -- they had been excluded -- and students will be included in the additional strengthening hours provided by the Ministry of Education for different subjects. The Ministry of Education will continue to pay the monthly payments for the Christian schools as usual -- thereby allowing the schools to reduce tuition by 25 percent for their primary students -- and the schools will compensate the students for the days lost during the strike. There are 47 Christian schools in Israel with a total of 33,000 students.

    Pope asks youth to perform works of mercy in run-up to WYD

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis asked the world's young Catholics to perform spiritual and corporal works of mercy every month in the run-up to World Youth Day next July. He asked that they not be afraid to experience God's "boundless mercy, so that in turn you may become apostles of mercy by your actions, words and prayers in our world, wounded by selfishness, hatred and so much despair." The pope's request was part of his message for World Youth Day 2016 -- an international gathering that will be celebrated in Krakow, Poland, July 26-31. The celebration's theme, from the Gospel of St. Matthew, is "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy." Jesus and his beatitudes show how it is better to give than to receive and how "we will be truly blessed and happy only when we enter into the divine 'logic' of gift and gracious love," he said in the message, released Sept. 28 at the Vatican. When people discover that "God has loved us infinitely in order to make us capable of loving like him, without measure," then they themselves can become instruments of God's mercy, bringing hope and healing to those in need.

    Pope urges U.S. Catholics to keep enthusiasm, welcome newcomers

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Pope Francis ended his trip to the United States with a call for Catholics to keep the enthusiasm of the visit, while continuing to welcome newcomers and care for creation. "Do not let your enthusiasm for Jesus, his church, our families, and the broader family of society run dry," Pope Francis said at Philadelphia International Airport, prior to flying back to Rome. "I pray that our days of prayer and reflection on the importance of the family for a healthy society will inspire families to continue to strive for holiness and to see the church as their constant companion, whatever the challenges they may face." In just over five full days in the U.S., Pope Francis reaffirmed the importance of church and family life, pleaded for inclusive attitudes toward immigrants, reiterated the right of religious freedom and called for action on climate change and care for creation. The trip reaffirmed the pope's enormous popularity with Catholics and non-Catholics alike as large crowds convened -- even with tight security -- while media coverage was comprehensive. Pope Francis, who met again with Vice President Joe Biden just prior to leaving Sept. 27, acknowledged the warmth of the welcome in his final remarks. "Your care for me and your generous welcome are a sign of your love for Jesus and your faithfulness to him. So, too, is your care for the poor, the sick, the homeless and the immigrant, your defense of life at every stage, and your concern for family life," Pope Francis said. "In all of this, you recognize that Jesus is in your midst and that your care for one another is care for Jesus himself."

    Pope says he left U.S. praying for, impressed by its people

    ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- As the American Airlines plane taking him to Rome from Philadelphia took off, Pope Francis said he pictured the faces of all the people he met, and he prayed for them. At the end of his first-ever visit to the United States, the pope told reporters he "was surprised by the warmth of the people" and how they were "so loving. It was beautiful." Spending close to 50 minutes with members of the media flying back to Rome with him Sept. 27, the pope said he also was struck by the sincere piety of people at his Masses and prayer services. Shortly after takeoff, Pope Francis responded to a dozen questions, including why he spoke with such compassion to U.S. bishops in Washington about what they went through in the aftermath of the clerical sex abuse crisis. "I felt a need to express compassion because what happened was horrible, and many of them suffered a lot," the pope said. For "men of prayer, good pastors" the crisis was truly a "tribulation." Sexual abuse occurs in families, schools and other environments, he said, but when the abuser is a priest it is "a kind of sacrilege," because a priest's job is to help a person grow in love of God and, instead, an abusive priest "squashes" his victims.

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  • Serve, care for each other, pope tells families at closing Mass

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Pope Francis urged the hundreds of thousands of people gathered for the closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families to serve and care for each other as freely as God loves the human family. The pope called upon the faithful to embrace signs that the Holy Spirit can work through everyone. He referred to the readings in the multilingual Mass -- from the Book of Numbers and the Gospel of Mark -- in which members of the faith community questioned the work of those not part of their group and for prophesying in the name of God. "To raise doubts about the working of the Spirit, to give the impression that it cannot take place in those who are not 'part of our group,' who are not 'like us,' is a dangerous temptation," the pope said. "Not only does it block conversion to the faith; it is a perversion of faith. Faith opens a window to the presence and working of the Spirit. It shows us that, like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures." Illustrating his point before the Mass, Pope Francis engaged in "little gestures" himself along the papal parade route to the Mass, kissing and blessing many babies brought to him from the sidewalk throngs by Secret Service agents, who themselves managed to cracked smiles after days of maintaining a stern demeanor as they guarded the pontiff. Pope Francis recalled that Jesus encountered "hostility from people who did not accept what he said and did," saying they thought it intolerable that Christ was open to honest and sincere faith from men and women who were not part of God's chosen people.

    Texas nun from migrant center gets special time with Pope Francis

    CHEVY CHASE, Md. (CNS) -- It was only Sister Norma Pimentel on the receiving end of a papal hug Sept. 26 at the New York home of Archbishop Bernardito Auza. But as she told Pope Francis, she was accepting the hug as a representative of women religious everywhere, immigrants and the volunteers they work with back home in Texas. Sister Norma, a Missionary of Jesus from McAllen, Texas, has in the past few months found herself in unusually high-profile roles -- addressing a forum at the United Nations, and participating with local people in a video conference with Pope Francis. In that, she was singled out by the pope to step forward for a personal conversation that later became part of an ABC News program. But the invitation from Archbishop Auza, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations and overnight host of Pope Francis Sept. 24 and 25, to come to his house on the day that the pope left New York for Philadelphia was the icing on the cake. The archbishop had invited her to Our Lady Queen of Angels School in Harlem, for a chance to greet the pope. She was there, but she said it didn't work out for her to meet Pope Francis. "That visit was about the children in the school," she said. "It didn't seem right." But Archbishop Auza had an alternative idea. "Come to my house at 6 o'clock tomorrow morning," he told her. 'You can give him your painting yourself."

    Memory and motion: Pope Francis shows Americans who he really is

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Pope Francis speaks often about memory and motion, the importance of remembering where you came from and setting off without fear to share the Gospel. That's what he did in the United States. He circled the Statue of Liberty in a helicopter and flew over Ellis Island not preparing to condemn the world's great superpower, but to reflect on its history and promise as a land that welcomes people, makes them part of the family and allows them to thrive. Over the course of six days in the United States, Pope Francis let the U.S. public see who he really is with touching blessings, strong speeches, prayerful liturgies and an unplugged proclamation of the beauty of family life, even when it includes flying saucers. With constant television coverage and a saturated social media presence, Pope Francis was no longer just the subject of screaming headlines about the evils of unbridled capitalism and a "who-am-I-to judge" attitude toward behaviors the Catholic Church describes as sinful. Instead, he repeatedly admitted his own failures and reminded people they, too, have fallen short. He urged them to trust in God's mercy and get a move on proclaiming that to the world -- first with gestures and maybe with words.

    Testimonies of keeping the faith during trying times bring many to tears

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Marita Thomas was among those in the crowd at the Festival of Families Sept. 26 who were moved to tears as they listened to families selected to come onstage to tell Pope Francis how they coped with hardship by clinging to God. The testimonials by six families from various countries were interspersed with the evening's music. They told stories told of keeping the faith while enduring trials such as poverty, persecution, disabilities and political upheaval. "This breaks my heart and now I see the need to help others here and overseas," said Thomas, who lives in Philadelphia's center city, in an interview with, the news website of the Philadelphia Archdiocese. One woman brought her two grown sons to the stage, one of whom plans to study for the priesthood and the other a 17-year-old who has cerebral palsy. The Ukrainian-born woman was a single mother who brought her children to the United States and struggled for years after her husband abandoned the family. She clung to her faith for guidance and even now rejoices in that her afflicted son, who is in a wheelchair, refuses to be limited by his handicap, keeping up with his studies with an eye toward going to college. "I am happy to have my two sons in my life. Holy Father, thank you so much for being with us today," she said.

    Michigan Dominican sisters create jobs for people others refuse to hire

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two job-creating Dominican sisters from Michigan who are living out Pope Francis' call to help the impoverished find work fulfilled a dream Sept. 24 in Washington. As invited guests outside the Capitol on the West Lawn, Sisters Carol Weber and Judy Blake watched on a Jumbotron as inside the pope addressed Congress -- and heard him cite the example of American Catholic Dorothy Day for championing the interests of the poor. Later, at an evening prayer service at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, Pope Francis gave particular thanks to the nation's women religious, whom he described as women of strength and fighters and said their "spirit of courage" puts them "in the front lines in the proclamation of the Gospel." Sisters Carol and Judy are indeed on the front lines, successfully providing job opportunities for people on society's margins, those who employers typically avoid because they have battled addictions or been incarcerated. To address a chronic unemployment problem in Flint, Michigan, the nuns are the founders and leaders of the St. Luke NEW Life Center, which provides life skills, education and workplace training in a city that the latest U.S. Census Bureau data found is one of the poorest in the nation.

    Connecticut couple design, fit vestments for pope for his first U.S. Mass

    SOUTHINGTON, Conn. (CNS) -- Brian and Lisa Baker of Southington will never forget that they designed and fitted the vestments Pope Francis wore during the first Mass he celebrated on U.S. soil. In fact, Baker Liturgical Art supplied 200 chasubles, or outermost vestments, worn by cardinals and bishops, 300 miters and the chalice and ciboria used during the Sept. 23 canonization Mass for St. Junipero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Brian Baker, the company's founder and president, said he had the items designed and manufactured in Europe. The chasubles for the Sept. 23 Mass were of white silk and featured the Baltimore cross, a symbol of the Archdiocese of Washington. His company did a similar design in 2008 for Pope Benedict XVI when they supplied the vestments for the 2008 Mass in Yankee Stadium. After the Serra Mass, Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl gave the vestments to the cardinals and the miters to the cardinals and bishops, including Hartford Archbishop Leonard P. Blair, retired Archbishop Henry J. Mansell and retired Auxiliary Bishop Peter A. Rosazza.

    Pope meets with clergy abuse victims, says crimes can't be secret

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Pope Francis met with a group of survivors of sexual abuse Sept. 27 and later told bishops that he was overwhelmed by a sense of embarrassment and was committed to holding accountable those who harmed children. In a meeting with cardinals, bishops, priests and seminarians at St. Charles Borromeo, the pope prefaced his address on the importance of the family by saying that he had met with the group as arranged by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput. The Vatican said the 30-minute meeting, with three women and two men abused by members of the clergy or their families or their teachers, was held at the seminary shortly before the pope addressed the bishops. "It is engraved in my heart, the stories, suffering and pain of the children abused by priests," the pope said. "I continue to feel an overwhelming sense of embarrassment because of those who had in their care the little ones and caused them great harm. "I am deeply sorry. God cries," he said. He said that "the crimes and sin of sexual abuse of children can no longer remain secret" and that he "committed the close vigilance of the church to protect the children, and I promise that all responsible will be held accountable."

    Religious freedom a running theme through papal remarks, says archbishop

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- The theme of religious freedom ran through Pope Francis' remarks at several stops during his historic trip to the United States, not just at Independence Mall in Philadelphia, said Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori. "It's interesting how many times the Holy Father spoke about religious freedom," the archbishop said, noting he first spoke of it at the White House, then in his address to a joint meeting of Congress and finally in Philadelphia in front of Independence Hall, the iconic symbol of the nation's principles of freedom. "He spoke about religious freedom as integral to a transcendent human dignity ... as a fundamental good in society," Archbishop Lori told Catholic News Service in a phone interview Sept. 26 as the Festival of Families that evening was getting underway. "He spoke of it as a universal right that belongs to all people. He also framed it as an immense good." The archbishop made the comments as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. "Religious freedom enables individuals in church and community to (work) for the common good of society," the prelate continued, "and he spoke about obligation of government to protect and foster religious liberty as a God-given right. Especially important is the way he linked it to not only worship but also to service to the poor, the needy and the vulnerable."

    Visiting prison, pope says all people need forgiveness, cleansing

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- While pilgrims in Philadelphia put up with a long weekend of lines and security checks at the papal venues, the pope reached out to a group of people whose lives are lines and security checks for years at a time. Pope Francis spent about an hour at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. He entered the gymnasium from behind a blue curtain, walking up on to the small stage and carefully inspecting the large chair the inmates had made for him. He turned, with a big smile across his face, and gave the inmates a sincere Pope Francis thumbs up. As the U.S. debates the need for penal reform, Pope Francis said prisons must focus on rehabilitation, and he insisted that no one is perfect and without need of forgiveness. While his speech was addressed primarily to the inmates, a small group of their family members, prison officials, state legislators and city officials, including Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, also attended. About 20 minutes before the pope arrived -- ahead of schedule -- Nutter greeted each of the inmates, who were wearing dark slacks and light blue scrubs, as they were led into the gym. Michele Farrell, prison warden, later told Catholic News Service that the pope "threw us a curveball by showing up early."

    'A great blessing' flowing all over city because of pope, says pilgrim

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two members of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico said they were delighted to see St. Kateri Tekakwitha's name etched onto a wall of John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls' High School in Philadelphia just outside a security checkpoint at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway Sept. 27. Joann Crosby, 63, of Gallup and Valentina Benallie, 57, of Tohatchi talked to Catholic News Service as they waited to pass through security and await Pope Francis' celebration of the Mass to officially close the World Meeting of Families. Members of the Tekakwitha Conference, Crosby and Benallie were part of a 40-member group making a pilgrimage in conjunction with the papal visit. "We're following him," Benallie said. "We're little bread crumbs." They visited the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington and St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, but were in both places one day after Pope Francis had visited there. In Washington, the pope celebrated the canonization Mass for St. Junipero Serra Sept. 23 and in New York he led a vespers service Sept. 24.

    Pope's message on immigrants shows all how to 'love more, love better'

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller believes Pope Francis' call for the church to serve immigrants and people on the move around the world will inspire the church to respond with love and care for people seeking a new home. Waiting for the pope to arrive at Independence Mall for an afternoon address on immigration Sept. 26, Archbishop Garcia-Siller said it will take people working one-on-one with immigrants to help meet the needs of newcomers. "He is all about going to the peripheries, helping people to mobilize so they can experience what everyone has experienced: happiness, peace and having their needs met," Archbishop Garcia-Siller told Catholic News Service. "The immigrants, yes, want papers, but above all they want to know that somebody cares for them," he said. "He is showing us we can love more and love better." People throughout the audience on the grassy area in front of Independence Hall expressed hope that the pope will inspire more people, especially policymakers, to react with compassion to the needs of immigrants. They also said they have been inspired by Pope Francis' concern for immigrants and that his emphasis on mercy and forgiveness has brought people back to the Catholic Church.

    Pope delights Philly crowd with spontaneous talk on families

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Pope Francis threw away a prepared text and, to the delight of tens of thousands of people on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, spoke from the heart about the challenges and love that come with being part of a family. After listening to testimony from six families from various continents Sept. 26, he thanked them for sharing their stories. "A witness given in order to serve is thoroughly good, it makes us good persons, because God is goodness," he began, continuing to increase in speed and emphasis to the delight of the crowd. He smiled, gestured with his hands and the crowd cheered as he said it was "worth being a family." God sent his son into a family, he said, "and he could do this because it was a family that had a truly open heart," he said. The pope spoke in Spanish, the language in which he is most comfortable; his talk was translated by Msgr. Mark Miles. "We are celebrating the feast of the family," he told the crowd. "Families have a citizenship that is divine. The identity card that they have is given to them by God so that within the heart of the family truth, goodness and beauty can truly grow. Some of you might say of course, Father, you speak like that because you're not married," he said. "Families have difficulties. Families -- we quarrel, sometimes plates can fly, and children bring headaches. I won't speak about mother-in-laws," he quipped. "However, in families, there is always light" because of the love of God's son.

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    Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

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