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  • DiNardo: Action on McCarrick 'clear signal' church will not tolerate abuse

    IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller


    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Vatican's removal from the priesthood of Theodore E. McCarrick "is a clear signal that abuse will not be tolerated," said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Feb. 16.

    "No bishop, no matter how influential, is above the law of the church," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston. "For all those McCarrick abused, I pray this judgment will be one small step, among many, toward healing."

    "For us bishops, it strengthens our resolve to hold ourselves accountable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ," the cardinal said. "I am grateful to Pope Francis for the determined way he has led the church's response."

    Cardinal DiNardo's statement followed the Vatican's early morning announcement that Pope Francis has confirmed the removal from the priesthood of McCarrick, the 88-year-old former cardinal and archbishop of Washington.

    The Vatican said he was found guilty of "solicitation in the sacrament of confession and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power."

    A panel of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith found him guilty Jan. 11, the Vatican said. McCarrick appealed the decision, but the appeal was rejected Feb. 13 by the congregation itself. McCarrick was informed of the decision Feb. 15 and Pope Francis "recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in accord with law," making a further appeal impossible.

    By ordering McCarrick's "dismissal from the clerical state," the decision means that McCarrick loses all rights and duties associated with being a priest, cannot present himself as a priest and is forbidden to celebrate the sacraments, except to grant absolution for sins to a person in imminent danger of death.

    The Vatican decision comes after months of mounting accusations that he abused children and seminarians decades ago. The accusations surrounding the former cardinal have prompted many to ask USCCB leaders and the heads of the archdioceses and dioceses he has served how he could have risen up the ranks of the church to become a cardinal.

    Ordained a priest of the New York Archdiocese, he was the founding bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, then served as archbishop of Newark, New Jersey. His last assignment was as archbishop of Washington. During his tenure there, he was named a cardinal.

    McCarrick's punishment is the toughest meted out to a cardinal by the Vatican in modern times.

    Last July, Pope Francis accepted his resignation from the College of Cardinals, after U.S. newspapers reported detailed accounts that he exposed himself and sexually molested two boys in his early years as a priest -- accusations that spanned almost five decades and were too old to legally prosecute.

    In a June 20 statement, he said he had "absolutely no recollection" of the abuse "and (I) believe in my innocence" but said he was stepping down out of obedience. In December he went to live at a friary in Kansas to await the outcome of the Vatican's decision on his status.

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    Cindy Wooden and Rhina Guidos contributed to this story.


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CNS News Briefs

Brief versions on news stories from Catholic News Service. Catholic News Service provides news from the U.S., Rome and around the world in both English and Spanish, in written coverage, images and video reporting.
  • Update: In the U.S., a sobering mood after news of McCarrick's laicization

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The accusations surrounding former U.S. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick have been hanging over U.S. bishops and faith communities in the dioceses and archdioceses where he served -- New York, Metuchen and Newark in New Jersey, and Washington -- since last year. Even though the Vatican stripping McCarrick of his clerical status Feb. 16 was expected, the news cast a somber mood over those faith communities already grappling with what had happened while he was among them in the past and whether the Vatican's decision can help the church in the U.S. move forward. In announcing its decision, the Vatican said McCarrick was found guilty of "solicitation in the sacrament of confession and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power." "It is profoundly disheartening and disturbing to know that a church leader, who served and led our Archdiocese of Newark for 14 years, acted in a way that is contrary to the Christian way of life as well as his vocation as a priest of Jesus Christ," said Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark in a statement following the announcement. The Washington Archdiocese said: "Our hope and prayer is that this decision serves to help the healing process for survivors of abuse, as well as those who have experienced disappointment or disillusionment because of what former Archbishop McCarrick has done." The University of Notre Dame almost immediately announced it was rescinding the honorary degree it conferred on McCarrick in 2008, which the school had said it would do once the Vatican made its decision on his status.

    Mid-Atlantic Congress offers attendees ongoing formation, fellowship

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Spending the weekend in Baltimore was just what Elizabeth Butler needed to reinvigorate adult catechesis at her Washington parish. Butler, a parishioner of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian on Capitol Hill, called the Mid-Atlantic Congress "a good kick in the pants." She's also administrator of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program at her parish. Nearly a decade old, the congress allows leaders in Catholic ministry a regional opportunity for formation and fellowship. Co-sponsored by the Association of Catholic Publishers and the Archdiocese of Baltimore's Department of Evangelization, this year's congress was Feb. 14-16. This year's congress had more than 1,300 registrants and included a track for Hispanic ministry. In addition to Deacon Oney, featured speakers included Sister Miriam Heidland, a member of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, who is a former college athlete and can be heard on her "Abiding Together" podcast, and Father Mike Schmitz, director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota. Topics ranged from "Building Intercultural Competence for Ministry," the disaffiliation of young Catholics from the church and working on a pastoral team to sacramental preparation and prison ministry.

    DiNardo: Action on McCarrick 'clear signal' church will not tolerate abuse

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Vatican's removal from the priesthood of Theodore E. McCarrick "is a clear signal that abuse will not be tolerated," said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Feb. 16. "No bishop, no matter how influential, is above the law of the church," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston. "For all those McCarrick abused, I pray this judgment will be one small step, among many, toward healing." "For us bishops, it strengthens our resolve to hold ourselves accountable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ," the cardinal said. "I am grateful to Pope Francis for the determined way he has led the church's response." Cardinal DiNardo's statement followed the Vatican's early morning announcement that Pope Francis has confirmed the removal from the priesthood of McCarrick, the 88-year-old former cardinal and archbishop of Washington. The Vatican said he was found guilty of "solicitation in the sacrament of confession and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power." A panel of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith found him guilty Jan. 11, the Vatican said. McCarrick appealed the decision, but the appeal was rejected Feb. 13 by the congregation itself. McCarrick was informed of the decision Feb. 15 and Pope Francis "recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in accord with law," making a further appeal impossible.

    McCarrick removed from the priesthood after being found guilty of abuse

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has confirmed the removal from the priesthood of Theodore E. McCarrick, the 88-year-old former cardinal and archbishop of Washington. The Vatican announced the decision Feb. 16, saying he was found guilty of "solicitation in the sacrament of confession and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power." A panel of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith found him guilty Jan. 11, the Vatican said. McCarrick appealed the decision, but the appeal was rejected Feb. 13 by the congregation itself. McCarrick was informed of the decision Feb. 15 and Pope Francis "recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in accord with law," making a further appeal impossible. By ordering McCarrick's "dismissal from the clerical state," the decision means that McCarrick loses all rights and duties associated with being a priest, cannot present himself as a priest and is forbidden to celebrate the sacraments, except to grant absolution for sins to a person in imminent danger of death. The only church penalty that is more severe is excommunication, which would have banned him from receiving the sacraments. The other possible punishment was to sentence him to a "life of prayer and penance," a penalty often imposed on elderly clerics; the penalty is similar to house arrest and usually includes banning the person from public ministry, limiting his interactions with others and restricting his ability to leave the place he is assigned to live. McCarrick's punishment is the toughest meted out to a cardinal by the Vatican in modern times. He currently lives in a Capuchin friary in rural Kansas.

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  • U.S. pilgrims still feeling joy, renewal from attending World Youth Day

    NEW YORK (CNS) -- Pilgrims from the New York Archdiocese who attended the world-class retreat led by Pope Francis that was World Youth Day in Panama felt renewed in their faith journey and are still cherishing the moment as a joyful turning point they will always remember. "These are some really special young people. I know they won't leave what they encountered and learned behind in Panama, but will bring it with them to the Archdiocese of New York," said Mary Elise Zellmer, assistant director of the archdiocesan Office of Young Adult Outreach. She made the comments in an email to Catholic New York, the archdiocesan newspaper, after World Youth Day ended. Among the 44 young adult pilgrims and nine coordinators from the archdiocese who were in Panama for the Jan 22-27 gathering. "Honestly, it was amazing. I can now hear the voice of God a lot clearer than I could before," said Josue Rosario Cruz, 24, who took part in the Way of the Cross led by Pope Francis the evening of Jan. 25. Members of a delegation that went to Panama from the Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky, likewise pointed to a renewal of their faith from the experience as well as an openness to answer the Lord's call. The pilgrimage was marked by moments of "joy, excitement and peace," Anna Metzger, a Spanish teacher at Mercy Academy, told The Record, Louisville's archdiocesan newspaper.

    Update: Catholic bishops, groups oppose Trump's call for national emergency

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic bishops near the U.S.-Mexico border, joined by other U.S. prelates, voiced opposition just after President Donald Trump's Feb. 15 declaration of a national emergency so he can order construction of a barrier along parts of the border between the two countries. "In our view, a border wall is first and foremost a symbol of division and animosity between two friendly countries. Furthermore, the wall would be an ineffective use of resources at a time of financial austerity; it would also would destroy parts of the environment, disrupt the livelihoods of ranchers and farmers, weaken cooperation and commerce between border communities, and, at least in one instance, undermine the right to the freedom of worship," said the statement released just after Trump, in a news conference, said he was going to sign a national emergency declaration to stave off a flow of drugs, human trafficking, gang members and illegal immigration coming across the southern border. The president later sign a spending bill that provides $1.375 billion for fencing and other measures along the border -- a fraction of the $5.7 billion he had been asking from Congress for construction of the structure -- he announced the national emergency that could grant him up to $8 billion for his project. In a separate bishops' statement following Trump's announcement, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, said they were "deeply concerned about the president's action to fund the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which circumvents the clear intent of Congress to limit funding of a wall."

    Dingell, longest serving member in Congress, recalled at funeral as 'doer'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- At a funeral Mass in Washington for former U.S. Rep. John Dingell, former President Bill Clinton said the Democratic congressman should be remembered as "a world-class doer." "John Dingell was just about the best doer in the history of American public life," Clinton said in eulogizing the man who represented Michigan's 12th Congressional District for more than 59 years, making him the longest serving member of Congress in U.S. history. Dingell died Feb. 7 at his home in Dearborn, Michigan, at age 92. He retired in 2014 and last year was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which had metastasized. He chose to forgo treatment, and entered hospice care. A memorial service for Dingell was held Feb. 12 in Dearborn, then his body was flown to Washington for the funeral Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church. On Feb. 15, he was interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia outside Washington. Dingell had had a role in many landmark laws and was a leading supporter of organized labor, social welfare, civil rights and health care for all. The U.S. bishops have been outspoken in their support on many of the issues for which Dingell, a Catholic, advocated. However, he was a supporter of legal abortion, which the Catholic Church opposes, teaching that life is sacred from the moment of conception to natural death.

    'Faith' at core of growth of law firm that helps immigrants, says founder

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed: It begins as "the smallest of all seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches." When Sister Ann Durst started a pro bono law firm for immigrants in the '90s, it was probably the smallest of all law offices in San Diego: She ran it out of a condo and had an operating budget of only $75,000 a year. Now, Casa Cornelia sits in a well-appointed office on San Diego's Fifth Avenue, represents hundreds of unaccompanied children, asylum applicants and victims of trafficking every year, enlists the volunteer services of countless private attorneys, and last year had an operating budget of over $2 million. It is the largest pro bono immigration law firm in San Diego County. So what allowed Casa Cornelia to blossom into the wellspring of hope it has become? Sister Durst has one answer: Faith. "We are blessed that the people supported us" through the many changes the firm has gone through over the years, she said, chalking up its continued success to prayer and generosity. In a phone interview with Catholic News Service Feb. 12, Sister Durst revealed that her passion for helping immigrants began while she was studying to become a lawyer, saying: "I went to Georgetown law school and took an immigration course. ... It was interesting because of the human dimension."

    Religious rights group deplores 'anti-Christian hostility' in France

    WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- A church-backed religious rights organization has warned of growing "anti-Christian hostility" in France, identifying a spate of assaults on churches and Christian monuments. "France is of particular concern now -- while anti-Christian attacks are better documented here than in other European countries, the media pays little attention to them," said Ellen Fantini, executive director of the Vienna-based Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe, which is linked to the Council of Bishops' Conferences of Europe. "While the government recognizes Christians and Christian sites are being targeted, they don't seem high on the agenda when it comes to the political will to provide protection," Fantini said. In a Feb. 14 report, the observatory said it had documented numerous incidents in the first 10 days of February, including arson and vandalism against a Catholic cathedral in Lavaur, and attacks on three parish churches in France's western Vendee region, during which sacred figures were profaned and windows smashed. The report said St. Nicolas de Houilles Church in Yvelines had been desecrated three times, destroying statues of Jesus and Mary, while a tabernacle had been thrown to the ground at the nearby church of St. Nicolas de Maisons-Lafitte. "We join local officials and churches in condemning these senseless and disturbing acts. It is our sincere hope the perpetrators are brought to justice and that awareness of increasing anti-Christian hostility in France reaches the public square," the report said.

    Welcome Christ present in migrants and refugees, pope urges

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Even if Christians struggle to recognize him with his "torn clothes (and) dirty feet," Jesus is present in the migrants and refugees who seek safety and a dignified life in a new land, Pope Francis said. If Jesus' words, "Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me," are true, the pope said, then "we must begin to thank those who give us the opportunity for this encounter, namely, the 'others' who knock on our doors, giving us the possibility to overcome our fears in order to encounter, welcome and assist Jesus in person." Pope Francis spoke about overcoming fear and welcoming others during a Mass he celebrated Feb. 15 at a church-run retreat and conference center in Sacrofano, about 15 miles north of Rome. The Mass was part of a conference titled, "Welcoming Communities: Free of Fear," which was sponsored by the Italian bishops' office for migration, Caritas Italy and Jesuit Refugee Service's Centro Astalli. The 500 participants included representatives of parishes, religious orders and Catholic-run agencies assisting migrants and refugees, as well as individual families who host newcomers.

    Catholic Charities expects healthy housing to ease chronic homelessness

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic Charities USA is partnering with five diocesan Catholic Charities agencies, local hospitals, housing developers and funders in a plan aiming to reduce chronic homelessness 20 percent by 2024. Called the Healthy Housing Initiative, the effort involves placing homeless people into stable housing and providing essential supportive services to reduce hospital readmissions while ensuring that basic needs are met. Collaboration is underway with diocesan Catholic Charities operations in Detroit; St. Louis; Las Vegas; Portland, Oregon; and Spokane, Washington, where such programs exist. "This is basically co-locating the services with the housing. We're taking a look at not only partnering with Catholic health associations but taking advantage of access to property that most of (Catholic Charities) members have," said Curtis Johnson, vice president of affordable housing at Catholic Charities USA. In some communities, structures being eyed include vacant buildings on parish land such as schools and convents that can be redeveloped into housing, Johnson told Catholic News Service. In other dioceses, apartments already have been developed in which key social services, mental health counseling and case management are offered.

    French police investigate sexual assault claim against Vatican nuncio

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Italian Archbishop Luigi Ventura, 74, a Vatican diplomat who once served in Canada, Chile and western Africa, is under investigation by police in Paris for allegedly sexually assaulting a city official. The Vatican learned from news reports that the investigation had been launched and it was "waiting for the results of the investigation" by city prosecutors, said Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office, in response to reporters' queries. A French judicial official confirmed to the Associated Press Feb. 15 that the prosecutor's office in Paris had opened an investigation into an allegation of "sexual aggression." The French newspaper, Le Monde, reported that the diplomat was suspected of having sexually molested a young male employee at the Paris city hall Jan. 17, the day the mayor was giving her New Year's address to diplomats and other leading figures. Archbishop Ventura has been serving as apostolic nuncio to France since 2009. Prior to that posting, he was the Vatican's representative in Canada between 2001 and 2009, helping with preparations for St. John Paul II's visit to Toronto for World Youth Day in 2002.

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  • Texas locality orders popular Catholic center for migrants to vacate

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A group of city commissioners in the border city of McAllen, Texas, voted in mid-February to remove from a building a popular Catholic-administered center run by Sister Norma Pimentel, who has been praised by Pope Francis for her work with migrants. McAllen city commissioners voted Feb. 11 to vacate within 90 days the building that Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley uses to provide temporary shelter for immigrants who cross from Mexico into the United States but who have been released by federal authorities. Sister Pimentel, who has won national and international praise for the type of work that takes place at the center, is the executive director for the charitable agency that runs the temporary shelter, which provides food, clothes, a shower and other necessities for migrant children and adults passing through the city in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Residents were complaining to city commissioners about activity in their neighborhood that they said was coming from what's known as the "respite center," which began occupying the space in December, said a Feb. 11 story by the local newspaper, The Monitor. But Sister Pimentel, according to the report, said during a meeting to discuss the issue that the families the shelter helps are receiving services inside the building. "They don't go wandering around," she said, according to the newspaper story.

    Update: Bishop urges families to form deeper relationship with Christ

    PHOENIX (CNS) -- Fathers and mothers have the ability and responsibility to lead their families to holiness, wrote Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted in an apostolic exhortation. The title of the document, "Complete My Joy," is taken from St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians when the Apostle challenges the reader to "make my joy complete." "Over these past 50 years, countless faithful Catholics have surely attained the goal of their lives -- eternal salvation," Bishop Olmsted wrote in his introduction. "Credit here is due to the rich mercy of God, to the dedicated priests and religious who have served our diocese so well, and to you and the many faithful families who have lived -- and continue to live -- your vocations with generosity and even, at times, heroism," he said. The bishop promulgated the apostolic exhortation as part of the Diocese of Phoenix's 50th anniversary Jubilee Year of the Family. The special year began Dec. 2 -- in 1969 on that date the diocese was established. The family -- husband, wife and any children they may have -- is an image of the Holy Trinity, Bishop Olmsted wrote. By its very nature, the family is a communion of love and life. "The Christian family is also the littlest living cell of the church -- the domestic church," he wrote in the document dated Dec. 30, the feast of the Holy Family. The text (in English and Spanish) and an accompanying video can be found, respectively, at, and

    Virginia's two dioceses release lists of clergy credibly accused of abuse

    ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- Virginia's two Catholic bishops, Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge and Richmond Bishop Barry C. Knestout, released lists Feb. 13 of the clergy credibly accused of child sex abuse in their respective dioceses. In Arlington, Bishop Burbidge said releasing the list fulfills a commitment he made to publish these names "in the hope that providing such a list might help some victims and survivors of clergy sexual abuse to find further healing and consolation. The publishing of this list will bring a range of emotions for all of us," he said in a letter to Catholics of the diocese that accompanied the list. "Embarrassment, frustration, anger and hurt are all natural emotions to experience in a time such as this. I share those emotions." The complete list of 16 names can be found on the diocesan website, The list of priests credibly accused dates back to when the diocese was established in 1974. In an open letter published with the Richmond diocesan list, Bishop Knestout said: "To the victims and to all affected by the pain of sexual abuse, our response will always be about what we are doing, not simply what we have done. We will seek not just to be healed but will always be seeking healing. We will seek not just to be reconciled but will always be seeking reconciliation." The diocese names 42 priests who have "a credible and substantiated allegation of sexual abuse against a minor." The list and a question-and-answer sheet is available on the diocesan website,

    Update: Catholics, Muslims bond over weekly lunch at Indianapolis deli

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- The openness to people of other faiths that Pope Francis modeled during his Feb. 3-5 visit to the United Arab Emirates has been embraced for more than 20 years at a weekly lunch shared by Muslims, Catholics and other Christians at Shapiro's Delicatessen in Indianapolis. John Welch, a longtime member of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Indianapolis, helped start the lunch meetings in 1997. "It's the presence of Jesus in our midst," Welch told The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Over the years, Welch and those sharing lunch and their lives together at Shapiro's have included members of the Italy-based Catholic lay movement Focolare, members of the Nur-Allah Islamic Center in Indianapolis, as well as Protestant clergy in the city. Welch, 84, was honored at a recent lunch by those in attendance as he prepared to move with his wife, Mary, to Chicago to live closer to family. He was inspired to reach out to Muslims in the Indianapolis community through his involvement in Focolare, which emphasizes building unity among people based on sharing the love of God with them. Welch said that the members of Focolare, who are known as "Focolarini," are called to embody in their daily lives Jesus' teaching to love others as he loved them.

    Prominent nun says Polish priests must stop abusing women religious

    WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- One of Poland's most senior nuns said priests must stop sexually molesting religious women, in line with efforts to improve treatment of women in the traditionally Catholic country. "Sexual abuse of nuns by clergy has long been a problem in Poland -- and it's a very painful matter," Ursuline Sister Jolanta Olech, secretary-general of the Warsaw-based Conference of Higher Superiors of Female Religious Orders, told Poland's Catholic Information Agency, KAI. Sister Olech told KAI Feb. 14 that no data had been collected on the abuse of nuns in her country. However, she added that she had been informed of "very painful" cases during 12 years as conference president and secretary-general, and she welcomed Pope Francis' Feb. 5 call for action against offending clergy. "This isn't the first time the issue has been raised, and we don't know if it will change much -- but it should show some people at least that the time for concealing this problem is over," she said. "The cases I dealt with were reported to the superiors of the priests and monks concerned. But I don't know what the results were, and the cases were never made public." She said one young nun had been forced to leave her order after becoming pregnant, while the priest who fathered her child had remained in his post without "any serious consequences for his behavior."

    Florida Catholic school's prayer service marks school shooting anniversary

    PARKLAND, Fla. (CNS) -- One day before the anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, neighboring Mary Help of Christians School held a prayer service to pay tribute to the victims. The event was attended by teachers, staff, students, parents and invited guests, including Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky and the parents, family members and friends of Gina Montalto, a Mary Help of Christians parishioner killed in the shooting. The student-led event featured the school choir and student council members paying special tribute to the 14 students and three staff members killed on the high school campus last Feb. 14. The students made heart-shaped wreaths and angel crosses for each victim and one for the Parkland community. Msgr. Terence Hogan, Mary Help of Christians' pastor, reminded the participants that the parish is a strong faith community that unites and sustains each other, especially during difficult times. At the end of the service, teachers, staff, students and parents placed a pink carnation in a vase by a statue of Mary. The response of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students' response to the shooting on their campus started the movement #NeverAgain and thrust many of the survivors into the national spotlight when they organized the national "March for Our Lives" and lead rallies around the country calling for stronger gun control legislation.

    Update: Territory is life, life is territory: what indigenous want church to know

    LETICIA, Colombia (CNS) -- Rafael Noteno Capinoa, a Kichwa Indian, worries about what could happen to the forest around his village on Peru's Napo River if an oil company begins drilling in the area. "The forest is where we are born, we grow up, we live, we die and are buried," he said. "During our lifetime, we use what we find there." For the Kichwa and other Amazonian peoples, every plant and animal has a spirit, and humans live in harmony with them, he said. "But if people behave badly, nature may abandon them." A year ago, during a visit to Peru, Pope Francis asked an audience of native people of the Amazon basin to help bishops and religious to understand their relationship with the natural world. Since then, church leaders have held more than 40 meetings in the nine Amazonian countries to listen to local people, in preparation for the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon to be held at the Vatican in October. The meetings have been coordinated by the Pan-Amazonian Church Network, or REPAM. Noteno was among about 70 indigenous people who gathered at a Ticuna and Huitoto village outside this Amazonian town Feb. 2-4 to talk about what they would like the church to understand. "The Catholic Church is increasingly aware of the many ways in which the Amazon is being destroyed," said Columban Father Peter Hughes, an adviser to the synod planning committee.

    College students discuss hopes, concerns after Puerto Rico mission

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- They say that home is where the heart is. Fourteen students from Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts, understood this adage all too well and sacrificed a significant portion of their winter break in January to help rebuild the ravaged houses of families who had seen their hearts and lives broken by the widespread damage caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017. During a weeklong service trip that took place while other students were reveling in their new Christmas gifts or stressing over their schedules for the upcoming semester, the Anna Maria students were taking on "a variety of home construction assignments at three different homes in San Juan, Puerto Rico," which included "installing/gluing floor tile, caulking, painting, installing window trims, grouting tile and dry walling," according to a news release from the university. Melissa LaNeve, director of campus ministry at the small Catholic liberal arts college, also made the trip. She told Catholic News Service in a phone interview that she was impressed with the initiative taken by the students and hoped the college's integration of service into its mission would serve as a model to other institutions. She was most impressed by "their determination," as many of the volunteering students "had not done service work" prior to this trip. Some students had gone from hesitant to "completely determined to get the project done" over the course of the week, said LaNeve. LaNeve hopes that other colleges will "see the value in offering these kinds of opportunities to students' because it helps get them "out of their college bubble." She sees no reason other colleges shouldn't put service directly into their missions, because "it can only benefit someone to do service and integrate it" into their long-term career goals.

    Texas bishop receives Spirit of Francis Award from Catholic Extension

    HOUSTON (CNS) -- Catholic Extension honored Bishop Curtis J. Guillory of Beaumont with its third annual Spirit of Francis Award for his "faith, hope, vision, great compassion and love," his leadership, and his commitment to the Catholic Church and the diverse faith community of southeast Texas. He received the award at a Feb. 9 dinner in Houston. The event drew more than 200 people, including Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, honorary chairman, as well as several elected officials, Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word and other church leaders. Bishop Guillory was the first African-American bishop to head a diocese in Texas and the first to receive the award, inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis and Father Francis Clement Kelley, who founded Catholic Extension in 1905. These three are "known for embracing and helping the poor," said an Extension news release. In presenting the award to Bishop Guillory, Father Jack Wall, Catholic Extension president, called him "a man of faith, hope, vision, great compassion and love who throughout his life has given witness to the power of the Gospel -- the power to transform lives. We've been given a great gift in having a leader that has touched our lives in such a genuine, warm, compassionate, life-giving, beautiful way," he said.

    Need to change hearts, not just books, to improve liturgy, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The sacred liturgy is meant to help the people of God conform their heart, mind and actions more closely to Christ, Pope Francis said. "We know that it is not enough to change liturgical books to improve the quality of the liturgy. To just do this would be a deception," he said. "For life to truly be a prayer that is pleasing to God, a change of heart is in fact necessary," he said Feb. 14 during an audience with members of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. The pope encouraged the congregation to continue helping the church and noted how the Vatican and individual bishops' conferences are meant to work together through dialogue, cooperation and synodality. "The Holy See, in fact, does not stand in for the bishops, but rather collaborates with them in order to serve the prayerful vocation of the church in the world in its wealth of various languages and cultures." The path to pursue, he said, is one of ecclesial communion "in which unity and variety find harmony. It's a question of harmony."

    Pope calls on world leaders to eradicate poverty, hunger

    ROME (CNS) -- Sustainable development in rural areas is key to making poverty and hunger a thing of the past, Pope Francis said. In an address to members of the International Fund for Agricultural Development's governing council Feb. 14, the pope said that while achieving such a goal "has been talked about for a long time," there has not been enough concrete action. "It is paradoxical that a good portion of the more than 820 million people who suffer hunger and malnutrition in the world live in rural areas, are dedicated to food production and are farmers," he said at the council's opening session at the Rome headquarters of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. The two-day meeting of the organization, commonly known as IFAD, was devoted to the theme: "Rural innovation and entrepreneurship." Before addressing the gathering, the pope presented a gift to the organization: a sculpture by Argentine artist Norma D'Ippolito, titled "Ecce Homo" ("Behold the Man") depicting the hands of Christ bound with ropes. In his speech, the pope said he came to bring the "longings and needs of many of our brothers and sisters who suffer in the world."

    Pope names Dallas' former bishop to serve as chamberlain

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has named Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, 71, the prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, to serve as the camerlengo or chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church. Cardinal Farrell, born in Ireland, was incardinated in the Archdiocese of Washington and served as bishop of Dallas from 2007 to 2016; as camerlengo, he fills the post left vacant by the death in July of French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran. While the pope is alive, the job is basically just a title. But when a pope dies or resigns, the chamberlain is charged with sealing the papal apartments, chairing consultations about the papal funeral, making the practical preparations for the conclave to elect the next pope, and chairing a committee of cardinals taking care of the ordinary affairs of the church until a new pope is elected. The Vatican announced the appointment Feb. 14 along with the appointment of Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as a member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

    Pope meets head of Microsoft to discuss ethics in technology, AI

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The president of Microsoft, Brad Smith, told Pope Francis that a "human voice" was needed to speak up in the world of technology today. "A human voice like that of the church" with its values and authority, he said, telling the pope, "We appreciate your voice. We really feel this is a critical moment in time." Smith and a delegation from the U.S.-based technology company met with the pope Feb. 13 to discuss the centrality of the human person and the need for ethics in artificial intelligence. During the 30-minute meeting in the lobby of the pope's residence, Smith "discussed the topic of artificial intelligence at the service of the common good and activities aimed at bridging the digital divide that still persists at the global level," Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office, told reporters in a communique.

    Pope reflects on changed attitudes toward liberation theology

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Time, experience and reflection have "purified" liberation theology and its attempts to make clear what the Gospel says about social injustice, Pope Francis said. "Today, we old people laugh about how worried we were about liberation theology," the pope told 30 Jesuits from Central America when he met them Jan. 26 in Panama during World Youth Day. "Let me tell you a funny story," he told the Jesuits. "The one most persecuted, (Dominican Father) Gustavo Gutierrez, a Peruvian, concelebrated Mass with me and the then-prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal (Gerhard) Muller. And it happened because Muller himself brought him to me as his friend." "If anybody had said back then that the prefect of the CDF would have brought Gutierrez to concelebrate with the pope, they would have taken him for a drunk," the pope told the Jesuits. A transcript of the pope's question-and-answer session with his Jesuit confreres in Panama was published Feb. 14 by La Civilta Cattolica. The Rome-based Jesuit journal generally publishes the transcripts of Pope Francis' meetings with Jesuits after the pope has had a chance to review them.

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  • New Jersey dioceses publish list of priests 'credibly accused' of abuse

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Dioceses in the state of New Jersey made public Feb. 13 the names of priests whom they said had been "credibly accused" of sexual abuse of minors, and one of the names is former U.S. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick. The former U.S. cardinal's name appears in the list from the Archdiocese of Newark with a footnote that says Archbishop McCarrick "has been included on the list based on the findings of the Archdiocese of New York that allegations of abuse of a minor against then Father McCarrick were credible and substantiated." The longest list is from the Archdiocese of Newark, which lists 63 priests among the total of 188, which includes clergy from the dioceses of Trenton, Paterson, Camden and Metuchen. The Diocese of Metuchen also notes in its disclosure that its first bishop, then-Bishop McCarrick, is "currently involved in a church trial by the Holy See for the abuse of a minor when he was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York." "The revelations of clergy sexual abuse of minors throughout this past year have provoked feelings of shock, anger, shame, and deep sorrow throughout our Catholic community," Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark said in a news release accompanying the list from his archdiocese. "Victims, their families, and the faithful are rightfully outraged over the abuses perpetrated against minors. Additionally, the failure of church leadership to immediately remove suspected abusers from ministry is particularly reprehensible," he said.

    Independent investigator issues report on abuse in Louisville Archdiocese

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CNS) -- A report by an independent investigator into the Archdiocese of Louisville's handling of clergy sexual abuse in the course of 80-plus years begins as a story of failure followed by what the report calls "a sea change" in the past 17 years. Attorney Mark Miller penned the report -- that includes a list of 34 credibly accused priests of the Archdiocese of Louisville -- after spending three months poring over 400 files and thousands of pages of documents. He described his process and findings during a news conference Feb. 8 at the Archdiocese of Louisville Pastoral Center, formally presenting his report to the media and John Laun, chair of the archdiocese's Sexual Abuse Review Board. The board had requested the third-party investigation last fall, according to Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville. Miller is a former U.S. attorney, former commissioner of the Kentucky State Police and retired judge advocate general. During the news conference, Archbishop Kurtz repeatedly indicated that the report is meant to be preliminary -- a beginning, not an end, of a larger effort to bring healing to victims and transparency to the archdiocese's handling of sexual abuse by clergy.

    Couple's program for newlyweds helps them build community, tackle issues

    ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- A decade ago, David Busacker was a high school sophomore looking for a way to fit in, and he decided to give drama a try. Had he made a different choice, he might not have married Bridget Scott in 2016. The two found themselves on the set of "Little Women" in 2009 at their public high school, St. Anthony High School in St. Anthony. She played Jo March; he played her father. Near the end of the performance, he made his entrance and spun her on the stage. "That's when I fell in love with her," he said. It took her longer to feel the same, but eventually they started dating while both were attending the University of Minnesota. During that time, David became a Catholic, and the couple got engaged in June 2015. They eagerly dove into marriage preparation at St. Charles Borromeo in St. Anthony, Bridget's childhood parish. They absorbed everything they could during their meetings with the priest and mentor couples in the parish. But they couldn't get enough. "The prep was good at St. Charles, but we were looking for even more," said Bridget, 26. "I think we were, in some ways, a little overzealous trying to prepare so much, but I think we also just wanted to make sure we were tapping into all the resources."

    Report finds no evidence of racist statements from Covington students

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- An independent investigation into the much-discussed encounter that went viral between Catholic high school students, a Native American tribal leader and members of another protest group on the Lincoln Memorial grounds in Washington in January found no evidence that the students of Kentucky's Covington Catholic High School issued "offensive or racist statements." A report on the investigation was released by the Covington Diocese Feb. 13. Two days before releasing the report's findings, Covington Bishop Roger J. Foys wrote to parents of the high school students telling them he was pleased to let them know that his hope that an inquiry into the events of Jan. 18 would "exonerate our students so that they can move forward with their lives has been realized." The investigation, conducted by Greater Cincinnati Investigation Inc., which has no connection with the high school or diocese, "demonstrated that our students did not instigate the incident that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial," the bishop said. The four-page report signed Feb. 11 said that four investigators spent 240 hours looking into the events of Jan. 18 when the Covington Catholic High School students -- in Washington for the annual March for Life -- met up with other groups while waiting for their buses to pick them up. The investigators spoke with 43 students, 13 chaperones and a number of third-party witnesses. They also reviewed about 50 hours of internet footage or comments focused on the groups' exchange.

    Lenten staple prompts a grammar debate: Are they fish 'fries' or 'frys'?

    NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- Lent is coming. So is the salvation of many a harried Catholic couple with three or four mouths to feed on a seafood-only Friday night -- the parish fish fry. The fish fry has become a savory staple of parish fellowship. All in good fun, and in the advancement of culinary civilization, many parishes in the Archdiocese of New Orleans have embarked on a seafood arms race that would require drones with infrared cameras to monitor properly. What used to be fairly simple fare -- one piece of fried catfish, a couple of scoops of potato salad and a dinner roll -- has evolved into delights more suited for silver-platter covers than for Styrofoam. Seeking repeat business and word-of-mouth promotion, some parishes vary their menus each Friday of Lent, providing alternating options such as shrimp and okra, blackened catfish, shrimp and grits, shrimp pasta Alfredo, crab and corn bisque, and, for the healthy eater, even grilled redfish. The fish fry also brings to mind an esoteric grammar lesson -- really, a pitched battle where semicolons, ampersands and the Oxford comma are flung into the sky like arrows - regarding the proper usage of the plural of fish "fry." Inquiring minds - especially Catholic newspaper editors during Lent -- need to know: Should the headline of their calendar-of-events listings be fish "fries" or fish "frys"?

    Filmmaker's new movie 'Across' tells story of Father Augustus Tolton

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- Father Augustus Tolton, the first African-American priest ordained for a diocese in the United States, was born into slavery and endured myriad obstacles, both inside the Catholic Church and out, as he relentlessly followed his call from God. Nashville filmmaker Chris Foley, inspired by the story of Father Tolton's life, has written and directed a short film, "Across," about the Tolton family's escape from slavery. "I spent about three years developing and writing the film, beginning with a short article I read about Father Tolton, then I attended a talk on him in Chicago given by Bishop Joseph Perry in 2015," Foley told the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville. Bishop Perry, a Chicago auxiliary bishop, who has family from Nashville, is postulator for Father Tolton's sainthood cause, which was opened in 2010 by Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George, giving the priest the title "servant of God. It was at the talk that I first mentioned my goal of making a film about 'Gus' -- as I now call him -- to Bishop Perry, but I don't think he took me seriously," recalled Foley. Serious he certainly was because, said Foley, "this is a man who became a role model for priests -- black and otherwise -- in this country."

    Bishop downplays idea that Amazon synod will criticize Brazil's policies

    SAO PAULO (CNS) -- Responding to news reports that the Brazilian intelligence agency was monitoring the Catholic Church, the secretary-general of the bishops' conference downplayed the idea that prelates would use the October Synod of Bishops on the Amazon to criticize their government's policies. The synod is a celebration "of the church and for the church," Bishop Leonardo Ulrich Steiner said Feb. 11 in a video released to reporters. He said Pope Francis wanted the bishops to find new paths for evangelization for the Amazon, which includes territory belonging to nine countries in South America. On Feb. 10, one of Brazil's largest national newspapers, O Estado de S. Paulo, reported the government's intelligence agency was monitoring the church and its "progressive bishops," concerned that, during the synod, they would criticize President Jair Bolsonaro's policies, especially those related to the environment and the indigenous populations. The Brazilian government denied any monitoring by the intelligence agency, but admitted concern that the issues to be addressed during the synod may lead to pressure by the international community on how Brazil should deal with the region. Sixty percent of the Amazon rainforest is in Brazil.

    Sainthood causes of Blessed Newman, Cardinal Mindszenty advance

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has signed a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed John Henry Newman, the English cardinal, clearing the way for his canonization. The Vatican announced Feb. 13 that Pope Francis had signed the decree the day before. Also Feb. 12, he formally recognized that the late Hungarian Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty, jailed and exiled by the communists, had lived the Christian virtues in a heroic way; the recognition is an early step in the sainthood process. In the sainthood cause of Blessed Newman, Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth had reported in November that the proposed miracle involved a young law graduate from the Archdiocese of Chicago who faced life-threatening complications during her pregnancy but suddenly recovered when she prayed to the English cardinal for help. Blessed Newman was born in London in 1801 and was ordained an Anglican priest in 1925. He was a leader in the Oxford Movement in the 1830s, which emphasized the Catholic roots of Anglicanism.

    Thirst for profit threatens humanity, Vatican official says

    ROME (CNS) -- Left unchecked, unbridled greed and a thirst for profit leads down a slippery slope that endangers the earth and all who live on it, especially indigenous populations, a Vatican official said. Msgr. Fernando Chica Arellano, the Vatican's permanent observer to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the World Food Program, called on world leaders to make human beings, and not material gain, as their primary concern. "If this priority is not clear, we will leave withered lands, depleted seas, polluted air, wastelands where beautiful orchards used to flourish as an inheritance to future generations," Msgr. Chica said Feb. 13 at the Fourth Global Meeting of the Indigenous Peoples' Forum. The theme of the Feb. 12-13 conference, held at the International Fund for Agricultural Development's headquarters in Rome, focused on "promoting indigenous people's knowledge and innovations for climate resilience and sustainable development." In his address, Msgr. Chica said that the world must not view indigenous people as minorities but rather as "authentic interlocutors" who correctly instruct humanity about the "harmonious and fruitful relationship between human beings and nature, reminding us that man does not have absolute power over creation."

    When it comes to prayer, there is no room for individualism, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Prayer is not just a private and intimate dialogue between a person and God, but rather an opportunity for Christians to bring the needs of others before the Lord, Pope Francis said. "There is no room for individualism in the dialogue with God," the pope said Feb. 13 during his weekly general audience. "There is no display of one's own problems as if we were the only ones in the world who suffer. There is no prayer raised to God that is not the prayer of a community of brothers and sisters." Arriving at the Paul VI audience hall, the pope was welcomed by the sound of a children's choir singing a song based on his own teaching of the three words that are important for family life: "please," "thank you" and "sorry." Walking down the center aisle of the hall, the pope greeted the joyful pilgrims who held out their hands to greet him, have their religious objects blessed or their babies kissed. Continuing his series of talks on the "Our Father," the pope focused his reflection on Jesus' instructions on how to pray, which he said was a secret act that is "visible only to God."

    Mexican bishops confirm 152 priests removed for abusing minors

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- The Mexican bishops' conference has confirmed 152 priests have been removed from ministry for sexually abusing minors. In a Feb. 12 statement, the conference published the preliminary figure, while promising, "We will continue with the effort to have a complete diagnosis of cases of child sexual abuse in Mexico." The statement followed comments from Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera Lopez of Monterrey, conference president, who told reporters Feb. 10, "152 priests have been removed from ministry. Some, for the size of their crime, have had to go to prison." The bishops' conference promised "zero tolerance" on the issue of child sexual abuse by clergy and said it released the figures in the interest of transparency. Past cases of sexual abuse committed by clergy have scandalized Mexico, but also brought accusations of covering up crimes and an unwillingness to acknowledge to the problem.

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  • Palms to ashes: A few things to know about Ash Wednesday

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Ash Wednesday is March 6 this year. Here are some things to know about Ash Wednesday and the kickoff to Lent: In the Table of Liturgical Days, which ranks the different liturgical celebrations and seasons, Ash Wednesday ties for second in ranking -- along with Christmas, Epiphany, Ascension, Pentecost, Sundays of Advent, Lent and Easter, and a few others. But Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, though it is a day of prayer, abstinence, fasting and repentance. Ash Wednesday begins the liturgical season of Lent. There are hymns that speak to the length of the season -- one of them is "Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days" -- but the span between March 6 and Easter Sunday, which is April 21, is 46 days. So what gives? "It might be more accurate to say that there is the '40-day fast within Lent,'" said Father Randy Stice, associate director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Divine Worship. The ashes used for Ash Wednesday are made from the burned and blessed palms of the previous year's Palm Sunday. "The palms are burned in a metal vessel and then broken down into a powder," Father Stice said. Almost half of adult Catholics, 45 percent, typically receive ashes at Ash Wednesday services, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

    Symposium among events marking Mission San Diego's 250th anniversary

    SAN DIEGO (CNS) -- Mission San Diego de Alcala marks the 250th year of its founding this year, and as part of a yearlong commemoration, the grounds of California's oldest church will be the site of a Scholars' Symposium in March. The March 22-24 event will feature an assortment of professors, archaeologists, researchers and other experts who will provide an expansive look at the colorful history of the first of the 21 California missions. Father Peter Escalante, pastor of Mission San Diego, said one of the parish's goals for its jubilee year was to offer a "menu of activities" that would appeal to a broad cross section of the community and of all the events, the symposium "ranks up there near the top" in terms of its significance. Acknowledging that many people know only "sketches" of mission history, he said he hopes the symposium will provide an opportunity for attendees to deepen their understanding while also setting an example for the other California missions as they commemorate their own 250th anniversaries, beginning with Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo next year. Janet Bartel, a longtime parishioner who started Mission San Diego's docent program in 1984 and served for more than a decade on two statewide boards of California mission historians, has been involved in the planning of the Scholars' Symposium for almost two years.

    New Mexico close to passing 'most extreme bill in nation' on abortion

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Since the end of January, the legislatures of New York, Virginia and other states have made headlines by approving or introducing policies that relax abortion restrictions, even in the third trimester and during labor. Now New Mexico is one step closer to passing a similar bill that loosens the state's already liberal abortion laws and would erase virtually all abortion restrictions in the event that the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade is overturned. The "Decriminalize Abortion Bill," or H.B. 51, has now made its way through the New Mexico House of Representatives, receiving the body's overall approval in a 40-29 floor vote Feb. 6 after being confirmed by several committees. It is now headed for the Senate, where it will be the subject of further debate and another vote. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican daily newspaper, there are three main parts of New Mexico's pre-Roe abortion law that would be invalidated by the act: a prohibition that makes abortion a felony; language that permits abortions in some circumstances as determined by a physician, such as rape or threat to a mother's life; and an opt-out provision for hospitals or providers that register moral or religious objections to performing the procedure. Most of these were invalidated already by Roe v. Wade or the New Mexico Court of Appeals, giving New Mexico some of the laxest abortion policy in the country.

    German theologians say church restrictions threaten their credibility

    OXFORD, England (CNS) -- Catholic theology faculties in Germany have accused the church of restricting their freedom and warned that theology's "scientific credibility" could be damaged by reinforced rules and procedures. Germany's assembly of Catholic Theology Faculties said in a statement that theology's credibility depended on promoting "Gospel interaction with contemporary issues" in dialogue with other philosophies, as well as on scientific freedom, which "should not be perceived as a danger." The theologians said they felt Pope Francis had encouraged them in the foreword to the January 2018 apostolic constitution "Veritatis Gaudium," which took effect in the 2018-2019 academic year, updating previous 1979 guidelines. They said a six-point foreword to the 23,000-word text reaffirmed the importance of ecclesiastical faculties and universities in "these demanding and exciting times," and called for "ways of presenting the Christian religion capable of a profound engagement with different cultural systems." The foreword was followed by 94 articles of general and special norms for theology, and 70 further norms for applying "Veritatis Gaudium" in practice, and the theologians said they found these restrictive. "These norms present the outdated picture of a lawful, strictly controlled theology, based solely on a culture of obedience through a close-knit approach of rules and regulations," the theologians said.

    This year's Lent could be just what struggling church needs

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When Lent begins March 6, U.S. Catholics will likely be more than ready for it. This set-aside time for prayer and reflection -- after all the church has been through in recent months -- could provide both a healing balm and a needed boost forward, some say. Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, is typically a big Catholic draw, filling churches with nearly Easter- or Christmas-size Mass crowds even through it is not a holy day of obligation. Conventual Franciscan Father Jude DeAngelo, director of campus ministry at The Catholic University of America in Washington, hopes this year is no exception. "We in the American Catholic Church have been through a year of tremendous suffering and tremendous upheaval and frustration" he told Catholic News Service, referring to the past months of allegations of sexual misconduct and cover-up by church leaders. The priest said some Catholics stopped going to church, "scandalized by the actions of a few" but that he hopes and prays they come back on Ash Wednesday, a day he described as a strong "reminder that God is never finished with us."

    Arkansas diocese updates clergy abuse report after independent review

    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CNS) -- Bishop Anthony B. Taylor released an updated list of people who had assignments in Arkansas and against whom credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor were filed. The bishop's addition of one priest and a religious brother to the list Feb. 8 followed an extensive review of more than 1,350 files of priests and religious who have served in Arkansas during the past 70 years. In September, Bishop Taylor released the first list following an internal review of diocesan files. The original list included the name of one former priest who was previously identified and 11 formers priests who were identified for the first time. The Diocese of Little Rock hired the Kinsale Management Consulting to conduct an independent review of diocesan clergy files after the September release. Kinsale has conducted similar reviews in dioceses across the country. In addition, the diocese made public the names of seven priests of other dioceses or religious orders who served in Arkansas and against whom credible allegations of sexual abuse outside the state were confirmed by other dioceses or religious orders. The full list is contained on the diocese's website,

    In video, Bridgeport bishop calls sex abuse by clerics crime and sin

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a video posted Feb. 11 on YouTube, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, offered support for the "many sisters and brothers who have been wounded, violated, hurt and abused at the hands of priests and deacons" and whose sexual abuse in their youth "changed their lives forever. The crime and sin of sexual abuse in our midst is a deep evil that has created a deep wound," said Bishop Caggiano, who has been one of the most outspoken U.S. bishops on the topic of sex abuse by clergy. Getting rid of the "evil" is not enough, he said, calling on others to offer support for those who have been victimized, "those whose lives sometimes have been completely shattered. We stand with them because we love them, because they're part of our family and even though some members of our family have betrayed them, you and I will not," he said. "We stand with them because in the name of Jesus, his love invites them and us to heal, for we are all in need of healing."

    Opposition delegation says Vatican supports new elections in Venezuela

    ROME (CNS) -- Although it has publicly taken a neutral stance in the current political crisis in Venezuela, the Vatican has expressed its support for new elections in the country within the year, said a member of a delegation representing opposition leader Juan Guaido. Rodrigo Diamanti, head of the human rights organization "Un Mundo sin Mordaza" (A World Without Censorship) told journalists that Venezuelan Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, Vatican substitute secretary for general affairs, conveyed the Vatican's support during a Feb. 11 meeting at the Vatican. Archbishop Pena said the Vatican "is willing to help and do everything possible so that this year we may have free elections in Venezuela," Diamanti said Feb. 12 during a briefing with journalists at the Italian Foreign Press Association in Rome. The delegation was in Rome to solicit the support of the Italian government in recognizing Guaido as interim president of Venezuela.

    Caritas reps from Latin America look for ways to build on 'Laudato Si''

    VALLE DE ANGELES, Honduras (CNS) -- Catholic representatives from Latin America and the Caribbean, defining work for the next four years, looked for ways to build on the foundations of Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si'" so it is taken into account by all nations. The representatives of Caritas, the umbrella organization of the church's charitable agencies, also discussed how the church can recover and transfer the wisdom of indigenous peoples to other societies. "Laudato Si'" was "the maturation of (Caritas') experiences" in working toward integral human development, Heydi Campos, executive secretary of Caritas Bolivia, told Catholic News Service. Campos was one of the participants at the 19th congress of Caritas in Latin America and the Caribbean in early February. The leaders met in Valle de Angeles, Honduras. Participants exchanged ideas on how to achieve Pope Francis' vision of the common good and integral ecology and included discussions on gender equality, forced migration, corruption, violence and new economies. Participants also expressed solidarity with the peoples of Venezuela and Nicaragua, whose countries are embedded in a political, social and economic crisis.

    Actor Gary Sinise describes his road to the Catholic Church

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Gary Sinise, the actor perhaps best known for playing Lieutenant Dan in the 1994 movie "Forrest Gump," followed a rather unusual path to becoming a Catholic. In a Feb. 4 telephone interview with Catholic News Service from Los Angeles, Sinise recalled how in the '90s his wife, Moira, made the decision to become a Catholic while she was doing a play. "She was playing a woman in a tavern. She had just gone through sobriety, and she was new to her sobriety as she was playing this woman defending her life in a tavern," Sinise said. "At one point, she went to a Catholic church looking for an AA meeting. This little French woman, she asked her, 'Where's the AA meeting?' She looked at her (Moira) and said, 'You should become a Catholic,'" he added. A short time later Moira announced to her husband: "I'm going to become a Catholic." She enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. "We started going to Mass," Sinise said. "My wife was confirmed in Easter 2000. ... The following year that little church became a sanctuary, a place of great comfort" following the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001. They enrolled their children in the parish school. Sinise joined the church himself in 2010. He has a new book titled "Grateful American."

    Churches at Colombian border work to help desperate Venezuelans

    CUCUTA, Colombia (CNS) -- Lunch started early at the Divine Providence House, a church-run soup kitchen located just a few hundred feet away from the Venezuelan border. By 10:30 a.m., hundreds of Venezuelan migrants and refugees were seated under a white tarp to receive a basic meal, while hundreds more stood outside and waited in line under the punishing tropical sun. The crowds of hungry Venezuelans seeking a free meal become bigger each month, as thousands of people flee food shortages, hyperinflation and crime in the South American country, with almost no savings to start their new life abroad. Organizers worry that the situation could get worse if Venezuela's president does not let humanitarian aid into the country. "We can give the ones who have moved here a hand," said Natalia Ruiz, the soup kitchen's deputy manager and a member of Yeshua, a Colombian biblical school. "But what about the people who are still in Venezuela? There is little food and medicine there and a lot of despair." For the past few years, church groups have been calling on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to let humanitarian aid into the country, in order to relieve the suffering of millions of vulnerable Venezuelans. But the socialist leader has long rejected help from abroad, arguing that it will be used to meddle in the country's affairs.

    Update: Cardinal warns against being silent, in error about Catholic faith

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To keep silent about the truths of the Catholic faith or to teach the contrary is a form of religious deception that comes from the anti-Christ, said Cardinal Gerhard Muller. The purpose of the church and its members, he said, is to lead people to Jesus, so all Catholics, but especially priests and bishops, "have a responsibility to recall these fundamental truths" and to strengthen the faith "by confessing the truth which is Jesus Christ himself." The German theologian, who was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2012-2017, wrote what he called a "Manifesto of Faith." Subtitled with a verse from John 14:1, "Do not let your hearts be troubled," the five-page manifesto was released to several Catholic news sites Feb. 8. "In the face of growing confusion about the doctrine of the faith, many bishops, priests, religious and laypeople of the Catholic Church have requested that I make a public testimony about the truth of revelation," he wrote.

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  • Kurtz: 'Gift of religious freedom' at risk of 'being taken for granted'

    PHOENIX (CNS) -- Despite its prominence in the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights, "the gift of religious freedom" runs "the risk of being taken for granted, the head of the U.S. bishops' religious liberty committee told members of Arizona's legal profession and state legislators. "First, we promote and defend religious freedom because we believe truth, not power, undergirds a rightly ordered politics," said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky. "Second, because our faith convictions or dictates of conscience call us to inspire a culture. "And finally, because religious freedom gives us the space to serve with integrity of faith and conscience," the archbishop said. He made the comments in his homily at the Diocese of Phoenix's annual recent Red Mass, celebrated recently at St. Mary's Basilica. The Mass is sponsored by the St. Thomas More Society. Among those attending were judges, lawyers, government attorneys, lawmakers and law students. Archbishop Kurtz, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee for Religious Liberty, said preserving and upholding religious freedom is intertwined with the Catholic faith and the church's stand on the issue. He noted that America's experience contributed heavily to the 1965 deliberations of the Second Vatican Council during which "Dignitatis Humanae," the Declaration on Religious Freedom.

    Cassin's support of Catholic education earns Drexel Award from FADICA

    SANTA MONICA, Calif. (CNS) -- Business leader B.J. Cassin, a key early supporter of the nationwide Cristo Rey network of Catholic high schools for students from low-income families, is the 2019 recipient of the St. Katharine Drexel Award from Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities. He received the award during FADICA's annual meeting Feb. 8 in Santa Monica. Cassin is the second recipient of the award, which was created in 2017. Cassin established and chaired the Cassin Educational Initiative Foundation in 2000 to help support private college preparatory middle and high schools in low-income communities throughout the United States. The foundation was a prime provider of startup funds for 18 Cristo Rey high schools and 37 Nativity Miguel middle schools. In addition, Cassin recently co-founded The Drexel Fund to contribute startup funding and advisory support for financially sustainable faith-based and private schools. "B.J. carries St. Katharine Drexel's philanthropic spirit and legacy forward in our time," Alexia Kelley, FADICA's president and CEO, said in a statement. "B.J. invited multiple partners, including corporate employers, to participate in Cristo Rey's innovative model, all to help students reach their potential. He invested in the network early and brought the model to scale across the country, spreading its effectiveness and impact."

    U.S. bishops condemn court's denial of imam's presence at execution

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Supreme Court's refusal to allow an imam to be present at a Muslim man's execution Feb. 7 was "unjust treatment" that is "disturbing to people of all faiths," said two U.S bishops. "People deserve to be accompanied in death by someone who shares their faith. It is especially important that we respect this right for religious minorities," said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, in a Feb. 8 statement. They are the chairmen, respectively, of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee for Religious Liberty and the USCCB's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. In a 5-4 vote Feb. 7, the Supreme Court allowed the execution of Alabama death-row inmate Domineque Ray to proceed without an imam present as Ray had requested. He had been told that only prison employees, which included a Christian chaplain, could be at his execution for safety reasons. Just days before the Supreme Court weighed in, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit had stopped the execution and ordered an expedited briefing in the case. The Supreme Court's decision on the emergency stay was not a typical ruling following oral arguments so the court did not have to explain its decision. It only said the inmate had waited too long to object to the prison's decision.

    Update: Mexican shelters strain with arrival of asylum-seekers at U.S. border

    PIEDRAS NEGRAS, Mexico (CNS) -- Gangs in Honduras first threatened Denia Garcia's husband six months ago, telling him to join with them or die. Her husband, a police officer, fled to the United States, arriving successfully. In his absence, the gangs threatened Garcia, sending her on the migrant path with her children, ages 2 and 5. Garcia, who recently arrived in this city across the U.S.-Mexico border from Eagle Pass, Texas, wants to apply for asylum in the United States, but it's a slow process. U.S. officials process only a small fraction of the migrants seeking asylum on a daily basis, forcing them to stay in Mexico until their names are called from long waiting lists. Some asylum-seekers also now are being returned to Mexico -- under a plan known as Remain in Mexico -- as their claims are adjudicated. As she waits for her name to be called, Garcia said she had hoped to stay in the diocesan-run Dignified Border shelter in Piedras Negras, but found it unable to accommodate long stays. "We don't know if we can stay here because supposedly it's only (a few days) here and we were hoping for more," she said at the shelter. "We don't have anywhere to sleep after that." Asylum-seekers like Garcia arrive at legal ports of entries the length of the U.S.-Mexico border, but increasingly face long waits to lodge their petitions with U.S. officials, forcing them to spend weeks or months in unsafe Mexican border cities.

    Portland archbishop's pastoral letter calls for more chant in liturgy

    PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- Portland Archbishop Alexander K. Sample in a new pastoral letter said that only sacred music that is characterized by sanctity, beauty and universality "is worthy of the holy Mass." He explained that ancient or modern music can qualify, but that Gregorian chant is the preferred music for Catholic worship. His 21-page pastoral titled "Sing to the Lord a New Song" seeks more chant at Masses and urges all parishes in the western Oregon archdiocese to get a pipe organ. The Jan. 25 letter emerged while Archbishop Sample was leading a pilgrimage in Panama for World Youth Day. Among the activities was the celebration of Mass in the extraordinary form, known as the Tridentine rite, at which the archbishop preached. He said the ancient rite can "speak very powerfully" to young people. "The beauty, dignity and prayerfulness of the Mass depend to a large extent on the music that accompanies the liturgical action," the archbishop wrote. He cited many popes, including Pope Francis, who once warned of "mediocrity, superficiality and banality" in liturgy. When it comes to choosing music for Mass, Archbishop Sample said, there are objective principles, not simply a surrender to taste. Sacred music's purpose is the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful, he said, adding that sanctity, beauty, and universality are the essential qualities that flow from that dual purpose.

    English cardinal says people rely on modern slavery for cheap goods

    BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (CNS) -- An English cardinal said people have become unwittingly reliant on modern slavery for cheap goods and illicit pleasures. Warning of a return to slave-driven economies, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster said slavery was again becoming "one of the most profitable criminal activities in the world." He said that although it was an evil comparable in enormity to child abuse, ordinary people often failed to realize how they were sometimes "part of the chain of supply and demand" that has led to an estimated 40 million people -- a third of whom are believed to be children -- trapped in slavery around the world. "Their fate is not distant from us," the cardinal said in a Feb. 8 homily at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires on the feast of St Josephine Bakhita, patron saint of the victims of human trafficking. "We have to recognize how we, too, are part of the dynamics of life which lead to their captivity," said Cardinal Nichols, president of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. "In one way or another, we are part of the chain of supply and demand that results in their enslavement," he continued.

    World needs to be healed, not condemned, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Taking their cue from Christ, moral theologians can see that people need to be liberated and healed, not condemned, Pope Francis said. But the earth -- humanity's common home -- is also in great need of care, he added, asking that moral theology expand to include an "ecological dimension." The pope held an audience at the Vatican Feb. 9 with professors and students of the Alphonsian Academy in Rome, a graduate school specializing in moral theology. The school was founded by the Redemptorists 70 years ago, inspired by the teachings of St. Alphonsus Liguori. The pope said St. Alphonsus knew what was needed was not defending oneself from the world or condemning it, but working "to heal and liberate, in imitation of Christ's action." The church must give attention to people who are subjected to the many "forms of the power of sin that continue to condemn them to insecurity, poverty and marginalization," he said. Moral theologians also should be inspired to face with "great willingness the new, serious challenges stemming from the speed with which our society evolves" and which in turn fosters attitudes of competition, the law of "survival of the fittest" and the "throwaway culture."

    Indiana parish opens 'Blessing Box' as a gift to people in need

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- Father Doug Marcotte believes "there's no better way to change a community than one small act of kindness at a time." So the pastor of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Jeffersonville embraced a plan from one of the parishioners to help individuals and families in the community when they don't have enough food for their next meal. The parishioner's idea involved making a "Blessing Box" -- a small, stand-alone structure that would be filled with nonperishable food items and toiletries that anyone in need could access at any time of day. The plan also would include placing the "Blessing Box" in a discreet setting on the parish grounds so no one would feel uncomfortable taking items from it. "Everyone thought it was a great idea," said Father Marcotte about the parish council's approval of the plan. "It is an easy way to do one of the corporal works of mercy -- to feed the hungry. "One of the things that's a reality is that there are always people who slip through the cracks. We're not trying to be a food pantry. We're hoping to provide for people who need a meal for their family today. It's a need we regularly experience."

    Pope updates role, authority of auditor's office as part of reform

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As part of ongoing financial reform efforts, Pope Francis updated the role and authority of the auditor general's office, calling it the Vatican's "anti-corruption authority." The Vatican announced Feb. 9 that the new statutes go into effect Feb. 16 and replace those first promulgated on an experimental basis by the pope in 2015. The work of the auditor general's office remains largely the same: to perform a financial and compliance audit "with full autonomy and independence" of all offices of the Roman Curia, institutions connected to the Holy See and all offices of Vatican City State. It will continue to perform specific audits when requested or deemed necessary, as well as receive and investigate reports on anomalous or irregular activities concerning budgets, allocation of resources, financial records, procurement services, transactions of assets or acts of corruption, embezzlement and fraud, according to the statutes. It will continue to protect the identity of those who report anomalous activities, but it specified it would not consider anonymous complaints.

    Generous service brings abundant blessings, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God accomplishes great things when Christians cast aside doubt and generously place themselves in his service, Pope Francis said. Speaking to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square Feb. 10 for his Sunday Angelus address, the pope said that Jesus invites all men and women who are discouraged to trust in him, so he can fulfill "a greater plan" just as he did with his disciples. Jesus' "invitation to go out in the open sea of today's humanity to be witnesses of goodness and mercy gives new meaning to our existence, which often risks collapsing in on itself," he said. After praying the Angelus prayer, the pope commemorated the World Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking, which is celebrated Feb. 8 -- the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, who was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Sudan and Italy. He also appealed to world leaders "to tackle the causes of this scourge decisively and to protect the victims" before leading pilgrims in praying to the patron saint of Sudan.

    Pope to visit school for imams, Muslim preachers in Morocco in March

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' trip to Morocco March 30-31 will include a visit to a school training an international group of Muslim prayer leaders and preachers, including women. He also will visit to a Caritas center assisting migrants, many of whom ended up in the North African country with hopes of eventually making it to Europe. Returning to Rome from the United Arab Emirates Feb. 5, Pope Francis told journalists he had hoped to go to Marrakech, Morocco, in December for the signing of the U.N. Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, but protocol dictated that he make a full visit to the country and there was not time in December. The trip in March will include a full slate of formal events, including a meeting with King Mohammed VI and a visit to the mausoleum of King Mohammed V, who negotiated the country's independence from France and ruled until his death in 1961. The visit to Morocco, where more than 99 percent of the population is Muslim, will give Pope Francis an opportunity to continue the reflections on Christian-Muslim relations he began in Abu Dhabi in February. As he did in the United Arab Emirates, he is expected to highlight 2019 as the 800th anniversary of the encounter of St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil of Egypt.

    French order, acknowledging abuse by founder, clarifies pope's remarks

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The leaders of three branches of the French religious Community of St. John insist their order has enacted strong protections against clerical sexual abuse, including the abuse of its nuns by its priests and brothers. Leaders of the men's community and the active and contemplative groups of women issued a statement Feb. 7 after Pope Francis spoke of a new religious order dissolved by then-Pope Benedict XVI "because the slavery of women, including sexual slavery, had become part of it." The pope made his remarks Feb. 5 to reporters flying back to Rome with him from the United Arab Emirates. Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office, identified the order as the French Community of St. John. He also later issued a statement clarifying that the pope was not talking about actual "sexual slavery," but "'manipulation,' a form of abuse of power that is reflected also in sexual abuse."

    'Cardinal virtue' of justice must be protected, pope tells judges

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Justice, along with prudence, fortitude and temperance, is a virtue that must be defended for the good of society, Pope Francis told a group of Italian judges. A world without justice risks weakening the very fabric of society and can transform it into "a breeding ground for illegality," the pope said Feb. 9 during a meeting with the Italian National Association of Judges. "Without justice, all social life remains jammed, like a door that can no longer open or ends up screeching and creaking in a cumbersome movement," he said. According to its website, the association, which was founded in 1909, is comprised of more than 8,300 Italian judges and is dedicated to protecting "the constitutional values, independence and autonomy of the judiciary." Francesco Minisci, president of the association, praised the pope for his defense of "justice, solidarity, the fight against corruption, the mission and the exercise of mercy."

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  • Weeklong observance in U.S. celebrates 'beauty and gift of marriage'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- National Marriage Week USA and World Marriage Day are opportunities for "building a culture of life and love that begins with promoting and defending marriage and the family," said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia. The archbishop, who is chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, made the comments in a letter to his brother bishops about the weeklong observance Feb. 7-14 and the international day, observed Feb. 10 this year. The USCCB offers resources in English and Spanish about marriage, the promotion and defense of marriage as a lifelong union of one man and one woman through its websites, and Additional resources specifically for the celebration of National Marriage Week, including a preaching resource, poster, and prayer intentions, can be found on the USCCB website at A daily virtual marriage retreat for couples is currently available on the website and via the For Your Marriage social media channels on Facebook and Twitter. The retreat, which began Feb. 7, focuses on the theme "Marriage: Made for a Reason."

    Women religious organization issues statement on abuse of sisters

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Days after the pope acknowledged abuse of nuns and sisters by priests and bishops, the largest U.S. organization of women religious thanked the pontiff for shedding "light on a reality that has been largely hidden from the public," but the group also called for measures to address the issue. "We hope that Pope Francis' acknowledgement is a motivating force for all of us in the Catholic Church to rectify the issue of sexual abuse by clergy thoroughly and swiftly," said the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in a Feb. 7 statement. It acknowledged that "the sexual harassment and rape of Catholic sisters by priests and bishops has been discussed in meetings of leaders of orders of Catholic sisters from around the world for almost 20 years." But while the abuse had been discussed, the group said, the information hadn't always been acted on. LCWR, an association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in U.S., has about 1,350 members and represents about 80 percent of women religious in the United States. "We acknowledge that, as sisters, we did not always provide environments that encouraged our members to come forward and report their experiences to proper authorities," the statement said. "We regret that when we did know of instances of abuse, we did not speak out more forcefully for an end to the culture of secrecy and cover-ups within the Catholic Church that have discouraged victims from coming forward.

    Supreme Court blocks Louisiana law that would restrict abortion providers

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Supreme Court blocked a Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals Feb. 7. In the court's 5-4 vote, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with four justices in favor of blocking this regulation for now. Since the decision was a brief order, it did not contain an explanation. The court is likely to hear a challenge to the law's constitutionality during its next term. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh sided with the state law, but Kavanaugh also wrote a dissent from the order, noting he would have preferred more information on the specific impact of the state's restrictions. In his four-page dissent, he wrote that the main issue is if the admitting-privileges requirement puts an "undue burden" on a woman's ability to have an abortion. Kavanaugh said the state's doctors and hospitals should first aim to resolve the admitting-privileges question and if they can't, the case should return to court. If they do resolve this issue and the doctors continue to perform abortions, he said the law would not impose an undue burden. In reaction, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops' pro-life committee, said: "The abortion industry's objection to such a reasonable law, and this court's decision to temporarily prevent it from going into effect, is further evidence of how abortion extremism actively works against the welfare of women."

    Vermont bishop says abortion bill 'goes too far' by allowing infanticide

    BURLINGTON, Vt. (CNS) -- The bishop of the Diocese of Burlington said an abortion bill working its way through the Vermont Legislature "goes too far." Bishop Christopher J. Coyne said the proposal, H. 57, "goes far beyond Roe v. Wade," the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, by "guaranteeing unrestricted abortion through all nine months of pregnancy." This, he added, "means that a baby in the womb can be terminated right up to the moment of natural birth. My friends, that is not abortion. That is infanticide." The House Human Services Committee passed the bill out of its committee Feb. 7 after only making what Vermont Right to Life called "cosmetic changes." It now moves to the House Judiciary Committee. The bill's sponsors say it isn't intended to change or pre-empt abortion law but simply "codify current access." Bishop Coyne said the Catholic faith teaches that all human life is sacred, "meaning 'of God'" -- from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death and that Catholics are called to embrace and protect that sacred gift.

    U.S. Catholic officials welcome Catholic-Muslim document signed by pope

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The declaration signed by Pope Francis and Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar, during the pope's trip to the United Arab Emirates "is a clarion call for robust dialogue that leads to peace," said the Catholic chairman of the National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue and the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. "In our increasingly hostile world in which violence too often predominates between Christians and Muslims -- violence that has led to tragic consequences for the most vulnerable humans -- we welcome with great joy this historic joint statement on human fraternity," said Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago and Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Pope Francis and Sheik el-Tayeb, a leading religious authority for many Sunni Muslims around the world, signed "A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together" Feb. 4 in Abu Dhabi. "We, who believe in God and in the final meeting with him and his judgment, on the basis of our religious and moral responsibility, and through this document, call upon ourselves, upon the leaders of the world as well as the architects of international policy and world economy, to work strenuously to spread the culture of tolerance and of living together in peace," the document said.

    CLINIC, partners want end to 'remain in Mexico' policy for asylum-seekers

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Immigrant advocates called on the Department of Homeland Security to rescind the so-called "remain in Mexico" policy that finds the United States returning migrants across the southern border to await their U.S. court hearings. The Catholic Legal Immigration Network and the Dilley Pro Bono Project said in a Feb. 6 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that the Migrant Protection Protocols developed by the federal agency infringes on the due process rights and well-being of migrants. "The MPP represents a unilateral decision by the U.S. government that threatens to jeopardize meaningful access to asylum and other humanitarian protections under our immigration laws," the letter said. The 30-page letter includes testimony from 10 families describing the violence they have experienced in Mexico, including rape, kidnappings, beatings and ransom. Mexican authorities have stated they do not support the program but would not block efforts to return migrant people across the border.

    Life has meaning when given with love to others, pope says in homily

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A life lived selfishly, corruptly or filled with hate is a life that is useless, shrivels up and dies, Pope Francis said in a morning homily. On the other hand, life has meaning and value "only in giving it in love, in truth, in giving it to others in daily life, in the family," he said Feb. 8 at morning Mass in the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae. In his homily, the pope reflected on the four individuals in the day's Gospel reading from St. Mark (6:14-29): King Herod; his brother's wife, Herodias; her daughter, Salome; and St. John the Baptist. Jesus had said "there has been none greater than John the Baptist," but this saint knew the one to be exalted and followed was Christ, not himself, the pope said. The saint had said, it is the Messiah who "must increase; I must decrease," which he did, even to the point of being thrown into a dark prison cell and decapitated, Pope Francis said. "Martyrdom is a service, it is a mystery, it is a very special and very great gift of life," the pope said.

    Witness, discipleship are key to missionary work, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Proclaiming the Gospel is not the same thing as proselytism and often means simply being a neighbor and friend to someone while living an authentically Christian life, Pope Francis said. Mission "is that dynamic that leads you to be a neighbor to others to share the gift you have received: the encounter of love that changed your life and led you to consecrate your life to the Lord Jesus, good news for the life and salvation of the world," the pope said Feb. 8. Pope Francis spoke about mission and witness during a meeting with the Missionaries of Africa and the Missionaries of Our Lady of Africa, men's and women's religious orders founded 150 years ago by Cardinal Charles Lavigerie of Algiers, Algeria. Encouraging the missionaries to continue being "nomads for the Gospel," the pope asked them to be "men and women who are not afraid to go into the deserts of this world and seek together the means for accompanying brothers and sisters to the oasis that is the Lord so that the living water of his love can quench their every thirst." To be a missionary, the pope said, a Christian first must be a disciple of Jesus.

    Nigerian bishops urge voters to reflect, pray ahead of country's elections

    LAGOS, Nigeria (CNS) -- Nigeria's Catholic bishops called on voters to prepare to cast their ballots in upcoming elections by reflecting, fasting and praying on how best the country's future can be served. Recalling that Nigeria had remained united despite numerous difficult political challenges, the bishops said prayer was still needed for a new era to dawn in Africa's largest democracy. "These elections should, therefore, be for us a time for sober reflection on our future as a people, as well as on how to keep our country and our people united and peaceful. With the resources available to us as a country, we can achieve this," said a Feb. 7 statement from Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria. The statement was signed by Archbishop Augustine Akubeze of Benin City and Bishop Camillus Umoh of Ikot Ekpene, the conference president and secretary, respectively. Nigerians will vote Feb. 16 for president and members of the National Assembly. A second round of voting for local governors and state legislatures is set for March 2.

    Vatican commemorates 90th anniversary of Lateran Pacts

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The historic signing of the Lateran Pacts between the Holy See and Italy 90 years ago is an important example of cooperation and peace that is needed in today's world, a Vatican official said. Norbertine Father Bernard Ardura, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, told journalists Feb. 8 that the Lateran Pacts, which ended decades of tension between Italy and the Holy See, shows that reconciliation between former foes is an achievable goal. Ninety years later, he said, "the effective cooperation between the Holy See and the Italian state that still exists today, especially in these years of economic and social precariousness and more recently of humanitarian crisis, demonstrates the goodness of the Lateran Pacts." Signed in 1929, the Lateran Pacts settled what was known as the "Roman question," a dispute that lasted nearly 60 years after Italy's seizure of the Papal States.

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  • Judge allows survey of church property for border wall construction

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A judge in Texas ruled Feb. 6 that the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, must allow federal officials to survey some of its property for possible construction of a border wall on it. The action had been blocked by Brownsville Bishop Daniel E. Flores, who earlier said he could not consent to it because such a structure "would limit freedom of the church to exercise her mission." But U.S. District Court Judge Randy Crane said surveying the land would not constitute a "substantial burden" for the church and that federal officials could proceed. Lawyers representing the diocese opposed the survey, particularly on the stretch of land that includes the historic La Lomita chapel. The structure, in the border city of Mission, is near a levee where the government wants to build part of President Donald Trump's proposed border wall. Mary McCord, of Georgetown University Law School's Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection and lead counsel for the Diocese of Brownsville, said in a Feb. 7 phone interview with Catholic News Service that while the ruling was not about taking away property from the diocese at this time, attorneys representing the diocese wanted to make clear its opposition based on how it would affect the constitutional right to religious exercise. "We felt it was important," she said.

    Trump defends rights of faith-based adoption agencies at prayer breakfast

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Touting efforts to protect religious freedom, President Donald Trump told the National Prayer Breakfast that his administration would defend the right of faith-based adoption agencies to place children in families based on firmly held religious beliefs. "We will always protect our country's proud tradition of faith-based adoption," Trump said. "My administration is working to ensure that faith-based adoption agencies are able to help vulnerable children find their forever families while following their deeply held beliefs." His comments came after introducing Melissa and Chad Buck, a Catholic couple from Holt, Michigan, who have adopted five children with special needs through St. Vincent Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Lansing. Two of the Holts' children -- Max, 10, and Liz, 9 -- joined the couple at the Feb. 7 breakfast. Trump alluded to an American Civil Liberties Union federal lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services that challenges a state law that protects child-placing agencies that deny adoption services because of a conflict with the agency's religious beliefs. The lawsuit argues that state-contracted, taxpayer-funded child placement agencies unconstitutionally discriminate by disqualifying same-sex couples from consideration for adoption or foster care.

    Archbishop Gomez calls for 'new humanism' amid troubled times

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles told a crowd of priests, women religious and students the story of a Spanish missionary named Montesinos. Witnessing the cruelty of colonialists to Indians, Montesinos did not back down in a 1511 Advent sermon. The missionary declared: "Are these not men? Have they not rational souls? Are you not bound to love them as you love yourself?" "In many ways, Montesinos' questions are with us again," Archbishop Gomez said, opening his address Feb. 6 during The Catholic University of America's seventh annual Hispanic Innovators of the Faith lecture series. "What does it mean to be human? What are the obligations we have toward our neighbors? Where is God and Jesus Christ in all of this?" Speaking "not as a historian or a scholar, but as a pastor of souls," Archbishop Gomez addressed what he called "the crisis of man" in his address, explaining that he meant "a crisis of human nature. Men and women. All of us. People have been talking about a 'crisis of man' since at least the end of the Second World War," Archbishop Gomez said. "We forget that in the last century, millions were killed ... in Soviet gulags and Nazi death camps, in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in genocides in nearly every part of the world."

    Update: Cardinal says closing seven 'of our beloved schools' tough decision

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In the First Letter of Peter, we read: "Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly." Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York invoked this theme in a Twitter video he posted late Feb. 4 about school closures. "Today we made the painful announcement that seven of our beloved Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York are not going to reopen next fall. ... These are painful and difficult decisions and I ask for your prayers for those especially impacted," in text accompanying the video. Catholic New York, the archdiocesan newspaper, reported the closings were first announced by the Office of the Superintendent of Schools of the Archdiocese of New York. Two schools each in the boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx, and one each in the borough of Staten Island, Dutchess County and Sullivan County will be shuttered at the end of the 2018-19 academic year. "You know, I'd rather be opening some new ones instead of closing the gems that we've got, but reality sets in," Cardinal Dolan said in his video.

    London council committee OKs exclusion zone around abortion clinic

    LONDON (CNS) -- A council in London could become the second local authority in the U.K. to approve an exclusion zone around an abortion clinic. A regulatory committee of Richmond Council voted Feb. 6 to make it a crime to attempt any form of interaction with staff or visitors to a center run by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service in Twickenham, a suburban area of southwest London. If the Public Spaces Protection Order is sanctioned by a full meeting of the council, it will be the second to be used to create a "buffer zone" around an abortion clinic. The decision by Richmond Council follows a 2018 decision by Ealing Council, London, to create a 218-yard zone around a Marie Stopes clinic. That policy is due to face a legal challenge in the Court of Appeal. Both councils have alleged that individuals participating in pro-life vigils have harassed and intimidated women going for abortions. Elizabeth Howard of the Be Here for Me campaign, in support of the vigils, said: "It is shocking to see how Richmond has acted on allegation rather than evidence in bringing in this censorship zone. "They have deliberately chosen to outlaw charitable activity that has a profoundly positive impact for many vulnerable women," she said in a statement emailed to Catholic News Service.

    Spokesman for Central African bishops raises doubts about new peace deal

    OXFORD, England (CNS) -- An official of the Central African Republic bishops' conference has raised doubts about a new government-rebel peace deal and urged the international community to give greater backing to the country's legitimate armed forces. "Of course, we can hope such an accord might lead toward peace, but if it runs counter to justice and truth, this is unlikely," said Father Joseph Tanga-Koti, secretary-general of the bishops' conference. "Our bishops have condemned the presence of mercenaries from Sudan, Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Uganda. If these countries wish our people to live in peace, they should take steps to stop (the mercenaries) coming here, along with the arms they traffic." The priest spoke with Catholic News Service Feb. 6, a day after President Faustin-Archange Touadera and representatives of 14 armed groups signed a peace deal in Bangui, the nation's capital. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir brokered the deal. Father Tanga-Koti said the country's Catholic bishops had discussed peace objectives with the president Jan. 12, but had not been invited to observe the negotiations. He added that many Catholics were skeptical about the new accord, the eighth in six years, which was reached behind closed doors and had not yet been made public.

    Pope encourages worldwide prayer in fight against trafficking

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking invites people to host or attend a prayer service that fosters awareness of and support for victims of trafficking. The annual day, created with Pope Francis' encouragement in 2015, is celebrated Feb. 8 -- the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, who was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Sudan and Italy. Once she was freed, she became a Canossian sister and dedicated her life to sharing her testament of deliverance from slavery and comforting the poor and suffering. She was declared a saint in 2000 and Pope Francis has called her "an exemplary witness of hope for the many victims of slavery" today.

    Trafficking statistics do not reveal real extent of modern slavery

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has called human trafficking "a crime against humanity." Whether it be child labor, illegal adoptions, forced marriage, illegally obtained organs, sex trafficking, child soldiers or labor exploitation, the trafficking of men, women and children affects every country of the world. The illegal and hidden nature of human trafficking means the true number of victims is not known. And current reports, like the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, depend on reported cases from participating nations. According to the report for 2018, traffickers mostly target women and girls, but the number of male victims is increasing. For example, in Western and Southern Europe, women and girls make up 71 percent of trafficked victims, while men and boys make up 29 percent of known victims. Trafficking for sexual exploitation continued to be the most commonly detected form of trafficking, according to the report, which said that 66 percent of trafficking cases are considered sex trafficking. Women again make up 72 percent of reported sexually exploited victims.

    Pope tells prison staff they must help inmates find hope

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A prison sentence without hope serves no purpose other than to stir feelings of revenge and anger in inmates who are looking for a second chance in life, Pope Francis said. Speaking to staff members of Rome's Regina Coeli prison Feb. 7, the pope said that both prison staff and inmates always must look forward to the inmate's reintegration in society, including prisoners serving life sentences who can still make positive contributions from within the prison walls. "A punishment without hope does not serve a purpose, it does not help, it arouses in one's heart feelings of resentment, many times of revenge, and the person leaves worse than he entered," the pope said. Located less than two miles from the Vatican, Regina Coeli prison has hosted visits from four pontiffs, including Pope Francis who celebrated the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper at the prison and washed the feet of a dozen inmates in 2018. Meeting prison administrators, chaplains, doctors and volunteers, Pope Francis praised them for their inner strength and perseverance in the "difficult task of healing the wounds of those who through their mistakes, find themselves deprived of their personal freedom."

    To ignore trafficking is to be complicit in the crime, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To be indifferent to or ignore human trafficking and modern-day slavery would be to become an accomplice to those crimes, Pope Francis said. "Although we try to ignore it, slavery is not something from other times," he said in a video explaining his prayer intention for the month of February. "We cannot ignore the fact that there is as much slavery in the world today as there was before, or perhaps more," he said in the one-minute video, published online at Feb. 7. "Faced with this tragic reality, no one can wash their hands of it without being, in some way, an accomplice to this crime against humanity," he said, calling for prayers and action by welcoming those who are victims of human trafficking, forced prostitution and violence. The video was presented at a Vatican news conference underlining the importance of the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking. The day of prayer, encouraged by Pope Francis, is celebrated every Feb. 8, the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita.

    Africa is also grappling with clerical abuse, say Catholic leaders

    NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- When child sexual abuse scandals involving Catholic priests emerge in Africa, they do not draw a frenzied reaction similar to that witnessed in developed countries, but the continent's church is affected, said Catholic leaders. While there is a general view that the scandals are a challenge of the church in Europe and America, African officials confirm the incidents, amid reports of some provinces expelling or defrocking priests. In Africa, clerics view the issue as too delicate and sensitive for the public, and many remained tight-lipped on the subject. At the same time, the church leaders said they were concerned about the abuses and closely follow any such reports, both locally and globally. "Africa is also affected like any other continent, but to what extent, I am not sure," Precious Blood Sister Hermenegild Makoro, general secretary of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, told Catholic News Service. In October, the South African church defrocked three priests over sexual abuse of children in the parishes. Since 2003, 35 cases of abuse involving priests have been reported to the church in South Africa. Sister Makoro said out of the 35 cases, only seven were being investigated by the police, and one has led to a life sentence.

    Poverty, humility needed to heal wounded hearts, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Those who proclaim the Gospel must embrace humility and poverty to give an authentic witness to faith and not use others to climb the ladder of success, Pope Francis said. Just as Jesus sent the apostles out to preach telling them to take nothing but a walking stick, Jesus wants pastors to be shepherds who feed their flock and "do not try to take the milk of the sheep, who do not try to take the wool of the sheep," the pope said Feb. 7 in his homily during Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae. Recalling St. Augustine's warning to pastors about feeding themselves rather than their flocks, the pope said that one who looks for milk is "seeking money and one who seeks wool likes to dress with the vanity of his office. He is a climber. If an apostle, an envoy, one of us -- there are many of us envoys here -- goes around with his nose in the air a bit, believing himself superior to others or looking for some form of human gain or, I don't know, looking for a position in the church, he will never heal anyone, he will never be able to open anyone's heart, because his word will have no authority," he said.

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  • Head of U.S. bishops says new 'season' could come after abuse crisis

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The laity may be angry over the most recent revelations of the Catholic Church's sex abuse crisis, but bishops, particularly younger ones, share in that anger and "want to move with real force" toward solutions and it could yield a new season for the church, said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Feb. 6. Cardinal Daniel N. Dinardo, who is the archbishop of Galveston-Houston, made the comments during a daylong conference to address the problem. The "Healing the Breach of Trust" conference, the second such meeting at The Catholic University of America in Washington, addressed the need of more involvement by lay women and men -- one inspired by the teachings of the Second Vatican Council -- in building what the cardinal called in the morning part of the conference a new "season" for the church, and one that may not be accidental. "Think about what the Spirit might be doing in all of this," Cardinal DiNardo said. "In saying this, I am in no way trying to deny or dodge the issues of the episcopal responsibility and accountability that this crisis has raised," but added it's worth it to ponder St. Augustine's principle "that God can bring good even out of evil."

    Catholic college, university leaders focus on finances, job market

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Participants at the annual meeting of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities had to know they were getting down to brass tacks with the theme of this year's gathering: "Mission, Myth, Money: Securing Catholic Higher Education for the Future." Under that umbrella, it was not surprising that the workshops at the Feb. 2-4 conference at a Washington hotel pretty much dealt with financial challenges such as: "Multiple Paths of Securing Money in a Hostile Environment"; "Strategies to Grow Your Revenue and Enrollment"; "How to Secure Federal Grant Funding at a Small Catholic College"; and "Making Difficult Business Decisions Without Abandoning Your Catholic Mission." That's not to say the event only focused on economic challenges though. The annual meeting -- which brings together Catholic college and university presidents and school leaders from around the country for networking, workshops and keynote talks -- also put a lot of emphasis on what is unique in Catholic higher education: the mission or charism of each school with traditions rooted in Catholic social teaching. College leaders were encouraged to boast about their accomplishments and diffuse misconceptions about their schools to keep enrollment growing for the future. The closing session Feb. 4 tied a lot of these ideas together by focusing on how Catholic colleges and universities reconcile their Catholic identity and mission with society's market-driven forces and focus on jobs.

    Even with his team's loss, Rams exec counts health, family, faith as wins

    ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- When Tony Pastoors was 5 days old, his mother, Betsy, kneeled in a hospital chapel to pray that his life would be spared. He seemed fine when he was born Sept. 24, 1987, at United Hospital in St. Paul. Betsy described him as a "huge baby" who weighed 11 pounds. But, after bringing him home, she quickly discovered he wasn't able to have a bowel movement. Doctors diagnosed him with Hirschsprung's disease, which attacks the colon, and he was scheduled for surgery Sept. 29 of that year. She pleaded for God to save him, and in those tense and prayerful moments never imagined that he would not only survive the surgery, but go on to star in football at Totino-Grace Catholic High School in Fridley, Minnesota. He played defensive back and quarterback, and helped the Eagles win state championships in both his sophomore and junior years. The climb up the football ladder continued after he graduated from high school in 2006. He went on to Dartmouth College, where he played defensive back all four years. The summer after his graduation from Dartmouth in 2010 with a history degree, he landed a front-office job with the then-St. Louis Rams. Now the vice president of football and business administration, he helped build the franchise, which moved to Los Angeles in 2016, into a Super Bowl team, helping with the draft and taking part in interviewing now-head coach Sean McVay. The Rams lost to the New England Patriots Feb. 3 in Super Bowl LIII, 13-3.

    Catholics pray for abuse survivors, more lay involvement in church

    MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (CNS) -- Members of four area parishes came together in Morgantown Jan. 26 to pray for victims of abuse by clergy and for more transparency by the church and more lay involvement. "We gather here today as laypeople upset and frustrated that we were not aware of what was happening in our own church, not aware of the conduct of some members of the clergy and some members of the hierarchy," said Charles DiSalvo of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Morgantown to begin the prayer service. "Our hearts are filled with sympathy and concern for those who have been abused and mistreated. Today we call for prayers for the healing of victims," he continued. "Today we call for reparations for the victims. Our spirits are filled with resolve that this will never happen again. We will remain silent no more. "Today we gather to call for accountability by priests and bishops. Today we gather to a call for a reform of the church today we gather to call for change." The service was organized by the Stewardship Committee at St. Francis de Sales and gathered roughly 25 parishioners of all ages from St. Francis de Sales, St. John University Parish in Morgantown, St. Mary Parish in Star City, and St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Cheat Lake at the Morgantown Farmer's Market.

    Update: Dioceses warned of possible legal action by Ky. student's lawyers

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two weeks after the much-talked about and interpreted incident that occurred between Catholic high school students, a Native American tribal leader and members of another protest group, lawyers for one of the students sent more than 50 letters to media outlets, individual journalists, celebrities and Catholic dioceses and archdioceses warning of possible legal action. The letters -- from the lawyers for Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann, the student most prominent in viral footage of the Jan. 18 encounter in Washington -- were sent to individuals and groups the attorneys think may have defamed or libeled Sandmann particularly in the initial reaction on social media. The incident in question occurred when students from Kentucky's Covington Catholic High School, who had attended the March for Life, were waiting for buses to pick them up near the Lincoln Memorial. In clips from a video that went viral almost immediately, students were shown surrounding Nathan Phillips, tribal elder for the Omaha Tribe, who was chanting and beating a drum. The students appeared to be mocking him. Sandmann, inches away from the drummer, who never moved and was smiling, was accused of flagrant disrespect. The clip caused immediate outrage, particularly on social media. By the next day, extended footage of how the situation unfolded revealed that another group at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial had taunted the students and some responded back. Phillips had walked over to the students and the group, as an intervention, singing and beating a song of prayer.

    Likelihood of two-state solution in Middle East dimming, say two clergy

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The likelihood that a two-state solution will emerge in the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict is narrowing to the point of impossibility, according to two clergy familiar with the situation. "I never speak of a two-state solution. It's got to be two viable, contiguous states," said Father Elias Mallon. And by that measure, he added, the outlook is dim. Father Mallon, a Franciscan Friar of the Atonement who is external affairs officer for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, pointed to a number of current difficulties, such as continued settlement-building by Israelis in the Palestinian territories -- Israel, he said, now has total control over 61 percent of all Palestinian land. He also pointed to the lack of development in Palestine. Its economy is shrinking at a rate of 6 percent a year, Father Mallon said, and the typical Gazan now gets only six hours of electricity a day. "We are in a hypercharged political environment that is further entrenching everyone in this political movement," said the Rev. Mae Elise Cannon, an Evangelical Covenant Church minister and executive director of the Washington-based Churches for Middle East Peace. Both spoke during a Feb. 4 briefing on Holy Land issues at the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington.

    Bishops' wisdom of a century ago rises to the fore in economic debate

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Everything old is new again. Even if it's 100 years old. Some U.S. bishops, just months after the end of the Great War -- better known today as World War I -- met to assemble a proposal for a "reconstruction" program for the country now that the war had ended. The date of their "Proposal for Social Reconstruction" was Feb. 12, 1919 -- almost exactly 100 years ago to the day it was the topic of a session at this year's Catholic Social Ministry Gathering. In the document, the bishops outlined several of the domestic policy priorities still pushed by Catholic advocates attending the Feb. 2-5 gathering in Washington. Steven Bogus, vice president for social enterprise and workforce development with Catholic Charities USA, said the bishops' program called for "a minimum wage, a living wage," although the latter term had not been coined. One specific detail mentioned in 1919 was that "the wage during the war should not be lowered" after the war. "We should definitely not make people make less," Bogus said. The bishops also promoted what they then called "social insurance" to guard individuals and families from financial ruin due to illness, unemployment, old age and "invalidity," Bogus said at a Feb. 4 presentation.

    Feast day of St. Paul VI added to universal calendar

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Having considered the holiness of St. Paul VI and the influence of his ministry for the church worldwide, Pope Francis has approved putting the saint on the church's universal calendar of feast days as an optional -- not obligatory -- memorial. The celebration of the late pope is May 29 on the General Roman Calendar, the universal schedule of holy days and feast days for the Latin rite of the Catholic Church. On Feb. 6, the Vatican published the decree, issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments Jan. 25, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, the apostle. Pope Francis, who canonized Paul VI in October 2018, approved the optional memorial in light of "the petitions and desires of the people of God," said the decree, signed by Cardinal Robert Sarah and Archbishop Arthur Roche, the congregation's prefect and secretary, respectively. It said Pope Francis "considered this pope's holiness of life, witnessed to by his works and words" and took into account "the great influence of his apostolic ministry for the church throughout the whole world." The new memorial "will be inserted into all calendars and liturgical books for the celebration of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours; the liturgical texts to be adopted," it said, "must be translated, approved and, after the confirmation of this dicastery, be published by the episcopal conferences."

    Archbishop urges Senate to OK bill to protect babies who survive abortion

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- It is "unconscionable" that the U.S. Senate failed to "unanimously declare to the nation that infanticide is objectively wrong," said the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities. "No newborn should be left to suffer or die without medical care. It is barbaric and merciless to leave these vulnerable infants without any care or rights," Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, said in a Feb. 5 statement. The previous evening, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, called for unanimous consent on his Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, blocked unanimous consent by objecting to the bill. According to her, current federal law protects a child that survives an abortion. "Congress must take up and pass this (Sasse) bill and ensure that the legacy of Roe v. Wade does not extend itself from killing unborn children to killing newborn babies," Archbishop Naumann said. He also sent a letter to the U.S. Senate urging the body to bring the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act to the floor for a vote and pass it before the end of the week. He called it "common-sense legislation." Under Sasse's bill, doctors could face up to five years in prison for not assisting infants born alive after an abortion. It also would require that an infant born alive in an abortion clinic be transferred to a hospital.

    Jesuit Father Arrupe's sainthood cause officially opens in Rome

    ROME (CNS) -- The sainthood cause of Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe was formally opened in Rome at the Basilica of St. John Lateran Feb. 5, the 28th anniversary of Father Arrupe's death. The cause of Father Arrupe, superior general of the Jesuits from 1965 to 1983, was set in motion by the Diocese of Rome, the diocese where the former superior general died in 1991. The formal process of beatification and canonization includes compiling the priest's writings and gathering sworn testimonies about his life and holiness. Once the Jesuit postulator had the list of potential witnesses and had collected the writings, the formal opening of Father Arrupe's sainthood cause -- the diocesan inquiry -- could begin. The documentation from the diocesan inquiry will be sent to the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes, which reviews the gathered information. If he is found to have led a heroic life of Christian virtues, the church bestows the title "venerable." The next steps would be beatification and canonization. In general, two miracles determined to have occurred through the candidate's intercession are needed for sainthood -- one for beatification and the second for canonization.

    Pope: Respect, dialogue key for peace between Christians, Muslims

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said his recent visit to the United Arab Emirates, while brief, was a new page in relations between Christians and Muslims at a time when conflict and violence threaten the goal of lasting peace. Recalling his Feb. 3-5 visit to Abu Dhabi, the pope said during his weekly general audience Feb. 6 that the joint document signed by him and Egyptian Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar and chair of the Muslim Council of Elders, was a step forward in promoting dialogue and brotherhood. "In an age like ours, in which there is a strong temptation to see a clash between Christian and Islamic civilizations taking place, and also to consider religions as sources of conflict, we wanted to give another clear and decisive sign that, on the contrary, it is possible to meet, respect and dialogue with each other, and that, despite the diversity of cultures and traditions, the Christian and Islamic worlds appreciate and protect common values: life, the family, religious belief, honor for the elderly, the education of young people and much more," the pope said. Arriving at the Paul VI audience hall, the pope was in good spirits despite recently returning from the quick two-day visit. A group of pilgrims from Paraguay was the first to greet him, offering him "chipa," a cheese-flavored breakfast snack from their country.

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