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  • Through serving, people continue to 'Walk With Francis' a year after trip

    By Kelly Seegers

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As Pope Francis boarded the plane after his visit to Washington a year ago, he carried with him a book containing more than 100,000 pledges that people in the Archdiocese of Washington had made to "Walk With Francis" by either praying, serving or acting to improve their community.

    Leading up to the pope's visit, the Archdiocese of Washington, along with Catholic Charities, launched the Walk With Francis initiative, which encouraged people to prepare for the pope's visit by following in his example of love and mercy.

    People were asked to make pledges to pray regularly for the pontiff, to serve by caring for those in need and supporting charitable efforts, or to act to promote human life and dignity, justice and peace, family life and religious freedom, care for creation and the common good.

    In the months that followed, individuals, schools, parishes and other organizations made pledges to help their community in different ways. Many people posted their pledges on social media, using #WalkwithFrancis. The day before the pope arrived in Washington Sept. 22, 2015, the Walk With Francis pledges topped the 100,000 mark. The Archdiocese of Washington then compiled all of the pledges into a 400-page book that they presented to the pope as a parting gift when he left in late afternoon Sept. 24, 2015.

    At Little Flower School in Great Mills, Maryland, each class decided for itself how they were going to Walk With Francis. Students in the pre-kindergarten class pledged to act like Jesus toward one another, the second grade pledged to do an act of kindness every day, the fifth grade pledged to plant a school garden, the seventh grade pledged to pray the prayer of St. Francis every day, and the eighth grade pledged to do guided meditations on mercy.

    Patricia Peters, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade religion, saw the pledges that her students made go beyond the time leading up to Pope Francis' visit. Both the seventh and the eighth grade continued their prayers and meditations regularly throughout the year. In addition, two students from her seventh-grade class were inspired by the prayer of St. Francis to start a pet supply drive that now runs annually from the beginning of the year until the blessing of the pets on St. Francis of Assisi's feast day.

    "It was very affirming for me to be a part of it, to watch my students grow through the experience and to be able to be a part of the larger church in that way," Peters told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Washington Archdiocese. "It definitely strengthened my faith to be a part of that with my students."

    Several prominent figures in the Washington area also signed the Walk With Francis Pledge. Katie Ledecky, the five-time Olympic swimming gold medalist who attends Little Flower Parish in Bethesda, Maryland, pledged to help Shepherd's Table, Catholic Charities and Bikes for the World. John Carlson, a member of the Washington Capitals, pledged to "continue to work on my faith and become a better father every day."

    Erik Salmi, director of communications for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, said these pledges "helped bring some great energy to the campaign."

    At The Catholic University of America, students were encouraged to sign pledges after the opening Mass of the school year. Many of the students, such as James Walsh, still wear their "Walk With Francis" wristbands as a reminder of the pledges they made that day.

    "I like to keep it on as a good reminder ... to stay humble," Walsh said.

    Catholic University also had a "Serve With Francis Day," where hundreds of students went out to serve their local community.

    Salmi said the effects of the Walk With Francis initiative are hard to measure, because it is similar to when "you drop a stone in the middle of a pond and the ripples go pretty far and wide." However, he said he did know that all of the Catholic Charities programs benefited from having volunteers that joined them.

    The good deeds did not end when the pope left. Since his visit, more than 10,000 additional pledges have been made. Through the Drive with Francis initiative, the Fiat that Pope Francis rode in is being used to help those in need. There is even a new hashtag, #DrivewithFrancis, so that people can share on social media what they are doing with the papal Fiat.

    Two Fiats were used by Pope Francis during his visit to Washington and later the cars were donated to the archdiocese by Pope Francis and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The proceeds of the auction of one of the cars are being donated to various charities.

    A private donor who wanted to remain anonymous is letting the archdiocese use the second Fiat via the #DrivewithFrancis initiative to promote good works, activities and social service programs aiding the local community.

    The car has been parked at various events in the area, collecting food for a community food bank or baby items for a crisis pregnancy center in Washington. It was present at the Washington Nationals' Faith Day, where people could line up to make breakfast bags for the homeless served by Catholic Charities' Cup of Joe program. After the game, 550 Cup of Joe bags were delivered to Adam's Place shelter, which is run by Catholic Charities.

    "That seems pretty perfect for me in summarizing how His Holiness would want the car to be used," Salmi said.

    For the first anniversary of the pope's visit to Washington, Catholic Charities and the Archdiocese of Washington launched a "Walk With Francis 2.0" initiative for the Sept. 24-25 weekend, when people could renew the pledge or make a new one if they had not done it before.

    Parishes in the archdiocese planned to have pledge cards for parishioners to fill out during Mass and bring up to the altar.

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    Seegers is on the staff of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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CNS News Briefs

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  • Group of Catholic advisers named for Trump's presidential campaign

    NEW YORK (CNS) -- The campaign of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced Sept. 22 that it has formed a group of Catholic leaders to advise him "on those issues and policies important to Catholics and other people of faith in America." A news release said the Catholic Advisory Group "is a key element of the Faith and Cultural Advisory Committee to the campaign." The 34-member group includes two former U.S. ambassadors to the Vatican, Francis Rooney and Jim Nicholson; former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum; Joseph Cella, founder of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast; Mary Matalin, former counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney; several members of Congress; Lisa Bourne, a journalist with LifeSiteNews; and a number of pro-life leaders, including Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, Janet Morana, co-founder of the Silent no More Campaign; and Father Frank Pavone, national director of the Priests for Life. Catholic News Service received no immediate reply to two email queries sent to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign asking if that campaign had assembled a similar group of Catholic advisers. "I believe the Trump campaign sees it as important to reach out to Catholic voters because the Catholic population does exercise a significant influence in each election, even though Catholics do not vote as a 'bloc' and that has not been the goal of the church," Father Pavone told CNS in an email Sept. 23.

    Ad campaign cites poll showing most Americans favor abortion restrictions

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- March for Life Action has launched a public awareness campaign through digital and television outlets saying that candidates running for public office who promise to expand women's access to abortion "are out of touch with American voters." "With this ad, we encourage Americans to take a deeper look at their candidates," said Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, in a statement Sept. 22, the day the campaign began. "Politicians who claim to be 'pro-choice,' essentially advocate for abortion-on-demand up until the time of birth, paid for by your taxpayer dollars," she said. "This radical position is out of touch with the large majority of Americans." The first phase of the campaign was to run Sept. 22 through Sept. 26 as a lead-in to the first in a series of presidential debates. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump were to face off at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York., at 9 p.m. (Eastern time) Sept. 26. "NBC Nightly News" anchor Lester Holt was scheduled to moderate the debate. Without using actors, the ad features six women from different political and professional backgrounds. It will run during major network programs including "Madame Secretary," "Today Show," "CBS This Morning," "60 Minutes" and other major programs. It will be seen in Columbus and Dayton, Ohio, a key battleground state in the presidential election; in Pittsburgh and Scranton, Pennsylvania; Richmond, Virginia; and Washington. The campaign cites results of a Marist Poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus that were released in late July that found Americans strongly support abortion restrictions.

    New Mexico dancers keep conquistador's 323-year promise to St. Lawrence

    BERNALILLO, N.M. (CNS) -- For the people of Bernalillo, the feast of St. Lawrence is always more than just a fiesta. It has profound historical, religious and personal meaning to all who celebrate it. This year was no different. As they have done annually since 1693, a group of dancers gathered in the streets of Bernalillo to honor the town's patron saint on his Aug. 10 feast with La Danza de los Matachines, a complex series of religious dances from colonial Spain. The town of Bernalillo, next to the Rio Grande, is among the earliest Spanish settlements in the New World. Famed explorer Francisco Vazquez de Coronado established a large camp near there during the winter of 1540-41 in his search for the Seven Cities of Gold, or "Cibola." Gilbert Sanchez vividly remembers the first time as a child he witnessed the Matachines procession with St. Lawrence, or San Lorenzo. "Throughout the entire procession, I kept seeing the light glinting off the glass around the saint," he recalled. "Every year after that, I always followed San Lorenzo." Sanchez has danced for San Lorenzo ever since. A group member for over 30 years, he now holds the title of "monarca," or monarch, within the Matachines, which is hierarchically structured based on experience. The monarca holds the highest rank and controls the structure of the entire dance. The Matachines perform a series of nine intricate dances to the sound of unwritten guitar and violin music passed down for over three centuries.

    Through serving, people continue to 'Walk With Francis' a year after trip

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As Pope Francis boarded the plane after his visit to Washington a year ago, he carried with him a book containing more than 100,000 pledges that people in the Archdiocese of Washington had made to "Walk With Francis" by either praying, serving or acting to improve their community. Leading up to the pope's visit, the Archdiocese of Washington, along with Catholic Charities, launched the Walk With Francis initiative, which encouraged people to prepare for the pope's visit by following in his example of love and mercy. People were asked to make pledges to pray regularly for the pontiff, to serve by caring for those in need and supporting charitable efforts, or to act to promote human life and dignity, justice and peace, family life and religious freedom, care for creation and the common good. In the months that followed, individuals, schools, parishes and other organizations made pledges to help their community in different ways. Many people posted their pledges on social media, using #WalkwithFrancis. The day before the pope arrived in Washington Sept. 22, 2015, the Walk With Francis pledges topped the 100,000 mark. The Archdiocese of Washington then compiled all of the pledges into a 400-page book that they presented to the pope as a parting gift when he left in late afternoon Sept. 24, 2015. At Little Flower School in Great Mills, Maryland, each class decided for itself how they were going to Walk With Francis. Students in the pre-kindergarten class pledged to act like Jesus toward one another, the second grade pledged to do an act of kindness every day, the fifth grade pledged to plant a school garden, the seventh grade pledged to pray the prayer of St. Francis every day, and the eighth grade pledged to do guided meditations on mercy.

    Bishop Jugis calls all to pray for peace, justice in Charlotte

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CNS) -- After two nights of violence in Charlotte, Bishop Peter J. Jugis called on men, women and children in the Diocese of Charlotte to join him in prayers for "peace and justice" for all victims of violence and for law enforcement personnel who have been victims of "unjust violence. Let us pray for all men and women of good will to be instruments of harmony and the always-shining light of Christ in our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools and public places," the bishop said in a statement Sept. 22. The protests late Sept. 20 and Sept. 21, with the crowds swelling at one point to 1,000 people, followed the fatal police shooting of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott, an African-American, outside an apartment complex the afternoon of Sept. 20. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said while they were trying to serve a warrant on another person in the area, Scott approached them from his parked car carrying a handgun and ignoring their calls to drop it. In their statement, police said Officer Brentley Vinson, who also is an African-American, perceived an "imminent deadly threat" and shot Scott. Scott later died at a local hospital. Family members insisted that Scott was unarmed and was reading a book while waiting in the parking lot to pick up his son from a nearly school bus stop. Police said they recovered a weapon from the scene, not a book. Vinson has been placed on administrative leave while police conduct an investigation that includes eyewitness interviews and review of police video footage.

    Some claim miraculous cures with rocks from Toronto bishop's crypt

    TORONTO (CNS) -- The statistical probabilities behind praying your way out of stage 4 cancer are not good. When you're too skinny, too weak and hallucinating half the time, when friends and family come to your house and just cry, you don't make any long-term plans. Unless you've got a rock from the crypt of Bishop Michael Power. Bits of broken brick and limestone from the basement of St. Michael's Cathedral, all taken from near the final resting place of Toronto's founding Catholic bishop, have made their way into the hands of at least 18 seriously ill people across Canada. Some of them are now claiming miraculous cures. Bishop Power was buried beneath his cathedral in 1847, two years before it was consecrated. He was just shy of his 43rd birthday when he died after weeks of ministering to sick Irish refugees in sheds at Toronto's lakefront. The idea that stones unearthed from below Toronto's Catholic cathedral might hold the power to cure started with Carol Bragagnolo, project manager for Angelus and Associates and an inveterate rockhound. As she kept the cathedral's restoration project on schedule and on budget, Bragagnolo found herself thinking about how the very stones of the cathedral have absorbed generations of prayer.

    Mexican priest kidnapped days after bodies of two other priests found

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- A priest in the Mexican state of Michoacan was abducted from his parish residence, the Archdiocese of Morelia confirmed Sept. 22, the second such attack on priests in Mexico in less than a week. Father Jose Alfredo Lopez Guillen was taken by force Sept. 19 in the community of Janamuato, 240 miles west of Mexico, while his residence in the parish and car were robbed, Cardinal Alberto Suarez Inda of Morelia said in a video statement released by the archdiocese. "Our community suffered the death, the anguish of any of our faithful," Cardinal Suarez said. "In this case, it is a good man, dedicated to doing good and peaceful, which is why this barbarism cannot be justified in any way." The abduction continued a disturbing trend of attacks against priests across Mexico, though Catholic leaders are at a loss to explain the motives, which have included robbery, organized crime activity and possible conflicts with drug cartel leaders. The Catholic Multimedia Center has documented the murders of 14 Mexican priests in less than four years. On Sept. 19, two priests were kidnapped and killed in the Mexican state of Veracruz, though the stated motive of the crime has caused controversy. Veracruz state attorney general Luis Angel Bravo Contreras told reporters Sept. 20 that the "victims and the victimizers knew each other" and added that the attack was "not a kidnapping."

    Quebec Emmy winner, son of theologians, thought he would always be poor

    QUEBEC CITY (CNS) -- Thomas Montminy-Brodeur, 28, just won the Best Visual Effects Emmy Award as part of the team at Rodeo FX, the Montreal studio that makes the special effects for "Game of Thrones." Now at the top, Montminy-Brodeur smiles when he thinks about the work he used to do for the Archdiocese of Quebec a few years ago. It was in 2007, and he was completing his studies in visual effects. "I didn't even know whether I could even do that as a career. I thought I would be poor all my life," he said in an interview. Montminy-Brodeur's father, Raymond Brodeur, was a well-known theologian at Laval University in Quebec City. His mother, Lisette Montminy, also taught theology there. "They never tried to shove religion down our throats. They always gave us a choice, letting us do our own choices. It's thanks to that that I felt I could do something as unorthodox as visual effects," he said. "A lot of friends have asked me over the years if I was a 'Jesus freak,' growing up in a family like that. No. Precisely because I always had this liberty," he added. He ended up working a few months for the Archdiocese of Quebec in 2007 and 2008, as it was preparing for the International Eucharistic Congress. The church of Quebec felt it needed to upgrade its communications capabilities by including video coverage. Montminy-Brodeur was hired to help with camera work, video editing and 3-D animations. A lot of his work was shown on the big screen in the Pepsi Center where the congress was held.

    'Deepest gratitude' offered to public safety professionals at Blue Mass

    GREEN BAY, Wis. (CNS) -- Gratitude summarized the message delivered to members of the public safety profession during the annual Blue Mass celebrated Sept. 18 at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. Numerous uniformed police and fire department personnel attended the Mass concelebrated by Green Bay Bishop David L. Ricken and five priests, with two deacons assisting. "We join in expressing our deepest gratitude to you for all of the sacrifices you make to put your lives in danger in defense of the public good," said Bishop Ricken during his homily. He said the Mass, attended by Catholics and non-Catholics, was an opportunity for community members "to say thank you. ... I am hoping people will not take you for granted, but recognize that you and your families make tremendous sacrifices to serve us and to keep us safe and to keep peace flourishing through our communities." Bishop Ricken offered a brief history of the Blue Mass. The first one was celebrated Sept. 29, 1934, by Father Thomas Dade, founder of the Catholic Police and Fire Society, at St. Patrick Church in Washington. The Mass draws its name from the traditional uniform color associated with those professions. In addition to showing gratitude, Bishop Ricken said the Mass also was an opportunity for the community to show solidarity with all public safety members and to extend a blessing upon them.

    Catholic-Orthodox commission approves statement on authority

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholics and Orthodox need to explore ways authority can be understood and exercised so that is not an obstacle to unity, a group of top-level theologians said. Members of the official Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church met near Chieti, Italy, Sept. 16-21 and approved a document called "Synodality and Primacy in the First Millennium: Toward a Common Understanding in Service to the Unity of the Church." "Primacy" refers to the authority of the lead bishop or pope, and "synodality" refers to the authority exercised collegially by the College of Bishops in the West or a synod of bishops in the Eastern churches. While Orthodox patriarchs are recognized spiritual leaders and exercise authority over some areas of church life, they do not have the kind of jurisdiction the pope has over the Catholic Church and especially over its Latin-rite dioceses. Msgr. Andrea Palmieri, Catholic co-secretary of the commission and an official at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told Catholic News Service Sept. 23 that the document was being translated and would be published "as soon as possible." Twenty-six Orthodox bishops and theologians -- two each from 13 of the 14 Orthodox churches -- and 26 Catholic bishops and theologians participated in the meeting. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church did not send representatives.

    Vatican revises norms for examining alleged miracles

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In an effort to ensure transparency as well as historical and scientific accuracy, Pope Francis has approved revised norms for the Congregation for Saints' Causes regarding medical consultations on healings alleged to be miracles. Among the regulations published by the Vatican Sept. 23 was the requirement that the medical panel have a quorum of six experts and that a two-thirds majority is needed to approve a statement declaring a healing has no natural or scientific explanation. Previously, the declaration -- a key step in a pope's recognition of a miracle attributed to the intercession of a candidate for sainthood -- required the approval of a simple majority of the consultation team members present. "The purpose of the regulation is for the good of the (saints') causes, which can never be separated from the historical and scientific truth of the alleged miracles," Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, secretary of the congregation, said in a Sept. 23 statement. Archbishop Bartolucci presided over a seven-member commission that began revising the regulations in September 2015 to update the norms established by St. John Paul II in 1983. Except in the case of martyrs, in general two miracles are needed for a person to be declared a saint -- one for beatification and the second for canonization.

    Vatican signs international anti-corruption agreement

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Holy See has adhered to the U.N. Convention Against Corruption, an international treaty focused on preventing, outlawing and prosecuting corruption within nations and internationally. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, deposited the ratification papers at the United Nations in New York Sept. 19, the Vatican announced Sept. 23. Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican's foreign minister, wrote in the Vatican newspaper that adopting the international agreement is a recognition that Pope Francis' constant condemnations of corruption and the damage it causes applies "not only to civil society and state governments, but also to the church and Roman Curia." However, he wrote, "the principal dispositions" of the U.N. agreement already are part of Vatican law thanks to legislation enacted since 2010 by both retired Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, particularly regarding financial transparency and the adoption of measures to prevent money laundering. The international agreement, known as the Merida Convention, was adopted in 2005 to help countries prevent and punish corruption in both the public and private sector. The convention obliges signatory nations to promote efficiency and transparency in the public-service sector and recruitment of civil servants based on merit. It includes requirements for financial disclosures on the part of public officials.

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    Copyright © 2016 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

  • Mass celebrates Little League champions' 'talent, joy, sportsmanship'

    ENDWELL, N.Y. (CNS) -- When this year's Little League World Series champs returned home, dozens of law enforcement, fire and emergency vehicles with lights flashing and sirens blaring led them through the welcoming crowd in Endwell. Vehicles with family members were just ahead of the bus carrying the Maine-Endwell Little League players the day after they emerged victorious in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The Mid-Atlantic Region champions beat the Asia-Pacific Region champions 2-1. Thousands came out to greet them that day, Aug. 29, including Father Clarence F. Rumble of the Church of the Holy Family in Endwell, pastor to most of the team and coaches. In the days following their triumphant return, the team appeared with the New York Mets and New York Yankees, as well as the Binghamton Mets. But their welcome to Mass celebrated by Father Rumble at Holy Family Sept. 11, the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., was different. Six of the 11 players and all of the coaches are parishioners. As Mass started, Father Rumble mentioned the day -- 15 years since the "darkest of days in history" -- which he noted happened before the team members were born. "One event was tragic and one is celebratory! Today during this Mass of thanksgiving, we rejoice in this team's accomplishments on and off the field," he said.

    Commission hears how U.S. can better help victimized Iraqis, Syrians

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Representatives of five agencies offered their support to efforts to hold accountable the people carrying out killings, torture and other violence toward Christians and minority ethnic and religious communities in Syria and Iraq during a Capitol Hill hearing. Addressing the Helsinki Commission, which monitors human rights and international cooperation in 57 countries, the speakers Sept. 22 also called upon the United States to step up efforts to provide financial support to nongovernmental organizations serving thousands of displaced people in northern Iraq. The hearing focused largely on the status of Christians, Yezidis, some Muslims and other minorities in the face of atrocities carried out by the Islamic State group. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry determined in March that the atrocities carried by the militants in the two countries were genocide. It was the first U.S. declaration of genocide since Sudanese actions in Darfur in 2004. William Canny, executive director of Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called on the U.S. government and the international community to "take a comprehensive approach, including robust aid" to private organizations and the host governments. Such action would hopefully result in the safe return of the displaced communities, including Christians, to their traditional homelands when the conflict ends, he said.

    Palestinian Catholic chef says he expresses his identity through cooking

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When he was a child, Bassem Hazboun loved helping his mother prepare French delicacies in their Bethlehem kitchen. But it was his father who kept trying to steer him to study engineering as he reached his teens. "You don't need this," his father said when Hazboun told him he wanted to take a cooking course. But the passion he found while cooking by this mother's side never left. "My food is my identity," said Hazboun, a Catholic Palestinian who traveled in September from his native Bethlehem in the West Bank to showcase food from his homeland to various U.S. cities, including Washington and Connecticut, part of the "Room for Hope" festival. The festival aims to raise money for scholarships to help youth in the Holy Land study music, dance, cooking and other arts. Chef Hazboun, 39, studied at Bethlehem University, a Catholic university in the Holy Land, and is the head of the culinary arts program at Dar al-Kalima University's College of Arts and Culture in Bethlehem, which helps youth in the Holy Land hone skills in arts and culture. Hazboun said food from the Holy Land is in a way unique for Christians because some of it hails from biblical times. Sometimes he prepares biblical menus, he said, for those who arrive in the Holy Land for religious pilgrimages. This may mean a menu that includes a lentil soup, a dish of lamb and yogurt, too. Food from the Holy Land also features lots of olives, which are abundant in the region, he said, and spices you won't find elsewhere. "All the foods are special," he told Catholic News Service.

    Christians urged to unite as lobby for well-being of those in Holy Land

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A Christian pastor from Bethlehem says that just as Israel has a powerful lobby, Christians in the U.S. should unite to make sure money sent by their government to Israel will not be used to the detriment of Christians and other inhabitants of the Holy Land. The Rev. Mitri Raheb, a Lutheran pastor from Bethlehem, spoke in Washington Sept. 20 about the diminishing number of Christians in Bethlehem, their life in an occupied city and lack of opportunities for Palestinian Christians who want to remain in the ancestral home for Christians. His lecture "Within and Beyond the Wall," at Washington's Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, addressed the need for Christians outside the Holy Land to advocate for Christians there. That can mean educating themselves about those living there or by calling out politicians who advocate for the U.S. to give money to Israel, which affects the way Palestinian Christians and Palestinians of other faiths are treated by the Jewish state, Rev. Raheb said. The U.S. government announced in mid-September a $38 billion package of military aid for Israel -- or $3.8 billion a year -- over the next 10 years. Palestinian Christians and others are "paying the price" of that aid, including Christians in Bethlehem, which has become "a walled city" and one that is becoming a "like a ghetto," Rev. Raheb said. "And Jewish (people) know what the ghettos are like from their history," he said.

    Puerto Rican protector of abused children wins Lumen Christi Award

    CHICAGO (CNS) -- Melva Arbelo, director of the Santa Teresita of the Child Jesus Children's Home in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, has been named the winner of the 2016-17 Lumen Christi Award given annually since 1978 by Catholic Extension. Arbelo and her team help 24 children ages 3-7 who were removed from their homes after being severely neglected, physically beaten, or emotionally or sexually abused. Lumen Christi Award, Latin for "Light of Christ," honors a person or group who demonstrates how the power of faith can transform lives and communities. Santa Teresita was started in 1999 by the Dominican Sisters of the Presentation and members of Santa Teresita Parish. Arbelo, a longtime member of the parish, was one of the home's first volunteers, helping to raise funds for its launch. She became its director in 2007. Bishop Daniel Fernandez Torres of Arecibo, in nominating Arbelo for the award, said: "There is no better ministry than to take care of those less fortunate and show them that the Lord is good and will always take care of them. That is what Arbelo and her team provide for the children."

    CRS, other NGOs pledge total of $1.2 billion to help world's refugees

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Eighty-six percent of the world's refugees are living in developing countries and it is particularly hard for those countries to meet refugees' needs and provide them an education and a livelihood, according to a senior policy and legislative specialist at Catholic Relief Services. Overall, 65 million people are displaced worldwide, the highest number since World War II, according to the U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees. "After World War II, many of the refugees at that time were living in camps for a certain amount of time, then would be resettled or helped to be repatriated" in their home country, Jill Marie told Catholic News Service. Today, she said, it is not unusual for refugees to live 20 years in a country that is not their own, she said, citing the 5 million Afghan refugees who have lived in Pakistan for "a very long time," many for almost their entire lives. Millions of Afghans have fled their homeland during waves of civil war spanning more than three decades. Marie made the comments to CNS Sept. 16 in advance of the special summit that U.S. President Barrack Obama convened Sept. 20 at the United Nations to address the global refugee crisis. Before the summit, CRS, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency, joined 30 other nongovernmental organizations in pledging a total of $1.2 billion to help address the refugee crisis over a three-year period.

    Retired Archbishop Gerety of Newark dies at 104

    TOTOWA, N.J. (CNS) -- Retired Archbishop Peter L. Gerety of Newark died Sept. 20 while in the care of the Little Sisters of the Poor at the order's elder-care facility in Totowa. He was 104. Plans for his funeral Mass and burial were pending. According to a remembrance of Archbishop Gerety posted Sept. 21 by the Archdiocese of Newark on its website, Archbishop Gerety was the world's oldest Catholic bishop at the time of his death. By 2007, when he was 95, he was already the oldest living U.S. bishop. Archbishop Gerety's body will be received at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart the afternoon of Sept. 25 for the viewing, which will last until 6:30 p.m. local time. On Sept. 26, a 3 p.m. funeral Mass will follow a four-hour period for viewing. Newark Archbishop John J. Myers will be the main celebrant of the Mass, to be followed immediately by internment in the crypt of the cathedral basilica. Archbishop Myers in a Sept. 21 statement called Archbishop Gerety "a remarkable churchman whose love for the people of God was always strong and ever-growing. He served as shepherd of this great archdiocese during a time of spiritual reawakening in the years after the Second Vatican Council, and a time of deep financial difficulties," he added. "He very carefully led the church, her people and institutions through those challenges."

    Pretending to be a saint sickens, corrupts the soul, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The root of all evil lies in greed, pride and vanity, Pope Francis said in a morning homily. Vanity, in fact, compels people to hide their mistakes and cover up what's real with a facade, he said Sept. 22 during an early morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. All that masquerading "sickens the soul," he said. "Vanity is like osteoporosis of the soul, the bones on the outside look good, but inside they are all ruined." Reflecting on the day's readings, the pope talked about the fruitless path of vanity (Eccl 1:2-11) and Herod's growing anxiety and worry about being usurped (Lk 9:7-9). There is a healthy kind of unease the Holy Spirit causes to prompt people to do what is right and good, he said. But then there is a bad kind of unease, like Herod the Great and his son, Herod Antipas, experienced, which "stems from a dirty conscience." The two king Herods tried to relieve their apprehensions by killing people, the pope said, going forward "over people's dead bodies."

    Don't use media to lie, hurt, frighten, pope tells journalists

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Journalists must not foment fear when covering issues or events such as forced migration due to war or famine, Pope Francis said. While criticism and exposing wrongdoing is "legitimate and, I would add, necessary," reporters must never let their words become "a weapon of destruction" against people or nations, he told representatives of Italy's national association of journalists. About 400 people attended the audience in the Apostolic Palace Sept. 22. Despite the major shifts in how news is produced and distributed, journalists who follow professional standards "remain the mainstay, a fundamental element for the vitality of a free and pluralist society," the pope said. Journalists have a great responsibility in writing what is in some ways "the first draft of history," in deciding what news goes out, he said, and, "this is very important," in spreading an interpretation of events to people. Being honest, respectful and professional is especially crucial for journalists because "their voice can reach everyone, and this is a very powerful weapon," he said. If a person is unjustly slandered, "he can be destroyed forever," the pope said. Criticism is certainly legitimate and needed, for example when "denouncing wrongdoing, but this must always be done respecting others, their life and loved ones."

    Refugees try to tell their life stories through art in Rio de Janeiro

    RIO DE JANEIRO (CNS) -- Early this year, after having his house ransacked, artist Serge Kiala knew he would no longer be safe and made plans to flee Kinshasa, Congo. "I inaugurated an art exhibition where I criticized (President Joseph) Kabila for trying to run for a third term as president, and they came after me for that," Kiala told Catholic News Service. With money he obtained from his uncle, he crossed over to the neighboring Republic of Congo and bought a ticket on the first plane off the continent. The destination: Rio de Janeiro. Kiala is one of the four refugees taken in by Caritas, charitable agency of the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, who are showing their work at the Museu do Amanha (Museum of Tomorrow). The exhibition, dubbed "Possible Horizons: Art as a Refuge," has attracted visitors from all over the world, including those in the city for the Paralympics, which ended Sept. 18. To help better integrate these refugees arriving in Rio every day, Brazilian artist-turned-curator Felippe Moraes contacted the Archdiocese of Rio to see how he could help. He was directed toward Caritas, which had already created a group of artists among its refugees. "They are artists before they are refugees," said Moraes, adding that art helps displaced individuals hold on to something from their past, remembering where they came from. "The objective is to keep them artists," added the curator. "They have subjectivity; they have stories to tell, and we should listen."

    Pope names Atlanta auxiliary bishop as coadjutor for Louisiana diocese

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop David P. Talley of Atlanta as coadjutor of the Diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana. The appointment was announced in Washington Sept. 21 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Bishop Talley, a priest of the Atlanta Archdiocese, was named an auxiliary bishop of Atlanta in January 2013 and was ordained a bishop in April of that year. Bishop Ronald P. Herzog is the bishop of Alexandria; he has headed the diocese since 2005. As coadjutor, Bishop Talley automatically becomes head of the diocese upon the death or retirement of its bishop. As coadjutor he will work with Bishop Herzog in governance of the diocese. A Mass of welcome for Bishop Talley will be celebrated in Alexandria Nov. 7. "I'm happy, I'm excited to be here in the Diocese of Alexandria," said Bishop Talley during a morning meeting Sept. 21 with the priests of the diocese. "I pray that I will be the bishop that I need to be for this diocese."

    Pope approves statutes for his united Secretariat of Communications

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Twenty months after establishing the Vatican Secretariat for Communications and beginning a long process of coordinating the many Vatican communications and media operations, Pope Francis approved statutes formalizing the reform. The pope had created the secretariat in January 2015 to coordinate the work that had been done individually by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the Vatican press office, the Vatican Internet office, Vatican Radio, the Vatican television production studio and the Vatican newspaper, printing press, photograph service and publishing house. The statutes governing the secretariat were published Sept. 22 and were to go into effect Oct. 1 on an experimental basis for three years. The social media accounts of the pope -- primarily his Twitter and Instagram accounts -- also are the responsibility of the secretariat, the statutes specify. When Pope Francis created the secretariat he named Msgr. Dario Vigano as its prefect and appointed other top officials. In February, he named department directors for the secretariat and in July, he named the members of the secretariat -- a group of 16 cardinals, bishops and laypeople. The members are to meet at least every two years to discuss matters of "general principle" for Vatican communications efforts.

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  • Faith leaders have moral duty to counter hatred, violence, says cardinal

    UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- Religious leaders have a grave and urgent responsibility to act against genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and other violence committed in the name of religion, said speakers at a United Nations panel Sept. 20. They can help prevent atrocities and promote peace and reconciliation within and beyond their communities, the panel said. Religion has a rightful place in the public sphere, the speakers said, adding that enshrining a proper interpretation of freedom of religion in international law can encourage dialogue and enhance human rights. "Today, as in the past, religions are being manipulated to incite intolerance and hatred against individuals, groups or entire populations," said Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state. Religious leaders have a responsibility, especially in an ever more connected world, to help counter the spread of hatred and violence in the name of religion and to promote more inclusive and peaceful societies, he said. Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Baha'i speakers addressed the Responsibility to Protect, a global political commitment endorsed by all U.N. member states in 2005 to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Religions are not the cause of conflicts and wars, but can be used or misused by determined groups that stand to gain by fueling hostilities, they said. There is a temptation to hide the real cause of despicable violence by attributing it to religion, the Vatican secretary of state said.

    Parishioners say visit by Fatima pilgrimage statue emotional experience

    SELLERSBURG, Ind. (CNS) -- As the rosary was prayed aloud, 16-year-old Rebecca Reynolds knelt with her parents and three siblings near the altar of St. Paul Church in Sellersburg. Her eyes were turned upward toward the illumined statue of Mary. She described the experience as "emotional. I felt like she was actually with us while I was praying," she said. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience." It was not just any statue that Rebecca and her family venerated. It was the traveling pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima, a twin to the statue at the shrine in Fatima, Portugal, where Mary appeared six times to three shepherd children in 1917. The statue is on a nearly two-year mission, from March 2016 through November 2017, to all 50 states in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the final apparition of Mary at Fatima Oct. 13, 1917. The journey is called the "Tour for Peace." It is one of two statues commissioned in 1947 with the purpose of bringing the message of Fatima to the world. It was blessed in 1947 by the bishop of Fatima, and later by Pope Pius XII. It has been traveling for almost 70 years. "The statues were commissioned for the millions of people who may never have the chance to go to Fatima in Portugal," said Patrick Sabat, the statue's custodian and tour coordinator. "Our Lady of Fatima comes to us."

    Despite drop in poverty, advocates say much work remains to lift up poor

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- While 3.5 million fewer Americans were living in poverty and the median household income grew 5.2 percent in 2015, advocates maintain that there's much more work ahead to help the country's 43.1 million poor in their struggles to obtain affordable housing, feed their families and find well-paying jobs. "The (poverty) statistics went down, but there's still a lot of work to do," Sheila Gilbert, president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul's national council, told Catholic News Service. "I would suspect that probably the ones that were the closest to coming out of poverty and had the most resources were the ones who were able to come out of poverty. Those who are further down the line are still in poverty," she said. The Census Bureau reported Sept. 13 that the poverty rate declined to 13.5 percent last year from 14.8 percent in 2014. In addition, federal statistics show that median household income rose to $56,515 in 2015, an increase from $53,718 a year earlier. The figure represents the first annual increase in median household income since 2007, the year before the onset of the Great Recession. Even with the rise in incomes, the 2015 levels still fall short of peak median incomes recorded in 1999.

    Jerusalem archbishop: Christian unity, Mideast situation are priorities

    JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The new apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, said he would focus on listening to the priests and people of the diocese to better understand the pastoral issues. In a Sept. 21 news conference before his official entrance into Jerusalem, Archbishop Pizzaballa told journalists the diocese faces many challenges similar to those of the church in other parts of the world, including divisions within family life and young people's disenchantment with the church. But he said the local church also is concerned with problems affected by the Middle East political situation, such as the influx of refugees, foreign workers and migrants in Jordan and Israel, many of whom are Christian, as well as issues of family reunification and an acute shortage of housing. "The church is very much involved with the problem of refugees in Jordan," said the archbishop, who served as Franciscan custos of the Holy Land for 12 years prior to his appointment as administrator by Pope Francis. He also said there is a need for an administrative reorganization of the patriarchate, with new checks and balances, which is one of the reasons an apostolic administrator was appointed rather than a new patriarch at this time. Archbishop Pizzaballa said he saw Christian unity and religious dialogue as a priority, something he also emphasized as the custos, who was responsible for maintaining the Status Quo agreement with other Christian churches.

    Archbishop: Study shows 'urgent need' for dialogue with other faiths

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The findings of a recent Georgetown University study on how Catholics regard Muslims show an "urgent need" to "cultivate positive dialogue" not just among Catholics and Muslims, but with other faith traditions as well, according to Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago. "Experience has shown that when people of different faith traditions build personal relationships and engage in dialogue to learn about one another, they develop the capacity to work together; and they come to appreciate the positive elements in one another's traditions," said a Sept. 21 statement by Archbishop Cupich, the Catholic co-chairman of the National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue. According to a survey of 1,027 Catholics, nearly half of Catholics can't name any similarities between Catholicism and Islam. When asked about the overall impression of Muslims, three in 10 Catholics admit to having unfavorable views, and Catholics are less likely than the general American public to know a Muslim personally. The survey results were published Sept. 12 in the study "Danger & Dialogue: American Catholic Public Opinion and Portrayals of Islam." It was conducted by a research group with Georgetown University's Bridge Initiative,which studies Islamophobia. Dialogue was "strongly advocated" by the Second Vatican Council in its document "Nostra Aetate," Archbishop Cupich said. The document addressed the relations of the Catholic Church with other religions. "As 'Nostra Aetate' teaches, with them (members of other faiths) we should 'make common cause of safeguarding and fostering social justice, moral values, peace and freedom,'" he added.

    Archbishop overseeing Guam archdiocese asks Vatican for leader's removal

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Agana, Guam, said he asked the Vatican for the removal of Archbishop Anthony Apuron, given his refusal to resign on his own accord. In a letter, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai said, "Gravely serious allegations against Archbishop Apuron" of sexual abuse mean the situation also "will continue to be dealt with by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which will hold a canonical trial." Pope Francis was "monitoring the proceedings," he said in the letter read at Sunday Masses in the archdiocese Sept. 18. Archbishop Hon said he was still in Rome "to urge the Holy See to remove Archbishop Apuron as Archbishop of Agana and to appoint a successor." The archdiocese published the letter on its website Sept. 17. The request, he said, was supported by the archdiocese's presbyteral council, which had issued a letter to Archbishop Apuron requesting he resign, followed by a letter to the Holy See requesting his removal given that the archbishop did not step down. In mid-May, Roy Quintanilla told the media that Archbishop Apuron had sexually abused him 40 years ago when Quintanilla was a 12-year-old altar server at a parish in Agat, Guam, where then-Father Apuron was pastor. The archbishop denied the accusation.

    Father Hesburgh, JFK to be honored on postage stamps in 2017

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two prominent Catholics will be commemorated on U.S. postage stamps in 2017. Holy Cross Father Theodore Hesburgh, who was president of the University of Notre Dame for 35 years, and President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated while riding in a motorcade in Dallas in 1963, are among several subjects that will be part of next year's stamp program, the U.S. Postal Service announced Sept. 20. Both stamps will be issued at the "forever" rate, which currently stands at 47 cents. The forever designation means the stamps can be used to pay first class postage for items weighing one ounce or less. The USPS traditionally issues stamps on dates related to the subject. In Kennedy's case, May 29 will mark the 100th anniversary of his birth. The Father Hesburgh stamp will commemorate his achievements as a civic leader and educator, and will be issued Sept. 1 on the Notre Dame campus. The 100th anniversary of his birth is May 25. Father Hesburgh, who died Feb. 26, 2015, at 97, was the longest serving president of the University of Notre Dame, holding the position from 1952 to 1987. He led the university through a period of dramatic growth and held sway with political and civil rights leaders.

    Christian educators say Israeli cuts threaten schools' existence

    HAIFA, Israel (CNS) -- When Israel's Ministry of Education ranked its top 277 schools, eight of the nation's 47 Christian schools were on the list. Despite their schools' achievements, Christian educators say they are being threatened financially. Over the past six years, the Israeli government has cut the budget allocated to Christian schools by 45 percent. Last year, a 27-day strike produced a promise from the Education Ministry for $13.3 million by March 2016 to cover accrued debts. Though the funds have yet to be distributed, they have at least been approved for release by the government. Christian educators say that is not enough. "Those 50 million shekels are to cover the deficit we have accumulated in previous years. What about this year and next year and the year after that? What they are giving us is peanuts," said Haifa Najjar, Nazareth Sisters school elementary principal. Father Abdel Masih Fahim, general secretary of the Office of Christian Schools in Israel, said the $13.3 million will do little more than delay the collapse of the Christian schools for one year. In a statement before the start of this school year, he called on the government to decide on an annual fixed sum for the Christian schools to compensate for the drastic cuts or to create a new legal status for the schools to ensure sufficient funding while taking into account their unique character and educational service.

    Christians aren't greater than God, must forgive as he does, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God wants people to be merciful, which means forgiving others and giving freely with love, Pope Francis said. "We don't have the power to condemn our brother who makes a mistake, we are not above him. Rather we have a duty to return him to the dignity of a son of the father and to accompany him on his path of conversion," the pope said Sept. 21 at his weekly general audience. In his talk, the pope focused on a reading from the Gospel of Luke (6:36-38) in which Jesus tells the disciples to stop judging others and be merciful just as God is. The motto for the Year of Mercy, "Merciful Like the Father," comes from this biblical verse, the pope said. But more than a pithy catchphrase, the motto is a lifelong commitment to give to others the love one has received -- without merit -- from God, he said. It is a call to reflect upon all that God does for humanity so as to be inspired "to be like him, full of love, compassion and mercy," he said. But what does it mean to be merciful, the pope asked his audience. Jesus said it means to forgive and to give, he said. Mercy is shown by forgiving and not judging and condemning, the pope said.

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  • A year after pope's visit, domestic workers gather on immigration issue

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Last year, when they heard the pope would be addressing immigration on his first trip to the U.S., a group of 100 domestic workers, including many immigrants and women of faith, decided they would make a religious pilgrimage, including visits to churches and prayer circles, from Pennsylvania to Washington to hear what the pontiff had to say. A year after his historic visit, many of them returned to Washington to keep the pope's message of honoring the dignity of migrants alive, said Marzena Zukowska, of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. The organization is one of the groups that coordinated an anniversary march and vigil Sept. 16 from the Supreme Court to the White House, calling for an end to deportations and detention centers. Some of those gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court said faith and their belief in God is what helps them face a daily fear -- of being deported, or of having a husband or children taken away -- until politicians find a solution that can help them. America Carbajal, a Catholic domestic worker from Colorado who was in Washington in mid-September for the events, said staying close to God while organizing prayer vigils at immigration detention centers and leaning on others who want to help and being of help to those seeking comfort is what keeps her going. This is especially true, she said, because there doesn't seem to be an easy or imminent fix for those who do not have proper documentation to be in the U.S. A Pew Research Center study released on Sept. 20 reported 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants were in the U.S. in 2014, a number unchanged since 2009. Congress and the president both have said the immigration system is "broken" but can't agree on what action to take.

    Scholars reaffirm Catholic teaching against artificial birth control

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A group of Catholic scholars Sept. 20 reaffirmed the Catholic Church's teaching on "the gift of sexuality" and its long-standing prohibition on artificial birth control as outlined in "Humanae Vitae," Blessed Paul VI's 1968 encyclical. In a statement released in Washington, they rejected calls for the church to change its teaching by another group that issued a statement the same day at the United Nations. "We, the undersigned scholars, affirm that the Catholic Church's teachings on the gift of sexuality, on marriage and on contraception are true and defensible on many grounds, among them the truths of reason and revelation concerning the dignity of the human person," they said. The scholars said the "church's constant and consistent teaching on human sexuality," as explained in "Humanae Vitae," "has been reaffirmed" by every pope since its release, most recently by Pope Francis in the apostolic exhortation "Amoris Laetitia" ("The Joy of Love"), released in April. Signatories include professor Angela Franks, director of theology programs for the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization at St. John's Seminary in Massachusetts, and John Haas, president, National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia.

    No war is holy, pope says at interreligious peace gathering

    ASSISI, Italy (CNS) -- Violence in the name of God does not represent the true nature of religion and must be condemned by all faiths, Pope Francis said. "We never tire of repeating that the name of God cannot be used to justify violence. Peace alone, and not war, is holy!" the pope said Sept. 20 at the closing ceremony of an interreligious peace gathering in Assisi. Following a prayer service with Christian leaders, including Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, the pope joined religious leaders from around the world to appeal for peace and unity. The religious leaders also heard the experience of a victim of war from the Syrian city of Aleppo and prayed for those who had died in conflicts around the world. In his speech, the pope called on believers of every faith "to confront the great sickness of our time: indifference. It is a virus that paralyzes, rendering us lethargic and insensitive, a disease that eats away at the very heart of religious fervor, giving rise to a new and deeply sad paganism: the paganism of indifference," he said.

    Justice, respect are essential for peace, patriarch says

    ASSISI, Italy (CNS) -- The richness of the diversity found within humanity and in the created world at large is something that must be respected and never destroyed, said Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. "Peace comes from mutual knowledge and cooperation," the patriarch told Pope Francis and hundreds of other religious leaders Sept. 20 at the end of an interreligious peace meeting in Assisi. "In these years, we can again see ethnic, religious and cultural majorities sense their respective minorities as alien bodies, dangerous for their integrity, as something to be marginalized, expelled and sometimes, unfortunately, annihilated," said the patriarch. "We witness minorities that close themselves in their own ghettos out of fear of disappearance, fearful of comparisons, too often turning to violence. "This is discouraging, it causes mass migration," he said, and it creates problems in promoting a welcoming attitude toward and solidarity with immigrants. Justice is crucial for bringing peace to those suffering due to war and poverty as well as for the care for the environment, "which is the work of God for believers, but also a common home for everyone," the patriarch said.

    Mexican proposals on same-sex marriage unite many Catholics, evangelicals

    CUERNAVACA, Mexico (CNS) -- Several thousand protesters marched peacefully in this city just south of Mexico City, voicing displeasure with a presidential proposal to enshrine same-sex marriage in the Mexican Constitution. Signs at the march spoke of supporting traditional families -- mother, father and children -- and opposing sex education in schools. Promotional materials for the march said, "Don't mess with my children." The discourse among marchers also turned tough, especially when the topic touched on plans in the president's proposal to portray diverse family units, including same-sex couples, in textbooks and educational materials. "I don't want this ideology to poison the mind of my daughter," said Jaime Vargas, a truck driver and father of a preschool-age daughter. He called President Enrique Pena Nieto "an enemy of the homeland" for introducing the same-sex marriage legislation. "We'll block the schoolhouse doors to stop this if we have to." The president's proposal to expand the rights of same-sex couples and promote more positive portrayals of such families has set off a firestorm in conservative and some Catholic circles in Mexico, along with a backlash. It also brought about rare cooperation among Catholics and evangelicals and moved religious-minded people into the political arena of a country where secularism was an ethos and politics and religions were kept separate. Hot-button social issues have seldom moved the masses in Mexico or been politically profitable, something organizers insist is changing.

    Pope, Christian leaders pray for peace, victims of war

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- A shooting rampage late Sept. 16 that left a West Philadelphia resident and the shooter dead, plus two police officers and three civilians wounded, drew a strong response from Archbishop Charles J. Chaput. "Combine easy access to guns with a culture that breeds resentment, self-focus, personal license and contempt for human life and the law, and what you get is what happened over the past weekend: the terrible shootings of innocent people by Nicholas Glenn and others," Philadelphia's archbishop said Sept. 19. The Philadelphia Police Department said Glenn, 25, was armed with a single semiautomatic handgun and several clips of ammunition when he went on a shooting spree as he walked calmly through a West Philadelphia neighborhood that Friday night. He shot Philadelphia Police Sgt. Sylvia Young six times, but she survived thanks to her bulletproof vest. Then apparently at random, Glenn shot and wounded two people in a neighborhood bar then shot a couple sitting in their car, one of whom, identified as 25-year-old Sara Salih, died from her injuries. Pursued by numerous officers, Glenn retreated to an alley where he exchanged gunfire, wounding University of Pennsylvania security officer Eddie Miller. Glenn was killed in the exchange.

    Violence 'now part of the American way,' says archbishop after shootings

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- A shooting rampage late Sept. 16 that left a West Philadelphia resident and the shooter dead, plus two police officers and three civilians wounded, drew a strong response from Archbishop Charles J. Chaput. "Combine easy access to guns with a culture that breeds resentment, self-focus, personal license and contempt for human life and the law, and what you get is what happened over the past weekend: the terrible shootings of innocent people by Nicholas Glenn and others," Philadelphia's archbishop said Sept. 19. The Philadelphia Police Department said Glenn, 25, was armed with a single semiautomatic handgun and several clips of ammunition when he went on a shooting spree as he walked calmly through a West Philadelphia neighborhood that Friday night. He shot Philadelphia Police Sgt. Sylvia Young six times, but she survived thanks to her bulletproof vest. Then apparently at random, Glenn shot and wounded two people in a neighborhood bar then shot a couple sitting in their car, one of whom, identified as 25-year-old Sara Salih, died from her injuries. Pursued by numerous officers, Glenn retreated to an alley where he exchanged gunfire, wounding University of Pennsylvania security officer Eddie Miller. Glenn was killed in the exchange.

    Bishops offer pastoral guidelines for when Canadians seek assisted suicide

    OTTAWA, Ontario (CNS) -- The bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories have issued pastoral guidelines for clergy dealing with Catholics who are considering euthanasia or assisted suicide, which is now legal in Canada. The 32-page document, written for priests and parishes, gives guidance on when people in such situations are eligible to receive certain sacraments or a Catholic funeral. It includes references to canon law and pastoral guidance for special circumstances. The document specifically addresses the sacraments of reconciliation and anointing of the sick. "In our day a priest may encounter a penitent who has officially requested physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia," the document says. "The penitent has not yet been killed, nor has he/she committed suicide, but he or she has initiated the process, which is already a grave matter. "If the penitent does not rescind this request, he or she will be killed," the bishops write. "They are in this objective state of sin, which is gravely disordered. They have incited and officially arranged for someone to kill them." The document restates the three things that must be present for a mortal sin, but notes that a person might not be aware that euthanasia is a grave sin. Their freedom may be impaired through "depression, drugs, or pressure from others," it says.

    Religious organizations play major role in caring for migrants, refugees

    UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- Religious organizations and local faith communities are longtime key providers of efficient, effective, compassionate aid to migrants and refugees, speakers said at a U.N. program Sept 19. The work of these groups is an example to the international community, they said, and should be the basis of new partnerships among nations, international organizations and faith-based organizations. "From time immemorial, people from a wide range of faith traditions have given special attention to the needs of migrants and refugees," said the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. The response by Catholic institutions to the needs of large groups of people on the move is guided by the rich body of Catholic doctrine and tradition developed over two millennia, he said. Cardinal Parolin delivered the keynote address at a forum that considered "Responsibility and Solution Sharing: The Role of Religious Organizations in Responding to Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants." The side event was held in conjunction with the U.N. Summit on Large Movements of Migrants and Refugees and sponsored by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, with the International Catholic Migration Commission and Caritas Internationalis. "While migration has always been with us, it is becoming an unprecedented phenomenon in our days," the cardinal said. Many large movements of people are involuntary, and caused by conflict, violence, persecution, discrimination, poverty and environmental degradation, he said.

    Listen to war victims' cries, feel shame, pray for peace, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Humanity should feel ashamed it can wage war, kill the innocent, bomb cities and prevent food and medicine from reaching survivors, Pope Francis said. "There is no god of war," he said. Violence and division are the work of the devil who "wants to kill everyone," and that is why people need to come together and pray for peace, united in the conviction that "God is a God of peace," he said Sept. 20, a world day of prayer for peace. Just a few hours before heading to an interreligious gathering in the Italian town of Assisi, Pope Francis dedicated his homily to peace during morning Mass in the chapel of his residence. The pope and some 450 religious leaders from around the world were marking the 30th anniversary of the first interreligious meeting and prayer for peace organized by St. John Paul II in 1986. Men and women representing the world's religions were going to Assisi, "not to put on a show, but simply to pray and pray for peace," Pope Francis said in his morning homily. The world is at war and suffering, and no one can remain indifferent to that, he said, quoting the last verse of the day's first reading from the Book of Proverbs: "He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will himself also call and not be heard."

    Religious leaders praise Patriarch Bartholomew as a great ecumenist

    ASSISI, Italy (CNS) -- As leaders of dozens of religions gathered in Assisi for dialogue and prayers for peace, they honored Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople as an exemplar of one who is so deeply rooted in his own religious tradition that he can reach out to others without fear. Jewish, Anglican and Catholic leaders paid tribute to Patriarch Bartholomew as he was about to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his enthronement as spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians. Pope Francis was scheduled to participate in a celebratory luncheon for the patriarch Sept. 20 in Assisi. The Assisi celebrations Sept. 18-20 were organized by the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio, the Diocese of Assisi and the Franciscan friars. In a formal meeting hall at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi Sept. 19, the leaders praised Patriarch Bartholomew as an ecumenist, theologian and leading religious defender of God's creation. Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury presided over the tribute to the patriarch, and Cardinal Walter Kasper, former president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, gave the main talk, highlighting how "with great tact in difficult situations" the patriarch "always helped to overcome complicated twists and turns with the grand dexterity of a 'pontiff,' that is, a builder of bridges."

    Failure of ecumenism would imprison mercy, Anglican archbishop says

    ASSISI, Italy (CNS) -- Churches that are not reconciled with one another weaken the experience of mercy that unites believers to God and with each other, Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury said. By not reconciling with one other, "our worship is diminished and our capacity to grow close together with God is reduced," he said Sept. 20 in Assisi during a discussion on ecumenism. "The failure of ecumenism imprisons mercy and prevents its liberation and its power with one another," he said. Speaking before Pope Francis arrived in Assisi for an interreligious peace meeting, Archbishop Welby joined other Christian leaders exploring how love, charity and mercy help foster peace and unity among Christian denominations. Mercy is the "engine of reconciliation," Archbishop Welby said, and it is "the source of our capacity for the evangelization of the world in which we live."

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  • New Jersey bishops add voices to opposition of 'deceptive' abortion ad

    TRENTON, N.J. (CNS) -- The Catholic bishops of New Jersey have added their voices to those of other Catholic Church leaders around the nation in opposing an abortion advocacy ad campaign by a group calling itself Catholics for Choice. The organization placed full-page ads Sept. 12 in the print editions of more than 20 local and national publications, including Politico, the Nation, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Dallas Morning News and La Opinion. In New Jersey, the ad ran in The Star-Ledger and The Record (of Bergen County). Digital advertising also was included in the campaign, which featured a statement by a young woman who claimed to be Catholic and who condoned abortion. The ad aimed to portray the public funding of abortion as a social justice issue. "Catholics have the same freedom as other citizens in making choices, said Newark Archbishop John J. Myers, who is president of the New Jersey Catholic Conference. "They also have the duty to follow a well-formed conscience, a conscience formed not by fad or personal convenience, but by Catholic teaching."

    Bishop, other leaders call for peace, unity after attack in St. Cloud

    ST. CLOUD, Minn. (CNS) -- One day after a knife-wielding man injured nine people at a shopping mall near St. Cloud, Bishop Donald J. Kettler called for prayers for those impacted by the violence. "Please join me in praying for the victims of last night's mall attack, for our first responders & for peace and unity in our community," the St. Cloud bishop said via his Twitter account Sept. 18. A man was fatally shot by an off-duty officer after stabbing nine people at the Crossroads Center mall in Waite Park Sept. 17. He was later identified as Dahir Adan, 22, who had worked as a security guard for one of the stores in the mall, according to news reports. Adan was a member of the local Somali community. St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson said the attacker reportedly made references to Allah during the attack, and the FBI was investigating the incident as a possible terrorist act. During a Sept. 18 news conference in St. Cloud, several local Somali-American leaders denounced the attack, offered condolences to the victims and their families, and called for ongoing efforts on behalf of peace and unity in the community. "We condemn what happened in the strongest words we can possibly use," said Abdul Kulane, a graduate of St. John's University in Collegeville and leader in the Somali community. "We strongly condemn any terroristic action in America or around the world. ... We don't believe in violence."

    Exhibit of St. Thomas More artifacts debuts at St. John Paul II shrine

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A new exhibit featuring artifacts revolving around St. Thomas More has opened at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington. Titled "God's Servant First: The Life and Legacy of Thomas More," the exhibit runs through March 31. The title comes from what are believed to be More's last words before going to the chopping block where he was beheaded: "I die the king's good servant, and God's servant first." Nearly all of the 60 or so items in the exhibit come from Stonyhurst College in England, according to Jan Graffius, the curator of collections at Stonyhurst, a Jesuit institution. The Knights of Columbus and Stonyhurst's Christian Heritage Center organized the exhibit and are its sponsors. To be able to have so many artifacts is remarkable, Graffius told Catholic News Service Sept. 15, the day before the exhibit opened, as she and her team were putting the finishing touches on the exhibit. King Henry VIII, who had St. Thomas More imprisoned in the Tower of London for more than a year before his execution, and subsequent monarchs had made Roman Catholicism virtually illegal and had all traces of Catholicism wiped out. St. Thomas More, a lawyer and the first layman to serve as chancellor of England, had balked at helping Henry VIII obtain an annulment so he could marry Anne Boleyn in hopes of bearing him a son to be heir to the throne. After the pope denied the annulment, Henry declared himself head of the church in England, conferring upon himself the power to divorce and marry whomever he pleased.

    Paige O'Hara the 'Belle' of the ball

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- If you were to meet Paige O'Hara in person, you might not give her a second glance. However, she's had one mighty impressive film credit: the speaking and singing voice of Belle in the 1991 Disney animated classic "Beauty and the Beast." "They wanted people who could speak and sing," O'Hara told Catholic News Service in a Sept. 16 interview in Washington. "They wanted people who had been on Broadway." That fit O'Hara to a T. She had plenty of live theatrical experience, including on Broadway. It turned out that "Howard (Ashman, who wrote song lyrics for 'Beauty') liked my recording as Ellie in 'Show Boat,'" she recalled. Five auditions later, she got the part. The original CNS review called the animated story of the Beauty, who "sees the struggling soul beneath" the Beast's the "ugly exterior," a "mostly enchanting," "multicolored gem" with "enormously entertaining" musical numbers. Audiences made it the first animated feature to earn more than $100 million at the box office.

    Iowa priest who was social justice leader on local, national levels dies

    DAVENPORT, Iowa (CNS) -- Msgr. Marvin Mottet, a priest whose name is synonymous with social justice, died Sept. 16 at Kahl Home in Davenport, three months after marking the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. He was 86. His funeral Mass was to be celebrated Sept. 21 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, followed by burial at Mount Calvary Cemetery. Bishop Martin J. Amos observed that in his 10 years as bishop of the Davenport Diocese, "I've come to realize the tremendous impact Msgr. Mottet has had on people in general, the poor in particular and in the area of social justice." A farm boy from Ottumwa, Iowa, who witnessed his parents' compassion toward anyone in need, young Marv Mottet honed his social justice skills as a student at St. Ambrose College, and later as a priest and teacher in the Davenport Diocese and as executive director of the U.S. bishops' domestic anti-poverty program, now called the Catholic Campaign for Human Development in Washington, from 1978 to 1985. He embraced diversity, working side by side with African-Americans and with Hispanics to end discriminatory practices in housing, employment and immigration. Ordained to the priesthood at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport in 1956, he helped form the Catholic Interracial Council to address racial discrimination and segregation in the city a year later.

    Vatican II was first time church asked 'Who am I?' says Canadian bishop

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CNS) -- The Second Vatican Council was an act of worship, said one of the few living council fathers. Retired Bishop Remi De Roo made the comments during a public lecture about Vatican II at St. Mark's College at the University of British Columbia Sept. 15. Bishop De Roo said there were three words that could summarize Vatican II: "ressourcement," a French word meaning to return to the roots of something; "aggiornamento," an Italian word meaning to update something; and "development." He said Vatican II was the first time the church asked itself "Who am I?" but he believed the council could have gone further with a more rigorous academic look at the early church. "It was important to have bishops from other rites with different ways of understanding things according to their different cultures," said Bishop De Roo, adding that by the 1960s the Italian culture had come to dominate the culture of the Latin-rite church. He said the presence of clergy from other rites at the council helped open the door to new ways of understanding the church.

    Let your light shine by doing good, shunning jealousy, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Good works "do not keep well in the fridge," Pope Francis said; they need to be shared the minute there is a need. Reacting to someone in need by thinking, "I'll take care of it tomorrow" is a classic, recurring form of hiding the light of faith given to each Christian at baptism, Pope Francis said Sept. 19 during an early morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. Reflecting on the day's Gospel reading in which Jesus says no one lights a lamp and then covers it, the pope said that just as there are simple ways of sharing the light of faith with others, there are simple ways of hiding it, which make one a "lukewarm" Christian or a Christian "in name only." One way is to delay helping those in need, he said; others including gossiping about someone who trusts you or always picking fights. Using someone's trust to trick them or to fool them into doing something they shouldn't is the "little piece of mafia that we all have in reach," the pope said. "Profiting from another's trust in order to do evil is mafioso!"

    Legacy of 1986 peace gathering lingers in Assisi

    ASSISI, Italy (CNS) -- Religious leaders celebrating the 30th anniversary of St. John Paul II's Assisi interfaith peace gathering in 1986 called on people from around the world to continue its legacy to combat today's indifference and violence. The event Sept. 18-20 was sponsored by the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio, the Diocese of Assisi and the Franciscan friars to reflect on the theme, "Thirst for Peace: Faiths and Cultures in Dialogue." At the opening assembly, attended by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople said, peace "starts from within and radiates outward, from local to global. Thus, peace requires an interior conversion, a change in policies and behaviors," he said. Humanity's relationship with creation "has a direct impact on the way in which it acts toward other people," said the patriarch, known for his decades of work on the connection between Christian spirituality and ecology. "Any ecological activity will be judged by the consequences it has for the lives of the poor," he said. "The pollution problem is linked to that of poverty."

    Dedicated to battling the devil, noted Italian exorcist dies at 91

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pauline Father Gabriele Amorth, an Italian priest renowned for his work in dispelling demons, died at the age of 91. Ill and hospitalized for some weeks, the priest passed away in Rome Sept. 16. Father Amorth began his ministry as an exorcist for the Diocese of Rome in 1986 and performed -- according to his own estimates -- some 70,000 exorcisms or other prayers to liberate people from demonic influence. He spoke out frequently warning that while it was rare for a person to be possessed by a demon, the devil's influence was strong in today's world, affecting not just individuals but sometimes entire societies. "For example, I am convinced that the Nazis were all possessed by the devil," he told Vatican Radio in 2006. "If one thinks of what was committed by people like Stalin or Hitler, certainly they were possessed by the devil. This is seen in their actions, in their behavior and in the horrors they committed," he said. One reason the devil's influence was so high today, he said, is that Christian faith has weakened, replaced in many cases by superstition and an interest in the occult, which he said "open the way to demonic influences."

    Best way to fight terrorism is to warmly welcome refugees, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Offering migrants and refugees truly helpful and loving hospitality is the greatest guarantee against terrorism, Pope Francis said. The current refugee and migration crisis, with more than 65 million people forcibly displaced from their homes, has become "the greatest humanitarian crisis after the Second World War," he said. "At this place and time in history, there is great need for men and women who hear the cry of the poor and respond with mercy and generosity," he told graduates of Jesuit schools and universities during an audience at the Vatican Sept. 17. The alumni are members of the World Union and the European Confederation of Jesuit Alumni; they were in Rome taking part in a conference on the migration and refugee crisis. The pope told them that with their Jesuit education and understanding of Gospel values, they can help the church "respond more fully to the human tragedy of refugees through acts of mercy that promote their integration into the European context and beyond."

    Law, order, tenderness: Pope outlines traits of Vatican police

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Members of the Vatican police and fire departments do not just put their lives on the line to protect the pope, but they ensure law, order and the safety of everyone at the Vatican with charity and tenderness, Pope Francis said. Celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Vatican Gendarme, Pope Francis was scheduled to celebrate a Mass Sept. 18 in the Vatican Gardens with the police, the firefighters and their spouses. Stormy weather forced the celebration to move into St. Peter's Basilica, where uniformed officers served as the cross bearer, altar servers and readers. Pope Francis preached on the assigned Sunday readings, beginning with the Old Testament story of a man who wants to exploit the poor by cheating them when selling his grain. "His only divinity is money and his actions are dominated by fraud and exploitation," the pope said. "Unfortunately, this type of person is found in every epoch, and there are many today." Looking at the Gospel story of the "dishonest steward," Pope Francis asked the officers, "How did this administrator get to the point of swindling, stealing from his master? Did it just happen overnight? No. It happens little by little. Taking a tip here, a bribe the next day and little by little it becomes corruption."

    Mercy must be Vatican diplomats' secret code, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A nuncio is not simply a "diplomat in a (priest's) collar," but must truly be a priest and bishop who listens, supports and serves as a channel of God's mercy, Pope Francis said. Spending much of the day Sept. 17 with 106 archbishops who represent him and the Vatican in countries around the world, Pope Francis thanked the nuncios for their constant willingness to pack up, move to a new country, learn a new language and deal with new challenges. And, he said, he knew that every four or five years they get another "sugarcoated" phone call from Rome and do it all again. Gathered at the Vatican from their posts around the world, the nuncios had meetings, Masses and prayer services as part of their Year of Mercy celebration. At an early morning Mass, a mid-morning meeting and a luncheon in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the pope looked at their personal lives as priests, their service to local churches as his representative and their diplomatic service in a world often marked by conflict, fear and attempts to limit religious freedom.

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  • Brazil's missionary council reports little improvement for indigenous

    RIO DE JANEIRO (CNS) -- The Indigenous Missionary Council, linked to the Brazilian bishops' conference, has highlighted the "continuous omission by public authorities in relation to the rights of indigenous peoples, especially in relation to land rights." In a report, "Violence Against Indigenous People in Brazil," the council, known by its Portuguese acronym as CIMI, said 137 indigenous were killed in 2015, only one fewer than registered the previous year. "The same criminal practices are repeated and intensify without measures being adopted," said Archbishop Roque Paloschi of Porto Velho, CIMI president, who presented the survey in mid-September. "Until when will we have to present these reports?" The report said the number of deaths may even be higher since the government's special indigenous department has already acknowledged that its survey results are likely to be lagging. The Brazilian states where most of the indigenous deaths occurred are also the locations with the largest indigenous populations in the country: Mato Grosso do Sul, Tocantins, Acre, Amazonas, Bahia and Parana.

    Pope highlights sanctity of life in Year of Mercy visits

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis donned a green hospital gown over his white cassock and entered the neonatal unit of a Rome hospital, peering in the incubators, making the sign of the cross and encouraging worried parents. The trip to the babies' ward of Rome's San Giovanni Hospital and then to a hospice Sept. 16 were part of a series of Mercy Friday activities Pope Francis has been doing once a month during the Year of Mercy. By visiting the ailing newborns and the dying on the same day, the Vatican said, Pope Francis "wanted to give a strong sign of the importance of life from its first moment to its natural end. Welcoming life and guaranteeing its dignity at every moment of its development is a teaching Pope Francis has underlined many times," the statement said. With the September visits he wanted to put "a concrete and tangible seal" on his teaching that living a life of mercy means giving special attention to those in the most precarious situations. During the Mercy Friday visits, Pope Francis has spent time with migrants, the aged, at a recovery community for former drug addicts and at a shelter for women rescued from human trafficking and prostitution.

    Faith, high school coach play role in Paralympian's journey to Rio

    TRENTON, N.J. (CNS) -- When Brian Siemann came into the world, he did so with three sisters. He was also the only one of the quadruplets who lost a third of his blood when he was six days old due to hospital negligence, leaving him paralyzed him from the waist down. It would have been easy to wilt under such devastation, but the Siemann family had a weapon to fight the depression. Faith. Now 26, the 2008 graduate of Notre Dame High in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, is at the Paralympics -- his second -- in Rio de Janeiro. "Going to church and having a constant in terms of knowing you can turn to God and rely on his support when you're going through trying times is a calming presence," Siemann said from his Illinois home before leaving for the Sept. 7-18 Paralympics. He said although he has turned to God a lot over the years, he prefers to keep his faith more private. "A lot of times you hear an athlete do well and they thank God, which I think is very important," Siemann said. "But I prefer the quieter moments, where you're sitting and reflecting and being thankful for the opportunities you've been provided, and not taking them for granted. That's really important to me."

    CRS announces agency veteran as new CEO

    WASHINGTON (CNS) - A six-month search for a new president and CEO for one of the largest humanitarian relief agencies in the world ended at its doorstep, with Catholic Relief Services announcing Sept. 16 that it is hiring a veteran employee -- the agency's No. 2 -- Sean Callahan, as its new president and CEO. "We looked all across the nation and found that the best person for the job was Sean, already working for us," said Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, head of the CRS Board Search Committee, in a statement announcing Callahan's new position, which begins Jan. 1, 2017. He succeeds Carolyn Y. Woo, who ends her five-year term at the end of 2016. Callahan began his career with CRS 28 years ago and has served as director of Human Resources, regional director for South Asia, head of its Nicaragua program and executive vice president for overseas operations. Four years ago he was appointed as the agency's chief operating officer. Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the CRS board, said in a statement that all that experience is what makes Callahan "eminently qualified" for the top spot. Callahan said mission, not climbing the corporate ladder, is what has motivated him in his almost three decades at CRS, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency based in Baltimore. In his new leadership position, he said he wants to inspire and motivate staff and CRS partners around the world to be united in humanitarian efforts, incorporating different elements of the Catholic Church to help humanity.

    Pope to bishops: Be good Samaritans; seek quality seminarians

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Today's bishops need to be good Samaritans who let their hearts be moved and compelled to help every individual God "accidentally" puts along their path, Pope Francis said. "Remember, the road to Jericho is not far" from every church in the world, and "it won't be hard to encounter someone who waits not for a Levite who looks the other way, but for a brother who draws near," he told new bishops. He also said bishops must not get caught up in a game of numbers with vocations, but focus more on quality and forming mature priests, who are not slaves to their personal vices and weaknesses. Pope Francis met Sept. 16 with 154 recently appointed bishops from around the world. They were attending a weeklong seminar in Rome for new bishops. In a nearly 40-minute prepared talk, the pope warned new bishops against using their office to be self-serving, but rather to share the holiness, truth and love of God. "The world is tired of lying spellbinders and, allow me to say, 'trendy' priests or bishops. The people sniff them out -- they have God's sense of smell -- and they walk away when they recognize narcissists, manipulators, defenders of their own causes, auctioneers of vain crusades," he said.

    Jesuit delegates begin meeting Oct. 2 to elect superior, set priorities

    ROME (CNS) -- With a Mass near the tomb of St. Ignatius of Loyola, 215 Jesuits from around the world will gather in Rome Oct. 2 to begin a general congregation meeting and elect a new superior general for the order. The 215 elected and ex-officio delegates include six religious brothers; and 33 of the delegates are from the United States and Canada, said Jesuit Father Patrick Mulemi, director of the Jesuit communications office in Rome. Pope Francis is probably the best-known member of the Jesuits. As a priest, he participated in two general congregations: one held in 1974-75 and the other in 1983. He is scheduled to be in Azerbaijan when the general congregation begins but is expected to address the delegates sometime during their meeting. A committee has been working since January on a comprehensive report on the status of the Society of Jesus, Father Mulemi said. The report should be presented to the general congregation Oct. 3. The current superior, Father Adolfo Nicolas, announced in 2014 that he would tender his resignation this year after more than eight years in office. He turned 80 in April.

    Targeted cash assistance can help people avoid homelessness, study finds

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Small sums of financial assistance can help stabilize housing for low-income people and stave off homelessness and its slew of related social problems, a University of Notre Dame study concluded. Targeted emergency financial assistance of a few hundred dollars for rent, security deposits, utility payments or another cash emergency, can save taxpayers $20,000 or more each time homelessness is prevented, according to the study published in the August issue of Science magazine. Cash assistance can keep people off the street for two years or more, said James Sullivan, co-director of Notre Dame's Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities and one of the study's authors, during a Capitol Hill briefing Sept. 15. "The key takeaway is that ... we want to address this one-time emergency so that they stay on their feet, don't fall under this downward spiral and then they don't fall into homelessness again in the future," he said. "This evidence suggests that that's the in fact what is happening." The study looked at the work of the Homelessness Prevention Call Center run by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago in matching people in danger of being homeless with agencies that could provide cash assistance and other services in a time of need. It contrasted how eligible people fared when funds were available and when funds dried up because of inevitable lulls in distributions from foundations and government.

    Australian bishops: Reject ageism, 'old age will come to us all'

    SYDNEY (CNS) -- Australia's bishops called on individuals, communities and governments to reject rampant ageism and the toxic attitudes that often accompany concepts such as "intergenerational theft." The bishops link Australia's treatment of the elderly with Western discomfort around dying and point to the looming threat posed by euthanasia and assisted dying in a society that "idealizes notions of youthfulness and vitality." Calling for a "renewed solidarity among generations, young and old" -- not only in wider society but also in the church -- the bishops point out a number of challenges confronting Australia as a country with a rapidly aging population. Their 2016-17 social justice statement, "A Place at the Table: Social Justice in an Ageing Society," was released in anticipation of Social Justice Sunday Sept. 25. This bishops point to recent survey data showing a quarter of people over 50 had experienced some form of age-based discrimination in calling for greater workplace flexibility for older people, and for increased training, particularly in lieu of increased automation. The document also surveys the consequences of caring for children on women's retirement savings and grandparents' emotional and financial stress when caring for their grandchildren, often out of their own families' financial necessity.

    Cardinal says group's 'deceptive' ads promote abortion as 'a social good'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Ads appearing around the country "calling for taxpayer funding of abortion in the name of the Catholic faith" are "deceptive," "extreme" and promote "abortion as if it were a social good," said New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan. The abortion advocacy organization Catholics for Choice placed full-page ads Sept. 12 in the print editions of more than 20 local and national publications, including Politico, the Nation, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Dallas Morning News and La Opinion. The group "is not affiliated with the Catholic Church in any way," said Cardinal Dolan in a Sept. 14 statement as the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities. "It has no membership, and clearly does not speak for the faithful. It is funded by powerful private foundations to promote abortion as a method of population control." "As the U.S. Catholic bishops have stated for many years," Cardinal Dolan said, "the use of the name 'Catholic' as a platform to promote the taking of innocent human life is offensive not only to Catholics, but to all who expect honesty and forthrightness in public discourse."

    Pope urges Christians to believe in the 'logic' of the resurrection

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians are called to believe in the logic of the resurrection of the body and not succumb to heresies that reduce it to a mere spiritual experience, Pope Francis said. When looking toward the future, the uncertainty about what happens after death often can lead to not understanding Christianity's "logic of the future," which proclaims that believers will rise will rise again in body and soul like Jesus did, the pope said Sept. 16 during a morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. "A spiritualistic piety, a nuanced piety is much easier; but to enter into the logic of the flesh of Christ, this is difficult. And this is the logic of the day after tomorrow. We will resurrect like the risen Christ, with our own flesh," he said. In his homily, the pope reflected on St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, in which the apostle admonishes some of the early Christian community for saying "there is no resurrection of the dead. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty, too, is our preaching; empty, too, your faith," St. Paul wrote.

    Monterrey priest goes to peripheries to get to know gangs

    MONTERREY, Mexico (CNS) -- With his priestly robes and clean-cut appearance, Father Jose Luis Guerra hardly looks the part of a gangster. Yet the recently ordained priest hits the streets of a scruffy suburb of this northern Mexican city with his own posse, the Gang of Christ, which takes catechism classes and Christ's witness out of the parish and into a peripheral place occupied by young men on the margins of society. "It's risky work, I can't say that it isn't," Father Guerra said. "However, there is an impressive openness on the part of these young men when a priest goes out and listens to them at a street corner." The outreach is an example of Pope Francis' call for pastors to smell like the sheep in their flocks and for Catholics to take their faith to peripheral places. It's also a novel approach to addressing the gang issue in a city known for industrialization and entrepreneurship, but harmed earlier in the decade by out-of-control organized crime and drug cartel violence. Father Guerra -- ordained Aug. 15 -- says hundreds of gangs have formed in Monterrey, attracting mostly young men from broken homes or marginalized areas. Many of the areas are populated by low-wage workers, living in cramped houses, in what is often thought of as Mexico's wealthiest metropolitan areas and a city full of factories making products for export.

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  • In tough election year, Catholics urged to avoid cynicism, work for change

    NOTRE DAME, Ind. (CNS) -- In his 50 years of voting in U.S. elections, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said Sept. 15 he has never seen the two major parties offer "two such deeply flawed" presidential nominees "at the same time." Without naming the nominees -- Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton -- the archbishop said he presumes they "intend well and have a reasonable level of personal decency behind their public images, but I also believe that each candidate is very bad news for our country, though in different ways. One candidate, in the view of a lot of people, is a belligerent demagogue with an impulse control problem," he said in a speech at the University of Notre Dame. "And the other, also in the view of a lot of people, is a criminal liar, uniquely rich in stale ideas and bad priorities." Archbishop Chaput delivered the 2016 Tocqueville lecture on religious liberty, sponsored by the school's Tocqueville Program for Inquiry Into Religion and Public Life. His wide-ranging talk also addressed the moral threats facing society, the necessity of strong families, and the controversy surrounding Notre Dame and its award of the Laetare Medal to Vice President Joe Biden.

    Benedictines say their fresh-baked spice cookies have 'heavenly' scent

    FERDINAND, Ind. (CNS) -- The aroma of fresh-baked spice cookies fills the monastery bakery in Ferdinand. The Sisters of St. Benedict claim this scent is truly "heavenly," and with good reason. A saint wrote the recipe. "It is attributed to St. Hildegard," explained Sister Jean Marie Ballard, manager of the bakery. "She says, if you eat three to five of these cookies on a daily basis, it creates a cheerful countenance, lightens a heavy heart and reduces the effects of aging." St. Hildegard of Bingen was a Benedictine abbess born in Germany at the end of the 11th century. She penned a recipe for "Cookies of Joy" in her medical work "Physica" sometime between the years 1151 and 1158. Today, the Ferdinand sisters use that very recipe to create their best-selling product. In the last fiscal year alone, they baked 71,488 of the thin, golden-brown treats and shipped to buyers across the country. "The Hildegard is one of my favorites. It makes you think of home," said Sister Lynn Marie Falcony, a novice and one of the bakers.

    Replacing God with money will cost you your dignity, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The dignity given by God to men and women easily can be lost if they give themselves over to the idolatry of wealth, Pope Francis said. Like the people of Israel who built a golden calf in the desert, people can fall prey to the allure of wealth since "all idols have something gold," the pope said Sept. 15 at an audience with members of the Italian Biblical Association. "This calls to mind the attractive force of wealth," he said, "and the fact that man loses his very dignity when wealth takes the place of God in his heart." The members of the biblical association were in Rome for a three-day conference that focused on the relationship between man and woman according to Scripture. In his address, the pope told the participants it is essential to reflect on how men and women were "created and formed in the image and likeness of the Creator" as well as looking at the differences between the human person and other creatures. "This helps us to understand the dignity we all have, men and women; a dignity that has its roots in the same Creator," he said. "It has always struck me that our dignity is precisely that of being children of God."

    Vatican: Abortion, attempted suicide always obstacles to ordination

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The sacredness of human life is so absolute that performing or helping procure an abortion or attempting suicide is an obstacle to ordination as a Catholic priest, even if the man was not Catholic at the time the events occurred, said a new Vatican ruling. Pope Francis approved the definitive interpretation of church law at a meeting in May with officials of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, said a statement published by the Vatican Sept. 15. Canon 1041 of the Code of Canon Law defines as "irregular for receiving (holy) orders" a person who has "committed voluntary homicide or procured a completed abortion and all those who positively cooperated in either," as well as "a person who has mutilated himself or another gravely and maliciously or who has attempted suicide." A question was submitted to the Vatican asking if the canon also applies to a non-Catholic and therefore would require a special dispensation if the man were later to become Catholic and seek ordination as a Catholic priest. The pontifical council answered, "Affirmative."

    Catholics, Orthodox meet to discuss synodality, papal primacy

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Leading Catholic and Orthodox bishops were meeting in Italy to continue discussions on the key issue keeping their churches apart: the role of the bishop of Rome, the pope. The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church was meeting in Chieti Sept. 15-22. Participants were to discuss the draft document, "Towards a common understanding of synodality and primacy in the service to the unity of the church," which was finished during a meeting in Rome in 2015, the Vatican press office announced Sept. 15. Participants were being asked "to determine whether the draft accurately reflects the current consensus on the delicate question of the theological and ecclesiological aspects of primacy in its relation to synodality in the life of the church or whether it will be necessary to continue to delve deeper into the issue," said the Vatican communique. Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was presiding over the plenary session together with Orthodox Archbishop Job of Telmessos from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    At Blue Mass, archbishop prays trust will grow in divided communities

    ATLANTA (CNS) -- Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory celebrated the Atlanta Archdiocese's second annual Blue Mass with the special intention of "peace in our communities." At the Sept. 9 Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King, worshippers prayed for peace and gave thanks for the sacrifices of first responders. In his homily, the archbishop called for prayers for both law enforcement personnel, who in some areas of the country have become the targets of shooters, and for communities where questionable use of police force has resulted in the death of people of color. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had designated the day, the feast of St. Peter Claver, as a National Day of Prayer for Peace. It also fell two days before the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Students from Christ the King School joined community members, chiefs and members of the Atlanta Police Department and Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, and other metro area first responders at the Mass. Outside of the church, a large American flag billowed high above the street, suspended between the raised ladders of two fire apparatus. In his homily, Archbishop Gregory said a time of prayer is needed particularly this year when protests have erupted against police in several cities, and they themselves have been the targets of snipers. Public servants need public support, he said. "These fine men and women need to know of our respect, gratitude and support more today than ever before," he said.

    Papal diplomats celebrate jubilee, attend talks on gender, Islam

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Papal nuncios from around the world gathered in Rome to celebrate their jubilee and attend talks on gender ideology, dialogue with Muslims, and Pope Francis, the church and the world. As part of the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis designated a jubilee Sept. 15-17 for all 108 apostolic nuncios who -- stationed across the globe -- work as permanent diplomatic representatives of the Holy See. The Vatican press office said just two papal representatives were unable to attend. The three-day gathering began with Mass celebrated by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, in St. Peter's Basilica, followed by two "refresher" lectures, one being "The genesis and circumstances of the culture of gender -- how to address it," by U.S. Father Robert Gahl, an Opus Dei priest who teaches ethics at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. The papal representatives were also scheduled to have a working meeting with the heads of the Vatican Secretariat of State followed by a refresher lecture on relations with Islam by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

    Changing canon law, pope brings Latin and Eastern practices closer

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a change to church law, Latin-rite Catholic deacons may not preside at a wedding when one or both of the new spouses are members of an Eastern Catholic church. The new rule is one of the changes to 11 canons in the Latin-rite Code of Canon law that Pope Francis approved in order to harmonize the laws of the Latin and Eastern Catholic churches on several issues involving the sacraments of baptism and marriage. After more than 15 years of study and worldwide consultation, the conflicting rules were resolved by adopting the Eastern code's formulations for the Latin church as well, said Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. The bishop spoke to journalists Sept. 15 after the publication of an apostolic letter published "motu proprio" (on his own initiative) in which Pope Francis ordered the changes to the Latin Code of Canon Law, the 1983 text governing the majority of the world's Catholics. In the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox traditions, the blessing of a priest is necessary for the validity of a marriage. In the Latin-rite church, a deacon can preside over the sacrament. The new law specifies, "Only a priest can validly assist at the matrimony of two Eastern parties or between a Latin and Eastern Catholic or non-Catholic," meaning a member of an Orthodox Church.

    Philippine bishops' head issues strong 'no' on restoring death penalty

    MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- The head of the Philippine bishops' conference set "ethical guidelines" against proposals to reinstate the death penalty as the country's war on drugs continues, with body counts increasing daily. In a statement released Sept. 14, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, conference president, urged Catholic lawmakers not to support "any attempt to restore the death penalty" and called on Catholic lawyers to "study the issue and to oppose" it by filing legal cases against it. He also appealed to Catholic judges to "heed the teaching of the church and to appreciate every possible attenuating or mitigating circumstance" so the death penalty would not be imposed. Less than a week after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was sworn into office, a staunch political ally and the new speaker of the Philippine House, Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte, filed a proposal to reinstate the death penalty. It was the first bill filed in the new congressional term. Duterte ran, and won by a large margin, on a platform of ridding the country of criminals by having them killed and encouraging the public to kill them. He has repeatedly called for the death penalty to be reinstated and, in early September, again urged congress to pass the bill. Since Duterte took office on June 30, more than 3,400 people accused of drug dealing or addiction have died at the hands of law enforcement and private citizens. In response to critics who have said the death penalty does not deter criminal activity, the president has taken the position that the death penalty is a means to make criminals pay for heinous crimes, not to keep them from committing them again.

    Orphaned world can find a mother in Mary, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a world that feels orphaned and abandoned, Christians can find a mother in Mary, who will defend them and is not ashamed of their sins, Pope Francis said. As she watched her son crucified and in agony, Mary "gave birth to us in that moment with so much pain; it is truly a martyrdom," the pope said Sept. 15 during a morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. "With her pierced heart, she accepted to give birth to all of us in that moment of pain. And from that moment she became our mother, from that moment she is our mother, the one who takes care of us and is not ashamed of us: She defends us," he said. Celebrating the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, the pope reflected on the humiliation and suffering Mary bore willingly while she witnessed the death of "her son naked" on the cross. "Mary had such great suffering, but she did not go; she did not deny her son. He was her flesh," he said. The pope recalled his frequent visits to prisoners in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he often saw a long line of mothers waiting to see their imprisoned children. Like Mary, these women suffered not only scorn and judgment, they "also suffered the terrible humiliation of body searches that were done to them before entering."

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  • Study puts dollar value of organized religion in the U.S. at $1.2 trillion

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Can you put a dollar value on religion? One Georgetown University researcher has attempted something close to it, releasing findings from a study that says organized religion and behaviors associated with it contribute, by one estimate, nearly $1.2 trillion to the United States. Brian Grim, of the Religious Liberty Project at Georgetown University, unveiled on Sept. 14 findings of a study he conducted with Melissa Grim, of the Newseum Institute, and which analyzed the economic impact of 344,000 religious congregations, "from Adventist to Zoroastrians," around the country. Depending on which factors one considers, religion contributes $378 billion, by the most conservative of estimates, and up to $4.8 trillion to the U.S. annually, Brian Grim said of the study sponsored by Faith Counts, a nonprofit organization of religious groups, whose aim is promoting the value of faith. University of Pennsylvania professor Ram Cnaan, who also is program director for the Program for Religion and Social Policy Research at the school, said at the unveiling of the study that while some may consider putting a dollar value on religion a sacrilege, it's important to point out organized religion's benefits to society to balance out news about clergy abuse, extremism, fraud and other ills that are frequently reported on the news and that involve members of faith communities. It's also important to consider the benefits of organized religion, the study said, when the U.S. seems to increasingly step closer to a more secularized society, such the one painted in the Pew Research Center study "'Nones' on the Rise," about the growing ranks of the religiously unaffiliated.

    Catholics urged to reject partisan views on migration, heed Gospel message

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration said Sept. 14 that Catholics "are called to overcome the partisan divides that separate us" on migration issues. Instead, Catholics must focus "on the moral teachings of the church that will help us build a vibrant public square," said Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo of Seattle. He said an upcoming summit on migration issues to be held at the United Nations Sept. 19 "will highlight the need for shared responsibility by the international community to address migration related crises around the world. This provides an opportunity for the bishops to bring attention to their long-standing teachings on migration, which are rooted in the Gospel message of welcome and grounded in Catholic social teaching," Bishop Elizondo said. He was referring to a summit level meeting of heads of state and government officials being convened by the U.N. General Assembly to discuss the large movement of refugees and migrants in the world today. It will be the first U.N. summit of its kind. In his statement, Bishop Elizondo also quoted from Pope Francis' address to Congress, in which the pontiff called on all Americans to "seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities."

    Minnesota deacon devotes decades to digging graves, praying for the dead

    DELANO, Minn. (CNS) -- Deacon Joe Kittok digs holes for a living. He spends an hour and a half several times a week removing about 4 cubic yards of dirt, which he takes to his 35-acre property in Delano and spills onto the ground. He gets $400 per hole, which adds up to a decent living. But, what makes his job special is not the holes he digs, but what goes into them. Or, rather, whom. The 69-year-old member of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Delano, who is married with three adult sons, is a professional gravedigger. He has been doing it for 44 years, and he now digs around 300 graves per year in 30 cemeteries in Delano and surrounding communities. An important part of the process for him comes at the end, when he stands over the hole after the casket has been lowered and says a prayer for the deceased. It's his way of carrying out one of the corporal works of mercy: burying the dead. It's also the fulfillment of a promise he made several decades ago to a parish priest, now-deceased Father Michael Tegeder, at Our Lady of the Lake Church, in nearby Mound. "We sat down and had a little talk," Deacon Kittok recalled, not sure exactly when the conversation took place. "I think we were waiting for a funeral. And he said, 'You know, you're in a perfect spot to make this your ministry and pray for these people at just the right moment when they might need it.' I thought about that for all of about 20 minutes, and I decided that I would (follow Father Tegeder's suggestion). ... Every night now, I pray for every person I've ever buried."

    Notre Dame event with Ginsburg focuses on her life, not court decisions

    NOTRE DAME, Ind. (CNS) -- In a visit to the University of Notre Dame Sept. 12, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg steered away from abortion, same-sex marriage and other major issues and instead focused on her hope to find common ground. "Someday there will be great representatives on either side of the aisle who will recognize that they cannot represent the United States very well if they are trying to work in conflict instead of in harmony," she said. She was on campus to engage in a public conversation with U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Ann Claire Williams, a Notre Dame alumna and trustee. The event was hosted by the university's Office of the President. In Purcell Pavilion, packed with an estimated 7,500 guests, Williams facilitated a conversation highlighting the challenges and triumphs Ginsburg has experienced throughout her personal and professional life. Ginsburg's hope for harmony has not softened her ideological positions that some Catholic commentators have described as "extreme." She has been a steadfast supporter of same-sex marriage, which the Catholic Church opposes, and was part of the majority in the court's decision legalizing such marriages in 2015. She also supports keeping abortion legal.

    Report says legalizing marijuana would be windfall for cannabis industry

    SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- If voters legalize marijuana in California Nov. 8, the cannabis industry can expect sales to increase to $6.5 billion by 2020, a new cannabis industry marketing report predicts. Cannabis investors can expect 18.5 percent sales growth a year in California if Proposition 64 passes, according to "The State of Legal Marijuana Markets," published by New Frontier Data and ArcView Group. The 2016 report says: "Legalization of cannabis is one of greatest business opportunities of our time and it's still early enough to see huge growth." In 2015, medical marijuana sales in California were $2.7 billion, the study noted. The California Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops, has officially taken "no position" on the ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana. However, the conference notes the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches the use of drugs except on strictly therapeutic grounds is a "grave offense," and the Vatican Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry in 2001 stated that the use of cannabis is "incompatible with Christian morality." Meanwhile, a just-released Colorado study of the effects of legalization found marijuana-related traffic fatalities increased 62 percent from 71 to 115 people from 2013 to 2015, youth use increased 20 percent and adult use increased 60 percent based on questions about past-month use.

    Pope, cardinals continue looking at process for choosing bishops

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis and members of the international Council of Cardinals advising him on church governance once again discussed ways to improve the process of identifying the best priests to become bishops. "The cardinals reflected broadly on the spiritual and pastoral profile necessary for a bishop today," said Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office. Meeting with Pope Francis Sept. 12-14, they also discussed "the theme of the Holy See's diplomatic service and the formation and tasks of apostolic nuncios with particular attention to their great responsibility in the choice of candidates for the episcopacy," Burke said in a statement. At their April meeting, the pope and cardinals also had spoken about the process of choosing new bishops and they looked specifically at the questionnaire that nuncios send around to bishops, priests and others asking their opinions about certain candidates. The nuncios evaluate the responses and forward suggestions for the appointment of new bishops to the Congregation for Bishops, which does a further evaluation and makes recommendations to the pope.

    Benedictine abbots elect head of Conception Abbey abbot primate

    ROME (CNS) -- A room with a view of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica from a monastery atop the Aventine Hill is very nice, but Abbot Gregory Polan knows he will miss his brother monks at Conception Abbey in Missouri very, very much. The new room at the Rome monastery of St. Anselm comes with Abbot Polan's election Sept. 10 as abbot primate of the worldwide Benedictine Confederation, a network of men's monasteries. The abbot primate is not the superior general of the Benedictine order because the monasteries are independent. Instead, the abbot primate is called to represent the monks at international gatherings, promote the unity of the abbeys and priories around the world and serve as a liaison to the Vatican. As abbot primate, he also becomes the abbot of St. Anselm in Rome and chancellor of the Benedictine's Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm and its Pontifical Liturgical Institute. All of that means resigning as Conception Abbey's abbot, a position he has held for almost 20 years. The community life with its prayer times, liturgy, work, silence, communal meals and communal recreation drew him to the Missouri abbey surrounded by corn and soy fields. As a Benedictine, he vowed stability to that community and will remain a member of the 58-member Conception community even as he serves his term as abbot primate.

    Pastors who become princes are far from Jesus' spirit, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Clergy who use their position for personal gain rather than to help those in need do not follow the spirit of Jesus who took upon himself the sufferings of others, Pope Francis said. Jesus often would rebuke such leaders and warned his followers to "do what they say but not what they do," the pope said Sept. 14 at his weekly general audience. "Jesus was not a prince," the pope said. "It is awful for the church when pastors become princes, far from the people, far from the poorest people. That is not the spirit of Jesus." As is customary, before speaking, Pope Francis made his way around St. Peter's Square in the popemobile, greeting thousands of pilgrims who waved, kissing children presented for a blessing and even taking repeated sips of the mate tea offered by an Argentine pilgrim. In his talk, the pope reflected on Jesus' tenderness toward the poor, the suffering and the oppressed and his invitation, "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest."

    Assassinated French priest joins procession of martyrs, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To kill in the name of God is satanic, Pope Francis said at a special requiem Mass for a French priest assassinated by youths claiming allegiance to the Islamic State. "Father Jacques Hamel had his throat slit on the cross, at the exact moment he was celebrating the sacrifice of Christ's cross. A good man, meek, brotherly and who always sought to make peace, was murdered as if he were a criminal. This is the satanic line of persecution," the pope said Sept. 14 during a morning Mass in the chapel of Domus Sanctae Marthae. Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen and Father Hamel's sister, Roselyne Hamel, along with 80 pilgrims from the diocese joined Pope Francis for the Mass in memory of Father Hamel, who was killed July 26. Two men stormed a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen while Father Hamel celebrated Mass. After taking several hostages, the attackers slit Father Hamel's throat and seriously injured another parishioner. Following a standoff, police killed the attackers, ending the hostage situation. Celebrating the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, the pope entered the chapel dressed in a red chasuble, the color symbolizing martyrdom. He reverently bowed before the altar, where a picture of Father Hamel was placed in front of two lit candles.

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  • Archbishop rejects claim religious liberty used as excuse to discriminate

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore sharply criticized comments made by Martin Castro, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, that the phrases "religious liberty" and "religious freedom" were "code words" used to discriminate. "Statements painting those who support religious freedom with the broad brush of bigotry are reckless and reveal a profound disregard for the religious foundations of his own work," said Archbishop Lori of Castro in a Sept. 13 statement. Archbishop Lori, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, said the notion that people of faith are "comparable to fringe segregationists from the civil rights era" is a "shocking suggestion." Castro made the statements as part of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights' 306-page report, "Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles With Civil Liberties." Originally scheduled for issuance in 2013, its release was delayed until Sept. 8 -- and even then, two on the seven-member commission dissented from its findings.

    New report shows U.S. Catholics have negative, limited views of Islam

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In grappling with the issue of Islamophobia, a Georgetown University research group conducted an examination of conscience of sorts by looking at Catholic perceptions of Islam and how these views may have been influenced by Catholic news outlets and publications. The results are a mixed bag, showing how Catholics often have negative or limited views about Islam, but also giving catechists, church leaders and Catholic journalists a starting point for the work ahead, according to the study's author, Jordan Denari Duffner. Duffner, a research fellow at Georgetown University's Bridge Initiative, which studies Islamophobia, presented results of the report, "Danger and Dialogue: American Catholic Opinion and Portrayals of Islam," Sept. 12 at the university. The report, based on a survey of 1,027 people polled between April 9-15, 2015, is available at ome of its key findings show: Nearly half of Catholics can't name any similarities between Catholicism and Islam; when asked about overall impression of Muslims, three in 10 Catholics admit to having unfavorable views; Catholics are less likely than the general American public to know a Muslim personally.

    While some protest TTIP, cardinal says trade treaty could be beneficial

    BONN, Germany (CNS) -- As Europeans planned street protests against a controversial trade treaty with the United States, a European church leader said intergovernmental agreements were worthwhile when they reflected ethical standards. At least 100,000 people were expected to take part in Sept. 17 street protests in Berlin, Munich and other cities, demanding a halt to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations. Opponents say such a partnership would damage employment and the environment and erode protections for workers and consumers. Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich-Freising, president and the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community, said the agreement could "contribute to a fairer world economic order," especially if opened up to poorer countries. He told the German Catholic news agency, KNA, that "a just global economic order requires common rules, and TTIP could be a way to achieve this. Given today's huge social and environmental challenges, I won't have a good feeling if Europe pulls out of shaping globalization and leaves the issues and actions to others," said the cardinal, who also serves as president of the German bishops' conference. "We need a fair trading system as part of a global social market economy; those responsible should continue negotiating and not just rashly give up," he told KNA. He said he was concerned that people had attacked the trade deal "before talks really progressed."

    Liturgy marks 350th anniversary of first Mass in Vermont by French

    ISLE LA MOTTE, Vt. (CNS) -- In 1666, Jesuits celebrated the first Mass at the site of the French-established Fort Saint Anne, Vermont's oldest European settlement. Today, the site is on Isle La Motte in Lake Champlain in the state's northwest corner. Scores of worshippers gathered Sept. 11 at the outdoor chapel at St. Anne's Shrine on the site for a Mass commemorating the anniversary. Capt. Pierre La Motte built the fort as a defense against the Mohawks in the area. The Jesuits also erect the first chapel in Vermont on the site. From that day to today, the celebration of the Eucharist "has been part of our lives in this great state," Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, said in opening the Mass. He also acknowledged the significance of the date of the Mass, Sept. 11, asking worshippers to remember victims of all war and terrorism as the nation commemorated and mourned the terror attacks on the United States 15 years earlier. The liturgy was a votive Mass for peace.

    Cardinal beatifies priest deported to Central Asia, who stayed to serve

    KARAGANDA, Kazakhstan (CNS) -- A Vatican official beatified a Polish-born priest deported to Soviet-ruled Central Asia who volunteered to stay on and minister to Catholics. Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes, said Father Wladyslaw Bukowinski, who died in 1974, prayed to overcome "fear, hunger and violence, continuing his service at risk of being arrested and sent back to the gulag. His trials before Soviet courts and his time in labor camps gave him a pulpit for witness and evangelization, from which he taught love of God and neighbor, showing how faith could bring down walls," Cardinal Amato said during the Sept. 11 beatification Mass at Our Lady of Fatima Cathedral. He said the priest had been a "courageous missionary of Christ in distant lands of Eastern Europe" and found "safety through faith in God and divine providence" at a time of religious persecution and "physical and moral suffering." Born in 1904 at Berdychiv, now in Ukraine, Blessed Bukowinski studied law and theology in Krakow, Poland, where he was ordained in 1931. He was arrested by the Soviet secret police as a "Vatican agent" in 1940.

    Pope: Culture of encounter overcomes indifference in families, society

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Men and women must work to build a culture of encounter in order to overcome today's habit of turning a blind eye to the suffering of others, Pope Francis said. People often cross paths but too often "think of themselves; they see but do not look, they hear but do not listen," the pope said Sept. 13 during morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. "We are accustomed to a culture of indifference and we must strive and ask for the grace to create a culture of encounter, of a fruitful encounter, of an encounter that restores to each person his or her own dignity as a child of God, the dignity of a living person," the pope said in his homily. The pope reflected on the day's Gospel reading in which Jesus raises the son of widow from the dead after he saw the mother's suffering and "was moved with pity for her." Christ's encounter with the woman "makes us reflect on our way of interacting with each other," the pope said. This compassion is not the same kind we feel "when we walk along the street, for example, and we see something sad and say, 'What a pity!'" he said.

    Mother Teresa upheld as the human face of eternal hope at U.N.

    UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- St. Teresa of Kolkata was described as the human face of eternal hope who embodied the founding principles of the world body during a program honoring her canonization. The saint also offers an enduring example of what the U.N. can achieve, said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations, one of the speakers during a Sept. 9 event that marked her canonization five days earlier in Rome. Friends, colleagues and ambassadors from the countries most closely associated with Mother Teresa's lifetime of ministry recounted the saint's efforts during the program, "Leaving No One Behind: Mother Teresa's Enduring Message for the International Community Today." Mother Teresa was perhaps the first person since St. Francis of Assisi who was considered saintly by people of so many countries and religions, Archbishop Auza said. Other presenters contrasted Mother Teresa's diminutive stature with her large hands and can-do attitude. Former U.N Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar introduced the founder of the Missionaries of Charity religious order to the General Assembly in 1985 as "the most powerful woman in the world."

    Economic focus must shift from profit to people, cardinal says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The current economic model that places profit over the common good of all human beings must change in order to confront the challenges the world is facing today, a Vatican official said. The world must heed Pope Francis' warning of the dangers of "an economy of exclusion and inequality," Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told participants at a conference studying the pope's views on the economy. "We need a new social economy to meet the challenges of the present day, one in which the human being is firmly at the center, where all are included in economic social life, and where creation is cherished and protected," Cardinal Turkson said. The Sept. 13 event, titled "The Economy according to Pope Francis," was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the embassies of Germany, the Netherlands and Austria to the Holy See. In his speech, Cardinal Turkson highlighted the pope's warnings on the "liquid economy," or an economy judged by the ease with which assets can be converted into cash, and therefore focusing more on finance than on labor and the production of goods.

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