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  • Trial begins for ex-Vatican diplomat accused of distributing child porn


    By Junno Arocho Esteves

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A former staff member at the Vatican nunciature in Washington, accused of possessing and distributing child pornography, admitted his guilt to a Vatican court and said he had never engaged in such behavior before his assignment in the U.S. capital.

    "This kind of morbidness was never a part of my priestly life," Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella told a courtroom June 22.

    Vatican City State's criminal court issued an indictment June 9 against the prelate, who has been held in a jail cell in the Vatican police barracks since April 9.

    Msgr. Capella is accused of having and exchanging with others "a large quantity" of child pornography; the quantity is such that the charges are considered "aggravated" by the Vatican City court.

    The U.S. State Department notified the Holy See Aug. 21 of Msgr. Capella's possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images. The 50-year-old Italian monsignor had been working in Washington just over a year when he was recalled to the Vatican.

    On Sept. 28, police in Canada issued a nationwide arrest warrant for Msgr. Capella on charges of accessing, possessing and distributing child pornography.

    Recounting his diplomatic career at the Vatican, the Italian prelate told the court that after several years in India, Hong Kong and the Vatican Secretariat of State, he was unhappy about his assignment to the nunciature in Washington.

    He said that "out of respect to the hierarchy, out of sense of duty and to not create problems, instead of making my discomfort known to them, I thanked them for the transfer."

    The monsignor told the court that he felt "empty" and "useless" in his first four months at the Washington nunciature and initially used the internet for news and funny images.

    In April 2016, Msgr. Capella started using the social microblogging site Tumblr to search for images when he started to see pornographic images. He said this led to conversations on the site's chat feature to engage in lewd conversations and exchange more perverse child pornographic images.

    Gianluca Gauzzi, deputy commissioner of the Vatican police and a computer engineer, later testified that 40-55 photos, videos and Japanese comics depicting adult-child relationships were found or recovered from cellphones, USB drives and hard drives belonging to Msgr. Capella.

    One video uncovered from the prelate's cellphone, Gauzzi told the courtroom, depicted sexual acts between a child and an adult.

    Tommaso Parisi, a psychiatrist, told the courtroom he began treating Msgr. Capella in October and that the prelate has been cooperative and responded well to treatment twice a week.

    Msgr. Capella was born in Carpi, Italy, and ordained to the priesthood in 1993 for the Archdiocese of Milan. After studying at the Vatican diplomatic academy in Rome, he entered the Vatican diplomatic service in 2004. He was assigned to the Washington nunciature in the summer of 2016.

    Giuseppe Dalla Torre, president of the tribunal of Vatican City State, announced that the trial will continue June 23.

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  • Trial begins for ex-Vatican diplomat accused of distributing child porn

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A former staff member at the Vatican nunciature in Washington, accused of possessing and distributing child pornography, admitted his guilt to a Vatican court and said he had never engaged in such behavior before his assignment in the U.S. capital. "This kind of morbidness was never a part of my priestly life," Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella told a courtroom June 22. Vatican City State's criminal court issued an indictment June 9 against the prelate, who has been held in a jail cell in the Vatican police barracks since April 9. Msgr. Capella is accused of having and exchanging with others "a large quantity" of child pornography; the quantity is such that the charges are considered "aggravated" by the Vatican City court. The U.S. State Department notified the Holy See Aug. 21 of Msgr. Capella's possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images. The 50-year-old Italian monsignor had been working in Washington just over a year when he was recalled to the Vatican. On Sept. 28, police in Canada issued a nationwide arrest warrant for Msgr. Capella on charges of accessing, possessing and distributing child pornography.

    Nuns' killer gets life sentences for plea, forgiveness from their families

    LEXINGTON, Miss. (CNS) -- Rodney Earl Sanders pleaded guilty June 21 to murdering two religious sisters in their Mississippi home in 2016. What he got in return was mercy, forgiveness and a call to redemption. Holmes County Circuit Judge Jannie Lewis sentenced Sanders to two life sentences without the possibility of parole for the murders, 25 years for the burglary of their home and another five for stealing their car. Prosecutors could have taken the case to trial and asked for the death penalty, but those who knew the victims spoke against the death penalty from the very start of the case. Friends, family members and those touched by the lives of Sister Paula Merrill, a member of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Kentucky, and Sister Margaret Held, a member of the School Sisters of St. Francis of Milwaukee, each addressed Sanders directly in the courtroom, forgiving him and inviting him to seek forgiveness and redemption. "God still has plans for you. You are loved by God," said Rosemarie Merrill, Sister Paula's sister. She told Sanders she prays for him, she has forgiven him and hopes he will change his life. "I hate what you did. I do not hate you," said Merrill.

    Pope: Bishops, clergy in Middle East must not fall into sin of opulence

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Although the sin of war committed by nations has caused great suffering to Christians in the Middle East, the Catholic Church must bear in mind its own sins, Pope Francis said. "There is also our sin in the Middle East: the sin of incoherence between life and faith. There are perhaps -- not many -- some priest, bishop, religious congregation who professes poverty yet lives like a rich person," the pope said in off-the-cuff remarks during a meeting with a coalition of funding agencies coordinated by the Congregation for Eastern Churches. "I would like these religious men and women, Christians, some bishop or some religious congregation to strip themselves more (of riches) for their brothers and their sisters," he said. The pope spoke June 22 during a meeting with members of a Vatican coordinating body, known by its Italian acronym ROACO, which operates under the auspices of the Congregation for Eastern Churches. The funding agencies include the U.S.-based Catholic Near East Welfare Association. The Congregation for Eastern Churches and the coalition of funding agencies are responsible for assisting Eastern-rite churches around the world as well as the Latin-rite church in the Holy Land.

    Riot police withdraw as bishops, priests visit besieged Nicaraguan city

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- Clergy from the Archdiocese of Managua, Nicaragua, had planned to pray for peace June 21. Instead, bishops from the archdiocese, Archbishop Waldemar Sommertag, apostolic nuncio to Nicaragua, and about 30 priests from the capital traveled to pray in the besieged city of Masaya. The city has been the site of protests against the country's unpopular president, and police and paramilitaries have been accused of attacking and killing the civilian population. "I want to make a call to those who have come to this city to kill, I want to make a call to those that are sharpshooters ... I want to make a call to (President) Daniel Ortega and (Vice President and first lady) Rosario Murillo, not one more death in Masaya," Auxiliary Bishop Silvio Baez Ortega told locals outside St. Sebastian Parish. "The pain in Nicaragua is enormous," Bishop Baez said. "Unarmed people are being massacred. Cities are in the hands of bandits." The churchmen celebrated Mass and led a eucharistic procession through city streets, passing through barricades and the scenes of past attacks while praying to the Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Church bells in the city tolled to welcome them, a change from the sounding of the bells to warn the population of arriving police or paramilitaries.

    Update: As immigration woes rise, lawmakers can't agree on solutions

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Bipartisan disagreement on how to fix the country's immigration system led to failure once again as lawmakers on Capitol Hill turned down one immigration bill June 21 and postponed a vote on a second proposal, which also has a slim opportunity of passing. Each side blamed the other for the failure to advance the first piece of legislation, which did not clear the initial hurdle of passing in the House of Representatives. The remaining proposal, seen as a "compromise" bill, seeks to find a way to help youth brought to the country illegally as minors and a $25 million advance for a wall along the border with Mexico, a major campaign and yet-unfulfilled promise made by President Donald Trump. Though Trump said Mexico would pay for the wall, he is now asking Congress for U.S. taxpayer money for the structure. "It's not a compromise. It may be a compromise with the devil, but it's not a compromise with the Democrats," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, of the remaining bill. Though House Democrats voiced opposition to both bills, some Republicans, too, disagreed within their ranks.

    Church now facing its own #MeToo moment, says Australian archbishop

    ROME (CNS) -- In the wake of historic allegations of sexual abuse and cover-up in countries around the world, the Catholic Church is experiencing the same challenge that has brought a reckoning to those who used their authority to abuse or silence victims, said an Australian archbishop. Allegations such as those raised against Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, represent a "major shift" within the culture of the church, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane said June 21. Abuse survivors are "willing to speak and they are believed," and the church has new processes of investigation, he added. "It's not unrelated to the #MeToo phenomenon; there's something going on in the culture. And one of the elements of that cultural shift is that people are prepared to speak up in a way that they would never have done before," he told journalists following a four-day conference in Rome on safeguarding and child protection. The Anglophone Safeguarding Conference, held at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University June 18-21, reflected on the theme, "Culture, an enabler or barrier to safeguarding."

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  • Update: Pope: Individual bishops must decide about Communion in mixed marriages

    ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM GENEVA (CNS) -- The question of allowing Protestants married to Catholics to receive Communion at Mass in special cases has to be decided by each individual bishop and cannot be decided by a bishops' conference, Pope Francis told reporters after a one-day ecumenical journey to Geneva. During an inflight news conference June 21, the pope was asked about his recent decision requesting the Catholic bishops' conference of Germany not publish nationwide guidelines for allowing Communion for such couples. He said the guidelines went beyond what is foreseen by the Code of Canon law "and there is the problem." The code does not provide for nationwide policies, he said, but "provides for the bishop of the diocese (to make a decision on each case), not the bishops' conference." "This was the difficulty of the debate. Not the content," he said.

    Catholic Extension launches reunification fund to help families at border

    CHICAGO (CNS) -- Catholic Extension announced June 21 it has established a Family Reunification Fund as "a response to the human tragedy unfolding on the nation's southern border" with Mexico. Family separations at the border and policy debates over that policy and the nation's immigration system "have exposed the profound misery of those fleeing their countries and coming to the United States," said the Chicago-based organization, which is the leading supporter of missionary work in poor and remote parts of the United States. Extension said the fund will support ministries that provide direct outreach and advocacy for immigrant families who are "separated as a consequence of our broken immigration system. "The fund," it said, "will mainly benefit existing ministries on the southern U.S. border with Mexico, specifically those that are actively sheltering, defending, and caring for immigrants and their families." Through the Family Reunification Fund, Catholic Extension said it can increase its support to resource-strapped immigrant ministries "at this very critical moment when policy changes are creating even more hardship and uncertainty among immigrant families." More information about the fund can be found at

    Update: Abuse allegation against Cardinal McCarrick found credible

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, said he will no longer exercise any public ministry "in obedience" to the Vatican after an allegation he abused a teenager almost 50 years ago has been found credible. "While shocked by the report, and while maintaining my innocence, I considered it essential that the charges be reported to the police, thoroughly investigated by an independent agency and given to the Review board of the Archdiocese of New York," the cardinal said in a statement June 20. "I fully cooperated in the process." Cardinal McCarrick, who turns 88 July 7, said that "some months ago" he was informed of the allegation by New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan. Cardinal Dolan, in a June 20 statement, said it was "the first such report of a violation" against Cardinal McCarrick "of which the archdiocese was aware." In separate statements, Bishop Checchio and Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey -- where Cardinal McCarrick served in-between his appointments to Metuchen and Washington -- said this was their first notice that Cardinal McCarrick had been accused of sexual abuse of a minor. "In the past, there have been allegations that he engaged in sexual behavior with adults," Cardinal Tobin said.

    Physician warns of family separation's harmful effects on children

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- At a congressional panel discussion, Dr. Sanjeev K. Sriram, a pediatrician in Southeast Washington, discussed the long-term effects of separating children from their parents. The panel, sponsored by Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, met June 20 in response to the Trump administration's policy of separating families illegally entering the United States at the U.S.-Mexico border and consideration of two bills in the House of Representatives to address the issue. Although the executive order President Donald Trump signed later the same day ended the policy of separating children from their parents by directing that families be detained together as they await criminal proceedings and the adjudication of their asylum claims, the over 2,000 children already separated from their parents will suffer for the rest of their lives as a result of the separation, according to Sriram. Sriram, who is also an assistant professor of pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine, began his speech by saying that, since the policy along the U.S.-Mexico border meets the standard for child abuse, he called up Child Protective Services to report the Trump administration for child abuse. CPS told him to contact authorities. He said that, before the panel convened, he visited the offices of various members of Congress with the same message. "Pediatricians take child abuse extremely seriously in our line of work," he said. "We expect that Congress should too."

    Mexican bishops announce security protocols for priests, religious

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- Mexico's bishops have published security protocols, hoping to keep priests and religious safe -- along with church property and shrines -- as crime and violence increasingly impacts churchmen and consumes previously peaceful corners of the country. "The protocol is in response to what's happened the last two years, the increase in murders, not only of priests, (but) there's also a surge in this pain that is impacting our country," Auxiliary Bishop Alfonso Miranda Guardiola of Monterrey, the Mexican bishops' conference secretary-general, told reporters June 19. "This protocol is meant to be a strong prevention tool." Mexico suffered its most murderous year in memory in 2017, recording more than 29,000 homicides, as the country's crackdown on drug cartels and organized crime showed few signs of success. Crimes such as kidnap, extortion and robbery with violence have harmed ordinary Mexicans and, increasingly, priests. The Catholic Multimedia Center has counted 24 priests murdered since December 2012. Some of those murders are attributed to organized crime, which is thought to kill priests and authority figures to establish dominance over a crime territory. But eight of the cases of murdered priests involve little more than robbery, said Father Rogelio Narvaez Martinez, executive secretary of the bishops' social ministries.

    Port chaplain leads pastoral, practical outreach to crew on detained ship

    MOBILE, Ala. (CNS) -- With the aid of the Apostleship of the Sea, Deacon John Archer, port chaplain of the Archdiocese of Mobile, has been providing pastoral and practical support for the crew of a cargo ship detained in the Port of Mobile for months. The Trans Gulf has been prevented from sailing since March 2016 after "it was found to have deficiencies," including electrical problems, according to a news release from the apostleship. Deacon Archer received a call in December 2017 from someone concerned about the well-being of the crew. He found that crew members' food supplies were running low and that they were not being paid in full. He began to visit them weekly, arranged for Catholic Social Services in the Mobile Archdiocese to deliver food until they received money to buy food, and arranged for transportation to Mass. He also gave them Bibles and other spiritual books and found them a means of transportation so that they could shop for goods and go to community events. "All this helped raise their spirits so that they did not feel like they are in prison on the ship," the deacon said.

    Update: Parishioners in Kenya disappointed after priest suspended -- for rapping

    RAPOGI, Kenya (CNS) -- Many parishioners at St. Monica Church in western Kenya are unhappy after their favorite priest was suspended for misconduct by the Diocese of Homa Bay. Father Paul Ogalo was suspended June 3 for using secular music, drama and dance to attract youths to the church. The 45-year-old priest had been entertaining his parishioners with rap music, urging them to stop using drugs and to get involved in environmental and social justice issues. Locals came to love his unique style of preaching the Gospel. "I'm very disappointed that he is suspended. I will now not go to church," said Benard Oketch, 28. "Father Paul has been our mentor. He uses the language youths understand," Oketch said. Through rap, the priest "has saved thousands of youths" from abusing drugs, he said. Called Father Masaa or Paul SWIT, an acronym for Sees World In Turmoil, Father Ogalo had stunned and thrilled his congregation in equal measure. After celebrating Mass, he would change his priestly vestments for black shorts and a white shirt, tie a red bandana around his head, and begin rapping to the congregation.

    Forgiveness turns evil into good, pope tells Catholics in Geneva

    GENEVA (CNS) -- At the end of a day dedicated to celebrating 70 years of an ecumenical fellowship forged by the World Council of Churches, Pope Francis turned to the region's Catholics, reminding them of what lies at the heart of the faith. The Lord's Prayer "offers us a road map for the spiritual life" by reminding people they are part of one human family, that they should live a simpler, more caring life and that forgiveness works miracles in history, he said. "There is no greater novelty than forgiveness, which turns evil into good," he told 40,000 Catholics from Switzerland, France and other nations not far from this landlocked country, whose history was built on the values of peace and neutrality. The pope was in Geneva June 21 "as a pilgrim in quest of unity and peace," for a one-day journey celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the World Council of Churches -- a fellowship of 350 ecclesial communities, including many Orthodox churches, who represent some 500 million Christians worldwide. The Catholic Church, which cooperates extensively with the council, is not a full member. Celebrating Mass at the city's enormous indoor expo center, the pope pointed to the essential lessons contained in the Lord's Prayer, which Jesus teaches his disciples in the day's Gospel reading. The pope first circled the vast indoor center in a small white electric cart, greeting the faithful and blessing babies. Former pontifical Swiss guards in traditional uniform were present, standing at attention, representing their service rendered for more than 500 years in Rome.

    Soon-to-be-deported mother praying to God 'to keep my family together'

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- After standing in sweltering heat for 40 minutes, dozens of supporters cheered as Erika Fierro emerged from the building May 31. That she exited through the front doors was a good sign. It meant that she was not being deported to Mexico -- that day. "They gave me a date to leave next month, (on) June 26," Fierro told those present. "They" are the officials of the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program, or ISAP, and she had just met with them in Indianapolis. But she made the statement with a strained smile. "It's still not enough time for me to get my kids' passports to take them with (me)," said Fierro, the 35-year-old mother of two children, ages 3 and 8. Their father and Fierro's husband, Jesus Pena Rodriguez -- was deported to Mexico several weeks earlier. With Fierro leaving June 26, the children will be separated from both parents until their passports are issued, said Fierro. Paperwork her husband is required to sign and have notarized is not expected to reach him until July 2. "It's hard because they wish their dad was with them," she told the supporters, clergy and local news reporters present. "That's my fear, that more trauma will be done to them, and that's irreversible."

    Update: Broken world needs Christian unity, pope tells Christian leaders at WCC

    GENEVA (CNS) -- Not only God, but today's broken, divided world is begging for unity among Christians, Pope Francis said on an ecumenical pilgrimage to Geneva. "Our differences must not be excuses," he said, because as Christ's disciples, Christians can still pray together, evangelize and serve others. On his 23rd apostolic journey abroad June 21, the pope spent several hours with Christian leaders at the headquarters of the World Council of Churches, a fellowship of 350 ecclesial communities, including many Orthodox churches. The pope came to help celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of what is the largest and broadest ecumenical fellowship in the world. Speaking to reporters aboard the papal plane from Rome, the pope said, "This is a trip toward unity," representing the "desire for unity." He was greeted on the tarmac by dignitaries and two children in traditional dress; two former members of the Swiss Guard stood by the red carpet in the corps' full colorful uniform, which only happens on papal trips to Switzerland. Active guard members traveling with the pope are always in plainclothes.

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  • Trump signs executive order stopping family separation policy

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- President Donald Trump signed an executive order June 20 that halts his administration's family separation policy for families who have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. The executive order seeks to work around a 1997 consent decree that bars the federal government from keeping children in immigration detention -- even if they are with their parents -- for more than 20 days. The executive order instructs the attorney general to seek federal court permission to modify the consent decree. The crisis was spawned when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a "zero tolerance" policy for border crossers. Under the policy, adults would be charged with a felony rather than a misdemeanor for crossing the border. Under federal statute, those charged with felonies cannot have their children detained with them. The government earlier in June said 1,995 minors had been separated from 1,940 adults who had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, although some minors had crossed without their parents or adult kin. The policy and its upshot stirred some of the most hostile reaction yet of any Trump initiative.

    Uptick in abuse claims likely after high-profile case brought to light

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- An increase in calls to dioceses to report claims of clergy sexual abuse has happened before, and is likely to happen again in the wake of the credible claim lodged against Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, according to the head of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection. Those claims and inquiries, though, won't solely be about Cardinal McCarrick, said Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the secretariat. Deacon Nojadera said the most noticeable such example was following the Boston Globe's "Spotlight" series examining clergy sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston in early 2002. Another such example he gave was the release of the movie "Spotlight," based on the newspaper's reportage. In the film's case, though, he added, abuse reports "weren't just about clergy sex abuse, but all kinds of abuse." Much of this results, he said, "because there's this invitation (by dioceses) to survivors to please come forward." When they do, diocesan victim assistance coordinators realize "you only have one shot" to engage with someone reporting abuse, Deacon Nojadera said.

    Update: Pope supports U.S. bishops' criticism of 'immoral' immigration policy

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said he stands with the U.S. bishops who recently condemned the Trump administration's policy on immigration that has led to children being held in government shelters while their parents are sent to federal prisons. "I am on the side of the bishops' conference," Pope Francis said in an interview with the Reuters news agency, published online June 20. "Let it be clear that in these things, I respect (the position of) the bishops' conference." On the first day of their June 13-14 spring assembly in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, read a statement on behalf of the bishops denouncing the government's zero-tolerance policy. "Families are the foundational element of our society, and they must be able to stay together. While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral," the statement said. The political rise of populist movements in both the United States and in Europe has led to a severe crackdown on men, women and children trying to escape war, violence, poverty and persecution.

    Top German Lutheran leader praises pope for dedication to ecumenism

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Days before Pope Francis' visit to the World Council of Churches in Geneva, a top German Lutheran bishop praised the Catholic leader for his dedication to ecumenism. In an email interview with Catholic News Service, Bishop Gerhard Ulrich, leading bishop of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany, discussed the current state of Catholic-Protestant relations in Germany, the interfaith-marriage Communion controversy and his recent visit with Pope Francis. The bishop said the relationship between Protestants and Catholics worldwide has reached an unprecedentedly positive level since Pope Francis jointly led a commemoration ceremony with the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation for the Reformation Anniversary in Lund, Sweden, in 2016. Bishop Ulrich said the service, a result of 50 years of trusting cooperation between the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation, was "a historic milestone for Lutheran-Catholic ecumenism. Never before were the Reformation and its consequences, from the global level to local communities, commemorated in sisterly cooperation by our churches," he said. The bishop said cooperation between the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation on diaconal initiatives has increased as a result of the service.

    Panel: Democrats face challenges engaging faith voters

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When Cecil Roberts was growing up in coal country in West Virginia in the 1960s, he said you could always count on seeing the images of three men on the walls of coal company houses. One was of John L. Lewis, a labor leader and president of the United Mine Workers from 1920 to 1960, Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Jesus Christ. That told you all you needed to know about a mining community that solidly backed a political party that they believed respected the faith-based social justice beliefs of the working class. "I never met a Republican then because everybody was a Democrat ... that's not the case now," Roberts said June 18, during the "Faith and the Faithful in the Democratic Party" panel at Georgetown University hosted by the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life. Roberts, now president of UMW, said these days, the Democratic Party seems to have lost its way when it comes to embracing supporters with a religious identity, including those he grew up with in coal country and whose faith drove them to work to elect those who believed that "all of God's children should have equal opportunity in this society."

    Relic of early pope, found by waste company, given to London cathedral

    LONDON (CNS) -- A relic of bones of an early pope was given to the Catholic Church after it was stolen from a car and recovered by a waste disposal company. Three fragments of a bone said to belong to St. Clement I, a first-century martyr who was ordained a bishop by St. Peter the Apostle, were presented to London's Westminster Cathedral June 19 by James Rubin, owner of Enviro Waste. Rubin said he discovered the relic in his warehouse during an office cleanup earlier this year. "We had a range of furniture and electrical waste, and I happened to see it (the relic) on the side of someone's desk. I thought it was a bit strange, that it didn't really belong in the hands of a waste company, but I didn't know what it was at the time," he told a news conference in the cathedral. The relic sits on red silk damask within a small oval metal reliquary above the words "Ex Oss S. Clementis PM." He discovered through Google that "Ex Oss" meant "ex ossibus," Latin for "from the bones of," Rubin said, noting that he then knew he had made an interesting discovery and made it public, in the hope that he might obtain more information.

    DiNardo: All clergy, no matter their 'standing,' must protect children

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said June 20 that all clergy in the Catholic Church "have made a solemn promise to protect children and young people from all harm." "This sacred charge applies to all who minister in the church, no matter the person's high standing or long service," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston. He made the comments in a statement issued in response to the announcement that Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, will no longer exercise any public ministry after an allegation he abused a teenager 47 years ago was found credible. "This morning was a painful reminder of how only through continued vigilance can we keep that promise" of protecting children and young people, Cardinal DiNardo said, without mentioning Cardinal McCarrick by name. "My prayers are with all who have experienced the trauma of sexual abuse. May they find healing in Christ's abundant love." He said the U.S. bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," first approved in 2002, "outlines a process for addressing allegations, holding us accountable to our commitment to protect and heal."

    Women faith leaders at rally denounce separation of families at border

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- About 200 people gathered outside the U.S. Customs and Border Protection headquarters in Washington at a rally to protest the Trump administration's policy of separating families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border June 19. Thirteen women faith leaders spoke at the rally, which was called the Women of Faith Cry Out to Keep Families Together Prayer Vigil, and they attacked the president, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen for failing to end the policy of separating children from their parents. "It's an honor to stand with my sisters of many faiths," said Sister Ann Scholz of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. In the crowd, which was about 60 percent women, people held a variety of signs -- "United Methodists stand for justice," "Toledo loves immigrants," "Muslim women cry out for immigrant children," "What would Jesus do?" -- and peppered the speeches with chants of "Shame!" and "Stop this now!" The Christian speakers, who made up a majority, used stories from the Bible to denounce the policy. Muslims and Jews also were in attendance. "Don't crucify the children on your white supremacy and wash your hands like Pilate," said the Rev. Jennifer Butler, the CEO of Faith in Public Life. She also led the crowd in a chant that echoed Moses: "Let the children go."

    Mexican bishops decry U.S. policy of separating families at border

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- The Mexican bishops' conference has criticized the practice of U.S. officials separating migrant families, joining a chorus of condemnation south of the border as Mexicans react with outrage to the sight and sounds of children being confined in shelters far from their parents. In a June 19 statement, the bishops said, "The political sovereignty of any state rests in a prior and much more fundamental sovereignty: the sovereignty of families. "Families possess a dignity that is their own and which is not the product of its members' immigration status -- rather it is their character as an essential part of our social life." The bishops said separating families "causes dangerous and harmful consequences to children because it makes them more vulnerable. ... The best interests of children have priority over any other question or discussion in this matter." Scenes of children being separated from their families so close to the Mexico-U.S. border caused outrage in Mexico, where many have experienced the hardship of relatives emigrating due to insecurity and a lack of opportunities. Family separation for long periods has a become common in some communities, and breadwinners working in the United States are sometimes unable to return home.

    Pope: Commandments are God's loving words, not oppressive commands

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Ten Commandments given by God are meant to protect his children from self-destruction; they are not harsh rules meant to enslave and oppress, Pope Francis said. Since the days of Adam and Eve, the devil has sought to deceive people into believing that the rules set forth by God are "the imposition of a despot who prohibits and forces" rather than a loving father "who is taking care of his children," the pope said June 20 at his general audience in St. Peter's Square. "Man and woman are in front of this crossroad: does God impose things on me or does he take care of me? Are his commandments just a law or do they contain a word? Is God master or father? Are we his subjects or his children?" he asked. Before greeting the crowds standing outside under the sweltering sun, the pope made his way to the Paul VI audience hall to greet hundreds of sick people taking shelter from the heat. "This audience is being held in two places: us here in the square, and at Paul VI hall there are more than 200 sick people who are following us on the big screen. All together, we form a community. Let us greet those who are in the hall," Pope Francis told the estimated 13,000 people in St. Peter's Square.

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  • Update: Bishop Kicanas wins England award, stresses Catholic press' critical role

    GREEN BAY, Wis. (CNS) -- Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas accepted the Catholic Press Association's 2018 Bishop John England Award June 14 by praising the work of the Catholic press and stressing how critical Catholic journalism is to the church's message getting out to the world. Presented annually, the award recognizes publishers in the Catholic press for the defense of First Amendment rights, such as freedom of the press and freedom of religion. It is the CPA's highest award for publishers. Bishop Kicanas retired as head of the Diocese of Tucson, Arizona, last October after 14 years as its shepherd. He was appointed Tucson's coadjutor in 2002 and became head of the diocese a year later. As Tucson's bishop, he was publisher of the diocesan newspaper, which was called The New Vision for many years and is now called Catholic Outlook. Honored during a lunch at the Catholic Media Conference in Green Bay, he called "a great privilege" to receive the England award. "I have admired and respected the CPA for many years. Bishop Kicanas called it "a great privilege" to serve in Tucson and praised the diocese's communications office. "They're the very best." To the luncheon crowd of Catholic journalists, he said, "I know the bishops appreciate greatly the work you do. Thank you for all you do."

    Peruvian organization founded by Maryknoll nun wins human rights award

    LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- A human rights organization co-founded by a Maryknoll sister has won the Letelier-Moffitt human rights award for its work with indigenous farmers high in the Andes Mountains of Peru. The organization, Human Rights and Environment, based in Puno and known by its Spanish initials as DHUMA, teaches people to defend their rights under Peruvian and international law and provides legal defense in cases of rights violations, according to Maryknoll Sister Patricia Ryan, 71, who grew up on Long Island, New York. DHUMA, founded in 2007 by Sister Ryan and others who formerly worked in the human rights office of the Catholic Prelature of Juli in Peru's Puno region, recently won a landmark ruling that indigenous communities must be consulted before the government can grant mining concessions on their lands. Quechua and Aymara communities on the windswept, two-mile high plain and hills around Lake Titicaca generally "are not taken into consideration on issues that affect their rights or territory," Sister Ryan told Catholic News Service.

    Former math teacher makes sure girls, women in South Sudan, Haiti learn

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- It all started with a note pinned to the convent's bulletin board. "Urgent! Refugees arriving at SFO from Southeast Asia. Volunteers needed to assist at the International Terminal." SFO is the airport code for San Francisco International Airport where more than 700 refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, described as "boat people," were arriving daily in 1980 when Mercy Sister Marilyn Lacey happened to see this request for help pinned alongside prayer requests, time for vespers and the announcement of an upcoming lecture. Sister Marilyn, who once taught high school math, said the note caught her eye, so much so that she grabbed two friends and they went to the airport that afternoon to help. The initial experience was daunting: finding families and escorting them to their connecting flights. Her first task of escorting families -- who didn't speak English and were afraid to briefly part with their belongings at the security check -- then moved to temporarily hosting some of these families at the convent if they experienced flight delays or other holdups. She wound up working at Catholic Charities in the Diocese of San Jose, California, and was the agency's director of refugee services from 1983 to 2005. She eventually became the executive director of a nonprofit group, Mercy Beyond Borders, to help educate girls and support entrepreneurial projects run by displaced women in southern Sudan, where she said women are viewed as less valuable than cattle. Years later, the group also provided this same ministry to girls and young women in Haiti.

    Bishops 'cannot, in good faith, endorse' new GOP immigration bill

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops "cannot, in good faith, endorse" an immigration bill submitted by the House's Republican leadership, said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Migration. Bishop Vasquez said the bill would bring about "large structural changes to the immigration system that detrimentally impact families and the vulnerable." He said the new bill, still without a name or number, "contains several provisions that run contrary to our Catholic social teaching." He made the comments in a letter dated June 18 and sent to each member of the House. It was posted June 19 on the U.S. bishops' website Bishop Vasquez said this unnamed bill would "undermine asylum protections by significantly raising the hurdle applicants face during the 'credible fear' review, lead to increases in child and family detention ' eliminate protection for unaccompanied minors through the proposed changes to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, includes part of the DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals)-eligible population but does not include same population eligible in the USA Act and the DREAM Act, make sweeping cuts to family-based immigration and unilaterally implement a safe third country agreement without a bilateral or multilateral treaty or agreement."

    At U.S. Open, priest has chance to minister and enjoy his favorite sport

    LONG ISLAND, N.Y. (CNS) -- Several hours before Brooks Koepka captured his second straight U.S. Open golf championship June 17 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, Father Tom Guido continued a personal Father's Day tradition by celebrating Mass at his 16th straight U.S. Open. The tournament each June provides the Florida priest with an opportunity to perform his ministry and enjoy his favorite sport at the same venue. Father Guido, 58, pastor at Resurrection Parish in Miramar Beach, attended his 23rd U.S. Open this year. He has missed only two tournaments since he first began attending the event in 1994. A golf enthusiast who enjoys watching the action up close on the course, Father Guido said the focal point of his annual golf pilgrimage is to celebrate Mass for journalists, event staff and volunteers who are working in or near the media tent on the Sunday morning of the tournament's fourth and final round. The highlight of the trip, he said, is "to proclaim the word of God and to bring the Eucharist to people who otherwise can't get to church."

    Pew report says young adults worldwide less religious than older adults

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A study by the Pew Research Center found that young adults worldwide are generally less religious than older adults by a variety of measures. The study, which drew upon previous surveys by Pew, concluded that this was true regardless of the predominant religion in the country, its level of economic development, or its level of religiosity. It defined young people as those under 40 years of age and older people as those 40 or older. The study noted projections indicate countries whose populations are growing fastest are very religious, while countries projected to have shrinking or stagnant population levels tend to be less religious. In addition to determining the differences between the rates of religious observance of younger and older people, the study, published in mid-June, attempted to identify possible causes for those differences. As life expectancy, the average amount of schooling, income equality, and gross domestic product increase, the study found that religious observance decreases, with very few exceptions. For example, of the 102 countries included in the report, the United States was the only one with an above-average GDP per capita and an above-average rate of daily prayer.

    Delegates hope farmworkers' voices, struggles will be heard at V Encuentro

    SOUTH BEND, Ind. (CNS) -- Part of Lupe Cervantes' ministry at St. Joseph Parish in Wautoma, Wisconsin, is to reach out to migrant and seasonal farmworkers who often lack an immigration status, which he says, makes them vulnerable to isolation, abuse and other struggles. Cervantes is a Hispanic ministry leader participating in the Fifth National Encuentro process as a delegate for the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin. "They're not coming to church because the Masses are not in their language and they have a hard time understanding English, so they choose not to come. We're really in need of more 'padres' that are bilingual and bicultural," said Cervantes. He hopes, like some of his fellow ministry leaders, that an increase in priests who understand the language and culture in his area would attract more Hispanic immigrants to the church. Reaching out to migrant farmworkers and other people on the peripheries through missionary disciples, like Cervantes, is one of the goals of the V Encuentro process, as it also is known.

    Iraqi iconographer honors his Syriac roots

    BEIRUT (CNS) -- When Islamic State fighters overran Qaraqosh, Iraq, in the summer of 2014, Mothana Butres was able to grab only a single volume from his father's collection of thousands of Syriac books and manuscripts. The handwritten, 600-year-old book of Syriac hymns now inspires much of Butres' work as an iconographer. From a modest walk-up apartment in Zahle, Lebanon, a city not far from the Syrian border, the Syriac Catholic iconographer and refugee creates his sacred art in a sparsely furnished living room. As he works, he sings the hymns he has committed to memory from the sole book he managed to save. Butres is the creator of the Our Lady of Aradin icon, a centerpiece of the first Catholic shrine dedicated to persecuted Christians. The shrine is housed in St. Michael's Church in New York City and was dedicated June 12. "The inspiration when I was working on Our Lady of Aradin was that it was the Virgin Mary who was protecting the Christians," Butres told Catholic News Service. He chose to present Mary in the traditional wedding dress of the Aradin area of Iraq "to represent that the Virgin Mary will always be a part of the Christians in Iraq and that she is the protector of Christians in Iraq and all the Middle East," Butres said.

    Duterte spokesman says Australian nun still in danger of deportation

    MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- An Australian missionary nun ordered by Philippine authorities to leave the country is still in danger of being deported, despite winning a reprieve from the Justice Department, said a top government official. The Philippines' Justice Department decided that Sister Patricia Fox, who has been working in the country for 27 years, should get her missionary visa back after it was declared forfeit by immigration authorities. reported the justice department declared the forfeiture of the nun's visa by the Immigration Bureau "null and void" on June 18 because there was no legal basis to declare it forfeit. It added that Sister Fox "may continue to perform her duties as a missionary" until her visa expires in September or "until a final resolution" in her deportation proceedings is reached. reported June 19 that a spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte said the 71-year-old nun is "not yet off the hook" and still has to face the deportation case. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the Justice Department only upheld the validity of Sister Fox's visa "without prejudice to the deportation proceedings."

    After Colombian election, church official urges talks with ex-guerrillas

    CUCUTA, Colombia (CNS) -- The director of Caritas Colombia has called for dialogue between the country's new president-elect and former leftist guerrillas to prevent the return of guerrilla warfare. The June 17 election of Ivan Duque, 41, has put the peace agreement between the government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in doubt after the candidate repeatedly questioned the terms of the deal during the campaign. It remains unclear to what extent the law will allow the president-elect to alter the accords. "We have to wait for the two sides to come together," said Msgr. Hector Fabio Henao, who heads the church's charitable aid agency and also serves as president of the National Peace Council. "We must insist on dialogue." The government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leaders signed the peace deal in November 2016, ending more than five decades of armed conflict that led to more than 250,000 deaths. But Santos pushed the revised deal through congress after a similar version was narrowly rejected by voters. "That was a betrayal of the will of the people," said Israel Castillo Monday, a Duque supporter. Many like him viewed the elections as a second referendum on the peace agreement.

    Synod working document: Young Catholics need church that listens to them

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Young Catholics are looking for a church that listens to their concerns, accompanies them in discerning their vocations and helps them confront the challenges they face, said a working document for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on young people. The synod's "instrumentum laboris" (working document), published by the Vatican June 19, stated that young people "want to see a church that shares their situations of life in the light of Gospel rather than by preaching." Quoting a presynod gathering of young people who met at the Vatican March 19-25, the working document said young Catholics "want an authentic church. With this, we would like to express, particularly to the church hierarchy, our request for a transparent, welcoming, honest, attractive, communicative, accessible, joyful and interactive community." The working document is based mainly on comments solicited in a questionnaire last June from national bishops' conferences around the world as well as the final document of the presynod gathering.

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  • Cardinal: Dive deep into Scripture to find joy, clarity in anxious times

    NEW YORK (CNS) -- Joy has to be rooted in the fullness of reality, the suffering of the Cross, the glory of the Resurrection and the providence of God, not in a gooey meringue of sweetness. This was one of the messages Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto shared with a New York audience June 16. At a time when the church is under attack by "grievously, ferociously secular people who are trying to squeeze faith out of everything," those who take a deep dive into Scripture will find joy and some clarity, according to the cardinal. Cardinal Collins gave the English keynote address at the ninth New York Catholic Bible Summit. Cardinal Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona, Spain, delivered the Spanish keynote address at the bilingual event. More than 600 people attended the daylong program at the New York Catholic Center in Manhattan. Cardinal Collins said the Book of Psalms, with its copious examples of joy as a response to anxiety and fear, is a good resource for contemplative prayer. In the midst of the storms and strife of people's contemporary lives, prayer puts events into a God-given perspective, he said.

    Conference looks at intersection of natural sciences, Thomistic thought

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Finding an international conference at which talks about astronomy and eucharistic adoration fit on the same schedule is rare. The three-day symposium, called "Thomistic Philosophy and Natural Science" and held in Washington by the Thomistic Institute and the Society of Catholic Scientists, focused on the intersection between the natural sciences, especially physics and biology, and Thomistic thought. About 75 priests, religious sisters, Catholic scientists, and interested Catholic students attended the June 6-8 conference. Despite the intellectual material (and it was very intellectual -- "There's a steep learning curve," said Dominican Father Dominic Legge, assistant director of the Thomistic Institute) the speakers were able to explain why what they had to say mattered outside of their field. Daniel De Haan, a postdoctoral fellow in the Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge University in England, reminded the audience that theoretical questions are not pursued for their own sake. Instead, "theoretical questions emerge from practical and existential questions." Practical questions, he said, relate to the ways in which people go about their lives and emerge from existential questions that ask about the end of life and why people live.

    600 Catholic institutions declare support for Paris climate agreement

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Caring for creation goes hand-in-hand with the mission of helping retreat-goers connect with God at the Jesuit Retreat House in Parma, Ohio. The center's tree-enshrouded grounds that filter the sound of nearby traffic in the middle of Cleveland's largest suburb offer a home for wildlife and a respite for those seeking a quiet place to pray and reflect about God in their life. "The beauty of these grounds and the care of these grounds is our responsibility," Rick Krivanka, executive director at the retreat house, told Catholic News Service June 18, the third anniversary of the release of Pope Francis' encyclical on care of the earth, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home." "I believe every act we take in terms of care for the earth, even countless acts that are never seen, make a difference," he said, in explaining the retreat house's support for the newly released Catholic Climate Declaration. Made public on the encyclical's anniversary, the declaration serves as a moral call to action on the environment and urges President Donald Trump to return the United States to the Paris climate change agreement.

    Nearly 500 British priests sign statement in support of 'Humanae Vitae'

    MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- Nearly 500 British priests have signed a statement in support of the papal encyclical that forbade married couples from using contraception. They said the prophetic warnings contained within "Humane Vitae," (Of Human Life) published by Blessed Pope Paul VI July 25 1968, have proved to be accurate. "We propose discovering anew the message of 'Humanae Vitae,' not only in fidelity to the Gospel, but as a key to the healing and true development of our society," they said in the statement sent to the London-based Catholic Herald magazine June 14, ahead of the 50th anniversary of the encyclical's publication. The statement said "Humanae Vitae" represented a "re-affirmation of central aspects of the church's traditional teaching on human sexuality," including that the conjugal act was "always open to procreation and always unitive." "Humanae Vitae predicted that if artificial contraception became widespread and commonly accepted by society, then we would lose our proper understanding of marriage, the family, the dignity of the child and of women, and even a proper appreciation of our bodies and the gift of male and female," the statement said. "The Holy Father warned that governments would begin to utilize coercive methods to control what is most private and intimate," it said.

    Trenton bishop decries mass shooting that took place during arts festival

    TRENTON, N.J. (CNS) -- No motive "can justify these ongoing, seemingly relentless acts of gun violence plaguing our cities," Bishop David M. O'Connell of Trenton said after a mass shooting took place in the early morning hours of June 17 during a city arts festival. "The epidemic of gun violence has struck once again, this time close to home," he said in a statement. Gunfire broke out at 2:45 a.m. June 17 during a 24-hour festival called "Art All Night Trenton 2018." Police confirmed June 18 that 22 people had suffered gunshot wounds. Of that number, a 13-year-old boy and three other people were hospitalized and remained in critical condition. Police also said there were three suspected shooters. One identified as Tahaij Wells, 33, was killed. Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri said his office's Homicide Task Force was investigating if he was fatally shot by police. Two other suspected shooters also were shot. One identified as Amir Armstrong, 23, remained hospitalized in stable condition. The third suspect, who was not identified, remained in critical condition. "How many times can our hearts break" over such violence, Bishop O'Connell asked.

    Dictatorships begin with taking over media to spread lies, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- All dictatorships begin the same way: media outlets are put in the hands of "unscrupulous" people who spread lies and weaken democracy, Pope Francis said. Typical standards, norms and laws in regard to communications are first eliminated, the pope said in his homily June 18 during morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae. Then an entire media or communication outlet is handed over "to a firm, a business that slanders, tells lies, weakens democracy, and then the judges come to judge these weakened institutions, these destroyed, condemned people and a dictatorship makes progress this way," he said. "All dictatorships, all of them, began like this, by adulterating communication, by putting communications in the hands of people without scruples, of governments without scruples," he added.

    Update: Pope asks people to value contributions refugees can make

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis called on nations working to develop a global compact on refugees to make sure they help ensure migration is safe, legal and humane. While nations work to forge proper policies, every individual, "each of us, is called to draw near to refugees and find with them moments of encounter, to value their contribution so that they, too, can be better included in the communities that receive them," the pope said June 17. "It is by these encounters and with this mutual respect and support that there is an answer many problems," he said. The pope's remarks came at the end of his Angelus address in St. Peter's Square. He reminded people of World Refugee Day June 20.

    Pope met with brother of Chilean priest found guilty of abuse

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The brother of Chilean Father Fernando Karadima called on his brother to ask forgiveness for the hurt inflicted on those he sexually abused. "I would ask him to be humble. Fernando, ask for forgiveness. Not in silence to God or in your prayers. Do it publicly, that people hear that you ask forgiveness for the harm you have done to victims and to everyone," Oscar Karadima said in an interview with Chilean newspaper La Tercera, published June 17. Oscar Karadima also revealed that he was among the group of priests and laypeople who met with Pope Francis June 2 and spoke to him about the suffering his family endured following the revelation that his brother was found guilty of sexual abuse. "I spoke to him about Fernando; I told him what Fernando was like with his family, with us: He was an arrogant man, authoritarian, a man we were afraid of and that even my mother was afraid of him," Oscar Karadima said. Recalling his conversation with the pope, Oscar Karadima said his family members "were also victims of abuse of power and of conscience" by his brother. Their family name, he added, was tarnished due to the scandals. Karadima recalled tearing up as he recounted his and his family's pain and that Pope Francis touched his hand and encouraged him. After listening to him, he added, the pope grabbed a piece of paper and wrote a message for the Karadima family. "To the family of Oscar Karadima, with my blessing and my sorrow for so much suffering that you bear. In the name of Fernando, silent and incapable of realizing (his mistakes), I ask your forgiveness," the pope wrote.

    Update: Bishops' pastoral letter on racism on track for November vote

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNS) -- A planned pastoral letter addressing racism is on schedule for a November vote by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bishop Sheldon J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the bishop's Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, said during the bishops' spring general assembly June 14 that the document would reflect recommendations from the various audiences that have reviewed drafts of the document. The bishop said the document will focus on contemporary concerns affecting Native Americans and African-Americans and the "targeting" of Hispanics with racist language and actions. Among its components, he added, the document will: Reflect "grave concerns for the rise in racist expressions" in American society, public discourse and social media; and address ways racism affects institutions and public policy.

    Pope: Aborting children with birth defects is like Nazi eugenics program

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis denounced the practice of administering prenatal tests to determine birth defects that often lead to abortions, comparing it to the Nazi-era eugenics program that determined what lives were worth keeping or eliminating. Children are God's greatest gift and should be welcomed "as they come, as God sends them, as God allows, even if at times they are sick," the pope said June 16 during a meeting with members of Italian family associations. "I have heard that it is fashionable -- or at least common -- to do certain examinations in the first months of pregnancy to see if baby is not well or has some kind of problem. The first proposal in that case is, 'Should we get rid of (the baby)?' The killing of children. And to have a more tranquil life, an innocent is done away with," he said departing from his prepared speech. The pope recalled, as a boy, being taught in school about the Spartans, who "when a boy or girl was born with malformations, they would take them to the top of the mountain and throw them over to protect the 'purity of the race.'" Despite the atrocious nature of that practice, he continued, the practice of eugenics continues today "because the protocol of many doctors -- many, not all -- is to ask, 'Is something wrong (with the child)?'"

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  • Immigration is main topic at National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Four political leaders from both parties spoke at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and they each went in their own directions with their speeches. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Vice President Mike Pence all spoke at the June 14 prayer breakfast at the Grand Hyatt Washington. Esperanza, a national network of Hispanic evangelical leaders, hosted a three-day conference which culminated in the prayer breakfast. Pelosi, who focused on the role of faith in both politics and life, said: "Our presence here is a reminder of the unifying power of faith." She also drew upon other virtues, saying that "you'll find hope where you'll always find it -- right between faith and love" as she encouraged the religious leaders in the audience to keep fighting and not lose hope. When explaining the importance of protecting all human life, Pelosi referred to Catholic teachings on the Incarnation: "When we observe in the credo that Christ came down from heaven and became man, it's a sacred moment," she said.

    Update: Pope Francis appoints Michigan pastor as bishop of Diocese of Salina

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has named Msgr. Gerald L. Vincke, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Grand Blanc, Michigan, as bishop of the Diocese of Salina, Kansas. Bishop-designate Vincke, 53, is a priest of the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan. In 2016, the pope named him a "missionary of mercy." He was one of more than 1,000 religious-order and diocesan priests who received a special papal mandate to preach and teach about God's mercy during the 2015-16 Holy Year of Mercy. His appointment was announced June 13 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican nuncio to the United States. The bishop-designate was introduced as the newly appointed bishop of the Salina Diocese just one day after the 19th anniversary of his ordination as a priest. "I want to thank the Holy Father for his confidence in me," Bishop-designate Vincke, 53, said during the June 13 news conference. He will be installed Aug. 22.

    Julie Asher, CNS national editor, wins St. Francis de Sales Award

    GREEN BAY, Wis. (CNS) -- Julie Asher is the recipient of the 2018 St. Francis de Sales Award from the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada. The award recognizes "outstanding contributions to Catholic journalism" and is the highest honor given by CPA. It was presented during a June 15 luncheon at the Catholic Media Conference in Green Bay. "Wow. It's overwhelming," said Asher after she was handed the award. "I can confirm there was no Russian collusion on this -- I had to say that coming here from Washington," she added. Asher thanked her CNS colleagues, led by editor-in-chief Greg Erlandson, and his predecessors. "I also want to thank all of you, my colleagues in the Catholic press, for what you do every single day and what you contribute to CNS. We are all workers in the vineyard; we do it every single day to tell the story of the Catholic Church," she said. Asher noted that she didn't come from a journalism family but said she had some ink in her blood because her father was an ink salesman and sold ink to several small newspapers in eastern Colorado and western Nebraska. "I always wanted to be a journalist and to tell stories," she said, adding that she loves what she does.

    Philippine authorities arrest suspect in priest's murder

    MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- Philippine authorities announced June 15 that they had arrested their "prime suspect" in the killing of Father Richmond Villaflor Nilo, reported The suspect, identified as Adell Roll Milan, was arrested in San Isidro June 14, the same day Father Nilo was buried. A witness reportedly identified Milan, an alleged former drug user and hitman, as having shot the priest June 10. Authorities said police have also identified the vehicles used by the gunman and his accomplices, reported. Father Nilo was shot and killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen at a village chapel in Zaragoza while he was about to celebrate Mass. He was the third priest and the second in Nueva Ecija province killed in six months. Bishop Sofronio Bancud of Cabanatuan celebrated Father Nilo's funeral at St. Nicolas of Tolentine Cathedral in Cabanatuan. Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, papal nuncio to the Philippines, and several priests and bishops concelebrated.

    Update: Vatican team returns to Chile to 'ask forgiveness' for clergy sex abuse

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Arriving on his second visit to Chile, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta said his mission to the country was a sign of Pope Francis' closeness to the local church following devastating reports of sexual abuse and cover-ups by members of the clergy. Speaking to journalists in Santiago June 12, the archbishop said his team's pastoral mission includes providing "concrete technical and legal assistance to the dioceses in Chile so they may give adequate responses to each case of sexual abuse of minors committed by clergy or religious." Archbishop Scicluna, president of a board of review handling abuse cases within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Father Jordi Bertomeu Farnos, an official of the doctrinal congregation, visited Santiago June 12-13 before going to Osorno June 14-17. On June 11, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of 61-year-old Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno and two other Chilean bishops. Bishop Barros' appointment as head of the Diocese of Osorno in January 2015 sparked protest because of the bishop's connection to Father Fernando Karadima, his former mentor. Father Karadima was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys. Several of Father Karadima's victims alleged that Bishop Barros -- then a priest -- was present when the abuse occurred.

    Franciscan official says peaceful areas of Syria offer window of hope

    BEIRUT (CNS) -- For a Franciscan friar on a mission from Rome, a visit to peaceful areas in Syria provided a glimpse into a window of hope for the war-torn country. "I have met people full of hope, full of activity. I can feel it, they want to live, they want to continue with their lives. They want peace," Father Hugo Mejia, mission secretary of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars and general councilor of the order, told Catholic News Service June 14 in neighboring Lebanon after returning from a four-day visit to Syria. On his journey from Lebanon to the Syrian border, through Damascus and south to the province of Sweida, the Peruvian priest traveled through those parts of Syria without incident. There were many Syrian army checkpoints, but typically when it was known that priests were in the car, they were welcomed through, he said. Spending a night in the Old City of Damascus, the capital, Father Mejia was impressed with its liveliness. "There's a lot of activity. Businesses, hotels were open. I didn't imagine that, an absolutely normal life." He said he found the people open and friendly. In Sweida, 70 miles south of Damascus, where he spent the remainder of his visit, the priest noted that "there are a few problems in the area, but mostly it is in peace," even though some areas as close as 6 miles away are occupied "maybe by ISIS, maybe rebels, we don't know exactly."

    Yo-Yo Ma holds concert for peace at Chicago Catholic Church

    CHICAGO (CNS) -- When world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma brought his Concert for Peace to St. Sabina Church for the second time June 10, there was a special feature -- five original works written with family members who lost loved ones to gun violence as a tribute to the people who died. They are among 24 original songs created by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Negaunee Music Institute and Purpose Over Pain, a St. Sabina organization of parents who have lost a child to gun violence. All songs are available at The idea to create the songs came after Ma saw the memorial board outside the parish that features photos of all the people connected to the parish killed by gun violence. Ma first visited St. Sabina in spring 2017 on a Sunday in between morning Masses. The senior pastor, Father Michael Pfleger, was told a man saying he was Yo-Yo Ma was in the church and wanted to meet him, which he thought was a joke. It wasn't. Ma had stopped by the church on his way to the airport saying he followed the priest's work against violence and wanted to help.

    Most fundamental human right is hope, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The theory that well-being will automatically flow down to everyone from the riches of the few is "a lie," Pope Francis said. The beatitudes show the way, he said, because they show that holiness doesn't concern just the soul, "but also the feet -- for going toward our brothers and sisters, and the hands -- for sharing with them." May the beatitudes "teach us and our world to not be wary of or leave at the mercy of the ocean waves those who leave their land, hungry for bread and justice; may they lead us to not live in excess, devoting ourselves to the advancement of everyone, kneeling with compassion before the weakest," he said June 15. This approach, he said, comes "without the easy illusion that, from the lavish table of the few, well-being automatically 'rains down' for everyone," he said.

    French church groups combine to fight anti-migrant attitudes

    PARIS (CNS) -- The French church has launched a program to combat anti-migrant and anti-Muslim attitudes amid reports of tensions among Catholics. "It is to resist the rise of tensions and hostilities within the Christian community that our movements have decided to work" with the French bishops' conference to find ways to "help Christians rise above these fears and face the migrant question calm and dispassionately," said a June 7 statement on the conference's website. It said the program is a response to papal appeals, requests from the bishops' pastoral agency for migrants, as well as the church's charitable agency, Caritas; Jesuit Relief Services; and Terre Solidaire, a French development nongovernmental organization. "We salute the engagement of numerous Christians in welcoming and integrating migrants, and we encourage them to strive for a change of attitudes," the statement said. While survey findings show that most Catholics show a greater "closeness and solidarity" with Muslims and migrants than other French groups, they need to have their "fears and vulnerabilities" heard to enable them to "see others as a richness, not a threat," it said. "We will construct and recommend a set of tools, actions and messages" to promote a "culture of encounter, which is the precondition for building a just and fraternal society," the church groups said.

    Scientists, believers should admit how little they know, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Scientists and people of faith always must admit they don't know everything, and they must never be afraid to explore and discover more, Pope Francis told astronomy students and experts. "As people who love what we do, we can find in our love for this universe a foretaste of that divine love which, in contemplating his creation, declared that it was good," he said June 14. The pope spoke to dozens of young astronomy students who were taking part in a monthlong summer school sponsored by the Vatican Observatory. The summer program in astrophysics, held every two years, accepts a small group of promising university and graduate students, mostly from developing nations, who are specializing in astronomical sciences. During a private audience in the apostolic palace, the pope praised the way the study program brings together people from so many different countries, cultures and areas of specialization. This endeavor shows how "diversity can be united by a common goal of study" and how success in that work depends precisely on this diversity, he said.

    Challenges to religious freedom continue, archbishop tells USCCB

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNS) -- Challenges to religious freedom continue to emerge and the U.S. Catholic Church will remain steadfast in addressing them to serve the common good, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, told the spring assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In his report as chairman of the bishops' Committee for Religious Freedom, the archbishop said June 14 that such efforts are rooted in a vision to protect human dignity and support family and the gift of sexuality. "We propose this vision with passion for the good of individuals and for the good of our nation," the archbishop said. While some challenges have been overcome, such as the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act that forced religious institutions and people of faith to violate their faith, it does not mean they have ended, he said. "These issues will continue. They continue in health care. They continue in marriage and family, in life issues. Certainly challenges, perhaps of a different sort, in the welcome of immigrants and refugee families."

    Using women, trampling on their dignity is a sin, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Exploiting women or treating them like objects is a sin against God, Pope Francis said. "There is a rage against women, terrible rage," the pope said in his homily June 15 during morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae. It will do people good -- especially those who enjoy freedom -- to reflect on how many women have become "slaves of this throwaway mentality," he said. The pope's homily focused on the day's Gospel reading in which Jesus tells his disciples that anyone "who looks at women with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Jesus also admonishes those who divorce their wife, saying it "causes her to commit adultery and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." Jesus "changed history," Pope Francis said, with the way he respected women and recognized they have equal dignity as men. At the time, women were second-class citizens and slaves in that they did not enjoy full freedom, he said.

    Update: U.S. officials return stolen Columbus letter back to Vatican Library

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With the help of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a 15th-century copy of a letter Christopher Columbus sent to his royal patrons describing the riches of the New World has been returned to its rightful owner -- the Vatican. The rare eight-page document, estimated to be worth $1.2 million, had been secretly replaced with a forgery, while the true document eventually ended up in the hands of a U.S. collector from Atlanta. The late Robert Parsons had purchased the piece for $875,000 in the United States in 2004 "in good faith," unaware it had been stolen. Callista Gingrich, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, and representatives of the Department of Homeland Security and its investigations division presented the original copy during a ceremony June 14 at the Vatican Library. Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues, head of the Vatican Library and Vatican Secret Archives, and Msgr. Cesare Pasini, the library's prefect, also attended the ceremony. "This is a historic day," the archbishop said, as an important document that is part of the history of the Americas and Spain "returns home."

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  • Argentina moves closer to legal abortion; bishops pledge social action

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- Argentina's bishops expressed disappointment with the approval of an initiative that moves the South American country closer to legalizing abortion. But the bishops also pledged to review their social ministries to better attend to youth and women. The country's lower house of congress voted 129-123 to approve the initiative, which decriminalizes abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The initiative now goes to the country's senate. "This decision hurts us as Argentines," the bishops' conference said in a statement. "But the pain for the abandonment and the exclusion of innocents must be transformed into strength and hope, to continue fighting for the dignity of all human life." The close June 14 vote on the abortion issue reflected division in Argentine society, according to observers in the majority Catholic county. The law won support in big cities, but was opposed in the provinces. Supporters and opponents crowded streets in the capital -- with supporters waving green handkerchiefs -- as lawmakers debated through the night and the outcome remained uncertain until the final hours. A government survey taken in April showed Argentines split on this issue, with 46 percent opposing legalization and 45 percent supporting it.

    Video, letter among items to supplement bishops' election-year document

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNS) -- New supplementary documents and a video are on the horizon for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in advance of the 2020 presidential election. During their spring general assembly, the bishops approved the production of a short letter "to inspire prayer and action regarding public life" and a short video and other resources that would apply the teaching of Pope Francis to contemporary issues. The actions are meant to clarify the bishops' document on Catholics in public life, "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship." In a June 14 vote, bishops supported the actions 144-41, with two abstentions after an 85-minute discussion that found some bishops calling for an extensive revision of the quadrennial document that traditionally has been issued a year in advance of a presidential election. Approval came after the working group included a reference that the materials that will be developed would "apply the teaching of Pope Francis to our day."

    Update: 'Tag' movie based on three-decade chase game of Catholic school friends

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A group of Catholic high school friends has kept in touch -- literally -- since graduating more than 30 years ago from Gonzaga Preparatory School in Spokane, Washington. The way they've stayed connected -- through essentially continuing a version of tag they started in high school -- has received mixed reaction from people over the years, but that all changed five years ago when The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page article about them. The piece gave the group almost instant notoriety, as it was followed up by an ESPN segment and a slew of other interviews. The group of 10, who call themselves the "tag brothers," hired an agent and started talking about movie potential. Fast forward years later and now, they're "it" -- to use a tag expression -- because the story of the elaborate ways they've sneaked up on each other, sometimes in disguise, for one month of the year -- as per their signed agreement -- is now on the big screen in the movie "Tag," which releases nationally June 15. The movie takes the story of this group and runs with it, so to speak, with a fictionalized account. The original 10 friends -- nine graduated in 1983 and one in 1984 -- includes one priest, Father Sean Raftis, pastor of St. Richard's in Columbia Falls, Montana. At a reunion, the group was talking about their competitive high school tag and came up with a plan to continue it long distance every February.

    Humanitarian crisis in Yemen worsens, Catholic aid agency says

    AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) -- The Saudi-led coalition's assault on Hodeida, Yemen's main port city, will have a "catastrophic impact" on the ability of relief groups to get food, medicine and other aid to vulnerable Yemeni families in urgent need of assistance, a Catholic aid agency warned. CAFOD, the overseas aid agency of the bishops of England and Wales, made the comments ahead of a United Nations emergency meeting on the situation. "CAFOD partner staff in the country remain on the frontline, doing everything they can to reach people who are in urgent need of humanitarian aid," Giovanna Reda, CAFOD's head of humanitarian programs for the Middle East, told the Catholic News Service. "But with 90 percent of all Yemen's food imports passing through Hodeida, any disruption to the port's operation will affect the entire country," said Reda. The U.N. Security Council was to meet June 14 to discuss the situation in Yemen. "They must act now to secure a cease-fire and halt the suffering of millions of people," Reda told CNS.

    Bishops adopt 'pastoral response' for Asian, Pacific Island Catholics

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNS) -- A new document focused on guiding the American church in addressing the pastoral needs of Asian and Pacific Island Catholics was approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during their annual spring assembly. Adopted 187-2 with two abstentions, "Encountering Christ in Harmony" is described as a "pastoral response" meant to provide support and to offer ideas for ministry to the nation's nearly 3 million Asian and Pacific Island Catholics. Bishop Oscar A. Solis of Salt Lake City, chairman of the bishops' Subcommittee for Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, told the assembly a day before the vote that the document addresses the fastest growing minority community in the United States church and includes. "Asian and Pacific Islanders are ready for pastoral engagement in the church's mission of evangelization," he said. "Our approval of this document is indicative of an essential pastoral outreach to the mission of the church in the United States. It's a response to the call of Pope Francis to go to the peripheries to proclaim the Gospel," he added.

    Official explains Vatican media strategy: Let the pope be himself

    GREEN BAY, Wis. (CNS) -- To be "successful" on social media, Pope Francis only has to be himself; gimmicks aren't necessary, a Vatican official told Catholic communicators. "People want the pope just to be the pope," said Natasa Govekar, director of the theological-pastoral department of the Secretariat for Communication. For instance, she said, photos of the pope "with circus performers or wearing a silly hat do not do as well as photos of the pope praying." People congregate on social media sites, so the Catholic Church must be there with the Gospel message of salvation, love and tenderness, Govekar said June 12 at the Catholic Media Conference in Green Bay. Asked about the process for determining what tweets go out to the 47 million people who follow the nine-language @Pontifex accounts, Govekar said a team makes suggestions, but Pope Francis has the final say. Still, she said, in the end "it's not about us. It's not even about the pope. It's about Jesus."

    Bishops accept revised guidelines for health care partnerships

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNS) -- The process for considering key moral questions are more thoroughly examined in revised guidelines governing Catholic and non-Catholic health care partnerships adopted by the U.S. bishops. Voting 183-2 with two abstentions June 14 during their spring assembly, the bishops adopted the revisions, which are limited to Part 6 of the "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services" developed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Under development since 2015, the revised directives govern moral questions related to the delivery of health care in settings involving cooperation among Catholic and non-Catholic systems. Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester, Massachusetts, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Doctrine's Subcommittee on Health Care, told the assembly a day earlier in introducing the directives to allow for additional comment and amendments that the new directives will help bishops decide whether a health care partnership can occur under the church's moral teaching. The revisions offer more specific guidance to hospital administrators confronted with an increasingly complicated business environment. They also are intended to offer guidance to bishops as they witness health care mergers and collaborative arrangements in their dioceses.

    Bishops approve charter changes to widen protection of young people

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNS) -- Changes in language to clarify several sections of the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" were approved during the spring general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The changes are the first since 2011 as the work to update the document took several years to wind through the review process established by the bishops. The bishops voted 185-5 with one abstention June 14 to enact the changes. A day earlier, Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana, chairman of the Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, presented the changes, saying the they will strengthen protections for young people. Among the changes approved is a provision that the review will occur every seven years instead of every two years.

    Migration is about people, not numbers, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Migrants seeking a better life in other countries must not be viewed with suspicion but rather defended and protected, no matter their status, Pope Francis said. International cooperation is needed "at every stage of migration," especially for countries where higher influx of migrants "often exceeds the resources of many states," the pope said June 14 in a message to participants of the Holy See-Mexico Conference on International Migration at the Casina Pio IV, a villa located in the Vatican Gardens. "I would like to point out that the issue of migration is not simply one of numbers, but of people, each with his or her own history, culture, feelings and aspirations. These people, our brothers and sisters, need ongoing protection, independently of what migrant status they may have," he said in the message read by Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, Vatican foreign minister. Among the attendees at the conference were Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Luis Videgaray Caso, Mexican secretary for foreign affairs; and Miguel Ruiz Cabanas, Mexican sub-secretary for foreign affairs. Thanking participants for their work "on behalf of the needy and the marginalized in our society," the pope said the current challenges in confronting the migration crisis "demand a change in mindset."

    Listen to those in need, pope says in World Day of Poor message

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- How is it that God in heaven can hear the cries of the poor, but so many people watching or standing nearby either cannot or just do not care, Pope Francis asked. People must make "a serious examination of conscience to understand whether we are really capable of listening to the poor," the pope said in a message for the World Day of the Poor. The recently established commemoration and the period of reflection and action preceding it are meant to give Christians a chance to follow Christ's example and concretely share a moment of love, hope and respect together with those in need in one's community, the pope said in the message dated June 13, the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, patron saint of the poor. The Vatican released the message to the public June 14. The World Day of the Poor -- to be marked each year on the 33rd Sunday of ordinary time -- will be celebrated Nov. 18 this year and will focus on a verse from Psalm 34, "This poor one cried out and the Lord heard."

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  • Dominican sisters, women of faith, decry policy of separating families

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A woman's religious order and a group of women of all faiths are taking a stance against the Trump administration's policy of separating families by taking children into custody and sending parents to detention centers at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Adrian Dominican Sisters, based in Adrian, Michigan, called for "an immediate end to the morally reprehensible practice" in a June 11 statement. The sisters said the policy of children being taken into government custody while their parents are sent away from them -- with no way of communicating and no way of knowing when they will be reunited -- indicates "the nation has lost its moral compass." They are calling on Congress "to enact long-overdue immigration reform that enjoys broad public support and reflects American values." More than 1,200 women of all faiths have signed a letter to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, which also calls for an immediate end to the practice of separating families. The letter states that "many of these families seek to apply for asylum; by international law, these families should receive a fair hearing, not immediately be judged as criminals."

    Police say prominent Bangladeshi priest had string of relationships

    RAJSHAHI, Bangladesh (CNS) -- The mysterious disappearance of a Bangladeshi priest just days before Pope Francis visited the country has taken a new turn, reported Police suspected that Father Walter William Rozario had been kidnapped by radical Muslims when they found his abandoned motorbike and discovered that his mobile phone was switched off. But reported their investigation revealed that the 41-year-old priest allegedly had been involved in a string of relationships with women and at least one girl under 18, the age of consent in Bangladesh. "From our interrogation and findings, I can confirm that five women and an underage girl had illicit and physical relationships with the priest. One of those who admitted having an illicit affair with the priest was a girl aged 17 who was studying in college," Inspector Saikat Hasan of Boraigram police told Father Rozario, then assistant parish priest at Maria Virgo Potens Church and acting headmaster of church-run St. Louis High School in Borni, was involved in preparatory work for the pope's visit when he went missing Nov. 27. Police found the priest in Sylhet, about 250 miles away, Dec. 1 after he reportedly escaped from his abductors and called his brother for help. But the next day Natore's police chief told a press briefing that Father Rozario had not been abducted but had sought to be on his own to escape psychological distress. During four days of searching for the priest, Boraigram police questioned about 20 people, including 11 women and several underage girls, based on information they found on two laptops and several SIM cards retrieved from the priest's rooms.

    National Review Board chair alerts bishops to complacency on abuse

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNS) -- Cautioning against complacency in carrying out the requirements of the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," the chairman of the National Review Board urged the country's bishops to "never waver" in their commitment to protect minors and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse. Francesco Cesareo said in a report during the spring general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops June 13, that auditors preparing the 15th annual report on the implementation of the charter found signs of complacency in carrying out the charter in some dioceses and eparchies. Released June 1, the report detailed audits of compliance with the charter in U.S. dioceses and eparchies conducted between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017. While progress is being made as the number of allegations during the period declined from the two previous years, he cautioned the bishops to remain vigilant. "Despite the progress we have made in the church and the ongoing efforts of dioceses, many among the faithful and in society at large question the commitment of the church, and in particular, the bishops, in addressing the sexual abuse of children," he told the assembly.

    Update: At meeting in Florida, U.S. bishops decry Sessions' asylum decision

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops June 13 decried U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision that asylum seekers fleeing domestic or gang violence cannot find protection in the United States. "At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life," the bishops' statement said. They urged the nation's policymakers and courts "to respect and enhance, not erode, the potential of our asylum system to preserve and protect the right to life." Sessions' decision "elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection," it said. "These vulnerable women will now face return to extreme dangers of domestic violence in their home country." The statement from the bishops came on the first day of their June 13-14 spring assembly in Fort Lauderdale. Just after opening prayers, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, read the statement from the dais, and the bishops voiced their support. Announced by Sessions at a June 11 news conference, the decision "negates decades of precedents that have provided protection to women fleeting domestic violence," it said. "Unless overturned, the decision will erode the capacity of asylum to save lives, particularly in cases that involve asylum seekers who are persecuted by private actors."

    Update: Mexico's leading presidential candidate embraces many religions

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- Earlier this year, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, best known for promising to bring down Mexico's "mafia of power," stood solemnly at a lectern talking about religion. "The time has come to present a proposal based on the aim that when we obtain the presidency, we must not only seek to achieve material well-being, we must also seek well-being for the soul," said the veteran leftist and runaway favorite to win the July 1 presidential election. "Just as we already have a political constitution, we are going to elaborate a moral constitution." Victory for the 64-year-old, often referred to as AMLO, would come after two previous unsuccessful attempts and the formation of an entirely new party -- the National Regeneration Movement, or MORENA -- which revolves entirely around him. Lopez Obrador's larger-than-life political personality is usually analyzed as a struggle between the radical side, which refused to accept defeat in the 2006 election, and the arch-pragmatist who governed Mexico City as mayor between 2000 and 2005. Now the candidate's religiosity -- of which the moral constitution proposed in February is just one example -- is in the spotlight, evening if understanding it is hampered by Lopez Obrador's deliberate ambiguity.

    Advisory council has represented U.S. Catholic concerns for 50 years

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In the spring and fall, some days are longer than others for Margaret Simonson, immediate past chair of the U.S. bishops' National Advisory Council, a group that advises the Administrative Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For the past few years, she has set out twice a year from her tranquil environs in the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota, where she is chancellor, and headed east to Baltimore to meet with the 40 to 50 people from around the country who make up part of the advisory council where they discuss topics such as marriage, religious liberty, racism, immigration and other issues on the minds of the Administrative Committee. Formation of the National Advisory Council was first approved by the U.S. bishops in April 1968, just three years after the close of the Second Vatican Council, and it first met the following March. The group, conceived as a rotating group of advisers, helps the prelates take various views into consideration as they look for a way to respond to topics as a group and in the public arena. "At the beginning, it was overwhelming. I am used to small cities and not being involved in high-powered things," said Simonson in a June 7 interview with Catholic News Service. "It was a bit overwhelming but I knew it would be going in."

    Gathering looks at how to overcome polarization using social teaching

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- One week before President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shook hands at the historic summit on Singapore's Sentosa Island, 100 Catholics representing different perspectives huddled at Georgetown University in Washington. They were there to share ideas on overcoming polarization in the church and in U.S. society. "That work is more important now than ever," said John Carr, director of the university's Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, which convened the June 4-6 conference titled "Though Many, One: Overcoming Polarization through Catholic Social Thought." Researchers presented survey results on polarization at the conference and noted that U.S. Catholics are deeply divided on controversial issues like abortion and immigration. Catholics sometimes feel politically homeless when political parties espouse stances in variance of Catholic teaching, Carr said in the concluding session. "We've tried to provide a shelter, if not a home, for people who belong to the same family -- the Catholic family," he said, noting that Catholic social teaching on the dignity of all human life, solidarity with the poor and care for the environment can unite Catholics in working for the common good.

    Bishops of El Salvador warn against privatizing water

    SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (CNS) -- El Salvador's bishops urged lawmakers to discard any plans for privatizing water in the Central American country, saying the poor could not afford to pay the cost of a vital necessity. In a terse statement, issued June 12 and titled, "We will not allow the poor to die of thirst," the Salvadoran bishops' conference cited Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," which said, "Access to potable and secure water is a basic, fundamental and universal human right because it determines the survival of people and therefore is a condition for the exercising of all other rights." The bishops continued: "As pastors, we are witnesses to the outcry of our people, who ask for potable water in all homes and could not pay the costs if (water) is turned into a good, which is subject to market forces." El Salvador's legislature is starting debate on a national water law. The legislation is proving controversial because some lawmakers favor increased private-sector participation in water management.

    Council of Cardinals finalizes draft of new document on Roman Curia

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will review a finalized draft of the apostolic constitution that would govern the Roman Curia, the Vatican spokesman said. The document, provisionally titled "Praedicate Evangelium" ("Preach the Gospel"), was reviewed by the international Council of Cardinals, and the draft will be "given to the Holy Father for the considerations he deems opportune, useful and necessary," said Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, June 13. The title is still subject to change, and the pope may choose to share it with others to receive feedback, Burke said. An early draft of the document was reviewed by Pope Francis and the council during their last meeting, April 23-25. The draft document emphasizes four points: the Roman Curia is at the service of the pope and the local churches throughout the world; the work of the Curia must have a pastoral character; the new section in the Vatican Secretariat of State would oversee the training, assigning and ministry of Vatican nuncios and diplomats around the world; and the proclamation of the Gospel and a missionary spirit must characterize the activity of the Curia.

    Pope launches appeal that World Cup in Russia helps promote peace

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As 32 nations get ready to vie for the World Cup in Russia, Pope Francis greeted players, organizers and soccer fans who will be following "this event that overcomes all borders. May this important sports event become an occasion for encounter, dialogue and fraternity between different cultures and religions, promoting solidarity and peace between nations," said the Argentine pope, who is an avid soccer fan. He made his remarks in an appeal at the end of his general audience in St. Peter's Square June 13. The 2018 FIFA World Cup was being held in Russia from June 14 to July 15. It is the first time the quadrennial tournament, which began in 1930, was held in Eastern Europe. The ball being used in the first match -- Russia vs. Saudi Arabia -- had been taken to the International Space Station by a Russian cosmonaut in March and returned to Earth June 3.

    Biggest danger in life is fear, settling for less, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The worst enemies in a young person's life aren't the problems they may face, Pope Francis said. The biggest dangers are being unwilling to find a way to adapt, mediocrity by settling for the status quo, and fear, he said at his general audience in St. Peter's Square June 13. "It is necessary to ask the heavenly father for the gift of healthy restlessness for today's young people, the ability to not settle for a life without beauty, without color. If young people are not hungry for an authentic life, where will humanity end up?" he said. As the pope spoke to the crowd of 15,000 people, he was flanked on either side by 10 children wearing bright yellow baseball caps. He had invited them to temporarily leave behind their parish group pilgrimage in the square and follow him to the platform in front of the basilica to be part of his VIP entourage for the morning. The pope said he was beginning a new series of audience talks on the Ten Commandments and how Jesus leads people from the law to its fulfillment. He asked people to reflect on the reading from the Gospel of Mark and Jesus' response to a young, wealthy man who asked what was needed to inherit eternal life. This question reflects the burning human desire for a full and dignified life, the pope said, but the challenge is "how to get there? What path to take?"

    Update: Encuentro priorities help shape Hispanic ministry in U.S.

    SOUTH BEND, Ind. (CNS) -- Nearly 200 Hispanic ministry leaders from 13 dioceses in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin gathered at the University of Notre Dame for their Region VII encuentro, held June 8-10. Among the main issues participants considered as priorities for their region were: evangelization and leadership development among youth and young adults; support and care for immigrants in the country without documents; accompaniment of families; the development of intercultural competencies in parishes; and the need to grow more vocations. "The encuentro has really brought to light to the authorities of the church the voices of the people. That's why these encuentros are so important," said Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Alberto Rojas, chairman of the Region VII encuentro. Like other regional encuentros being held around the country, the gathering at Notre Dame was part of the process leading up to the Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry -- or V Encuentro -- to take place Sept. 20-23, in Grapevine, Texas.

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National/World multimedia:

Check out the Catholic News Service multimedia player on the Catholic Herald Web site front page, featuring daily Vatican video reports, coverage of the church in the U.S. and more.

NOTE: requires Adobe Flash Player.

What is Catholic News Service?
Catholic News Service (CNS), the oldest and largest religious news service in the world, is a leading source of news for Catholic print and electronic media across the globe. With bureaus in Washington and Rome, as well as a global correspondent network, CNS since 1920 has set the standard in Catholic journalism.

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