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  • Great Caesar's ghost! Superman turns 80

    IMAGE: CNS photo/DC Comics

    By Mark Judge

    NEW YORK (CNS) -- Look! Up in the sky! It's Superman! And he's 80!

    The year 2018 marks eight decades since the first appearance of Superman in Action Comics No. 1. It also sees the arrival of issue 1,000 of the "Action" series. DC Comics is celebrating these milestones with a special expanded edition of Action Comics as well as a book, "80 Years of Superman: The Deluxe Edition."

    Action Comics No. 1,000 costs $7.99, while the book is priced at $30. Both are suitable for readers of all ages.

    Action Comics No. 1,000 is a series of short comics stories by popular DC writers such as Scott Snyder, Geoff Johns, Tom King and Peter J. Tomasi. The art is provided by Olivier Coipel, Rafael Albuquerque, Clay Mann, Patrick Gleason and superstar Jim Lee, among others.

    The stories in both volumes celebrate Superman and his commitment to fighting evil, telling the truth and being a good friend and husband (he and Lois Lane were married in 1996). Not for nothing is he called "the big blue boy scout," although in the modern world of dodgy politicians and celebrities, Superman seems deeply countercultural.

    His basic history is well known: Superman was created in 1933 by writer Jerry Siegel (1914-1996) and artist Joe Shuster (1914-1992). The two had become friends while attending high school together in Cleveland.

    Jerry Siegel's daughter, Laura Siegel Larson, penned the forward to "80 Years of Superman." She notes that her father and Shuster sold the character to DC Comics for a mere $130 -- a fact that eventually led some of Superman's fans to charge the publisher with taking advantage of the young duo. In 1976, DC gave Siegel and Shuster a pension and a "created by" credit for all time.

    Based on his non-Earthly origin and propensity both for saving people and urging them to repent and think of others, Superman has often been considered a Christ figure. One of the best stories in Action No. 1,000 reflects this similarity.

    It's the 1930s, and Superman stops a crook in his car, then hangs him from a telephone pole before letting him go. Visiting the man later, Superman offers not only judgment, but mercy.

    "You've had your fair share of knocks," Superman says. "And you can keep knocking the world back like you've done. Or you can make a decision today. Be that person who wasn't there for you for someone else." Touchingly, the man does just that.

    "80 Years of Superman: The Deluxe Edition" offers short essays about the Man of Tomorrow by writers and journalists as well as reprints of classic stories. Editor Paul Levitz includes tales ranging from 1938's Action Comics No. 1 and the first appearance of Supergirl (No. 252) to Clark Kent revealing to Lois that he is also Superman (No. 662). In No. 309, Superman gets to meet President John Kennedy.

    "80 Years" also features a never-published story, "Too Many Heroes," written by fan favorite Marv Wolfman.

    Journalist Larry Tye observes that, over the years, "Superman has evolved more than the fruit fly." In the 1930s, the Man of Steel was a crime fighter. In the '40s, he was a patriot combating Nazi aggression. In the '50s, he took on communist spies. And at the end of the Cold War, he tried to eliminate nuclear stockpiles.

    Today, Superman might be focusing on his day job as a journalist. That's been hinted at by Brian Michael Bendis, the star comic book writer who decamped from Marvel this year to take over the Superman franchise at DC.

    Along the same lines, in "80 Years of Superman," David Hajdu, author of the comic book history "The Ten-Cent Plague," smartly considers how Superman and his alter ego, Daily Planet reporter Kent, complement each other.

    "In his role as a godly endowed hero among humans, Superman has always been much more concerned with the dispensing of justice than the revealing of truth," Hajdu writes. "He hunts and catches villains, crooks and evildoers of all kinds -- earthy, alien, extra-dimensional or inexplicable -- and enforces a resolutely held super code of right and wrong."

    However, Clark Kent's mission as a reporter is "to serve the truth." Superman's creators "made clear that they saw both sides of their cleverly dualistic character as companionably heroic," Hajdu notes. Moreover, "Clark's work as a journalist often drove the narratives."

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    Judge reviews comic books and video games for Catholic News Service.

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  • Fewer refugees accepted into U.S. impacts Catholic resettlement programs

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- War, famine and gang violence have created the largest global refugee population since World War II, yet the U.S. has drastically cut the numbers of refugees it will accept, causing the reduction and closure of Catholic resettlement programs nationwide. Nearly 20 U.S. Catholic refugee resettlement programs have closed in the past two years and dozens of others have scaled back their efforts because there are fewer refugees being admitted into the country, said Richard Hogan, director of resettlement services for Migration and Refugee Services, an arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The U.S. State Department authorized the resettlement of 85,000 refugees in fiscal year 2016. In fiscal 2017, it authorized 110,000, which began during the last year of the Obama administration. However, the State Department ended up permitting only 53,716 refugees to enter the country by the end of the fiscal year. President Donald Trump took office three months into the 2017 fiscal year and his administration made it clear it wanted to reduce the number of refugees the country would take in. The number of refugees authorized for admission to the U.S. in fiscal year 2018, which began Oct. 1, 2017, was cut to 45,000, but the State Department has only admitted 10,548 in the first six months.

    Update: Answer discipleship call, address church's needs, delegates told

    SAN ANTONIO (CNS) -- Answer the call to missionary discipleship by addressing the needs of your church. Meet young people where they are and just listen. Improve catechetical resources and prepare future leaders. These were some of the strategies discussed by more than 800 delegates representing 18 Catholic dioceses in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, as they participated in a bilingual three-day Region X encuentro in San Antonio April 13-15. Regional meetings are the latest phase of preparations for the U.S. Catholic Church's Fifth National Encuentro, or "V Encuentro," to be held Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine, Texas. Previous national encuentros were held in 1972, 1977, 1985 and 2000. Encuentro is a multiyear process to discern the needs, aspirations, and faith practices of the 29.7 million Hispanic and Latino Catholics in the United States. First came parish-level encuentros, then the diocesan gatherings and now the regional encuentros are taking place. The process for the upcoming national encuentro -- inspired by Pope Francis' 2013 apostolic exhortation, "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel") -- began in 2014.

    Some Catholic schools focus on prayer, dialogue during April walkout

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Some Catholic schools across the country treated the National School Walkout April 20 -- commemorating the 19th anniversary of the school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado -- much like how they responded to the March 14 walkout marking one month since the Parkland, Florida, school shooting: with prayer and dialogue on school grounds. Across the country, at least 2,000 walkout events were scheduled, slated to begin at 10 a.m. in each local time zone with 13 seconds of silence to honor the 13 people -- 12 students and one teacher -- killed at Columbine High School. But unlike the March walkout -- scheduled for 17 minutes for the 17 who were killed in gunfire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School -- the April 20 walkout was planned to last for the entire day with students attending local rallies, protest marches or voting registration drives during the day. Most Catholic schools across the country had already not sanctioned the March 14 walkouts citing safety issues with students off school grounds, and instead had school Masses or prayer services to pray for recent shooting victims and their families and for an end to violence. In general, Catholic schools were less involved in the April 20 walkout. Some diocesan schools were not marking the day at all, others were low-key in their participation, such as a 45-minute silent protest against gun violence at Ursuline Academy in St. Louis.

    Catholic, other groups voice misgivings over 2018 farm bill

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- With the 2018 version of the farm bill having been voted out of committee for consideration by the full House, Catholic groups and other rural advocates are voicing their misgivings about many of its provisions. Conservation programs that reward farmers and ranchers were zeroed out of the bill passed April 18 by the House Agriculture Committee. "Safety net" programs were boosted only marginally to aid farmers who have been getting dwindling prices for their crops and who could be the first victims of a trade war as tariffs are imposed on their produce. Another part of the bill rewrites the eligibility requirements for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, which could kick out 2 million Americans from the program, according to six Catholic leaders. "Eighty percent of the farm bill is around the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It's significant when we hear it's going to include some dramatic cuts," said James Ennis, executive director of Catholic Rural Life. About $1 billion would be cut from the Conservation Stewardship Program, according to Ennis. "Farmers need incentives," he said. "They have a safety net, but they need incentives to protect soil and environmental resources. ... It ultimately discourages conservation efforts. We're really concerned about that."

    From clean water to gang violence, Salvadoran archbishop focuses on poor

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Few church leaders face having to fill the shoes of a predecessor who's about to become an official saint of the Catholic Church. But it's hardly on the mind of the seventh leader of Archdiocese of San Salvador, Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas, whose list of worries simply doesn't allow him time to think about it. He carried that long list with him on a recent trip to Washington, where he was advocating for immigrants from his native El Salvador. Along the way, the 59-year-old archbishop fielded questions about El Salvador's mounting woes: environmental problems that include a contaminated and dwindling water supply in the country, relentless gang violence, and growing inequality and corruption that does not let his country of roughly 6 million -- about half of them Catholic -- find respite from its endless crises. During interviews with Catholic News Service April 11 and 13, he discussed what troubles him the most about those problems, which he's been dealing with since his 2009 elevation as archbishop. "You know what's the saddest part about it?" he asked. "They affect the same set of people the most. Yes, they affect everyone, all of us, but in principle they affect primarily the poor the most and that hurts a lot." Though Archbishop Escobar initially comes across as bookish and shy, his passion shines through when he speaks about the population his predecessor Blessed Oscar Romero focused on the most during his three years in the post, from 1977 until his assassination in 1980.

    South Korean bishop hopes North-South summit brings results

    SEOUL, South Korea (CNS) -- Bishop Peter Lee Ki-heon of Uijeongbu has been waiting years for this moment, with the leaders of the two divided Koreas poised to meet for a historic summit just inside South Korean territory April 27. reported Bishop Lee, president of the Korean bishops' Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People, released a statement April 13 expressing his belief that the summit would end decades of struggle and open a new era of peace on the peninsula. "Now the Korean Peninsula is entering an important time of turbulence," Bishop Lee wrote in the statement titled, "Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. With the inter-Korean summit, as well as the ensuing summit between North Korea and the U.S., expectations are growing that the 65-year-long confrontation and struggle will end and a new era of peace will come," the statement read. This will be the third major inter-Korean summit, decades after the Korean War ended in a cease-fire.

    German church to review employment practices after European court ruling

    WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- Germany's Catholic Church said it would review its employment system after top European judges warned it could violate anti-discrimination laws by requiring staffers to be religious. On April 17, the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice ruled that demands for church employees to have a "religious affiliation" should be subject to judicial review. Jesuit Father Hans Langendorfer, the German bishops' conference secretary-general, said the church has "always ensured it does not impose disproportionate demands" on potential workers. He said that, in light of the ruling, the church would "examine how far its recruitment practices should be adapted." In a statement, Father Langendorfer said Germany's Catholic bishops welcomed the court's confirmation that churches were still entitled to consider a job candidate's "attitude to religion," and that state courts could not "disregard their religious ethos." However, he noted that Catholic conditions for professional involvement in ministry could now be legally challenged. The Catholic and Protestant churches are among Germany's largest employers and have been allowed wide-ranging self-administration under religious freedom clauses in the country's 1949 constitution, or Basic Law.

    Catholic group: Young Europeans need political support to start families

    WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- Young people in Europe need political support to start families in countries with aging populations, a French Catholic campaigner said. While "young people want to form lasting relationships and have children," they "don't feel safe" to start families, said Antoine Renard, president of the Brussels-based Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe. "Unless something is done rapidly, Europe risks a total demographic collapse," Renard said in an April 19 interview with Catholic News Service after the federation called on European Union governments to "put the family at the center of national policies." Young people are "often discouraged by inadequate and individualistic policies and cultures which are hostile to the family," the federation said in an April 13 statement at the end of its spring meeting in Vienna. The European Union had 1.58 live births per woman in 2015, according to official statistics. A total fertility rate of around 2.1 live births per woman is considered the replacement level in developed countries, Eurostat said on its website.

    Pope commemorates life of beloved Italian bishop who served poor

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The church needs courageous men and women like Italian Bishop Antonio Bello of Molfetta, who imitated Jesus' closeness to the poor and the downtrodden, Pope Francis said. Visiting the birthplace of the beloved bishop affectionately known as "Don Tonino," the pope said Bishop Bello's life and ministry "remind us to not theorize closeness to the poor but to be close to them as Jesus did. Don Tonino did not do this because it was convenient or because he was seeking approval, but because he was moved by the Lord's example. Out of love for him, we find the strength to rid ourselves of the garments that get in the way so that we can dress ourselves in service, to be 'the church of the apron, which is the only priestly vestment recorded in the Gospel,'" he said April 20. Pope Francis arrived in the morning by helicopter in the town of Alessano, located in the southern Italian province of Lecce, where Bishop Bello was born and buried.

    Humanity 2.0: Vatican hosts experts to discuss tenderness

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Close to 100 financiers, philanthropists, artists, tech experts, physicians, politicians and religious leaders spent more than an hour in a Vatican meeting room talking about tenderness. A project called "Humanity 2.0," supported by the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, designed the daylong event April 20 to kick off a process of connecting people with different resources, but who all are committed to improving the lives of others. During the meeting, the discussions moved from the concept of tenderness to ways tenderness becomes action and to a multisession discussion about the worrying state of maternal and prenatal medical care and ways to address it. "Healthier mothers are an investment in the health and well-being of our communities and our world," Marie-Louise Coleiro, president of Malta, told the gathering. She particularly challenged Humanity 2.0 participants to brainstorm concrete ways to improve holistic care -- medical, psychological and spiritual -- for pregnant women and new mothers who are migrants or refugees. "The challenge is to translate our love for humanity into real service to our brothers and sisters," said Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, undersecretary of the Vatican office for migrants and refugees. "We cannot claim to have or promote 'integral human development' if we leave some people out."

    Be fruitful and multiply: Threatened trees planted in Vatican Gardens

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican Gardens has branched out and added a small orchard to its hillsides, becoming a safe haven for a number of endangered native Italian fruit and nut tree species. If all goes well with weather and pollination, the eight new saplings planted behind St. Peter's Basilica should be bearing fruit in just a few years. Hopes are for a harvest including pomegranates that can weigh as much as three pounds each and a natural hybrid fruit called the "susincocco," which could be translated as a "plumpricot" -- a dark red fruit that has the juiciness of a plum with the tastiness and velvety feel of an apricot. The Italian tree conservation association, "Patriarchi della Natura," made the donation as part of its national effort to protect biodiversity by collecting and propagating native tree species that are threatened or in danger of extinction in their natural habitats. Sergio Guidi, the association's president, greeted Pope Francis at the end of his Wednesday general audience April 18 with a large potted tree decorated with a big yellow bow. "The Pope's Orchard" will be a small "field gene bank" or collection of living plant species in need of protection, the association said in a written press release.

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  • Bush recalled for her 'unwavering love, devotion' to family, community

    HOUSTON (CNS) -- Former first lady Barbara Bush "was a model public servant and set a standard for her unwavering and loving devotion to both family and community," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston Houston in offering his prayers and "heartfelt condolences" to the Bush family. Wife of the nation's 41st president and mother of the 43rd president, Bush died at home in Houston April 17 surrounded by family. She was 92. A day for members of the public to pay their respects will be followed the next day by a private, invitation-only funeral. For the public viewing April 20, her body will lie in repose at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston, where the private funeral will take place April 21. President George H.W. Bush and his wife attended services there regularly. She will be laid to rest on grounds of the Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University in College Station. "Her family's generous and compassionate decision to invite the public to her viewing to say their farewell touchingly demonstrates how much she has been part of the Houston community," Cardinal DiNardo said April 18. "Her tireless goodwill efforts and charity throughout Houston in recent years made a tremendous impact on countless families and individuals in need," he continued. "She was bold and steadfast in her convictions and an inspiration to anyone in faithful service of helping others. May the glory of the risen Lord transform our sorrow into serenity."

    Tragedies and blessings have taught Roma Downey to 'seize the moment'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- One of Roma Downey's life lessons came from her mother's cabinet full of broken china. The well-known actress and producer of three popular biblical movies recounts an experience growing up in strife-torn Northern Ireland. A British armored car rolled up her street, and the vibrations caused the glass shelves of her mother's china cabinet to collapse. All the china plates and bowls she had been saving for that special occasion came crashing down. As a young girl, Roma saw her mother holding the pieces and crying. All that beautiful china had been saved for some future meal or some future guests, "but for what?" Downey asked during a recent interview with Catholic News Service. The lesson is to "seize the moment," she said. Don't put things off. It is all a gift." Appreciating the fleetingness of the moment is one of the insights that Downey has drawn from her extraordinary life. On the surface, Downey has enjoyed an enviable level of success: Starring in the CBS television hit "Touched by an Angel," she played the angel Monica for nine seasons. Downey went on to co-produce with her husband, Mark Burnett, the 10-hour miniseries "The Bible," as well as "A.D. The Bible Continues," and the feature film "Son of God." She even has her own star on Hollywood Boulevard. Yet her new book, "Box of Butterflies" (Howard Books/Atria) is suffused with stories not just of success and blessing, but of pain and loss. "Box of Butterflies" is a lavishly designed "scrapbook" of favorite poems and pictures, memories and friendships. At its heart, however, the lesson is that life -- like a butterfly -- is a fragile gift that must be appreciated and never taken for granted.

    Update: 'V Encuentro' inspires Texas youth to connect with other cultures

    SAN ANTONIO (CNS) -- Last summer, 25 teenagers at St. Brigid Church in San Antonio experienced their own "encuentro," or encounter, and went out to meet people from different cultures. "We visited different rites of the Catholic Church and also experienced an encounter with a Muslim youth group," said Blanca Valdillez, 15. Valdillez was one of 800 delegates who congregated in San Antonio April 13-15 for the Region X encuentro as part of preparations for the U.S. church's "V Encuentro," or Fifth National Encuentro, of Hispanic/Latino ministry. The U.S. bishops have called the four-year process of ecclesial reflection and action "a great opportunity for many parishes and dioceses to promote unity, leadership and cross-collaboration." Reflection has taken place at the parish and diocesan levels and is now at the regional level -- all leading up to the national encuentro in September. The "V Encuentro" process is emphasizing evangelization and the call of every baptized Catholic to be a missionary disciple of God's love. Attracted to that missionary call, Nora Ruiz, youth ministry coordinator at St. Brigid, adapted the parish version of the V Encuentro process to meet the needs of her group of multicultural teens, which include second- and third-generation Hispanic/Latino Catholics.

    Mother killed on Southwest flight was firm believer in Catholic schools

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Tributes from business leaders and politicians alike described Jennifer Riordan -- the 43-year-old passenger who died April 17 from injuries suffered on Southwest Flight 1380 when its engine exploded -- as a devoted mother, community leader, mentor and volunteer. Riordan, a Wells Fargo executive from New Mexico, was a "thoughtful leader who has long been a part of the fabric of our community," said Tim Keller, the mayor of Albuquerque. Susana Martinez, governor of New Mexico, described her as "an incredible woman who put her family and community first." But statements about Riordan that were closer to home for the parishioner of Our Lady of the Annunciation Catholic Church in Albuquerque and mother of two children at Annunciation School were issued by her family, who called her their "bedrock," and her children's school, which described Riordan as an "integral member of our school community." Riordan, who grew up in Vermont, attended Christ the King Elementary School in Burlington and graduated from Vermont's Colchester High School in 1992. She married her high school sweetheart, Michael Riordan, in 1996 at Christ the King Church, according to the Burlington Free Press daily newspaper. She was returning from a business trip in New York when the plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia after its engine exploded in midair and shrapnel hit the plane breaking the window beside her. Riordan was pronounced dead at a hospital from blunt trauma to her head, neck and torso, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Department of Health announced April 19.

    Mexican priest stabbed in his parish

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- A Mexico priest has been stabbed to death in his parish, the latest attack on clergy in the heavily Catholic country. Father Ruben Alcantara Diaz was attacked April 18, just prior to the 7 p.m. Mass at Our Lady of Carmen Parish in Cuautitlan Izcalli, the Diocese of Izcalli said in a short statement. The priest, who was also the diocesan judicial vicar, was accosted by the assailant and was involved in a discussion prior to the attack, according to Mexican media. The assailant alleged abuse in his shouts and fled the scene, the newspaper Reforma reported. His whereabouts remains unknown. Attacks on clergy have become common in Mexico, where the homicide rate reached historic high levels in 2017 and the violence consuming large swaths of the country has not spared the Catholic Church.

    St. Thomas Aquinas meets bluegrass in best-selling album by Dominicans

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Bluegrass music may not be the first thing that comes to mind when people think of Dominicans, but for the 10 Dominican brothers and priests at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington who recently released their debut album, "The Hillbilly Thomists," the two have a lot in common. "The life of holiness is the happiest life. It is the good life," said Brother Jonah Teller, who plays guitar on the album. "I was drawn, and I think a lot of men are drawn, by the joy the brothers exhibit ... to be living this life, to be saving our souls, to be drawing closer to Jesus, and to do it with brothers." Likewise, while listening to bluegrass music, "there is a real happiness that is just drawn out of you," he said. "So I think that we're geared to be happy, and bluegrass lets you be happy in a really expressive way." That happiness was tangible as six of the Hillbilly Thomists played to a standing-room-only crowd April 11 at the Catholic Information Center in Washington. Middle-age men tapped their feet and babies clapped their hands to the tunes. The musicians laughed with each other as they created the proper setting for bluegrass music, which they said is usually played informally around a kitchen table. Brother Simon Teller, who plays the fiddle in the new album, is Brother Jonah's brother. They grew up in Cincinnati, attending St. Gertrude Parish, where Dominicans in the religious order's Eastern province go for their novitiate year.

    Motion fails: Parliament wanted to direct CCCB on papal abuse apology

    OTTAWA, Ontario (CNS) -- A conservative member of Parliament blocked a motion calling on the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to invite Pope Francis to apologize for the Catholic Church's role in abuse at Indian residential schools. However, Charlie Angus, a member of Parliament, said the motion would come up for debate and a vote in the House in the coming weeks. Angus is seeking unanimous government support for a motion to call on the CCCB to formally invite Pope Francis to apologize in Canada, as requested by the 2015 report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. While the idea behind the schools was to promote the greater integration of indigenous communities into modern Canadian life, the schools -- many run by Catholic religious orders -- led to a situation in which many children were torn from their families, lost their native language and cultures and often suffered abuse. The commission's report used the term "cultural genocide" to describe what happened to aboriginal Canadians in residential schools. Garnett Genuis, the lone dissenter on the April 18 motion, told journalists he refused to give consent because he thought Parliament should not be "dictating" to any religious entity how to run its affairs or how to engage in reconciliation. Stressing the principle of separation of church and state, Genuis said such a motion would be an unprecedented move on the part of Parliament in relation to a religion. Genuis said the Catholic dioceses and religious orders that were involved in the schools had apologized and paid compensation for their role in running the schools. Whether the pope should come and apologize, he said, is a matter for the Catholic Church to decide.

    Pope calls German cardinal to Rome to discuss eucharistic sharing

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has asked the president of the German bishops' conference to come to Rome to discuss pastoral guidelines for possibly allowing some non-Catholics married to Catholics to receive the Eucharist, the conference spokesman said. Reports that "the document was rejected in the Vatican by the Holy Father or by the dicasteries are false," said Matthias Kopp, the conference spokesman. For one thing, Kopp said April 19, the guidelines still have not been finalized and, therefore, they have not been reviewed by the Vatican. Members of the German bishops' conference were asked to submit proposed amendments to the draft document by Easter; the heads of the conference's doctrinal and ecumenical committees and the president of the conference were to formulate a final draft and present it to the conference's permanent council April 23. Cardinal Reinhard Marx, conference president, had announced Feb. 22 at the end of their plenary meeting that three-quarters of the German bishops approved the development of pastoral guidelines for determining situations in which a non-Catholic spouse married to a Catholic could receive Communion.

    Caritas Syria: Air strikes reopened wounds, but agency still able to help

    AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) -- Caritas Syria said the recent massive missile strikes by the United States, Britain and France, intended to weaken Syria's chemical weapons capability, have not hindered its assistance to the country's poor and internally displaced. "We have enough pain in our lives, we don't need any more," said Sandra Awad, communications director for the Catholic aid agency Caritas Syria, adding that such intervention does not solve the crisis. "Those (strikes) won't help. It's the opposite. They are opening the wounds of our hearts. We don't want to live in war anymore," Awad told Catholic News Service by telephone from Damascus April 19. "When we heard the bombardment, we felt, 'please, no, not again.'" Awad explained that those "living in the areas close to the targeted points were very afraid." She said a Muslim family receiving Caritas aid, having earlier fled Ghouta and now living in the Barzeh district of Damascus, told her that "everyone was shaking and crying because they have already been traumatized."

    Don't be 'couch potatoes,' get up and evangelize, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians must be willing to move where the Spirit leads them and not be benchwarmers on the sidelines of efforts to evangelize, Pope Francis said. Evangelization "isn't a well-thought-out plan of proselytism" but rather an occasion in which the Holy Spirit "tells you how you should go to bring the word of God, to carry Jesus' name," the pope said in his homily April 19 during morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae. "A 'couch potato' evangelization doesn't exist. Get up and go! Be always on the move. Go to the place where you must speak the word (of God)," he said. The pope reflected on the day's first reading from the Acts of the Apostles in which the apostle Philip, after being commanded by an angel, preaches the Gospel to an Ethiopian eunuch and baptizes him. Comparing the event to a wind that carries seedlings and plants them, Pope Francis said it was a beautiful account of how God works in evangelization.

    Benedictine abbeys can offer hectic world oasis of peace, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis asked the world's Benedictines to continue to offer oases of peace and silence to a busy and distracted world. So many people today "do not have enough time to listen to God's voice," he told about 400 members of the Benedictine Confederation April 19 at the Vatican. In this hectic world, Benedictine monasteries and abbeys "become like oases where men and women of all ages, origins, cultures and religions can discover the beauty of silence" and regain their bearings so they can be "in harmony with creation, letting God re-establish a proper order in their lives," he said. St. Benedict, their order's sixth-century founder, acted as a guiding light during an age that was marked by "a deep crisis of values and institutions," Pope Francis said. "He knew how to discern between the essential and the secondary in spiritual life, firmly placing the Lord in the forefront. May you, too, his children in this time of ours, practice discernment to recognize what comes from the Holy Spirit and what comes from the spirit of the world or the spirit of the devil," he said.

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    Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

  • 'It saved my life,' priest says about Michigan addiction treatment center

    SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) -- Statistics gathered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicate 11.5 million people misused prescription opioids in 2016. Some of those people serve the church. Individuals associated with Guest House, a nonprofit, health care provider that specializes in addiction treatment for Catholic clergy and women religious, paid a visit to Sioux City to discuss this crisis. One diocesan priest pointed out Guest House provided him with more than support during his struggle with addictive behavior. "It saved my life," he insisted. Since 1956, Guest House has provided treatment and care to ensure Catholic clergy, men and women religious and seminarians suffering from alcoholism, addictions and other behavioral health conditions have the best opportunity for quality recovery. Located in Orion, Michigan, about 40 miles north of Detroit, Guest House was founded by Austin Ripley, a nationally renowned mystery writer, who battled his own dependence on alcohol. Ripley believed his program would "save the individual; save the vocation." Ripley wrote about the challenges clergy face with alcoholism for Our Sunday Visitor, a national Catholic newspaper. Cardinal Edmond Mooney of Detroit backed the idea of a "Guest House" -- both vocally and fiscally -- as Ripley purchased the home of newspaper tycoon William E. Scripps for a campus.

    All Catholics have duty to 'walk with' their neighbors, bishop says

    ALEXANDRIA, Minn. (CNS) -- The energetic spirit of the 200-plus people who gathered in Alexandria April 13 and 14 for the Region VIII encuentro captured the heart of St. Cloud's Bishop Donald J. Kettler. The event was one of the year's highlights for him, he said during a presentation to the gathering. Later in an interview with The Visitor, St. Cloud's diocesan newspaper, he said that he was impressed with the "willingness among the people to develop their faith and share their faith. That evangelization spirit is here. I like their enthusiasm and their interest. ... There really is an energy here." The "V Encuentro" process is an initiative of the U.S. bishops, calling Catholic leaders to "listen with profound attention to the needs, challenges and aspirations that the growing Hispanic/Latino population faces in daily life." It also seeks to prepare Catholics "to better recognize, embrace, and promote the many gifts and talents that the Hispanic community shares in the life and mission of the church." Regional meetings are the latest phase of a multiyear preparation process for "V Encuentro," or the Fifth National Encuentro, to be held Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine, Texas. First came parish-level encuentros, then diocesan gatherings and now the regional meetings.

    Faith can help cleanse societal waters of racism, says Cardinal Wuerl

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- With faith, people can confront and help overcome the evil of racism, Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl said in an April 17 talk at The Catholic University of America. "The elimination of racism may seem too great a task for any one of us or even for the whole church," he said. "Yet we place our confidence in the Lord, because in Christ, we are brothers and sisters, one to the other. With Christ, we stand in the spirit of justice, peace and love." Cardinal Wuerl, who as the archbishop of Washington is Catholic University's chancellor, was invited by its president, John Garvey, to speak on his recent pastoral letter, "The Challenge of Racism Today." Speaking at the university's Pryzbyla Center to an audience consisting mostly of seminarians and other students, the cardinal compared racism to a residue that has contaminated streams that flow into the societal well from which people drink. He warned that the unhealthy contaminants causing racism in our culture can be subtle and ubiquitous. "We have the possibility to be that fresh stream of water flowing into the societal well," he said.

    Irish pro-lifers launch 'vote no' campaign for referendum on unborn

    DUBLIN (CNS) -- Pro-life activists have launched a campaign urging citizens to vote no in a forthcoming referendum to remove the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution. That amendment provides legal protection for unborn children "with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother." Launching their outreach in Dublin April 18, Caroline Simons of the Love Both campaign group warned that if the Irish Constitution is amended, "Ireland will go from being a country that protects unborn babies to one of the most extreme abortion regimes in the world." Minister for Health Simon Harris has said that if the amendment is repealed, he will propose legislation to provide for abortion without restriction up to 12 weeks' gestation. However, the proposal would permit abortion at any time throughout the pregnancy if there is a risk to the life or health of the mother or if the unborn child is diagnosed with a condition that means they are not expected to live for long after birth. Simons told Catholic News Service the government proposal "also allows for abortion on vague and undefined 'health' grounds, up to viability and even up to birth, where the baby has a possible terminal illness and in other circumstances as well."

    Circuitous route led to director's second film on exorcism

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Sometimes the best opportunities result from a mix of asking and having things fall into your lap. So it was for William Friedkin, who directed "The Exorcist" 45 years ago and thought he was through with the subgenre he helped create. Then came his documentary on exorcism, "The Devil and Father Amorth." "It was a complete accident," Friedkin told Catholic News Service in an April 16 interview in Washington to promote the film. "I had no intention of doing this. I had no interest. 'The Exorcist' was a work of fiction. I had never seen a real exorcism, and neither had William Peter Blatty," who had written the novel on which that movie was based. Friedkin said he had been in Luca, Italy, to receive the Puccini Prize for having directed four Puccini operas. He soon heard Pisa was a 35-minute drive from Luca, so he made the trip. Then he learned it was a one-hour flight from Pisa to Rome. Given that he had eight days in Italy, he wrote a priest-theologian friend, and "as a lark, I asked, 'Do you think I could get a meeting with the pope or Father (Gabriele) Amorth?'" The reply: "The pope's not available, but Father Amorth would be very pleased to meet you." The desired meeting took place between Friedkin and the priest whose skills in performing exorcisms he characterized this way: "There's exorcists and there's exorcists, like there's basketball players and LeBron James."

    Film director as tour guide: 'Exorcist' scenes at, near Georgetown U.

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- It looked just like any other group tour, except the cameras were more sophisticated than the typical smartphone. It might have been that the "tourists" were journalists. And the tour guide was film director William Friedkin, who returned to Georgetown University in Washington, where several key scenes of his 1973 movie classic "The Exorcist" were shot. On the tour was the Dahlgren Quadrangle, and the Dahlgren Chapel just beyond it. Friedkin, who was in Washington to promote his documentary on exorcism, "The Devil and Father Amorth," told the assembled gaggle inside the chapel that because one scene set inside the chapel involved the desecration of a statue, "I remade a corner" of the chapel on a movie set to film that scene. "The statue was of the Virgin (Mary). It was badly desecrated," Friedkin said during the April 17 tour. "I would not do that in here." To the right of the quadrangle was the former Jesuit residence at Georgetown. Here, Friedkin played the role of a real tour guide: "George Washington spoke from this balcony," he said. "And so did Abraham Lincoln."

    Bishop Foley, retired bishop of Birmingham, Alabama, dies at age 88

    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CNS) -- Bishop David E. Foley, retired bishop of the Diocese of Birmingham, died April 17 at the St. John Vianney Residence for Priests in Birmingham. He was 88. News reports said he had been battling cancer. His funeral Mass will be celebrated April 23 by Mobile Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Birmingham and burial will immediately follow in the cathedral's courtyard. Bishop Foley's body will be received at the cathedral April 22 in the afternoon and a period for prayers will be held from 2-6:30 p.m. (CDT). Bishop Robert J. Baker of Birmingham will preside over the vesper service with Benedictine Abbot Cletus Meagher of St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman preaching. Bishop Foley served 11 years as bishop of Birmingham. He submitted his resignation in 2005 at age 75 as required by canon law. He was then chosen by the diocesan consultors to serve for two and a half years as administrator of the diocese prior to the installation of Bishop Baker. The bishop's retirement was in name only: He never stopped being a priest. He would spend Christmas and Thanksgiving at prisons, would celebrate Mass at any parish when needed and would regularly help with confirmations.

    In Henan, Chinese Catholics warned to follow rules on religious affairs

    HONG KONG (CNS) -- Catholics in China's Henan province have been warned that venues will be closed if they do not adhere to the revised regulations on religious affairs. reported that a clampdown on religious freedom has intensified in the province in recent months, with crosses removed from churches, minors banned from entering churches, church-run kindergartens closed and children expelled from Mass. Now Henan Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and Henan Catholic Administration Commission have jointly issued a circular, warning worshippers to take the new rules seriously. It warned people to follow "the principle of religion and education separation" and the revised regulations on religious affairs. It said no religious venue should hold training sessions and no children should be brought to church by parents. "It was only propaganda and education previously, but now there is a red line, a high-pressure line, so take it seriously," the circular said.

    Cardinal, hospital staff urge Illinois legislators to act on gun bill

    CHICAGO (CNS) -- Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich called on Illinois legislators to pass a bill that tightens restrictions on gun shop owners and helps stem the flow of illegal guns into Illinois during an April 17 news conference at Loyola Medical Center. "We are united in demanding that those we elect have the moral courage to take the steps they can to save lives -- maybe not all the lives, maybe not every day, but ask those who grieve if their child, their brother, their mother was not worth the effort to try," the cardinal told news media as he stood on a dais with doctors and nurses who work in Loyola's emergency and trauma departments. "These emergency and trauma health care professionals and pastoral care associates are more than ready to discuss how we should weigh the price of lives lost, diminished by injury and haunted by grief and fear against the right to sell weapons in shops we are told are too expensive to license," Cardinal Cupich said. "So, I call on the elected officials of Illinois, listen to them, they are the real experts on gun control, and act to see that S.B. 1657 becomes law." S.B. 1657 is an attempt to crack down on gun violence by calling for gun dealers to be licensed by the state. It also requires gun shop owners to run background checks on employees, train workers on how to spot "straw" purchases, in which a customer buys a gun for someone else, and install video surveillance equipment. So-called "big-box" stores are exempt from the legislation. The measure passed the Senate in April 2017 on a 30-21 vote -- the minimum required for passage -- and passed the House in February on a 64-52 vote.

    Name given at baptism gives sense of identity, belonging, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Naming a child is an important task for parents, because it gives children a sense of identity and belonging to their family and to God, Pope Francis said. "Without a name, we remain unknown, without rights and duties. God calls each one of us by name, loving us individually in the concreteness of our history," the pope said April 18 during his weekly general audience. "Therefore, the name is important. Parents think of the name to give to their child already before birth," he said. "This, too, is part of the expectation of a child who, in his or her name, will have an original identity, including for the Christian life linked to God." Continuing his series of Easter-season talks on baptism, the pope said that a person's name, asked during the welcoming rite of the sacrament, "takes us out of anonymity" and is the first step in a person's journey as a Christian. "Baptism ignites the personal vocation to live as Christians, which will develop throughout one's life. It implies a personal response and not a borrowed answer that is 'copied and pasted,'" he said.

    Church's social teaching always a 'work in progress,' archbishop says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While some fundamental principles of the Catholic Church's social teaching are permanent, there are ever-changing social and political conditions that can change how it is applied, said Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin. "The social teaching of the church is part of the discipline of moral theology, but moral theology cannot produce a handbook with all the answers to the social challenges of the times," Archbishop Martin told journalists April 18 during a news conference on an upcoming conference sponsored by the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation. Established in 1993, the foundation seeks to promote the teaching of St. John Paul II's 1991 encyclical on social and economic justice. Business leaders and experts in Catholic social teaching attending the May 24-26 international conference will reflect on "new policies and lifestyles in the digital age."

    Families fleeing Venezuela find home with Scalabrinians in Sao Paulo

    SAO PAULO (CNS) -- At the beginning of March, Gisela Gomez, 36, gathered a few belongings, said goodbye to her 17- and 15-year-old sons, and left the region of Monagas in Venezuela, traveling more than 600 miles south to the Brazilian border with her daughters, 3 and 6. "There was not much else we could do," Gomez told CNS. "We need to find work." In Boa Vista, Gomez's husband was waiting for them. He had been in Brazil since the beginning of the year and believed that life would be better for his family here. Along with Gomez more than 50,000 Venezuelans have crossed the border into the northern Brazilian state of Roraima, fleeing the political and economic turmoil of their native land. With the greater influx of refugees, however, tension began rising in Brazilian cities and towns near the Venezuelan border. Makeshift camps were set up in town squares, hospitals became overwhelmed, and refugees panhandled on street corners. In February, the Brazilian government, with the help of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, announced a plan to start relocating Venezuelans to other cities in the country. Cities and nongovernmental entities were asked to help take in some of these refugees.

    Update: Father of Alfie Evans meets pope, begs for help to save his son

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Begging Pope Francis to help his son, Alfie, Tom Evans met with the pontiff, pleading for "asylum" in Italy so his seriously ill son may receive care and not be euthanized in England. "If Your Holiness helps our child, Your Holiness will be potentially saving the future for our children in the U.K., especially the disabled. We pray the problem we are facing is solved peacefully and respectfully as no child deserves this," Evans said in a statement he personally delivered to the pope April 18. The private meeting came before the pope appealed publicly yet again for appropriate care and respect for 23-month-old Alfie Evans. "I would like to affirm and vigorously uphold that the only master of life -- from its beginning to natural end -- is God," the pope said at the end of his weekly general audience April 18. "Our duty is to do everything to safeguard life," he said before leading the thousands of people in the square in a moment of prayer and reflection. He asked those at the audience to pray that the lives of all people, especially Alfie, be respected.

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  • Family seeks Archbishop Sheen's intercession for newborn son's healing

    ST. ANTHONY, Minn. (CNS) -- Even before Katherine and Jeff Dobbs were married, they had a name picked out for a future son: Fulton Francis. Fulton, for Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, known for his mid-20th century broadcast evangelism, and Francis, for Pope Francis, whom the couple met at a general audience during their honeymoon in 2017. Little could they have known the significance of their baby's namesakes less than a year later. Fulton Francis Dobbs was born Christmas Eve with an immunodeficiency that remains undiagnosed. They have been praying for Fulton's healing through the intercession of Archbishop Sheen, whom Pope Benedict XVI declared venerable in 2012. The next step in the sainthood process is beatification, which requires one miracle that is verified as having occurred through that person's intercession. After Fulton's birth, the Dobbs' parish, St. Charles Borromeo in St. Anthony, distributed cards with a prayer written by Franciscan Father Andrew Apostoli, who was ordained by Archbishop Sheen and has worked on his canonization cause.

    New poll shows Americans still consider abortion a complicated issue

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Despite abortion having been part of the national debate for nearly a half-century, it remains a complex and complicated issue to a significant majority of Americans, according to a survey released April 17. Sixty-two percent of Americans "see abortion as a complicated issue," with 36 percent saying "it is simple and straightforward," said the survey, "Young People Set to Impact the Debate on Women's Health Issues," issued by the Public Religion Research Institute. "Americans who say abortion should be either legal in all cases or illegal in all cases are more likely to say the issue is simple and straightforward than those who hold more qualified attitudes," with close to half of the absolutists declaring it simple and straightforward. By comparison, only about a quarter of those who believe abortion should be legal -- or illegal -- in most, but not all, cases say the issue is simple and straightforward. "In the general population, attitudes have remained fairly stable over the last couple of decades," said Robert P. Jones, PRRI's CEO, in an April 17 phone interview with Catholic News Service. "Even though we're seeing younger people being more supportive, and older people being more opposed, all generations are seeing it as being a more complicated issue. The exception are people who are out on the poles ... at both ends of the spectrum."

    Catholic lives dream of making movies, pleased Christian films part of it

    HOMER GLEN, Ill. (CNS) -- When Katie Reidy decided it was time to follow her childhood dream and pursue a career in film, she never had Christian filmmaking in mind. But somehow, said Reidy, no matter where she has sent her resume these past seven years, "I still end up at a Catholic film company, which is a great thing!" Reidy was working at a crisis pregnancy center and attending Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Parish in Homer Glen, when she decided to pull up stakes in 2011, move to Los Angeles, and try her hand in the film industry. To date the biggest film Reidy has worked on is "Paul, Apostle of Christ," released in theaters March 23. She was the U.S. production coordinator on the project. Reidy said she has turned down several projects that would have landed her with "very reputable companies or filmmakers." "The story or parts of the script were completely out of line with my values and everything I have stood for in life that I had to say no," she said. For her, "working on 'Paul, Apostle of Christ' has truly been a gift."

    Hartford archbishop says special Mass dedicated to Mideast Christians

    NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CNS) -- As a sign of solidarity with religious minorities who have been victims of Islamic State-led genocide, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford celebrated a special Mass for persecuted Middle Eastern Christians April 15 at St. Mary Church. He welcomed Bishop Bawai Soro, who heads the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of Mar Addai of Toronto and is a native of Iraq. He delivered the homily and also proclaimed the Gospel in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus. During the Mass, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Hartford and the Knights of Columbus, the two bishops encouraged the large gathering of the faithful to pray for Christians throughout the world who are under constant threat of losing their homelands and their very lives if they do not renounce Christ. In his homily and remarks at a reception following the Mass, Bishop Soro was effusive in expressing his appreciation to the Knights and Catholics in the archdiocese for their outpouring of support. "These persecuted Christians of Iraq and Syria have not stopped giving thanks to God for your love and solidarity," he said. "We thank you for helping us carry our cross" of being persecuted and displace "simply because we believe in Christ," said Bishop Soro, who for many years has ministered to the Iraqi Christian community in North America.

    Iceland's Catholic leaders condemn circumcision law as anti-Semitic

    REYKJAVIK, Iceland (CNS) -- The Catholic Church in Iceland is speaking out against a popular proposed law that could land Jewish and Muslim parents in prison for up to six years for circumcising their infant boys. "If this bill goes through, it would mean regular persecution of Jewish people," Father Jakob Rolland, chancellor of the Diocese of Reykjavik, told Catholic News Service. "That brings us back to 1933, when Hitler took power in Germany. And we know how it ended." The new bill, presented by seven members of the Icelandic parliament in February, seeks to ban nonmedically indicated circumcision of male children under age 18. "We see this as a question of human rights. No person should be subject to unnecessary operations without their consent," said Dr. Olafur Thor Gunnarsson, a member of the Icelandic parliament who is sponsoring the bill, at a conference April 17 in Reykjavik. Bishop David Tencer of Reykyavik wrote a letter expressing his solidarity with the Muslim and Jewish communities. Leaders of Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities from various European countries traveled to attend the conference to voice their concerns to Icelandic lawmakers. Msgr. Duarte da Cunha, general secretary of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences, issued a statement condemning the proposed law as an attack on religious freedom and assuring the support of the European Catholic Church of the rights of Jews and Muslims to practice their religious tradition of circumcision.

    Update: Pope accepts resignation of U.S. Ukrainian Catholic archbishop

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Archbishop Stefan Soroka of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia and has appointed Auxiliary Bishop Andriy Rabiy of the same archeparchy to be apostolic administrator. Archbishop Soroka, 66, is resigning for medical reasons. Under church law, a bishop is expected to submit his resignation to the pope at age 75. His resignation was accepted in accord with Canon 210 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, which allows a bishop to resign before age 75 "due to ill health or to another serious reason." The resignation and appointment were announced in Washington April 16 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Ukrainian-born Bishop Rabiy was named an auxiliary bishop for the archeparchy last August and his episcopal ordination took place in his native Lviv last September. He will remain apostolic administrator until a successor to Archbishop Soroka is appointed. Archbishop Soroka has headed the Philadelphia archeparchy since February 2001. In addition to Bishop Rabiy, Auxiliary Bishop John Bura also serves the archeparchy.

    Scottish bishop criticizes BBC film for mockery of Eucharist

    PAISLEY, Scotland (CNS) -- A Scottish bishop has criticized the BBC for making a film that describes the Eucharist as smelling "like hate." The video, produced by BBC Scotland, a publicly funded "public service broadcaster," seeks to show how people who experience same-sex attraction continue to be made to feel outcast and ostracized in 2018. Bishop John Keenan of Paisley suggested on his Facebook page that the film, called "This is How Homophobia Feels in 2018," in effect fomented hatred of the Catholic Church. "The priest holds up a Mini-Cheddar (cracker) in parody of the Host for a Catholic parishioner to receive," the bishop explained in an April 13 post. "The presenter goes on to suggest Jesus 'wasted his time teaching small minds that love is no sin.' All this in a week when a Sunday Times poll found 20 percent of Catholics reported personally experiencing abuse or prejudice toward their faith and recent government figures on religiously aggravated crime showed 57 percent of it is now directed at Catholics, an increase of 14 percent ... and we all wonder why!!!" he said. The BBC film was aimed at young people and was posted April 9 on the Facebook page of BBC The Social, a project of BBC Scotland.

    Philippines to deport Australian nun, 71, who advocated for farmers

    MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- Philippine authorities have arrested, detained and intend to deport a 71-year-old Australian nun for allegedly engaging in illegal political activities. reported immigration officers arrested Sister Patricia Fox, Philippine superior of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, at her convent in Quezon City April 16. Although the prosecutor in charge "found no probable cause" for her arrest and ordered the nun's "release for further investigation," immigration officials insisted on the nun's detention. They said Sister Fox failed to surrender her passport to the bureau. The nun said her documents were with a travel agency. Sister Fox was detained at the bureau's intelligence division but was released April 17. Immigration officials have accused the nun, who has worked in rural communities for 27 years, of being an "undesirable alien" for joining protest rallies and visiting political prisoners.

    Update: Successor to civil rights leader urges unity in Baltimore sermon

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The Rev. Raphael G. Warnock invited those attending an interfaith/ecumenical prayer service April 12 at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore to join hands with those near them. As all in the nearly full cathedral did so, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori joined hands with Mayor Catherine Pugh and Darryl De Sousa, the city's police commissioner, while they were seated in the sanctuary. Rev. Warnock, senior pastor of Atlanta's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, invited the congregation to imagine a great multitude of men and women, boys and girls from the four corners of the earth. "They looked into each other's eyes and they were not afraid." The preacher said he asked one of those in this vision what was happening. "He said, 'It is the kingdom of God imbued with love and justice,' and so I asked, 'Where is this?'" Rev. Warnock said. "And he answered, 'It exists already in the hearts of those who have the courage to believe and struggle.' And so I asked, 'When is this?' And he answered, 'When we learned the simple art of loving each other as sisters and brothers.' And so, O God, give us wisdom, give us courage for the living of these days, for the facing of this hour as we bear witness to your kingdom," he prayed. "O God, who loves us into freedom and frees us into loving, to you we offer this prayer." Rev. Warnock, spiritual successor to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. -- and his father, the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr., known as "Daddy King" -- was invited by Archbishop Lori to be the guest preacher for a prayer service to commemorate the April 4, 1968, assassination of Rev. King Jr.

    Church supports move to legalize sodomy in Trinidad and Tobago

    PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (CNS) -- The Catholic Church in Trinidad and Tobago has declared its full support for an April 12 High Court decision that paved the way for making sodomy legal in that country. At this time, it is still a criminal offense that carries a prison sentence of 25 years. In an April 13 statement, Archbishop Charles Gordon of Port-of-Spain said, "Buggery is a serious moral offense, but it should not put someone in prison for 25 years." Archbishop Gordon cited the Vatican's December 2008 intervention made at the 63rd Session of the United Nations: "The Holy See continues to advocate that every sign of unjust discrimination toward homosexual persons should be avoided and urges states to do away with criminal penalties against them." Most of Trinidad and Tobago's legislation is inherited from its pre-independence days as a British colony, including the "Buggery Laws" -- a reference to laws governing sodomy. The Sexual Offences Act of 1987 still contains statutes from the English Buggery Act 1533. The Sexual Offences Act does not apply to, "an act of serious indecency committed in private between a husband and his wife" or "a male person and a female person, each of whom is 16 years of age or more, both of whom consent to the commission of the act."

    Violent extremists tarnish image of their own faith, cardinal says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Meeting with a top Muslim leader in Saudi Arabia, the Vatican's chief interreligious dialogue official called for the equal treatment of people of all religions, saying discrimination and double standards based on religious affiliation only increase Islamophobia and Christianophobia. And, religious leaders "have a duty to keep religions from being at the service of an ideology" and to know how "to recognize that some of our fellow believers, like the terrorists, are not behaving properly," said Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. "Terrorism is a constant threat, and for that reason we must be clear and never justify it. All forms of terrorism want to prove the impossibility of coexistence. We believe the exact opposite. We must avoid aggression and denigration," he said during a meeting April 14 with the secretary-general of the Muslim World League, Sheik Mohammed bin Abdul Karim al-Issa. Every religion has its extremists and fundamentalists, Cardinal Tauran said in the meeting. They have strayed from a "solid and wise" understanding of their own faith and see those who do not share their views as "unbelievers," who must convert or be "eliminated," he added.

    Church needs prophets, not critics, pope says at morning Mass

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The church needs true prophets who not only speak the truth fearlessly, but also empathize with the suffering of their people, Pope Francis said. A prophet must always be person who not only "is able to cry for his people, but also capable of taking risks to speak the truth," the pope said in his homily April 17 at morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae. The church "needs us to be prophets. Not critics, that's another thing. "One thing is to be the critical judge who likes nothing, who doesn't like anything," he said. "That is not a prophet." In his homily, the pope reflected on the day's first reading from the Acts of the Apostle, which recounted St. Stephen's martyrdom. The first martyr of the church was stoned to death after denouncing the elders and scribes as "stiff-necked people" who "always oppose the Holy Spirit." Truth, Pope Francis said, is always "uncomfortable" and when a prophet speaks the truth, hearts can either open or "become more like a rock, unleashing anger, persecution."

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  • Update: Conference looks at how to preserve religious orders' archives

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Recorded history typically is the privilege of the famous, powerful and wealthy, and that's the same for institutions as for individuals. And for the Catholic Church, there's never been any shortage of preservation of theological documents. For American religious orders, however, an upcoming conference at Jesuit-run Boston College will address a pressing need -- the preservation and archiving of their history, typically of grass-roots assistance of the neediest in rural as well as urban areas. The focus is on documents going back as far as the early 18th century, as well as audio and visual records from just decades ago. Or to put it more simply, "what do you do with your stuff? What are the options?" asked Malachy McCarthy, who is province archivist of the Chicago-based Claretian Missionaries USA-Canada Province and a co-chair of the July 11-13 conference. "You normally save only 10 percent of what you create." The "Envisioning the Future of Catholic Religious Archives" conference" will bring together leaders of religious communities, archivists and historians to discuss solutions to the challenge faced by religious communities "in preserving and providing access to their archival legacies." More information is available at

    Missionary nuns see landmarks that tell story of U.S. as immigrant nation

    CHICAGO (CNS) -- A trip to the Big Apple and stops at some of the city's most significant historical sites, such as the Statue of Liberty, helped a group of missionary sisters currently serving immigrants in the United States gain a deeper appreciation of the struggles of the nation and its people. About 40 women religious are part of Catholic Extension's U.S.-Latin American Sisters Exchange Program that took the field trip to New York City. The group represented 12 different religious congregations and six Latin American countries. The initiative provides funding for religious sisters from Latin America to live and study in the U.S. for five years, while they minister to underserved communities of immigrants in poor and rural U.S. dioceses. The group convened in New York as part of the sisters' ongoing cultural and academic training in the U.S. Based in Chicago, Catholic Extension raises and distributes funds to support U.S. mission dioceses, many of which are rural, cover a large geographic area, and have limited personnel and pastoral resources. After a brief visit with New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan at St. Patrick's Cathedral, the sisters began their educational tour with an excursion to the Statue of Liberty. The women, who serve today's new waves of American immigrants, could easily identify with the monument's famous inscription beckoning the "tired, poor and huddled masses' of the world 'yearning to breathe free."

    CNEWA trustees meet Lebanese, refugees who benefit from their projects

    BEIRUT (CNS) -- A North American delegation negotiated the steep incline to a clinic draped over the roadway, like an olive tree from a limestone bluff. "Yesterday we prayed," said New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, who the day before attended a Mass with refugees. "Now we work." Cardinal Dolan, chairman of the board of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, led a delegation from CNEWA, including Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver, British Columbia, and retired Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York. The group who visited health care facilities across the Lebanese capital April 16. Arriving by bus and after a brief climb, the prelates reached St. Anthony Dispensary, north of Beirut. The clinic offers medical services to locals and refugees in the Lebanese capital. Speaking with Lebanese Christians and displaced Syrian and Iraqi refugees at the dispensary, Cardinal Dolan held several children aloft as the delegation traversed a tight corridor, lined with white plastic chairs in which sat dozens of patients. The clinic, which is open less than four hours each morning, treats 80 people each day. Sevan Aziz, originally from Baghdad, visits the clinic regularly for her 82-year-old mother, who has high blood pressure. "Here it's better (than other regional clinics) because I know everyone," Aziz said. "It's far from home, but my mothers needs someone who understands our needs, and I get that here."

    Christian pilgrims to Holy Land get tattoos to mark their pilgrimages

    JERUSALEM (CNS) -- Three generations of the Razzouk family busily attended to Christian pilgrims and tourists packed into a tiny shop to get Christian tattoos to mark their pilgrimages to the Holy Land. The Razzouk family has been tattooing Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land for 500 years -- and 200 years before that in Egypt. One of their ancestors, Jeruis, was a Coptic pilgrim to the Holy Land five centuries ago; he fell in love with the land and decided to stay and used his tattooing skills to make a living. The art of tattooing was passed down through the generations, with the methods adapting themselves to the times. Wassim Razzouk, 44, the latest in a long line of family tattoo artists, also produces elaborate tattoo images of Jesus, Mary, Jerusalem crosses and St. George slaying the dragon. Some of these images are copied from original 500-year-old wooden stamp blocks used by his ancestors. He has 60 of the original 300 stamps. Some pilgrims come specifically for these ancient, intricate designs. The tradition of Christian tattooing began among the Coptic Christians of Egypt hundreds of years ago, with tiny crosses on the right wrist to identify themselves as Christians. It continues today in Egypt, with the tattooing being done in the churches. Razzouk said Catholic pilgrims also had been traditionally tattooed in the Holy Land, and it was his family who later introduced the tattoos to Orthodox pilgrims.

    Retired pope celebrates 91st birthday

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI had a "peaceful and familial" 91st birthday April 16, celebrating with his 94-year-old brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, who was visiting from Germany, the Vatican said. Pope Francis offered his early morning Mass for his predecessor and then sent his personal best wishes to the retired pope, who lives on the other side of St. Peter's Basilica in a refurbished monastery. The birthday evening plans, the Vatican press office said, included a visit and performance by the Swiss Guard band. Pope Benedict was elected in April 2005 to succeed St. John Paul II. He stepped down Feb. 28, 2013.

    Catholic leaders: Winnie Mandela was a friend to South Africa's poor

    CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) -- Anti-apartheid activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was always a friend to South Africa's poor, said church leaders who took part in a two-week mourning period that culminated in her burial as a national hero. "Victims of rape and all kinds of abuse always knew that they could call on Winnie, who would be there for them," said Bishop Victor Phalana of Klerksdorp. Often called the "Mother of the Nation" and "Mama Winnie," the ex-wife of the late South African President Nelson Mandela "mothered everybody," said Bishop Phalana. Madikizela-Mandela died April 2 at age 81. The April 14 funeral service in Soweto, a township outside Johannesburg, was attended by tens of thousands of people and was followed by a burial ceremony at a memorial park north of Johannesburg. Madikizela-Mandela "was (a) very committed woman in her faith," said Precious Blood Sister Hermenegild Makoro, secretary-general of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference. She attended the Wesley Methodist Church in Meadowlands and spent five hours at the Good Friday service there three days before her death, Sister Makoro told Catholic News Service April 12.

    African, European bishops: Globalization demands vigilance from church

    CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) -- While globalization at its best can enable the sharing of spiritual and material riches, it also can lead to huge destruction, the bishops of Europe and Africa said after a four-day meeting in Fatima, Portugal. Globalization is a dynamic process that "affects all areas of individual, family and social life, including economics, politics, culture and religion," said an April 16 statement by the Council of European Bishops' Conferences and the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar. Twenty-five bishops were among the more than 35 participants from the two continents who met April 12-15 to discuss the effects of globalization on the church and cultures in Europe and Africa. The European and African bishops' joint statement said that, on one hand, globalization "can serve justice and peace" and "can spread noble and constructive ideas and values." Yet, globalization, "when marked by sin as is often the case today, tends to cause a profound gap between rich and poor, between powerful and weak; it strengthens the struggle for power, for growing profit and hedonism; it destroys the legacy of high culture, spirituality, and human dignity, triggering a deconstruction of the very foundations of existence," the statement said. "The negative aspects of globalization demand an active and courageous vigilance on the part of priests, consecrated persons, lay faithful, all believers, and people of good will," it said. Urging effective action in support of their educational work with families, the bishops noted that "the defense of the poor, sick, marginalized and weak is not optional but imperative."

    Sainthood candidate Father Flanagan inspires new children's book

    OMAHA, Neb. (CNS) -- Each illustration took up to 20 hours, often done in the middle of the night after his family was asleep. And each was necessary for Eli Hernandez to complete his 30-page children's book, "Dearest Children: A Message Inspired by Father Edward J. Flanagan." Working at night and on weekends, the project took about a year to complete, said Hernandez, manager of design and production in the marketing and communications department at Boys Town, the home for boys and girls in need founded by the priest more than 100 years ago. "I borrowed from sleep to finish the project," Hernandez told the Catholic Voice, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Omaha. "Dearest Children" was written, he said, to help students in kindergarten through fifth grade understand the values of Father Flanagan, who cause for canonization is being considered by the Congregation for Saints' Causes at the Vatican. The author hopes the book's illustrations and message will resonate with children of all ages. Hernandez's book is available through Boys Town Press,

    Catholic universities must prepare students for dialogue, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholic universities are "called to be workshops of dialogue and encounter in the service of truth, justice and the defense of human dignity at every level," Pope Francis told a delegation from Pennsylvania's Villanova University. "It is my hope that in every aspect of its life and mission, Villanova University will persevere in its efforts to communicate the intellectual, spiritual and moral values that will enable young people to participate wisely and responsibly in the great debates shaping the future of society," the pope said. Administrators, top officials and members of the board of trustees from the Augustinian-run Villanova met the pope April 14 at the Vatican. At the end of the meeting, Jay Wright, head coach of the Villanova men's basketball team, presented him with a ball signed by the team, which won the NCAA national championship two weeks earlier. While the pope did not discuss basketball with his guests, he did offer words of encouragement and praise for the Catholic university, which he described as "an heir to the great Augustinian tradition." Villanova was founded and is currently run by the Order of St. Augustine.

    Pope, Christian leaders condemn use of violence against Syria

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Sharply criticizing a failure to find nonviolent means of bringing peace to Syria and other parts of the world, Pope Francis appealed to world leaders to work for justice and peace. "I am deeply disturbed by the current world situation, in which, despite the instruments available to international community, it struggles to agree on joint action in favor of peace in Syria and other regions of the world," he said after praying the "Regina Coeli" with people gathered in St. Peter's Square April 15. "While I unceasingly pray for peace and invite all people of good will to keep doing the same, I appeal once again to all political leaders so that justice and peace may prevail," he said. The pope's appeal came after the United States, France and the United Kingdom launched missiles on Syria April 13, targeting sites intended to weaken the nation's chemical weapons capability. The missile strikes came one week after an alleged chemical attack in the Ghouta region, outside Damascus. Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow telephoned Pope Francis after the missile attack, he told reporters April 15 at his residence outside of Moscow.

    Pope joins meeting to prepare synod for the Amazon

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis met with members of the preparatory council for the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon region, which will take place in Rome in October 2019. Meeting in Rome April 12-13, the presynod council worked with Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, to finalize the preparatory document and related questionnaire for the special assembly next year. The council members and several experts on the Amazon, who were invited to attend, discussed the pastoral needs in the territory, especially the need "for a more incisive inculturation of the Gospel for the people who live there, particularly the indigenous people," the Vatican said in a statement April 14. They also "reflected on the ecological crisis affecting the region and underlined the need for promoting an integral ecology along the lines" of the pope's 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," the Vatican said. Announcing the gathering of bishops last October, the pope said the synod will seek to identify new paths of evangelization, especially for indigenous people who are "often forgotten and left without the prospect of a peaceful future, including because of the crisis of the Amazon forest," which plays a vital role in the environmental health of the entire planet.

    Respect life of severely ill patients like Alfie Evans, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Highlighting the plight of a seriously ill toddler in Great Britain and a severely brain-damaged man in France, Pope Francis called for greater respect for every patient's life and dignity. After praying the "Regina Coeli" with people gathered in St. Peter's Square April 15, the pope asked that everyone pray for "people, such as Vincent Lambert in France, little Alfie Evans in England, and others in different countries, who have been living, sometimes for a long time, in a condition of serious infirmity, (and are) medically assisted for their basic needs." These "delicate situations," he said, are "very painful and complex. Let us pray that every sick person may always be respected in their dignity and cared for in an appropriate way for their condition, with the unanimous contribution of family members, doctors and other health-care workers, and with great respect for life," he said. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said he strongly hoped there could be an opening of dialogue and collaboration between Alfie's parents and hospital officials so that "together they may seek the integral well-being of Alfie and caring for his life will not be reduced to a legal controversy. Alfie cannot be abandoned; Alfie, and his parents likewise, must be fully loved," the archbishop said in a written statement released April 15.

    Pope advances sainthood cause of Canadian nun

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis advanced the sainthood cause of a Canadian nun who founded Ottawa's first hospital and dedicated her life to abandoned children and the elderly. At a meeting April 14 with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, the pope signed a decree recognizing that Canadian Sister Elisabeth Bruyere, founder of the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa, lived the Christian virtues in a special way. He also signed decrees recognizing the heroic virtues of four other women and three men. They could be beatified once a miracle attributed to their intercession is recognized. A second miracle is needed for canonization. Born March 19, 1818, Sister Bruyere entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal before setting up a community in Ottawa, which at the time was called Bytown. Three months after her arrival in 1845, she and several other sisters founded a school, a general hospital, an orphanage and a home for the elderly to assist the many English, Irish and Scottish immigrants who arrived in the French-Canadian town. She died in 1876. Following the announcement of the decree, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa said Sister Bruyere's life and ministry reflected "God's love for us all."

    'Is my dad in heaven?' little boy asks pope

    ROME (CNS) -- After circling a massive, crumbling public housing complex on the outskirts of Rome, Pope Francis had an emotional encounter with the neighborhood's children. Question-and-answer sessions with youngsters are a standard part of Pope Francis' parish visits. And, at St. Paul of the Cross parish April 15, there were the usual questions like, "How did you feel when you were elected pope?" But then it was Emanuele's turn. The young boy smiled at the pope as he approached the microphone. But then froze. "I can't do it," Emanuele said. Msgr. Leonardo Sapienza, a papal aide, encouraged the boy, but he kept saying, "I can't." "Come, come to me, Emanuele," the pope said. "Come and whisper it in my ear." Msgr. Sapienza helped the boy up to the platform where the pope was seated. Emanuele was sobbing by that point, and Pope Francis enveloped him in a big embrace, patting his head and speaking softly to him. With their heads touching, the pope and the boy spoke privately to each other before Emanuele returned to his seat. Pope Francis said he had asked Emanuele if he could share the boy's question and the boy agreed. "'A little while ago my father passed away. He was a nonbeliever, but he had all four of his children baptized. He was a good man. Is dad in heaven?' How beautiful to hear a son say of his father, 'He was good,'" the pope told the children.

    Chilean abuse victims welcome pope's letter, call for zero tolerance

    SANTIAGO, Chile (CNS) -- Victims of clergy sexual abuse welcomed Pope Francis' letter in which he apologized for underestimating the seriousness of the crisis in Chile. James Hamilton, Jose Andres Murillo and Juan Carlos Cruz, victims of Father Fernando Karadima, released a statement April 11 saying they appreciated the pope's letter and were "evaluating the possibilities" for meeting with the pope. "The damage committed by the hierarchy of the Chilean church, to which the pope refers, has affected many people, not just us," the victims said. "The purpose of all our actions has always been about recognition, forgiveness and reparation for what has been suffered, and will continue to be so, until zero tolerance against abuse and concealment in the church becomes a reality," they said. Pope Francis' letter, released by the Vatican April 11, asked "forgiveness of all those I have offended" and said he hoped to "be able to do it personally in the coming weeks."

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  • Bishops: Ending programs would create bigger crisis for El Salvador

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When a house is on fire, you don't lock the doors to the outside to help save the people trapped inside, but that's what U.S. policy is doing when it brings to an end two immigration programs that have helped more than 200,000 Salvadorans live, study and work in the U.S., said a U.S. archbishop April 13. Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski made the comments as as he joined Salvadoran bishops in Washington on a panel about the roots causes of poverty, violence and migration. Archbishop Wenski accompanied Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador, Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez and two other Salvadoran bishops on the last day of a historic visit by the prelates to plead with U.S. lawmakers to protect through legislation Salvadorans who benefit from Temporary Protected Status and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programs. Returning the combined 215,000 Salvadorans who benefit from those programs to the country's unrelenting violence and economic instability would mean devastating the nation further, breaking up families in the process and taking away the only income some families have, they said. TPS and DACA provide work permits and other protections to immigrants who meet certain criteria. The Trump administration announced these programs were ending. The future of DACA is temporarily tied up in the courts and also is pending action from Congress, which has expressed willingness to provide protection for the beneficiaries in some form. TPS recipients from El Salvador, however, have been told to get their affairs in order by the time the program expires in September 2019. "We're here this week to support the church in El Salvador because we speak with one voice and because the end of TPS represents a real crisis, not only for those who are here ... but also for the people in El Salvador," said Archbishop Wenski. "The end of TPS presents a real crisis.

    Film aims to help young singles reclaim 'social script' for how to date

    BOSTON (CNS) -- Going out on dates to get extra credit might sound like an easy way to boost your grade in professor Kerry Cronin's class at Jesuit-run Boston College. But the extra-credit assignment is a serious attempt to help college students understand what dating really is and the need to develop meaningful relationships in a day and age when the "hookup culture," slang for brief sexual encounters, has become prominent on college campuses and in society at large. A few years ago the popular professor of philosophy at Boston College noticed the decreased dating trend among her undergraduate students. "And I thought, 'Well, this is crazy,'" she said. "So I started asking students to go on what I refer to as 'traditional dates' as part of an extra-credit assignment." The Dating Project was born and now it is the subject and title of a new documentary that will have a one-night-only showing in 600 cinemas nationwide April 17. "The Dating Project" website,, has information about theaters, tickets and a trailer of the film. The film follows Cronin and five single people, ages 20 to 40, in their own quest to find authentic love and meaningful relationships.

    Vietnamese court jails Catholic activist for subversion

    HA TINH, Vietnam (CNS) -- A court in central Vietnam has jailed a Catholic activist after convicting her of subverting the communist state, reported. It quoted an April 13 report in a state-run newspaper as saying the People's Court in Ha Tinh province sentenced Teresa Tran Thi Xuan to nine years in prison April 12 for "attempting to overthrow the people's government." Xuan, 42, also faces another five years under house arrest after finishing what observers called a very harsh sentence. The newspaper said Xuan shared articles and video clips on social media from "reactionary groups" to undermine the government. She also was accused of organizing protests at the local government headquarters against the Taiwanese steel firm Formosa, which was responsible for a massive toxic waste spill in the province. During the protests, in April 2017, she incited people to damage public property and cause social disorder, the court said.

    Kenyan bishops urge compensation for victims of postelection violence

    NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- Kenya's Catholic bishops urged compensation for deaths, injuries and loss of property in last year's extended election season, which divided the nation and harmed its economy. Disputed elections led to the deaths of about 100 people. Kenya's Supreme Court nullified an Aug. 8 poll, citing procedural irregularities, and President Uhuru Kenyatta won a repeat vote in October that opposition leader Raila Odinga boycotted. Many people in the East African country "are still traumatized by what they went through and remain bitter, and hence are in need of healing and reconciliation," Bishop Philip Anyolo of Homa Bay, chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, said at an April 13 news conference in the capital, Nairobi. "For those who lost their property and those undergoing medical treatment ... there must be a way of compensation and some assistance" to enable them to "recover their lives and livelihoods," he said. The country's bishops welcomed March talks between Kenyatta and Odinga, Bishop Anyolo said, noting that "their coming together was and will continue to be good for the country." Odinga lost in a 2007 election, which was followed by violence fueled by ethnic tensions that killed more than 1,000 people.

    London council sets up buffer zone around abortion clinic

    YORK, England (CNS) -- A London council has become the first local authority in the UK to approve a buffer zone around an abortion clinic. Members of Ealing Council, in the west of the capital, voted April 10 to establish a public space protection order, which would ban public prayer and offers of assistance to women within 100 meters of a clinic run by Marie Stopes UK. The decision means Britain will become the second Western democracy to ban pro-life activities in the vicinity of abortion clinics. It follows Canada, where in February 50-meter exclusion zones were enforced around eight Ontario facilities. Marie Stopes UK sought the ruling because it claimed that members of the Good Counsel Network, a largely Catholic group, were harassing its clients, a charge the pavement counselors have strongly denied. Richard Bentley, managing director at Marie Stopes UK, said approval for the buffer zone was "a landmark decision for women."

    Gospel calls Christians to reject economy that exploits, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Gospel requires Christians to "denounce personal and social sins committed against God and neighbor in the name of the god money and of power for its own sake," Pope Francis wrote. Finance and the economy effect every person and every society, playing a large part in "determining the quality of life and even death" and the degree to which a person's life is worthy of his or her God-given dignity, the pope said in the introduction to the book "Potere e Denaro" ("Power and Money"). The book was released April 12. Written by Michele Zanzucchi, editor of Citta Nuova, the magazine of the Focolare Movement, the volume examines what Pope Francis has said and written about the economy and business, social justice, poverty and care for creation. In line with his predecessors and with the social teaching of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis wrote in the introduction, he knows that the Gospel message applies to social and economic questions as well as to questions of personal spirituality and church life because "God does not abandon his creatures to the clutches of evil."

    'Schizoid' world brags it's free while chained to greed, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christian freedom is being free from worldly ambition, fashion and passion and being open to God's will, Pope Francis said. The world today "is a bit schizoid, schizophrenic, right? It shouts, 'Freedom, freedom, freedom!' but it is more slave, slave, slave," he said in his homily April 13 at morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae. People need to think about what kind of freedom they seek in the world, he said. Is it Christian, he asked, or "am I slave to my passions, my ambitions, to many things, to wealth, to fashion. It seems like a joke, but so many people are slaves to fashion!"

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  • In historic trip to advocate for migrants, Salvadoran bishops provide hope

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Invoking a Salvadoran who's about to become the country's first Catholic saint, the man who now occupies his old post asked immigrants and their children during an April 11 Mass in Washington to pray for Blessed Oscar Romero's intercession, a "miracle," that would allow U.S. lawmakers to grant immigration relief to thousands of Salvadorans and other immigrants to the United States. Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador, El Salvador, flanked by the country's Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez and two other Salvadoran bishops, addressed worried immigrants gathered at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart, telling them that neither the Catholic Church, nor God, would abandon them as they face being stripped of documents to stay and work in the country legally. In the last few months, the Trump administration announced it was ending the Temporary Protected Status and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programs that grant for a time work permits and other protections to immigrants who meet certain criteria. The end of the programs would affect more than 215,000 Salvadorans facing a return to a country in turmoil, the archbishop said. "We would like you to invoke (Blessed) Romero for his intercession in this miracle, a solution to this problem," Archbishop Escobar said. "He is with us and intercedes for us."

    Georgetown gathering seeks to overcome polarization within church

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles will be among dozens of U.S. church leaders convening in June to address the troublesome polarization that marks church and political life and develop steps to work toward achieving the common good. The June 4-6 gathering at Georgetown University, "Though Many, One: Overcoming Polarization Through Catholic Social Thought," is meant to be a starting point to bring about Pope Francis' vision of the church responding to human hurts and social challenges by living out the joy of the Gospel, organizers said. The two prelates, at times perceived as representing "liberal" (Cardinal Cupich) and "conservative" (Archbishop Gomez) perspectives in the American Catholic Church, will be part of an emerging dialogue that planners hope will build stronger relationships and overcome long-standing divides. "This is a much-needed step to help overcome the polarization we see in our church and in our country," said Kim Daniels, a planner of the gathering who is a consultor to the U.S. bishops' Committee for Religious Liberty and a member of Vatican's Secretariat for Communications. "That polarization hurts our evangelizing and witness for the common good." John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought at Georgetown University, which is convening the gathering with other church organizations, echoed Daniels' concern.

    Nun-activist who protests 'immoral' U.S. nuclear weapons focus of film

    SOUTH BEND, Ind. (CNS) -- From her petite frame, knit sweater and snow-white hair, it would be difficult to guess that 88-year-old Sister Megan Rice, a member of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, recently spent two years behind bars for a felony. Even more difficult to comprehend: This octogenarian was invited to a congressional hearing, spoke at the United Nations in New York City and is now touring the country as the star of a new documentary titled "The Nuns, The Priests and The Bombs." "(I feel) very incompetent to be able to do it properly," she explained to Catholic News Service when asked about her newfound role as spokeswoman for a cause close to her heart, "but at least I have a human experience and I have a responsibility to share." Sister Rice sacrificed two years of her freedom and is now campaigning across the country to protest the United States' nuclear arsenal. At an event April 8 hosted by the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, her eyes lit with passion and her voice became forceful each time she spoke on the topic. More about the film can be found at

    Indonesian government taps two Catholic universities to help other schools

    JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNS) -- The Indonesian government has chosen two top Catholic universities to help underdeveloped universities improve their quality of education. reported that Atma Jaya Catholic University in Jakarta and Soegijapranata Catholic University in Semarang are among 29 leading Indonesian educational institutions picked for the role. The move is part of Indonesian government efforts to raise the standard of higher education in the country and improve the workforce. The government wants the 29 universities to share knowledge, not only on the academic front, but also regarding administration and management. Indonesia has more than 4,600 state and private colleges, many of which fail to offer anywhere near the same level of education as top-tier institutions, critics say. More than 20 Catholic colleges and four Catholic universities are regarded as being in the top tier, according to the Education Ministry.

    Update: Blessed Romero's canonization probably in Rome in October

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- During an April 11 homily in Washington, Salvadoran Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas said the canonization of Blessed Oscar Romero will "probably" be in Rome and "probably" take place at end of October after a meeting of bishops. He hedged his statement in an interview with Catholic News Service saying the final decision is up to Pope Francis. "Soon we will have a canonization," the archbishop said to a crowd of mostly Salvadoran immigrants gathered for Mass at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart. "On May 19, we will know the date and the place." That's the date cardinals will gather at the Vatican for a meeting known as a consistory, where they're expected to decide the details. The archbishop's statement came hours after reports that Honduran Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga said to members of the press in Madrid that the Romero canonization would take place Oct. 21. El Salvador's Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez, who also was present at the Mass in Washington, referenced Cardinal Maradiaga's statement and said, "Let's wait until the official announcement" but also said the Honduran cardinal was close to the pope and may know details.

    Eight Canadian dioceses withhold funds to Development and Peace

    TORONTO (CNS) -- Citing "alarming concerns" related to an ongoing investigation, Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto has joined Western bishops and other dioceses across Canada in withholding funds from the overseas development agency of the Canadian bishops' conference. At least eight dioceses have suspended financial support to Development and Peace following preliminary results of a probe that found some of the agency's partners conflict with Catholic moral and social teaching, particularly on abortion, contraception and gender theory. The Canadian Catholic Conference of Bishops issued a statement April 9 confirming that a "joint research project" with Development and Peace is underway in response to questions raised about some of its partners. Following preliminary findings, the CCCB "expressed concern" to the agency, and now both parties are "hopeful that any necessary clarifications will be determined shortly," according to the statement. Among dioceses withholding funds are Toronto and St. Catharines in Ontario; Calgary, Edmonton and St. Paul in Alberta; Vancouver and Nelson in British Columbia; and Whitehorse, Yukon. Cardinal Collins noted the Canadian bishops' review of the Development and Peace partners "has produced alarming concerns about dozens of overseas organizations." He said pending a more detailed report expected in coming months, the Toronto Archdiocese will hold back approximately $800,000 earmarked for Development and Peace from the archdiocesan ShareLife campaign.

    Lebanese cardinal warns against 'new drums of war' in Syria

    BEIRUT (CNS) -- Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai appealed to world leaders to stop the war in Syria and to work for comprehensive peace through diplomatic means. "As the great powers are beating the drums of a new war against Syria, we regret the absence of a language of peace from the mouths of senior officials in our world today," said Cardinal Rai, patriarch of Maronite Catholics, in an address April 12 directed to the international community. In reference to the stance of world leaders toward Syria, the cardinal said, "Most tragically, their hearts are devoid of the slightest human emotion toward the millions of innocent Syrians who have been forced to flee their land under the fire of war, its crimes, destruction, terror and violence. We appeal to the conscience of the great powers and the international community to work to end the war and to bring about a just, comprehensive and lasting peace through political and diplomatic means -- not military," Cardinal Rai stressed. "The people of the Middle East are entitled to live in peace and tranquility. The declaration of war is very weak," he said, adding that peacebuilding is the ultimate in heroism. "Among the great powers, you will remember that we all know how to start wars, but we do not know how they end."

    Update: USCCB migration chair shares concerns prompted by border troops

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration committee said April 11 he agrees with concerns raised by U.S. bishops on the southern border about President Donald Trump's call to deploy National Guard troops to the region. "Current law entitles those fleeing persecution and arriving in our country to due process as their claims are reviewed," Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, said in a statement. He reiterated the April 6 statement by eight Catholic bishops from U.S.-Mexico border states that said: "Seeking refuge from persecution and violence in search of a peaceful life for oneself and one's family is not a crime." The bishop also noted, "Our faith calls us to respond with compassion to those who suffer and seek safe haven; we ask our government to do the same as it seeks to safely and humanely secure the border." The U.S. bishops who issued a statement concerned about military troops at the border were: Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio and four other Texas bishops, including Bishops Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Michael J. Sis of San Angelo, James Tamayo of Laredo and Mark J. Sietz of El Paso. Other signers included Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger of Tucson, Arizona, Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

    Catholic school students build Spanish, prayer skills reciting the rosary

    HOWARD, Wis. (CNS) -- The voices of children praying in unison fill the classroom inside St. John the Baptist School. But the words these fifth-graders are reciting -- "Dios te Salve Maria, llena eres de gracia, El Senor es contigo" -- may be incomprehensible to a passer-by, unless that person understands Spanish. The fifth-graders in Riley Garbe's Spanish class are incorporating prayer into their curriculum and the combination has resulted in reciting the rosary in Spanish. It's a project that students have greeted with enthusiasm. When Garbe was hired as a Spanish teacher at two Catholic schools in the Green Bay area last January, he said he wanted to incorporate faith into his classes. Garbe, who received his bachelor's degree in English education at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay last spring and spent the summer participating in an international student teaching program in Mexico, splits his time between Holy Family School in Green Bay and St. John the Baptist School in Howard. "My first objective coming in here (was) teaching kindergartners through fifth grade at both schools how to pray in Spanish," said Garbe. "The younger kids know, with a little bit more of my help, the Sign of Cross, the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Glory Be," Garbe told The Compass, Green Bay's diocesan newspaper, during an interview at St. John the Baptist School. "With the older kids, I had to make it a little more challenging."

    Killer robots will make war even more inhumane, Vatican official says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Allowing for the development and use of fully automated lethal weapons systems would make warfare even more inhumane and undermine efforts to achieve peace through dialogue, not an arms race, a Vatican representative said. "A world in which autonomous systems are left to manage, rigidly or randomly, fundamental questions related to the lives of human beings and nations, would lead us imperceptibly to dehumanization and to a weakening of the bonds of a true and lasting fraternity of the human family," Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic told a group of experts at the United Nations in Geneva. The archbishop, who is the Vatican observer to U.N. agencies in Geneva, spoke April 9 at a session for the "Group of Governmental Experts" on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS). States that are party to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons agreed in 2016 to establish the group to address the legal and ethical implications concerning such autonomous technologies, which are also referred to as robotic weapons or "killer robots." The International Committee of the Red Cross has defined LAWS as being "any weapon system with autonomy in its critical functions. That is, a weapon system that can select -- i.e. search for or detect, identify, track, select -- and attack -- i.e. use force against, neutralize, damage or destroy -- targets without human intervention."

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  • Pope apologizes for 'serious mistakes' in judging Chilean abuse cases

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a letter to the bishops of Chile, Pope Francis apologized for underestimating the seriousness of the sexual abuse crisis in the country following a recent investigation into allegations concerning Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno. The pope said he made "serious mistakes in the assessment and perception of the situation, especially due to a lack of truthful and balanced information. I ask forgiveness of all those I have offended and I hope to be able to do it personally in the coming weeks," the pope said in the letter, which was released by the Vatican April 11. Several survivors apparently have been invited to the Vatican to meet the pope. Abuse victims alleged that Bishop Barros -- then a priest -- had witnessed their abuse by his mentor, Father Fernando Karadima. In 2011, Father Karadima was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys. Father Karadima denied the charges; he was not prosecuted civilly because the statute of limitations had run out. Protesters and victims said Bishop Barros is guilty of protecting Father Karadima and was physically present while some of the abuse was going on. During his visit to Chile in January, Pope Francis asked forgiveness for the sexual abuses committed by some priests in Chile. "I feel bound to express my pain and shame at the irreparable damage caused to children by some of the ministers of the church," he said.

    Priests' group recommends revisions in U.S. priestly formation

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- An organization of 1,200 priests has called for revisions in the way seminarians are prepared for ministry so that the U.S. Catholic Church can better address challenges that include declining membership and falling seminary enrollment. The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests addressed five areas of concern, saying that priests must get closer to the people they serve and better understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus as envisioned by Pope Francis. The concerns were outlined in a March 29 letter and eight-page document sent to Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. The committee, which includes eight other archbishops and bishops, is reviewing the Program for Priestly Formation, the fifth and most recent edition of which was published in 2006. The committee is expected to submit revisions for a new edition of the guide at the November 2019 USCCB fall general assembly. The committee's work partly comes in response to the December 2016 release by the Vatican Congregation for Clergy of "The Gift of Priestly Vocation," a detailed set of guidelines and norms for Latin-rite priestly formation. The new guidelines and norms also ensure continuing education, training and support for priests.

    Nine-week Knight of Columbus video series highlights 'Everyday Heroes'

    NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CNS) -- A nine-part online video series from the Knights of Columbus is featuring members who are making a difference in their communities. The "Everyday Heroes" series debuted April 3 and new videos were to appear on a special Knights' website each Tuesday through May 29. They can be viewed at "This film series offers a glimpse into the many 'ordinary' ways in which the Knights serve those around them," Carl Anderson, Knights of Columbus CEO, said in a statement. "'Everyday Heroes' are your brothers, friends and co-workers who quietly serve, often over many years." Joe Reali, a young Knight who was devoted to the Catholic Church as much as he was to football, is featured in the first video. When a family member became ill, he gave up football to care for her, but he died suddenly of an enlarged heart in 2015. The video features friends and family discussing Joe's inspiring life and the establishment of a new Knights of Columbus council named in his honor in Woodbury, New York.

    Pedaling to the peripheries: Bishop to lead team in bike ride across Iowa

    DAVENPORT, Iowa (CNS) -- Bishop Tom R. Zinkula of Davenport takes his cue from Pope Francis. Go out to the peripheries, to the margins. Be a shepherd who lives with the smell of sheep. The bishop will probably get a whiff of a few sheep along with cattle, pigs and other critters that populate Iowa's rural landscape during the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa this summer. The noncompetitive ride, best known as RAGBRAI, is organized by The Des Moines Register daily newspaper. Bishop Zinkula will exchange his miter for a bicycle helmet to lead the diocese's "Pedaling to the Peripheries" team of 20 bicyclists and support crew for RAGBRAI XLVI. This year's 428-mile ride starts July 21 in Onawa and ends July 28 in Davenport, his "home turf." There will be eight overnight stops along the way. "Pope Francis talks about encounter and dialogue. We are going to encounter people who are on the peripheries of the church; people who are unaffiliated or who have drifted away. There are lots of those people," Bishop Zinkula told The Catholic Messenger, Davenport's diocesan newspaper. "That's what we're supposed to do, go out to the people."

    Update: Pontifical Commission for Latin America proposes synod on women

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church in Latin America must recognize and appreciate the role of women and end the practice of using them solely as submissive laborers in the parish, said members of a pontifical commission. In addition, at the end of their plenary meeting March 6-9 at the Vatican, members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America proposed that the church hold a Synod of Bishops "on the theme of the woman in the life and mission of the church. There still exist 'macho,' bossy clerics who try to use women as servants within their parish, almost like submissive clients of worship and manual labor for what is needed. All of this has to end," said the final document from the meeting. L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, reported April 11 that the theme of the four-day meeting, "The woman: pillar in building the church and society in Latin America," was chosen by Pope Francis. In addition to 17 cardinals and seven bishops who are members of the commission, the pope asked that some leading Latin American women also be invited; eight laywomen and six women religious participated in the four-day meeting and in drafting its pastoral recommendations, the newspaper said.

    Syrian refugee, an Islamic State target, shares tale of fleeing homeland

    OMAHA, Neb. (CNS) -- A middle-of-the-night phone call -- then another -- alerted Gabriel Jabbour to the threat. Reluctantly, he packed a few belongings and $3,000 in cash, and fled from Syria with his wife to avoid being publicly executed by Islamic State militants. Now living in Omaha, Jabbour shared the story of his narrow escape and the Catholic faith that sustains him during a dinner and auction hosted by St. Robert Bellarmine Parish to help raise funds for resettlement of Middle East Christians displaced by terrorism, war and persecution. That effort -- "Rebuilding the Cradle of Christianity" -- is being led by St. John the Baptist Parish Knights of Columbus Council 10305 in Fort Calhoun. The dinner and auction drew more than 330 people to the Omaha parish's Mainelli Center and raised about $125,000, more than double the group's goal. Proceeds will fund construction of 60 or more simple homes as part of an international Knights of Columbus effort. Donations will continue to be accepted through the end of the year at

    Scientists, farmers, theologians discuss agriculture as 'noble vocation'

    ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- The story was about a duck -- a friendly duck that had been spending time in a man's yard, and now the man was feeding it. He had asked his pastor, Father Gregory Mastey, if he had time to listen to his story, and Father Mastey had said yes. "After about 15 minutes of him telling me these stories about this duck that keeps showing up ... then he turned to tears. And I said, 'What else is happening, George?' And he says, 'I'm lonely after my wife passed. My life isn't the same when I have neighbors so far away. I feel the pains of this.' And that came out of a duck story." This is the reality of pastoral life in rural areas, said Father Mastey at a recent three-day conference in St. Paul on agriculture and vocation. Titled "A Noble Vocation: Integrating Faith, Food and the Environment," the event was organized by St. Paul-based Catholic Rural Life. A priest of the Diocese of St. Cloud, Father Mastey was one of three panelists speaking on "Faith, Food, and the Environment and the Task of the Pastoral Leader."

    Conference honors women religious who put their lives at risk to serve

    ROME (CNS) -- Today's women religious belong to "a long line of courageous women" whose faith in God and love for humanity led them to put their lives at risk, said Sister Patricia Murray, an Irish member of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In situations of war and conflict around the globe, women religious face the same dangers as the women they live and work with, including rape and murder, said Sister Yudith Pereira-Rico, a member of the Religious of Jesus and Mary and executive director of Solidarity with South Sudan. The two sisters and several others spoke April 11 at a symposium, "Women Religious on the Frontlines," sponsored by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, the International Union of Superiors General and Solidarity with South Sudan, an international project of women's and men's religious orders. Callista Gingrich, the U.S. ambassador, opened the conference saying women religious are "often the unsung heroes of the Catholic Church" and that their service to people and their contributions to peace and justice "should be emulated and celebrated." The ambassador used the occasion to introduce Sister Maria Elena Berini, a 73-year-old Italian member of the Sisters of Charity of St. Jeanne Antide Thouret. On the recommendation of the embassy, Sister Berini, a missionary in the Central African Republic, was honored in March as one of the U.S. State Department's "International Women of Courage."

    As economic crisis drags on, Venezuelan nuns forced to turn away elderly

    CARACAS, Venezuela (CNS) -- The most dreaded part of Sister Emilia Rivero's day comes each morning. When she opens the door to the nursing home she runs in downtown Caracas, she almost always finds six to eight senior citizens, sometimes with their families, waiting outside, hoping she has space. Sister Rivero usually must turn them away. "We can't take in anybody else because of the food situation. We have to give them three meals a day, and we can't," she said. As Venezuela's unprecedented economic crisis drags on for a fifth year, the four sisters from the Hermanitas de los Pobres de Maiquetia congregation who run the Providence Asylum nursing home face a heartbreaking dilemma: record demand, but record-low resources. A few years ago, the sisters started gradually reducing the number of new residents accepted. While the space could house up to 100 seniors, today the sisters only have enough food and money to take care of 45. "Once we get enough food for them all, then we have to worry about their medicines," said Sister Rivero.

    Vatican announces consistory to approve canonizations

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will preside over a consistory to approve several canonizations, the Vatican announced. The May 19 consistory, which the Vatican announced April 11, will most likely confirm the canonization dates of Blesseds Paul VI and Oscar Romero. The meeting of cardinals and promoters of the sainthood causes, also known as an "ordinary public consistory," formally ends the process of approving a new saint. While no date has been formally announced, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, has said that Blessed Paul's canonization will take place at the end of the Synod of Bishops on youth and discernment, scheduled for Oct. 3-28. At a meeting March 6 with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, Pope Francis recognized a miracle attributed to Blessed Paul, who was born Giovanni Battista Montini and was pope from 1963 to 1978.

    Baptism opens door to Holy Spirit's action, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Parents who prefer not to baptize their children in the hopes that they will "understand and ask for baptism" as adults lack faith that the Holy Spirit will act in their child's life, Pope Francis said. While some believe that there is no need to "baptize a child that does not understand" the meaning of the sacrament, the pope said doing so would deny the chance for "Christian virtues to grow within that child and blossom. Always give this opportunity to all children: to have within themselves the Holy Spirit that will guide them in life. Do not forget to baptize your children," the pope said during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square April 11. Arriving in the square under cloudy skies, Pope Francis once again picked up several children who rode around in his popemobile while he circled around to greet thousands of pilgrims. After dropping them off, the pope made his way toward the stage when he was greeted by some unlikely guests at the audience: three llamas.

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  • Migration aid project study focuses on 'Catholic social innovation'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A study by Boston College's Center for Social Innovation found nearly 200 Catholic-originated projects both in the United States and around the world that used Catholic social innovation to help stem the worldwide migration and refugee crisis. The study, funded by FADICA -- an acronym for Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities -- was issued earlier this spring. The study is the first part of a three-year Catholic social innovation initiative sponsored by FADICA in partnership with Boston College. "The research revealed that Catholic social innovation in the refugee crisis is made distinct by fostering or leveraging social capital and repurposing existing resources to solve a new problem," the executive summary of the report said. One example was highlighted by Alexia Kelley, FADICA's president and CEO, during an April 10 phone interview with Catholic News Service. The Sisters of the Good Shepherd, who have a charism to work with migrants and refugees, conducted job training projects for 1,200 women in Bolivia and Chile who were at risk of becoming migrants. "An amazing statistic ... all 1,200 women got a job. And 60 percent of the women who were potentially going to migrate decided to stay with their families," Kelley said.

    Baltimore cardinal booed, heckled at '66 hearing for backing fair housing

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Not long after he was loudly booed and heckled while speaking in favor of an open housing bill before the Baltimore City Council in January 1966, Cardinal Lawrence J. Shehan calmly and confidently read his testimony for a local television audience. "The dignity of the individual requires that no prohibition be placed against any person with respect to his place of habitation simply because of his race, religion or ancestry," said the white-haired prelate, who headed the Baltimore Archdiocese from 1961 to 1974. "The overwhelming persuasive moral argument which calls for statutory relief is one which cannot be postponed or crippled." For the first time in more than a half century, digitized footage of the cardinal's television appearance is now available for viewing on YouTube While researching archival material to support Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori's recent pastoral letter on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s principles of nonviolence, the archdiocesan communications office uncovered the newsreel at archives held at the University of Baltimore. Originally broadcast by WMAR-TV in Baltimore, the news coverage includes reaction to the cardinal's testimony from prominent Baltimoreans including then-Baltimore City Council President Thomas D'Alesandro III and then-Baltimore Mayor Theodore R. McKeldin. The bill, introduced by D'Alesandro, would have banned discrimination in the sale and rental of all city housing. According to 1966 coverage by what is today known as Catholic News Service, approximately half the audience stood and applauded as the cardinal walked to the microphone. Others booed and jeered him.

    Minnesota Catholic uses failures to inspire writing of baseball novel

    MINNEAPOLIS (CNS) -- Tom Murray's novel "Fathers, Sons and the Holy Ghosts of Baseball," set in rural Iowa, is a product of failure. Its seed was planted after he made a big mistake during the football season in his junior year at Notre Dame High School in Burlington, Iowa. Murray, 61, recalled the time when he was summoned off the bench to play defense during a game. The coach asked him to do one simple thing: run three steps forward from the line of scrimmage into the opponent's backfield after the ball was hiked, and stand there. Murray did so, but chased the quarterback when he ran away from him. The quarterback handed off the ball to a wide receiver running the opposite way on a reverse. Murray, 17, was caught off guard and was not ready to make the tackle. "I never got to play again" said Murray, who belongs to St. Joan of Arc Catholic community in Minneapolis. He sat on the bench, watching his teammates and their fathers in the stands. By the end of the season, he knew he wanted to write a novel.

    Catholic priest in Congo shot dead; kidnapped priest released, unharmed

    ARU, Congo (CNS) -- A Catholic priest was shot dead in Congo shortly after celebrating Mass. U.N. radio in Congo reported April 9 that Father Etienne Nsengiunva, a priest in Kitchanga, was shot at point-blank range April 8. Father Emmanuel Kapitula, vicar of the parish in Kitchanga, said an armed man entered the room where Father Nsengiunva was eating with parishioners. "An armed man entered his house, pointed a gun at him and shot several times, killing him instantly. Those who were sharing the meal ... could not believe it," said Father Kapitula. Father Kapitula has asked the government to protect the people. "We demand that investigations be done, that culprits be punished," he added. The murder occurred three days after Father Celestin Ngango of St. Paul Karambi Parish, abducted on Easter, was found, unharmed, by villagers.

    Fond memories of global community echo with bishops' justice advocate

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A picture of a young Palestinian boy, with dark, soulful eyes and a bit of a dirty face, hangs on the back wall of Stephen Colecchi's office at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington. When Colecchi looks at it, he offers a prayer for the nameless child and the Palestinian people. "I met him in a mosque in Gaza on my first trip there (2007) and he hung around me. He kept smiling at me so I kept smiling at him," recalled Colecchi, director of the U.S. bishops' Office of International Justice and Peace. "I pray for him whenever I look at his picture. I wonder if he's still alive and doing OK." The boy is one of countless people Colecchi met during fact-finding trips around the world. Their struggles inspired Colecchi's work to protect human life throughout the 14 years at the USCCB. "The best thing about this work, in addition to working with the bishops," he told Catholic News Service as he approached his April 30 retirement, "was you get to bring three assets of the church together: the experience of the church on the ground in every country around the world; the teaching of the church, the social teaching; and then the relationships ... that help inform what you're able to bring."

    Repentant sinners need merciful confessors, not inquisitors, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Priests must give hope to men and women seeking forgiveness, encouraging them in their struggle away from the slippery slope of sin, Pope Francis said. Being merciful in the confessional helps penitents return to God without fear, even if they repeatedly stumble or slip on a path that "is filled with stones and banana peels," the pope told 550 priests he designated as "missionaries of mercy. In short, mercy restores dignity," the pope said April 10. "The penitent does not indulge in self-pity for the sin committed, and the priest does not blame him for the evil from which he repented. Rather, he encourages him to look to the future with new eyes, leading him to 'springs of water.'" The missionaries of mercy, religious-order and diocesan priests from around the world, were among more than 1,000 who received a special papal mandate to preach and teach about God's mercy during the 2015-16 Holy Year of Mercy. After listening to "many testimonies of conversion," Pope Francis said he felt the need to prolong their mission.

    Sweden's Lutherans to let Catholic parish hold Masses in Lund cathedral

    LUND, Sweden (CNS) -- For the first time in 500 years, Lutherans in Sweden are welcoming Catholics to celebrate Masses in Lund cathedral. The historic cathedral, formerly the site of bitter religious feuding, has become a site of interfaith friendship since Pope Francis held a service there in 2016. The agreement to allow Catholic Masses to be celebrated in the cathedral was announced in early April to accommodate the growing parish of St. Thomas Aquinas in Lund, which will be undergoing building renovations. Catholic services will be held there beginning in October until the renovations are complete. "People are very excited," said Dominican Father Johan Linden, pastor of St. Thomas Parish. "As I and my Lutheran counterparts have stressed, this is not merely a practical solution but a fruit of the Holy Father's visit and the joint document 'From Conflict to Communion.'" The Catholic Diocese of Stockholm credits the church sharing to Pope Francis' visit, saying the pope has had a direct impact in improving Christian relationships in Sweden.

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