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  • Pope asks WYD pilgrims to accompany him with prayers during visit

    By Junno Arocho Esteves

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With his visit to World Youth Day only a few days away, Pope Francis asked young pilgrims to accompany his visit to Krakow, Poland, with prayers.

    Leaving for Poland July 27 "to meet up with these young men and women and celebrate with them and for them the Jubilee of Mercy, with the intercession of St. John Paul II, I ask you to accompany me with prayer," the pope said July 25 during his Angelus address.

    The pope thanked the volunteers, bishops, priests and men and women religious "who are working to welcome these young pilgrims."

    In a message for youths unable to make it to the event, he said, "A special word to the many youth of their same age who, unable to be present personally, will follow the event through the media: We are all united in prayer!"

    Prayer was the main theme of the pope's reflection prior to reciting the Angelus with thousands of visitors in St. Peter's Square.

    Recalling the day's Gospel reading, in which Jesus teaches his disciples the Lord's prayer, the pope said the word 'father' is the secret to Jesus' prayer.

    That word, the pope said, "is the key that he himself gives us so that we can also enter into this relationship of trusting dialogue with the father who has accompanied and sustained his life."

    Pope Francis explained that prayer is the primary "work tool in our hands" and that to insist on something with God is not meant to "convince him, but rather to strengthen our faith and our patience, that is, our capacity to fight beside God for the things that are truly important and necessary."

    "In prayer we are a pair: God and me, fighting together for what is important. Among these, there is one, the great important thing, which Jesus tells us today in the Gospel, but which we hardly ever consider, and it is the Holy Spirit: 'Grant to me the Holy Spirit!'" he said.

    In asking for the Holy Spirit, he concluded, Christians can live their lives with "wisdom, with love, doing the will of God," like Mary.

    "The Virgin Mary shows us this with her existence, wholly animated by the Spirit of God. She helps us to pray to the father united to Jesus, so as to live not in a worldly way, but in accordance with the Gospel, guided by the Holy Spirit," the pope said.

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  • Pope asks WYD pilgrims to accompany him with prayers during visit

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With his visit to World Youth Day only a few days away, Pope Francis asked young pilgrims to accompany his visit to Krakow, Poland, with prayers. Leaving for Poland July 27 "to meet up with these young men and women and celebrate with them and for them the Jubilee of Mercy, with the intercession of St. John Paul II, I ask you to accompany me with prayer," the pope said July 25 during his Angelus address. The pope thanked the volunteers, bishops, priests and men and women religious "who are working to welcome these young pilgrims." In a message for youths unable to make it to the event, he said, "A special word to the many youth of their same age who, unable to be present personally, will follow the event through the media: We are all united in prayer!" Prayer was the main theme of the pope's reflection prior to reciting the Angelus with thousands of visitors in St. Peter's Square.

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    Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

  • 'Krakow in the Capital' to provide a World Youth Day experience in U.S.

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Thousands of young adults are expected to gather on the campus of The Catholic University of America in Washington July 30 for "Krakow in the Capital." Jonathan Lewis, director of young adult ministry and evangelization for the Archdiocese of Washington and organizer of the event, said it is a response to the call Pope Francis made that the church go out into the margins and invite people in. In this way, "we are bringing the experience of World Youth Day to the capital," he told Catholic News Service. Lewis, 30, said he hoped the one-day U.S. experience would provide many of the key transformative experiences of World Youth Day, taking place June 26-31 in Krakow, Poland. That day in Krakow, Pope Francis' schedule will include visiting the Divine Mercy Shrine, hearing confessions of young people there and celebrating Mass in the St. John Paul II Shrine. In Washington, events are to run from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. local time and will include Polish food and music, cultural traditions, a concert and religious devotions just as eucharistic adoration, confession, opportunities for catechesis and Stations of the Cross. Sixteen speakers will address the crowd, drawing on the Jubilee Year of Mercy for the theme of their talks. Mass will be celebrated.

    Spirit of flood victims 'great example' to all, says West Virginia bishop

    RICHWOOD, W.Va. (CNS) -- Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston visited flood-devastated Richwood July 18 to see the progress of recovery in the town following the historic flooding in June that claimed the lives of 23 people across the state. "To actually see the places where this terrible flooding took place in West Virginia is to begin to understand how much suffering has gone on amongst our people," Bishop Bransfield said. "They have been through a horrible disaster, and their spirit is a great example to all of us." This was the bishop's second visit to an area recovering from the floods. On July 2, he visited White Sulphur Springs, where he celebrated Mass at St. Charles Borromeo Church. During his trip to Richwood, the bishop visited a neighborhood that sits beside the Cherry River, which quickly overflowed its banks the evening of June 23 as 7 inches of rain fell in just three hours. He also visited three residents of the neighborhood who are trying to repair their homes which were destroyed in the flood. Nancy Mullins was one of those residents. "I watched the water come up," she said to the bishop as she walked him through what is left of her house. Outside of her house and all along her street, piles of debris await pickup. Mud still cakes the street, and dust clings to the air. Many residents cannot stay in their houses as repairs are made because the damage is so severe.

    Mercy 'sets our hearts free,' bishop says at Mass for Native Americans

    BROWNING, Mont. (CNS) -- Helena Bishop George L. Thomas said at a special Mass for Native Americans that mercy may not "come easily," but "it's a gift that sets our hearts free. Mercy transforms us when we need it most," he said in his homily. He asked the congregation to "call to mind those who have wronged you, hurt you and slighted you. Forgive them. Give up resentment. Give a friendly attitude to those who are not entitled. Mercy doesn't come easily and may have a personal cost," he acknowledged. "But it's a gift that sets our hearts free, lowers blood pressure and gives our body much needed rest." It was the 13th time Bishop Thomas said the Mass of the annual North American Indian Days, held July 7-10. The Mass was celebrated the last day. It was the 45th year the special gathering included a Mass.

    Challenges change in AIDS fight, but churches asked to continue help

    DURBAN, South Africa (CNS) -- As the world moves into the fourth decade of the fight against AIDS, new challenges confront those struggling against the epidemic, and faith communities must continue to assure that those affected by the virus have both treatment and hope, a top U.N. official told religious leaders attending the International AIDS Conference here. "The death toll from AIDS is going down everywhere. While 1.1 million will die this year, five years ago it was more than 2 million. This improvement is the result of access to treatment. This is science working for people," Dr. Luiz Loures, deputy executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and assistant secretary-general of the United Nations, told a July 16 gathering of interfaith leaders in Durban for the international conference, which ended July 22. "But more than ever, we know that science alone won't solve this. You'll not find all the solutions in scientific books, but you will in 'Laudato Si',' where Pope Francis has alerted us that we cannot rely on technocracy by itself. Sometimes what looks like a great solution doesn't capture the complexity of health," Loures said. "At the same time, we are saving more lives than ever, the AIDS epidemic is coming back, it is rebounding and re-emerging everywhere. The difference now to what we saw in the past is that the epidemic is much more selective, it's affecting the ones you faith leaders care most about, the ones left behind, the last and the least in your societies. This is the modern shape of the AIDS epidemic."

    In keynote, Courage's executive director focuses on sacrifice of chastity

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- At the opening of the annual conference of a Catholic apostolate to those with same-sex attraction, attendees were reminded not to post photos from the event on social media and not even, while visiting the campus of The Catholic University of America, to announce to others why they were there, other than to attend a conference. "The Catholic Church can be a very small place sometimes," Father Paul Bochanski, associate director of the apostolate, reminded the 425 attendees. Founded in 1980, Courage International's goal is to help Catholics with same-sex attraction in spiritual matters. It emphasizes chastity. With joint financial support from the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, as well as donations, it has more than 100 chapters worldwide. A partner organization, EnCourage, helps families and friends support those experience same­sex attractions. In an evening keynote address July 21, Father Paul Check, executive director of Courage International, focused on the sacrifice of chastity using as his biblical text the account in the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke of the presentation of the infant Jesus at the temple, and the prophecies of Simeon and Anna -- the fourth joyful mystery of the rosary and also the first of Mary's seven sorrows.

    Delaware Catholic high school grad heads to third Olympics in field hockey

    MANHEIM, Pa. (CNS) -- Katelyn Falgowski played in a field hockey state championship match in high school and won two NCAA titles in college, but going for Olympic gold takes her game to another level. "At the time, the high school one is awesome, and at the time, there's no other thing than the NCAA, and now the Olympics is something you can't even ... it's unimaginable," she told The Dialog, newspaper of the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware. "We're going to take it day-by-day and game-by-game, but I can tell you that I'm a happy crier, so there will be a lot of happy tears if we do how we're hopeful of doing." Falgowski, a 2007 graduate of St. Mark's High School in Wilmington, is going to Rio de Janeiro as part of the U.S. women's field hockey team. It will be her third Olympiad, following Beijing in 2008 and London four years ago. The 27-year-old is one of the most experienced players on the national roster. But, she said, it feels like new each time. "Every time you get to share it with a different group of girls. It can be the same core, but every time there's something new. The first time I was so wide-eyed and excited just to be there. The second time around, we had high hopes and we fell short of where that was," Falgowski said. She spoke to The Dialog following the United States' 3-2 win over India in a pre-Olympic match July 18 at the Americans' home base, Spooky Nook Sports in Manheim, outside Lancaster.

    Criminal charges against Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis dropped

    ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- Standing before reporters and cameras July 20, Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda said the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis failed in its handling of the case of Curtis Wehmeyer, a former priest who pleaded guilty in two courts of abusing three brothers while pastor of Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul. "We failed to give priority to the safety and well-being of the children he hurt over the interests of Curtis Wehmeyer and the archdiocese," Archbishop Hebda said. "In particular, we failed to prevent Curtis Wehmeyer from sexually abusing children. Those children, their parents, their family, their parish and others were harmed. We are sorry. I am sorry." The archbishop's statement followed the announcement that the Ramsey County Attorney's Office, under the leadership of Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, had dismissed criminal charges filed last year against the archdiocese, and the parties had amended a settlement agreement they reached in December on a related civil petition. "Words are not enough," Archbishop Hebda acknowledged. "We must, we will and we are doing better. Far-reaching changes are underway." He pointed to the archdiocese's inclusion of more laypeople in its safe environment protocols, as well as the impact of Ramsey County's oversight of the archdiocese's policies and procedures and compliance with them.

    Hungry Venezuelans turn to church, which doesn't have enough to help all

    CARACAS, Venezuela (CNS) -- Even on the days he lines up hours before the store opens in his neighborhood in Caracas, Venezuela, Ernesto Salazar is not assured he'll be able to buy basic food items, like flour and rice. Under a government system, he can shop Thursdays for the goods, but some days the store shelves are empty by the time he gets inside. He can turn to the black market, where the costs are exponentially higher. "Or, we just don't eat certain foods, or we eat less," he told Catholic News Service. Maria Elena Febres-Cordero, president of Venezuela's National Council of the Laity, said she believes the deepening economic morass has brought Venezuelans closer to the church and prompted them to look to their parishes and bishops for guidance. Yet the crisis has not spared the church, even as the public relies more on the services it provides. In Lara, a state in central-western Venezuela, Father Humberto Tirado said he has cut down the days Caritas provides food and medicine, from once weekly to once monthly, because of a lack of donations. "With the government restrictions, it's become harder to get large donations through the national Caritas office, so we're relying on individuals," he said in a phone interview with Catholic News Service from St. Rose of Lima Parish. "And I have not received any donations of food in two months."

    Philadelphian joins other pilgrims in walk from Rome to World Youth Day

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- It takes just over nine hours to fly from Philadelphia to John Paul II Airport in Krakow, Poland, for travelers who want to attend World Youth Day July 26-31 in that city. Some are taking a more leisurely pace, maybe seeing some sites along the way. Take Andrew Dierkes, 23, of St. Agatha-St. James Parish in the University City section of Philadelphia. In May, he flew into Rome, which also is also about a nine-hour flight from Philly, and joined up with a band of four like-minded travelers. After a May 21 Mass at the Polish Crypt Chapel at the Vatican, the group set out on foot for a "Year of Mercy Pilgrimage" to Krakow, covering about 20 to 25 miles a day. In the spirit of medieval mendicants relying on the hospitality of others, they have been mostly spending their nights at monasteries or parish facilities. Leading the group is Ricardo Simmonds, 35, a former director of the University of Pennsylvania Newman Center and founder of Denver-based Creatio, a group that organizes youth mission trips. Crucial to the group, especially as an adviser, is Ann Sieben, 52, a former nuclear engineer who is a dedicated mendicant, having spent most of the past nine years on the road in pilgrimages to shrines, totally dependent on the hospitality of those she meets on the journey. Rounding out the group is Rafael Maturo, 23, from Peru and Nick Zimmerman, 22, from Denver. All of the young men are open to the possibility of a religious vocation.

    St. Mary Magdalene is reminder of need for adoration, cardinal says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians are called to be like St. Mary Magdalene, who adored Christ upon finding him, an action that has somewhat lost its meaning in the church, said Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. He said the July 22 feast of St. Mary Magdalene also serves as a reminder of the need to recuperate "the primacy of God and the primacy of adoration in the life of the church and in liturgical celebrations. I believe -- and I say so humbly -- that we Christians perhaps have lost a bit the meaning of adoration. And we think: We go to church, we gather together like brothers, and it is good and beautiful. But the center is there where God is. And we adore God," he wrote in an article published July 21 in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano. Pope Francis raised the memorial of St. Mary Magdalene to a feast on the church's liturgical calendar June 10 in a decree, "Apostolorum Apostola" ("Apostle of the Apostles") which formalized the decision and was published by the Congregation for Divine Worship.

    Pope encourages Neocatechumenal Way to keep co-founder's spirit alive

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis offered his condolences after the death of Carmen Hernandez, co-founder of the Neocatechumenal Way. Highlighting her love for Jesus and great missionary zeal, he encouraged members to carry on with her spirit. In a telegram to Kiko Arguello, who, with Hernandez, founded the Way, the pope expressed his spiritual closeness and affection to Hernandez's family and all those who "appreciated her apostolic zeal. I give thanks to the Lord for the witness of this woman, animated by a sincere love for the church, who has spent her life in the announcement of the Good News in every place, as well as those far away, never forgetting the most marginalized people," the pope said in written message July 20. The pope encouraged "those who are part of the Neocatechumenal Way to keep her evangelizing eagerness alive, in an active communion with the bishops and priests, while exercising patience and mercy with all." Hernandez died in Madrid July 19 at the age of 85 and her funeral Mass was held July 21 in Madrid's cathedral.

    Pope issues rules to help contemplative women be beacons for world

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In an effort to help contemplative women religious renew their life and mission in the church and the world, Pope Francis issued a series of new rulings dealing with formation, assets, prayer life, authority and autonomy. The new rulings include a mandate that "initially, all monasteries are to be part of a federation" based on "an affinity of spirit and traditions" with the aim of facilitating formation and meeting needs through sharing assets and exchanging members. Monasteries voting for an exception from joining a federation will need Vatican approval. All institutes of contemplative women religious will need to revise or update their constitutions or rules so as to implement the new norms and have those changes approved by the Holy See. Titled "Vultum Dei Quaerere" (Seeking the face of God), the document focuses on the life of contemplative women religious. Dated June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, it was released by the Vatican July 22, the feast of St. Mary Magdalene. The 38-page document contains 14 new articles ruling on various aspects of life within monasteries and their jurisdiction, including a regulation outlining the criteria needed for a monastery to retain juridical autonomy or else be absorbed by another entity or face closure.

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  • Shootings of law enforcement officers shock victims' friends

    BATON ROUGE, La. (CNS) -- Jerri Marino's greatest fear was realized July 17. As a former deputy with the East Baton Rouge sheriff's office, Marino, a parishioner at St. Jude the Apostle Church in Baton Rouge, said she was shocked to learn that one of the three officers shot and killed during a morning assault on law enforcement was a friend and someone she used to work with. "Brad (Garafola) was just a great guy," she said. Described by his wife, Tonja, on Facebook as a "wonderful husband, father and friend," Deputy Brad Garafola, 45, along with city police officers Matthew Gerald, 41, and Montrell Jackson, 32, were shot and killed by a lone gunman. Three other law enforcement officers also were wounded, and one, 41-year-old Nicholas Tullier, remained in critical condition late July 21. The assailant, who investigators said targeted police officers, was identified as Gavin Eugene Long of Kansas City, Missouri. Long was shot and died at the scene. In YouTube videos posted before the assault, Long expressed his anger with the death of Alton Sterling in a confrontation with police July 5. "It was really hard (to hear the news about Garafola)," Marino told The Catholic Commentator, newspaper of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

    New Yorkers gather to pray for local nun missing in Austria

    EAST NORTHPORT, N.Y. (CNS) -- Two weeks after a recently retired nun from Long Island, N.Y., disappeared while vacationing alone in Europe, more than 200 people gathered to pray for her at an evening service July 20 at St. Anthony of Padua Church, where she lived. While the event was promoted as a "prayer service for the safe return of Sister Eileen Christie," most in attendance harbored thoughts that, given the amount of time she has been missing, they probably would not see her alive again. Sister Eileen, 72, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood, N.Y., has not been heard from since July 6, when she notified her nephew in Long Island via an email from her iPad that she had arrived at a hostel in the Alpine village of Hallstatt, Austria. "In faith you don't let go of hope and you believe in the power of prayer," Sister Helen Kearney, president of the Sisters of St. Joseph, told Catholic News Service in an interview before the prayer service. "Hope for her safely returning to us is harder to hold onto because of the length of time. At this point in time, the reality begins to become deeper for us." According to her family, Sister Eileen -- who retired last year after serving for nearly five decades as a teacher in Catholic schools in the Diocese of Rockville Centre -- enjoyed trips to Austria, Croatia and northern Italy. She had begun this year's vacation in mid-June in Croatia and had a plane ticket to return to the U.S. in August. "She's been doing this for many summers," said Bill Freda, her nephew. "If she could hike or swim, that was the perfect day for her. She loved to swim."

    Cleveland Diocese begins education efforts on 'Faithful Citizenship'

    CLEVELAND (CNS) -- While Republicans gathered in Cleveland to confirm their nominee and settle on a platform, the Diocese of Cleveland, too, began preparing for the upcoming national election. As director of the diocesan Social Action Office, Sister Kathleen Ryan, a Sister of Notre Dame, oversees efforts to educate Catholics in the diocese on "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," the U.S. bishops' quadrennial document on political responsibility. "They (the bishops) make it very clear that we don't give up any aspect of citizenship to be a Catholic," Sister Ryan said. "In fact, because we have a values system, we can use it to enhance and influence the democracy that calls for -- by its very definition -- participation." The document reflects on long-held concerns related to abortion and the needs of poor people. It also references emerging issues related to court decisions on same-sex marriage, public policies that impact religious freedom and a rising concern for the environment as climate change affects more people around the world. An introductory note states that the document is meant to offer "our guidance for Catholics in the exercise of their rights and duties as participants in our democracy." The bishops call on Catholics to study the document "prayerfully and in its totality."

    Wurzburg church leaders warn against generalizing after ax attack

    OXFORD, England (CNS) -- German church representatives urged people not to turn against Muslim refugees and asylum-seekers, after police killed an Afghan refugee who had attacked people on a train. Markus Hauck, spokesman for Germany's Wurzburg Diocese, where the incident occurred, said it was important not to use the incident "as a general indictment against refugees. It would be much more dangerous to suggest they all pose some kind of danger. Catholics are shocked; people assume acts of terrorism only happen in large cities, not in a small town like ours," Hauck told Catholic News Service July 20. Two days earlier, using and ax and knife, 17-year-old Riaz Khan Ahmadzai injured five people, four on the train and one as he fled. Hauck told CNS several local clergy had been on the evening train and had helped fellow passengers in a nearby sports hall after escaping harm. He said the Wurzburg Diocese was home to numerous refugees from the Asia and the Middle East and employed at least 60 social workers to care for them.

    Church joins U.K. project to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees

    MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- The Catholic Church in England and Wales has joined a government project to resettle an estimated 20,000 refugees from the Syrian war. A parish in the Diocese of Salford will be the first to welcome a family from a refugee camp in the Middle East as part of a sponsorship plan, which involves welcoming and helping to rehabilitate families of Syrian refugees. Organizers said they are confident that the refugees, who are drawn from predominantly Muslim camps, will not include members of the Islamic State terror group. Philip McCarthy, chief executive of Caritas Social Action Network, the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales agency coordinating the project among the parishes, said all the refugees would be rigorously screened by the British government and the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR. "People will be coming through the government scheme, so they will part of the same 20,000, and they will have already been screened by the United Nations and by others," McCarthy told Catholic News Service in a July 20 telephone interview. "These are not people we are taking over and above (the 20,000) or independently," he added.

    Baton Rouge Catholic community works to promote peace after shootings

    BATON ROUGE, La. (CNS) -- As tragic events have unfolded in the Baton Rouge area, the Catholic community has been at the forefront of helping to spread the message of peace. From holding prayer services to opening churches to hosting community meetings, Catholic leaders have been involved in every step to reconcile community members in the wake of the police shooting of Alton Sterling in the early morning of July 5 and the shooting of three law enforcement officials July 17. "I thought coming together in the presence of God and showing our love and support was the right thing to do," said Father Jeff Bayhi, pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Zachary, where a prayer service July 17 attracted community members from all races and religious beliefs. "I love it," Father Bayhi added of the cultural diversity of the standing-room-only crowd. "It tells you that there is not much separation as the media would like for you to think. Secondly, it tells you the majority of the people aren't looking to separate each other. We're looking to bring others together." A prayer service also was held at St. Gerard Majella Church in Baton Rouge July 17.

    Archbishop Gregory to chair USCCB task force on race

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta has been appointed as chair of a new task force of the U.S. bishops to deal with racial issues brought into public consciousness following a series of summertime shootings that left both citizens and police officers among those dead. The task force's charge includes helping bishops to engage directly the challenging problems highlighted by the shootings. Task force members will gather and disseminate supportive resources and "best practices" for their fellow bishops; actively listening to the concerns of members in troubled communities and law enforcement; and build strong relationships to help prevent and resolve conflicts. "By stepping forward to embrace the suffering, through unified, concrete action animated by the love of Christ, we hope to nurture peace and build bridges of communication and mutual aid in our own communities," said a July 21 statement from Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In addition to creating the task force and appointing its members, Archbishop Kurtz also called for a national day of prayer for peace in our communities, to be held Sept. 9, the feast of St. Peter Claver.

    'Journey of Hope' group tours Nebraska calling for end to death penalty

    OMAHA, Neb. (CNS) -- "Journey of Hope ... from Violence to Healing," an organization dedicated to speaking out against the death penalty, hit the road on a 10-day tour of Nebraska to share its members' stories and spreading the message of "forgiveness and redemption." The group is led by the families of murder victims, former death-row inmates who were exonerated and family members of inmates currently on death row. Their July 15-24 tour schedule extended from Omaha to Scottsbluff, stopping in 20 cities along the way. Religious leaders from a variety of churches helped jump-start the tour, saying that people of faith believe that humans are fallible and that the government does not need to take a life to protect society. "I know that Nebraskans of faith are greatly concerned about the death penalty and these forums will be a chance for them to learn about the issue and get involved in the effort to retain the repeal of the death penalty," said Stephen Griffith, a retired United Methodist pastor and executive director of Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. He made the comments in a news release about the group's tour.

    Bishop in Turkey: Catholics watchful during crackdown after failed coup

    OXFORD, England (CNS) -- Bishop Ruben Tierrablanca Gonzalez, apostolic vicar of Istanbul, said Catholics were following closely the government crackdown that followed an attempted coup. He told Catholic News Service July 21 there had been no news of detentions or injuries among local Catholics, or reports of restrictions on church life. He said most religious leaders had "stood with the civil community against violence and injustice" in the wake of the failed coup. "All the current difficulties are linked to political events, and we don't touch such issues or take any part in demonstrations. Thanks to this, our church's members are safe," said the bishop, who also serves as apostolic administrator for Byzantine Catholics in Turkey. "Of course, we're not happy about what's happened, but we'll continue to encourage and support our faithful," said Bishop Tierrablanca. "We hope the situation will improve without bringing us further troubles, but there are problems here which can't be tackled in a short time." He asked for prayers and noted that most Catholics in Turkey were foreign, "so they'll be very careful not to get involved in any of these developments or to touch anyone's interests. At present, we're simply waiting for solutions to be found."

    Pope sends cardinal to South Sudan to urge peace

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis sent a high-ranking cardinal to South Sudan to urge a peaceful end to the escalating violence in the country. Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, met with President Salva Kiir in the capital, Juba, July 19 and delivered two letters on the pope's behalf -- one addressed to the nation's president and another to the vice president. The cardinal said the letters, which the pope gave to him prior to his departure to Juba, contained a message calling for peace in the country. The pope's message "can be summarized like so: 'Enough now, enough with this conflict,'" Cardinal Turkson told Vatican Radio July 20. The Ghanaian cardinal noted that "the speed with which the pope reacted to the need of sending a message of solidarity and to call for peace is amazing."

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  • Thousands gather for Mass to celebrate immigrant spirit in America

    LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Pilgrims from all nationalities and backgrounds walked several miles from a couple of different points in Southern California to join thousands of others at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles for a special Mass to recognize all immigrants July 17. Participants raised awareness of the need for immigration reform in the United States, calling for solidarity on the issue for all to be merciful and compassionate toward immigrants in this Year of Mercy. "We celebrate the immigrant spirit of the people of our country. This is the story of Los Angeles, the story of the state of California and the story of our country -- which is a nation of immigrants," said Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, the main celebrant of the afternoon Mass. "We gather to pray for all of the immigrants and their families -- past, present and future. We pray for immigration reform in our country, for our elected officials and for people all over the world that they open their hearts to the immigrants who come to their countries," he said. The congregation included people from the Los Angeles Archdiocese, the Diocese of Orange and the Diocese of San Bernardino.

    Pope to address youth in poor area of Texas via video for World Youth Day

    SAN JUAN, Texas (CNS) -- As millions of youth from around the globe gather July 26 for World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, a group of youth in a poor and suffering part of Texas will have the pope come to them -- via video, at least. Young Catholics in the rural Texas area known as Penitas, a faith community of about 10,000, will gather at St. Anne Catholic Church to hear the pope's message sent specifically to them. Why is Penitas special enough to get a tailored message from the pope? "The pope is sending a message to us! I think that is proof enough, that the love of the church for our poor people is really palpable, it's real," said Father Michael Montoya, pastor of St. Anne's Parish in Penitas. He noted in a July 19 news conference announcing the event that there is a lot of poverty in the area. Parts of a nearby rural community, known as Pueblo de Palmas, lack basic infrastructure, such as running water and a sewage system. Given the poverty levels in the community and lack of legal immigration status for many residents, it is impossible for many of the youth of the area to travel -- to Poland or anywhere else. But that's precisely why the pope thinks it's important to let them know that they are connected to the church and to other youth from around the world.

    Pope marries young deaf couple in chapel of his residence

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis married a young deaf couple in the chapel of his residence at the Vatican. Teodoro Pisciottani and Paulina Szczepanska, the daughter of a Vatican employee, were married July 9 at the Vatican's Domus Sanctae Marthae. Pope Francis does not often preside over wedding ceremonies -- the most recent was a wedding of 20 couples in St. Peter's Basilica in 2014 that was televised on Vatican television. The private wedding in July was reported in a regional online news site,, for Salerno, Italy. Pisciottani is from Salerno. The couple have been active in cultural initiatives for the deaf community in Padova, in northern Italy, including a version of Big Brother for the deaf.

    Parish sows peace as violence marks life in neighborhood, nation

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- Violence ripped through the country the first part of July with police shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana and the killing of five police officers in Dallas. A day after the July 7 shootings in Dallas, violence ripped through the neighborhood surrounding St. Philip Neri Church on the near east side of Indianapolis when two men were found shot dead at an intersection. On July 10, about 30 people took action to replace the violence around St. Philip with peace by prayerfully walking through the neighborhood, stopping at a makeshift shrine at the location where the two men had been found two days earlier. It was part of a series of nine prayer walks on Sunday afternoons sponsored by St. Philip Neri Parish that began June 5 and concludes July 31. Participants gather at the church and walk along different routes in the surrounding neighborhood for about a mile, praying the rosary in both Spanish and English. "Peace has to start in our own hearts," said Father Christopher Wadelton, St. Philip's pastor. "It will then grow out from our church to our neighborhood and the whole world." Father Wadelton got the idea for the prayer walks from a similar effort made by St. Gabriel Parish in Connersville two years ago after a spate of deaths by heroin overdoses sent shock waves through the small southeastern Indiana town.

    Catholic priest to coordinate interreligious center at Olympic Village

    SAO PAULO (CNS) -- About two weeks before the opening ceremony for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Father Leandro Lenin Tavares was putting the final touches on what he hopes will be a very successful spiritual mission: coordinating the interreligious center for athletes at the Olympic Village. "We hope that the center will encourage harmony and unity among different countries and among different religions," Father Tavares told Catholic News Service. He said the center would be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, from July 24-Aug. 24 for Olympic athletes and their delegations and Sept. 1-21 for Paralympic athletes and delegations. The center will have five meeting rooms, each occupied by one of the five faiths chosen by the International Olympic Committee: Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. The Catholic Church will represent the Christian faith. The center will host not only group meetings and Masses but also will offer individual guidance to those who seek religious support.

    Former Our Sunday Visitor publisher named CNS director, editor-in-chief

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Greg Erlandson, former president and publisher of Our Sunday Visitor, has been named director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service, effective Sept. 12. Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, announced the appointment July 20. "Greg brings a remarkable combination of management expertise, journalism skills and demonstrated service to the church at the national and international level. I am confident he will prove to be an important resource to clients of CNS," Msgr. Bransfield said in a statement. Erlandson, 62, stepped down from his position at OSV in Huntington, Indiana, after nearly 27 years with the company. He was named OSV editor in 1989 and was promoted to editor-in-chief of its editorial operations in 1992. He was named president and publisher in 2000. "CNS is one of the gifts of the U.S. church to the rest of the Catholic world," Erlandson said in response to an email asking for comment. "It is an honor to follow in the footsteps of so many great directors of the news service, and I am humbled by the opportunity to join our colleagues at the bishops' conference in serving our fellow Catholics."

    Poland visit will be inspired by mercy, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said he looks forward to his upcoming visit to Poland for World Youth Day and that his visit will be inspired by mercy during this Jubilee Year. The "blessed memory of St. John Paul II, who instituted the World Youth Days and was the guide of the Polish people in its recent historic journey toward freedom," will also serve as an inspiration, the pope said in a July 19 video message to the people of Poland. The pope will join hundreds of thousands of young people from around the world during his July 27-31 visit to celebrate World Youth Day. The 2016 World Youth Day celebration will mark the 30th anniversary of when St. John Paul II, the former archbishop of Krakow, invited bishops all over the world to hold an annual event for youths in their dioceses. The first international gathering, now held every two or three years, was in 1987 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Pope Francis was born and ministered before becoming pope. In his video message, the pope said he blessed young people traveling to Krakow and was "praying that it will be a pilgrimage of faith and fraternity."

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  • Witnesses at House hearing talk about human rights violations in Cuba

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations scrutinized U.S.-Cuban relations during a hearing July 13. Subcommittee members came together to discuss the recent change in the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, a change that has been met with mixed feelings on both sides of the issue. Cubans and Americans alike say that American influence will lead to a decrease in violations of human rights by the Castro regime and that economic growth in the Cuban private sector signals internal political development. However, many argue that America is fueling Cuba's political and economic repression of civilians by funneling tourism and trade profits to the dictatorship. The Obama administration has eased restrictions on travel to Cuba and commerce with the island nation but the U.S. embargo remains in effect. Led by Rep. Christopher Smith, R-New Jersey, and Rep. Karen Bass, D-California, the hearing included three witnesses who testified against what they said is the U.S. government's lack of action regarding the use of violence by the Castro regime to oppress the Cuban people.

    Lay leader in Louisiana connecting young Latinos with Catholic Church

    SHREVEPORT, La. (CNS) -- One sign of hope for the Catholic Church's future has been the phenomenal growth and vibrancy of faith among young Latino Catholics. Today, more than half of U.S. millennial Catholics -- ages 14 to 34 -- are Hispanic as are two-thirds of Catholics under 35 who attend church regularly. Catholic Extension has been helping mission dioceses foster the faith of young Hispanics through religious education, youth and young adult ministry and leadership development. For example, four years ago, Extension made it possible for the Diocese of Shreveport to hire Marcos Gonzalez Villalba as its first diocesan Hispanic youth and young adult coordinator. Chicago-based Catholic Extension is a national fundraising organization founded in 1905 to support the work and ministries of U.S. mission dioceses. Villalba has been helping parishes reach out to young Latinos and provide groups for them. Now Hispanic youth are being included in diocesan-wide events, retreats, workshops and leadership camps. Parishes and groups with Hispanics are beginning to flourish. "The seeds that have been planted are starting to sprout," Villalba told Extension magazine. "More people in our Hispanic community are excited about their faith and share their love for God within their own culture."

    Cleveland's poor, homeless ignore convention hoopla

    CLEVELAND (CNS) -- The speeches, political punditry and late-night parties related to the Republican National Convention doesn't matter much to William Beehler, who makes his home on Cleveland's streets. "I'll be better when it's over," Beehler said after sipping hot coffee from a foam cup at the Back Door Ministry at St. Malachi Parish, located at the west end of the Detroit-Superior Bridge across from downtown Cleveland. Better, Beehler explained, because he won't have to worry about the police warning him to keep moving -- which he translated as leave downtown -- as they did in the days before Republican officials began arriving to officially nominate billionaire Donald Trump as the party's presidential candidate. "When you're carrying a bag of clothes, they look at us like we're nobody," said Beehler, 55, who sports long gray hair and a bushy beard. "There's a lot of harassment that the homeless man doesn't need." Beehler has learned not to depend on family to help. All he wants, he said, is a job. "What I want is my own doorknob, my own key to put in the doorknob, my bed to lay in, a television to put on so I can sit back like everybody else." Beehler was one of about three dozen people who visited St. Malachi during a 45-minute stretch the morning the convention opened July 18 who expressed similar concerns. The ministry provides a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich or a pastry and a cup of coffee or juice for anyone who visits. Most people are homeless though or cannot afford a bite to eat.

    Catholic formation inspired student leader at Ohio State University

    PARMA, Ohio (CNS) -- The undergraduate student government of one of the largest universities in the country is headed by a Byzantine Catholic. Gerard Basalla, a lifelong parishioner at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Parma, was elected 2016-2017 president of student government at Ohio State University in March with 66 percent of the votes. About 7,300 ballots were cast. The university, located in Columbus, ranks among the five largest in the country in terms of the number of undergraduate students, with enrollment at about 45,000. Graduate students number about 10,000. "Going into student government is about helping people," Basalla, 21, told Horizons, newspaper of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma. "Helping students to be treated fairly and to have the best four years possible is important to me." Basalla is studying political science and strategic communications and has been involved in different aspects of student government since his freshman year. He and his running mate, student vice president Danielle Di Scala, were sworn in April 5.

    Sisters' 'lemonade ministry' in Cleveland opens dialogue on country's needs

    CLEVELAND (CNS) -- Sister Julie Ann Krahl knew that a cup of lemonade on a hot summer day can go a long way toward making friends. So she offered a refreshing drink from a cooler pulled along in a child-size wagon and talked with people on the streets of downtown Cleveland who were in town for the Republican National Convention July 18. She wanted to learn about their fears and hopes for the country as the final months of the 2016 presidential campaign loomed. Most people were happy to take the lemonade and talk with Sister Julie Ann, a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Agnes in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and more than a dozen other women religious who were part of the fifth Nuns on the Bus tour. Nuns on the Bus, which left Madison, Wisconsin, July 11, was timed to be at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and then July 26-29 in Philadelphia, site of the Democratic National Convention. Its theme is "Mend the Gaps, Reweave the Fabric of Society," The idea behind the "lemonade ministry" was to "start a dialogue of healing," explained Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization that sponsored the bus tour.

    Liturgical music crucial to grace, participation, says Texas cardinal

    HOUSTON (CNS) -- Leading some 1,500 pastoral musicians in song, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston reminded attendees of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians 39th annual convention to "lean on the everlasting arms" of God in their music ministries. Cardinal DiNardo celebrated the convention's multilingual Mass for unity July 14, where he said he was the chief cheerleader of the musicians' association and felt privileged to host the gathering. "I think the ministries that you do in music are so crucial in the trickling increment of grace and participation," he said during the homily. "I use the word trickling increment because it's slow, but it's very real." The convention also marked a historical collaboration with another conference celebrating liturgy and culture called Unity Explosion, sponsored by Region X of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops. One of the USCCB's 15 episcopal regions, Region X includes Texas and Oklahoma. Unity Explosion started in 1989 with the vision to liturgically recognize, embrace and share the gifts that Catholics of African descent bring to the universal church. Cardinal DiNardo also reflected on church's diversity and the sweltering Texas temperature, saying though people were "melted outside by Houston heat," inside at their gathering all were one. "The warmth is from the Holy Spirit," he noted.

    Priest's prayer reminds GOP convention of importance of all human life

    CLEVELAND (CNS) -- When Msgr. Kieran Harrington delivered the invocation on the opening night of the Republican National Convention, it wasn't just a coincidence that he ended up on the same stage where high-scale politics would dominate for four days. The priest from the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, told Catholic News Service that he worked for the Republican National Committee for five years in the 1990s and was known to some of the party's highest-ranking officials. The process was not planned far in advance and his on-stage appearance was finalized only days before the convention began, he said. Things happened so quickly that Msgr. Harrington ended up driving from Brooklyn to Cleveland, arriving at 3 a.m. July 18, about 17 hours before offering the prayer. "The way I look at it is I'm here to bring the Gospel. It's very important to hold up a mirror to let people know what their deliberations really are about," said Msgr. Harrington, chairman of the DeSales Media Group in the diocese and pastor of the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Brooklyn. The invitation came after he inquired about the status of press credentials for the staff of the diocese's New Evangelization Television cable TV network. Msgr. Harrington received a call from Sean Spicer, communications director and chief strategist for the Republican National Committee, who not only confirmed the credentials, but invited the priest to offer the prayer.

    Churches among those swept up in Pokemon Go craze

    ST. LOUIS (CNS) -- Since its release in the United States July 6, Pokemon Go has quickly become a cultural phenomenon. In the first week, the mobile game attracted nearly 21 million users, according to data from Survey Monkey, making it the most popular app in U.S. history. As a result, the nature of the game is driving swarms of players to unsuspecting churches, businesses and other landmarks. But as it grows in popularity, priests, youth groups and others are quickly finding opportunities to evangelize to young people. Pokemon Go uses augmented reality, a real-world environment that incorporates computer-generated elements, such as GPS data, sound and video. Users move around in the real world as they collect tiny virtual creatures called Pokemon -- short for pocket monsters. The mobile app is based on the popular franchise that began with several Nintendo games in the 1990s. Churches, businesses and other landmarks have been designated as PokeStops, where users collect resources needed to catch Pokemon; and Gyms, where competitions are held among the creatures. Assumption Church in south St. Louis County began noticing an influx of visitors to the property July 11.

    Pope offers to help, meet families following massacre in Nice

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis offered his help to the people of Nice in a surprise phone call following a deadly attack during Bastille Day celebrations, said the head of an association of Italians living in France. Paolo Celi, president of the France-Italy Friendship society, told Vatican Radio that he was shocked upon answering his phone and hearing, "Paolo, I am Pope Francis. There was a moment of silence from my part. Then he asked me to impart to the entire city of Nice, to all the families of the victims, his message of solidarity and comfort saying, 'What can I do,'" Celi said in an interview published July 18. Celi also said the pope expressed his desire to meet with the families of the victims of the July 14 massacre. "We also spoke for quite some time over the phone about a meeting in Rome in the near future without setting a date," he said.

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  • Bishop feels 'deep ache in my heart' after fatal shootings of police

    BATON ROUGE, La. (CNS) -- Baton Rouge Bishop Robert W. Muench renewed a call for a diocesan-wide week of prayer, fasting and reflection after the latest fatal shootings in the city, which this time took the lives of three law enforcement officers. He urged all to "work toward a lasting peace in our communities." Early July 17, a former Marine fatally shot three police officers, and wounded three more, one critically, less than a mile from the city's police headquarters. The gunman, later identified as Gavin Long of Missouri, was killed at the scene, officials said. Baton Rouge was still reeling from the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, 37, by police during an altercation outside a convenience store July 5. The first week of July also saw the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, 32, in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, by police officers July 6, followed by the sniper shooting in Dallas that killed five police officers July 7. "Words cannot express the emotions we feel for those who have lost loved ones in the tragic events of this day," Bishop Muench said in a statement. In the neighboring Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Bishop Shelton J. Fabre said that "our tears are still falling and our fresh and fervent prayers are still ascending to God" over the earlier violence and loss of life in Louisiana when the law enforcement offers were ambushed in Baton Rouge, a diocese "very close to home for us."

    Poll: Hispanic Catholics back Clinton; white Catholics split over choices

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Hispanic Catholics are solidly behind presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, while white Catholics are more closely split between Clinton and her presumed Republican challenger, Donald Trump. The news comes from a poll released July 13 by the Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life. According to the poll, 77 percent of Hispanic Catholics are backing Clinton while 16 percent support Trump, with 5 percent either not sure or not saying. White Catholics, meanwhile, shade toward Trump by a 50 percent-46 percent margin, according to Pew, with 4 percent undecided. Among all Catholics, the edge goes to Clinton, 56-39, with 5 percent undecided or not knowing who to back. In the overall poll, according to Pew, Clinton leads Trump 51 percent-42 percent. Pew estimates that Catholics make up 20 percent of the electorate this year, 13 percent being white, 5 percent being Hispanic, and 2 percent being "other." By contrast, 21 percent of all voters are religiously unaffiliated, according to Pew. They are behind Clinton by a nearly 3-to-1 margin, 67 percent-23 percent, with 10 percent undecided.

    Tens of thousands gather in nation's capital to celebrate faith in Jesus

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- About 350,000 people of all faiths gathered together on the National Mall July 16 for "Together 2016" to declare that Jesus changes everything and asking him to "reset the generation." To enter the event, held near the Washington Monument, people lined up outside the gates for what seemed like miles. "Together 2016" lasted from 9 a.m. to about 4 p.m. Originally, the event was scheduled to last until 9 p.m., but some news reports said that local officials had requested it end earlier because of the high heat index. "We want people to know today that Jesus welcomes anyone who comes to the table of grace. There, you can experience forgiveness," organizer Nick Hall, 34, told the crowd. "Jesus does not have a big fence over his house saying you come in you don't. God will you heal our nation and gather leaders around the world so that they too can turn their attention toward this gathering." Hall is founder of a student-led evangelism movement called PULSE, based in Minneapolis, and the organizer of "Together 2016," as the event is called.

    Panel examines causes, solutions for 'growing scourge' of trafficking

    UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- One goal of a July 13 event at the United Nations on human trafficking was "to make real the faces of the nearly 2 million children and youth who are presently being trafficked," said the Vatican's U.N. nuncio. Another was for participants to discuss "what's working, what's not working and what needs to be done to free them, help them recover, and prevent other young people from suffering as they have," said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, who heads the Holy See's Permanent Observer Mission at the U.N. He made the comments in his opening remarks at the event, titled "Eliminating the Trafficking of Children and Youth." It was sponsored by Vatican U.N. mission along with the NGO Committee to Stop Trafficking in Persons, the Salesian Missions, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and ECPAT-USA, an organization that advocates for federal and state legislation that prevents exploitation of children. Speakers called for greater awareness and stronger policies to combat the roots of human trafficking among children and youth. They also discussed the best methods to combat what they say is a growing scourge of children and youth who are trafficked for sex or work.

    After court ruling, Salvadorans must seek reconciliation, says bishop

    SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (CNS) -- Salvadorans must not overreact to the Supreme Court decision to declare the country's amnesty law unconstitutional, said Auxiliary Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez of San Salvador. "We have to see this with calm," he told media July 17. "My call is to not see this in a dramatic way, but with simplicity, in a natural way, because human beings need truth and justice." While Salvadorans must not forget what happened during their more-than-12-year civil war, people must learn to seek reconciliation, not revenge, he said. "Those who have been offended have the right to ask for forgiveness ... We can't forget (what happened), but we've got to know how to deal with it," he said. The court's July 13 decision opens the door to lawsuits from victims of abuses during the war to seek compensation. It shocked both liberals and conservatives, as members of both sides argued that repealing the law would result in thousands of lawsuits that would destabilize the country.

    Franciscan who might be Canada's next saint remains unknown to many

    QUEBEC CITY (CNS) -- Canada owes him the return of the Franciscans, the founding of the country's largest Marian sanctuary, and the development of strong and lasting ties between the French Canadians and the Holy Land. Yet, 100 years after his death and though he might become Canada's next saint, Blessed Frederic Janssoone still remains largely unknown to many people in Quebec. Franciscan Father Roland Bonenfant awaited 2016 restlessly, knowing it would coincide with the 100th anniversary of the death of Pere Frederic, as he is known. As vice postulator of his sainthood cause, Father Bonenfant plans to celebrate all year long the life and deeds of a fellow Franciscan he already considers to be a saint. Father Bonenfant said Pere Frederic's "first and foremost heritage is the way he developed strong bonds between the Catholics of Canada and the spiritual roots of their religion -- namely the Middle East places where Jesus, the apostles and the first witnesses of Christ have lived," he said, before even mentioning Our Lady of the Cape Shrine. Born in 1838 in northern France, Frederic Janssoone joined the Franciscans in 1864 and was ordained in 1870. From 1876 to 1888, he was the custodial vicar of the Holy Land, assisting the custos with care of holy places. These 12 years left a strong imprint on him; he developed a deep attachment to the Holy Land as he got more and more involved in its development and renewal. He re-established the Way of the Cross processions on Jerusalem's Via Dolorosa -- a first in almost 250 years. He also built ecumenical ties with representatives of other Christian churches.

    Mexican archdiocese promises help in alleged sexual assault by priest

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- The Archdiocese of Antequera Oaxaca in southern Mexico has promised to assist the authorities in the case of a priest arrested in connection with an alleged sexual assault. Father Carlos Franco Perez, priest at the cathedral in Oaxaca city, has been arrested for an alleged sexual assault occurring during Holy Week, according to local media. Archbishop Jose Chavez Botello of Antequera Oaxaca told media after Mass July 17 that the archdiocese has acted proactively in the case and had cooperated with the authorities since becoming aware of the alleged crime. "He was removed from his ecclesiastical position as a preventive measure April 10 and so that legal proceedings are carried out. Corresponding information has been provided to the authorities as requested," said an archdiocesan statement read at a news conference. "The priest is appearing before a judge. ... In the event that his responsibility is proved, he will have to pay as outlined by the laws." The case had been handled quietly until Father Alejandro Solalinde, a well-known priest in Oaxaca state for his work Central American migrants, mentioned it in a series of tweets July 15. He accused the archdiocese of not acting and called on Archbishop Chavez to resign.

    Nuns on the Bus seek ways to close economic gaps for struggling families

    CLEVELAND (CNS) -- Hungry children, low wages, poor urban schools, inadequate housing and a glaring lack of opportunity are some of the challenges facing struggling Clevelanders, agreed more than 100 people during a community caucus organized by a Catholic social justice organization. But social and economic ills can be overturned by rearranging national priorities, participants said during a two-hour gathering hosted by St. Leo the Great Parish as part of the 13-state Nuns on the Bus tour assembled by Network, the Catholic social justice lobbying group. The nine women religious on the bus pulled into Cleveland the afternoon of July 17, hours ahead of the start of the Republican National Convention. The fifth edition of Nuns on the Bus was to leave Cleveland July 19 and wind its way through the Northeast before ending July 26-29 in Philadelphia, site of the Democratic National Convention. Since embarking July 11 from Madison, Wisconsin, Sister Simone Campbell, Network executive director and a member of the Sisters of Social Service, has facilitated similar discussions in Bloomington, Illinois; Jefferson City, Missouri; and Terre Haute and Fort Wayne, Indiana. She said people's concerns were similar in each community and that participants offered an array of ideas to "Mend the Gaps" -- this year's tour theme -- to improve the lives of millions of low-income people.

    Church leaders gather before AIDS conference, focus on children, stigma

    CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) -- One-third of HIV-positive children "die before their first birthday, and half before their second birthday," so Catholic groups are advocating for changes in treatment, said Msgr. Robert Vitillo, Caritas Internationalis special adviser on HIV and health. In a telephone interview from Durban, where Catholic groups met before the July 18-22 International AIDS Conference, Msgr. Vitillo also said groups were concerned about eliminating the stigma attached to AIDS. About 70 people from Catholic groups who provide diagnosis, care and prevention programs for people living with HIV attended the July 15-17 meeting, organized by Caritas Internationalis and other Catholic organizations. Archbishop Peter Wells, papal nuncio to South Africa, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban and Dominican Sister Alison Munro, director of the AIDS office for the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, were among the speakers at the meeting that drew participants mostly from African countries, including Cameroon, Uganda and Swaziland. The combination of antiretroviral drugs and their dosages are different for adults and children, Msgr. Vitillo told Catholic News Service. He said lack of access and information is severely harming infected children. Diagnostic tests for children are more expensive than those for adults and often are unavailable, he added.

    Healing racial divide starts with dialogue, black bishops say

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The threat of being pulled over by police and arrested for something that even "hinted of going beyond the status quo," was very real to retired Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, when he was growing up in segregated Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The African-American bishop, president of the National Black Catholic Congress, said he and his friends "lived under constant threat of being arrested" during his teenage years. Now decades later, he said that "like everyone else, I was very dismayed" by the recent fatal shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge July 5 and Philando Castile a day later in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, by police officers, followed by the sniper shooting July 7 in Dallas which killed five police officers. After this surge of shootings, he said, many people have been asking: "Where do we go from here and what does all this mean?" And Catholics are no exception. He said black Catholic leaders in particular are looking for ways to address the violence, racism and mistrust that were on full display during the early July shootings. "They're asking the church: 'Give us some direction; show us some leadership. Show us our concerns are your concerns and that you are with us because we see ourselves under siege in many ways,'" Bishop Ricard told Catholic News Service.

    Pope prays for grieving families following terror attack in France

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Remembering the victims of the tragic terrorist attack in Nice, France, Pope Francis prayed that God may give comfort to grieving families and foil the plans of those who wish to harm others. "May God, the good father, receive all the victims in his peace, support the wounded and comfort the families; may he dispel every plan of terror and death so that no man dares to spill his brother's blood ever again," the pope said July 17 after reciting the Angelus prayer with visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square. The pope spoke following the July 14 attack during Bastille Day celebrations along Nice's seaside promenade that killed 84 people. The French government declared three days of mourning beginning July 16. In a message following the attack signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, the pope condemned the Bastille Day attack as an "act of blind violence" and expressed his "deep sorrow" and "spiritual closeness" with the French people. Before leading a moment of silent prayer at his Angelus address, the pope said the pain in the aftermath of the massacre in Nice, "in which so many innocent lives, even many children were mowed down, is still alive."

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  • Sisters of St. Joseph celebrate 50 years of human rights advocacy

    ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) -- The U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph celebrated 50 years of advocating for the dignity of the human person, made in the image of God, with a July 9-12 conference in Orlando. Over 700 individuals participated in the four-day conference, including college students who attend schools operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph, lay ministers, volunteers, and members and associates of the 16 communities of sisters. The federation includes the sisters in all the Sisters of St. Joseph congregations in the United States who claim a common origin in the foundation of the religious order at Le Puy, France, in 1650. In the U.S. there are 4,465 sisters, 2,919 associates and 16 congregations. Officials of the federation say it seeks to be an influence for positive change in the world while the sisters live out their vocation in their everyday ministries. A major commitment of the Sisters of St. Joseph is to improve the lives of survivors of human trafficking -- a work that began five years ago in St Louis. Florida is listed as third in the United States in human trafficking, behind New York and California. The theme for this year's conference was, "Our Emerging Story of Being ONE ' God's Love Unfolding," reflecting the sisters' charism: to love God and to love their "dear neighbor."

    California Catholic bishops back initiative to abolish death penalty

    SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- The California Catholic bishops announced their support July 14 for Proposition 62, a voter initiative on the November ballot that would repeal the death penalty. The bishops timed their statement to coincide with the launch of the "Yes on 62" campaign that took place at a Los Angeles news conference. Speakers there included former death penalty advocates, victims' families, law enforcement officials, faith leaders and wrongfully convicted former death-row prisoners. "During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we, the Catholic bishops of California, support Proposition 62 which would end the use of the death penalty in California," the bishops said in their statement. Proposition 62 -- called "The Justice That Works Initiative" by its authors -- would replace the death penalty with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole and would require convicted murderers to work and pay restitution to their victims' families. The bishops also announced their opposition to Proposition 66, also on the November ballot, which would expedite executions in California. "All life is sacred -- innocent or flawed -- just as Jesus Christ taught us and demonstrated repeatedly throughout his ministry. ... Each of us holds an inherent worth derived from being created in God's own image. Each of us has a duty to love this divine image imprinted on every person," the statement said. If approved by voters, California would become the 20th state to ban the death penalty.

    Puerto Rico priest sentenced to prison for felony in sexual abuse case

    MAYAGUEZ, Puerto Rico (CNS) -- A former priest from the Diocese of Mayaguez who originally faced two felony charges of improper sexual behavior was sentenced on one of those charges July 14. Then-Father Floyd McCoy Jordan, 65, served as vicar of the Basilica of Our Lady of Montserrat in Hormigueros at the time of the complaint. "McCoy Jordan was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being unanimously found guilty by a jury last June for committing lewd acts against a 14-year-old minor from 2013-2014 in the municipality of Hormigueros," read a June 14 press release from the Puerto Rico Department of Justice. The original second charge, reportedly related to having "improperly touched private parts" of a 19-year-old, was dismissed at the March preliminary hearing. After the first complaint, Mayaguez Bishop Alvaro Corrada del Rio took immediate action to remove McCoy Jordan from his post and suspend him from priestly ministry. He was later laicized.

    Streamers, flowers, banners piled high as two squad cars become memorial

    DALLAS (CNS) -- It started with a single candle. Notes of encouragement, support and heartfelt condolences followed as did streamers, flowers, banners and balloons. A grieving city heaped its well-wishes, its heartache and its unending support upon a pair of squad cars parked in front of the Dallas Police Department headquarters. The ever-growing mound became more than just a memorial for five Dallas officers who lost their lives when a gunman opened fire at a downtown Black Lives Matter protest July 7. It became a sign of hope -- a symbol of unity. "I have come to give thanks for everything they have done in Dallas," Yolanda Miranda of Dallas told The Texas Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Dallas. Detective Albert Sanchez visited the memorial the day after the shooting and was overwhelmed by the support he witnessed, although he still mourned the death of his comrades. "I can't tell how many children have come up to me to give me hugs and shake my hand," Sanchez said. "Some say they want to be like me when they grow up."

    At Mass and memorials, Dallas says goodbye to fallen police officers

    DALLAS (CNS) -- At a Mass and at memorials in megachurches, family, friends and police officers from around the country thanked and said goodbye to five Dallas police officers killed by a gunman targeting police officers after a rally protesting police-related shootings in other parts of the country. Killed July 7 in downtown Dallas were Sgt. Michael J. Smith, 55; Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, 48; Officer Michael Krol, 40; and Officer Patrick Zamarripa, 32, all from the Dallas Police Department; and Brent Thompson, 43, an officer with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit. Nine other officers and two civilians were injured. The gunman, Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, described by police as angry and deranged, held police at a standoff for several hours, admitting that he was targeting white police officers and that explosives were planted in the area. The heavily armed gunman was killed by police using an explosive device attached to a bomb squad robot. In the week since the tragedy -- the worst for Dallas law enforcement and the worst for U.S. law enforcement since 9/11 -- city and interfaith leaders have asked for peace and prayer and solutions to violence plaguing the country. The police chief has asked that the community thank and support police.

    Nuncio to U.N.: Create Palestinian state, use faith-based diplomacy

    UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- Archbishop Bernardito Auza, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, told the U.N. Security Council in a July 12 debate that it was time to make peace between Israel and Palestine. Archbishop Auza said the Security Council should accept the recommendations made July 1 by the Quartet on the Middle East, the foursome of the U.N., the United States, the Russian Federation and the European Union founded in 2002 to work toward peace in the Middle East. "The time is long overdue to put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has become increasingly unacceptable as it has become increasingly intractable," the archbishop said. He called for the full implementation of the U.N. General Assembly's Resolution 181, which called for the creation of a Palestinian state almost 70 years ago and has not been fulfilled. Archbishop Auza also echoed the pope's denunciations of nations that simultaneously call for peace and supply weapons to parties involved in the conflict. He said that providing funding and weapons to non-state actors was especially harmful to civilians.

    Pope calls attack on Nice act of 'blind violence'

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis condemned the attack on Bastille Day celebrations in France, calling it an act of "blind violence." The pope expressed his "deep sorrow" and "spiritual closeness" with the French people in a message to Bishop Andre Marceau of Nice. The message, signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said Pope Francis entrusted the victims and their families to God's mercy. "The pope expresses his sympathy to those injured and to all those who have contributed to rescue efforts, asking the Lord to sustain each one in this trial," the cardinal wrote. He said Pope Francis imparted his blessing on grieving families while invoking "God's gift of peace and harmony" upon the people of France. France declared three days of mourning and extended its state of emergency after the July 14 attack along Nice's seaside promenade; more than 80 people were killed and the death toll was mounting. The three days of mourning were to begin July 16.

    Canadian marketer: Laypeople must step up to help church evangelize

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The church -- from individual parishes to the Vatican -- needs to collaborate with highly skilled specialists if it wants to get serious about evangelization, said a Canadian media, design and marketing entrepreneur. While church leaders should turn increasingly to lay experts, lay Catholics should "step up a lot more in our parishes and our dioceses," offering their expertise, Matthew Harvey Sanders told Catholic News Service July 14. The 34-year-old Toronto native is the founder and managing director of Longbeard Creative, a web and graphic-design company that works with nonprofits. Sanders was in Rome in mid-July meeting with current and potential clients, explaining to church leaders the benefits of allocating resources to digital tools and innovative outreach. Many secular brands, products and services are successfully using today's tools and marketing strategies to capture people's attention, Sanders said.

    Commercials with inviting message about Catholic Church hit movie screens

    NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- They represent a captive audience -- the hundreds of people inside a movie theater waiting for the big screen to light up with the film they paid good money to see. Now the Archdiocese of New Orleans, perhaps in a bow to "Star Trek" and Pope Francis' evangelizing message of encounter, will boldly go where no diocese has gone before. As of July 15, the Archdiocese of New Orleans is sponsoring a 15-second, pre-movie commercial that invites people to think positively about the "fellowship, purpose and service" offered by the local Catholic Church. "This idea actually was born out of the archdiocesan synod's goals and priorities," said Sarah McDonald, archdiocesan director of communications. "We're trying to reach beyond the people we talk to on a regular basis and issue an invitation to those who may not be familiar with the church or who have stopped attending Mass to take another look." There are two versions of the commercial -- quick hits designed to be inviting and not proselytizing. Each features the code words of fellowship, purpose and service. Each ends with a quick message from New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond as he stands with a group of young adults: "All are welcome!" and "Come join us!"

    Castile funeral at St. Paul cathedral sign of mercy for family, mourners

    ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- The Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul was filled with mourners July 14 for the funeral of Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black man who was fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights July 6. In remarks at the beginning of the service, Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis said that "we stand together as brothers and sisters before our loving God united in prayer," and linked the funeral to the Year of Mercy. "In this year we are asked in a special way to try and show forth the merciful face of our God to those in need, those who mourn, those in need of healing, and to welcome into our churches all who hunger and thirst for the Lord's tender mercy," he said. "And so today, as we come before our loving God to ask for mercy, we ask the Lord to show his mercy to Philando, welcoming him to that place where every tear is wiped away." Although the Castile family is Baptist, Castile's mother, Valerie Castile, asked the cathedral to hold the service. Father John Ubel, the rector, who is a Pope Francis-appointed missionary of mercy, presided over the ecumenical service, which followed an adapted form of the Catholic funeral rite outside of the Mass.

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