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  • Vatican announces pope will attend reconciliation events in Colombia

    IMAGE: CNS photo/Leonardo Munoz, EPA

    By Rhina Guidos

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Days after rebels in Colombia announced turning in the last of their cache of weapons over to international observers, the Vatican announced June 23 details of Pope Francis' September trip to the war-torn South American country.

    The pope is scheduled to visit four cities, starting his trip in the Colombian capital of Bogota Sept. 6, followed by day trips to Villavicencio and Medellin Sept. 8 and 9, respectively, and heading back to Rome from Cartagena after Mass Sept. 10.

    Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos had said the pontiff had promised him he would visit Colombia if the government and the rebel group known as FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias) signed a peace agreement. Though Colombian voters last year rejected a referendum on the peace agreement between the government and FARC, Santos later negotiated a modified deal with Colombian opposition leader and former President Alvaro Uribe. The process came with help from the Vatican, including the pope, who met with the two men in late 2016.

    The rebels began turning in their weapons to United Nations observers in early June and all were expected to be turned in by June 20, bringing 52 years of war to an end.

    The pope is expected to take part Sept. 8 in several acts of reconciliation, including a Mass and prayer, in Villavicencio, according to a schedule released by the Vatican.

    Colombian Vice President Oscar Naranjo said in an interview published June 23 in El Tiempo newspaper that that pope's trip comes at a time in the country "when the discussion stops being about how to win the war, but how to achieve peace." The pope's trip cannot be "just another episode" in the national discourse about peace, said Naranjo.

    According to some estimates, more than 220,000 have died in the decades-long conflict, tens of thousands have been injured, and more than 7 million were displaced. Concerns about the end of the conflict were reawakened when a bomb exploded inside a mall bathroom in Bogota June 17, killing three and injuring nine people. Some blamed another rebel group, the National Liberation Army, or ELN (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional). The group, however, denied involvement and said it doesn't target civilians.

    While in Colombia, the pope also is set to meet in Bogota Sept. 7 with the directive committee of the Latin American bishops' council, known as CELAM for its Spanish acronym.

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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.
  • Auza: At heart of human rights is respecting inherent dignity of all

    CANCUN, Mexico (CNS) -- The Vatican's U.N. nuncio told Latin American leaders June 21 that at the "heart of human rights" is the recognition that "all people are born with inherent equal dignity and worth and have a fundamental right to life." "Unfortunately," Archbishop Bernardito Auza said, "the right to life of the unborn, of migrants in search of safety, of victims of armed conflicts, of the poor, of the handicapped, of the elderly and the right to life of those facing the death penalty continues to be ignored, dismissed and debated rather than prioritized." Archbishop Auza is the Vatican's permanent observer to the United Nations and to the Organization of American States. He made the comments in an intervention he delivered during the 47th session of the OAS General Assembly. He spoke during a debate on "Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law." The archbishop hoped the choice of the debate topic would lead to a "deeper understanding of the global human rights challenges we face today" and to "more holistic responses" to those challenges.

    Communicators must recognize value, importance of words, author says

    QUEBEC CITY (CNS) -- During the June 21-23 Catholic Media Conference in Quebec City, participants who received tips throughout the four days on writing, marketing, taking photos and engaging in social media were also urged to go back to the basics and understand something simple: the importance of words. Words are not there to be manipulated but to provide an opportunity of grace, said Michael Higgins, a Canadian author and distinguished professor of Catholic thought at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut. The author and academic pointed out that people today are constantly barraged by a "tsunami of language" from the moment they get up and look at their phones or television screens with news tickers scrolling constant updates. And because people are so inundated by words all the time, words that mean the most to them are those that are most authentic, he told Catholic communicators in a keynote address June 23. "We need to renew the word, cleanse it and redeem it," he told the group, pointing out that the Trappist monk Father Thomas Merton, a poet, was fully aware of this in his knowledge and respect for language and his realization that it could be used to "shake us out of complacency."

    Catholic New York's Schiller receives CPA's St. Francis de Sales Award

    QUEBEC CITY (CNS) -- Matt Schiller, advertising and business manager at Catholic New York, has received the 2017 St. Francis de Sales Award from the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada. The award, the highest honor given by CPA, was presented at a luncheon June 23 during the Catholic Media Conference in Quebec City. Schiller, who is outgoing CPA president, said he was honored to receive the award and described his years of working in the Catholic press as a passion, not a job. He thanked those who had mentored him over the years and urged CPA members to be sure to take on the role of mentoring others. "Teach them, support them, learn from them," Schiller said in accepting the honor. He said such mentoring is needed on multi-generational -- not just the old helping the young but young people helping those who are older.

    Vatican announces pope will attend reconciliation events in Colombia

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Days after rebels in Colombia announced turning in the last of their cache of weapons over to international observers, the Vatican announced June 23 details of Pope Francis' September trip to the war-torn South American country. The pope is scheduled to visit four cities, starting his trip in the Colombian capital of Bogota Sept. 6, followed by day trips to Villavicencio and Medellin Sept. 8 and 9, respectively, and heading back to Rome from Cartagena after Mass Sept. 10. Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos had said the pontiff had promised him he would visit Colombia if the government and the rebel group known as FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias) signed a peace agreement. Though Colombian voters last year rejected a referendum on the peace agreement between the government and FARC, Santos later negotiated a modified deal with Colombian opposition leader and former President Alvaro Uribe. The process came with help from the Vatican, including the pope, who met with the two men in late 2016. The rebels began turning in their weapons to United Nations observers in early June and all were expected to be turned in by June 20, bringing 52 years of war to an end.

    Bishop: 'Fundamental defects' persist in Senate's version of health bill

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Senate's Better Care Reconciliation Act contains "many of the fundamental defects" that appeared in the House-passed American Health Care Act "and even further compounds them," said the bishop who heads the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. The Senate released its health care reform bill in "discussion draft" form June 22. "As is, the discussion draft stands to cause disturbing damage to the human beings served by the social safety net," Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, said in a statement released late June 22. "It is precisely the detrimental impact on the poor and vulnerable that makes the Senate draft unacceptable as written." Bishop Dewane criticized the "per-capita cap" on Medicaid funding, which would no longer be an entitlement but have its own budget line item under the Better Care Reconciliation Act. The effect, he said, "would provide even less to those in need than the House bill. These changes will wreak havoc on low-income families and struggling communities, and must not be supported."

    God loves, chooses, is faithful to those who are meek, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Jesus loves and reveals himself to those who are meek, defenseless and humble of heart, Pope Francis said. "He fell in love with our smallness and it is for this reason he chose us. He chooses the smallest, not the greatest, the smallest, and reveals himself to the little ones," not the wise and learned, the pope said June 23 in his homily during Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae. Marking the Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the pope talked about the mystery of this heart that bound itself to us and stayed faithful no matter what. "We have been chosen because of love and this is our identity," he said. It's not accurate to believe that "I chose this religion, I chose ... No. You did not choose. It was he who chose you, he called you and he bound himself to you and this is our faith."

    Venezuela risks becoming Caribbean 'North Korea,' former leaders say

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Two former Latin American presidents said the world is running out of time to find a solution to the crisis in Venezuela as President Nicolas Maduro aims to consolidate power over the country. Despite widespread protests, Maduro's push to "put a group of his friends in what is called a 'constituent assembly,' would be the end of democracy and the annihilation of the Republic of Venezuela," said Jorge Quiroga, former president of Bolivia. That election "will install a Soviet state in Venezuela, liquidate democracy, end the Congress, cancel elections and turn Venezuela into a sort of Caribbean 'North Korea,'" he said. Joined by former Colombian President Andres Pastrana, Quiroga spoke to journalists at the Vatican June 23 on the deteriorating situation in Venezuela and attempts to diffuse the crisis following their meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. Protests began after March 29, when the Venezuelan Supreme Court ruled to dissolve the country's parliament, in which the opposition had a two-thirds majority following the 2015 elections. The unprecedented ruling transferred legislative powers to the Supreme Court, which is comprised of judges nominated by Maduro.

    Living the Gospel is risky, embrace challenges with courage, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Better to take risk of carrying the freshness of the Gospel to others than to be a "museum Christian" afraid of change, Pope Francis told Serra International. "When Christians go about their daily lives without fear, they can discover God's constant surprises," he said June 23. "They need but have the courage to dare, not to let fear stifle their creativity, not to be suspicious of new things, but instead to embrace the challenges which the Spirit sets before them, even when this means changing plans and charting a different course." The pope made his remarks during an audience with members of Serra International, which held its 75th international convention in Rome June 22-25. Named after the Spanish missionary, St. Junipero Serra, the lay organization seeks to promote and foster vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. Pope Francis said it was important St. Junipero continue to be an inspiration, and reflect upon how "he made his way, limping, toward San Diego to plant the cross there."

    U.K. pharmacy regulator abandons proposal to strip conscience protections

    MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- In a U-turn of proposed policy, Britain's pharmacy regulator has declared that Catholic pharmacists should not be forced to dispense lethal drugs against their consciences. The General Pharmaceutical Council, the regulatory body that sets professional standards for the industry throughout the country, has backed away from controversial proposals to abolish the right of people with religious convictions to conscientiously object to dispensing the morning-after pill, contraceptives and hormone-blocking drugs used by transsexual patients. In new guidance issued June 22, it says: "Professionals have the right to practice in line with their religion, personal values or beliefs as long as they act in accordance with equalities and human rights law and make sure that person-centered care is not compromised. It is important that pharmacy professionals work in partnership with their employers and colleagues to consider how they can practice in line with their religion, personal values and beliefs without compromising care," the guidance said.

    Islamic State followers said to desecrate Catholic chapel in Mindanao

    COTABATO, Philippines (CNS) -- Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato has condemned "in the strongest terms possible" the reported desecration of a Catholic chapel by terrorist gunmen in the southern Philippines. The June 21 incident, in the village of Malagakit, occurred when about 300 gunmen of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, known as BIFF, attacked Pigcawayan town, resulting in the displacement of hundreds of residents. The BIFF, a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that has signed a peace deal with the government, has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. Chief Inspector Reylan Mamon, Pigcawayan police chief, said the gunmen destroyed religious images inside the chapel. "The crucifix and images of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ were destroyed while the sacred hosts were thrown all over the floor," Mamon told ucanews.com.

    Resilience, resourcefulness help Gazans cope with daily hardships

    JERUSALEM (CNS) -- Gazans demonstrate an "inspiring" resilience and resourcefulness and more importantly, a sense of hope, despite the daily hardships they face, said the regional director for Palestine and Israel of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. The hardships are many, ranging from a lack of dependable electrical service to a shortage of potable water at times. Through it all, people persist, going about their lives as best as they can, CNEWA's Sami El-Yousef told Catholic News Service. "It shows you how you can live on so little and still continue to have a ray of hope that life will get better. It is inspiring," said El-Yousef, who was in Gaza at the end of May. "They laugh at the situation they are in and find little achievements which give them satisfaction." Electrical service is sporadic because of political maneuvering over tax payments among the Hamas Palestinian faction that has ruled Gaza since 2007, the Western-recognized Fatah Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, and the Israeli government. Gaza residents receive just more than three hours of electricity a day, down from the already low eight hours of service they had been receiving before the energy crisis began two months ago.

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    Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • Catholics urged to work for 'holiness of freedom, freedom for holiness'

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- When Henry VIII, as England's reigning monarch, was declared "a defender of the faith," the future "must have seemed so bright to Thomas More and John Fisher," Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori said in a homily June 21. He described an England which "seemed to have been spared the painful divisions that racked the Catholic Church on the continent of Europe." Under Henry, he said, "monastic life and learning were flourishing" while "ordinary Catholics showed their love and loyalty to the church. Who could have imagined the severe test More, Fisher and English Catholicism would face in so short a time?" Archbishop Lori asked. He was the homilist at the opening Mass of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Fortnight for Freedom, an annual observance highlighting the importance of religious liberty. The Mass was celebrated on the vigil of the English martyrs' shared feast day at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore.

    Former publisher of National Catholic Reporter wins Bishop England Award

    QUEBEC CITY (CNS) -- Thomas C. Fox, former publisher of National Catholic Reporter who started his journalism career as a correspondent while working with displaced Vietnamese in the 1960s, was given the Catholic Press Association's Bishop John England Award for publishers who defend their publication's First Amendment rights. "Allow me to receive this award on behalf of the entire NCR staff, past and present," said Fox, who retired in 2016 after 36 years as publisher of the lay-run national newspaper based in Kansas City, Missouri. He said the paper "allows a forum for voices that otherwise would not be heard." Bishop England founded the nation's first Catholic newspaper, The Catholic Miscellany, in South Carolina in the 19th century. He also was outspoken against slavery. "I like to think that if Bishop England were here today ... he would be proud of NCR," Fox said at a June 22 luncheon during the 2017 Catholic Media Conference in Quebec City.

    Retired Archbishop Quinn of San Francisco dies at 88

    SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- Retired Archbishop John R. Quinn of San Francisco, who led the Northern California archdiocese for 18 years, died June 22 after a long illness. He was 88. The archbishop had moved to the Jewish Home of San Francisco from St. Mary's Medical Center June 16, but he "experienced difficulties with his breathing early this morning," San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone said in an announcement. "He was transported to the nearest hospital but could not be revived. He stated several times since his move that he had achieved his goal of leaving the hospital for a new home where he could enjoy the fresh air, trees and the sounds of birds in the early morning," Archbishop Cordileone said, adding that the prelate's "initial days at Jewish Home had gone extremely well. "Our hearts are breaking at losing such a great priest and friend," Archbishop Cordileone said. "Join me in praying for the repose of his soul."

    Quebec cardinal to Catholic media: Strength of the message is God

    QUEBEC CITY (CNS) -- St. John's experience with Jesus "transforms him into a great communicator," said Quebec Cardinal Gerald Lacroix, and he told Catholic media professionals from around the world that the same kind of experience drives their work. "The strength, the vigor is ... in the seed, in the Word of God," he told hundreds of participants in the Catholic Media Conference and the Signis World Congress June 21. In a special Mass at the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre Dame of Quebec, the cardinal moved smoothly among Spanish, English and French, asking participants from the Americas, Asia, Africa, Australia and Europe to pardon his hoarse voice. Referring to one of the Mass readings, he said St. John "shares a vibrant expression of his faith." He noted that, at the time, there was "no Facebook account yet, no tweets ... no internet ... and yet the Gospel spread all over the world."

    Catholic Church supports separate Gorkha homeland in India

    NEW DELHI (CNS) -- Church leaders have expressed solidarity with ethnic Gorkha people who are on an indefinite strike protesting for a separate homeland in the Darjeeling area of eastern India. Since June 8, Darjeeling district in West Bengal state has witnessed violent clashes between local residents and police. Street protests, stone throwing as well as violence from both sides has intensified since June 12 when the popular local organization Gorkha Janmukti Morcha called for an indefinite strike demanding the creation of a separate homeland -- Gorkhaland -- for ethnic Gorkha people. At least three people have been killed in the violence. "The church is not directly involved in the protest. But the church is with the people," Bishop Stephen Lepcha of Darjeeling told ucanews.com. He explained that local people are demanding the right of self-governance because West Bengal state officials does not attend to their needs.

    Religious brother, priest forever bonded by kidney transplant

    DUBUQUE, Iowa (CNS) -- Father Scott Bullock and Christian Brother Stephen Markham are forever bonded by a kidney transplant a year ago that has changed both men physically and spiritually. "It is without a doubt the greatest gift you can give anyone," Brother Markham said of the donated kidney he received from his priest friend. The men recently discussed their experience with The Witness, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Dubuque. "It was a great experience," Father Bullock said. "I jokingly say to people, 'I highly recommend it,' but I really do. It really was not that hard and the benefits are so huge." Despite a major post-operative complication and a few other issues, both Father Bullock, 54, and Brother Markham, 73, continue to do well.

    National effort on religious liberty seen helping state advocacy on issue

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- Since its creation, the U.S. bishops' religious liberty committee has garnered much attention on the national stage for its efforts to protect religious freedom and fight government infringement on that freedom. Most notable has been its opposition to the Health and Human Services mandate -- as part of the Affordable Care Act -- requiring most religious employers, like other employers, to provide coverage of abortifacients, sterilization and contraceptives for employees even if they are morally opposed to such coverage. At the state and local levels, religious liberty advocacy also has made strides. At the bishops' spring assembly June 14-15 in Indianapolis, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, the committee's chairman since its inception, noted that it has worked closely with state Catholic conferences across the country in promoting religious freedom. (At the meeting the bishops also voted to made the ad hoc committee permanent.) "As we meet with the state Catholic conference directors, we learn from them what's going on in municipalities, in state capitols," he said. "We get a fuller sense from them as to what some of the challenges are in addition to the federal challenges."

    Zambia bishops, faith leaders warn of crisis if dictatorship results

    OXFORD, England (CNS) -- The president of the Zambian Catholic bishops' conference joined other religious leaders in deploring worsening tensions in the east African country, accusing its president of intimidating opponents and silencing the media. Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu of Lusaka and leaders of the Council of Churches of Zambia and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia said in a statement that the country is at a crossroads as it faces "many challenges related to governance, the muzzling of people's freedoms and human rights violations." The leaders said June 16 they were saddened by the "blatant lack of political will" to tackle Zambia's crisis, and wished to "see the government do better and succeed" by raising their "prophetic voice." They said they had tried for weeks to explain their concerns to President Edgar Lungu. They also said they feared he was "creating a new dictatorship. Only leadership that does not have the will of the people on its side, or thinks it does not have the will of the people on its side, uses state institutions to suppress that same will," the statement said.

    Trailer released for Father Rother documentary

    OKLAHOMA CITY (CNS) -- The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City has released a three-minute trailer to a forthcoming documentary on Father Stanley Rother, a U.S. priest who worked in Guatemala for 14 years until he was murdered there in 1981 and who will beatified in September. The documentary is titled "The Shepherd Cannot Run: Father Rother's Story," and according to the archdiocese, it will be shown immediately prior to his beatification Mass Sept. 23 at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. Celebrating the Mass will be Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes and Pope Francis' personal representative. The pope Francis recognized Father Rother's martyrdom last December, making him the first martyr born in the United States. The trailer is in English and Spanish and can be viewed at http://stanleyrother.org/documentary. It was shown to the U.S. bishops during their spring assembly in Indianapolis June 14-15.

    Scorsese says a boyhood of church and movies continues to inspire him

    QUEBEC CITY (CNS) -- Faith and films have been lifelong obsessions for director Martin Scorsese, obsessions that he said have given him moments of peace amid turmoil, but also challenges and frustrations that, in hindsight, he will accept as lessons in humility. "For me, the stories have always been about how we should live who we are, and have a lot to do with love, trust and betrayal," he said, explaining that those themes have been with him since his boyhood spent in the rambunctious tenements of New York and in the peace of the city's St. Patrick's Old Cathedral, where he was an altar server. Scorsese spoke June 21 in Quebec City at a joint session of the Catholic Press Association's Catholic Media Conference and the world congress of Signis, the international association of Catholic media professionals. That evening, both groups presented him with a lifetime achievement award for excellence in filmmaking. Before Scorsese answered questions posed by author Paul Elie, conference participants watched his film "Silence," which is based on the novel by Shusaku Endo. The book and film are a fictionalized account of the persecution of Christians in 17th-century Japan; the central figures are Jesuit missionaries, who are ordered to deny the faith or face death after witnessing the death of their parishioners.

    Catholic bishop says troubled Somali refugees still need acceptance, help

    NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- In Dadaab, the world's largest refugee complex in northeast Kenya, Somali refugees are caught in a very delicate and complex situation and Bishop Joseph Alessandro of Garissa, Kenya, is determined to help the world understand their plight. Bishop Alessandro said the complex's 245,000 refugees, mainly Muslim Somalis who have fled famine and attacks carried out by al-Shabaab, an al-Qaida affiliate in East Africa, face a difficult decision: whether to return to Somalia or remain in the sprawling camp, which the Kenyan government wants to close. "When they hear not so good stories of those who have returned home, in spite of the incentives, and see the government wanting to close the camp, they don't find this as an easy situation," the bishop, who chairs the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops' Commission on Refugees, Migrants and Seafarers, told Catholic News Service. "There are reasons why these people are refugees. They have rights as refugees. They will need to be accepted and helped," he said.

    Pope: Clergy in Middle East must be the 'last among the least'

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians in war-torn areas of the Middle East must never be far from priests and bishops in their country so they can feel God's closeness in the midst of suffering, Pope Francis said. "It is fundamental to always nourish the style of evangelical closeness: in the bishops, so they may live it toward their priests and that they in turn make the Lord's caress be felt by the faithful entrusted to them. But all the while keeping the grace of remaining disciples of the Lord, beginning with the first who learn to be the last among the least," he said. The pope spoke June 22 during a meeting with members of a Vatican coordinating body, known by its Italian acronym ROACO, which operates under the auspices of the Congregation for Eastern Churches. The funding agencies include two based in the United States: the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and the Pontifical Mission for Palestine. The Congregation for Eastern Churches and the coalition of funding agencies are responsible for assisting Eastern-rite churches around the world as well as the Latin-rite church in the Holy Land.

    Archbishop Broglio asks prayers for those who perished in ship collision

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The head of the U.S. military archdiocese June 20 expressed sorrow for the lives lost in "the tragic ship collision" involving the USS Fitzgerald off the coast of Japan. Seven sailors died aboard the U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer, which collided with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel early in the morning June 17. Hours later, their bodies were found in flooded berthing compartments. "Deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life on the USS Fitzgerald, I ask all of the faithful to remember in prayer the victims and their families," said Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services. "My heart also goes out to all of the members of the crew who not only lost their esteemed shipmates, but also all of the personal belongings they had on board with them." The damaged destroyer remained anchored at the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka, Japan, while an investigation was underway to determine how the collision happened. AP reported that experts "generally agree that the Philippine-flagged container ship was likely trying to pass the destroyer from behind when the two collided."

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    Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • Bishops urge renewed dedication to efforts to protect religious liberty

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In launching this year's Fortnight for Freedom, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is calling for renewed dedication to protecting religious freedom. "Freedom for Mission" is the theme of the 2017 Fortnight for Freedom, taking place June 21 to July 4. The 14-day observance of action, education and prayer focused on religious freedom began in 2012, stemming from a 12-page statement released that June by the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty titled "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty." The U.S. bishops recently voted to make the ad hoc committee permanent. It has been chaired since its creation by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori. The archbishop opens the fortnight by celebrating an evening Mass June 21 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore. He will celebrate a special Fortnight Mass July 3 in Orlando, Florida, during the U.S. bishops' Convocation of Catholic Leaders. Hillary Byrnes, assistant general counsel for the USCCB, works with the bishops on protecting religious liberties from government infringement, which is the focus of the fortnight. Byrnes said the media tends to hide the fact that religious freedom is an actual issue, leaving people reluctant to talk about threats to that freedom.

    USCCB officials urge Homeland Security to defer deportation of Chaldeans

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairmen of the bishops' migration and international policy committees urged Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly to defer deportation of Chaldean Christians and others arrested June 11. They made the comments in a letter to Kelly in response to the apprehension of Iraqis in the Detroit area and near Nashville, Tennessee, by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. More than 100 were arrested, including Chaldean Christians and Shiite Muslims. There were placed in federal custody in Youngstown, Ohio, and faced deportation June 21. "Returning religious minorities to Iraq at this time, without specific plans for protection, does not appear consistent with our concerns about genocide and persecution of Christians in Iraq," the bishops wrote. "We strongly encourage you to exercise the discretion available to you under law," they continued, "to defer the deportation of persons to Iraq, particularly Christians and Chaldean Catholics, who pose no threat to U.S. public safety, until such time as the situation in Iraq stabilizes and its government proves willing and capable of protecting the rights of religious minorities."

    Report shows deported Central Americans face harm upon return home

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- On World Refugee Day, a New York-based think tank released a report showing the dangerous situations some of the deported face when they return to their home countries in what's known as the "northern triangle," meaning the countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. "Violence is the straw that stirs the drink in the northern triangle countries," said Kevin Appleby, senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies in New York, one of the organizations that collaborated on the report released June 20 and based on interviews with deportees. When the deported returned to the violent environments of the countries they had tried to flee, they returned to a life of seclusion where the only security comes from what their families can provide, said Appleby. Others knew they would die and left again. "It's quite clear in these case studies that returnees' lives are still at risk and their freedom, including their ability to attend school, to work, to participate in religious celebrations, and to live any semblance of public lives, even to leave their homes, in some cases, can be illusory," he said during a June 20 briefing on the report.

    Global rosary relay prompted by words from Mary, says organizer

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The eighth annual global rosary relay June 23 involves 125 shrines in 63 countries throughout the world. With 25 new sites, there's an expectation that 10 million people will be saying the rosary in support of priestly vocations and the sanctification of priests. The relay is hosted and planned by the Worldpriest apostolate. The founder of the apostolate, Marion Mulhall, is the organizer of the group's biggest event of the year. The rosary began eight years ago because a voice spoke to Mulhall. "I was awoken very early one morning eight years ago," she told Catholic News Service. "I very gently heard four very simple words: 20 countries, 20 mysteries." She decided to ask a group of colleagues where they thought this was coming from and what it meant. "We discerned it very quickly," Mulhall said. It was Mary calling her to start something where the rosary would be prayed in 20 countries on the same day.

    Religious leaders, indigenous people meet to discuss global deforestation

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Both religious leaders and indigenous people can find common ground in their commitment to ensure that people live in peace together and in harmony with the environment, said a South American indigenous leader attending a conference of faith leaders discussing global deforestation in Oslo, Norway. Harold Jhonny Rincon Ipuchima, secretary general of the National Organization of the Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon, said it was important to share the perspective of indigenous people on environmental issues and begin the work of collaboration to protect the environment. The topic of global deforestation was the focus at the conference, Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, a meeting of religious leaders and indigenous people seeking solutions for the increasing concern for environmental issues worldwide, June 19-21. Vatican scholars as well as Catholic academics attended the conference to share Catholic efforts to preserve environment following Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home."

    Refugee-turned-reporter recounts Catholic agencies' role in resettlement

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Igor Bobic, now a reporter at HuffPost, told a Washington audience June 19 about his own experience as a refugee and the twists and turns that led to being resettled with his parents in the United States and the part Catholic agencies played in his family's new life. "I wouldn't be here; I wouldn't be alive, without the help of the USCCB and Catholic Charities," he said, referring to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bobic spoke as part of a panel on "Perspectives on Refugee Resettlement in U.S." during an event sponsored by the USCCB's Migration and Refugees Services at the National Press Club in advance of World Refugee Day, observed June 20. Other speakers included Patricia Maloof, program director of migration and refugee services for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, and Jeremy Robbins, executive director of the New America Economy, which that day released a report about refugees' positive economic impact titled "From Struggle to Resilience."

    Catholic leaders among those calling for restorative justice

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two Catholic leaders are among the first 100 Christians, most of them evangelicals, calling for restorative justice as part of a nationwide criminal justice reform initiative. The core of the effort is the Justice Declaration, which has received the endorsement of Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Karen Clifton, executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network. Other key signatories include Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; and James Ackerman, president and CEO of Prison Fellowship, which is spearheading the campaign. Moore, Anderson and Ackerman, after unveiling the Justice Declaration at a June 20 news conference in Washington, went to Capitol Hill to meet with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, and Rep. Mark Walker, R-North Carolina, head of the Republican Study Committee, to press for a criminal justice reform bill. The 10-point declaration is couched in an "urgent appeal to all who follow the Lord Jesus Christ," it said in the preamble, adding its call for "a justice system that is fair and redemptive for all."

    Melkite Catholic Church elects new patriarch, a native of Syria

    BEIRUT (CNS) -- Bishop Joseph Absi was elected the new Melkite patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem and All the East during the Melkite Catholic Synod at Ain-Traz, Lebanon. Melkite leaders elected Bishop Absi June 21, one day after his 71st birthday. A native of Damascus, Syria, he has served as patriarchal vicar in the Archdiocese of Damascus since 2007. On May 6, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Patriarch Gregoire III Laham, 83, who had served in the position since 2000. In 1973, Bishop Absi was ordained a priest and became chaplain of the Missionary Society of St. Paul. He was appointed curial bishop and auxiliary bishop in the Melkite Patriarchate. No other details about the election were available from Melkite leaders.

    Mali's Catholic Church demands tougher regional stance against Islamists

    OXFORD, England (CNS) -- Mali's Catholic church has urged a common front against Islamist violence after al-Qaida-linked terrorists attacked a tourist resort just days before the creation of the country's first cardinal. "Although our church hasn't been directly targeted, it's deeply affected by such attacks," said Msgr. Edmond Dembele, secretary-general of the Mali Catholic bishops' conference. "The international community should urgently help Mali and other countries in this region to curb these outrages. When the people of Mali are struck in this way, neighboring states are struck as well. The echoes of fear and insecurity are felt throughout Africa," he said. Meanwhile, authorities continued the investigation into the June 18 attack on Le Campement Kangaba resort, east of the capital Bamako, which left nine dead, including four assailants. Msgr. Dembele told Catholic News Service June 21 that sporadic rocket attacks on military and civilian targets across the country had fueled "popular tensions," as well as fears of intercommunal violence between Christians and Muslims. "For now, this isn't an interreligious conflict. No one has been attacked because of their faith," Msgr. Dembele said.

    Bishop says world must move past indifference to solidarity with refugees

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- It is important the world move from indifference about the plight of the world's refugees to solidarity with them, Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington said June 19. He made the comments at the National Press Club during an event held a day ahead of World Refugee Day and hosted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Migration and Refugee Services. With 22.5 million refugees worldwide, Bishop Dorsonville noted, "the size and scope of the problem might beckon us to give up and question our work," but it is "important that we not throw our hands up in despair and retreat to the quiet of our homes ... and in doing so ignore the tragedy of the global displacement." Bishop Dorsonville noted that refugees are made in the image of God, and are children, husbands, wives, young and old, rich and poor. "Each one has a story to tell ... if they are only given the opportunity to do so," he told the government, church and nonprofit leaders gathered at the press club. "It is for the child who cries itself to sleep in the shadows of a refugee camp who we seek to bring justice ... who our advocacy, prayers and good intention intend to support."

    In lieu of visit, pope makes major donation to South Sudan charities

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With a trip to South Sudan postponed indefinitely, Pope Francis is sending close to a half-million dollars to help two church-run hospitals, a teacher training center and farming projects for families as a way to show the people there his solidarity and support. Because a planned trip with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury couldn't happen this year as hoped, Pope Francis "wants to make tangible the presence and closeness of the church with the suffering people through this initiative 'The Pope for South Sudan,'" Cardinal Peter Turkson told reporters at a Vatican news conference June 21. "He fervently hopes to be able to go there as soon as possible on an official visit to the nation; the church does not shut hope out of such an afflicted area," said the cardinal, who is prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. An official visit was meant to draw the world's attention to a silent tragedy, give voice to those suffering, and encourage conflicting parties to make renewed and greater efforts in finding a peaceful solution to the conflict, the cardinal said. Already in March, Pope Francis had expressed doubts about the possibility of making the trip, saying in an interview with Germany's Die Zeit newspaper, that visiting South Sudan would be "important," but that "I don't believe that it is possible." The pope approved the project funding in April, a month before the Vatican announced the trip's delay.

    Holiness means being open to God, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Being a saint doesn't require spending long hours in prayer, but rather living life open to God in good times and in bad, Pope Francis said. Christians should live with the "hope of becoming saints" and with the desire that "work, even in sickness and suffering, even in difficulties, is open to God," the pope said June 21 during his weekly general audience. "We think that it is something difficult, that it is easier to be delinquents than saints. No! We can become saints because the Lord helps us. It is he who helps us," he told the estimated 12,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square. Pope Francis rode around in his popemobile, stopping along the way to greet pilgrims and kiss babies. One child casually waved goodbye to the pope as he was handed back to his parents. In his talk, the pope reflected on the intercession of the saints, who are "older brothers and sisters who have gone along our same path, (gone through) our same struggles and live forever in God's embrace."

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  • Chaldeans protest ICE detentions outside federal building in Detroit

    DETROIT (CNS) -- The organizer of a June 16 protest in Detroit against federal agents' rounding up more than 100 Iraqi-American immigrants told local media that those who were detained had no prior warning that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would be arresting them the morning of June 11. Joined by U.S. Democratic Reps. Sander Levin and Brenda Lawrence of Michigan, members of the Chaldean Christian community gathered in front of the Patrick V. McNamara Federal Building. They held up signs, crosses and American flags, venting their frustration against federal authorities who detained their father, brothers and uncles, many of whom have been in the community for decades. Late June 20, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington released a letter that conference officials sent to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, urging him from a moral perspective to defer deportation of the individuals apprehended by ICE, particularly Christians and Chaldean Catholics, "who pose no threat to U.S. public safety" and would be sent back to a region where the persecution of religious minorities continues. It was signed by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president; Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration; and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace.

    Author says rosary 'can help us achieve peace in the world'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Why do Catholics pray the rosary? The history of the rosary traces to the 13th century. It is believed that Mary gave St. Dominic the rosary to rescue the church from the Albigensian heresy. Initially, 150 Hail Marys were prayed as a part of the rosary. "The prayer of the rosary, originally composed of 150 Hail Marys, is based on the 150 psalms of the Psalter prayed in monasteries since antiquity," said Gretchen Crowe, editor-in-chief of OSV Newsweekly in Huntington, Indiana, and author of the new book "Why the Rosary, Why Now?" The string of beads used to recite Our Fathers and Hail Marys are called "paternosters," Latin for "Our Father." The rosary evolved over the next three centuries to consist of 50 beads -- which form the five sections, or decades, of the rosary, separated by a large bead for the Our Father. "In many ways, the rosary and its spiritual benefits became most well-known during the 19th and 20th centuries through the record 11 encyclicals Pope Leo XIII wrote on the topic," Crowe said.

    Church reports more than 3,300 killed in Congo fighting since October

    ARU, Congo (CNS) -- More than 3,300 people have been killed in Congo's Kasai region in fighting between the army and rebels since October, Catholic leaders said. The church's findings were released in a United Nations statement June 20. Church sources also said that 20 villages had been destroyed, half of them by government troops. In all, 3,383 people died in clashes in the region. The number contrasts with U.N. reports that have put the number of dead at about 400. The U.N. has also said more than 20 mass graves have been discovered. The army's spokesperson could not be reached for comment. The office of the papal nuncio in Kinshasa sent a note to the Vatican's Fides news agency saying that Bishop Felicien Mwanama Galumbulula of Luiza and Bishop Pierre-Celestin Tshitoko Mamba of Luebo were forced to flee the violence. The message said 60 parishes, 34 religious houses and 141 schools were closed or damaged because of the fighting, and 31 Catholic health facilities were also affected. Five seminaries also were forced to close. The violence was triggered by the death of a local leader at the hands of police in Kasai in August. Supporters of the leader soon began attacking soldiers and police in the region.

    USCCB leaders decry attack outside London mosque, pray for victims

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Catholic bishops "unequivocally reject" acts of violence such as the attack outside a London mosque and pleaded with all people "to cease from committing or plotting to commit further acts. We would like to express our deepest condolences to the people of London who once again woke to the news of a terrorist attack," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of Springfield, Massachusetts, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. In a joint statement June 20, they said they were praying especially for the community of Muslims at Finsbury Park Mosque in North London "whom it appears were the intended victims of the attacker." A white man later identified as Darren Osborne, 47, from Wales, is accused of plowing the van he was driving into pedestrians near the mosque June 19 as Muslims were exiting after Ramadan prayers. The attack happened shortly after midnight. One person was killed and 10 were injured. Osborne was apprehended by police. Saying the attack was directed at Muslims, British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned it as "every bit as sickening" as deadly Islamist attacks that have hit England in recent months.

    Archbishop Gomez celebrates special Mass in solidarity with immigrants

    LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said in his homily at June 18 Mass that "the promise of America is that this land will be a home for all peoples." That promise is for all "no matter what the color of their skin, or what nation they came from, or what language they speak, or what religion they believe," he said during a special Mass he celebrated in solidarity with all immigrants. Thousands joined the archbishop for the Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. It was the culmination of a novena -- nine days of prayer and reflection -- at parishes throughout the three counties that make up the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and a three-day, 50-mile walk by pilgrims from Orange County to the cathedral for all those impacted by the nation's broken immigration system. "Let us pray for our country today," Archbishop Gomez said in his homily. "May we know peace and security and freedom in our borders, and may our children be blessed. Let us pray for our leaders in Washington and all those who serve our country in government and law enforcement. Let us dedicate ourselves -- all of us -- to the beautiful promise of America!"

    Judge OKs court challenge to California's assisted suicide law

    SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- A Superior Court judge ruled June 16 that a civil rights lawsuit challenging California's assisted suicide law will go forward. Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel J. Ottolia denied California Attorney General Xavier Becerra's motion for judgment on the pleadings, which had asked the judge to decide the case against the plaintiffs without a trial. Five California physicians and the American Academy of Medical Ethics brought the legal challenge last year. The judge scheduled a conference for Oct. 20 to determine when the case will be ready for trial. The ruling is "a really big deal," said attorney Alexandra Snyder, executive director of Life Legal Defense Foundation, which represents the plaintiffs. "The End of Life Option Act is a dangerous law that exposes vulnerable individuals to direct and indirect pressure to commit suicide." By treating terminally ill patients with six months or less to live differently from other patients, the 2015 End of Life Option Act violates the patients' due process and equal protection rights under the California Constitution and the U.S. Constitution, the plaintiffs argue. The law authorizes doctors to prescribe lethal prescriptions to any patient determined by two doctors to have six months or less to live.

    Jesuit program goes to 'the margins' to bring education to refugees

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Jesuit Worldwide Learning: Education at the Margins offers a mixture of online and in-person educational opportunities in service of people who have been displaced because of political turmoil, violence and other crises throughout the world. Officially formed in 2010, the initiative originated from an effort seeking international cooperation in the Jesuit education community as early as 2006, as Jesuit Father Charles Currie explained. "The project initially was called Jesuit Commons, stressing that it wasn't an attempt to have kind of a form of educational colonialism, but we're all in this together, caring, learning together," Father Currie told Catholic News Service. Involved with Jesuit Worldwide Learning from the beginning, Father Currie emphasized the Jesuits' long-standing tradition of education. Since St. Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus in 1540, Jesuit education has been grounded in the effort to transcend international borders. "There's no doubt that Jesuits from the very beginning were international," Father Currie said. "The world is our home."

    World Refugee Day aims to raise awareness of global refugee situation

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The annual observance of World Refugee Day June 20 "provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the global refugee situation and the success of resettled refugees," an official with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a June 19 statement. "World Refugee Day is a day where we highlight the achievements of refugees. Refugees are like all people -- unique children of God," said Bill Canny, executive director of the USCCB's Migration and Refugee Services. "We hope to see this year's celebration of World Refugee Day create greater awareness and appreciation on both the community and national level." According to a just-released report from the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, "20 people are newly displaced every minute of the day. Over the past two decades, the global population of forcibly displaced people has grown substantially from 33.9 million in 1997 to 65.6 million in 2016, and it remains at a record high," said the report from the United Nations' refugee agency.

    Pope accepts early resignation of Vatican's first independent auditor

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Just two years after being hired to help with the Vatican's efforts in finance reform, Libero Milone -- the Vatican's first independent auditor who answered only to the pope -- handed a request for his resignation to Pope Francis. The pope accepted Milone's request, the Vatican announced June 20, after Milone personally presented it to the pope a day earlier. "While wishing Milone the best in his future endeavors, the Holy See wishes to inform (everyone) that the process of naming a new director of the auditor-general's office will be underway as soon as possible," the Vatican's written statement said. Pope Francis named Milone to fill the new position of auditor general in June 2015, more than a year after establishing special structures to oversee the Vatican's finances -- the Council for the Economy and the Secretariat for the Economy. The auditor general has the power to audit the books of any Vatican office and reports directly to the pope. The auditing office currently has 12 people on staff.

    High court: State erred in denying poor defendant independent evaluation

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, said the state of Alabama erred in denying an indigent defendant now on death row a separate psychiatric evaluation that would assist in his own defense. The ruling, issued June 19, overturned the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in 2015 in the case of James McWilliams, and returned it to that court for further review. In 1985, McWilliams was arrested and charged with the 1984 rape and capital murder of a store clerk in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. A month before his arrest, the high court determined in a ruling in Ake v. Oklahoma that the state was required to provide the defense with sufficient qualified personnel to conduct a separate psychological examination of an indigent defendant. McWilliams was found guilty in 1986. For his sentencing hearing, he underwent psychological testing as requested by his defense attorneys, but the doctor's report did not arrive in time to be reviewed before a death sentence was handed down. In its ruling in McWilliams v. Dunn, the Supreme Court said the petitioner "did not receive that assistance" as outlined in the Ake ruling, thereby "denying his lawyer the opportunity to translate these data into a legal strategy," said Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority.

    Indonesian priests seek Vatican help in row with bishop over church funds

    RUTENG, Indonesia (CNS) -- A group of priests in Indonesia's Ruteng Diocese appealed to the Vatican to intervene and resolve a dispute with their bishop, whom they accuse of misappropriating more than $100,000 in church funds. Representatives of the priests, accompanied by a bishops' conference official, met Archbishop Antonio Filipazzi, the outgoing apostolic nuncio in Indonesia June 16 to call on the Vatican to help them achieve their demand that Bishop Hubertus Leteng heed their calls for an overhaul of how the diocese is run. The move came after dozens of priests in the diocese on Catholic-majority Flores Island quit their posts in protest against their bishop. Father Alfonsius Segar, one of the priests who met with the nuncio, told ucanews.com that Archbishop Filipazzi has promised to help resolve the dispute. "He will immediately take this issue up with the Vatican," Father Segar said.

    Pope: Don't pretend to be teens; help youths see blessings of adulthood

    ROME (CNS) -- Instead of "pretending to be adolescents," parents must help young people see the blessing of growing into adulthood, Pope Francis told priests, religious, catechists and parish council members from the Diocese of Rome. The belief that youthfulness is a model of success "is one of the most dangerous 'unwitting' menaces in the education of our adolescents" that hinders their personal growth because "adults have taken their place," the pope said June 19, opening the Rome Diocese's annual convention. This "can increase a natural tendency young people have to isolate themselves or to curb their process of growth" because they have no role models, the pope said. In his nearly 45-minute talk, Pope Francis reflected on the convention's theme, "Do not leave them alone! Accompanying parents in educating adolescent children." The pope said the first step in reaching out to young people in Rome is to "speak in the Roman dialect, that is, concretely" rather than in general or abstract terms that do not speak to teens' problems.

    Pope pays tribute to Italian priests who served poor, marginalized

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis paid homage to two Italian priests who were known for persevering in their priestly ministry despite facing opposition, even from within the church. Visiting the towns of Bozzolo and Barbiana in northern Italy June 20, the pope prayed before the tombs of Fathers Primo Mazzolari and Lorenzo Milani, who dedicated their ministry to the poor and the oppressed. Pope Francis arrived by helicopter first to Bozzolo, where he greeted residents and well-wishers lined outside the church of St. Peter the Apostle, where Father Mazzolari's remains were laid to rest. After praying in front of an icon of Mary, he went to the beloved Italian priest's tomb, where he laid an arrangement of white and yellow flowers and stood in silent prayer for several minutes. Born in Cremona, Italy, Father Mazzolari was known for his steadfast opposition to Italy's Fascist regime despite attempts against his life. Although his calls for increased participation of the laity, church reform and outreach to the marginalized were all themes that were at the forefront of the Second Vatican Council three years after his death, he was prohibited by the church from speaking publicly or publishing his writings.

    Consecrating FOCUS to Mary is 'all grace,' says apostolate's CEO

    AVE MARIA, Fla. (CNS) -- For Curtis Martin, founder and CEO of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, "It's all grace." He was describing the apostolate's consecration to Mary June 13 during its five weeks of new staff training at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria. The act of consecration came during the celebration of Mass at Ave Maria Church, followed by a rosary procession by 600 people. Participants walked with the World Apostolate of Fatima's statue of Our Lady of Fatima. "We want to make a consecration to Our Lord in a new and powerful way through the intercession of Our Lady. With special emphasis on Our Lady of Guadalupe and Fatima because of the special significance which they hold for their new evangelization," Martin told Catholic News Service. The purpose of the consecration was to "petition assistance for a deeper sanctification of missionaries and staff and for a special blessing of their missionary work and the apostolate as a whole," according to FOCUS.

    Manila Archdiocese collects blood to mark Cardinal Tagle's 60th birthday

    MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- Instead of material gifts, a priest and employees of the Archdiocese of Manila gifted Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle with their blood. The collection drive was held at the Archdiocesan Chancery in the historic Intramuros on June 19 to commemorate the birthday of the cardinal, who will turn 60 June 21. Father Sanny de Claro, archdiocesan director of human resource development, told ucanews.com that the group chose to gift the cardinal with their blood because it symbolizes life. "I think the best gift is to help save or extend somebody's life, that's why we have this blood donation drive," Father de Claro said. "Through this, we also want to show the cardinal that we treasure life," he added. The blood collected will be used particularly to help poor people who cannot afford to buy blood, the priest said.

    New priests follow many paths to answering call to serve God's people

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After almost 12 years as an Episcopal priest, Deacon Jonathan Erdman entered into full communion with the Catholic Church along with his family in 2016 and a year later, he is becoming a Catholic priest. He will be ordained a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter June 29. This spring, 590 men entered the priesthood in dioceses throughout the United States, according to a report released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington. The report is based on an annual study that the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate conducted for the USCCB. Leading to his joining the Catholic Church, Deacon Erdman felt something in the background repeatedly calling him to the church, but he said he continually found new ways to distract himself. "I think often when one hears God calling, a response can be thinking of an excuse," Deacon Erdman said in a phone interview with Catholic News Service June 14. "Moses said he didn't have the ability to speak, Jeremiah claimed he was too young, and even Peter asked Jesus to depart because he felt unworthy. I distracted myself with my work in ministry. I told myself that I was needed where I was."

    Experienced diplomat, Indian Cardinal Dias dies at 81

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A longtime diplomat and fluent in 17 languages, Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias died June 19 in Rome after a long illness. He was 81. Pope Francis called the cardinal a "wise and gentle pastor" who served the church and Vatican faithfully. In a telegram to the cardinal's brother, Francis Dias, the pope recalled the particularly important contribution Cardinal Dias made "to the spiritual and physical reconstruction of the suffering church in Albania and the missionary zeal demonstrated in his work as prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples." The pope offered his condolences to the Dias family and his prayers to the Catholics of Mumbai, "where the pastoral concern and broad apostolic vision that marked his service as Archbishop are fondly remembered." Cardinal Dias served as prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples before his retirement in 2011 and served as archbishop of Mumbai from 1996 to 2006. His faith and 39 years in the Vatican's diplomatic service, he said, taught him to avoid confrontation and solve problems through dialogue and fostering goodwill.

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  • Catholic church leaders call for dialogue between the U.S. and Cuba

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The retired Catholic archbishop of Havana called for dialogue between the United States and Cuba, and said it's the only way in which past and present problems can be solved. In a June 19 letter published in Palabra Nueva, the magazine for the Archdiocese of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who played a major role in the rapprochement between Cuba and the U.S., said "resorting to old models" and applying them presently to Cuba can "overshadow or delay" the resolution of conflicts between the two countries. The letter coincided with two important events: the release of Cardinal Ortega's book chronicling the role the church played in the 2014 restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S, and President Donald Trump's announcement of changes to U.S. policy toward the island-nation, including a rollback of an Obama-era opening of diplomatic relations and an easing of some restrictions. A U.S. bishop echoed what Cardinal Ortega said about dialogue. "It is important to continue to promote dialogue and encounter between our neighboring nations and peoples," said a statement, also released June 19, from Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace.

    Lebanese cardinal praises new law that paves way for elections

    BEIRUT (CNS) -- Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai commended Lebanon's political parties for ratifying a new electoral law. Speaking at the end of the Maronite Catholic Synod of Bishops June 17 at Bkerke, north of Beirut, Cardinal Rai said the long-awaited law "rescued the country from a political crisis that would have had severe repercussions on the national sectors." Lebanon's parliament ratified the new electoral law June 16. The new law replaces the existing winner-takes-all voting system with proportional representation and reduces the number of electoral districts. It allows Christians to elect a larger number of members of Parliament in areas with Christian electoral majorities. About 40 percent of the approximate 4 million Lebanese citizens residing in the country are Christian. Lebanon has the only Christian head of state in the entire Middle East and North Africa. Under Lebanon's power-sharing system, the presidency is reserved for a Maronite Catholic, while the prime minister is a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament is a Shiite Muslim.

    Bishop urges elected officials to 'reflect the unity for which we long'

    ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CNS) -- Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrated Mass and led a eucharistic procession at St. Mary Church in Alexandria June 18 to "bring Jesus, the source of our peace and unity, into the streets" recently touched by violence. The Mass was celebrated on the feast of Corpus Christi, just days after a shooting at an Alexandria ballpark in which Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, and others were injured while practicing for a charity baseball game. In his homily, the bishop said that the seven-block procession from St. Mary's Church to St. Mary's Cemetery was a witness to the world that "we do not walk through this life alone." He reminded parishioners that unity depends on recognizing the dignity of each and every person by listening to others, discussing points of disagreement in a civil manner and letting go of bitterness. The bishop urged elected officials to take the lead in working for that unity. "Today, with the faithful in the Diocese of Arlington and all people of goodwill, I respectfully make a plea to all our elected officials to reflect the unity for which we long," Bishop Burbidge said. "We need you to work together for the common good; to uphold truth, peace and justice; to find common ground; to be respectful of each other even in the midst of debate; and to let go of harsh words and severe rhetoric.

    Pope will visit Chile, Peru in January, Vatican announces

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will travel to Colombia in September and, the Vatican announced, he will return to South America in January for a visit to Chile and Peru. The pope will be in Chile Jan. 15-18, visiting the cities of Santiago, Temuco and Iquique, the Vatican press office announced June 19. He then will fly to Peru and from Jan. 18-21, he will visit Lima, Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo. The Vatican had announced in March that the pope would make a pastoral trip to Colombia Sept. 6-11. No mention was made of a possible trip to the pope's homeland, Argentina. He has not returned to the country since he was elected pope in March 2013. The Peru-Chile trip would be his fourth to South America. In July 2013, he visited Brazil for World Youth Day. In July 2015, he traveled to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. The September trip to Colombia would be his third to the continent.

    English cardinal after mosque attack: 'Repudiate hatred and violence'

    LONDON (CNS) -- An English cardinal has condemned an attack against Muslims who had gathered close to a London mosque. Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster issued a statement following the fourth terror attack in the United Kingdom in the past three months. At least one person was killed and 10 others were injured when the lone assailant drove a van into a crowd of Muslims gathered outside the Muslim Welfare House, near the Finsbury Park Mosque, where they had been attending Ramadan prayers. The incident occurred at 12:20 a.m. June 19. "Together with people all over this country, I am appalled at the deliberate attack on people leaving their late-night prayers, as the end of their day of fasting, at the mosque in Finsbury Park," said Cardinal Nichols in a June 19 statement. "I have assured the leadership of the mosque and the Muslim welfare centre of our prayers and support," he said.

    Louisiana priest in Washington spends hours with Scalise at hospital

    NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- Father Tim Hedrick, parochial vicar of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Metairie, was in Washington continuing his canon law studies when a news alert came across his phone June 14 that Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise, the House majority whip, had been shot. "I immediately called and texted Jennifer (Scalise's wife) to let her know that I was here (in D.C.) and would go and be with Steve," Father Hedrick told the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the New Orleans Archdiocese. Scalise, his wife, Jennifer, and the couple's two children, Harrison and Madison, are Catholic and are parishioners of St. Catherine. Father Hedrick said Jennifer Scalise, who was back home with the children in Louisiana, called for a police detail to pick up the priest from The Catholic University of America to take him to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where Scalise was being treated. "He was already in surgery, and they brought me down to surgery and I actually got to watch the surgery," Father Hedrick said, who learned that several members of the surgery team were Catholic. "They felt very comforted to know I was there, and they asked me to pray for them," Father Hedrick said. He was at the hospital for 12 hours that first day and was able to give the sacrament of the anointing of the sick to Scalise.

    CRS, Filipinos who lost homes in typhoon, to build sustainable community

    TACLOBAN, Philippines (CNS) -- In the days and months after Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines in 2013, the badly battered seaside community of Anibong became a graveyard for colorful cargo ships that were tossed onto shore by 195-mph winds. The government designated Anibong, one of the poorest communities in Tacloban, a "No-build zone." "No-build" signs told residents with no formal address except for tarp and scrap wood shanties on the ravaged shoreline they needed to stay away. Still, hammering could be heard regularly as residents scrambled to rebuild homes alongside the ship carcasses. Now, more than three years later, Catholic Relief Services plans to break ground on a sustainable community for Anibong residents. Today Anibong "looks probably very similar (to then), with the exception that the ships have been removed," said Renee Lambert, head of the Tacloban office of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' international relief and development agency. CRS is rolling out a $12 million project that would relocate 900 families from Anibong to a community on higher ground. CRS purchased the land and hopes to make the people self-reliant. The groundbreaking was scheduled for the week of June 19, and families were to start moving in in the fall of 2018. With a move-in date far off, CRS put disaster preparedness plans in place for Anibong residents while they wait for the houses to be completed. "We're facilitating processes within the community," Lambert told Catholic News Service. "So we're working them through the process of identifying what each family needs to make that family more resilient."

    Pope urges Merkel to continue supporting Paris climate agreement

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Pope Francis encouraged her to support international agreements like the Paris climate accord as well as to break down walls that divide people. The German leader's 40-minute private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican June 17 was the sixth time the two leaders have met. The discussions -- which included a separate meeting later with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister -- focused on the G-20 meeting to be held in Hamburg July 7-8. "The parties agreed on the need to dedicate special attention to the responsibility of the international community in combating poverty and hunger, the global threat of terrorism and climate change," the Vatican said in a written statement. Merkel later told reporters that she told the pope about Germany's agenda for the G-20 meeting, which "assumes that we are a world in which we want to work together multilaterally, a world in which we don't want to build walls but bring down walls," she said, according to the Associated Press.

    Rosary prayer unites life with Christ, pope says in video message

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians who pray the rosary unite their own lives with Christ by meditating on his life, ministry and death, Pope Francis said. "This simple prayer, in fact, helps us to contemplate all that God in his love has done for us and for our salvation and helps us understand that our life is united to Christ's," the pope said in a video message June 18 to pilgrims of the Ta Pinu Marian Shrine in Gozo, Malta. The shrine inaugurated several new mosaics designed by Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik that were erected around the church square depicting the joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious mysteries of the rosary. In his video message, the pope said that the artistic depiction of the rosary's mysteries "lays before our eyes the beauty of a simple contemplative prayer" that is "accessible to everyone, great and small. I, too, often recite the rosary in front of a mosaic: a small mosaic of Our Lady with the child where Mary seems to be in the center when in reality she, using her hands, becomes a kind of ladder through which Jesus can descend in our midst," the pope said.

    Academy for Life president defends nomination of Anglican theologian

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Pontifical Academy for Life is and always will be against abortion and is committed to involving increasing numbers of people in the defense of human life, said Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, academy president. In an interview posted June 17 on the Vatican Insider website, Archbishop Paglia defended the nomination of Nigel Biggar, an Anglican professor of moral theology, as a member of the academy. Tweeting about the interview, which was in Italian, Archbishop Paglia wrote, "Translation: 'Our NO to abortion is a total NO!'" Several newspapers and pro-life organizations, including the American Life League, questioned the appointment of Biggar, citing a 2011 interview and debate he was part of with a philosopher who is strongly pro-abortion. The interview-debate between Biggar and Peter Singer was printed in the online edition of the British Standpoint magazine. Critics focused on Biggar's statement in the piece that he "would be inclined to draw the line for abortion at 18 weeks after conception, which is roughly about the earliest time when there is some evidence of brain activity, and therefore of consciousness."

    Humanity must unite in fight against corruption, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians and non-Christians must join the fight against corruption, which tears apart the bonds that unite humanity, Pope Francis said. Corruption "reveals such strong anti-social conduct" that it "dissolves the pillars upon which society is founded: coexistence among people and the vocation to develop it," the pope wrote in the preface to a new book. "Corruption breaks all of this by replacing the common good with a particular interest that contaminates every general outlook," he wrote. "It is born of a corrupt heart and is the worst social plague because it generates serious problems and crimes involving everyone." The new book, "Corrosion," was written by Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and Vittorio V. Alberti, an Italian philosopher. The book's release coincided with the Vatican's first "International Debate on Corruption." The meeting, sponsored by the dicastery and the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, looked at corruption as a global problem and at its connections to organized crime and the Mafia.

    Pope: End fear, false beliefs about refugees by getting to know them

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Getting to know someone who is a refugee can wipe away fears and dismantle distorted ideologies, Pope Francis said. Highlighting World Refugee Day, which is marked June 20, the pope asked that "concrete attention go to the women, men and children fleeing from conflict, violence and persecution." After praying the Angelus with visitors in St. Peter's Square June 18, he also asked that people pray for all those who have lost their lives on land or at sea in their attempt to flee for their lives. "Their stories of heartache and hope can become opportunities for fraternally coming together and truly getting to know each other," the pope said. "In fact, personally meeting with refugees dispels fears and distorted ideologies" and becomes a way for people to grow in their humanity as they learn to make room for an attitude of openness and the building of bridges, he said. One person becomes displaced every three seconds, the U.N. Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported June 19.

    Eucharist is reminder of God's love, call to unity, pope says

    ROME (CNS) -- The Eucharist is a tangible reminder of God's love, and receiving Communion is a call to work to build the body of Christ by loving others and shunning all that sows division within a community, Pope Francis said. The Eucharist should "heal our ambition to lord it over others, to greedily hoard things for ourselves, to foment discord and criticism," he said June 18, celebrating the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. "May it awaken in us the joy of living in love, without rivalry, jealousy or mean-spirited gossip." Pope Francis celebrated the Mass outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome. With an almost constant breeze cooling the warm Rome day, thousands of people -- including children who made their first Communion this spring -- gathered outside the basilica for the evening Mass and for the Corpus Christi procession later from St. John Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, about a mile away. The 2017 feast day included two major changes from past practices. First, although Italian dioceses, like many around the world, moved the feast from a Thursday to a Sunday in the late 1970s, the Mass and procession with the pope at St. John Lateran remained on the Thursday until this year. Second, instead of transporting the Blessed Sacrament on a truck in the Corpus Christi procession this year, it was carried on a platform held aloft on the shoulders of four men. Eight other men carried tall poles holding a canopy over the platform, a task made more difficult by the breeze.

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  • Deportation feared as program protecting parents of citizen children ends

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for immigrants expressed concern that millions of illegal alien parents of U.S. citizens and other permanent legal residents will be subject to deportation after Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly rescinded a memo that protected them. Kelly's action June 15 revokes DAPA, or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, a 2014 memo from President Barack Obama that protected law-abiding parents who are in the country illegally from deportation. It also follows through on a campaign promise by President Donald Trump to overturn two Obama-era memos on illegal immigration. The DAPA memo was never implemented after it was challenged in federal court in Texas by 26 states that argued the program was illegal. The U.S. Supreme Court voted 4-4 last June after the lower court ruling was appealed, leaving that ruling in place. A judge in the case set June 15 as the deadline to resolve the case. In response, Kelly rescinded the memo, saying there is "no credible path forward" in court.

    Creative program funds buildings for rapidly growing Georgia parishes

    ATLANTA (CNS) -- Making room for everyone at the Lord's table is the spirit behind a focused new program in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. The Special Projects Program is funding the expansion of basic worship and religious education space in a few uniquely challenged parishes whose churches cannot hold all the people coming for Mass or religious education. The program immediately will address needs in three churches -- a parish and two missions in Cedartown, Gainesville and Lilburn. The three communities are growing so quickly -- with particularly large increases in Latino members -- that they have even run out of room in overflow spaces for Mass and programs. On top of that, the faith communities had virtually no funds in the bank to remedy the situation. Under the program, a fund has been established for parishes and missions to tap into construction projects. Guidelines give the faith communities time to repay the funds and in return fund the construction needs of other parishes and mission churches. Archdiocesan officials believe the program is unique in the United States. The first three recipients are St. Bernadette Church in Cedartown, St. John Paul II Mission in Gainesville, and Our Lady of the Americas Mission in Lilburn. "I called this my World Bank project," said Peter Faletti, retired director of planning for the archdiocese, who drafted the charter governing the program. "To me, that was the concept that was needed."

    Convocation delegate wants to find new ways to spread unchanged Gospel

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Maybe it's no surprise the Seattle Archdiocese is sending a delegation of 12, as in the number of apostles, to the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America" in Orlando, Florida, July 1-4. Deacon Eric Paige, one of the 12, is the executive director for the archdiocese's Office of Evangelization, Formation and Discipleship. For him, it could seem like a busman's holiday to spend four days at a gathering with 3,000 other Catholics talking about something he works on every day. But when asked if he hopes to either gain wisdom from the event or share what he has learned with other participants, Paige said it would likely be a combination of the two. One thing he hopes to get a better grasp of during the gathering -- with its workshops, keynote addresses and time for prayer -- is advice on how to use modern technology to spread the Gospel message. But even with that goal in mind, he also is cautious that the tools can't be so much of the focus that people forget the purpose of using them is "to draw people to engage in the Eucharist." For him, the Seattle delegation and the entire gathering of Catholic leaders from across the country are symbolic of the original apostles commissioned to share the Gospel message.

    Bishop Cantu reports on unrest, religious persecution around globe

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, has earned his fair share of frequent flyer miles. But his trips are far from relaxing. Rather, his travels take him to places of unrest and religious persecution. Bishop Cantu is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace. In a June 15 presentation during the bishops' spring assembly in Indianapolis, he briefed his brother bishops on the sobering topic of international persecution and human rights violations, and what his committee has been doing the prelates behalf to improve the situation. Bishop Cantu's trips are called "solidarity visits." His mandate as chairman "includes sharing and promoting the social teaching of the church, especially human rights and religious freedom." His task is accomplished "by seeking the guidance of the church in other nations to inform advocacy on U.S. foreign policy, and (by) expressing the solidarity of our conference with the church in other nations," he explained. He described a recent solidarity visit to countries in Asia and the Middle East. "Pakistani bishops said that blasphemy charges can bring (a judgment) that kills people with impunity," he said. "Christians and other minorities suffer discrimination in education and employment."

    Bishops' voices called 'vital' to fight challenges to religious liberty

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops voted June 15 to make the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty a permanent standing committee. The 132-53 vote came on the second day of the bishops' spring assembly in Indianapolis. There were five abstentions. A simple majority was required for approval. The bishops' action came less than a week before the start of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' fifth annual Fortnight for Freedom June 21-July 4. It is a two-week period of prayer, advocacy and education on religious freedom. Before the vote, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the committee since its creation in 2011, spoke in favor of making it permanent, arguing the need for the body stretches beyond the specific legal and public policy issues challenging religious freedom that continue to emerge. "Rather, the very idea of religious freedom and its roots in human nature is challenged," he said, "along with the right of religious people and institutions to raise their voices in the public square and to perform ministries that serve the common good in accordance with their religious and moral convictions."

    Priests say Vietnam is letting gangs terrorize Catholics in northeast

    HANOI, Vietnam (CNS) -- Police have looked the other way as groups of youths have terrorized a Catholic community in northeast Vietnam. Ucanews.com reported that, throughout June, gangs of youths -- wearing red T-shirts with yellow stars and waving national flags -- have attacked Catholics and their property in Song Ngoc Parish in Quynh Luu District of Nghe An province. "We see that the attacks have been carried out in an orchestrated manner, and the police know well what is occurring, but are ignoring what is going on," said 11 priests in a June 13 petition given to the Vietnamese government. The priests accused the government of "aiding and abetting those who intentionally violate laws, cause hatred and divide Catholics from others." The attacks have occurred at night, and at least two Catholics have been seriously injured, sources told ucanews.com.

    Dewane: Church 'committed to ensuring fundamental right' to health care

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- As the country awaits the U.S. Senate's plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in the coming weeks, the U.S. bishops made it clear June 15 during their annual spring assembly in Indianapolis that their efforts are focused on "ensuring the fundamental right of medical care" for all people. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also reinforced its stand that the American Health Care Act passed by the U.S. House May 4 needs major reform -- to provide quality health care for the "voiceless," especially children, the elderly, the poor, immigrants and the seriously ill. "We find ourselves in a time marked by a deep sense of urgency and gravity," said Bishop George L. Thomas of Helena, Montana, in his remarks to his fellow bishops. "Within two weeks, we may see a federal budgetary action with potentially catastrophic effects on the lives of our people, most especially children and the elderly, the seriously ill, the immigrant and our nation's working poor." Referring to the House bill, known as AHCA, and its plan to "eliminate $880 billion from Medicaid over the next decade," Bishop Thomas continued, "If left unchallenged or unmodified, this budget will destabilize our own Catholic health care apostolates, take food from the mouths of school-aged children and the homebound, and deny already scarce medical resources to the nation's neediest in every state across the land."

    Church offers counseling to help students cope with trauma of London fire

    LONDON (CNS) -- Church agencies are helping Catholic school students cope with the trauma of the Grenfell Tower fire, including knowing that some of their fellow students are missing. Children who attended Catholic schools in the shadow of Grenfell Tower are among about 76 people who have yet to be accounted for. Police have confirmed that 30 people died in the June 14 fire, with the death toll expected to rise as emergency services personnel search the ruins for bodies. John Paul Morrison, the director of education for the Archdiocese of Westminster, told Catholic News Service June 16, said the archdiocese was offering counseling to students, to help them to deal with the trauma of the tragedy. "What they have witnessed was incredibly shocking," said Morrison. "Television and media can only touch on it. "The thing that really hit the students was the screaming," he said. "I spoke to some people yesterday who were very upset by that -- by hearing, 'Help me!', 'Help me!'" Morrison confirmed that students were missing from the schools, but he declined to say how many, saying he did not wish to identify them prematurely. He said hundreds of other students and their families were evacuated from the vicinity of the 24-story building because of the possibility that it might collapse and scatter debris over a half-mile radius.

    Pope taps human rights expert for integral human development office

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis named a French priest, who is an expert in human rights, ethics and pastoral care in the field of health care, to be secretary of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. Father Bruno-Marie Duffe, a 65-year-old priest of the Archdiocese of Lyon, was named June 16 to the No. 2 post in the dicastery to assist the prefect, Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson. The dicastery, which began operating in January, combines the responsibilities of the former pontifical councils for Justice and Peace, Migrants and Travelers, Cor Unum and Health Care Ministry. It was established to help better promote Catholic social teaching and ensure appropriate assistance to vulnerable people, especially victims of war, refugees and the sick. Born in Lyon, Aug. 21, 1951, Father Duffe was ordained in his home archdiocese in 1981. He served as parish priest and, starting in 1982, taught moral theology and social doctrine of the Catholic Church at the Catholic University of Lyon and the Jesuit cultural center "La Baume les Aix."

    New child protection experts graduate from Rome's Jesuit university

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Before students were presented with their diplomas in safeguarding minors, they each received a logoed mug as a memento of their time in the Center for Child Protection's intensive program at the Pontifical Gregorian University. The cup might come in handy because their task of promoting child protection will be hard, and "you will be working late, so you will be drinking lots of tea," psychology professor Katharina Fuchs said good-heartedly at the start of the informal graduation ceremony. The graduates -- 24 men and women from 18 different countries -- would be going back to their dioceses, bishops' conferences or religious orders to kick-start or strengthen child protection policies and measures. The ceremony, held June 14 at the Gregorian University, included a panel discussion with five post-doctoral students and a poster exhibition of all 24 students' final theses and research. Drew Dillingham of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Child and Youth Protection Office was one of those completing the program. A Capuchin Sister of the Sacred Heart, who works in Slovakia, did her final project on how communism and, before that, centuries-long monarchical rule created a favorable environment for abuse and secrecy because the political systems thrived on and encouraged subordination, passivity and avoidance of responsibility.

    Italian police recover stolen relic of St. John Bosco

    TURIN, Italy (CNS) -- Inside a copper teapot in a kitchen cupboard, Italian police found the relic of St. John Bosco that had been stolen two weeks earlier from the basilica erected at his birthplace. The press office of the Salesians in nearby Turin announced June 15 that Italian military police obtained a search warrant and discovered the relic early that morning in the home of a 42-year-old Italian man identified only by the initials C.G. From previous encounters with the law, the man's fingerprints were on file and they were found on the glass case protecting the relic and reliquary in the lower Basilica of St. John Bosco in the town of Castelnuovo Don Bosco. Police said they watched and followed the man for several days before obtaining a warrant to search his home. The relic, a piece of St. John Bosco's brain, was still in its small glass jar tied with red ribbon. The seal of authenticity was intact, the Salesians said.

    In recognizing one's weakness, God's strength can be found, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians who acknowledge their own weakness and limitations will find the saving power of God's strength, Pope Francis said. However, recognizing one's own vulnerability is "one of the most difficult things in life," and those who fail to accept that truth about themselves set off on a path of deceit and hypocrisy, the pope said June 16 in his homily during Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae. "The path toward vanity, arrogance," he said, is "the self-referentiality of those who think they are not clay; they look for salvation, fullness, in themselves." The pope's homily focused on day's first reading from St. Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians (4:7-15), in which he preaches that Christians carry the treasure of God's glory "in earthen vessels so that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us." Paul's comparison of human frailty to clay jars, the pope said, symbolizes the weakness and vulnerability that Christians are often tempted to "put makeup on it so that it isn't seen or to disguise it."

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  • Faith values said to 'seamlessly translate' to field, locker room, team

    VILLANOVA, Pa. (CNS) -- Many of the men and women who participated in the Villanova conference on collegiate sports and faith June 7-8 spend time with student athletes as coaches, professors, administrators and chaplains. For them, the rewards and challenges of guiding and inspiring young athletes are measured in concrete encounters in class, in a prayer before a game or on the field itself. The invitation-only event offered them an opportunity to share stories, advice, inspiration and frustrations with each other. For Augustinian Father Rob Hagan, the connections between faith and sports are part of the fabric of his days. Father Hagan, associate athletic director at Villanova, said the values shared by people of faith, including "things like humility, sacrifice and service seamlessly translate on the field, in the locker room, and within a team. For an athlete and team to do well, they must sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Not everyone can be a star." Pope Francis has helped people to understand the relevance of faith to daily life, said Father Hagan, who holds prayer services before Villanova games, a locker-room blessing for a teammate coming back from an injury, or a prayer of gratitude after a game -- win or lose. "We're not praying to win, but to help position our hearts and minds where we can do the most with our God-given talents," he said.

    Bishops approve revisions to guidelines on sacraments for the disabled

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops overwhelmingly approved revisions to the guidelines governing the celebration of sacraments for people with disabilities that take into account medical and technological developments. Approved 180-1 during the bishops' spring general assembly June 14, the revisions in the "Guidelines for the Celebration of Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities" updates a document that was adopted in 1995. The guidelines were developed as a tool to improve access to the sacraments by persons with disabilities and reduce inconsistencies in pastoral practice. The document followed the Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons with Disabilities in 1978 and a 1989 revision. The 1995 document was the first issued by the bishops on the topic at a national level. Bishop leaders at the time said the document would allow the church to better minister to and be ministered to by people with disabilities. Among the issues the document addresses is physical access to worship to give people with disabilities "full, active and conscious participation, according to their capacity."

    Convocation of Catholic leaders will be historic event, bishops told

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- During their spring meeting in Indianapolis, U.S. bishops were reminded that the upcoming Convocation of Catholic Leaders -- a gathering they began talking about years ago -- is right around the corner. It will be a historic event, Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, told the bishops June 15 about the July 1-4 "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America" in Orlando, Florida. He also noted that it will be the largest gathering sponsored by U.S. bishops and will be a time to show the unity of the church. The convocation, an invitation-only event, is meant to give the 3,000 participants expected to attend a better understanding of what it means to be missionary disciples in today's world through workshop presentations, keynote addresses and prayer. The plan, from the outset, was to bring Catholic leaders from across the country to closely examine and figure out how to best live out Pope Francis' call for all Catholics to be missionary disciples in today's world as expressed in his 2013 apostolic exhortation, "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel").

    Holy Cross priest presents reflection on immigration issues for bishops

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- Holy Cross Father Daniel Groody stood before the U.S. bishops June 14 and held up a chalice. It was not special in appearance, but rather in the story it told. The chalice was handcrafted primarily with wood from a refugee boat that landed upon the beaches of Lampedusa, the Mediterranean island from which Pope Francis cast a wreath into the waters to remember the thousands of refugees who lost their lives there, attempting to flee persecution. The base of the chalice was formed from mesquite, a common wood along the U.S.-Mexico border crossed by immigrants seeking better lives in America. Together, he said, the materials of the chalice speak to the plight of immigrants, a topic addressed during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' spring assembly in Indianapolis. "Migration is an incredibly, incredibly complex issue, and those who don't realize its complexity either aren't listening, or they don't understand," said Father Groody, an associate professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame and director of immigration initiatives at the university's Institute for Latino Studies. "And second, migration is an incredibly, incredibly simple issue, and those who don't realize its simplicity either aren't listening, or they don't understand," he said.

    Villanova University conference explores intersection of faith and sports

    VILLANOVA, Pa. (CNS) -- Last October, the Vatican hosted a groundbreaking conference to explore the ways faith and sports could act together to spark positive social change, and encourage greater inclusivity, commitment and inspiration on a multicultural global stage. This June, coaches, chaplains, campus ministers, university administrators and others from across the United States gathered at Villanova University to explore ways to make that vision concrete in the world of collegiate sports. Approved by the Vatican and hosted by the university in collaboration with the Big East Conference (the NCCA Division I collegiate athletic league), "Sport at the Service of Humanity: A Regional Conference on Faith and Collegiate Sports" drew more than 100 attendees to Villanova June 7-8. Participants represented 28 colleges, universities and other organizations, including the International Olympic Committee, according to a news release issued jointly by the Sport at the Service of Humanity conference, the Pontifical Council for Culture, Villanova University and the Big East Conference.

    Dozens of priests resign from Indonesian diocese to protest bishop

    JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNS) -- Dozens of Indonesian priests have quit their posts after accusing a bishop on the Catholic majority island of Flores of embezzling more than $100,000 of church funds for personal use. Ucanews.com reported that at least 69 priests from Ruteng Diocese submitted letters of resignation in mid-June, quitting their posts as episcopal vicars and parish priests, and demanded that Bishop Hubertus Leteng heed their calls for a complete overhaul of how the diocese is run. Bishop Leteng told reporters June 12 that he did not want priests to leave their posts, but stepping down "was their free choice. If you love the church, you must create calm among people," he said. The bishop refused to comment about the allegations against him. Father Marthen Chen, spokesman for the priests, said the overhaul is desperately needed "so the church can be truly in line with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We demand renewal in pastoral work as well as in church and financial management," Father Chen told reporters, without elaborating.

    Parish prays for congressman in critical condition after shooting

    METAIRIE, La. (CNS) -- More than 150 people attended a prayer service at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Metairie June 14 to pray for the recovery of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, and other victims of a shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, early that morning. Scalise, his wife, Jennifer, and their two children are members of St. Catherine of Siena Parish. The congressman from the 1st District of Louisiana was gunned down by a lone gunman while practicing with other Republican members of the House and staffers for a charity baseball game. Scalise sustained a bullet to the hip that also caused serious internal bleeding. After surgery, he was listed in critical condition, and as of early June 15, he remained in critical condition. He has received multiple blood transfusions. Doctors said he would require additional surgeries. Father Ronald Calkins, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena, said the prayer service was for the shooting victims and also for those who mourn for them. "We come here to pray to God, who is always with us and always supporting us and always helping us," Father Calkins said. "We pray especially for those who were injured. Of course, we also come just to support each other."

    Gregory: Bishops 'can never say we are sorry enough' for tragedy of abuse

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- Standing before some 200 bishops from across the country, Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said that "we can never say that we are sorry enough for the share that we have had in this tragedy of broken fidelity and trust" in the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. He made this sober observation in a homily during a June 14 Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis on the opening day of the U.S. bishops' spring meeting. The liturgy was a response to a call from Pope Francis to episcopal conferences around the world to observe a "Day of Prayer and Penance" for survivors of sexual abuse within the church. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was the principal celebrant of the Mass and spoke about the pope's call at the start of the liturgy. "Today, there is a special urgency to our prayer," Cardinal DiNardo said. "The Holy Father has asked that all episcopal conferences offer a Day of Prayer and Penance for victims and survivors of sexual abuse.

    At Loreto school, South Sudanese girls from diverse tribes live in peace

    RUMBEK, South Sudan (CNS) -- In a country wracked by civil war and ethnic strife, Irish nuns have created a unique space where young women can dream of a better future and begin to acquire the skills that will help them construct it. Opened in 2008 by the Irish Loreto Sisters, the Loreto Girls Secondary School brings girls from throughout this ethnically diverse country to study and learn together. A Mennonite volunteer from the United States told Catholic News Service it is a unique environment in a land torn by civil war since 2013. "The school is an oasis in a country overcome by violence. One of the first casualties of trauma is imagination; you become incapable of imagining a future that's better or different. These girls want to become engineers and teachers and doctors and lawyers, and they can hold fast to those dreams because the school gives them the space to dream," said Nicky Hess, an emergency room nurse from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who helps run the school's clinic. She said the school offers the girls something rare here: an opportunity to just be kids. "I play basketball with them, something that people do all over the world. But too many children here are rushed to mature, and they have to care for their younger siblings at such a young age. It's refreshing to see kids just be able to play and have fun without having to be responsible all the time. That's a part of childhood that everyone deserves."

    Vatican supports new elections to solve Venezuelan crisis

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Negotiations between government and opposition groups in Venezuela, followed by free and fair elections, are needed to put an end to violence and bring relief to the suffering people, a Vatican official said. In a letter June 13 to six former Latin American heads of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said the Holy See continues to follow Pope Francis' directives and is "trying to help find a solution to the current serious difficulties. The Holy See continues to consider that a serious and sincere negotiation between the parties, based on very clear conditions, beginning with the celebration of constitutionally scheduled elections, can solve the serious situation in Venezuela and the suffering to which the population is subjected," said Cardinal Parolin's letter. The Vatican did not release the cardinal's letter, but it was posted on the blog Sismografo. Pope Francis had met June 8 with the leadership of the Venezuelan bishops' conference, which requested the meeting as the country's political and economic crisis became increasingly violent. Since April, anti-government protests have led to the death of some 70 people, both government and opposition supporters.

    Pope, Rabbi Skorka join effort to promote friendship across faiths

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Reaching out to people of other religions can be both challenging and enriching for individuals and is the only hope for true peace in the world, said a variety of religious leaders, including Pope Francis. The pope and his friend Rabbi Abraham Skorka appear in a video montage and together in their own video as part of the "Make Friends" initiative coordinated by the Elijah Interfaith Institute, which has offices in Israel and in Dallas. The video series, posted on YouTube June 14, also includes Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran leaders, Jewish rabbis, Sunni and Shiite Muslim clerics, Buddhist monks and nuns, and Hindu and Sikh leaders. In their video, Pope Francis and Rabbi Skorka talk about how their own religious convictions led them into conversations with each other, and how those conversations not only increased their understanding of God and formed the basis of a television series and book, but also led to true friendship. When sending emails back and forth, "because we still have projects going on," Rabbi Skorka said, they address each other as "'Dear brother,' and it's not just a saying. We have such open, deep and affectionate conversations. We understand each other."

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  • Conversation, listening essential for upcoming synod on youth, vocations

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- At a time when an estimated 50 percent of Catholics 30 and younger no longer identify with their religion, the U.S. bishops June 14 discussed the need to reverse that trend and why the consultation process for the October 2018 Synod of Bishops on youth and vocations is crucial to that effort. On the first day of the bishops' spring meeting in Indianapolis, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia opened the discussion with a presentation on the consultations and questions for the bishops to consider in preparing for the synod. "The synod indeed comes at a critical time," Cardinal Tobin told his fellow bishops in his opening remarks. "We know that there are both challenges and opportunities here in the U.S. The increased amount of disconnected millennials is certainly a concern for us, as is the decline and the delay of marriage among young people. Still there are various positive signs to build upon." Those signs, he said, include "the high interest among millennials during the liturgical seasons of Advent and Lent" and "the continued importance in our ministries and outreach to young people which have a positive effect on vocational discernment."

    Take courage, recognize grace, apostolic nuncio to U.S. tells bishops

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., called the U.S. Catholic bishops to be missionary disciples through listening and fostering solidarity and a culture of encounter. He encouraged the U.S. bishops to view current challenges as "a time of grace." "Take courage," he said, when the "tasks of the new evangelization and of building a culture of encounter and solidarity seem daunting." The archbishop, who was appointed nuncio a year ago, told the bishops June 14 at the start of their spring meeting in Indianapolis that in his travels throughout the country this year, he was impressed by the faith of Catholics and their dedication to their parishes "despite the many challenges they face in living the faith in an increasingly secular culture that values efficiency and productivity over spiritual values." He reminded the bishops of Pope Francis' call to "go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel" and noted that many of them will be discussing this more at the convocation of Catholic leaders in Orlando, Florida, in July.

    Federal authorities investigating shooting of congressman, others

    ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CNS) -- Federal authorities are investigating a shooting that resulted in injuries for Catholic congressman and Republican Steve Scalise and others when a gunman opened fire on him and the others during a June 14 practice for an annual congressional baseball game. Late in the day a Washington hospital listed Scalise in critical condition after he underwent surgery for an injury to his hip that he sustained in the shooting. The suspected gunman was identified as James Hodgkinson of Illinois, and President Donald Trump said in a briefing that the shooter was dead. Five people were medically transported from the scene at Simpson Park in Alexandria, shortly after the 7 a.m. shooting, said Michael Brown, police chief for the city of Alexandria, in a press briefing. He would not say whether the gunman was one of those transported. Scalise is the U.S. House Majority Whip and represents Louisiana's 1st Congressional District. He and his wife, Jennifer, belong to St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans. The couple's children attend the parish school. New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond said in a statement: "We are saddened by this act of violence. Our prayers are with Congressman Scalise, for his healing, his wife, Jennifer, and their children, and for all involved in this shooting."

    Federal appeals court hears arguments in two religious freedom cases

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two court cases seeking to shape the place of religion in U.S. society are under review by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Cincinnati, one with the possibility of reaching the Supreme Court of the United States. Anti-religion activists are fighting the practice of county commissioners in Jackson, Michigan, to open their public meetings with prayer. The circuit court heard oral arguments in Bormuth v. Jackson County June 14. A similar case dealing with prayer in public meetings, Lund v. Rowan County, was heard in March by the 4th Circuit, based in Richmond, Virginia. Once those courts issue their rulings, if they conflict with one another, the Supreme Court may hear the cases to resolve the issue of prayer in the public square. Oral arguments in New Doe Child #1 v. The Congress of the United States are set to be heard by the 6th Circuit June 16. In the case, atheist Dr. Michael Newdow argues that the national motto, "In God We Trust," inscribed on American currency, violates his freedom to practice atheism under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Back in 2014, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty urged the Supreme Court to allow for prayer in public meetings in the Town of Greece v. Galloway case. The law firm based its argument on the Founders' understanding of establishing religion as well as the historical tradition of prayer in public meetings. In that case, the high court ruled the town should be permitted to open municipal meetings with a prayer.

    U.S. bishops urged to be vigilant, never complacent, in stopping abuse

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, urged the U.S. bishops June 14 during their spring meeting in Indianapolis to continue to keep their commitment to stopping clergy sexual abuse and supporting victims of abuse "at the forefront" of their ministry. He said sexual abuse of minors by clergy is "not a thing of past" and stressed the bishops have to always be vigilant and be sure to not "let complacency set in" in their efforts to stop it. The review board is a group working with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to address and prevent sexual abuse of minors in the U.S. by clergy and other church personnel. Cesareo pointed out there was still work to be done in this area but he also praised the bishops for what they've accomplished and stressed that dioceses in the United States are among the safest places for children and are also models for rest of the world. In his report to the bishops, he presented some of the key points of the recently issued 14th annual report on diocesan compliance with the U.S. Catholic Church's "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."

    Catholic leaders pray for London fire victims, offer assistance

    LONDON (CNS) -- Catholic leaders in London offered prayers for victims of a fire in a 24-story apartment building. "We pray for all the residents of Grenfell Tower," said Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster. "I pray particularly for those who have suffered injury, those who have died, and all the residents who have are left without a home today, and the entire community that has been affected." The June 14 early morning fire, which killed at least 12 people and injured more than 70 others, sent black smoke stretching for miles. Officials said they expected the death toll to rise. Cardinal Nichols praised emergency response teams, particularly the more than 200 firefighters who worked to contain and extinguish the blaze. "Once again in our city we witness the heroic efforts of our emergency services, who responded so quickly. I thank them for all they are doing to help the victims of this devastating fire," the cardinal said.

    Church officials say Cameroonian bishop death was murder, not suicide

    YAOUNDE, Cameroon (CNS) -- Catholic bishops in Cameroon said a bishop whose body was pulled from a river in early June did not commit suicide, but was murdered. "In view of the initial findings, we bishops of Cameroon affirm that Bishop Jean-Marie Benoit Bala did not commit suicide; he was brutally murdered. This is one more murder, and one too many," the bishops said in a statement after meeting in a general assembly June 13. The news site Koaci.com reported the bishops said the murderers "must be identified and delivered to justice to be judged according to the law." They said the government must "assume its duty to protect human life, especially that of the ecclesiastical authorities." The bishops named at least three other church officials, dating back to 1988, whose murders had not been solved. "We feel that the clergy in Cameroon is particularly persecuted by dark and evil forces," the bishops said.

    California Supreme Court studies measure to expedite death penalty cases

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The California Supreme Court June 6 examined whether a ballot measure passed in November to speed up executions is constitutional. After voters narrowly approved Proposition 66, as the measure is called, it was challenged by opponents. It now comes down to whether the state's citizens or the court will decide how capital punishment cases are handled. California's bishops had urged voters to say no on Proposition 66, stressing that "any rush to streamline that process will inevitably result in the execution of more innocent people." During the June 6 oral arguments, the justices expressed doubts about the measure and pointed out that the effort to rush executions and set a five-year limit on appeals would shift court resources toward capital punishment and away from all other cases. Currently, the state has nearly 750 inmates on death row. Only 13 executions have taken place since 1978.

    New archbishop for Indianapolis called 'perfect fit' by area Catholics

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- The crowd may have numbered around 300, but the reaction seemed unanimous: New Archbishop Charles C. Thompson will be a "perfect fit" as the new spiritual leader of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. From laypeople, priests and staff members of the Diocese of Evansville to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, reaction to the appointment of the new archbishop was positive and hopeful. "I was very happy, very excited," said archdiocesan chancellor Annette "Mickey" Lentz. "I've had the pleasure of knowing Bishop Thompson since Archbishop-Emeritus Daniel (M. Buechlein's) days. I think he's a perfect fit." According to comments in an earlier interview with The Criterion, the archdiocesan newspaper, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, former archbishop of of Indianapolis, agrees that Archbishop Thompson has an advantage "being from this area of the country, and having worked in Indiana. As a canonist, he assisted Archbishop Buechlein in a lot of ways. So he has some knowledge of the face of the archdiocese." Archbishop Buechlein headed the archdiocese from 1992 until his retirement in 2011.

    Church groups, government help Bangladeshis affected by landslides

    DHAKA, Bangladesh (CNS) -- Emergency services and church aid groups have rushed to assist thousands of people affected by a landslide that killed at least 136 people, injured dozens and made thousands homeless in southeastern Bangladesh. Ucanews.com reported that heavy rain from June 11-12, triggered by a depression in the Bay of Bengal, caused mudslides in Rangamati, Bandarban and Chittagong districts, cutting off road links, telephone and electricity connections. Most of the victims are from poor, indigenous communities living close to the hills, near the borders with India and Myanmar. They were buried under tons of earth and mud while they were asleep at night. James Gomes, regional director of the Catholic aid agency Caritas in Chittagong, said his agency had conducted a situational assessment to offer emergency aid to affected people. "We are collaborating with the government to calculate the number of fatalities and affected people," Gomes told ucanews.com on his way to visit Rangamati district by boat.

    Pope Francis names bishop of Evansville as archbishop of Indianapolis

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Charles C. Thompson of Evansville as the seventh archbishop of Indianapolis. Archbishop Thompson, who has been Evansville's bishop since 2011, succeeds Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, who was named to head the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, last November. The appointment was announced June 13 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. That same day, Archbishop Thompson spoke to priests, deacons, religious and laity from across central and southern Indiana about his appointment during a news conference at the Archbishop Edward T. O'Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis on the eve of the start of the spring general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Indianapolis. "I pledge to dedicate myself to you without hesitation or reservation," said Archbishop Thompson, 56. "Together, we will build on the incredible foundation that already exists." He will be installed July 28 during a Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

    Earthquake triggers landslides in western Guatemala

    SAN MARCOS, Guatemala (CNS) -- A magnitude 6.9 earthquake June 14 in western Guatemala resulted in landslides that closed the Inter-American Highway, which connects many Central American nations. Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' international development agency, was conducting an assessment of the region to determine what response was warranted. The temblor, which struck at about 1:30 a.m. local time (3:30 a.m. EDT) was centered five miles southwest of Tajumulco, near San Marcos, the largest nearby city with a population of 45,000. Two casualties were reported, but it could not be immediately determined if they were attributable to the quake. In Quetzaltenango, Guatemala's second-largest city and about 32 miles southeast of San Marcos, damage was reported to 43 buildings; many walls were separated in older dwellings. Power outages were reported in smaller communities closer to the epicenter.

    Pope, cardinal advisers study 'healthy decentralization' proposals

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis and members of his international Council of Cardinals discussed the possibility of allowing local bishops rather than the Vatican decide on certain matters, including the marriage or priestly ordination of permanent deacons. It is "what the pope calls a 'healthy decentralization,'" said Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office. Briefing journalists on the council's June 12-14 meeting, Burke said the cardinals and pope looked specifically at the possibility of allowing bishops to determine whether a permanent deacon who is widowed can remarry or whether a permanent deacon who is unmarried or widowed can be ordained to the priesthood without having to "wait for a decision to be made in Rome" as is the current rule. Such decisions regarding permanent deacons now are handled at the Vatican Congregation for Clergy, but could pass to the local bishops' conference, Burke told journalists June 14. The council of cardinals advising the pope on church governance also discussed proposals to broaden the participation of laypeople and members of religious orders in the selection of new bishops.

    Behind hatred, violence is an unloved heart, pope says at audience

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Violence and hatred often are signs that a person is unhappy and feels unloved and unwanted, Pope Francis said. In today's world, people -- especially children and youths -- often feel that unless "we are strong, attractive and beautiful, no one will care about us," the pope said June 14 during his weekly general audience. "When an adolescent is not or does not feel loved, violence can arise. Behind so many forms of social hate and hooliganism, there is often a heart that has not been recognized," he said. Despite a heat wave that brought temperatures close to 90 degrees, an estimated 12,000 pilgrims donning colorful hats and umbrellas cheered and waved as the pope entered St. Peter's Square. Pope Francis took a moment to greet the sick who were watching the audience from indoors because of the hot Roman weather. "They are in the Paul VI hall and we are here," the pope told the crowd in the square. "But we are all together; we are connected by the Holy Spirit who always unites us."

    Vatican releases online questionnaire for youth

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To involve young people in preparations for the Synod of Bishops on youth in 2018, the Vatican has released an online questionnaire to better understand the lives, attitudes and concerns of 16- to 29-year-olds around the world. The questionnaire -- available in English, Spanish, French and Italian -- can be found on the synod's official site: youth.synod2018.va/content/synod2018/it.html and is open to any young person, regardless of faith or religious belief. The general secretariat of the synod launched the website June 14 to share information about the October 2018 synod on "Young people, faith and vocational discernment" and to link to an online, anonymous survey asking young people about their lives and expectations. The answers to the questionnaire, along with contributions from bishops, bishops' conferences and other church bodies, "will provide the basis for the drafting of the 'instrumentum laboris,'" or working document for the assembly, synod officials said in January.

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  • DiNardo: Local officers shouldn't be required to enforce immigration laws

    HOUSTON (CNS) -- Local law enforcement and local jurisdictions should not be required to enforce federal immigration law, said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Local law enforcement officials "work long hours to protect our communities" and efforts to charge them with the responsibility of enforcing immigration law should be opposed, he said, because this "would fundamentally alter the relationship our local law enforcement officials maintain with local communities, especially immigrant communities." Local police can work with federal law enforcement in dealing with "violent criminal aliens," Cardinal DiNardo said, but the "burden" of enforcing federal immigration law would be "taking away from their efforts to ensure public safety" while they are "pursuing those who are otherwise law-abiding." He added, "It also makes immigrant communities reluctant to report crimes and to cooperate with the police." Cardinal DiNardo made his remarks June 9 in the opening address of a conference in Houston, "Mobilizing Coherent Community Responses to Changing Immigration Policies."

    Catholics in Florida remember victims of Pulse nightclub

    ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) -- On the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, the Diocese of Orlando broadcast via Facebook Live a prayer service attended by clergy of various faiths to remember June 12 the 49 who died during the largest mass shooting by a single gunman in the country's history. Orlando Bishop John G. Noonan was joined by local religious leaders of various faiths at the St. James Cathedral for prayers and hymns and the lighting of candles remembering each one of the Orlando victims, as well for cities and towns touched by terrorist attacks and violence around the world. For Orlando, the city's brush with terrible violence arrived June 12, 2016, as gunman Omar Mateen went on a shooting rampage at the club in the early hours, firing at club-goers after having pledged his allegiance to known terrorist groups and individuals, authorities said. He was killed during a shootout with police. Many of those fatally shot at the club were gay. While the violence was taking place and even after it stopped, various faith groups, including Catholics, arrived to help the victims and assist their families, as well as authorities responding to the massacre. "We need to walk with and accompany everybody -- there is no exception," said Bishop Noonan during the Call to Prayer anniversary ceremony. "We treat everybody with dignity because they are made in the image and likeness of God and that's what it's all about."

    Pope names members for renewed Pontifical Academy for Life

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After broadening the scope of and issuing new statutes for the Pontifical Academy of Life, Pope Francis appointed new members to the advisory body and included scientists, professors and experts in medicine and ethics from both religious and secular backgrounds. Seven of the members come from the United States and Canada, including Dr. Kathleen M. Foley, a neurologist at New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and Dr. William F. Sullivan, a Toronto family physician and ethicist, who serves as president of the International Association of Catholic Bioethicists in Canada. In a statement released following the Vatican's announcement June 13, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the academy, said the appointments of clergy, scientists and medical experts, both religious and secular, will offer the church and the world a "deep and wise vision in the service of human life, especially life that is weakest and most defenseless. Among them are a number of non-Catholics, either belonging to other religions or nonbelievers, a sign that the protection and promotion of human life knows no divisions and can be assured only through common endeavor," Archbishop Paglia said.

    9th Circuit Court of Appeals upholds injunction on Trump's travel ban

    SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a White House request to overturn an injunction blocking President Donald Trump's executive order banning travel from six Muslim-majority countries. A three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based court ruled June 12 that the administration failed to show that barring citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen was necessary to protect the United States. The panel also said that the presidential order violated an immigration law that prohibits discrimination based on nationality. The bishop who chairs the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration welcomed the ruling. "Upholding the injunction will allow us to continue welcoming and serving refugees fleeing persecution," Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, said in a statement June 13. "Together with my brother bishops, we believe it is possible to simultaneously provide for the security of our country and have a humane refugee policy that upholds our national heritage and moral responsibility."

    James Comey makes appearance with his father at New Jersey parish

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Days after the dramatic testimony of his firing and dealings with U.S. President Donald Trump, former FBI Director James Comey made an appearance at a Catholic church on Holy Trinity Sunday, accompanying his father to Mass at a New Jersey parish. The (Bergen) Record newspaper, via its website www.northjersey.com, released video of Comey and his wife accompanying his father to Guardian Angel Catholic Church in Allendale, a borough of Bergen County in northern New Jersey. Though Comey did not respond to questions from a reporter outside the church, the video shows a group of teens outside Guardian Angel Church June 11 introducing themselves to the former FBI man who was fired by Trump May 9. The teens stop to pose for photos with Comey, who keeps an eye on his father heading for a car using a walker. The newspaper story said Comey regularly attended the Allendale Catholic church when he was a boy, but the United Methodist Church claims him and his family as members. In a 2013 news release, the United Methodist Church said the Comeys are active members of the Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church in Washington and the former director and his wife, Patrice, have taught Sunday school.

    NBCC to explore the call to live the Gospel in challenging times

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Delegates attending Congress XII of the National Black Catholic Congress in Orlando, Florida, in July will take on new responsibilities this time around. Rather than working from a draft of a pastoral plan developed prior to the congress as per tradition, the 2,000 attendees will be tasked with developing a pastoral plan during the July 6-9 gathering and taking it home to their parishes and dioceses. "We're interested in what the people have to say, what's in their hearts. It's what they want to see addressed (by the Catholic Church)," said Father Stephen D. Thorne, pastor of St. Martin de Porres Parish in Philadelphia and a congress leader. "In the end, what is finally approved, we hope to see it reflected in the pastoral plan of the local bishop," he told Catholic News Service. "Whatever the goals are -- an African-American Catholic saint, or Catholic education and Catholic schools being viable in our communities and supporting them, or the violence of young people -- can be included. It's a real act of faith, an act of the Spirit, to come together kind of like in conclave, (and) have the people say what is in our hearts."

    Nashville's Bishop Choby remembered for being 'at heart a pastor'

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- Bishop David R. Choby of Nashville was a true shepherd to the people of the Diocese of Nashville, recalled his fellow bishop, friend and former student Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland, Oregon. He was "the kind of shepherd I would like to be," said the archbishop, who was the homilist at the funeral Mass for Bishop Choby, who died June 3 at age 70 of complications after a fall at his home in February. The bishop's funeral June 10 drew a crowd of nearly 2,000 people to Sagrado Corazon Church at the diocese's Catholic Pastoral Center. The responsorial psalm for the Mass from Psalm 110 was, "You are a priest forever, in the line of Melchizedek." The line summarizes Bishop Choby's life, Archbishop Sample said. "He was above all a priest ... a sacramental presence of Christ among us."

    Former attorney professes first vows as cloistered Dominican nun

    MENLO PARK, Calif. (CNS) -- Tara Clemens was an Anchorage, Alaska, attorney, and an evangelical Christian who joined the Catholic Church during her last months of law school. On May 28, she made first vows as Sister Marie Dominic of the Incarnate Word, a cloistered Dominican nun at Corpus Christi Monastery in Menlo Park. With first vows, Sister Marie Dominic received the black veil, replacing the white veil of novices. "The priest says, 'Accept the sacred veil by which you may be recognized as a house of prayer for your Lord and a temple of intercession for all people,'" Sister Marie Dominic said. "The center of the contemplative life of the Dominican nuns is the love of God. "As a nun inside the cloister, even though I can never leave, I can embrace the whole world with that love and intercede for the whole world," Sister Marie Dominic told Catholic San Francisco, the archdiocesan newspaper. First vows are for three years. Those vows will be followed by two one-year renewals as she and the community continue to discern her vocation. At Corpus Christi Monastery, a nun is in formation for a total of seven-and-a-half to eight years before professing solemn vows, that is, vows until death.

    Chaldean Catholic bishop calls ICE raid, arrests 'painful' for community

    SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (CNS) -- When U.S. immigration agents rounded up and arrested Chaldean Christians in southeast Michigan June 11, it was "a very strange and painful day for our community in America," said the head of the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle, based in Southfield. "With the many Chaldeans that were awakened by Immigration Customs Enforcement agents and consequently picked up for deportation, there is a lot of confusion and anger," Bishop Francis Y. Kalabat said in a statement posted on the eparchy's website. News reports said about 40 people were arrested near or at their homes and were put on buses June 12 to be taken to a federal detention center in Youngstown, Ohio. The same day, a rally outside the Mother of God Chaldean Catholic Church in Southfield drew dozens of people, many of whom said the federal government's actions had left them sad and frustrated. In his statement, Bishop Kalabat said the eparchy was contacting and working with "many agencies to try to stop this bleeding," including the U.S. State Department, members of Congress, the Iraqi Embassy, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and "any agency that could file an injunction to keep anyone from being deported."

    Death of prelate illustrates complicated situation of bishops in China

    HONG KONG (CNS) -- A Chinese bishop who avoided government intervention in the affairs of his diocese died without having his Vatican-appointed successor officially ordained, illustrating some of the complications of the situation of bishops in China. Ucanews.com reported that Vatican-approved Bishop John Liu Shigong of Jining (Wumeng), in the northern Inner Mongolia autonomous region, died June 9 after being diagnosed with liver cancer in May. The 89-year-old was the fourth bishop to die in China this year. A funeral for the bishop was scheduled for June 15, to be celebrated by Bishop Meng Qinglu of Hohhot, ucanews.com reported. It is believed that in 2010, the Vatican appointed Father Anthony Yao Shun, vicar general of the diocese, as Bishop Liu's successor. Father Yao was ordained a priest in Jining in 1991 and in 1996 graduated from St. John's University, Collegeville, Minnesota. The 52-year-old is considered a liturgy expert in China. Soon after the Vatican appointment, Father Yao returned to the diocese from Beijing, where he taught at the National Seminary, and began managing church affairs in place of the bishop, said a church source who asked not to be named. According to the Chinese government, which does not recognize papal authority over a bishop's appointment, a Catholic bishop must be produced through an election. The result then must be approved by the bishops' conference, which is not recognized by the Vatican, before an episcopal ordination can take place.

    Poverty requires action, not empty words, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People cannot sit back and be indifferent or unresponsive to growing poverty in the world as a privileged minority accumulates "ostentatious wealth," Pope Francis said. "God created the heavens and the earth for all; yet sadly some have erected barriers, walls and fences, betraying the original gift meant for all humanity, with none excluded," the pope said in a message for the first World Day of the Poor. The newly established commemoration and the period of reflection and action preceding it are meant to help Christians develop and maintain a more consistent and sincere lifestyle built on sharing, simplicity and the essential truths of the Gospel, the pope said in the message released June 13, the feast of St. Anthony of Padua. The World Day of the Poor -- to be marked each year on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary time -- will be celebrated Nov. 19 this year and will focus on the Apostle John's call to love "not with words, but with deeds." There are so many forms of material and spiritual poverty that poison people's hearts and harm their dignity, the pope said in his message, and "we must respond with a new vision of life and society."

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