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    Latest News Releases from USCCB

    U.S. Bishops Send Letter in Advance of President Trump’s Proposed Budget Emphasizing the Need for Spending Priorities Promoting the Common Good

    WASHINGTON— Six Chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have released a letter in advance of the anticipated unveiling of President Donald J. Trump's full budget plan tomorrow.

    That proposed budget is expected to call for a sharp increase in military spending while making significant cuts across much of the rest of government, including the planned elimination of dozens of long-standing federal programs that assist the poor and vulnerable.

    In letters to both the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate sent May 19, the bishops reaffirmed the federal budget as a moral document containing profound implications for the common good of our nation and world. The letter states that the "budget requires difficult decisions that ought to be guided by moral criteria that protect human life and dignity, give central importance to 'the least of these' (Matthew 25), and promote the welfare of workers and families who struggle to live in dignity."

    The letter was signed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, Chairman, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace, Bishop George V. Murry, SJ, of Youngstown, Chairman, Committee on Catholic Education, Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, of Burlington, Chairman, Committee on Communications, and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman, Committee on Migration. 

    The full text of the letter sent to the U.S. Senate/U.S. House of Representatives is available at:  

    http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/letter-to-congress-on-fy-2018-federal-budget-2017-05-19.cfm

    Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, federal budget, United States Senate, United States House of Representatives, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Bishop Oscan Cantú, Bishop George V. Murry, Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez , moral document, common good, human life, human dignity, families, workers, military expenditures, health care, retirement, fiscal policy, health insurance, discretionary spending, immigration, tax policy, nuclear weapons, diplomacy, conflicts, Syria, Iraq, anti-poverty programs, reconciliation, income security, education, peace. 

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: May 22, 2017, 2:39 pm

    Convocation of Catholic Leaders – The Joy of the Gospel in America, Taking Place July 1-4 in Orlando; Unprecedented Gathering of Catholic Bishops and Leaders from Across the Nation

    WASHINGTON—This summer, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will be convening an unprecedented gathering of diverse leaders from dioceses and Catholic organizations from across the country to assess the challenges and opportunities of our time, particularly in the context of the Church in the United States. An ongoing initiative of the Bishops' Working Group on the Life and Dignity of the Human Person, the Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America, will assemble Catholic leaders for a strategic conversation, under the leadership of the bishops, on forming missionary disciples to animate the Church and to engage the culture.

    The moment is also an opportunity for the Church in the United States to examine today's concerns, challenges, and opportunities in the light of the Church's mission of evangelization, and be equipped to go forth, ready to engage the world with the joy of the gospel. Inspired by Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) the Convocation will form leaders who will be equipped and re-energized to share the Gospel as missionary disciples, while offering fresh insights informed by new research, communications strategies, and successful models.

    The Convocation of Catholic Leaders will be held in Orlando, Florida, from July 1—July 4, 2017.  

    Please note that advanced media registration is required as no onsite registration is available.

    Credentialed media will have access to the Convocation main plenary hall from July 1-4. Press conferences for credentialed media will also be held each day of the Convocation in the Media Center as time allows.  Media will not have access to the Convocations individual breakout sessions.  All credentialed media are required to abide by regulations of the hotel or risk losing their credentials.  Reporters seeking to cover the Convocation of Catholic Leaders can download a credential application form at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/get-involved/meetings-and-events/convocation-2017/upload/convocation-2017-media-credential-form.pdf and submit it by June 23 to media-relations@usccb.org or mail or fax to:

    United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
    Convocation of Catholic Leaders – Media Credentials
    Office of Public Affairs
    3211 4th Street, NE
    Washington, DC 20017-1194
    Telephone: 202-541-3200
    Fax: 202-541-3173

    For more details regarding the Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America, please visit:

    Convocation Program Schedule
    Convocation FAQ Page
     

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    Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America, Bishops' Working Group, Life and Dignity of the Human Person, Evangelii Gaudium, forming missionary disciples, Church in the United States, Catholic Leaders, culture, conversation.

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    MEDIA CONTACT:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: May 16, 2017, 4:32 pm

    Pope Francis Names Priest as New Auxiliary Bishop of Atlanta

    WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has named Father Bernard E. Shlesinger, III, a priest of the Diocese of Raleigh, as an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Atlanta. Father Shlesinger,57, currently serves as Director of Spiritual Formation at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia.

    The appointment was publicized in Washington, May 15, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

    Bernard Shlesinger was born December 17, 1960.  He earned a bachelor's degree in Agricultural Engineering from Virginia Tech in 1983.  He went on to attend Theological College in Washington, DC (Pre-Theology/Philosophy) before attending Pontifical Gregorian University where he earned a B.A. in Sacred Theology in 1995.  He then began Licentiate of Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) studies at the Angelicum (Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome) that same year.  He was ordained a priest on June 22, 1996.

    Father Shlesinger also served in the US Air Force from 1983 to 1990.  An Air Force pilot who retired as Captain, he flew the C130E Hercules while stationed at Pope AFB, in Fayetteville, NC.   

    Assignments after ordination included: parochial vicar at St. Mary, Wilmington, NC, 1996-1998; Pastor at our Our Lady of Guadalupe parish as well as Assistant Vocation Director, Newton Grove, NC (1998-2007); Director of Vocations and Seminary Formation, Diocese of Raleigh (2007-2013); Administrator, Maria Reina de las Americas, Mount Olive, NC (2010-2012); Director of Spiritual Formation, Theology Division, St. Charles Borremeo Seminary, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, 2013 to present. Other responsibilities include: vicar forane, Newton Grove Deanery.

    The Archdiocese of Atlanta comprises 21,445 square miles. It has a total population of 7,048,083 people of which 1,023,594 or 14.5 percent, are Catholic. Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory has been archbishop of Atlanta since 2005. The archdiocese currently has one active auxiliary bishop, Bishop Luis R. Zarama.  

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    Keywords: bishop appointment, Pope Francis, Bishop-elect Bernard E. Shhlesinger III, Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, auxiliary, Archdiocese of Atlanta, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, Auxiliary Bishops Luis R. Zarama.


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    MEDIA CONTACT:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: May 15, 2017, 6:01 am

    U.S. Bishops to Meet June 14-15 in Indianapolis; Discussions will include Religious Liberty, Immigration, Upcoming Synod

    WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will gather for their annual Spring General Assembly, June 14-15, in Indianapolis. During the assembly, the full body of bishops will address issues of immigration and refugees, religious freedom at home and abroad as well as health care policy developments. The bishops will also begin consultation on the upcoming Ordinary Synod of Bishops being convened by the Holy Father in 2018. 

    Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, will lead a presentation on religious persecution, genocide and human rights violations in the Middle East. The bishops will receive a briefing from their working group on immigration and hear from outside experts.

    Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., of Philadelphia, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R of Newark, chairman of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, will lead the discussion on the 2018 Ordinary Synod of Bishops, which will focus on young people, faith and vocational discernment.  

    The bishops will also discuss and vote on whether to establish the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty as a permanent USCCB committee. Other items considered for discussion and votes are: the revised Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities, a collection of blessings in Spanish (the Bendicional: Sexta Parte), and a new translation of the Order of Blessing the Oil of Catechumens and of the Sick and of Consecrating the Chrism.

    The Wednesday evening Mass will be moment of prayer and penance for the bishops as they respond to the call from Pope Francis for an international Day of Prayer to pray for the survivors of clerical sex abuse.   

    Coverage of the meeting is open to credentialed media. Sessions open to the media will be Wednesday, June 14, and the morning of Thursday, June 15. Media conferences will follow open sessions of the meeting as time allows. Reporters seeking to cover the meeting can download a credential application form at: www.usccb.org/about/public-affairs/upload/application-news-media-credentials.pdf and submit it by June 9 to media-relations@usccb.org or mail to:

    June Meeting Credentials
    Office of Public Affairs
    3211 4th St. NE
    Washington, DC 20017-1194
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    Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, June meeting, Spring General Assembly, USCCB, president, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Bishop Oscar Cantú, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, Synod of Bishops, marriage, family, youth, young adults, Pope Francis, Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, immigration, refugees, sacraments, persons with disabilities, Bendicional, Chrism

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    MEDIA CONTACT:
    Norma Montenegro Flynn
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: May 12, 2017, 11:59 am

    U.S. Bishops Chairman Calls on Senate to Strip Harmful Proposals from House-Passed Health Care Bill

    WASHINGTON—After the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628), Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called on the Senate to strip out the harmful provisions of the bill when the chamber takes it up for consideration.

    "Even with efforts to improve the bill before passage, the American Health Care Act still contains major defects, particularly regarding changes to Medicaid that risk coverage and affordability for millions; it is deeply disappointing that the voices of those who will be most severely impacted were not heeded," said Bishop Dewane. "The AHCA does offer critical life protections, and our health care system desperately needs these safeguards. But still, vulnerable people must not be left in poor and worsening circumstances as Congress attempts to fix the current and impending problems with the Affordable Care Act."

    Since discussions about repealing the Affordable Care Act began, the U.S. Bishops have repeatedly called for Congress to honor key moral principles in health care reform. Among them are: access for all people to comprehensive, quality health care that is truly affordable, including extra consideration for pre-existing conditions; respect for life by preventing the use of federal funds for abortion or to purchase health care plans that cover it; and conscience protections. Prior to Thursday's vote, Bishop Dewane urged House members to insist on changes, especially for the sake of those who are struggling.

    "When the Senate takes up the AHCA, it must act decisively to remove the harmful proposals from the bill that will affect low-income people—including immigrants—as well as add vital conscience protections, or begin reform efforts anew. Our health care policy must honor all human life and dignity from conception to natural death, as well as defend the sincerely-held moral and religious beliefs of those who have any role in the health care system," said Bishop Dewane.

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    Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, American Health Care Act (AHCA), respect for life, human dignity, health care, affordability, abortion, poverty, immigration.

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: May 4, 2017, 7:25 pm

    USCCB President: Today’s Executive Order Begins a Process

    WASHINGTON– Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has issued a response to President Donald J. Trump's executive order signed this morning.

    Cardinal DiNardo's full statement follows:

    "Today's Executive Order begins the process of alleviating the serious burden of the HHS mandate. We will engage with the Administration to ensure that adequate relief is provided to those with deeply held religious beliefs about some of the drugs, devices, and surgical procedures that HHS has sought to require people of faith to facilitate over the last several years. We welcome a decision to provide a broad religious exemption to the HHS mandate, but will have to review the details of any regulatory proposals.

    In recent years, people of faith have experienced pressing restrictions on religious freedom from both the federal government and state governments that receive federal funding. For example, in areas as diverse as adoption, education, healthcare, and other social services, widely held moral and religious beliefs, especially regarding the protection of human life as well as preserving marriage and family, have been maligned in recent years as bigotry or hostility — and penalized accordingly. But disagreement on moral and religious issues is not discrimination; instead, it is the inevitable and desirable fruit of a free, civil society marked by genuine religious diversity.

    We will continue to advocate for permanent relief from Congress on issues of critical importance to people of faith.  Religious freedom is a fundamental right that should be upheld by all branches of government and not subject to political whims. As president of the Bishops' Conference, I had the opportunity to meet with President Trump this morning in the Oval Office to address these and other topics."

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    Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, President Trump, executive order, religious freedom, HHS mandate, religious exemption, Congress, federal government, state government, human life, adoption, healthcare, marriage and family, religious diversity, executive branch.

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: May 4, 2017, 1:26 pm

    Gospel Message Spreads with the Catholic Communication Campaign, May 27-28

    WASHINGTON—The Catholic Communication Campaign (CCC) collection is an annual national appeal to support evangelization through the internet, television, radio, and print publications. This year's collection will be taken up in many dioceses the weekend of May 27-28.

    "At its core, this collection is a way for all of us to be evangelizers," said Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington, chairman of the Committee on Communications' Subcommittee on the Catholic Communication Campaign. "The message of the Church is one of hope and mercy—that God walks with us and does not leave us to face our suffering alone. With the collection, this is the message that we share."

    The Catholic Communication Campaign supports projects in the United States and in developing countries where the local Church lacks resources to spread the Gospel message.

    Projects include providing access to the daily Mass readings on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' website, with a reach of 7.4 million page views per month. The CCC collection also shares the travels and daily ministry of Pope Francis through its support of Catholic News Services' Rome bureau.  

    In addition, the Catholic Research Resources Alliance is preserving Catholic history in the U.S. thanks to a CCC grant to digitize more than 87,000 pages of Catholic news content that will be available online free to researchers and educators. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a CCC grant is enabling Radio Maria to expand to the Diocese of Goma to further the evangelization mission of the Church.

    Fifty percent of funds collected remain in each diocese to support local Catholic communication projects.

    Shareable resources for the collection are available online. More information about the Catholic Communication Campaign is available at www.usccb.org/ccc.

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    Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Catholic Communication Campaign, CCC Subcommittee, CCC, Bishop Joseph J. Tyson, evangelization, print, radio, internet, Pope Francis, Congo, Catholic News Service, Radio Maria, Catholic Research Resources Alliance, daily readings, Diocese of Goma, communications

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    MEDIA CONTACT:
    Norma Montenegro Flynn
    O: 202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: May 2, 2017, 8:35 am

    National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Mariners and People of the Sea, May 22

    WASHINGTON—The National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Mariners and People of the Sea will be celebrated on May 22. The day is observed in conjunction with National Maritime Day in the United States of America, which has been celebrated since 1933 to honor those who serve as merchant mariners and to recognize the benefits of the maritime industry.

    Bishop J. Kevin Boland, bishop emeritus of Savannah, Georgia, and Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) promoter, is encouraging dioceses to mark the national day by remembering the men and women of the sea in homilies and by including special petitions during Mass. When Mass is celebrated on May 22, the text for the Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the Sea, is also encouraged.

    Bishop Boland will celebrate a Mass in observance of Maritime Day on Saturday, May 20, at 12:10 p.m., in the Crypt Church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The Mass is sponsored by the AOS national office and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.

    Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) is a worldwide Catholic maritime ministry that reaches out to seafarers, fishers, their families, port personnel and all who work or travel on the high seas, regardless of race, color or creed. The maritime ministry shows the Church's care and concern to seafarers who are often away from home for many months because of the nature of their work and lifestyle. A network of AOS port offices and Catholic chaplains provides spiritual and practical assistance that accommodate a seafarer's unique lifestyle and needs.

    In the United States, AOS is present in 53 maritime ports in 26 states, and in 48 dioceses. Priest chaplains, deacons, religious and lay people extend hospitality by providing a "home away from home" for seafarers. AOS has 10 Stella Maris centers, and over 100 chaplains and pastoral teams, including priests, religious, deacons and lay ecclesial ministers providing many services including: Mass, communion, confession and other sacraments, assistance to seafarers in distress, ship visits, transportation to visit business centers, a place to relax while on the port, computers with internet connection at the center, cell phones and phone cards as well as facilitating seafarers' access to services that others provide. 

    In his profound love of the sea and ministry to the people of the sea, Bishop Boland says, "the needs of the invisible and silent merchant mariner, fisherman, seafarer spouse and retired seafarer to quality pastoral care are as needed as an inner-city community needs a pastor who is a good community organizer, or a new subdivision needs a new parish…the Catholic Church's ministry to the people of the sea is not a marginal ministry, but is an essential ministry of the Church." He encourages dioceses with maritime personnel to ensure that there is an active, viable Apostleship of the Sea ministry, and to ensure that AOS port chaplains and pastoral agents have the proper training and support for this ministry.

    More information is available at: http://www.usccb.org/aos.

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    Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Apostleship of the Sea, AOS, Bishop J. Kevin Boland, seafarers, fishers, port personnel, people of the sea, merchant mariner, fisherman, maritime personnel, ministry, National Maritime Day

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    MEDIA CONTACT:
    Norma Montenegro Flynn
    202-541-3200
    Author:
    Posted: May 1, 2017, 9:03 am

    U.S. Bishops Chairman Urges House Members To “Insist on Changes” To Proposed Health Care Bill

    WASHINGTON—As the U.S. House of Representatives appears poised to vote on the American Health Care Act (HB 1628), Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, stressed that remaining flaws in the bill will harm poor and vulnerable people and called on members to insist upon changes.

    "It is deeply disappointing to many Americans that, in modifying the American Health Care Act to again attempt a vote, proponents of the bill left in place its serious flaws, including unacceptable modifications to Medicaid that will endanger coverage and affordability for millions of people, according to reports," said Bishop Dewane. "Sadly, some of the recently proposed amendments—especially those designed to give states flexibility—lack apparent safeguards to ensure quality of care. These additions could severely impact many people with pre-existing conditions while risking for others the loss of access to various essential coverages."

    In an earlier letter sent to Representatives on March 17, Bishop Dewane had urged members of the U.S. House of Representatives to correct provisions that would place a per capita cap on Medicaid funding to states, as well as to ensure adequate, quality coverage for those who are part of the recent Medicaid expansion, among other things. Bishop Dewane also called for conscience protections for those who participate in the delivery or coverage of health care services and against mandates like the contraception and sterilization regulatory requirement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    "The American Health Care Act includes some praiseworthy features, among them restricting funding which flows to abortion providers and prohibiting federal funding for abortion or the purchase of plans that cover it," noted Bishop Dewane. "But the AHCA, as it now stands, creates new and grave challenges for poor and vulnerable people, including immigrants. The House must not pass the legislation as it is. Members should insist on changes, especially for the sake of those who are struggling in our communities."

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    Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, American Health Care Act (AHCA), respect for life, human dignity, health care, affordability, abortion, poverty, immigration.

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: April 27, 2017, 3:27 pm

    Cardinal Dolan Calls Pro-Abortion DNC Pledge Extreme, Disturbing, Intolerant

    WASHINGTON–Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the USCCB's Committee on Pro-Life Activities, reacted to the announcement by the Democratic National Committee's chair pledging support only for pro-abortion candidates. Calling the pledge "very disturbing," Cardinal Dolan urged party members to "challenge their leadership to recant this intolerant position."

    Full statement follows:

    "The recent pledge by the Democratic National Committee chair to support only candidates who embrace the radical unrestricted abortion license is very disturbing. The Democratic Party platform already endorses abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy, even forcing taxpayers to fund it; and now the DNC says that to be a Democrat—indeed to be an American—requires supporting that extreme agenda.

    True solidarity with pregnant women and their children transcends all party lines. Abortion doesn't empower women. Indeed, women deserve better than abortion.

    In the name of diversity and inclusion, pro-life and pro-'choice' Democrats, alike, should challenge their leadership to recant this intolerant position."

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    Keywords: Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Democratic National Committee, DNC, pro-life, federal funding, abortion.

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    MEDIA CONTACT:
    O: 202-541-3200
    Author:
    Posted: April 26, 2017, 12:33 pm

    Pope Francis Names Bishop Aleksiychuk as Head of Chicago Eparchy

    WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has named Bishop Venedykt (Valery) Aleksiychuk, M.S.U., as bishop of the Eparchy of St Nicholas in Chicago for Ukrainians, in Illinois. Prior to the appointment, Bishop Aleksiychuk was an auxiliary bishop of the Archeparchy of Lviv, Ukraine.

    The appointment was publicized in Washington, April 20, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

    Valery Aleksiychuk was born January 16, 1968, in Borshchivka, Ukraine. He pursued seminary studies and was ordained a priest on March 29, 1992. He was named auxiliary bishop of Lviv on August 3, 2010, and ordained a bishop on September 5, 2010.

    The Eparchy of St Nicholas in Chicago for Ukrainians has been a sede vacante since August 2016; it has a population of about 11,000 Ukrainian Catholics. About 70 priests and deacons serve the eparchy in 46 parishes and mission stations in 16 states throughout the United States.

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    Keywords: bishop appointment, Pope Francis, Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Bishop Venedykt Aleksiychuk, Eparchy of St Nicholas in Chicago for Ukrainians, Eastern Rite, Byzantine-Slavonic, Ukrainian Catholics, eparchy, mission stations, Ukraine, Archeparchy of Lviv

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    MEDIA CONTACT:
    Norma Montenegro Flynn
    O: 202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: April 20, 2017, 8:26 am

    Pope Francis Accepts Resignation of Bishop Martin Amos Of Davenport; Names Msgr. Thomas Zinkula As Successor; Pope Also Names Rev. John Dolan As Auxiliary Bishop of San Diego

    WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Martin Amos, 75, from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, and has named Monsignor Thomas R. Zinkula, to succeed him.  Monsignor Zinkula is a priest of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, currently serving as rector of St. Pius X Seminary at Loras College in Dubuque.  

    Pope Francis has also named Father John P. Dolan as Auxiliary Bishop of San Diego. Father Dolan is a priest of the Diocese of San Diego where he currently serves as Episcopal Vicar for Clergy and Pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish.  

    The resignation and appointments were publicized in Washington, April 19, 2017, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

    Bishop-designate, Msgr. Thomas Zinkula, 60, was born April 19, 1957, in Mount Vernon, Iowa. He attended Catholic University in Washington, DC, where he earned a master's in Theology in 1990. In 1998, he received a licentiate in Canon Law from St. Paul's University, Ottawa, Canada.  He also earned a law degree from the University of Iowa in 1983 and he holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics, economics and business from Cornell College in Mount Vernon. 

    He was ordained to the priesthood on May 26, 1990, for the Archdiocese of Dubuque.

    Assignments after ordination included: assistant pastor, St. Columbkille, Dubuque, 1990-1993; assistant pastor at Joseph the Worker,  Dubuque, 1993-1996; a student of Canon Law at St. Paul University in Ottawa from 1996-1998; pastor of St. Joseph in Rickardsville and sacramental priest for the parishes of St. Francis in Balltown, and SS. Peter and Paul in Sherill from 1998-2002; judge at the Archdiocesan Tribunal from 1998-2000; judicial vicar, 2000-2010; pastor, Holy Ghost, Dubuque 2005-2011; episcopal vicar for the region of Cedar Rapids, 2012-2014; and rector of St. Pius X Seminary in Dubuque, 2014-present.

    Bishop Amos was ordained a priest in 1968.  He served as an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland in the state of Ohio from 2001 to 2006, and then as the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Davenport since 2006.

    The Diocese of Davenport is comprised of 11,438 square miles in the state of Iowa and has a total population of 792,199 of which 97,202, or 12 percent, are Catholic.

    Auxiliary bishop-designate, Father John Dolan was born in San Diego, June 8, 1962 and was ordained to the priesthood on July 1, 1989 for the Diocese of San Diego.

    Fr. Dolan holds a Master of Arts degree in Liturgy from St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, California.

    Assignments after ordination included: parochial vicar, Saint Michael's Parish, San Diego from 1989-1991; associate pastor, Santa Sofia Parish, El Cajon, 1991-1992; director of vocations, 1992-1994; pastor of St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish, Oceanside, 1996-2001; pastor, St. Michael's Parish, San Diego, 2001-2002; pastor, St. Rose of Lima Parish, Chula Vista, 2002-2014; pastor, Saint Michael's Church, Poway, 2014-2016; episcopal vicar for the clergy and pastor, St. John the Evangelist Parish, San Diego 2016-present.

    The Diocese of San Diego is comprised of 8,852 square miles in the state of California and has a total population of 3,285,849 of which 1,012,486 or 30 percent are Catholic.  The Bishop of the San Diego Diocese is Robert W. McElroy.

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    Keywords: bishop appointments, Pope Francis, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, Bishop Martin Amos, Bishop-designate Thomas Zinkula, Archdiocese of Davenport, Iowa, Auxiliary bishop designate, Rev. John Dolan, Diocese of San Diego, Bishop Robert W. McElroy

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    MEDIA CONTACT ONLY:
    202-541-3200 

    Author:
    Posted: April 19, 2017, 8:38 am

    Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Releases Easter Message Encouraging Joy Over Fear

    WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has issued the following Easter message as we celebrate the joy of Christ's Resurrection.

    A video version of Cardinal DiNardo's Easter message is also available at:  https://www.facebook.com/usccb/videos/10154506949682285/

    Full statement follows:

    "Through Christ's passion, His burial in the tomb and His glorious resurrection, we come to realize the enormity of the Lord's sacrifice for us. We may feel unworthy of His love who paid so high a price for our salvation. Let us not be afraid. Let's allow ourselves to be taken – even seized – with Easter joy. As we proclaim on Easter Sunday, 'Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.'

    In the Gospel of John, chapter 10, Jesus says the shepherd calls his own sheep by name, 'I am the Good Shepherd and I know mine.' In chapter 20, how much fear and doubt must have gripped Mary of Magdala as she stood by the tomb? There, it was Jesus who rescued Mary from her fears and darkness by calling her name. Listen carefully.  Mary thought she had discovered the Risen Lord, but it was the Risen Lord who discovered her. Jesus calls out to each of us by name today as He did the very first Easter Sunday. His promise fulfilled. His word brings life, 'I am the Good Shepherd and I know mine.'

    Jesus waits for you and me, embracing us in our moments of greatest need and desire. Welcome the love of God into your life. Share it those around you, especially the most vulnerable of our sisters and brothers. In this way, we proclaim with Mary, 'I have seen the Lord.' Sing joyfully, 'the Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.'  Happy Easter!"

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    Keywords: Easter, Risen Christ, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Resurrection, Gospel of John, Good Shepherd, Mary of Magdala, Prince of Life, joy.

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: April 17, 2017, 8:44 am

    U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Chairman Calls for Arkansas to Abandon Scheduled Death Row Executions

    WASHINGTON—Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development issued a statement this morning in response to the scheduled executions of seven men in 11 days in Arkansas. The state is planning to begin the executions on Easter Monday. Bishop Dewane joins the Catholic community of Arkansas, and people of good will across the country and around the world, in urging Governor Hutchinson to reconsider this plan.

    "This Easter, let us ask the Lord for the grace to infuse our justice with mercy. May those in Arkansas who hold the lives of these individuals on death row in their hands be moved by God's love, which is stronger than death, and abandon the current plans for execution," Bishop Dewane wrote in asking for commutation of the sentences of those scheduled to be executed to life imprisonment. 

    In his statement, Bishop Dewane noted that Pope Francis called for "the global abolition of the death penalty," in his 2015 address to the U.S. Congress, where the Holy Father said, "I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. . . . [A] just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation." The Catholic Bishops of the United States have echoed this call for many years, including in their 2005 statement A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death.

    "It can be very difficult to think of mercy at a time when justice for unthinkable crimes seems to cry out for vengeance," Bishop Dewane commented, "[t]he harm and pain caused by terrible sin is real." Yet, he invoked Pope Francis' reflection that, "Jesus on the cross prayed for those who had crucified him: 'Father, forgive them, they know not what they do' (Lk. 23:34).  Mercy is the only way to overcome evil.  Justice is necessary, very much so, but by itself it is not enough. Justice and mercy must go together."

    Bishop Dewane's full statement can be found here: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/death-penalty-capital-punishment/upload/Bishop-Dewane-Statement-on-Death-Penalty-in-Arkansas-2017-04-13.pdf

    ---

    Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson, death penalty, execution, justice, mercy, punishment, Congress, Pope Francis, human dignity, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death, St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, crime victims, solidarity, incarceration.

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    Posted: April 13, 2017, 1:33 pm

    Advisory for Broadcasters: Vatican Announces Worldwide Telecasts Information for Holy Week and Easter

    WASHINGTON—The Vatican Television Center has released information for broadcasters regarding worldwide telecasts of the events presided over by Pope Francis on Good Friday and Easter. All times are UTC/GMT (Coordinated Universal Time/Greenwich Mean Time).

    ″  Good Friday, April 14, 19.15-21.00 hours, Way of the Cross presided over by Pope Francis at the Colosseum.

    ″  Sunday April 16, 08:00-10:30 hours, Easter Sunday Mass presided over by Pope Francis immediately followed by the Message and Blessing "Urbi et Orbi" (To the City and to the World) from St. Peter's Square.

    Information about satellite distribution in the United States will be available on Eurovision World Feed at www.eurovision.net/wf/worldfeeds.php.  For further inquiries contact worldtelecast@ctv.va. The U.S. Domestic satellite coordinate is Galaxy @.  For the latest updates, visit http://www.ctv.va/content/ctv/it/worldtelecast/mondovisione-aprile-2017.html

    Audio commentaries from the Vatican in English, Spanish and French are available on satellite audio channels. The commentaries begin about 10 minutes before the start of each celebration.  Audio commentaries in other languages are provided by Vatican Radio via ISDN. Availability is limited and must be requested ahead from the International Relations Office of Vatican Radio relint@vatiradio.va or by telephone: +39 06 698 83945.  They will be assigned on a first come, first serve basis.  

    All additional inquiries should be made to Vatican Television Center (CTV) at worldtelecast@ctv.va or by telephone +39 06 698 85300, fax: +39 06 698 85665.

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    Keywords: Vatican, Holy See, Pope Francis, Pontifical Council for Social Communications, PCCS, Good Friday, Way of the Cross, Colosseum, St. Peter's Square, broadcast telecast, satellite information, Vatican Television Center, Holy Week, Easter.

    # # #

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    Posted: April 11, 2017, 10:27 am

    Inclusion Act Receives Continued Strong Support from USCCB Chairmen

    WASHINGTON—Three chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) are offering their strong support for the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2017. The Act would prevent the federal government, and any state receiving federal funds for child welfare services, from taking adverse action against a provider that, for religious or moral reasons, declines to provide a child welfare social service.

    "Our first and most cherished freedom, religious liberty, is to be enjoyed by all Americans, including child welfare providers who serve the needs of children," wrote Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; in letters of support to Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) in the U.S. House of Representatives and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) in the U.S. Senate, who introduced the bill.

    Some faith-based child welfare providers, including in Massachusetts, Illinois, California, and the District of Columbia, have been excluded from carrying out adoption and foster care services because the providers act on their belief that children deserve to be placed with a married mother and father. The chairmen said, "The Inclusion Act would remedy this unjust discrimination by enabling all providers to serve the needs of parents and children in a manner consistent with the providers' religious beliefs and moral convictions."

    Stressing that the Inclusion Act respects the importance of parental choice, the chairmen remarked, "Women and men who want to place their children for adoption ought to be able to choose from a diversity of adoption agencies, including those that share the parents' religious beliefs and moral convictions."

    The letters of support are available online at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/Ltr-to-Rep-Kelly-Inclusion-Act-2017.pdf and http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/Ltr-to-Sen-Enzi-Inclusion-Act-2017.pdf

    A backgrounder on the Inclusion Act is available at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/Backgrounder-Inclusion-Act-2017.pdf

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    Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, federal court, marriage, adoptions, Archbishop William Lori, Bishop James Conley, Bishop Frank Dewane, Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, religious freedom, religious liberty, House of Representatives, Senate, Congress

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    Posted: April 10, 2017, 12:26 pm

    Thousands of New Catholics to Be Welcomed by Catholic Church in the United States at Easter Vigil

    WASHINGTON—A married couple in their golden years, a couple inspired by their late daughter's legacy, and a salesman who heard Jesus' call to conversion on a stranger's porch, are among the thousands who will be welcomed into the Catholic Church on Easter Vigil, April 15, in parishes across the United States. All have participated in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), a process of conversion and study in the Catholic faith for catechumens and candidates coming into full communion with the Church.

    Catechumens, who have never been baptized, will receive baptism, confirmation and first Communion at the Holy Saturday Easter Vigil. Candidates, who have already been baptized in another Christian tradition whose baptism is recognized by the Catholic Church, will enter the Church through a profession of faith and reception of confirmation and the Eucharist.

    In the Diocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan, 175 catechumens and 249 candidates will receive the sacraments. Among them, Mac, 90, and Barb Harless, 85, who will join the Church this Easter after finding their parish, St. John Paul II Church in Cedar Springs, a source of prayer, peace and hope during Barb's battle with cancer.

    In the Diocese of Rochester, New York, the RCIA involvement of Dan and Michaela Cady –along with their sons Aidan, 15, Solas, 12, and Merritt, 10 – was spurred by a family tragedy. Two years ago their daughter and sister Kennis, then 12, died suddenly. "It just turned our heads about life," Dan Cady said. He added that his family was grateful for the support it received from the staff of St. Jerome Parish in East Rochester, and from there opted to pursue RCIA. As the Cadys advance on their faith journey, Dan said he's confident his daughter is watching over them: "We would like to think it's orchestrated by her," he said. Some of the family members will receive the sacraments this year, and others next year.

    While in Orlando, Florida, Jarrid Perusse of Most Precious Blood Parish in Oviedo said he, "got saved on a porch" during a summer internship as a door-to-door salesman. He realized that God was reaching out to him, and "it was my turn to start reaching back," he said.

    About 60 of the nearly 200 dioceses in the United States reported numbers for 2017 to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest diocese in the United States, will welcome 1,756 catechumens and 938 candidates; while the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston reports 1,667 catechumens and 708 candidates; and the Archdiocese of Washington reports 483 catechumens and 698 candidates.

    Other archdioceses report the following totals: Archdiocese of Seattle: 679 catechumens and 409 candidates; Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis: 201 catechumens, 623 candidates; Archdiocese of Philadelphia: 235 catechumens, 322 candidates; Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky: 227 catechumens, 279 candidates; Archdiocese of Oklahoma City reports 290 catechumens, 368 candidates; Archdiocese of San Francisco: 174 catechumens, 207 candidates; Archdiocese of Newark: 499 catechumens, 693 candidates; Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa: 63 catechumens, 94 candidates; Archdiocese of Miami: 524 catechumens, 214 candidates; Archdiocese of Atlanta: 722 catechumens and 1,170 candidates.

    In California, the Diocese of Stockton will welcome 284 candidates and 532 catechumens; Diocese of Oakland reports 176 catechumens and 376 candidates; the Diocese of San Diego reports 333 catechumens and 635 candidates; and the Diocese of Fresno will welcome 593 catechumens and 56 candidates; the Diocese of San Jose reports 496 catechumens and candidates.

    In Florida, the Diocese of St. Petersburg reports 456 catechumens and 514 candidates; the Diocese of Orlando reports 586 catechumens and candidates; the Diocese of Palm Beach reports 147 catechumens and 474 candidates; and the Diocese of Venice reports 169 catechumens, 219 candidates.

    In New York, the Diocese of Rockville Centre reports 232 catechumens 327 candidates; the Diocese of Rochester reports 96 catechumens and 149 candidates; the Diocese of Buffalo reports 56 catechumens and 105 candidates; the Diocese of Syracuse reports 49 catechumens and 70 candidates.

    Other dioceses reporting hundreds of catechumens and candidates include: Diocese of Dallas: 945 catechumens and 1,230 candidates; Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas: 252 catechumens and 324 candidates; Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana: 187 catechumens and 208 candidates; Diocese of Salt Lake City, Utah: 273 catechumens, 153 candidates; Diocese of Tyler, Texas: 120 catechumens and 270 candidates; Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina: 160 catechumens and 317 candidates; Diocese of Pittsburgh: 444 catechumens and candidates; Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut: 78 catechumens and 241 candidates; Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri: 106 catechumens and 172 candidates; Diocese of Tucson, Arizona: 111 candidates and 209 catechumens; Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio: 97 catechumens and 130 candidates; Diocese of Camden, New Jersey: 174 catechumens; Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey: 195 catechumens and candidates; Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey: 125 catechumens and 200 candidates; Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts: 114 catechumens and 101 candidates; Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts: 53 catechumens and 105 candidates; Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire:  95 candidates and 67 catechumens; Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware: 101 catechumens and 152 candidates; Diocese of Belleville, Illinois: 54 catechumens and 120 candidates; Diocese of Springfield, Illinois: 160 catechumens and 159 candidates; Diocese of Yakima, Washington: 115 catechumens, 145 candidates; Diocese of LaFayette, Louisiana: 55 catechumens and  96 candidates; Diocese of Reno, Nevada: 139 catechumens and 40 candidates; Diocese of Greensburg, Pennsylvania: 92 candidates and 44 catechumens; Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio: 39 catechumens and 52 candidates; Diocese of Rapid City: 27 catechumens, 83 candidates; Diocese of Shreveport, Louisiana: 40 catechumens, 89 candidates; the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut: 97 catechumens, 313 candidates; Diocese of Memphis, Tennessee: 60 catechumens, 200 candidates; Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan: 49 catechumens, 63 candidates; Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey: 200 catechumens, 508 candidates; Diocese of San Angelo, Texas: 221 catechumens, 264 candidates.

    In Minnesota, the Diocese of St. Cloud reports 17 catechumens, 76 candidates; Diocese of Crookston: 8 catechumens, 25 candidates; Diocese of Winona: 42 catechumens, 112 candidates; Diocese of Duluth: 11 catechumens, 69 candidates.

    These numbers are based on participation in the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, the final phase of the RCIA process celebrated at the beginning of Lent.

    Not included are infant baptisms that according to the 2016 Official Catholic Directory (OCD) totaled 683,712 for the year 2015. The OCD also reported that there were 39,721 adult baptisms and 71,809 people received into full communion during the same year, the latest with complete statistical data.

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    Keywords: Holy Saturday, RCIA, Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, catechumens, candidates, Rite of Election, Call to Continuing Conversion, baptism, First Communion, Eucharist, confirmation, sacraments, Easter vigil, Catholic, archdiocese, diocese, converts

    # # #

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    Posted: April 10, 2017, 8:43 am

    President of U.S. Bishops Conference Responds to Today’s Explosions at Two Coptic Churches

    WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has issued the following statement in response to explosions on Palm Sunday at two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt that have killed at least 40 and injured at least 100:

    "In the early hours of Palm Sunday, as Christians began the celebration of the holiest week of the year, our brothers and sisters in Egypt suffered unspeakable persecution. They were at Church. They were praying. And in the midst of what should be peace, horrible violence yet again. I express our deepest sadness at the loss of those killed, our prayers for healing for all those injured, and our condolences to those who suffer the loss of loved ones. 

    I also express our solidarity with the Coptic church in Egypt, an ancient Christian community that faces mounting persecution in its historic home from violent extremism.  I also pray for the nation of Egypt, that it may seek justice, find healing, and strengthen protection for Coptic Christians and other religious minorities who wish only to live in peace.

    I also join Pope Francis in his prayer for the victims of this attack, and that 'the Lord [may] convert the hearts of the people who are sowing terror, violence and death, and also the hearts of those who make and traffic weapons.' The Prince of Peace assures us that the darkness of terror cannot withstand the Easter light of Resurrection. We entrust all those who suffer and who have perished into the arms of the crucified and Risen Christ."

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    Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Coptic Christian Church, explosions, Egypt, Palm Sunday, persecution, solidarity, violent extremism, religious minorities, Pope Francis, peace, Prince of Peace, Easter, Resurrection, Risen Christ.

    ###

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    Judy Keane
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    Posted: April 9, 2017, 4:02 pm

    U.S. Bishops Conference calls for renewed peace efforts in Syria

    WASHINGTON— Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop Oscar Cantú, chair of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, have issued a joint statement calling for renewed peace efforts in Syria.

    The full statement is as follows:   

    "Three days ago, our Conference of Bishops decried the chemical attack in Syria as one that 'shocks the soul.' The use of internationally banned indiscriminate weapons is morally reprehensible. At the same time, our Conference affirmed the call of Pope Francis to attain peace in Syria 'through dialogue and reconciliation.'

    The longstanding position of our Conference of Bishops is that the Syrian people urgently need a political solution. We ask the United States to work tirelessly with other governments to obtain a ceasefire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities.

    We once again make our own the earlier call of our Holy Father, Pope Francis: 'I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people. May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries.'

    Join us as we pray for the intercession of Our Lady Queen of Peace that the work of humanitarian assistance and peacebuilding will find strength in the merciful love of her Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

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    Keywords: Syria, chemical attacks, U.S. Military, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Bishop Oscar Cantú, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Pope Francis, political solution, negotiations, humanitarian assistance, Christians, minorities, conflict, Jesus, Our Lady Queen of Peace, peace building.

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    Posted: April 7, 2017, 4:24 pm

    Cardinal Dolan Applauds Administration for Withdrawing Funding to UNFPA’s Coercive Abortion/Sterilization Program

    WASHINGTON–Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the USCCB's Committee on Pro-Life Activities, welcomed the State Department's April 4th announcement that it will withhold federal funding from the U.N. Population Fund ("UNFPA") because UNFPA monies go to Chinese agencies that perform forced abortions and involuntary sterilizations. The Administration's decision invokes the 1985 Kemp-Kasten Amendment against funding organizations involved in coercive population programs. Millions of taxpayer dollars will now be redirected to maternal health and non-abortion reproductive health programs in developing countries.

    "Chinese families have endured unspeakable abuses, including onerous fines, mandatory pregnancy exams, coerced sterilizations, and forced abortions," Cardinal Dolan said. "Over 20 years ago, the U.N. condemned forced sterilization and forced abortion as 'acts of violence against women', and yet the UNFPA has enabled the Chinese government to continue their assault on the dignity of women and the lives of their unborn children – especially female children, who are most at risk."

    Since 1985, Congress has forbidden the funding of any organization which, as determined by the President of the United States, "supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization." There is no credible claim to counter the fact that Chinese population programs use coercive means or that UNFPA supports the Chinese programs.

    "This is a victory for women and children across the globe, as well as for U.S. taxpayers," Cardinal Dolan said. "We are so grateful to the Trump Administration for taking this important action to end U.S. support for UNFPA so long as it remains committed to China's coercive abortion and sterilization programs."

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    Keywords: Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, President Trump, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Congress pro-life, federal funding, abortion, UNFPA, China, forced abortion, coercive family planning, population control, women's health, Kemp-Kasten Amendment, Mexico City Policy

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    Posted: April 6, 2017, 9:55 am

    Pope Names Priest as New Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle

     WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has named Monsignor Daniel H. Mueggenborg, a priest of the Diocese of Tulsa, as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle. Msgr. Mueggenborg currently serves as pastor of Christ the King Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

    The appointment was publicized in Washington, April 6, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

    Daniel Mueggenborg was born in 1962. He attended Oklahoma State University, where he received a bachelor of science degree in geology in 1984, and pursued seminary studies at the Pontifical North American College, 1985-1989. He holds a bachelor degree in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, 1989, where he also earned a licentiate in sacred theology (S.T.L.) in biblical theology, 1990. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Tulsa in 1989.

    Assignments after ordination included: associate pastor at Church of St. Mary, Tulsa, 1989, and at St. John Church, Bartlesville, 1990-1991; chaplain, Bishop Kelley High School, and associate pastor, Saint Pius X Church, Tulsa, 1991-1995; administrator pro-tempore, Saint Cecilia Church, Claremont, 1994-1996; pastor at Church of the Magdalene, Tulsa, 1996-2001, and St. Clement Church, Bixby, 2001-2005; assistant director of formation advising and formation advisor, Pontifical North American College, Rome, 2005-2006.

    In 2004, Pope John Paul II named him a "Chaplain of His Holiness," carrying the title of "monsignor."

    The Archdiocese of Seattle comprises 28,731 square miles in the state of Washington and it has a total population of 5,501,540 people of which 583,000 or 11 percent, are Catholic. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain has been the archbishop of Seattle since 2010. The archdiocese currently has one active auxiliary bishop, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo.

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    Keywords: bishop appointment, Pope Francis, Daniel Mueggenborg, Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, auxiliary, Archdiocese of Seattle, Diocese of Tulsa

    # # #

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    Posted: April 6, 2017, 8:47 am

    President & Vice President of U.S. Bishops Conference Respond to Syria Chemical Attack

    WASHINGTON—  Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the USCCB, have issued the following joint statement on yesterday's chemical weapons attack in northern Syria.  

    Full statement follows:

    "The chemical attack in Syria on April 4 shocks the soul. The many innocent lives targeted by these terrible tools of war cry out for humanity's protection. In this season of Lent when Christians draw near to the suffering of Christ, let us match the horrific indifference shown for innocent life with a fervent prayer for love to break through the evil. Let us also match our prayer with a faithful witness to suffering so that no life at risk is forgotten.

    Pope Francis has repeatedly issued an appeal to Syrian leaders and to the international community saying: 'Please, silence the weapons, put an end to the violence! No more war! No more destruction! May humanitarian laws be respected, may the people who need humanitarian assistance be cared for and may the desired peace be attained through dialogue and reconciliation.'

    We echo the Holy Father's call. We pray for an end to the carnage in Syria and we pray that God will assuage all those who suffer and bring them consolation as we approach Easter and its message of love and hope."

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    Keywords: Syria, chemical attacks, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop José H. Gomez, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, tools of war, innocent lives, prayer, weapons, violence, humanitarian law, peace, dialogue, reconciliation, Easter, love, hope.

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    17-061
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    Posted: April 5, 2017, 3:52 pm

    Cardinal Dolan Welcomes Congressional Action to Nullify Title X Rule

    WASHINGTON—Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the USCCB's Committee on Pro-Life Activities, praised both chambers of the U.S. Congress for taking action to nullify a bad policy imposed by the Obama Administration. Congress' joint resolution of disapproval (H.J. Res 43 / S. Res. 13) was passed by the House in mid-February, and by the Senate on March 30, 2017. It overrides a rule change made late in the Obama Administration that prevented states from redirecting Title X family planning funding away from abortion providers like Planned Parenthood to community health centers that provide comprehensive primary and preventive health care. The rule change went into effect on January 18, 2017.

    "The clear purpose of this Title X rule change was to benefit abortion providers like Planned Parenthood," Cardinal Dolan said. "So Congress has done well to reverse this very bad public policy, and to restore the ability of states to stop one stream of our tax dollars going to Planned Parenthood and redirect it to community health centers that provide comprehensive primary and preventive health care."

    Title X of the Public Health Services Act was passed by Congress in 1970 to control population growth by distributing contraceptives to low-income families. Planned Parenthood is the largest recipient of Title X funding. Planned Parenthood is also the nation's largest abortion network -- performing over a third of all abortions in the U.S. -- and receives more than half a billion taxpayer dollars each year.

    Congress acted within the statutory 60-day window to nullify the new regulation. Introduced by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), the House resolution (H.J. Res. 43) was approved on February 16 (230-188); and the Senate resolution (S.J. Res. 13), introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), passed by a one-vote margin on March 30, 2017. Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote. 

    The measure now goes to President Trump, who is expected to sign the resolution into law.

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    Keywords: Cardinal Tim Dolan, Archbishop of New York, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, Vice President Pence, President Trump, HHS, Congress, pro-life, federal funding, abortion, Public Health Services Act, Title X, contraception, family planning, women's health, comprehensive care, community health centers, Planned Parenthood

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    Posted: March 31, 2017, 2:39 pm

    Dioceses Across the U.S. Benefit from Catholic Home Missions Appeal

    WASHINGTON—The annual Catholic Home Missions Appeal will be held in most parishes across the country on the weekend of April 29-30 with the theme Strengthening the Church at Home. This appeal supports over 40 percent of dioceses and eparchies in the United States and its territories in the Caribbean and Pacific.

    "For many dioceses it is challenging to support ministries because of fragile financial situations or isolated communities," said Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage, Alaska, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions. "It is through the Catholic Home Missions Appeal that we can make a difference here at home and help our mission dioceses offer places for people to encounter the loving and merciful Christ."

    In 2016, the Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions allocated over $9 million to 84 dioceses for programs of evangelization, Hispanic ministry, seminary education, lay ministry formation and other essential pastoral ministries. The Subcommittee oversees the collection and an annual grant program as part of the USCCB Committee on National Collections.

    Shareable resources for the collection can be found at: www.usccb.org/home-missions/collection.

    The home page for the collection can be found at www.usccb.org/home-missions. Additional resources on the collection and the projects it supports include an interactive map, videos about the home missions and an annual report.

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    Keywords: National Collections, Catholic Home Missions Appeal, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, ministry, Catholic Home Missions Appeal, missionary work, evangelization, Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions, Archbishop Paul D. Etienne, religious education, priests, seminarians, religious formation, lay ministry

    # # #

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    Posted: March 31, 2017, 12:36 pm

    U.S. Bishop Chairmen Urge Congress Toward Bipartisan Reform on Key Health Care Issues

    WASHINGTON—After the U.S. House of Representatives withdrew the American Health Care Act (AHCA) on March 24 2017, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida urged members of Congress to "seize this moment to create a new spirit of bipartisanship" and make necessary reforms on access, affordability, life and conscience.

    In a March 30 letter to Congress, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops chairmen noted that the AHCA "contained serious deficiencies, particularly in its changes to Medicaid, that would have impacted the poor and others most in need in unacceptable ways," but emphasized that withdrawal of the bill "must not end our nation's efforts to improve health care."

    Cardinal Dolan is chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop Lori chairs the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Dewane heads the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

    "[T]he AHCA did provide critical life protections for the unborn," the Bishops said. "By restricting federal funding for abortion, its providers, and the purchase of plans that cover it, the bill would have finally resolved a grave moral failing rooted within the very structure of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)." The need for conscience protections for those who participate in the delivery or coverage of health care services, problems like rising costs and premiums, as well as impediments to immigrant access remain to be addressed, according to the chairmen.

    "Lawmakers still have a duty to confront these significant challenges. While a comprehensive approach is preferable, some of the problems can be fixed with more narrow reforms, and in a bipartisan way. Congress can pass the Conscience Protection Act, extend full 'Hyde Amendment' protections to the ACA, and enact other targeted laws that begin to remove current and impending health care barriers, if a more extensive effort is not possible," the letter urges.

    The full letter to Congress can be found at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/health-care/joint-letter-to-congress-re-health-care-2017-03-30.cfm.

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    Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, American Health Care Act (AHCA), respect for life, human dignity, health care, affordability, abortion, poverty

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    Posted: March 31, 2017, 11:12 am
  • Francis, the comic strip

    Pat Marrin The Francis Chronicles
    Francis the comic strip

    (Click on the cartoon to enlarge.)

    Author: Tracy Abeln
    Posted: May 23, 2017, 8:00 am

    Iowa Medicaid reimbursements will no longer go to abortion providers

    Catholic News Service Davenport, Iowa

    Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, based in Des Moines, has announced plans to close four of its 12 clinics in Iowa -- three in the Diocese of Davenport and one in the Diocese of Sioux City.

    The clinics in Burlington, Keokuk and Sioux City will close effective June 30. The fourth clinic, in Bettendorf, will close later, according to news sources.

    In April, the Iowa Legislature changed the current Medicaid family planning waiver program to prevent reimbursement of abortion providers, which includes Planned Parenthood. The new rule takes effect July 1.

    Author: Stephanie Yeagle
    Posted: May 22, 2017, 9:10 pm

    State Department implements Trump's reinstated 'Mexico City Policy'

    Catholic News Service Washington

    Reinstatement of the "Mexico City Policy," as provided for in President Donald Trump's Jan. 23 executive memorandum, took effect May 15.

    "(It) ensures that U.S. taxpayers will no longer subsidize foreign nongovernmental organizations that perform or promote abortion on demand," said the co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.

    Trump's memorandum also expanded the policy, now called "Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance," according to Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, who is the caucus co-chair.

    Author: Stephanie Yeagle
    Posted: May 22, 2017, 9:02 pm

    Trump arrives in Holy Land, visits Holy Sepulcher, Western Wall

    Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service Jerusalem

    Jerusalem -- President Donald Trump is the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall in the contested Old City of Jerusalem. Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital city.

    Author: Stephanie Yeagle
    Posted: May 22, 2017, 8:14 pm

    President Trump, before you meet Pope Francis, read this letter

    Steven A. Krueger NCR Today

    NCR Today: Mr. President, when you meet Pope Francis, images of you and him will fill the front and home pages of news outlets around the globe.

    Author: Dennis Coday
    Posted: May 22, 2017, 7:40 pm

    Arab Christians voice hope, concern over Trump's speech to Muslim leaders

    Dale Gavlak Catholic News Service
    Trump Abroad
    Dead Sea, Jordan

    Trump in Saudi Arabia: Arab Christians voiced hope and concern over U.S. President Donald Trump's first foreign visit and his speech in Saudi Arabia to the Muslim world.

    Author: Kristen Daniels
    Posted: May 22, 2017, 7:27 pm

    The nuclear option and the potential loss of democracy

    Joan Chittister From Where I Stand

    From where I stand: The leaders of the two major political parties should have refused a move as dangerous to the country's democratic integrity as the "nuclear option." They failed.

    Author: Mick Forgey
    Posted: May 22, 2017, 6:15 pm

    Religious leaders fast to protest steep budget cuts for the poor

    Julie Bourbon Washington

    About a dozen religious leaders from major denominations and groups are in the second day of a three-day fast as they anticipate tomorrow's release of the Trump Administration's FY2018 budget proposal.

    Author: Tracy Abeln
    Posted: May 22, 2017, 4:54 pm

    Links for 05/22/17

    Michael Sean Winters Distinctly Catholic

    In the Wall Street Journal, Peter Berkowitz looks at the circumstances that led to the resignation of Paul Griffiths from the Duke Divinity faculty. There are such things as liberal fascists who practice political correctness to a degree that warrants censure or mockery or both. That they got away with it at Duke, is shocking. What self-respecting university lets its leading scholars be driven away because he hurt someone's feelings!!

    Author: Michael Winters
    Posted: May 22, 2017, 4:31 pm

    Pope's quotes: Hear the cry

    NCR Staff The Francis Chronicles

    Pope's quotes: Some of our favorite quotes from Pope Francis.

    Author: Stephanie Yeagle
    Posted: May 22, 2017, 2:00 pm

    Morning Briefing

    Dennis Coday NCR Today

    NCR Today: Following Trump on his world tour; Francis adds new cardinals; Notre Dame students walk out on VP Pence; Women bloggers shake up evangelical authorities

    Author: Dennis Coday
    Posted: May 22, 2017, 1:38 pm

    Trumps dials back the rhetoric in Saudi Arabia

    Michael Sean Winters Distinctly Catholic

    Distinctly Catholic: The verdict on Trump's first visit to a foreign country is mixed, but the bar is pretty low here, of course. Still, I am glad he cleared it. ​

    Author: Michael Winters
    Posted: May 22, 2017, 11:26 am

    What will happen at the Vatican when Trump meets Pope Francis?

    Joshua J. McElwee
    Trump Abroad
    Analysis Vatican City

    Analysis: Papal visits with heads of state are carefully arranged bits of political and religious theater, following a specific and routine schedule, with little room for deviation.

    Author: Tracy Abeln
    Posted: May 22, 2017, 8:00 am

    Francis names five new cardinals, including associate of Oscar Romero

    Joshua J. McElwee Rome

    Rome: Francis names new cardinals from Laos, Mali, Sweden, Spain and El Salvador, including an auxiliary bishop who worked with slain Archbishop Oscar Romero.

    Author: Joshua McElwee
    Posted: May 21, 2017, 11:31 am

    Women bloggers spark an evangelical 'crisis of authority'

    Emily McFarlan Miller Religion News Service

    For many Christian women, including racial minorities and others whose voices traditionally have not been heard in institutional churches, the internet has created new platforms to teach, preach and connect.

    Author: Kristen Daniels
    Posted: May 20, 2017, 9:00 am

    St. Louis U professor sends would-be doctors to jail

    Maria Benevento

    Formed by his years providing health care at the St. Louis County Jail, Dr. Fred Rottnek now passes on to medical students a sense of mission for the marginalized.

    Author: Teresa Malcolm
    Posted: May 20, 2017, 9:00 am

    Do you love me?

    Mary M. McGlone Spiritual Reflections

    Spiritual Reflections: Jesus often called his disciples to believe in him and to trust him, but now he gets to the deep, interpersonal level of loving him for who he is. 

    Author: Kristen Daniels
    Posted: May 20, 2017, 9:00 am

    Loving the world, one face at a time

    Amy Morris-Young NCR Today

    NCR Today: Some people can't recognize or remember faces; I can. In fact, I never forget a face, and I wonder if this is how God sees us, too.

    Author: Tracy Abeln
    Posted: May 20, 2017, 8:00 am

    Israelis 'don't even know how to guess what will happen' when Trump visits

    Melanie Lidman
    Trump Abroad
    Jerusalem

    Jerusalem — Plans for the U.S. president's May 22-23 visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories shift, and no one can predict what Trump may say or do while there.

    Author: Tracy Abeln
    Posted: May 20, 2017, 8:00 am

    Gingrich's appointment as Vatican ambassador gets mixed reviews

    Joshua J. McElwee Vatican City

    One expert on US-Vatican relations calls Callista Gingirch "the most extraordinarily unqualified" ambassador to the Holy See in US history.

    Author: Tracy Abeln
    Posted: May 19, 2017, 10:22 pm

    After clashes, Central African cardinal urges more efforts toward peace

    Jonathan Luxmoore Catholic News Service Oxford, England

    A cardinal in Central African Republic called on international peacekeepers to act more effectively, after he helped end an anti-Muslim flare-up in the southeastern city of Bangassou.

    Author: Shireen Korkzan
    Posted: May 19, 2017, 8:13 pm

    Immigration, religious liberty and synod on agenda for bishops' meeting

    Rhina Guidos Catholic News Service Washington

    Bishops' meeting: The proverbial plate is full of issues for U.S. bishops to tackle at their upcoming spring assembly June 14-15 in Indianapolis. 

    Author: Kristen Daniels
    Posted: May 19, 2017, 7:19 pm

    Links for 05/19/17

    Michael Sean Winters Distinctly Catholic

    In the Hartford Courant, an article about parish closings and what is in reality a dying local church. 

    Author: Michael Winters
    Posted: May 19, 2017, 6:44 pm

    Pope Francis goes door-to-door to bless families in beach town

    Josephine McKenna Religion News Service The Francis Chronicles Ostia

    Pope Francis has made a surprise visit to a poor beachside town south of Rome where he went door-to-door blessing families.

    Author: Shireen Korkzan
    Posted: May 19, 2017, 6:41 pm

    Jesuit Fr. Beaubien, 101, remembered as ecumenist, theologian

    Alan Hustak Catholic News Service Montreal

    Jesuit Fr. Irenee Beaubien, who founded what is believed to be the world's first center for ecumenism, died in Richelieu, Quebec, May 15 at age 101.

    Author: Shireen Korkzan
    Posted: May 19, 2017, 4:53 pm
  • CNA Daily News - US

    ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.

    Ventura softball star: Encountering Christ through service

    Los Angeles, Calif., May 23, 2017 / 05:46 am (CNA).- To a pitcher, a little situation like bases loaded, full count and trying to protect a one-run lead in the late innings is no big deal — not if you’ve been doing this since you were 8 years old.

    And not if, like St. Bonaventure High School pitching star Jessica Gomez, you’re aiming for a career in pediatric nursing, where matters of life and death will mean something a lot different than they did on a softball field.

    And certainly not if, like this senior scholar-athlete, you are a lifelong Catholic who believes Christ is present in every part of your life, which is why she chooses to serve others, willingly and joyfully.

    “As someone who’s been raised Catholic, I’ve always been involved in service activities,” said Gomez, who tutors kids with learning disabilities and helps serve the hungry through the Many Meals feeding program at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Ventura. “It just really touches me when I encounter the love of Christ through service.”

    That’s one reason Gomez was named an archdiocesan Christian Service Award recipient for 2017, and why she’s headed for the nursing program at Villanova University.

    “Nursing is a healing occupation, and it’s the kind of ministry I really feel drawn to,” said Gomez. “I’ve always felt a call to help and serve wherever I can, plus I’m interested in science, and the nursing program at Villanova seems like a wonderful opportunity.”

    Pressure performer

    This week, Gomez - who has posted a 27-14 won-lost mark, 2.27 earned run average, and .302 batting average - will lead her St. Bonaventure team into the CIF-Southern Section softball playoffs. The Seraphs finished 16-8 and shared the Tri-Valley League title with Fillmore, made possible when Gomez tossed a three-hit, 11-strikeout, 5-0 win over Fillmore in the regular season finale.

    “I respond well under pressure,” she said with a smile. “I have a very competitive nature, and my drive to win influences me when I get into tough situations. I enjoy the challenge of coming through in tight spots - which I’m hoping will serve me well in nursing.”

    Those “tight spots,” she adds, are eased through prayer. In fact, the Seraphs as a team take a quiet moment before each game “to ask God for freedom from injury, the strength to play well and, if it’s in God’s will, for victory. And we really try to play the game the right way, to practice good sportsmanship and to be charitable and respectful, on and off the field.”

    That attitude carries into off-the-field service projects. Gomez, her coaches and her teammates have visited a nearby youth correctional facility, meeting and talking with the female inmates “on how we have tried to deal with and adapt to challenges and struggles in our lives. Mainly, we want them to know that someone cares about them.”

    As student body vice president, Gomez takes seriously her role as a leader, in class and on the softball diamond, and tries to impart “positive messages” to younger students and teammates, just as others did for her.

    At Our Lady of the Assumption - which she, parents Bill and Candace and older brother Joseph (a sophomore at Georgetown) have attended since she was in sixth grade - Gomez enjoys another form of service, through singing in the Life Teen band that leads music at Sunday evening liturgies, “which is really fun and a wonderful way to connect with God and the community.”

    Soon, Gomez will head back east to begin her next adventure at Villanova, a journey she anticipates with typical open-mindedness and determination.

    “It’s a little scary,” she admitted, “but I’m excited by the opportunities in front of me. And I know that God is going to be with me every step of the way.”

     

    This article originally appeared at AngelusNews.com, the news website for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

    Author:
    Posted: May 23, 2017, 11:46 am

    Here's why the US bishops are distressed about military spending

    Washington D.C., May 23, 2017 / 03:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Leading U.S. bishops have expressed serious concerns with President Donald Trump’s reported budget proposals for the 2018 fiscal year, noting among other fears that the proposals would decrease funding for diplomacy efforts while increasing military spending.

    “The human consequences of budget choices are clear to us as pastors,” leaders of various committees of the U.S. bishops’ conference wrote to members of Congress in a May 19 letter.

    “The moral measure of the federal budget is how well it promotes the common good of all, especially the most vulnerable whose voices are too often missing in these debates,” the bishops continued.

    President Trump’s budget proposal for FY 2018 – to be released on Tuesday – will reportedly make deep cuts to Medicaid and other programs, and would eliminate entirely some programs that are tailored toward low-income persons, while increasing military spending and immigration enforcement funding.

    Food stamps could see $193 billion in cuts over a decade, according to the AP. Farm subsidies could also be cut.

    Leading bishops wrote members of Congress on May 19 saying that proposals in the budget would be “profoundly troubling.”

    The signatories included Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, head of the committee on pro-life activities; Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, chair of the committee on international justice and peace; Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, chair of the domestic justice and human development committee; and Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the migration committee.

    Especially troubling, the bishops said, are the increases to military spending, when the U.S. already outspends all other countries in this area, and cuts to foreign assistance and diplomacy at a time when conflicts around the world threaten to destabilize whole regions.

    The Syrian civil war, for instance, has displaced more than 11 million and created almost six million registered refugees.

    “Our nation should elevate diplomacy and international development as primary tools for promoting peace, regional stability and human rights, not adopt deep cuts to these budgets,” the bishops wrote.

    The U.S. already spends more on its military than at least the next seven countries combined, according to estimates from the fact-checking website PolitiFact.

    When considering hikes to defense spending, the U.S. should remember that just wars can only be waged as a “last resort” and “within strict moral limits of proportionality, discrimination and probability of success,” the bishops emphasized.

    Also, they added, the U.S. must exercise gratitude toward the members of the military and remember “the stress of repeated deployments over the years.” The bishops reminded Congress that they have “repeatedly called for robust diplomatic efforts to end longstanding conflicts in a range of countries, including Syria and Iraq.”

    “It is hard to reconcile the need for diplomacy and political solutions with significant cuts to the State Department budget,” the bishops wrote.

    And cuts to foreign international aid programs might not only hurt the poor, but could pose threats to the security of areas afflicted by war, drought, and famine, as well as to U.S. national security, they added. Famine has already been declared in South Sudan, and famines could be breaking out soon in three other countries.

    The bishops maintained the legitimacy “of reducing future unsustainable deficits that would harm all citizens,” yet insisted upon “a comprehensive approach” to reduce deficits and not one that cuts only in certain areas while increasing spending in others.

    “A just framework for sound fiscal policy cannot rely almost exclusively on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons,” they wrote.

    “The Catholic Bishops of the United States stand ready to work with leaders of both parties for a federal budget that reduces future deficits, protects poor and vulnerable people, and advances peace and the common good,” the letter concluded.

     

    Author:
    Posted: May 23, 2017, 9:13 am

    Why head transplants won't disprove the existence of God

    Denver, Colo., May 23, 2017 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With plans for the first human head transplant surgery looming in the next year, a lead doctor on the formidable project has high hopes for the procedure.

    Along with the aim of finding a new body for a yet-to-be-selected patient, the physician says that the surgery – as a first step toward immortality – will effectively disprove religion.

    But Catholic critics have called into question not only the ethics of such a risky procedure, but the dubious claim that such a development would render belief in God irrelevant.

    “The actual trying of the surgery at this point I think would be unethical because of the tremendous risk involved, and it is an unproven surgery,” Dr. Paul Scherz, assistant professor of moral theology and ethics at The Catholic University of America, told CNA.

    Sherz made his remarks following the news that Italian doctor Sergio Canavero is aiming to carry out the first human head transplant surgery within the next 10 months. It's a process Canavero hopes will pave the way for the process of transplanting cryogenically frozen brains – and ultimately, in his view, to the eradication of death.

    Canavero serves as director of Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group and has teamed up with Harbin Medical Centre and Doctor Xiaoping Ren, an orthopedic surgeon who was involved with the first successful hand transplant in the U.S. The first surgical attempt for the head transplant is expected to take place in China, where the group says they're more likely to find a donor body.

    Cryonics involves the freezing of the brain or even the whole body of patients, with expectations that future science will have the means to restore the frozen tissue and extend life.

    Because conscious minds will have experienced “life” outside of death, Canavero said the surgery would then remove the fear of death and the people's need for religion. He said if the process succeeds, “religions will be swept away forever.”

    However, Sherz responded that even if the surgery was a success, it would not disprove the Catholic faith.

    “There is nothing in the Catholic tradition of how we understand the soul that would think that if you moved a head or moved the brain that that wouldn’t allow the person to come back to life,” he said.

    Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group has already claimed that a successful head transplant has been carried out on a monkey, but not all scientists agree that the operation can be recorded as a success.

    Before the monkey's head was stitched back together, it was removed, cooled, and the blood of the transplant body was cross circulated with an outside source. Canavero and his group claimed the supply of blood was then connected to prove the surgery succeeded without brain damage, but the spinal cord was left unattached.

    How the connected blood supply proves the surgery is possible without brain damage was not described, and many bioethicists are skeptical of the publication of the surgery's success without proper peer review and of the issues around the severed spine.

    Because the technology has not yet been developed, the bioethicists worry that the severed spine may never be reconstructed, leaving the patient worse off than before.

    Despite the pervasive belief in the surgery's failure, Canavero claims there's a 90 percent chance that the human head transplant will succeed. And not only that, its success would allow humans to “no longer need to be afraid of death.”

    Father Tad Pacholczyk, who serves as a bioethicist for the National Catholic Bioethics Center, disagreed with Canavero's definition of being “brought back to life.”

    He said to assume death as a necessary product of either the head surgery or brain surgery is gullible and mistaken, as there is potential for the patient to be merely unconscious.

    “The patient undergoing the head transplant is not dead, only unconscious,” he told CNA. “There is not any 'bringing back to life'…There is merely a restoration of consciousness, briefly lost during the movement of the head from one human body to the other.”

    Scherz also said that the Church accepts an intimate and mysterious relationship between soul and body, and that the procedure's success wouldn't necessary disprove the soul or religion.

    “Our neurological tissue has important part to play in our soul…The soul is always intimately related to the body. We are not just souls that are disembodied, right? We are embodied spirits or spirited bodies.”

    Most physicians agree that the proposed surgery's success rate is infinitesimal, and they've questioned the morality of a procedure that's doomed to fail – and the unrealistic hope life extension projects could give to people.

    “I am concerned that the rights of vulnerable patients undergoing cryonics cannot be protected indefinitely,” Dr. Channa Jayasena, a lecturer in Reproductive Endocrinology at Imperial College in London, told the Telegraph.

    Cryonics, she said, “has risks for the patient, poses ethical issues for society, is highly expensive, but has no proven benefit.”

    And the hope for immortal life, Scherz weighed in, isn't a realistic desire in a fallen world. “Living forever in bodily form is not going to satisfy anyone,” he said.

    “If the goal is not to help someone to get back bodily movement or things like that, but to try to live forever on this earth, then I think if you really want to get over the fear of death then you will have to come to terms with the fact that we are mortal.”

    “That what's going to help you to live a better life because you are going to be willing to give your life to things like service.”

    In fact, he said that people in transhumanist movements have admitted they would most likely avoid risky behavior in order to preserve their lives.

    “If life extension projects come into being there is so much more to lose – and you committed yourself to trying to live on this earth for as long as possible, which stands in contrast to the Catholic tradition and a lot of the philosophical traditions,” Scherz noted.

    Author:
    Posted: May 23, 2017, 9:04 am

    Pence to Notre Dame graduates: Bring values into the workplace

    South Bend, Ind., May 22, 2017 / 02:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence challenged University of Notre Dame graduates on Saturday to promote human dignity and the sanctity of life in the workplace.

    “I urge you, as the rising generation – carry the ideals and the values that you’ve learned at Notre Dame into your lives and your careers,” Pence told the graduates, praising the university for its rich traditions of defending human life and religious liberty in the face of persecution.

    The vice president delivered the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame on March 20. He called on the graduates to “be exceptional from this day forth.”

    Pence commended the university’s defense of religious liberty, noting that it was among the plaintiffs in lawsuits against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate.

    “Just as Notre Dame has stood strong to protect its religious liberty, I’m proud that this President just took steps to ensure that this university and the Little Sisters of the Poor could not be forced to violate their consciences to fully participate in American civic life,” Pence said in reference to the lawsuits.

    “I’m so proud that the University of Notre Dame has stood without apology for the sanctity of human life,” he continued, pointing to the university’s efforts to uphold human dignity, through its educational initiatives, social commitment and focus on ethics and culture.

    Around 100 students walked out of Pence’s speech on Saturday, according to an estimate by the university reported by CNN. They reportedly did so to represent racial minorities, undocumented immigrants, LGBTQ persons and others who they said would be adversely affected by the administration’s policies.

    Pence, formerly a member of the U.S. Congress and the governor of Indiana, was baptized Catholic, but by 1994 he called himself a “born-again, evangelical Catholic.” He had begun attending an evangelical megachurch with his family in the 1990s.

    He has recently described himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.”

    Pence has a long history of pro-life and religious freedom advocacy, but has also quarreled with Catholic bishops over immigration matters.

    As governor of Indiana, he tried to halt the state’s participation in the U.S. refugee resettlement program as he, along with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, questioned the security of the program. This came in the wake of deadly terror attacks in Paris in November of 2015, where a terrorist who was reportedly one of the perpetrators had allegedly entered Europe by posing as a Syrian refugee, according to reports at the time.

    Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis, now Cardinal of Newark, had directed Catholic Charities Indianapolis to resettle a Syrian refugee family during that time. He met with Governor Pence in December. Pence’s office said after the meeting that the governor “respectfully disagrees with their decision to place a Syrian refugee family in Indiana at this time.”

    Pence’s speech at Notre Dame continued the tradition of presidents and vice presidents speaking at the university and receiving honorary degrees.

    In May of 2009, President Barack Obama became the ninth U.S. president to have an honorary degree from the university. He spoke amidst controversy over his staunch pro-abortion record.

    Then-Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput issued a strong statement saying that Notre Dame “conferred an unnecessary and unearned honorary law degree on a man committed to upholding one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in our nation’s history [Roe v. Wade].”

    Former Vice President Joe Biden, a Catholic who supported abortion as a U.S. senator and who was in an administration that issued the controversial contraception mandate, received an honorary degree from the university last year.

    Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, the local diocese, said the university should not have honored a politician with “gravely irresponsible” positions on abortion and marriage that are at odds with Church teaching.  

    “We should seek to honor those who act to protect human life and dignity from conception to natural death, who respect true marriage and the family, who promote peace, justice, religious freedom, solidarity, the integral development of the poor, the just treatment of immigrants, and care for creation,” he stated last March. “We should not honor those who may be exemplary in one area but gravely irresponsible in another.”

    In his speech this weekend, Vice President Pence called for the university to continue to foster a free discussion of ideas, as free speech has been curbed in much of academia.

    “Notre Dame is a campus where deliberation is welcomed – where opposing views are debated and where every speaker, no matter how unpopular or unfashionable, is afforded the right to air their views in the open for all to hear,” he said, adding that the university “is an exception” and is “an island in a sea of conformity.”

    Many schools have “speech codes, safe zones, tone policing, administration-sanctioned political correctness,” he said, which “are destructive of learning and the pursuit of knowledge. And they are wholly outside the American tradition.”

    Pence also exhorted the university’s graduates to “have faith.”

    “Strive every day to lead for good with courage and conviction.  Live your life according to the precepts and principles that you have learned and seen here at Notre Dame,” he said.

    “And in all that you do, have faith that He who brought you this far will never leave you, nor forsake you – because He never will.”

     

    Author:
    Posted: May 22, 2017, 8:08 pm

    Sanctions on Syria's military a good step, Christian advocate says

    Washington D.C., May 22, 2017 / 10:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The United States House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday that issues additional sanctions against supporters of Syria’s Assad regime, and those providing arms for the regime.

    “This bill is a big step in the right direction,” Phillippe Nassif, executive director of the group In Defense of Christians, told CNA.

    The House passed the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act May 17, issuing additional sanctions on the Assad regime and its “backers,” especially human rights violators and those involved in the trade of weapons or weapons parts with the regime. Those supporters could include Russia and Iran, international allies of Assad.

    The Syrian civil war is now in its sixth year, and over 400,000 have died, with over 11 million displaced from their homes, including 5 million registered refugees. Civilian witnesses have given testimonies to the carnage – hospitals bombed, chorine gas bombs unleashed, and starvation are only some of the atrocities that have been inflicted.

    Christian leaders in the area have denounced the trafficking of weapons into Syria as something which helps the conflict continue. Wednesday’s bill at least claims to target those supporting the Assad regime’s air force and those doing business with the regime.

    The bill also directs the State Department to assist those investigating war crimes in Syria.

    Pope Francis has repeatedly denounced the arms trade. In his September 2015 speech to the U.S. Congress, he emphasized that Christians must ask “why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?”

    “Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade,” he said.

    Last July, in a video message promoting peace in Syria, he lamented that “while the people suffer, incredible quantities of money are being spent to supply weapons to fighters.”

    Some of the arms suppliers “are also among those that talk of peace,” he said. “How can you believe in someone who caresses you with the right hand and strikes you with the left hand?”

    House leaders cited recent atrocities committed by the Assad regime as a further motive of the sanctions – the deaths of over 90 civilians by sarin gas back in April after pro-government forces bombed a neighborhood in Idlib, and the Saydnaya military prison run by the Assad regime where Amnesty International estimates that up to 13,000 prisoners were executed in five years, along with repeated torture.

    These atrocities, along with the repeated bombings of hospitals and killing of humanitarian workers and obstructing aid convoys trying to reach vulnerable populations, call for action, members of Congress insisted.

    “If you’re supporting this murder – if you’re enabling the Butcher in Damascus to continue waging that sort of violence against his own people – you’re going to face consequences,” Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, stated on the House Floor on Wednesday.

    “This bill would sanction anyone who provides material support for the Assad regime,” he explained. “We want to go after the actual hardware that keeps his war machine running: the planes and bombs that terrorize the Syrian people, and the spare parts and oil that keep everything running.”

    Supporters of the bill expressed their hope that sanctions would drive parties toward international peace negotiations.

    “IDC hopes that these steps will result in the swift resolution of the conflict, the substantial defeat of ISIS, Al Qaeda affiliates, and Iranian backed extremist groups in Syria and the Middle East; promotes stability in Lebanon and Jordan; and end the human rights catastrophe, now in its sixth year,” Nassif stated.

    “For there to be peace in Syria, the parties must come together,” Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, stated. “And as long as Assad and his backers can slaughter the people of Syria with no consequences, there is no hope for peace.”

    For sanctions to really work, however, they must be enforced and the perpetrators who are being targeted must be publicly shamed.

    The bill does allow the president the flexibility to suspend the sanctions if serious peace negotiations are taking place and the violence against civilians in Syria has stopped. It also directs the president to report to Congress on the names of all those responsible for serious human rights abuses.

    However, the actions could also show hypocrisy from the U.S., some claim, as it is set to approve a $300 billion arms deal with ally Saudi Arabia which, according to Hillary Clinton’s emails unearthed by WikiLeaks, has covertly funded the Islamic State in the past.

    Author:
    Posted: May 22, 2017, 4:35 pm

    Justice Alito warns seminarians religious liberty is in danger

    Philadelphia, Pa., May 22, 2017 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his address to graduating seminarians on Wednesday, United States Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. emphasized the importance of religious freedom and the dangers it faces today.

    Religious freedom means that “no one is forced to act in violation of his own beliefs,” Alito said, according to Catholic Philly. “Most of my life Americans were instilled in this,” he added, and urged the audience “keep the flame burning.”

    Alito gave the keynote address at the concursus ceremony for the graduating class of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia May 17, where he also received the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, Honorus Causa, from Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia.

    He was awarded the degree “in testimony to and recognition of his many outstanding contributions to society … especially in protecting the sanctity and dignity of human life, the full responsibilities of the human person and promoting true justice and lasting peace,” Archbishop Chaput said.

    Alito, 67, is a practicing Catholic from an Italian family in Trenton, New Jersey, and was nominated to the Supreme Court by President George W. Bush, where he has served since January 2006.

    He wrote the majority opinion for the 2014 Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. case, in which the court allowed for closely-held, for-profit corporations to be exempt from a regulation its owners religiously object to if there is a less restrictive means of furthering the law's interest, according to the provisions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

    He also wrote a dissent from the majority opinion in the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case, in which the Supreme Court held that the Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage.

    Prior to his address, in an interview with the St. Charles Borromeo blog Seminarian Casual, Alito again spoke about religious freedom as well as the effect his faith and family has had on his career.

    Religious freedom is “one of the most fundamental rights” in the United States, Alito said, and the founding fathers “saw a vital connection between religion and the character needed for republican self-government.”

    “What the founders understood more than 200 years ago is just as true today,” he said, though “(t)here is cause for concern at the present time.”

    In his Obergefell dissent, Alito said he “anticipated that… 'those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.’”

    There is already evidence of this happening, he said, such as in a case the Supreme Court declined to hear, in which a pharmacy was being forced to sell emergency contraceptives despite their religious beliefs against them. He said he anticipates even more struggles for religious freedom in the years to come.

    “This is not an easy time to be a priest, but priests are desperately needed,” he said.

    In particular, priests of the 21st century are needed to “express what is essential about the faith in a way that registers with a culture that speaks a different language. It is a daunting task, but that is essentially what was done by brave priests in the past who took the faith to every corner of the globe,” he said.

    “One priest who especially stands out in my memory is the pastor of the church in New Jersey that we attended before moving to Washington. He had a marvelous way of speaking to the parishioners in a way that was seemingly simple but attractive and ultimately profound.”

    When asked how his Catholic faith has shaped him, Alito said his faith provides him meaning and purpose.

    “The title of a book by Tolstoy has been translated as What Then Should We Do? My faith gives me an answer. It would be terrible to think that life has no meaning, that we are going nowhere, and that what we do until we die is a matter of indifference. That is what tortures so many today.”

    He added that the strong family values with which he was raised influenced the way he raised his own family, and that he is grateful for a career that allows him some flexibility to be able to spend time with his family.

    “Nothing on this Earth is more important to me than my family,” he said.

    “I have been fortunate to have jobs that allowed me to control my work schedule to a very great degree,” he said. “Very few people today have this luxury, and it is hard for busy people to balance work and family life. Our society needs to do a better job of making this possible.”

    Author:
    Posted: May 22, 2017, 9:04 am

    Despite pleas from bishops, immigration arrests soar in 2017

    Washington D.C., May 20, 2017 / 04:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Immigration arrests have risen sharply in 2017 compared to the previous year, after the Trump administration unveiled stricter immigration policies, which were decried by the U.S. bishops.

    In the first 100 days after President Donald Trump signed an executive order on the subject, immigration arrests are up almost 40 percent compared with the same time last year.

    According to data from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency’s Enforcement and Removal Operations deportation officers made 41,318 immigration arrests between Jan. 22 and April 29, 2017, more than 400 arrests per day and up from 30,028 made between Jan. 24 and April 30, 2016.

    “These statistics reflect President Trump’s commitment to enforce our immigration laws fairly and across the board,” ICE’s acting director Thomas Homan stated.

    In January, President Trump had directed in an executive order that his administration intended on enforcing federal immigration law, and called for a wall be constructed on the U.S.-Mexico border as well as the construction of additional immigrant detention centers and the hiring of new immigration officials.

    Then in February, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memoranda implementing the order.

    The new DHS rules called for, among other things, speeding up deportations, the construction of new immigrant detention facilities, enforcement of federal immigration law by local law enforcement officers, and the publication of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, the New York Times had reported.

    Also, undocumented parents living in the U.S. who attempt to have their children smuggled into the country could be prosecuted for human trafficking under the new DHS rules.

    The chair of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee warned that the rules would target vulnerable persons along with criminals.

    “Taken together, these memoranda constitute the establishment of a large-scale enforcement system that targets virtually all undocumented migrants as ‘priorities’ for deportation, thus prioritizing no one,” Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Tex. stated after the rules were issued.

    With local police officers enforcing federal immigration law, this could disrupt their relationships with immigrant communities, the bishop continued, as immigrants could not be “fearful of cooperating…in both reporting and investigating criminal matters.”

    ICE reported that the rise in arrests was a result of the Trump administration’s immigration policy where criminals would primarily be targeted for arrest, but other undocumented persons, if discovered, would also be detained.

    Almost 75 percent of those arrested in 2017 – 30,473 persons – were convicted criminals, ICE said, with convictions ranging from homicide and assault to drug-related charges. “Non-criminal arrests,” meanwhile, jumped to 10,800 in 2017, compared to 4,200 at the same time in 2016.

    “ICE agents and officers have been given clear direction to focus on threats to public safety and national security, which has resulted in a substantial increase in the arrest of convicted criminal aliens,” acting director Thomas Homan stated. “However, when we encounter others who are in the country unlawfully, we will execute our sworn duty and enforce the law.”

    “We are a nation of laws, and ignoring orders issued by federal judges undermines our constitutional government,” said Homan.

    Bishops of dioceses along the U.S.-Mexican border signed a joint statement in February calling for the dignity of immigrants to be respected.

    “Immigration is a global phenomenon arising from economic and social conditions of poverty and insecurity,” U.S. and Mexican bishops stated. “It directly displaces entire populations causing families to feel that migration is the only way to survive.”

    “The migrant has a right to be respected by international law and national law as he/she faces the violence, criminality, and inhuman policies of governments as well as the world’s indifference,” they continued. “Regardless of one’s migration condition, the intrinsic human dignity that every person possesses must be respected in the person of the migrant.”

    “They are commonly subjected to punitive laws and are often mistreated by civil authorities in their countries of origin, the countries through which they travel, and the countries of their destination. It is essential that governments adopt policies that respect the basic human rights of undocumented migrants,” they stated.

     

    Author:
    Posted: May 20, 2017, 10:19 am

    A new path for Philadelphia’s historic seminary?

    Philadelphia, Pa., May 19, 2017 / 07:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Amid plans for the future of the Philadelphia archdiocese’s historic Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, the seminary and Neumann University have announced a feasibility study into a possible affiliation agreement.

    “While this agreement does not presuppose that the seminary will definitely affiliate with Neumann, it does allow both institutions’ academic leaders and others to meet openly and to discuss how such an affiliation agreement may work to benefit both institutions,” said the May 18 announcement signed by Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Senior of Philadelphia, the seminary’s rector, and university president Rosalie M. Mirenda.

    The seminary’s board of trustees in May 2016 recommended that Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia explore the possibility of affiliating the seminary with a local Catholic college or university.

    The agreement between the seminary and Neumann University followed “an exhaustive and thorough process,” the announcement said.

    Neumann University, located in Aston, Penn., about 20 miles outside of Philadelphia, is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. It has about 3,000 students enrolled total, 2,000 of whom are full-time undergraduate students. It is named for St. John Neumann, who served as Bishop of Philadelphia in the 1850s.

    The seminary has been exploring whether to affiliate with a university and move its campus to new buildings on or nearby a partner institution’s campus.

    In June 2016, Bishop Senior told CatholicPhilly.com that a plan to remain at the seminary’s present site would require $50 million in renovations to its upper campus. The seminary features massive three-story stone structures that date back 100 to 145 years. Its maintenance costs alone are $500,000 per year and still fall short of needs, he said.

    “Is it really the best thing to put all that money into those buildings?” the bishop asked.

    The seminary enrollment was at 128 in 2013, including seminarians from other dioceses and from religious orders, and increased to 142 in 2014.

    Enrollment increased 20 percent in 2015 and 13 percent in 2016, with 160 students enrolling in fall 2016.

    Pope Francis stayed at the seminary during his 2015 visit to the United States.

    Author:
    Posted: May 20, 2017, 1:06 am

    Planned Parenthood to close its only Wyoming clinic this summer

    Cheyenne, Wyo., May 19, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The only Planned Parenthood office in Wyoming will close along with another five offices in the organization’s Rocky Mountain region, though officials said it would still exercise a presence in the state.

    The organization’s Casper clinic opened in 1975 and served about 480 clients each year. While Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the U.S., the Casper clinic’s services include abortion referrals, not abortions themselves. The clinic is set to close July 21.

    North Dakota is the only other U.S. state without a Planned Parenthood location.

    Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains official Adrienne Mansanares, speaking to the Casper Star-Tribune, said the organization looked at the services and financial health of the Wyoming clinic. Most Planned Parenthood patients in the state go to the Fort Collins, Colorado location.

    The Casper clinic has been staffed by a part-time manager and a traveling nurse who visits from northern Colorado.

    Planned Parenthood will continue its presence in the state through the Wyoming Abortion Fund, which connects women to abortionists. The organization will continue to offer sex education resources, and its advocacy work will also continue in collaboration with NARAL Pro-Choice Wyoming.

    “The political footprint and the education we provide will continue to remain,” said Mansanares.  

    Whitney Phillips, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said the capacity of other Casper providers to supply comprehensive reproductive health care was a factor in the decision to close the clinic. Patients are being referred to several other providers in Casper.

    Planned Parenthood’s Rocky Mountain region includes Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and southern Nevada. The Longmont and Parker, Colorado offices will also close, as will New Mexico offices in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, and Farmington.

    In a May 17 statement, Phillips said the closures are “difficult but necessary organizational changes” driven by a desire for long-term sustainability.

    “This strategic decision will allow us to maintain a fiscally solvent operation that will keep our doors open to patients in the region for the long term,” she said.

    The organization’s abortion work has always been controversial, but it has come under severe scrutiny since 2015, when undercover journalists with the Center for Medical Progress recorded Planned Parenthood staff and leaders appearing to plan the sale of aborted baby parts and fetal tissue for profit, which is illegal under federal law.

    The Center for Medical Progress videos strengthened efforts to defund the abortion provider, which has received about $500 million in federal funding each year for non-abortion services. Planned Parenthood and its allies responded to the videos with a multi-million dollar publicity campaign to control the damage.

    Two videos released in July 2015 appeared to show Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains vice president and medical director Savita Ginde negotiate the sale of aborted baby parts.

    The Planned Parenthood affiliate also recently settled a civil lawsuit alleging that two of its employees failed to comply with Colorado law by performing an abortion on a 13-year-old girl who was sexually abused. The lawsuit said employees neglected to report the abuse of a minor to authorities or obtain consent from her parents prior to performing the abortion.

    Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains also contested a 2013 lawsuit by the former executive director of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment regarding $14 million of taxpayer subsidies that the group received from the state despite a Colorado constitutional amendment prohibiting the use of tax dollars to fund abortions.

    In November 2015, a man fatally shot three and wounded nine in attacks at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. He was later ruled mentally unfit for trial. One victim’s widow, who was wounded in the attack, filed a lawsuit charging that the clinic should have had better security given the history of attacks on clinics.

    Author:
    Posted: May 19, 2017, 12:01 pm

    The first Catholic church in 60 years is being built in Cuba

    Tampa, Florida, May 18, 2017 / 04:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Funded by a parish in Florida, a new Catholic church is being built in Cuba and is the first the island nation has seen in 60 years.

    Father Ramon Hernandez, pastor of St. Lawrence church in Tampa, said he and his parishioners are happy to see how their funds have financed the project, and said he looks forward to the inauguration Mass taking place early next year.

    Saint Lawrence provided $95,000 in donations for the church's construction in Sandino, Cuba, located in the western corner of the country.  

    The new church, alongside a refurbished synagogue in Havana, shows Cuba's progress in religious freedom since Fidel Castro ushered in communism during his revolution in the 1960s. Atheism was established as the belief system for the entire state, and many religious leaders were faced with persecution. In 1992, however, Cuba was made a secular state.  

    “Cuba is changing,” Fr. Hernandez said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The priest is a native Cuban who celebrated Mass in churches hidden in the homes of faithful families. He left the country in the 1980s.

    The new church will be called the Parish of Divine Mercy of Sandino, and will be led by Father Cirilo Castro. The 800 square foot building will have a maximum capacity of 200 people. An estimated 40,000 people live in the coastal town. The town's main industries involve citrus fruits, coffee, and fish.

    The idea for the project was first conceived in 2010 by St. Lawrence's former pastor, who wanted a greater spiritual connection between Cuba and Tampa. Tampa and Cuba have already had strong ties over the importation of tobacco in the late 19th century.

    During a visit to Tampa last month, Fr. Castro said that the roof was the last piece of the structure, expected to be installed by the end of June. The pews and the altar will be added over the next few months in preparation for the first mass taking place either in January or February of 2018.

    The completion of Divine Mercy of Sandino marks a significant step towards religious freedom and amends to the faiths oppressed in previous years. Religions like Mormonism and Islam have also been given room to grow.

    “I see the stories of persecution of freedom of religion in Cuba but we now have a mixture of religions,” said José Ramón Cabañas, Cuba's ambassador to the United States in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times last week.

    The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom acknowledged that churches have been dissembled and religious leaders have been arrested even within the past year. But the report reveals that nearly 70 percent of Cuba’s population is Catholic and additional five percent is Protestant, showing a greater attachment to the faith despite government meddling into religious affairs.

    Religious persecution still lingers, but developments in religious freedom have notable increased, and this church is one of many planned to be erected in Cuba. Two other Catholic churches are currently under construction in Havana and Santiago. 

    Author:
    Posted: May 18, 2017, 10:30 pm

    Bono thinks Christian artists need to be way more honest

    Washington D.C., May 18, 2017 / 03:08 pm (CNA).- If you’re an ardent fan of U2, you may know that lead vocalist Bono loves the Psalms. The 57-year-old Irish musician has spoken out several times about the inspiration that he draws from reading the Biblical hymns.

    And now, Bono says the Psalms offer a lesson for aspiring Christian musicians: If you want to create real art, you need to be way more honest than is typical of the “Christian music” genre.

    “Creation screams God’s name. So you don’t have to stick a sign on every tree,” he said in a new video interview, released last month.

    The Irish rock icon rejected the idea that music or art must be explicitly labeled Christian and limited to overtly Christian messages in order to glorify God.

    “This has really, really got to stop. I want to hear a song about the breakdown in your marriage, I want to hear songs of justice, I want to hear rage at injustice and I want to hear a song so good that it makes people want to do something about the subject.”

    Bono’s comments came in a five-part video clip series released by Fuller Studio, a group that promotes “resources for a deeply formed spiritual life.”

    In another part of the series, Bono said that what he has learned from years of reading the Psalms is the importance of listening and honesty.

    He pointed to the Biblical figure of King David, to whom the Psalms are attributed.

    After falling in love with a married woman named Bathsheba, King David commits adultery with her and then arranges a plot to kill her husband, a soldier, to cover up the subsequent pregnancy.

    The evils committed by King David are “mind blowing,” Bono said, and yet he was able to find grace and redemption.

    The honesty of giving expression to the real things that are going on in one’s life is the key to good art, he said, encouraging Christian musicians that their goal is to create art, not advertising.

    “I want to argue the case for artists or potential artists who might be listening in on our conversation and are not giving expression to what’s really going on in their lives because they feel it will give the wrong impression of them.”

    “Brutal honesty,” he went on to say, “is the root. Not just to a relationship with God, but it’s the root to a great song. That’s the only place you can find a great song. The only place you can find any work of art, of merit.”

     

    Author:
    Posted: May 18, 2017, 9:08 pm

    This new technology could produce babies from skin cells. And that's bad.

    Washington D.C., May 18, 2017 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Within the next 10-20 years, a new and controversial fertility technology called in vitro gametogenesis could make it possible to manipulate skin cells into creating a human baby.

    However, this groundbreaking research has caused push-back from some critics, like Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, who says IVG would turn procreation into a transaction.

    “IVG extends the faulty logic of IVF by introducing additional steps to the process of manipulating the origins of the human person, in order to satisfy the desires of customers and consumers,” Fr. Pacholczyk told CNA in an email interview.

    “The technology also offers the possibility of introducing further fractures into parenthood, distancing children from their parents by multiplying the number of those involved in generating the child, so that 3-parent embryos, or even more parents, may become involved,” he continued.

    IVG has been successfully tested by Japanese researchers on mice, which produced healthy babies derived from skin cells.

    The process begins by taking the skin cells from the mouse’s tail and re-programing them to become induced pluripotent stem cells. These manipulated cells are able to grow different kinds of cells, and are then used to grow eggs and sperm, which are then fertilized in the lab. The resulting embryos are then implanted in a womb.

    Although similar to in vitro fertilization, IVG eliminates the step of needing pre-existing egg and sperm, and instead creates these gametes.

    But many experts in the reproductive field are skeptical of its potential outcomes and ethical compromises.

    “It gives me an unsettled feeling because we don’t know what this could lead to,” Paul Knoepfler, a stem cell researcher at the University of California, Davis, told the New York Times.

    Knoepfler noted that some of the potential repercussions of IVG could turn into “cloning” or “designer babies.” Other dangers could include the “Brad Pitt scenario,” in which celebrity’s skin cells retrieved from random places, like hotel rooms, could be used to create a baby.

    Potentially anyone’s skin cells could be used to create a baby, even without their knowledge or consent.

    In an issue of Science Translational Medicine earlier this year, a trio of academics – a Harvard Law professor, the dean of Harvard Medical School, and a medical science professor at Brown – wrote that IVG “may raise the specter of ‘embryo farming’ on a scale currently unimagined, which might exacerbate concerns about the devaluation of human life.”

    They added that “refining the science of IVG to the point of clinical use will involve the generation and likely destruction of large numbers of embryos from stem cell–derived gametes” and the process “may exacerbate concerns regarding human enhancement.”

    Fr. Pacholczyk also pointed to further concerns, saying IVG disrupts the uniqueness of every individual’s sex cells.

    “I.V.G raises additional concerns because of the way it manipulates human sex cells. Our sex cells, or gametes, are special cells. They uniquely identify us,” Fr. Pacholczyk stated.

    “It is most unfortunate that overwhelming parental desires are being permitted to trump and distort the right order of transmitting human life,” he continued.

    Fr. Pacholczyk said that processes like IVG “enable a consumerist mentality that holds that children are ‘projects’ to be realized through commercial transactions and laboratory techniques of gamete manipulation.”  

    The Catholic Church teaches that IVF and similar reproductive technologies are morally illicit for several reasons, including their separation of procreation from the conjugal act and the creation of embryos which are discarded.

    Pope Francis recently spoke out against the destruction of human embryos, saying that no good result from research can justify the destruction of embryos.

    “Some branches of research use human embryos, inevitably causing their destruction. But we know that no ends, even noble in themselves – such as a predicted utility for science, for other human beings or for society – can justify the destruction of human embryos,” the Holy Father said May 18.

    Although IVG has proven successful in mice, there are still some wrinkles that need to be ironed out before it is tested on humans, and will entail years more of tedious bioengineering.

    However, Fr. Pacholczyk hopes that potential parents will come to realize that children should not products that can be ordered or purchased by consumers, and should rather be seen as a gift.

    “Turning commercial laboratories to create children on our behalf is an unethical step in the direction of treating our offspring as objects to be planned and created in the pursuit of parental gratification, rather than gifts received from the Lord.”

    Author:
    Posted: May 18, 2017, 9:02 pm

    Venerable Stanley Rother's remains re-interred ahead of beatification

    Oklahoma City, Okla., May 18, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The remains of Venerable Stanley Rother were exhumed last week and moved to a chapel in Oklahoma City in preparation for the beatification Mass of the first US-born martyr.

    “The witness of Father Rother’s life and death has been a source of encouragement and inspiration to me as a seminarian, priest and now as a bishop. I consider it a great gift to be entrusted with overseeing the continuation of his cause for beatification and canonization begun by Archbishop Beltran,” Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City said after the May 10 service.

    “His beatification is an unexpected blessing for Oklahoma and for the United States as we celebrate this ordinary man from humble beginnings who answered the call to serve an extraordinary life. His witness will continue to inspire us for generations.”

    The body of Fr. Rother, who served as a priest in Guatemala, was taken from Holy Trinity Cemetery in his home town of Okarche, Okla., to the chapel at Resurrection Cemetery in Oklahoma City.

    Before his body was exhumed, his family led a prayerful procession to the gravesite. Fr. Rother's remains were later removed form the vault, and examined by medical professionals and verified, as required by the process of beatification.

    The martyred priest's body was then placed in a new casket with golden vestments, along with a document signed by those in attendance. A ribbon was wrapped around the casket, sealed with the archdiocese's seal in wax.

    The Salve Regina was sung as the casket was re-interred, and a prayer service followed.

    “It was a holy day. Father Rother’s presence was felt by many, and we are blessed as the Catholic Church in Oklahoma to present Father Rother’s life to the world,” Archbishop Coakley commented.

    A temporary sign now marks Fr. Rother's original gravesite in Okarche, located about 40 miles northwest of Oklahoma City, where the original vault and casket have been re-buried, and a permanent memorial marker is planned.

    Fr. Rother's Mass of Beatification will take place Sept. 23 at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. It will be said by Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and concelebrated by Archbishop Coakley.

    Fr. Rother was born March 27, 1935 in Okarche and entered seminary soon after graduating from Holy Trinity High School.

    Despite a strong calling, Rother would struggle in the seminary, failing several classes and even out of one seminary before graduating from Mount St. Mary's in Maryland. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Oklahoma City and Tulsa in 1963.

    He served for five years in Oklahoma before joining the Oklahoma diocese's mission in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, a poor rural community of mostly indigenous persons where he would spend the next 13 years of his life.

    The work ethic Fr. Rother learned on his family’s farm would serve him well in this new place. As a mission priest, he was called on not just to say Mass, but to fix the broken truck or work the fields. He built a farmers' co-op, a school, a hospital, and the first Catholic radio station.

    Over the years, the violence of the Guatemalan civil war inched closer to the once-peaceful village. Disappearances, killings, and danger soon became a part of daily life, but Fr. Rother remained steadfast and supportive of his people.

    In 1980-1981, the violence escalated to an almost unbearable point; Fr. Rother was constantly seeing friends and parishioners abducted or killed.

    In January 1981, in immediate danger and his name on a death list, Fr. Rother did return to Oklahoma for a few months. But as Easter approached, he wanted to spend Holy Week with his people in Guatemala.

    The morning of July 28, 1981, three Ladinos, the non-indigenous men who had been fighting the native people and rural poor of Guatemala since the 1960s, broke into Fr. Rother's rectory. They wished to disappear him, but he refused.

    Not wanting to endanger the others at the parish mission, he struggled but did not call for help. Fifteen minutes and two gunshots later, Father Stanley was dead and the men fled the mission grounds.

    Though his body was buried in Okarche, Fr. Rother's heart was enshrined in the church of Santiago Atitlan where he served.

    Fr. Rother's cause for beatification was opened in 2007, and his martyrdom was recognized by the Vatican in December 2016, which cleared the way for his beatification.

    Author:
    Posted: May 18, 2017, 12:01 pm

    'We cannot rest' while Christians are being persecuted, advocates say

    Washington D.C., May 17, 2017 / 07:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Christians around the world have been models of forgiveness amidst persecution, but Western Christians must support them, religious leaders insisted at a world summit last week.

    “We cannot rest, we cannot be content, we certainly can’t be complacent knowing our sisters and brothers are being oppressed, imprisoned, and killed,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. stated in his May 12 keynote address at the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians.

    “When fellow Christians suffer, we suffer too. Injustice, this extraordinary injustice, should arouse in us the need to speak,” he continued.

    Last week’s D.C. summit, hosted by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, featured more than 600 Christian leaders from 130 countries, including those who have suffered persecution in countries like Syria, North Korea, Iraq, Egypt, and Cuba.

    The gathering was meant to shed light on narratives of Christian persecution amidst totalitarianism, secularism, tribalism, or religious extremism, and enable leaders to collaborate on pushing for religious freedom and tolerance.

    Vice President Mike Pence addressed the summit on Thursday, as well as Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church. Cardinal Wuerl delivered the keynote address on Friday.

    Catholic and Orthodox leaders at the summit emphasized that Christians play a vital role as religious minorities in African and Asian countries, acting as peacemakers and bridge-builders in societies fraught with sectarian strife.  

    Fr. Douglas al-Bazi, a Chaldean Catholic priest who was kidnapped and tortured for several days in 2006 by terrorists in Iraq, spoke to CNA about the continued Christian witness of forgiveness there, despite the mass displacement of communities at the hands of the Islamic State and the betrayal by their neighbors.

    Christians are unique in the sense that they are the only group that is practicing widespread forgiveness, Fr. Bazi said. “Because even (with) what’s happened to us, we are still believing in the future, we are still believing in life, we are still looking forward to live together again.”

    Fr. Bazi is now serving in New Zealand, thousands of miles from his former parish in Erbil, Iraq where he ministered to Christian refugees of ISIS. He runs Project 52, which helps disabled children in Iraq with the goal of having them adopted by families in New Zealand.

    “My body is in New Zealand, but my heart is still in Iraq,” he said.

    When ISIS overran large parts of Northern Iraq in 2014, Christians were given an ultimatum to convert to Islam, leave, or die, and many fled eastward to Erbil.

    Now, after ISIS forces have been driven back from the Nineveh Plan and most of Mosul, many refugees have returned to see their homes damaged or destroyed, and their furniture stolen.

    One family spent a night in their home but were kept awake by their neighbor yelling that they were infidels, Fr. Bazi said. “No ISIS anymore, but still the mentality of terrorists…the radical way,” he said.

    “So my people, again and again, they are between two fires, to live in camps, or to go back again to hell, I mean Mosul.”

    As Christians move back into their homes there, “the trust between people, actually, is completely lost,” he admitted. Yet Christians will forgive, and in time the relationships may be mended.

    It is imperative that the Christians who can stay in Iraq do so, he maintained, as they will serve as a necessary “bridge” between minorities. “(If) we don’t have Christians, we don’t have examples of forgiveness in Iraq,” he said.

    Meanwhile, in Syria, Christians are caught in the middle of a proxy war that has raged since 2011 with no immediate end in sight. They co-existed with Muslim neighbors for centuries, but that balance stands to be upset as refugees are forced to flee their homes for elsewhere within Syria or to other countries.

    Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of the Syriac Orthodox Church told CNA of how the Church there helps those in need, the majority of whom are Muslims.

    “We do that, not only because it’s our mission, it’s our faith that teaches us to help everyone,” he insisted, “but also because we want to invest in our future with these people, these our neighbors, our countrymen, women, and our future is together.”

    Fr. Alexi Chehadeh, director-general of ecumenical relations and development for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, rejected the idea of dividing Syria into Alawite, Sunni Muslim, and Christian sections.

    “We are against this,” he said. “We want a unified Syria under one flag,” adding that he wished “that Muslims and Christians are living together in peace and harmony.”

    However, not all Christians around the world are setting an example of neighborliness, tolerance, and forgiveness. “Some of the conflict involving Christian groups and some of the persecution is coming from Christians,” Dr. Timothy Shah told CNA.

    Shah is the director for international research of the Religious Freedom Research Project at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.

    He pointed to examples of Christians persecuting other Christians in Russia, Mexico, Latin America, Sri Lanka, and Ukraine.

    In Mexico, for instance, Protestant families have been driven from their villages for their beliefs. “You’re talking about people whose lives are drastically affected,” Shah said. “This simply should not be happening in an era where the Holy Father talks about the ecumenism of blood.”

    In Russia, the Supreme Court just outlawed Jehovah’s Witnesses from publicly practicing their faith. In Sri Lanka, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo has backed “laws restricting conversion,” he said.

    Through his rhetoric, the cardinal “is not, let’s be candid, practicing, I think, the kind of spirit of brotherhood with non-Catholic Christians that I think the Holy Father has himself clearly embodied, both when he was archbishop in Argentina and also as Pope,” Shah continued.

    Yet there is also a palpable “sense of hope that Christians really can respond effectively” to persecution, he said, citing the recently-released report “Under Caesar’s Sword” which documents how Christians around the world have decided to respond to persecution, many times through non-violence, dialogue, and forgiveness.

    Despite the witness to charity of fellow Christians in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, the Western Church must do much more to help them through prayer, charitable giving, and advocacy, speakers at the summit insisted.

    Cardinal Wuerl compared the duties of Christians in the West to help their persecuted brethren to Simon of Cyrene who helped Jesus to carry his cross.

    “Just as Simon of Cyrene stepped forward to help Jesus carry his cross, and for that reason has forever been indelibly imprinted in the iconography of the Christian world, so my brothers and sisters do we have to find ways of stepping forward,” he stated in his Friday keynote address at the summit.

    “Life has not greatly improved” for Christians living in the shadow of ISIS, he maintained, as many of the displaced are still homeless and dependent on aid groups for their basic needs.

    “Together, alone, individually, collectively, whenever the opportunity presents itself, and even when it is inconvenient, we must lift up our hearts in prayer, our hands in help, and raise our voices in witness,” he said.

    In Iraq, for Christians to have a future they must be considered equal citizens under the law, Fr. Bazi explained, and Western Christians can help by pushing for the overturning of Article 2 of the Iraqi constitution, which declares that “Islam is the official religion of the State” and that “no law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established.”

    The article states that the constitution “guarantees” freedom of religion, but Fr. Bazi said that since it prohibits any laws contradicting Islam, Sharia law largely applies in practice, and there is no religious freedom.

    He hoped the Trump administration could press Iraq to change that article, and that Pope Francis and President Trump will discuss the future of Christians in the Middle East in their upcoming meeting on May 24 at the Vatican.

    In Syria, the international community must help provide more aid to those displaced by the conflict as they cannot yet return to their homes and “the churches are overwhelmed with the services they are offering,” Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II told CNA.

    But there also must be a lasting end to the conflict through an end to the arms trade and the international community coming together on a peace agreement, he said. Otherwise people will not be able to return to their homes.

    “In Syria, particularly, the Russians and the Americans are flexing their muscles there, the Iranians and the Saudis are fighting there,” he said, and Israel and other countries have an interest in the outcome of the conflict. “Unless all these groups come together,” he said, “and agree on a plan, I don’t think peace will be restored.”

    Furthermore, groups like ISIS sell oil from Syria and Iraq to Turkish companies and other third parties, including Europeans, and this must stop, he insisted.

    As a world leader, the U.S. has a key role in fighting religious persecution around the world, former congressman Frank Wolf told CNA, but in the “past several years” international religious freedom has been “kind of ignored” by members of both parties in Congress.

    The Trump administration must make some key hires to ensure that religious freedom has a prominent place in American diplomacy and foreign policy, he said, including the appointment of an Ambassador at-Large for International Religious Freedom.

    The previous ambassador, Rabbi David Saperstein, who served during President Obama’s second term, was a “model” for this position, he said, and the next ambassador must have direct access to the Secretary of State and the President, when necessary.

    A new law, the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, which expands upon the previous 1998 law, mandates religious freedom training for foreign service officers. This will be key for embassies to be seen as “islands of freedom” as they were traditionally viewed during the Cold War, especially in Soviet bloc countries, Wolf explained.

    If the training is put into practice, and members of Congress have access to a Prisoners of Conscience List, they can have information on persons detained by foreign governments for their religious beliefs and can request to visit these prisoners when they travel abroad.

    Asked about the lack of advocacy for persecuted Christians worldwide, Wolf was blunt: “I think the church in the West has failed.”

     

    Author:
    Posted: May 18, 2017, 1:41 am

    Archdiocese speaks ahead of Netflix series on murdered nun

    Baltimore, Md., May 17, 2017 / 04:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- No one knows who killed Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik.

    A young nun who was on a year’s leave of absence, Sister Cathy, as friends called her, was murdered sometime while running an errand on the evening of November 7, 1969. She was 26 years-old.  

    Her body was found in a dump two months later, though authorities have never been able to identify her killer.

    This summer, a Netflix documentary series called “The Keepers” is reopening the case, talking to witnesses and examining the evidence before the case goes cold forever.

    The circumstances surrounding the death of Sr. Cathy are precarious.

    A member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame since the age of 18, Sr. Cathy and her friend Sister Helen Russell Phillips both took a leave of absence in 1969 and moved out of the convent into an apartment together.

    A thoughtful and well-liked teacher, Sr. Cathy had taught English at Archbishop Seton Keough Catholic High School for several years before transferring to Western Public High School in 1969.

    The chaplain of Keough at the time, Fr. A. Joseph Maskell, was later accused by former students of numerous counts of rape and sexual abuse during his time at the school, which first came to light through accusations made in the early 1990s. Fr. Maskell was subsequently removed from ministry, and fled the United States in 1994. He was never charged with a crime before his death in 2001.

    Fr. Maskell has been a longtime suspect in Sr. Cathy’s death. Former students of Sr. Cathy believed she knew about the abuses of the priest, as many of the young women felt comfortable confiding in her. Many believe that Fr. Maskell, who was also the chaplain of the Baltimore police at the time, murdered Sr. Cathy to keep her quiet and used his connections to cover up his crimes.

    The Archdiocese of Baltimore has always denied claims of a widespread conspiracy to cover up Sr. Cathy’s death and to hide the crimes of Fr. Maskell, and it maintains that the archdiocese had no prior knowledge of the sexual abuse of Fr. Maskell or his connection to Sr. Cathy until the ‘90s, when several victims came forward. There is no hard evidence to suggest that the archdiocese was involved in a cover-up of the case.

    “Suggestions of a cover-up by the Archdiocese are speculative and false,” the archdiocese said in a recent statement outlining talking points before the release of the Netflix series.

    “The Baltimore Sun has retracted its ‘errors’ for reporting that certain police supervisors suggested Archdiocesan interference in 1969-70 since the people cited had actually retired before (sometimes years before) the relevant time-frame,” the archdiocese said.

    “The Sun also noted the numerous police officials who stated they knew of no such interference. There is no suggestion that the Archdiocese interfered in any way when the subsequent investigations were occurring in the 1990s. The Archdiocese reported the initial sexual abuse allegation to the authorities in 1993, removed Maskell from ministry and held a public meeting in 1994, and has been transparent with an Independent Review Board since that time.”

    Baltimore City police began working the case, focusing on suspects in the Catholic Church. The Baltimore County police took over the case when Sr. Cathy’s body was found two months after her disappearance.

    According to reports, she was found with trauma to the head, possibly from a hammer. The discovery of her body barely made the news - the local papers were on strike at the time.  

    Because the alleged abuse of Fr. Maskell had not been reported to the archdiocese or the authorities in 1970, when Sr. Cathy’s body was found, Fr. Maskell was not originally investigated as a suspect in the case.

    Earlier this month, local media reported that the Baltimore County police exhumed Fr. Maskell’s body to conduct DNA testing, ahead of the Netflix series that closely links him to Sr. Cathy’s murder.

    There were few others investigated as possible suspects when the case opened in 1969.

    On the night of Nov. 7, 1969, when Sr. Cathy disappeared, she had driven to Catonsville to cash a check, and then went to a bakery in the Edmondson Village Shopping Center. When she didn’t return after what was supposed to be a brief errand, concerned roommate Sr. Helen Phillips contacted Fr. Gerard Koob, a close friend and alleged romantic interest of Sr. Cathy.

    Fr. Koob and a friend drove to the women’s apartment, and after talking to Phillips and hearing nothing from Sr. Cathy, they contacted the authorities to report her as a missing person.

    Koob, now a Methodist minister, was thoroughly questioned by authorities at the time. His story that he had been at the movies with a friend that evening before learning of Sr. Cathy’s disappearance has held, and he has passed two lie detector tests regarding his whereabouts that night.

    Lacking leads and new evidence, the case went cold around 1975, but was picked up again in 1992, after a woman named Jean Wehner came forward and reported that she had been abused at the hands of Fr. Maskell.

    The archdiocese removed Fr. Maskell from ministry and sent him away for counseling and evaluation. Having no hard evidence against him, he returned to ministry in 1994.

    At that time, Wehner revealed to police that Fr. Maskell had taken her to see Sr. Cathy’s body to “show her what happened to people who crossed him,” according to the Washington Post, and several other abuse victims came forward to accuse the priest.

    The Baltimore County police then questioned Fr. Maskell about the case, but he denied both the allegations of murder and of sexual abuse. He was permanently removed from ministry by the archdiocese in 1994, and he fled to Ireland in 1996 without the knowledge of the archdiocese.

    The archdiocese has offered to each victim an apology and an opportunity to meet with the archbishop, and has offered to pay for counseling assistance for anyone who may have been abused by Fr. Maskell. Some victims have sought direct financial assistance through a voluntary, pastoral mediation program established by the archdiocese. To date, the archdiocese has provided over $97,000 in counseling assistance and over $472,000 in direct financial assistance to those who may have been abused by the priest.

    “It became a healing process for a number of them,” Sheldon Jacobs, an attorney for the victims, said of the settlements reached in 2016.

    “Quite a few of them thought it was a cathartic experience,” he told The Washington Post.

    The archdiocese said that it was willing to provide comment and to answer questions for the producers of the new Netflix series about the case.

    “Unfortunately, the producers asked very few questions of the Archdiocese before releasing the series and did not respond to the Archdiocese’s request to receive an advanced copy of the series. Advanced copies were provided to media outlets,” the archdiocese notes on its website.

    Ahead of the series, the Archdiocese of Baltimore has published answers to several frequently asked questions regarding the case of Sr. Cathy, and has reiterated the importance of its “zero tolerance policy” and sexual abuse screening and prevention training for its volunteers and employees.

    The seven-part Netflix series “The Keepers,” directed by Ryan White, is set to debut on May 19.

    Author:
    Posted: May 17, 2017, 10:32 pm