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  • Ignore the church schedule and serve the people, pope tells deacons

    IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

    By Junno Arocho Esteves

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Deacons are called to be servants who set aside their own self-serving plans and are generous with their lives, Pope Francis said.

    A servant "is not a slave to his own agenda," but rather always is prepared for the unexpected and responds, even if that means ignoring the parish schedule, the pope said May 29 at a Mass for the Jubilee of Deacons in St. Peter's Square.

    "It pains my heart when I see a schedule in the parishes -- 'from this time to that time' -- and then, the door is closed. There is no priest, no deacon, no layperson to welcome the people. This is wrong. Have the courage to ignore the schedule," he said.

    Thousands of deacons and their families, braving the increasingly hot and humid Rome weather, attended the final Mass of the three-day Year of Mercy celebration dedicated to the diaconal ministry.

    In his homily, the pope reminded them that in order to proclaim Christ, one must first imitate him and "strive to become a servant."

    "If evangelizing is the mission entrusted at baptism to each Christian, serving is the way that mission is carried out. It is the only way to be a disciple of Jesus," the pope said.

    The first step in becoming "good and faithful servants," he continued, is to be available to others and detached from living life in one's own way. A true servant doesn't "hoard his free time," but gives up "the idea of being the master of his day."

    "One who serves is not a slave to his own agenda but ever ready to deal with the unexpected, ever available to his brothers and sisters and ever open to God's constant surprises," he said.

    Reflecting on the Sunday Gospel reading, in which a centurion humbly asks Jesus to heal his servant, the pope noted the soldier's meekness. Despite his authority to insist or force Jesus to come to his house, "he was modest and unassuming, he did not raise his voice or make a fuss."

    "Meekness is one of the virtues of a deacon. When a servant is meek, he is a servant and doesn't try to mimic the priests. No, he is meek," the pope said.

    Pope Francis said that like the servant healed by Christ, deacons must have "a healthy heart" that has been healed by God through forgiveness and constant dialogue with Jesus through daily prayer and the sacraments.

    "You can offer the Lord your work, your little inconveniences, your weariness and your hopes in an authentic prayer that brings your life to the Lord and the Lord to your life. When you serve at the table of the Eucharist, there you will find the presence of Jesus, who gives himself to you so that you can give yourselves to others," he said.

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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.
  • In tough times, Texas couple works hard to give daughters a future

    BROWNSVILLE, Texas (CNS) -- Gustavo Rodriguez knew he couldn't study math forever. The impoverished conditions in his town in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas in the early 1980s just wouldn't allow it. So instead of crunching numbers with a pencil and notepad his parents couldn't afford, he decided to pinch centavos elsewhere, away from home. And so the story begins of a life abroad where endings and beginnings meet at sunrise, high noon and sunset. By 1992, after a short construction stint laying foundations in Houston, the 44-year-old said in Spanish that he met his wife, Columba, closer to the meandering Rio Grande River in Brownsville. The couple relied on a heavy dose of Lone Star self-reliance, mowing lawns, cleaning houses and raising three young girls. Some 21 years later, their oldest daughter is in her third year of studies at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, and their second daughter, Alejandra, is graduating from high school at Marist-run St. Joseph Academy. "My dad loves math," Alejandra said describing her dad's commitment to helping her finish homework as a child. "And he always wanted to become a teacher. However, the circumstances he lived in didn't allow that to happen."

    TV anchor says 'integrity, compassion, sacrifice' is what matters in life

    NEW YORK (CNS) -- The value of a person's life "is seen in every act of integrity, compassion or sacrifice that enriches and encourages others," Emmy Award-winning broadcaster Ernie Anastos said in receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Christophers. The award recognizes individuals whose personal and professional contributions to making the world a better place "have left an indelible mark on our culture," according to an announcement from the organization. Previous winners include jazz legend Dave Brubeck, actor Carroll O'Connor, and author/historian David McCullough. Anastos, currently at FOX News 5 in New York, has been a television news anchor for more than 35 years. He also has been lead anchor at two other New York stations -- WABC-TV and WCBS-TV. He received the award May 19 during the 67th annual Christopher Awards ceremony in New York. The same evening awards were presented to 21 winners in film, TV and book categories.

    Deacons gather in Rome, share reflections on ministry, challenges

    ROME (CNS) -- Thousands of permanent deacons and their wives began their Year of Mercy celebration by cutting straight to the heart of what it means to be a deacon, how the ministry impacts their families and the challenge of explaining their vocation to others, including bishops and priests. The pilgrims divided into language groups and hundreds of English-, German- and Portuguese-speaking deacons and their families gathered May 27 at Rome's Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. Whether alone or with their wives, dressed in clerical collars or T-shirts because of the afternoon heat, they began sharing experiences of formation, homiletics training and ministry assignments even before the formal program began. The Jubilee of Deacons was to conclude May 29 with a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square. In the informal conversations and the sharing afterward, the women were active participants. Many of them had accompanied their husbands to formation classes, and all of them are directly impacted by their husbands' ministries.

    Clergy, lay activists look forward to federal rules on payday lending

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Clergy concerned about the financial health of their flock, and laypeople who have been burned by the payday loan industry -- which they allege does twice as much business as McDonald's -- are looking forward to the issuance of rules from the federal Consumer Financial Protection Board to rein in lenders. In advance of a June 2 field hearing on payday lending in Kansas City, Missouri, Molly Fleming, a payday lending reform advocate with Communities Creating Opportunities in Kansas City, expressed her hope that the rules would be announced before the hearing. Area pastors have been working on the payday lending issue since 2012, said Susan Schmalzbauer, a congregational coordinator for Faith Voices of Southwest Missouri. Even though a statewide referendum slated for 2014 was thwarted by lenders, the clergy regrouped and said, "Hey, we want to work on this again," Schmalzbauer told Catholic News Service in a May 26 telephone interview. "The beauty of predatory lending is that it's not a red or blue issue, it is truly a purple issue," she said. "We had religious leaders from across Springfield signing on to this letter. You wouldn't expect their names to be on the same document. We had the head of the Assemblies of God, the pastor of one of the largest churches in Springfield, the Disciples of Christ. We had Catholics sign on."

    Archbishop Prigione, first nuncio to Mexico, dies in Italy

    ROME (CNS) -- An Italian archbishop who served as the first apostolic nuncio to Mexico died May 27 at the age of 94. Archbishop Girolamo Prigione, who also served at diplomatic posts in El Salvador, Guatemala, Ghana and Nigeria, died in his native Diocese of Alessandria, Italy. He played an important role in Mexico as it established relations with the Vatican in 1992, ending decades of estrangement and restrictive rules such as priests and nuns not being allowed to wear habits in public. His role was not without controversy, however. Archbishop Prigione pursued close ties with the country's political class and promoted conservative clerics to key positions and dioceses, according to church observers. Following the announcement of his death, the Mexican bishops' conference expressed its gratitude for the archbishop's diplomatic service to the country. "We entrust him into the loving hands of God, our Lord and we ask that Our Lady of Guadalupe intercede for him. May he rest in peace," the bishops wrote.

    State of Illinois holds fate of thousands of seniors in its hands

    CHICAGO (CNS) -- On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Willie Beasley, 90, didn't want to get on the bus taking her home from Accolade Adult Day Care Services in Oak Park. The nonagenarian, who suffers from dementia, was enjoying herself too much to want to leave, according to her daughter and caregiver, Ann Rainey, who will be 71 in June. "She's enjoying her life. Let's put it that way. It's an enjoyment for her to go there," Rainey said. Operated by Catholic Charites of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Accolade is part of the statewide Community Care Program funded by state and federal contracts. Since the Illinois budget impasse that began last year, the state-funded portion of the program, which includes the adult day care centers, case management and home health aides, has gone largely unfunded. When state funds do come in, it's only about 40 percent of what is owed. Catholic Charities serves more than 25,000 seniors in Cook and Lake counties under this program and says 80 percent of those people are at risk of going into a nursing home within six months if these services are cut. Rainey agreed, saying without Accolade, she would have to put her mother in a nursing home.

    Catholic groups urge Illinois governor to sign stopgap bill to help poor

    CHICAGO (CNS) -- Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago and social service providers throughout the state are hoping that Gov. Bruce Rauner signs a stopgap measure that would provide $700 million to agencies that have been waiting for payment for contracted services to the poor and vulnerable since the budget impasse began July 1, 2015. As of midday May 27, S.B. 2038 remained unsigned and the fate of programs contracted through agencies such as Catholic Charities hung in the balance. As of May, the state owed Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago over $25 million. That money pays for state-contracted services the agency provides mostly to seniors. The agency floats the state $2 million each month. Catholic Charities in the archdiocese is the largest social-service provider in Illinois, caring for 1 million people annually. While the agency raises about $25 million privately each year, a large portion of its annual $200 million budget comes from government contracts. Representatives from Catholic Charities have been in continuous contact with elected officials in Springfield, the state capital.

    New Polish saint calls people to 'contemplate God's mercy,' bishops say

    WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The founder of the first Polish male religious order, who will be canonized in Rome June 5, calls people "to contemplate God's mercy and proclaim that God's heart is open to all," said Poland's bishops. Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski (1631-1701), founder of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, which now has more than 500 priests in 19 countries, promoted social justice and prayers for the dying. In a pastoral letter read in churches the last weekend in May, Polish bishops said Blessed Papczynski showed "the path to salvation is not closed to any sinner who is open to repentance." They said Father Papczynski had created the order when his country was "sunk in endless war, famine and disease," after realizing that many Poles, soldiers included, were dying "unprepared for meeting with God. Father Papczynski showed that love is the spirit, light and life of every order and social community, that no needy person should be left to die without support," they said.

    Archbishop, immigrant advocates decry plans for stepped-up raids

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles said in a May 25 statement that a planned increase in federal immigration raids is "yet another depressing sign of the failed state of American immigration policy." The raids were announced in mid-May. Archbishop Gomez' comment was echoed by Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration. The archbishop is chairman-elect of the committee. "These operations spark panic among our parishes," Bishop Elizondo said in a May 25 statement. "No person, migrant or otherwise, should have to fear leaving their home to attend church or school. No person should have to fear being torn away from their family and returned to danger." While saying he recognized the federal government's role in upholding immigration laws, he said the deportations wold not be "an effective deterrent" to migration because these "vulnerable populations" are facing a humanitarian crisis in their home countries. On May 24, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel deported a mother and her 14-year-old daughter from the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas.

    Don't turn faith into ideology, charity into philanthropy, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To follow the path of Christ means to serve the poor and the downtrodden while not turning Christian virtues simply into ideas and humanitarian endeavors, Pope Francis said. "In them, you touch and serve the flesh of Christ and grow in union with him, while always keeping watch so that faith does not become an ideology and charity is not reduced to philanthropy so that the church doesn't end up becoming an NGO," the pope told members of the general chapter of the Little Work of Divine Providence May 27. Founded by St. Luigi Orione, the order is comprised of two religious congregations -- the Orionine Fathers and the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity -- who care primarily for the sick, the elderly and people with learning disabilities. The pope encouraged the religious congregations to follow the example of their founder, who sought to heal the wounds of people in need of "bread for the body and the divine consolation of faith."

    St. John XXIII's aide, oldest member College of Cardinals, dies at 100

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The former secretary to a saint and the oldest member of the College of Cardinals died May 26 at the age of 100. Italian Cardinal Loris Capovilla, who served St. John XXIII before and after he became pope, died in Bergamo, near Milan. Cardinal Capovilla was born in Pontelongo, Italy, on Oct. 14, 1915, and ordained to the priesthood in 1940. A journalist before starting to work for the future saint, he was an energetic and eloquent storyteller, drawing on his remarkable and vividly detailed memory. When the freshly named patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Angelo Roncalli, chose 37-year-old Father Capovilla as his private secretary in 1953, a skeptical adviser told the cardinal -- who would become Pope John XXIII -- that the priest looked too sickly to bear the strain of his new job. But the cardinal outlived his employer by half a century and was a dedicated custodian of his legacy, running a small museum dedicated to the saint's memory in the late pope's native town of Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXIII, near Milan.

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  • Lawmakers say Obama's actions in Vietnam ignore human rights abuses

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, said May 24 that President Barack Obama's decision to lift the arms embargo in Vietnam "failed to advance long-term U.S. interests." Smith was joined by Reps. Barbara Comstock, R-Virginia, and Alan Lowenthal, D-California, and Vietnamese human rights activists at a news conference on Capitol Hill. "President Obama gave up one of the few remaining leverage points that the United States has in exchange for vague promises of expanded port use by the U.S. Navy," said Smith. "This was an epic failure of diplomacy." As an advocate for the Vietnam Humans Rights Act of 2015, Smith mentioned that Obama made a "bad deal" with Vietnam, receiving nothing in return for lifting the embargo. "Vietnam would have offered the U.S. Navy port access without condition, given China's advances in the South China Sea," said Smith, who chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.

    Ecumenical officers hope to enrich the work of Christian collaboration

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Ecumenism is meant to be a two-way street -- joint declarations between faiths working their way down to the local level, and local initiatives working their way up to the broader church -- and one organization wants to continue serving as a bridge between both. The work of the Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers is to foster and further that kind of exchange. The outgoing president of CADEIO, Father Don Rooney, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, said that those chosen by their diocesan bishops to serve as ecumenical and interreligious liaisons to their confreres in other faith traditions can be a disparate lot. Some are priests, although laypeople can serve in the role. Some have the task as just one hat they wear in the diocese. Some bishops appoint themselves as their diocese's chief ecumenical and interreligious officer. Moreover, some of those have had training and experience in ecumenical settings, while others have not. CADEIO conducted an introductory-level institute for ecumenical leadership in May at Theological College in Washington, with an advanced institute slated for early June, to better help those tasked with the responsibility fulfill that responsibility better.

    In Eucharist, find strength to share bread, faith with others, pope says

    ROME (CNS) -- A Corpus Christi procession should honor Christ's gift of himself in the Eucharist, but also should be a pledge to share bread and faith with the people of the cities and towns where the processions take place, Pope Francis said. Just as the "breaking of the bread" became the icon of the early Christian community, giving of oneself in order to nourish others spiritually and physically should be a sign of Christians today, the pope said May 26, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. On a warm spring evening, the pope's celebration began with Mass outside Rome's Basilica of St. John Lateran and was to be followed by a traditional Corpus Christi procession from St. John Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, one mile away. Hundreds of members of parish and diocesan confraternities and sodalities -- dressed in blue, brown, black or white capes and robes -- joined the pope for Mass and would make the nighttime walk to St. Mary Major for eucharistic benediction with him. "May this action of the eucharistic procession, which we will carry out shortly, respond to Jesus' command," he said in his homily. The procession should be "an action to commemorate him; an action to give food to the crowds of today; an act to break open our faith and our lives as a sign of Christ's love for this city and for the whole world."

    JRS official in Malawi says albino refugees warned to avoid certain areas

    CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) -- Albinos in a Malawi refugee camp have to be warned not to walk alone outside the camp, a church official said after a national newspaper reported the May 24 killing of a 38-year-old farmer. The death brought to 18 the number of people with albinism killed in Malawi in the past two years. Believed to bring wealth, the body parts of albinos are sought for use in magical rituals. "Because of these hunters, we warn albinos to stay away from certain areas and sometimes not to leave the camp at all," Rufino Seva, Malawi country director for Jesuit Refugee Service, said in a May 25 telephone interview from Lilongwe. "It is very risky for them to walk alone," he said. Albinism is a genetic condition in which pigment is partially or completely absent from the skin. Symptoms include blindness and greater susceptibility to skin cancer.

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  • Woodworker builds caskets out of reclaimed lumber from Shenandoah Valley

    FRONT ROYAL, Va. (CNS) -- Above the hum of the table saw, one story was told, then another. As the dark chestnut boards were fixed together, gradually taking shape as a sturdy rectangular box, three brothers pieced together memories of a life. "Something rich and beautiful happens when your hands are occupied but your mind is free," said Michael Schmiedicke, a web developer-turned-woodworker with a unique side ministry: casket-making. At times, he helps clients build a casket for their loved one themselves. The ministry was born about six years ago amid sawdust and tears, when Schmiedicke and two of his younger brothers made a casket for their grandmother. "My understanding of death up to that point was tied to a certain sense of passivity and helplessness; I was a spectator to it," said Schmiedicke, sitting in his Front Royal workshop filled with wood of every shape and size and the smell of freshly cut lumber. He said making the casket allowed him to connect with his brothers and his grandmother, to process grief by facing the reality of death, and "to do one last act of service for somebody that we cared for."

    Cincinnati parishioners learn to 'Civilize It' during election season

    CLEVELAND (CNS) -- Amid the anger, the attacks and the sometimes boisterous nature of this year's presidential campaign, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is encouraging parishioners to remember that civility in politics is a virtue. To bring the point home, the archdiocesan Catholic Social Action Office has unveiled the "Civilize It" campaign, stressing that respectful dialogue can take place among people of differing political views. Tony Stieritz, director of Catholic social action in the archdiocese, said the campaign is about appreciating and valuing the viewpoints of others, especially during the election season. "This is something that has been a long time coming where we felt in addition to our ongoing message of (the bishops') 'Faithful Citizenship' document that we just need to be more proactive, highlighting not just what the church teaches but how do we exemplify civil behavior," Stieritz told Catholic News Service. He said the campaign is rooted in Pope Francis' message to Congress in September and making it a reality in places like Cincinnati. "What Pope Francis is trying to consistently tell us is that we're about evangelization, we're not on the defensive. We've got to see how the Holy Spirit is actively working in the other person's life," Stieritz explained.

    Lebanese leaders hope pope-imam meeting leads to new relationships

    BEIRUT (CNS) -- Lebanese leaders in Muslim-Christian dialogue said they hoped Pope Francis' meeting with Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar University, would lead to new relationships. Maronite Father Fadi Daou, chairman of Adyan, a foundation for interfaith studies and spiritual solidarity based in Lebanon, told Catholic News Service that he hopes the meeting will be the forerunner to a "new dimension of interreligious relations." Mohammad Sammak, secretary-general of Lebanon's Christian-Muslim Committee for Dialogue, said the meeting likely would "open a new page of cooperation on the basis of building real citizenship -- equal citizenship -- between Christians and Muslims all over the Middle East. For sure this is a very important meeting, not only because it is the first of its kind in history that the grand imam of al-Azhar visits the Vatican and is received by the Holy Father, but the timing in itself is very important," Sammak said. "First, because it came after a misunderstanding between al-Azhar and the Vatican and secondly, because Muslims are in urgent need to show the whole world that Islam is open and to clarify the bad image of Islam that has erupted because of the incidents in the Middle East," Sammak said.

    New department in archdiocese will make ministries more parish-focused

    CHICAGO (CNS) -- When the Archdiocese of Chicago's new Department of Parish Vitality and Mission debuts this summer, parishes should notice a new dedication to helping them fulfill the church's mission, according to the department's directors. Father Ron Lewinski and Father Peter Wojcik, who will lead the department, said the goal is to focus on the mission rather than on programs, and to create a structure that responds to parishes' needs instead of developing programs that parishes might or might not want to use. It's one part of the "Renew My Church" initiative, which is being rolled out to parishes as the archdiocese looks for ways to revitalize its mission in an environment of changing demographics, fewer priests and ongoing financial challenges. "'Renew My Church' is designed to strengthen our whole community," Father Wojcik told the Catholic New World, the archdiocesan newspaper. "It includes the whole archdiocese." Father Wojcik said he and Father Lewinski have spent the past 10 months learning about the department, what it does and how it works. "The programs are undeniably, by and large, very good, very well thought out and executed," he said. "But are they are life-giving for the parishes? We talked with pastors and parish staff, and they would say that on a given day, they'd get messages from three offices saying, 'You should do this.' They would ask, 'What's the priority?'"

    Interior peace leads to care for poor and creation, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The voice of the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed can be heard only if Christians quiet their hearts through prayer, Pope Francis said. People who live their lives in a constant hurry tend to overwhelm everything around them, so they need to take a moment "to recover a serene harmony not only with the world and with creation, but also with the Creator," the pope said May 25 in a video message to participants at the German Catholic Church's Katholikentag festival in Leipzig. The five-day biannual event gathers tens of thousands of Catholics and Christians from around the country and includes concerts, theatre performances and guest speakers. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German President Joachim Gauck were scheduled to be among the speakers for this year's festival. In his message, the pope said participating in the festival gives "an authentic witness of Christ," and he praised participants' "solid commitment in favor of the weak and the needy." The festival's theme, "Behold the man," is a reminder that what is important lies not "in doing or in exterior success" but in being attentive to each other's needs," he said.

    Vatican bank supervisory members step down over management differences

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Two members of the Vatican bank's board of supervisors handed in their resignation over a difference in opinion concerning the bank's management. Carlo Salvatori and Clemens Borsig decided to step down from the Vatican bank, known formally as the Institute for the Works of Religion, "in light of legitimate reflections and opinions concerning the management of an institute whose nature and purpose" are "so particular," the Vatican said in a written communique May 25. With the institute's annual report "having been completed in a positive manner," the two finance executives "recently presented their resignations to the president of the Cardinals' Commission of the IOR," Cardinal Santos Abril Castello. The cardinal "thanked the two members of the board and accepted the resignations," the Vatican statement said. "The two board members made a competent and qualified contribution in this important phase for the stability and integrity of the institute and its conformity not only to internal Vatican regulations, but also obligations taken by the Holy See on a European level," the statement said.

    Rockford diocesan priest named to head U.S. bishops' doctrine secretariat

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Father Michael J.K. Fuller, a priest of the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois, has been appointed to be the next executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Doctrine and Canonical Affairs. Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, named Father Fuller to succeed Jesuit Father Peter Ryan, who has concluded a three-year term in the post. Father Fuller's appointment begins Aug. 8. Ordained to the priesthood in 1997, Father Fuller has been associate professor and chair of the Department of Spiritual Theology at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Illinois since 2011. He also has been editor of the Chicago Studies Theological Journal since 2012 and, since 2002, has served as spiritual director and instructor for the diaconate formation program of the Diocese of Rockford, and as instructor for the diaconate formation program of the neighboring Archdiocese of Chicago. Prior to that, Father Fuller served as instructor, assistant professor and chair of the Department of Christian Life at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, from 2002 to 2011. He taught at the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, 2004-2008, and was instructor in health care ethics at St. Anthony School of Nursing in Rockford, 1998-2000. He also served as associate pastor of St. Bridget Parish in Loves Park, Illinois, 1997-2000.

    Families with sick members hit hard by Venezuela's economic crisis

    BARQUISIMETO, Venezuela (CNS) -- It took Rene Sanchez several hours to scrounge two vials of morphine for his sister, who has terminal cancer. "My mother called to tell me my sister was screaming from pain," said Sanchez, who sells stockings and leggings to small shops in this city of 1 million people, about 230 miles west of Caracas, Venezuela's capital. Pharmacies in the city are filling their shelves with soft drinks, potato chips and homemade natural remedies to cover up the lack of medicines. But Sanchez's search was successful, thanks to a nurse he knew. "I know a lot of people aren't as lucky," he said. The economic crisis that has wracked Venezuela since 2014 -- when international oil prices dropped, causing government revenue to plummet -- has hit sick people and their families especially hard. The government lacks money to import food and drugs, inflation has topped 200 percent, and the minimum wage does not stretch to buy food, much less medicine. "Health is our greatest concern," said Janeth Marquez, national coordinator of Caritas Venezuela, the church's humanitarian aid agency. "It used to be that five people a day came to our Caracas office to ask for help filling prescriptions for medicine. Now we get 30 a day." People who need daily medication for chronic conditions -- hypertension, diabetes, epilepsy or mental illness -- are especially desperate.

    Pope calls for prayers for Syria, children gone missing around world

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pray for victims of recent terrorist attacks in Syria and pray that those who sow death and destruction will change their ways, Pope Francis said in an appeal. At the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square May 25, the pope mentioned a string of attacks to hit "beloved Syria" May 23, causing the death of "defenseless civilians." At least 150 people were killed in separate, but nearly simultaneous explosions in the cities of Jableh and Tartus. Militants of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks on the civilian targets, which included a hospital. Before leading the "Hail Mary," the pope asked that everyone pray for the "eternal repose of the victims, solace for the relatives" and that God would "convert the hearts of those who sow death and destruction." Also at the audience, the pope marked International Missing Children's Day with an appeal to civil and religious leaders to raise people's awareness and inspire action in protecting vulnerable children. "It is the duty of everyone to protect children, most of all those exposed to a high risk of exploitation, trafficking and deviant behaviors," the pope said.

    Prayer is no magic wand; it strengthens faith in tough times, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Prayer is not a magic wand that fulfills your desires, but it is what helps you keep the faith when you don't understand God's will, Pope Francis said. Prayer is meant to be "our daily bread, our powerful weapon and the staff for our journey," he said May 25 during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square. In his catechesis, the pope talked about the Gospel parable of the persistent widow, who incessantly appealed to a corrupt judge for justice. Judges at the time were supposed to be filled with the fear of God as they impartially and faithfully upheld the laws of Moses, the pope said. But the judge in this parable was dishonest and only cared about himself. He had no interest in protecting the rights of the weakest and easily exploited members of society, which included widows, orphans and foreigners, he said. "Faced with the judge's indifference, the widow resorted to her only weapon -- to keep incessantly pestering him, presenting him with her appeal for justice," the pope said.

    'VatiLeaks': Investigator says consultant admitted leaking documents

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A former consultant to a pontifical commission who denied to a Vatican court that she leaked documents about the Vatican's financial reform had admitted to sending the documents when she was first interrogated, a Vatican policeman said. Stefano DeSantis, an officer investigating the leaking of the documents, testified May 24 that Francesca Chaouqui told Vatican police officials she sent documents regarding the Vatican Asset Management (VAM) to Gianluigi Nuzzi, author of "Merchants in the Temple." "We never assumed that she gave the documents, she admitted to it," DeSantis told the court. Chaouqui is on trial along with Msgr. Vallejo Balda, secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, and Nicola Maio, the monsignor's former assistant, for "several illegal acts" of leaking Vatican documents. Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, author of "Avarice" are accused of "soliciting and exercising pressure, especially on (Msgr.) Vallejo Balda," to obtain the documents.

    Members of Marian group attend outdoor Mass celebrated by bishop

    SABANA GRANDE, Puerto Rico (CNS) -- A Puerto Rican bishop celebrating an outdoor Mass in Sabana Grande welcomed members of an unrecognized Marian organization, but remained silent about the group's ecclesial status. Bishop Alvaro Corrada del Rio of Mayaguez came to the southwestern municipality May 22, after skipping his traditional May 15 Mass in the city for the feast of St. Isidore the Farmer, the town's patron saint. "We joyfully receive also the great number of devotees of the Virgin of the Rosary of the Spring with their directors," he said to loud cheers during his welcome message at the overflowing town square. With that introduction, he went on to say the Mass without any further reference to the devotee association or its annual procession, scheduled for that day. "Today is the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity of the one and triune God. ' I offer, my brothers and sisters, this Holy Mass for the sanctification of all of you and of the people of the Diocese of Mayaguez," the bishop said.

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  • Supreme Court: Race played role in death penalty case jury selection

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a May 23 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court said Georgia prosecutors violated the Constitution in a death penalty case nearly two decades ago by excluding prospective black jurors from the trial. The 7-1 decision sent the case of Timothy Foster, an African-American facing the death penalty for killing an elderly white woman in 1986 when he was 18, back to Georgia for a new trial. "Justice was upheld in this case, but the ruling does not fix the law to end juror exclusion on the basis of race," said Karen Clifton, executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Death Penalty. "This case is a prime illustration of routine exclusion of black jurors from capital trials. Studies show all-white juries sentence defendants of color to death at a higher rate than white defendants," she added in an email to Catholic News Service May 24. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case Nov. 2, when it was asked to consider if Georgia prosecutors violated rules against racial selection of juries by striking four prospective African-American jurors in the 1986 case. The defendant was tried by an all-white jury and his conviction led to a death sentence a year later, which also was a year after the Supreme Court ruled in Batson v. Kentucky that it was unconstitutional to strike jurors because of their race.

    Slovak nun who died in Kenya to be buried in South Sudan, where she served

    NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- The body of Holy Spirit Missionary Sister Veronika Theresia Rackova, 58, director of St. Bakhita Medical Center in Yei, South Sudan, will be interred in Yei, not in Kenya as earlier planned. Consolata Father Nicholas Makau, a Kenyan priest who has been actively involved in the burial plans for the nun, confirmed the information for Catholic News Service May 24. Sister Rackova was shot in Yei the night of May 16 while driving an ambulance after taking an expectant mother to the hospital. She died in Nairobi May 20. Father Makau told CNS that a May 25 memorial Mass in Nairobi would be celebrate by U.S. Archbishop Charles Balvo, apostolic nuncio to Kenya and South Sudan. Father Zacharia Angotowa Sebit, vicar general of the Yei Diocese, told CNS earlier that Catholics from his diocese asked that Sister Rackova be interred in South Sudan. "I have partly come to bring this case to the attention of those planning for the burial. Hopefully I will manage to convince those centrally involved on the matter," including at least two religious orders and the Slovakian Embassy.

    Aid officials call for overhaul of system so help reaches most needy

    ISTANBUL (CNS) -- Catholic and other humanitarian leaders said it was time to overhaul the global humanitarian system because the current aid structure is failing to reach those most in need. "Our collective unwillingness to prevent or prepare adequately for disasters is a systemic moral failure," Sean Callahan, Catholic Relief Services' chief operating officer, told the World Humanitarian Summit May 24. "Too many innocent people suffer from the consequences of disasters caused by or aggravated by human action and inaction. It is the time to reform the global humanitarian system," Callahan urged the 10,000 gathered, most of whom say the "broken" humanitarian system must be fixed to cope with the largest global humanitarian crisis since World War II. Callahan said more must be done by governments "to prevent and end wars, respect humanitarian laws and provide more generous" humanitarian assistance. He urged the U.N. system also to "embrace more transparency and accountability for impact." The United Nations said violent conflict was the overriding reason that overwhelming humanitarian requests had increased 600 percent in the past 11 years, to more than $20 billion today. However, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said just 1 percent of the current global military spending could help resolve some of the pressing humanitarian needs. In closing remarks, both he and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed frustration that most of the leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized wealthy nations did not participate in the summit. But Ban said he expected such nations and others to help fund the various initiatives undertaken at the summit to address badly need humanitarian aid.

    In Lebanon, Muslims and Christians visit Marian shrine at Harissa

    HARISSA, Lebanon (CNS) -- High on a summit overlooking the Mediterranean, Our Lady of Lebanon stands majestically with her arms outstretched, welcoming her children. Muslims and Christians alike come to the shrine, 16 miles north of Beirut. To Muslims, Mary is known in Arabic as "Seidatna Maryam," Our Lady Mary. Even though Muslims do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, in the Quran, a chapter is devoted to Maryam. In Lebanon, the feast of the Annunciation, March 25, is celebrated by Christians and Muslims as a national holiday. Some Muslims come to Harissa for tourism to enjoy the spectacular views from the shrine's 1,886-foot summit, and some Muslims even visit its churches to pray, said Maronite Father Younen Obeid, rector of Harissa. "It depends on each person. But for sure, all of them have a big respect for Mary," he said of the Muslim visitors. At times, one can see as many Muslim pilgrims in Harissa as Christian. Thousands of Muslim pilgrims come from Iran each year, for example.

    Musician, actor, cardinals, lawyer address U.S. Catholic college graduates

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Speakers at commencement exercises at U.S. Catholic colleges and universities this year ranged from musician and composer Harry Connick Jr. and actor of stage and screen Mahershala Ali to cardinals and bishops and a former college president. As commencement speaker at Loyola University New Orleans May 20, Connick both regaled crowds and drew upon his multifaceted career and his Catholic upbringing as he shared advice for a meaningful and successful life beyond graduation. "If you work and pay attention to the smallest details of your work, your relationships, your faith, you'll find that over time, you will have created a lot of great things -- things of worth, things of substance and quality," he told the graduates. Connick, a native son of New Orleans, received an honorary doctorate of music from Loyola. In his commencement address he cited the philosophies of Pope Francis, the Jesuits and St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order. With self-deprecating humor, he also drew upon his career as a musician, actor and entertainer, referencing family life, his upbringing in the Crescent City and past work on the film "Dolphin Tale" and TV shows "Will and Grace" and "American Idol."

    After war, Ebola, school funding is critical need, priest says

    ISTANBUL (CNS) -- The children of Sierra Leone, victims of a bloody 10-year civil war and more lately of Ebola, need help returning to school, Father Peter Konteh told sponsors of a new U.N. educational initiative. "First, there were the children who didn't have the opportunity to go to school because of the civil war. And then the children of these war orphans missed school because of Ebola," said the priest, executive director of Caritas Freetown. During the U.N.-sponsored World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul May 23-24, the priest spoke of the children's needs and of his personal experience helping combat the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa. Caritas was one of the first humanitarian organizations to respond to Ebola by educating people about the virus and how it should be handled at the local and international levels. "I was called by the U.S. Senate and the British House of Commons to educate about Ebola, especially about the practical human suffering that was involved: the people who lost jobs, no schooling," he said.

    Myanmar cardinal thanks Western Christians for support during oppression

    LIVERPOOL, England (CNS) -- Myanmar's first cardinal has thanked the Christians of the West for helping to bring democracy to his country. Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon said the Catholic Church was "at the forefront" of supporting the people of Myanmar, formerly Burma, during a dictatorship that lasted half a century. Preaching at a May 22 Mass in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool, he declared: "Today, we are free. The world community refused to accept the oppression ... and spoke against that," Cardinal Bo said. "The church as a community refused to allow the oppression of Christians and others in Burma," he said. "Every church, including the U.K. church, was at the forefront of supporting us." The cardinal told the congregation that Catholics "are united by a special bond of community. It is this sense of community which has helped many Christians around the world to survive hardship and emerge stronger.

    Mexican state responds on social media after bishop convenes peace march

    CUERNAVACA, Mexico (CNS) -- After Bishop Ramon Castro Castro of Cuernavaca convened a march for peace in this capital of a state beset by violence, officials responded on social media. "It pains us that some (politicians) are consuming public resources in self-promotion to exaggerate their scant few achievements," Bishop Castro told marchers at the Cuernavaca cathedral May 21. "They advertise, 'Morelos is experiencing peace,' that 'Morelos is tranquil' ... but the reality for me and many priests and those working in the trenches is that violence continues, insecurity continues, that there are parts of the state in the hands of narcotics traffickers." The event, the third since Bishop Castro arrived in Cuernavaca in 2013, attracted an estimated 20,000 marchers from parish communities, along with business leaders, opposition and civil society. After offering prayers for the murdered and missing, Bishop Castro reeled off a list of unflattering crime statistics in Morelos state: No. 2 in kidnapping, No. 3 in robbery with violence, No. 4 in homicides -- the "prettied-up" statistics, he said, which did not include the vast majority of crimes going unreported, he said. "Corruption and nepotism are suffocating us."

    Archbishop: World Meeting of Families is part of wider church renewal

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The 2018 World Meeting of Families in Ireland is part of a broad program of renewal of the church's pastoral care for all families, said Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin. "In Pope Francis' mind, the IX World Meeting of Families in Dublin is not an isolated event. It belongs within a process of discernment and encouragement, of accompaniment and animation of families," he said during a news conference at the Vatican May 24. "It belongs within a program of renewal of the church's pastoral concern and pastoral care for the family and for families," he said. Archbishop Martin and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, presented the official theme of the encounter, which is held every three years. The gathering is dedicated to "The Gospel of family, joy for the world," and it will run Aug. 22-26, 2018, in Dublin.

    Sainthood sometimes includes biting your tongue, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Holiness doesn't depend on superhuman powers, but rather demands a heart filled with courage, hope and grace that strives for conversion each and every day, Pope Francis said at his morning Mass. In fact, holiness is reached by taking tiny steps, like biting your tongue every time there is the urge to gossip or demean somebody, he said May 24 during the Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. "Bite your tongue a little. Your tongue will swell up a bit, but your spirit will be holier," the pope said. "Holiness is a journey. Holiness cannot be bought, it is not sold" and it is not given away as a reward, he said. It is "walking in God's presence in an irreproachable way." Every person is responsible for striking out on a path of holiness, he said. "I have to do it, someone else can't do it in my name. I can pray for someone else to be a saint, but he has to take that path, not me." The holiness Christians must strive for is an "everyday" task often carried out in anonymity, he said.

    'The meeting is the message,' pope tells head of al-Azhar

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After five years of tension and top-level silence, Pope Francis and the grand imam of one of the most important Sunni Muslim universities in the world embraced at the Vatican May 23. "The meeting is the message," the pope told Ahmad el-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar University, as the religious scholar approached him just inside the door of the papal library. El-Tayeb's spring visit was the first meeting between a pontiff and a grand imam since the Muslim university in Cairo suspended talks in 2011. Established in 1998, the formal dialogue between al-Azhar and the Vatican started to fray in 2006, after now-retired Pope Benedict XVI gave a speech in Regensburg, Germany. Al-Azhar officials and millions of Muslims around the world said the speech linked Islam to violence. Al-Azhar halted the talks altogether in 2011 after the former pope had said Christians in the Middle East were facing persecution. Al-Azhar claimed that Pope Benedict had offended Islam and Muslims once more by focusing only on the suffering of Christians when many Muslims were suffering as well.

    U.S. official says protection of religious minorities is top priority

    ROME (CNS) -- Efforts to protect men, women and children suffering religious persecution and to promote respect for religious freedom globally is "a top priority for the United States," said a State Department official. Knox Thames, special adviser for religious minorities in the Near East and South and Central Asia, told journalists in Rome May 23 that the protection of religious minorities, especially in areas of conflict, has and continues to be a key concern. Thames met earlier in the day with Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, head of the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches, and Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, undersecretary for relations with states in the Vatican Secretariat of State, to "discuss the situation of Eastern churches and to find ways to protect their member's rights. The Vatican's perspective is uniquely placed," he said, adding that he met with Cardinal Sandri to "hear his views regarding his flock" and "to find ways to help religious minorities, particularly in Iraq. Protecting religious minorities who have fled their countries," he said, is the first step in the U.S. government's approach to confronting religious persecution.

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  • Faith-based groups say they need greater role in aid distribution

    ISTANBUL (CNS) -- Humanitarian aid can be carried out more efficiently and effectively if local and faith-based institutions are given a greater role, Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila told the World Humanitarian Summit gathering in this Turkish city. Cardinal Tagle and others in faith-based communities argue that often they are the first responders in emergency and crisis situations worldwide and, as such, they should be included in how humanitarian responses are handled and developed. "When a calamity happens, whether human-made or natural disaster, local communities and faith-based organizations are at the forefront of providing aid. In fact, they are already there before the conflict and during the conflict and when the international organizations have left the area, the volunteers from faith-based groups remain," said Cardinal Tagle, president of Caritas Internationalis. "And because of their connection to the communities, knowing the culture, the mentalities, the dreams, what works and what does doesn't work," Cardinal Tagle said, "they really should be given a bigger responsibility. Besides, most of these volunteers belong to those communities that are suffering."

    Pope urges summit participants to alleviate suffering of millions

    ISTANBUL (CNS) -- Pope Francis sent a message to the World Humanitarian Summit, urging participants to "contribute in a real way to alleviate the sufferings of millions" because of conflicts, violence, persecution and natural disasters. "In this context, the victims are those who are most vulnerable, those who live in conditions of misery and exploitation," the pope said in his message to 5,000 participants from 175 countries. His remarks were read by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, to a group that included 57 heads of states or governments with the aim of fixing the "broken" humanitarian aid system. "Today I offer a challenge to this summit: Let us hear the cry of the victims and those suffering. Let us allow them to teach us a lesson in humanity. Let us change our ways of life, politics, economic choices, behaviors and attitudes of cultural superiority," the pope said. "Learning from victims and those who suffer, we will be able to build a more humane world," he said.

    Priest in Vietnam released before Obama's visit

    HUE, Vietnam (CNS) -- Father Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly, a human rights campaigner jailed by Vietnamese authorities, was released from prison three days ahead of the May 22 arrival of U.S. President Barack Obama. In photos released by the Archdiocese of Hue, the 80-year-old priest can be seen kneeling -- with assistance -- before the archbishop upon his return to his parish, reported The archdiocese reported that the priest was in good health. Ordained in 1974, Father Ly had spent more than two decades cumulatively in prison and 15 years under house arrest on a range of charges related to his activism. The latest arrest dated back to 2007, when he was sentenced to eight years in prison and five years house arrest on anti-government activities. He was released in 2010 to get treatment for a brain tumor, only to be reimprisoned the following year. Father Ly had been an outspoken rights activist, campaigning for democracy and freedom of speech and speaking out against the government confiscation of church property.

    Court remands two HHS challenges to lower courts 'in light of Zubik'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Supreme Court in orders issued May 23 remanded two Catholic entities' legal challenges to the federal contraceptive mandate back to the lower courts. The high court granted a petition for a writ of certiorari for two plaintiffs -- the Catholic Health Care System, an umbrella for four Catholic institutions affiliated with the Archdiocese of New York, and the Michigan Catholic Conference. With its order, the court vacated the early rulings against the two Catholic plaintiffs by, respectively, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and 6th U.S. Court of Appeals. The orders follow the court's unanimous decision May 16 to send the Zubik v. Burwell case back to the lower courts. Zubik is actually a collection of Catholic and other faith-based entities' challenge of the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive requirement for employers. The consolidated group of cases is named for Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh, one of the plaintiffs. "Burwell" in the case name is for Sylvia Mathews Burwell, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

    South Carolina Catholic makes sacred art from simplest of office supplies

    ST. MATTHEWS, S.C. (CNS) -- For years, Matthew Quay picked up paper clips from desks and absent-mindedly straightened them while listening to discussions or presentations at work. He also carried some in his pockets to straighten during Mass at Holy Trinity Church in Orangeburg. It was simply something to do with his hands to help him stay focused, he said. He never figured that simple action would eventually turn into works of art that help persecuted Christians overseas. Last fall, Quay started to experiment with twisting the straightened clips into various shapes. He made a cross. With a few more twists, he formed the corpus of Christ. Within days, he was making beautiful crucifixes out of paper clips, sacred art formed from the simplest of office supplies. Since then, Quay's creations have been displayed at the Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center. Sales of the artwork have raised thousands of dollars to help persecuted and displaced Christians in the Middle East.

    At world summit, aid groups welcome global fund for refugee children

    ISTANBUL (CNS) -- Aid groups, including Catholic organizations, welcomed the establishment of the first global fund for education for refugee children, announced at the World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey's financial capital. "Thirty million children have lost their homes -- they must not lose their education," Kevin Watkins, executive director of the London-based Overseas Development Institute, said earlier. The United Nations estimates that one in four of the world's school-age children now live in countries affected by a crisis. The "Education Cannot Wait" initiative initially seeks to raise $3.85 billion to help 20,000 refugee youth over the next five years. Ultimately, it aims to address $11.6 billion needed to support 75 million children worldwide, the institute said. Until now, education has taken the back seat to other humanitarian assistance, receiving only 2 percent of funding from international donors. "I am excited by the 'Education Cannot Wait' fund because it really focuses on education," said Jesuit Father Tom Smolich, international director of Jesuit Refugee Service. "JRS feels education is always part of any emergency situation and that has not always been part of the status quo."

    Havana's new archbishop says post brings fear and trust

    HAVANA (CNS) -- God's ways can be mysterious and sometimes frightening, but faith means trusting God, said the new archbishop of Havana. After receiving a pastoral staff from retired Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino of Havana, the city's new archbishop told a huge congregation -- including officials of the communist government -- "You will understand that I'm scared. I do not understand the mystery of why I'm here or why the Holy Spirit chose me." Archbishop Juan Garcia Rodriguez, who was installed as archbishop May 22, the feast of the Trinity, told the congregation, "Maybe God took very seriously the motto of my priestly ordination," which was an adaptation of a line from the prophet Jeremiah: "To whomever you send me, I shall go; whatever you command me, I shall speak." Still, the new archbishop said, "The Lord chose me and will not let me down, I trust." He said he also trusted in the support and prayers of his brother bishops in Cuba as well as those who traveled to Cuba for his installation, including Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami. He said he trusts in the priests and deacons -- "all of them passionate, zealous for the kingdom" -- and in the women religious, "who are moms, teachers, women who pray, counselors."

    Pope Benedict denies latest rumors about Fatima 'secret'

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Sixteen years after the Vatican released the text of the so-called Third Secret of Fatima, rumors cyclically arise claiming that the Vatican still is keeping part of Mary's message to three children in Fatima, Portugal, secret. The Vatican press office May 21 took the unusual step of publishing a communique with reaction from retired Pope Benedict XVI, who -- as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- oversaw the secret's publication in 2000 and personally wrote a commentary on it. He insisted at the time that the complete text had been published. In mid-May, a blog published a story claiming a German priest, Father Ingo Dollinger, said that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had told him soon after the publication in 2000 that part of the message was still secret.

    Catholics gather for requiem for Slovak nun shot in South Sudan

    NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- Missionaries and other Catholics gathered in Nairobi May 23 for a requiem Mass for a Slovak nun killed in Yei, South Sudan. Holy Spirit Missionary Sister Veronika Theresia Rackova, 58, director of St. Bakhita Medical Center in Yei, was shot the night of May 16 while driving an ambulance after taking an expectant mother to the hospital. When the ambulance was attacked by soldiers, Sister Rackova was wounded in the hip and abdomen. After two surgeries in Yei, she was evacuated to Nairobi, where she died May 20. Sister Maria Jerly, regional superior for the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, told Catholic News Service that Sister Rackova was shot as people marked John Garang Day. She added that a motive for the shooting was not known. Three soldiers were arrested in connection with the incident, and Sister Jerly added, "One of them is said to have admitted having shot at Sister Rackova."

    Two appointed to USCCB's National Review Board; chairman reappointed

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A Catholic school educator and a retired U.S. Navy officer have been named to serve on the U.S. bishops' National Review Board, the all-lay group that monitors dioceses' performance in dealing with sexually abusive priests and creating a safe environment for children throughout the church. Educator Ernest Stark and retired Rear Adm. Garry E. Hall, CEO and president of the Association of the United States Navy were appointed by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Beginning in June, they will serve a four-year term. The archbishop also reappointed Francesco C. Cesareo, president of Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, as chairman of the board for a four-year term, beginning in June. Stark is chairman of the review boards for several religious communities, including the Augustinians, Benedictines, Carmelites and Passionists and serves on the review board of De La Salle Christian Brothers. Stark was a teacher and administrator in Catholic secondary schools and colleges for 50 years. Hall chairs the review board of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services. He was a naval aviator and served in active duty for 35 years, serving in helicopter squadrons in the Pacific region throughout much of his career.

    Joy is the true mark of a Christian, pope says at morning Mass

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- True Christians are defined by the joy they carry in their hearts and the assurance that God accompanies them even in the most difficult circumstances, Pope Francis said at his morning Mass. A Christian cannot exist without joy and a person who identifies himself or herself as Christian yet lives a sad life "is missing something," the pope said May 23 during the Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. "The identification card of a Christian is joy: the joy of the Gospel, the joy of having been elected by Jesus, saved by Jesus, regenerated by Jesus. (It is) the joy of the hope that Jesus is waiting for us, the joy that -- even in the crosses and in the sufferings of this life -- is expressed in a different way, which is having peace in the certainty that Jesus accompanies us; that he is with us," he said. The day's Gospel reading from St. Mark (10:17-27) recalled Jesus' encounter with a rich young man who asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.

    May Chinese Catholics show love, pardon during Year of Mercy, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- May the Year of Mercy be a time for Catholics and people of other religious traditions in China to be concrete signs of charity and reconciliation, Pope Francis said. That way, "they will promote an authentic culture of encounter and harmony for all of society -- that harmony that the Chinese spirit loves dearly," he said after praying the Angelus with people gathered in St. Peter's Square May 22. The pope's prayer came ahead of the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, which is observed each year on the feast of Our Lady of Help of Christians, May 24. It is on that day that Catholics in China invoke Mary, venerated at the Marian Shrine of Sheshan, near Shanghai. The pope prayed that Mary would offer "her children in China the ability to discern in every situation the signs of the loving presence of God, who always welcomes and always forgives. In this Year of Mercy, may Chinese Catholics, together with all those who follow other noble religious traditions, become concrete signs of charity and reconciliation," he said.

    Tournament sets goals of friendship, nets goals for players

    ROME (CNS) -- When Emmanuele Trincas described Roman Cocco as a "bomber" on the soccer field, they both laughed, but it also gave Cocco the confidence he needed to talk about his experience as a Special Olympics athlete. "I know it's not modest," Cocco said, but being chosen to play in an international soccer tournament May 20-22 in Rome "represents how hard I worked. I never thought I'd get this far," Cocco said. "We'll see what the future holds." Trincas and Cocco trained together for two months for the "Project Unify" tournament in Rome, which was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and Special Olympics Italia. Four teams from Italy took on teams from France, Hungary, Lithuania and Poland. Project Unify brings together athletes with developmental disabilities and those without. The two learn to appreciate each other's talents, realize what they have in common, overcome preconceived ideas and form friendships.

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  • Archbishop offers prayers at memorial Mass for men, women in uniform

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Servcies prayed for those U.S. service men and women who have lost their lives in battle for the nation's veterans at a special noon memorial Mass May 15, Pentecost Sunday. About 2,500 Catholics gathered in the Great Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington to pay tribute to men and women in the armed forces, and particularly to those who have "paid the ultimate price for American liberty. We remember those who have died since our last archdiocesan celebration. ... Our prayer extends to all of those who have fallen in combat, as a result of illness or old age, as well as, an earnest uplifting to a loving Father of those who still bear the effects of war in their bodies or minds," the archbishop prayed. "This gesture of communion also includes an earnest petition for those who mourn the loss of loved ones young and old," he continued. "The divine love that inflames our hearts reaches out to those who experience the emptiness of those whose presence is no longer the same and to those who care for our dear veterans." The Memorial Mass concluded with the sounding of the bugle call "Taps."

    USCCB abuse audit warns of complacency, cites 'room for improvement'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The annual report on the implementation of the U.S. bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" warns against complacency in dioceses, and the firm contracted to conduct audits of dioceses and parishes said there was "plenty of room for improvement" in implementing two of the charter's articles. In remarks prefacing the report, Francesco C. Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, the all-lay group that tracks for the bishops how dioceses address clergy sexual abuse, said this year's audit results "continue to demonstrate the progress that has been made in ensuring safe environments for children in the church. The bishops need to be acknowledged for keeping the protection of children and young people in the forefront of their leadership by continually enhancing their efforts to comply with the charter," Cesareo said. However, he also warned that the U.S. church's progress can " foster a false sense of security" that can "lead to complacency. Such complacency can lead to a minimalist approach to the charter, which can be seen simply as a series of requirements that need to be checked off, as opposed to an implementation that renders the charter fully operative," he said. One example Cesareo gave was that "while every diocese has a diocesan review board, thereby complying with the charter's requirement, in some cases the diocesan review board rarely meets or had not met in several years."

    Pew survey of Mideast Muslims: Religion less central to those in Israel

    JERUSALEM (CNS) -- While a majority of Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa say religion is "very important," religion tends to be less central in the lives of those living in Israel, according to results of a survey released May 18 by the Washington-based Pew Research Center. Nevertheless, the survey found that compared to other religious groups in Israel -- including Jews, Christians and Druze -- Israeli Muslims are highly devout, and 68 percent say religion is "very important" in their lives. That number is significantly lower than the 89 percent that say the same in Morocco, according to the survey. Among those countries polled in the region, Lebanon is the only one where only a slim majority -- 59 percent -- of Muslims say religion is very important in their personal lives. "In the larger context of the Middle East and North Africa, Israeli Muslims actually place less emphasis on religion and some of the key pillars of their faith than do Muslims in neighboring countries," said the Pew Center. For example, they said, religious observance of three of the five pillars of Islam, which all Muslims are expected to observe, was lower among Israeli Muslims than that reported in Muslim-majority countries of the region.

    Franciscan tasked with locating, preparing bones of Albania's martyrs

    SHKODER, Albania (CNS) -- Human bones, old shoes and deteriorating priest collars fill cardboard boxes in the office of Franciscan Brother Vincenzo Foca, an Italian who lives and works in Shkoder. The "relics" belong to Catholics killed under Albania's previous communist, staunchly atheist regime, Brother Foca explained to Catholic News Service on an unusually hot day in May. "I hope you don't mind being surrounded by bones," he started, before pointing to the boxes, labeled with names and set in a row upon a long table. He explained how he'd devoted much of the past 24 years in this traditionally Catholic stronghold locating, disinterring, cleaning and preparing the bones and other various remains of Catholics who were murdered here for their faith, sometime between 1945 and 1974. The Vatican's move in April to recognize the martyrdom of 38 Albanians -- including a woman -- set the stage for their possible beatification and injected special meaning -- as well as impetus -- into his work, Brother Foca said.

    Speakers discuss refugees' plight, 'shared responsibility' for resettlement

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- "There is a right to seek a better place for yourself and your children, but there is also a right to stay where you are," said Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick at a conference in Washington May 18. Cardinal McCarrick, referring to the current refugee crisis in Syria and Iraq, gave the keynote address at the "Refugee Crisis in the Middle East: A Shared Responsibility," sponsored by the Center for Migration Studies of New York. It was held at the Casa Italiana fellowship hall at Holy Rosary Church. In his address, he referenced Pope Francis and his call for an end to the "globalization of indifference." Americans, he said, must reject their tendency to overlook the tragedies that affect our fellow humans. "We must acknowledge, understand and confront the fear that causes us to repel those who only seek our help," said Cardinal McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington. "This strong opposition of Syrian refugees coming to the United States is an expression of the fear that Americans feel in response to the terror of the Paris and Brussels attacks." Cardinal McCarrick said that, despite fear, we as a nation "must continue to welcome those feeling persecution, regardless of their faith or nationality."

    Vatican approves election of Italian Franciscan as 'custos' of Holy Land

    JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The Holy See has approved the election of Franciscan Father Francesco Patton as the new "custos" of the Holy Land, replacing Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who held the position for 12 years. The "custos" is the provincial minister of the Franciscans in almost all of the Middle East, with jurisdiction over territory extending through Israel, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Cyprus and Rhodes, and at their monastery in Cairo. In these countries he serves as a liaison among the patriarchs, bishops and apostolic nuncios. In addition, he is authorized to sign statements with the Middle East patriarchs and must navigate the current delicate political landscape of the region. The "custos" also cares for the needs of the local Catholic Community, "the living stones" of the region, and is responsible on behalf of the Catholic Church to care for and guard some 50 shrines, where the Franciscans welcome and coordinate the reception of pilgrims and tourists. A date for Father Patton's installation, which is marked by three traditional ceremonies in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, West Bank, has not yet been announced.

    Pope rules Vatican review needed to set up diocesan religious order

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Diocesan bishops must consult with the Vatican before establishing a diocesan religious order, Pope Francis ruled. The consultation "is to be understood as necessary for the validity of the erection of a diocesan institute of consecrated life," said the rescript or ruling approved by Pope Francis April 4 and published by the Vatican May 20. The English translation of the Code of Canon Law states: "Diocesan bishops, each in his own territory, can erect institutes of consecrated life by formal decree, provided that the Apostolic See has been consulted." However, some bishops and canon lawyers had argued the consultation was advised, not required, and that a lack of consultation did not make the order's establishment invalid. The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life said in a statement that the consultation is necessary because "every new institute of consecrated life, even if it comes into the light and develops within a particular church, is a gift given to the entire church."

    Be champions on the field and in life, pope tells Italian Cup finalists

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Be a champion on the field, but above all, be a champ in life, Pope Francis told professional soccer players set to compete in the Italian Cup final. "Always glorify that which is truly good and beautiful through a candid witness of the values that must characterize authentic sport. And do not be afraid to let the world of your fans know, with serenity and poise, the moral and religious principles you want to inspire your life," he said. The pope made his remarks May 20 during a special audience with the owners, coaches, staff and players of Italy's AC Milan and Juventus squads, which face off May 21 in Rome's Olympic Stadium. Juventus is vying for its second consecutive Italian Cup and annual league title. Pope Francis -- a soccer fan himself -- told his audience how much he appreciated their professional talents and "the beautiful traditions that distinguish your sports clubs and the world of soccer in general." He reminded the star players how many fans, especially young people, admired them. "Therefore, you are called to act in a way that they will always see in you the human qualities of an athlete dedicated to displaying the authentic values of sport."

    Jesus shows mercy without ever compromising the truth, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Jesus is compassionate toward people and their imperfections without ever compromising the truth, Pope Francis said at his morning Mass. "May Jesus teach us to adhere to the truth from the heart and also (to show) with the heart great compassion and accompaniment for all our brothers and sisters in difficulty," the pope said in his homily at the Mass with eight couples celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and another couple celebrating their 25th. During the Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae May 20, the pope focused on the day's Gospel reading from St. Mark (10:1-12) in which the Pharisees try to trap Jesus with a question about the lawfulness of divorce. The Gospel talks about many traps the Pharisees and doctors of the law use in an attempt to ambush Jesus and undermine his authority and the esteem people hold for him, the pope said, according to Vatican Radio. This "tiny little group of enlightened theologians," who believe they possess "all the knowledge and wisdom of the people of God," he said, set a trap for Jesus when they ask, "Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?" But, he said, Jesus doesn't fall for their "casuistry," that is, the practice of setting general laws on the basis of exceptional cases.

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  • House OKs bill allowing more ways to protect religious freedom worldwide

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. House May 16 unanimously passed the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, giving the Obama administration and the U.S. State Department new resources to combat what the bill's bipartisan supporters say is "a worldwide escalation" of Christian persecution and anti-Semitism. U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, was the author of the bill named for former U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, a Republican who represented Virginia's 10th Congressional District from 1981 to 2015. According to Smith, more than 20 years ago, Wolf "had the foresight to make advancing the right to religious freedom a high U.S. foreign policy priority. Today religious freedom is still under attack and we must upgrade our programs and methods to meet the challenges of the 21st century," said Smith, who has held more than a dozen hearings on religious freedom. The newly approved measure, also known as H.R. 1150, requires that international religious freedom policies be integrated into national security, immigration, rule of law and other relevant U.S. foreign policy priorities; creates a "designated persons list" of individuals sanctioned for participating or directing religious freedom abuses; and expands diplomatic training on international religious freedom for all State Department diplomats.

    Archbishop Martin says pope to visit Ireland for 2018 meeting of families

    DUBLIN (CNS) -- Archbishop Diarmuid Martin confirmed that Pope Francis, or his successor, will visit Ireland in 2018 for the World Meeting of Families. Archbishop Martin confirmed that when he discussed the issue of visiting Ireland with the pontiff, Pope Francis said: "'I will come', and he said, 'if I don't come, my successor will come.'" As well as Dublin, the pope would probably visit Northern Ireland to complete the 1979 historic pilgrimage of St John Paul II, when rising tensions in the North made a visit there impossible. The Irish Catholic said Archbishop Martin made his remarks in an interview with the Irish Independent. The Irish Catholic said that a "well-placed Vatican source" confirmed that "all the indications from Rome are very positive about this. It would obviously be the hope that the Holy Father would make a visit to Northern Ireland and, perhaps, some other parts of Ireland, since many Irish Catholics will want to have an opportunity to attend Mass with Pope Francis," the source told The Irish Catholic.

    South Carolina Legislature passes bill to ban abortions at 20 weeks

    COLUMBIA, S.C. (CNS) -- The South Carolina Legislature passed a bill that makes abortion illegal at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act passed the South Carolina House of Representatives 79-29 May 17. The Senate passed the bill in March 36-9. The bill was sent to Gov. Nikki Haley, who said in March that she would sign such a measure. The legislation was promoted by South Carolina Citizens for Life and is based on scientific evidence that reveals an unborn child can feel pain early in its development. Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston said the vote was a positive step in acknowledging and protecting the humanity of an unborn child, but added there is still much to accomplish. "This act will support not only the moral law but also proven scientific fact that unborn children feel pain by at least 20 weeks of development after fertilization," Bishop Guglielmone said.

    First-graders make their treasure grow to serve other children in need

    CHICAGO (CNS) -- More than 100 first-graders, teachers and proud parents packed the cafeteria at a Catholic elementary school in Chicago to present their unique Lenten project gift to Catholic Extension, a national fundraising organization that supports the work and ministries of U.S. mission dioceses. During an afternoon ceremony at Frances Xavier Warde School May 6, the first-graders handed Catholic Extension's president, Father Jack Wall, a handmade oversized check for $11,025.11. Inspired by the parable of the gold coins from St. Luke's Gospel -- in which the king's servants were rewarded for making their treasure grow -- each first-grader had been given $1 and the challenge to make it grow for a Catholic Extension-funded ministry during Lent. This is the ninth year that the school's first-graders have supported a Catholic Extension project, and this year the first-graders chose Cajun Camp, a two-week summer camp for deaf and deaf-blind children organized by the Office of Persons with Disabilities of the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana. Upon receiving the check, Father Wall expressed his gratitude and told the children how proud he was of their service and fundraising.

    Brazilian churches change Sunday practices due to swine flu outbreak

    SAO PAULO (CNS) -- Due to the swine flu outbreak in several parts of Brazil, parishes all over the country have adopted changes in liturgical practices. These changes include suspending hand-held prayers by the congregation and the traditional sign of peace and placing the Eucharist in the parishioners' hands instead of in their mouths during Communion. "This is a way the church can (support) the health of its parishioners," said Archbishop Paulo Mendes Peixoto of Uberaba. All across the country, parish priests are being told to allow church windows and doors to remain open for greater air circulation during the day and especially during Masses, when a greater number of people are gathered together. Although swine flu is not uncommon in Brazil, this year doctors say the number of reported cases is much higher than in previous years and that the outbreak started in late January, the middle of summer in the Southern Hemisphere, instead of June, the beginning of the winter season. Bishop Dario Campos of Cachoeiro de Itapemirim told his 42 parishes to take extra precautions to avoid contamination.

    Friars to make pilgrimage on foot, will say Mass, promote vocations

    NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- The idea of making a walking pilgrimage in the United States took root about four years ago when Dominican Fathers Francis Orozco and Thomas Schaefgen were studying together for the priesthood. They saw the movie, "The Way," featuring Martin Sheen, who portrayed a father honoring his late son's memory by completing the 450-mile Camino de Santiago, the "Way of St. James," a pilgrimage route across Spain taken for centuries by pilgrims. "We had both studied abroad in Spain, but we thought, why don't we do something more local, something in this country?" said Father Orozco, chaplain of the Catholic Student Center at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. "We looked up places, and there really weren't any established pilgrimages in the U.S., so we said, 'Let's make up our own.'" From that seed sprouted "Friars on Foot," a 478-mile pilgrimage on foot from New Orleans to Memphis, Tennessee, which will begin after the 11 a.m. Mass at St. Anthony of Padua Church in New Orleans May 29 and arrive in Memphis June 29.

    Chaplain's duty is to bury the dead, but he also ministers to the living

    ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- On a chilly February afternoon in Arlington National Cemetery, Father Joseph Brankatelli walked alone before a horse-drawn caisson bearing the remains of World War II veteran Robert Andre. At the burial site, eight young soldiers flanked Andre's flag-draped casket while Father Brankatelli conducted the rite of Christian burial for the third time that day. "I was assigned to Arlington National Cemetery in May of 2014," the priest said later. "Since then, my responsibilities Monday through Friday are to bury the dead." Although he considers the work at the cemetery an honor, Father Brankatelli said he volunteered for the chaplain corps to help the living. A parochial vicar in the Diocese of Cleveland, he was aware of the shortage of military Catholic chaplains. Then a parishioner helped him understand how this affects individuals. During the man's deployment to Iraq, he could not attend Mass or receive the sacraments for six months. "That broke my heart," Father Brankatelli said. "We're sending our men and women in uniform to protect our freedoms and we're not even providing them the most basic essentials of their faith."

    Venezuelans fight hunger, fear as civil unrest and crime increase

    BARQUISIMETO, Venezuela (CNS) -- Under other circumstances, Jonny Lopez might have been happy that he was losing weight. "I've been running around the city so much, looking for food, that I've lost 20 pounds," said the father of two. Standing in line has become a routine as he tries to buy food for his family and to supply a fast-food stand that he runs on a street corner in their neighborhood. "The longest line was 11 hours once, to buy a package of corn meal, a little milk, rice and meat," he said, adding that the money he and his wife earn does not cover necessities. "The money we used to spend on a week's groceries now buys just a small bag of things. The Venezuelan people are dying of hunger," Lopez said. In December, Venezuela's minimum wage covered only half of a family's basic food needs, according to sociologist Luis Pedro Espana. The downturn in international oil prices in 2015 sent Venezuela's oil-dependent economy into freefall, immersing the country in an unprecedented crisis marked by shortages of food and medicine and social unrest.

    Bishops urge Kenya to reconsider decision to close refugee camps

    NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- Kenya's Catholic bishops urged their government to reverse its decision to repatriate all refugees and close all the refugee camps in the country. The bishops welcomed the idea that the government was trying to protect national security, but they said security interests must be protected "in accordance with the constitution." They said the Kenyan Constitution states that "national security shall be pursued in compliance with the law and with utmost respect to the rule of law, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms. We remind the government that it bears the primary responsibility to prioritize humanitarian principles in accordance with its international and national laws," said a May 18 statement signed by the country's 25 bishops. "We urge the government to show a sincere commitment to the needs of all, including refugees." Kenya's government said May 6 that it would disband its Department of Refugee Affairs and close the sprawling Dadaab camp, home to mostly Somalis, and Kakuma camp, which has grown through the conflicts in South Sudan and Burundi. The government said hosting refugees posed a security threat, particularly from Somali Islamist group al-Shabab.

    Focus on mercy is Catholic-Lutheran common ground, cardinal says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The ecumenical commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017 can be a time to celebrate the fact that Christians are no longer "on the path of separation, but that of unity," said Cardinal Walter Kasper, former president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Catholics and Lutherans are finding common ground in what Cardinal Kasper described as "the original, fundamental" emphasis of Martin Luther, "which is the Gospel of grace and mercy and a call to conversion and renewal. The path toward full unity is open, even though it may be long and full of obstacles," the cardinal wrote in a new book, which is based on talks he gave in Germany in January. The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, published the concluding chapter of the book in its May 19 edition. In the introduction, the newspaper said, Cardinal Kasper recognizes that "for many years Catholics considered Luther simply to be a heretic," the person who divided the Western church. But over the past few decades, Catholic historical and theological studies have come to a greater appreciation of Luther's faith and broader acceptance of some of the main points of his theology, not to mention his hymns, such as "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."

    Those who exploit for cheap labor are bloodsucking leeches, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Human traffickers and unjust business owners who become wealthy by exploiting others for cheap labor commit a mortal sin, Pope Francis said at his morning Mass. "Those who do this are true leeches and live off the bloodletting of people whom they have made to work as slaves," the pope said May 19 during the Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. The pope's homily centered on the day's first reading from the Letter of St. James (5:1-6) in which the apostle denounces those who have gained their wealth from "the wages you withheld from the workers." Although wealth in and of itself isn't bad, the pope said the real problem comes when one's heart becomes attached to riches, particularly those who believe in the "theology of prosperity" that stems from the belief that God offers financial blessings to the just. The attachment to wealth can instead become "chains that take away the freedom to follow Jesus," he said. Pope Francis lamented that even today, there is a so-called "civilized" exploitation by those who "become fat in wealth" by forcing others to work in unjust conditions with no vacation, health insurance or dignified work hours.

    Do not give in to fear in helping migrants, pope tells diplomats

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the international community should continue working for peace in war-torn countries, it also must work to help migrants escaping violence and persecution as well as those caring for them, Pope Francis said. In a speech May 19 to six new ambassadors to the Holy See, the pope said that while fears of terrorism and changing a nation's culture cannot be dismissed lightly, the concerns must "be addressed in an intelligent and creative way so that the rights and needs of all are respected and upheld. We must not allow misunderstanding and fear to weaken our resolve. Rather, we are called to build a culture of dialogue, one which enables us to view others as valid dialogue partners, to respect the foreigner, the immigrant and people from different cultures as worthy to be listened to," the pope said. The presence of the ambassadors, representing Estonia, Malawi, Seychelles, Thailand, Namibia and Zambia, is a reminder of the importance of remaining united "by our common humanity and shared mission" in caring for society and creation, the pope said.

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