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  • Update: U.S. bishops join pope reacting to photos of drowned migrant father, child

    IMAGE: CNS photo/Reuters


    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- U.S. bishops joined Pope Francis in expressing sadness after seeing photos of the lifeless bodies of a migrant father and his daughter who drowned near the U.S. border with Mexico.

    "This image cries to heaven for justice. This image silences politics. Who can look on this picture and not see the results of the failures of all of us to find a humane and just solution to the immigration crisis?" the bishops said in a June 26 statement.

    "Sadly, this picture shows the daily plight of our brothers and sisters. Not only does their cry reach heaven. It reaches us. And it must now reach our federal government," said the statement, issued by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration.

    The photos of Salvadoran migrant Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, lying face down in the shallow waters of the Rio Grande sparked outrage against the U.S. government due to squalid conditions at migrant facilities as well as increasingly harsher policies against immigrants, many of whom are from Central America, fleeing their countries due to violence, poverty and corruption.

    "We can and must remain a country that provides refuge for children and families fleeing violence, persecution and acute poverty," the bishops said. "All people, regardless of their country of origin or legal status, are made in the image of God and should be treated with dignity and respect."

    In response to journalists' questions June 26, Alessandro Gisotti, interim Vatican spokesman, said Pope Francis saw "with immense sadness" the photos.

    "The pope is profoundly saddened by their death and is praying for them and for all migrants who have lost their lives while seeking to flee war and misery," Gisotti said.

    In an interview with Mexican newspaper La Jornada, Martinez's wife, Tania, said she and her husband decided to cross the Rio Grande June 23 after waiting for two months for a response to their asylum request from the United States.

    Hoping to cross the river into Brownsville, Texas, Martinez first crossed with his daughter and left her along the bank while returning back to help his wife cross. However, upon being left alone, Valeria was frightened and jumped into the river.

    Rushing to save her, Martinez and his daughter were instead dragged by the current. Tania was rescued by a person nearby, she told La Jornada.

    Twelve hours later, firefighters from Matamoros, Mexico, found the two bodies, both facedown, with Valeria's lifeless arm clutching her father's neck.

    During his weekly general audience earlier in the day, the pope called on Christians to be more welcoming of others.

    While greeting Spanish-speaking pilgrims, he praised Mexico, which has seen an increased influx of Central American migrants, "because they are so welcoming, so welcoming to migrants."

    "May God repay you," he said.

    Addressing reports of overcrowding and unsanitary conditions at migrant centers, Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Vasquez said "such conditions cannot be used as tools of deterrence."

    "Congress has a duty to provide additional funding to address the needs of children in federal custody," they said. "Their supplemental appropriations bill should also increase protections for immigrant children, including heightened standards and oversight for border facilities. It is possible and necessary to care for the safety of migrant children and the security of our citizens. By putting aside partisan interests, a nation as great as ours is able to do both."

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    Contributing to this story was Junno Arocho Esteves at the Vatican.


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  • Update: U.S. bishops join pope reacting to photos of drowned migrant father, child

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- U.S. bishops joined Pope Francis in expressing sadness after seeing photos of the lifeless bodies of a migrant father and his daughter who drowned near the U.S. border with Mexico. "This image cries to heaven for justice. This image silences politics. Who can look on this picture and not see the results of the failures of all of us to find a humane and just solution to the immigration crisis?" the bishops said in a June 26 statement. "Sadly, this picture shows the daily plight of our brothers and sisters. Not only does their cry reach heaven. It reaches us. And it must now reach our federal government," said the statement, issued by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration. The photos of Salvadoran migrant Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, lying face down in the shallow waters of the Rio Grande sparked outrage against the U.S. government due to squalid conditions at migrant facilities as well as increasingly harsher policies against immigrants, many of whom are from Central America, fleeing their countries due to violence, poverty and corruption. "We can and must remain a country that provides refuge for children and families fleeing violence, persecution and acute poverty," the bishops said. "All people, regardless of their country of origin or legal status, are made in the image of God and should be treated with dignity and respect."

    Many Zambians 'have nothing to eat,' so bishops raise money

    LUSAKA, Zambia (CNS) -- Zambia's bishops have launched a campaign to raise $9 million for food to be distributed in remote parts of the country hit by drought and floods. Many households "have nothing to eat and are surviving on wild fruits or are getting by without any food," Bishop Evans Chinyemba of Mongu told a June 19 media briefing in the capital, Lusaka. "This will certainly compromise the nutrition and health status of most people, especially the children, and if nothing is urgently done, we may begin to experience deaths from hunger," he said. Government statistics show nearly 419,000 households affected by the lack of rain in Zambia and, in the places visited by church representatives, "79% of the crops were affected by drought, 13% by floods, while 4% were affected by both drought and floods," he said. People are "suffering from hunger and lack of clean water" and some households do not have enough food to see them through the rest of the year, said Bishop Chinyemba, who is the bishops' director for Caritas Zambia and whose diocese is one of the worst-affected areas. Zambia's "Southern, Western and some parts of Eastern, Central and Lusaka provinces experienced total crop failure," the bishop said. "Households in these areas did not harvest anything that would help them to sustain their livelihoods up to the next agricultural season" and are already experiencing serious hunger, he said.

    Update: Cardinal Burke cuts ties with institute, citing its alignment with Bannon

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke has resigned from the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, saying it has become "more and more identified with the political program" of Steve Bannon. In a letter posted on his Twitter feed, Cardinal Burke said June 25 he had urged the institute to return to its original purpose of promoting the respect of human dignity but "it has not done so," so he was terminating his relationship, including being the institute's honorary president. Eleven other cardinals make up the institute's advisory board and Bannon, former chief strategist at the White House, is a patron and member of the board of trustees. "I have been made aware of a June 24 LifeSiteNews online article -- now removed -- entitled 'Steve Bannon hints at making film exposing homosexuality in the Vatican,' in which the insinuation is made that somehow, through my association with Mr. Benjamin Harnwell of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, I was involved in a meeting between Mr. Bannon and Mr. Frederic Martel, author of the book, 'In the Closet of the Vatican,' to promote a film version of Mr. Martel's book," Cardinal Burke said in his letter. "LifeSiteNews made no contact with me to verify my possible involvement," he said. "Given the overall content of the article and given several statements made by Mr. Bannon in the article, I must make the following clear: "I do not, in any way, agree with Mr. Bannon's assessment of the book in question," Cardinal Burke said. "Furthermore, I am not at all of the mind that the book should be made into a film. I disagree completely with a number of Mr. Bannon's statements regarding the doctrine and discipline of the Roman Catholic Church."

    Christian community a place of welcome, solidarity, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To be part of a Christian community is to belong to a group of believers who shun selfishness and give witness to God's love by loving and caring for one another, Pope Francis said. While modern society places more importance on "one's own interests regardless of or even to the detriment of others," true Christians "ban individualism in order to encourage sharing and solidarity," the pope said June 26 during his weekly general audience. "There is no place for selfishness in the soul of a Christian," he said. "If your heart is selfish, you are not a Christian; you are a worldly person who looks only for your own benefit, your own profit." Prior to taking part in the final audience before his summer break, to avoid the scorching Rome heat the pope met indoors with pilgrims who are sick or have a disability. Outside, continuing his series of talks on the Acts of the Apostles, the pope reflected on the first Christian community in Jerusalem, which was comprised of people who "felt their hearts pierced by the joyful announcement" of Christ's salvation for all men and women.

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  • 'Robust' religious freedom, education seen as key to countering attacks

    UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- Many terrorist attacks and other violence against houses of worship, religious sites and faith communities around the world "are finally receiving the attention, condemnation and committed response they deserve," Archbishop Bernardito Auza said June 24 at the United Nations. The archbishop, who is the Vatican's permanent observer to the U.N., spoke of the attacks on Pittsburgh synagogues, on Catholic churches and an evangelical community in Sri Lanka, on Christians in some regions of Nigeria, in Iraq and Syria, and countless other such attacks. "It is a big step in the right direction that the international community is calling attention to these attacks through General Assembly Resolution 73/285, the recently proposed U.N. Plan of Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites and other mechanisms," he said. But at the same time, "even the best international instruments are not enough," Archbishop Auza said. "There is a need to focus on the responsibility and actions of states to protect all of their citizens equally as well as to address with vigor the cultural factors necessary to promote tolerance and inclusivity." The archbishop outlined several actions he said were needed to achieve such tolerance and inclusivity, starting with "a robust promotion of the right to freedom of conscience, religion and belief."

    East African bishops condemn Eritrea seizure of church health centers

    NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- Members of bishops' conferences in East Africa condemned the Eritrea government's seizure of health facilities belonging to the Catholic Church. They also assured Eritrean bishops and Catholics of their solidarity after the seizure. The Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa told the bishops it hoped God would "nurture you with the hope and give you the necessary courage and stamina to stand strong in defense of the rights of the church and God's people." In mid-June, the Eritrean government confiscated all church-run clinics and health centers. Government security officers are said to have removed the staff from the health centers and closed them. Patients were ordered to go home and soldiers were deployed to guard the centers, the bishops said in a June 13 letter to the ministry of health. The church runs more than 20 clinics in Eritrea, and many are on the property of monasteries. "The government can say it doesn't want the services of the church, but asking for the property is not right," Eritrean bishops said in the letter. The government had not responded by June 25.

    Update: 'Divine Plan' viewing marks anniversary of pope's 1979 Poland trip

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Senior White House officials gathered June 21 with leaders of various faith groups and nonprofit organizations as well as community leaders to commemorate the 40th anniversary of St. John Paul II's first pilgrimage to Poland with a screening of "The Divine Plan," a documentary to be released worldwide Nov. 9. The film by Robert Orlando, an award-winning writer and filmmaker, is based on a book of the same title that he co-wrote with Paul Kengor, a New York Times best-selling author and political science professor. The film and book, released June 10, explore the "deep spiritual bond" between the pontiff and President Ronald Reagan. While the two world leaders didn't share the same religious faith -- Reagan was a Protestant -- they did "share the same moral convictions that led them to confront atheistic communism," say the authors. On June 2, 1979, St. John Paul celebrated a historic Mass in Warsaw and began a nine-day visit to his home country. During the Mass on the eve of Pentecost, the pope prayed God would send down his Spirit to renew Poland, which was then under communist domination. Reagan gave one of his best-known speeches June 12, 1987, when he challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!" -- the wall dividing West and East Berlin since 1961. East German officials ordered it opened in November 1989. Its demolition officially began June 13, 1990, and was completed in 1992. More about "The Divine Plan" can be found at

    Update: Catholic schools diverge over status of teachers in same-sex unions

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two Catholic high schools in the Indianapolis Archdiocese took different actions in late June over gay employees who are in same-sex marriages. Cathedral Catholic High School announced June 24 that it was firing a gay teacher to avoid "forfeiting" its Catholic identity just three days after the Indianapolis archbishop announced "with great sadness" that Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School was no longer recognized as a Catholic institution because of its refusal to dismiss a gay employee. Officials at Cathedral High School, which is affiliated with but not sponsored by the Holy Cross Brothers, explained in a letter to the school community on the school's website June 24 that it had made the "agonizing decision" to follow the direct guidance they had been given by Indianapolis Archbishop Charles C. Thompson and "separate from the teacher" after 22 months of "earnest discussion and extensive dialogue with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis about Cathedral's continued Catholic identity." School officials said they made this decision "in order to remain a Catholic Holy Cross School." Jesuit Father Brian Paulson, provincial for the Midwest Jesuits, said in a June 20 letter that Brebeuf refused to dismiss its teacher, who is "a longtime valued employee" at the school.

    Diocese's baseball outing aimed at fellowship, evangelization and fun too

    SAN DIEGO (CNS) -- When it comes to evangelization, Jesus wants you to step up to the plate and take your best swing, even if that means striking out from time to time. For those who find that intimidating, "Catholic Night" at Petco Park presents a simple, nonthreatening and enjoyable way to accomplish that task. Now in its fifth year, the local Catholic community's annual outing to a San Diego Padres baseball game is all about joyfully witnessing to the faith in a public setting and inviting others -- including nonpracticing Catholics and even nonbelievers -- to be part of the family, if only for one fun-filled evening. This year's Catholic Night will be July 26 when the Padres take on the San Francisco Giants. A representative of the Catholic community is expected to deliver the game ball to the pitcher's mound at the start of the game, and live crowd shots of those seated in the specially reserved Catholic Night sections of the stadium will be shown throughout the game. And those who purchase their tickets at will receive a free, limited-edition Padres baseball cap commemorating Catholic Night. "It's up to us as a community to show up, be strong, show our pride ... and to really go there with an evangelical heart, know that you are the face of Christ in that ballpark for that one night and know that that's a powerful thing," said Kimberli Halpin, who first proposed the idea of Catholic Night and has organized the event each year with the San Diego Diocese's approval.

    Cuban Catholics pray for Cardinal Ortega battling terminal cancer

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The archbishop of Havana said his predecessor, Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino, is in stable condition, but his health has weakened and taken a downturn in recent days. "We have received in this archdiocese countless calls and messages manifesting caring interest in the health of Cardinal Jaime Ortega," Havana Archbishop Juan Garcia Rodriguez wrote in a letter posted on Facebook June 24. Archbishop Garcia took over the archdiocese when the Vatican accepted Cardinal Ortega's resignation in 2016. Cuban Catholics have taken to Facebook to post updates on the cardinal's health and to communicate with others about his condition. A June 22 post on the Facebook page of San Antonio Maria Claret parish in the city of Santiago de Cuba asked Catholics to pray for the 82-year-old cardinal, who "suffers from terminal cancer. Last night the health of our brother, longtime bishop and cardinal, Jaime Ortega, became extremely weak," said the post. "It is expected that at any moment he will pass to the house of the Lord." On June 19, Palabra Nueva, the magazine for the Archdiocese of Havana, published online photos of a visit with the cardinal, surrounded by brother bishops and smiling with the prelates.

    English bishops praise ruling that mentally disabled woman can give birth

    LONDON (CNS) -- English bishops welcomed a Court of Appeal ruling that a pregnant mentally disabled woman did not need to have an abortion. On June 24, the court overturned an earlier Court of Protection ruling that the Nigerian Catholic woman in her 20s, who cannot be named for legal reasons, must undergo the abortion because it was in her "best interests." The woman has the mental age of between 6 and 9 years and is about 22 weeks pregnant. "It is both astonishing and shocking" that England's National Health Service "should seek to end a healthy pregnancy against the wishes of the pregnant woman, her mother, and her social worker," said Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster, who takes the lead on life issues for the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. "Forcing a woman to have an abortion against her will, and that of her close family, would have infringed her human rights and the right of her unborn child to life in a family that has committed to caring for this child. In a free society like ours, there is a delicate balance between the rights of the individual and the powers of the state, and the initial ruling upset that balance. I am therefore pleased that the recent ruling has taken the woman's best interests into account and has upheld her rights in this case," he said. "This case raises fundamental questions of human rights, and there is now an urgent need for the government to clarify what the limits are on the powers of the NHS to force abortions on women who do not want them," he said.

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  • As raid threats stoke fears, church leaders try to comfort immigrants

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The president's threats came and went in tweets, but priests, women and men religious, church-affiliated organizations and even some bishops from around the country were left trying to dampen the fear they sparked among immigrant communities of faith. Though President Donald Trump used the social media platform Twitter June 17 to announce that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, would soon be removing "millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States" and would do so "as fast as they come in," he called off the threat days later with another tweet. He said that at the urging of Democrats, he would delay the action for two weeks to see if they could arrive at an agreement over asylum. If they did not agree, "Deportations start!" he tweeted June 22. But by then, panic had set in among immigrant communities bracing for roundups that would target families and were set to begin June 23, a Sunday. That day in Baltimore, Archbishop William E. Lori paid a visit to Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, a predominantly immigrant Latino parish, the Baltimore Sun newspaper reported in a June 24 story. "I came to express my solidarity, my love, my care for the immigrant community," he told the Sun in an interview after Sunday Mass.

    Institute helps priests, seminarians be 'better instrument' of God's love

    OMAHA, Neb. (CNS) -- As a young priest, Father Jeffrey Lorig was struggling. Ordained two years earlier, in 2004, he began to question his vocation. He took a leave of absence, but his soul was filled with darkness. He was depressed, and the priesthood no longer seemed attractive. He dreaded returning to parish ministry. Then, while at Broom Tree Retreat Center near Yankton, South Dakota, he met Father Jim Mason of the Sioux Falls Diocese. There, Father Mason, now rector of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, taught Father Lorig principles of spiritual discernment and prayer that helped him place his doubts and fears before the Lord, and he found peace and a new resolve. Father Mason learned those principles through the Institute for Priestly Formation. For the past 25 years, the institute's spiritual formation programs have helped thousands of priests and seminarians from around the United States to experience God's love and pass it on to their flocks. To mark that milestone, the institute, located at Jesuit-run Creighton University in Omaha, will hold a celebration weekend titled "A Reason for Your Hope" July 12-13 in Omaha.

    Court overturns conviction of death-row inmate for jury selection bias

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Supreme Court, citing racial bias in the prosecutor's jury selection, overturned the death sentence of a Mississippi African American man who had been tried six times for a quadruple murder charge. In the 7-2 decision June 21, the court reversed the 2010 conviction of Curtis Flowers, who had argued that the prosecutor, who is white, had prevented African Americans from serving as jurors in his case. Prosecutors will now have to decide if Flowers should be tried again. "The state's pattern of striking black prospective jurors persisted from Flowers's first trial through Flowers's sixth trial," Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the court's majority opinion. "Equal justice under law requires a criminal trial free of racial discrimination in the jury selection process," he added. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch dissented. Thomas was critical of the decision and said its only "redeeming quality" was that Flowers could again be brought to trial. Sister Helen Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille, who is a longtime opponent of the death penalty, said in a June 21 tweet that this case "pulled the curtain back on racism that persists in jury selection in Mississippi and across the country. This form of discrimination costs people their freedom and, in capital cases, their lives." She also said the case was hardly unusual but reflected "a serious problem all across the United States, and especially in death penalty cases" and was "an extreme example of the kind of discrimination that happens in courtrooms all the time."

    Brooklyn Collars vs. Scholars game part of Catholic education celebration

    BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CNS) -- For the second straight year, the Brooklyn clergy showed their prowess on the softball diamond with a 2-1 win over principals and teachers of diocesan schools. The annual Collars vs. Scholars game was played June 17 at the MCU Park baseball stadium in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn. It's the home field of the New York Mets-affiliated Brooklyn Cyclones. "Once again the Collars walked away with the victory. It is a great opportunity to celebrate Catholic education, honor our students and have a nice evening," said Father Christopher Bethge, parochial vicar at Incarnation Parish in Queens Village. "Looking forward to Collars going 3-0 next year." "It was a great experience to play with fellow colleagues on the field where the Brooklyn Cyclones play. Everything about the night was top-notch, and even though we were robbed of our last at-bat, and evitable tying and winning run of the game, we look forward to a rematch and subsequent victory in next year's game," Tom Morris, principal of St. Adalbert's Catholic Academy in Elmhurst, told The Tablet. DeSales Media, parent group of The Tablet, Brooklyn's diocesan newspaper, sponsored the game as part of the Catholic Schools Night celebration. It was played prior to Cyclones game against the Aberdeen IronBirds, a minor league team affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles.

    Syriac Catholic bishops optimistic amid dispersion of their faithful

    BEIRUT (CNS) -- Faced with the migration of Christians from Syria and Iraq, Syriac Catholic bishops meeting in Lebanon for their annual synod called upon church members "scattered everywhere in the East and West" to cling to their faith with hope so they "can be witnesses to the joy of the Gospel wherever they are." In a statement at the conclusion of the June 17-22 gathering led by Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, the bishops acknowledged the suffering of the faithful in the face of "endless wars, persecutions, acts of violence, terrorism, displacement, murder and destruction, and the uprooting of a large number of nationals from the land of fathers and grandparents -- Syria and Iraq -- and their dispersion throughout the world." Yet the bishops stressed that they also are optimistic, "thanking God for the return of many displaced people to their villages" in Iraq and Syria. The prelates noted that Christians "are an authentic component and founder in these two countries." They called for solidarity among all citizens to build peace, hope and unity. Synod participants came from dioceses and patriarchal and apostolic offices in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, the United States, Venezuela and Australia. They were joined by the patriarchal vicar in Rome.

    Update: Australians begin 'ad limina' visits acknowledging impact of crisis

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The president of the Australian bishops' conference told his fellow bishops that it is "a time of humiliation" for Catholic Church leaders, but he is convinced that God is still at work. As church leaders continue to face the reality of the clerical sexual abuse crisis and attempts to cover it up, "we as bishops have to discover anew how small we are and yet how grand is the design into which we have been drawn by the call of God and his commissioning beyond our betrayals," said Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, conference president. After a weeklong retreat near Rome, the bishops of Australia began their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican with Mass June 24 at the tomb of St. Peter and a long meeting with Pope Francis. Archbishop Coleridge was the principal celebrant and homilist for the Mass in the grotto of St. Peter's Basilica marking the formal beginning of the visit. The "ad limina" visit is a combination pilgrimage and series of meetings with Pope Francis and with the leaders of many Vatican offices to share experiences, concerns and ideas. Pope Francis reportedly met with the Australian bishops for about two hours.

    Melkite Catholic bishops call for peace in Syria during annual synod

    BEIRUT (CNS) -- Melkite Catholic bishops from around the world, gathering in Lebanon for their annual synod, called for reconciliation and peace in Syria. "In Syria, the war is almost over, but the horizon is unclear," the bishops said in a statement following the June 17-21 gathering, which was led by Melkite Catholic Patriarch Joseph Absi. The bishops stressed that economic sanctions "are weighing on people day by day." The prelates demanded that "the countries involved in the war stop fueling conflict," and urged the world's leaders to strive for reconciliation and peace in Syria. In seeking peace, the bishops called on the faithful "to trust the promising future and steadfastness in their blessed homelands, which have witnessed the formation and prosperity of the church." In the Middle East, the bishops lamented that they "feel the uncomfortable atmosphere that prevails in most of the countries where we have a presence."

    Pope names administrator for Lyon as cardinal appeals conviction

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has named a retired bishop to serve as apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Lyon, France, three months after refusing to accept the resignation of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin. In early March, a French court gave the 68-year-old cardinal a six-month suspended sentence after finding him guilty of covering up sexual abuse by a priest. The Vatican announced June 24 that Pope Francis had appointed retired Bishop Michel Dubost of Evry-Corbeil-Essonnes, France, to serve as apostolic administrator "sede plena," meaning Bishop Dubost will be in charge of the archdiocese while Cardinal Barbarin retains the title of archbishop. Although Cardinal Barbarin's lawyers had announced almost immediately that their client would appeal his conviction, the cardinal came to Rome in March and personally asked Pope Francis to accept his resignation. After meeting the pope, the cardinal said Pope Francis, "invoking the presumption of innocence," declined to accept his resignation before the appeal was heard.

    Be a shepherd, not a mercenary, pope tells Santiago auxiliary bishop

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Ordaining a new auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Santiago, Chile, Pope Francis said being named a bishop did not confer authority over others but is a mandate to be at their service. "The bishop is a servant, shepherd, father, brother," the pope said June 22. "He is never a mercenary." Although the ordination of new auxiliary bishops usually takes place in the diocese where they are assigned, the pope presided over the ordination of Bishop Alberto Lorenzelli Rossi in St. Peter's Basilica. As is customary, Pope Francis read the ritual homily for episcopal ordinations, but added his own comments and cautions. The prepared text included a reminder that Christ continues to preach, teach and sanctify his followers through the ministry of the bishop. Departing from the text, the pope said that bishops must not only announce the word of God in "every occasion," but also must be men of prayer.

    Update: Mark Lombard is 2019 winner of the CPA's St. Francis de Sales Award

    ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (CNS) -- Mark Lombard, business manager and a contributing editor of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, is the recipient of the 2019 St. Francis de Sales Award from the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada. The award, the highest the CPA presents to an individual, recognizes "outstanding contributions to Catholic journalism." It was given during a June 21 lunch at the Catholic Media Conference in St. Petersburg. In accepting the award, Lombard, said he was honored, humbled and thankful to God that his colleagues in the Catholic press considered him for an honor named for a saint who was a communicator and had "a fire in the belly for truth." He paid tribute to his fellow nominee, Rob DeFrancesco, who is director of communications for the Diocese of Phoenix and associate publisher of The Catholic Sun diocesan newspaper. He described DeFrancesco as a person "who embodies what we all hope to grow up to be. In Rob we have someone who is insightful, passionate about communications, deep of faith charitable and patient, and most of all a gentleman and more than that a gentle man."

    Doctors are servants, not owners, of life, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholic doctors have a mission to show God's compassionate love to those who are suffering and to defend life at all stages, Pope Francis said. While progress has been made in treating patients, medical professionals always must "remember that healing means respecting the gift of life from the beginning to the end," the pope said June 22 during a meeting with members of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations. "We are not the owners: Life is entrusted to us and doctors are its servants," he said. "Your mission is at the same time a witness of humanity, a privileged way of making people see, of making them feel that God our father takes care of every single person, without distinction. Members of the association were in Rome to celebrate the organization's consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Noting that the first Christian communities presented Jesus as a physician, the pope said that Christ's primary mission was to be close to the sick and the suffering, especially those "who were despised and marginalized" because of their conditions.

    Pope announces themes for upcoming WYD celebrations

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Announcing the themes for the next three World Youth Day celebrations, Pope Francis called on young men and women to meditate on the path of Christian life that God has called them to walk. Meeting with 280 young people from 109 countries who took part in a postsynod Youth Forum in Rome June 22, the pope said he hoped the themes of the World Youth Day celebrations for the next three years will be a "harmonious coordination" between the synod process and the next international celebration of World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2022. "Do not tune out the voice of God, who urges you to arise and follow the paths that he has prepared for you," the pope told the young adults. The Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life had asked bishops' conferences around the world to identify two young adult leaders to participate in the forum, which was held at a retreat center just south of Rome.

    Receive Communion every time as if it were the first time, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Every time a Catholic receives Communion, it should be like his or her first Communion, Pope Francis said. Marking the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ June 23, the pope spoke about the gift of the Eucharist during his midday Angelus address at the Vatican and at the Rome parish of Santa Maria Consolatrice, where he celebrated an evening Mass and led eucharistic Benediction after a Corpus Christi procession. The feast, he told visitors in St. Peter's Square, is an annual occasion for Catholics "to renew our awe and joy for the stupendous gift of the Lord, which is the Eucharist." Catholics should concentrate on receiving Communion with gratitude every time they receive it, he said, rather than approaching the altar "in a passive, mechanical way. We must get used to receiving the Eucharist and not go to Communion out of habit," the pope said. "When the priest says to us, 'The body of Christ,' we say, 'Amen.' But let it be an 'Amen' that comes from the heart, with conviction."

    Pope calls jubilee for air travelers, Loreto pilgrims in 2020

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Marking the 100th anniversary of the declaration of Our Lady of Loreto as the patron saint of aviation and aviators, Pope Francis has authorized a special jubilee year of celebrations, especially at the Italian shrine of Our Lady of Loreto. "The Holy Father has conceded the Laurentian Jubilee for all air travelers, both military and civilian, and for all those pilgrims to the Shrine of the Holy House from every part of the world," said Archbishop Fabio Dal Cin, the papal delegate to the shrine. The archbishop announced the jubilee year June 22 at a ceremony at the shrine with Col. Davide Salerno, commander of an Italian air force academy in Loreto. According to pious tradition, Mary's house in Nazareth was flown by angels to Italy in 1294 after a brief stop in Yugoslavia. In 1920, Pope Benedict XV named Our Lady of Loreto the patron saint of aviation and those who work in aviation or travel by air. The jubilee year will open on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, and will conclude in 2020 on the feast of Our Lady of Loreto, Dec. 10.

    Vatican women's soccer match canceled after protests

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The members of the Vatican's women's soccer team decided not to play their first foreign match June 22 when a couple members of the opposing team lifted their shirts to reveal slogans protesting the Catholic Church's opposition to abortion. Vienna's Mariahilf women's team had invited the new Vatican team to Austria as part of the Vienna team's 25th anniversary celebrations. But during the playing of the Vatican anthem just before the match was to begin, several members of the Mariahilf team lifted their shirts to show protests painted on their bellies and backs. One said, "My body, my rule." At the same time, in the stands, someone unfurled a banner reading, "Against homophobia." Vatican News said, "The protest took by surprise the Vatican players who simply expected a celebration of sports." Along with their coaches, it added, the women "made the difficult decision not to play the match so as to prevent the manipulation of an event they had prepared with joy." Just over half of the team members are Vatican employees, the others are the wives or daughters of employees. Male Vatican employees have had teams and an intramural tournament for decades; the women formed their team early in the spring to play five-a-side games, but the match in Vienna was to be a regulation game with 11 players on each team.

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  • From Somalia to US: Initial challenges are met by other hurdles, rewards

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- World Refugee Day, marked annually on June 20, aims to raise awareness of the situations and experiences that refugees endure throughout the world. This year's theme, #StepWithRefugees -- Take A Step on World Refugee Day, encourages solidarity and activism among local, state, national and global communities.In Skype interviews June 19 and 20 with Catholic News Service, a former Somali asylee and refugee who came to the United States from Somalia, shared the challenges they have faced and rewards and hurdles that continue. They both expressed gratitude and praise for the people and organizations throughout the world that advocate for the rights of refugees, asylees, migrants and immigrants. Fartun Weli, a former Somali asylee who has lived in the United States for over a decade, said:"I pray that they will all get their reward from God." "We have seen the images of the refugee crisis, and World Refugee Day calls attention to the critical need to assist our refugee brothers and sisters and make them feel a sense of welcome," said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration. "It is imperative for us to highlight the contributions refugees make in our communities."

    World Refugee Day celebration aims to encourage, welcome refugees

    GREEN BAY, Wis. (CNS) -- Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Green Bay joined other local agencies in Green Bay June 20 for a World Refugee Day celebration which included pick-up soccer games, international music and food, as well as an information table about local refugee communities. It was the first public celebration of its kind in Green Bay, according to Peter Weiss, living justice advocate for Catholic Charities. World Refugee Day was first celebrated in 2001 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. "World Refugee Day is a key moment in time to communicate with the world about who refugees are and why they require protection," according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. "I see (the observance) as kind of a twofold function," Weiss told The Compass, Green Bay's diocesan newspaper. "One is to help people from the refugee community to know that they are welcomed here. We do value you as members of this community and we want you to feel connected. The other part of it is, for people in the broader community, to encourage them to get out and meet their neighbors, to interact with people who may look different or talk different, but to really encourage them."

    Update: Report: U.K. church officials 'deliberately misled' U.S. archdiocese

    MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- An English church official "deliberately misled" a U.S. archdiocese into harboring a pedophile priest and helping him to escape justice for a quarter of a century, said a report from a child abuse inquiry. The Los Angeles Archdiocese was persuaded to shelter Father James Robinson, who during the 1970s and 1980s had raped several boys, after officials gave false information about his sexual history. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse concluded in a report published June 21 that the deception meant that Father Robinson "was able to remain in America and avoid prosecution for nearly 25 years." It said Msgr. Daniel Leonard, former vicar general of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, England, where Father Robinson was trained, ordained and served as a priest, "deliberately misled the Archdiocese of Los Angeles about the nature of the allegations faced by Robinson." The Irish-born Father Robinson was ordained in 1971, but the report said he was abusing boys before he entered seminary, during his formation and after he was ordained. When one of his victims became an adult he went to the police in 1984 to complain about being abused and two days later Robinson fled to the United States. In September that year Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville of Birmingham wrote to the archdiocese to approve the appointment of Robinson as a priest there. Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, who was archbishop of Birmingham from 2000 to 2009, reiterated his earlier apology for the incidents involving the wayward priest in a June 21 statement.

    U.S. State Department honors nun as anti-trafficking 'hero'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Honored as one of the U.S. State Department's "heroes" in combatting human trafficking, Comboni Sister Gabriella Bottani urged action to fight the situations that make people, especially women and children, vulnerable to trafficking. Sister Bottani, international coordinator of the Talitha Kum anti-trafficking network of Catholic women's and men's religious orders, was honored June 20 as one of the State Department's 2019 TIP Report Heroes. She spoke at an event that included the release of the State Department's annual report on trafficking in persons. Callista Gingrich, the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, nominated Sister Bottani for the award and spoke at the ceremony, saying the Comboni sister deserved to be among the heroes who are "recognized for their tireless efforts -- despite resistance, opposition and even threats to their lives -- to protect victims, punish offenders and raise awareness of ongoing criminal practices in their countries and abroad."

    Pope: Theology begins with sincere dialogue, not 'conquering spirit'

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Theology develops through dialogue, not an aggressive defense of doctrine that seeks to impose its beliefs on others, Pope Francis said. Like Charles de Foucauld and the slain Trappist monks of Tibhirine in Algeria, fidelity to the Gospel "implies a style of life and of proclamation without a spirit of conquest, without a desire to proselytize and without an aggressive intent to refute," the pope said June 21 in a speech at the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Southern Italy in Naples. He also cited the writings of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Italian philosopher Lanza del Vasto as examples of nonviolent teaching and warned that opposing sides in theological debates may be prone to the "Babel syndrome." While some believe the biblical story of the Tower of Babel is about "the confusion that comes from not understanding what the other says," the "Babel syndrome means not listening to what the other says and believing that I know what the other person is thinking and what the other will say," the pope said. "This is a plague." The pope traveled to Naples to deliver the closing address at a two-day conference on the theme "Theology after 'Veritatis Gaudium' in the context of the Mediterranean."

    Manila Archdiocese gives gift of life on Cardinal Tagle's 62nd birthday

    MANILLA, Philippines (CNS) -- Church workers in the Archdiocese of Manilla offered their blood as a gift to Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila when he celebrated his 62nd birthday June 21. The gesture was nothing new, said Rowena Ranola, 58, who works with the archdiocese's Persons with Disability Ministry. It was Ranola's fifth time donating blood at what has become an annual drive to celebrate the cardinal's birthday, reported. "It's good to donate blood. Aside from being able to help people, it's good for the body as well," said Ranola who encouraged her children and other people to do the same. Father Sanny de Claro, director of the archdiocese's Human Resource Department, said the event is the church workers' way of showing Cardinal Tagle that they treasure life. The donated blood will be given to the Philippine Red Cross. "It's really the poor who will benefit from this," he said.

    Lord's command to 'welcome the stranger' is in danger, patriarch says

    NAPLES, Italy (CNS) -- The Mediterranean Sea, which has been and again could be a route for a meeting of peoples and cultures, instead is a "border not to be crossed" between the poor South and the wealthy North, said Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. The efforts of European governments to patrol the Mediterranean and prevent desperate people from reaching its northern shores raise questions "about the very concept of 'welcoming the stranger' of which Christianity is the highest expression, according to the teaching our of lord and savior," the patriarch said. The Orthodox patriarch's comments came in a letter to a conference June 20-21 in Naples on theology and the Mediterranean. Pope Francis gave the final presentation at the meeting, thanking Patriarch Bartholomew for his contribution and noting how the patriarch called Christians' attention to the need to safeguard the Earth "years before" his own encyclical on the topic. Christians today, the patriarch wrote, must look seriously at the theological questions arising from "the global upheaval of the last century, the various forms of nationalism and fundamentalism still present in too many parts of our world and the tensions ignited over welcoming the weakest, those exposed to social, economic and climatic tensions."

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  • Msgr. Kozar called journalism 'champion' who sets standard for publishers

    ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (CNS) -- Msgr. John Kozar, president of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, and publisher of CNEWA's ONE magazine, is the 2019 winner of the Catholic Press Association's Bishop John England Award. The award, the CPA's highest honor for publishers, was announced at lunch June 20 during the annual Catholic Media Conference June 18-21 in St. Petersburg. Michael LaCivita, communications director for CNEWA, accepted the award on Msgr. Kozar's behalf, informing the crowd the priest could not be with them because he had to have a medical procedure and he is suffering from kidney failure. LaCivita asked for prayers for Msgr. Kozar but added that he is otherwise in good health and good spirits and is in line to get a donor kidney. The Bishop John England Award is given to a Catholic press publisher who "clearly has acted in his role as publisher; and clearly has acted in defense of the publication or used the publication, in accordance with its mission, to defend the First Amendment rights of the publisher, the institution owning the publication, and/or the church as a whole." The nomination entry for Msgr. Kozar described him as "a champion of journalism, promoting accountability and transparency in reporting, affirming a commitment to excellence and promoting the church's evangelical witness throughout the world, especially in some of its most embattled corners."

    Update: HHS bans NIH from using fetal tissue from elective abortions in research

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services banned the National Institutes of Health from using human fetal stem cells from electively aborted babies for government funded research June 5. The department also issued a $20 million grant for research to develop models that do not rely on human fetal tissue. HHS released a statement saying that "promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President (Donald) Trump's administration." Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, issued a statement on this decision, commending the Trump administration for directing tax dollars away from fetal tissue and toward alternative research solutions. "Scavenging and commodifying the body parts of abortion victims for use in research gravely disrespects the bodies of these innocent human beings," Archbishop Naumann said June 6. "Their remains deserve the same respect as that of any other person. To subsidize this degrading practice with our taxpayer dollars is deeply offensive to millions of Americans."

    Update: House passes spending bill that would overturn pro-life policies

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The House of Representatives passed a bill June 19 that will overturn at least nine pro-life policies, including reinstating taxpayer-funded abortion domestically and abroad, according to Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey. The bill passed 226 to 203, with every Republican voting against it.The bill is H.R. 2740, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. As the Senate begins debating the bill, Smith said House Republicans continue to push for a removal of all anti-life provisions. "If the Senate fails to protect pro-life policies, President Trump has promised to veto the bill," Smith said in a June 20 email. Smith, a Catholic, is co-chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. If passed, the bill will block a Trump administration reform of the Title X Family Planning Program as well as overturn a conscience rights rule for health care providers and the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance program. Regarding Title X, H.R. 2740 will reverse the Trump administration's "Protect Life Rule," put in place Feb. 22. The rule states that funds appropriated under Title X Family Planning Program cannot be used to offer abortion as a family planning service or to perform abortions. H.R. 2740 will grant funding to family planning organizations that provide and promote abortions. It will also block "Protect Life Rule" protections against child abuse, molestation, sexual abuse and human trafficking.

    Mexican priest accused of murder after celebrating victim's funeral Mass

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- A priest in Mexico City has been arrested for murder barely a week after he celebrated a funeral Mass for the victim. Father Francisco Javier Bautista was arrested June 19 by Mexico City judicial officials. He was charged with the murder of Hugo Leonardo Avendano Chavez, 29, who had recently graduated with a master's degree from a Catholic university, worked with Father Bautista at Christ the Savior Parish and had aspirations of entering the priesthood. The priest, who also served as an exorcist, was ordered held pending trial. Motives for the slaying were not revealed by Mexico City investigators, though local prosecutor Ernestina Godoy told reporters the case was not a kidnapping, as originally reported. Avendano was found murdered June 13 in southern Mexico City. Family say he had gone to the Christ the Savior Parish, where he worked, late June 11 and saw Father Bautista. The two men were spotted together outside the parish, according to footage from surveillance cameras.

    Vatican official praises Catholic media for coverage of sex abuse crisis

    ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (CNS) -- In a remarkably frank and detailed speech, the Vatican official heading the department charged with reviewing clergy sexual abuse allegations told an assembly of Catholic journalists June 19 that his investigators and the press "share the same goal, which is the protection of minors, and we have the same wish to leave the world a little better than how we found it." Msgr. John Kennedy, who since 2017 has headed the the head of the discipline section for the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, described the personal toll on the 17 people in his office as they have reviewed an ever-growing tide of cases involving clergy sexual abuse or related crimes. "I can honestly tell you that, when reading cases involving sexual abuse by clerics, you never get used to it, and you can feel your heart and soul hurting," Msgr. Kennedy said. "There are times when I am pouring over cases that I want to get up and scream, that I want to pack up my things and leave the office and not come back." The Irish-born priest has worked and studied in Rome since 1998. Speaking with a soft Irish brogue and an even tone, he gave a humane and at times anguished assessment of his job reviewing the horrors of sexual abuse and its cover up. Msgr. Kennedy views his work as both a privilege and a burden. He also realizes how important the work is. "The topic of the clergy abuse crisis is front and center in our culture," he noted. "Certainly, no theological topic or any other kind of heresy comes close." "For me it is at the heart, at the very core, and some have even suggested that the church's heart has been broken in this crisis."

    California bishops promote 'ecological spirituality' in new statement

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The California Catholic Conference commemorated the fourth anniversary of Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home" by issuing a pastoral statement calling for heightened attention to ecological issues in the state that could affect future generations. The document from the conference, which includes all of California's bishops, focused on the encyclical's theme of integral ecology to demonstrate that the environmental protection of the state is ingrained in a spirituality that unites all of creation in praising God. The pastoral statement emphasizes two goals: "To animate and energize the implementation in California of what Laudato Si' calls us to do and to offer a dynamic teaching and evangelization tool for our Catholic faith community and beyond, especially for young people." The bishops encouraged Californians to work in solidarity and consider approaches that faithfully and efficiently care for the state's environment. They said the pope's encyclical shows that ecological spirituality is not limited to simply cultivating the environment. "To live out integral ecology with joy and authenticity, we are called to recognize the interrelated character of our existence -- its environmental, economic, social, and cultural dimensions -- and to practice care for all that God has created," said the document, titled "God Calls Us All to Care for Our Common Home."

    In new Knights' video, parents share story of son's abuse by family friend

    ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (CNS) -- Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said June 19 a new video produced by the fraternal organization is aimed at equipping parents with resources and the tools they need to protect their children from predators. The video, titled "Protecting Our Children: A Family's Response," is meant to complement other church initiatives to respond to the crisis. With much of that response a "top-down" approach, Anderson said, the Knights see a need for something more at the grassroots. Anderson showed the video for the first time in St. Petersburg during the June 18-21 Catholic Media Conference. In the 30-minute video, a Catholic mom and a dad who is a Knight talk about how they learned that a trusted family friend sexually abused their son when he was 10. They describe the signs their son showed of the trauma he was suffering and their shock when they found out their friend did this to their child. Anderson said the Knights plan to make the video available to their councils, which would provide it to parishes to share with families. "Hopefully, it will snowball" and reach more and more people over time, he added.

    Update: Historic cross on public property can stay, Supreme Court rules

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a 7-2 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of preserving a historic cross-shaped memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland saying the cross did not endorse religion. The June 20 ruling reversed a lower court decision last year. "Although the cross has long been a preeminent Christian symbol, its use in the Bladensburg memorial has a special significance," said the court's ruling in an opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito. He said the memorial, paying tribute to soldiers who died in World War I, should be seen in the same "historical context" as the white crosses marking the overseas graves of soldiers who had lost their lives in that war. He also said removing the memorial "would be seen by many not as a neutral act but as the manifestation of a hostility toward religion that has no place in our Establishment Clause traditions." Alito noted that for nearly a century, the 40-foot cross "has expressed the community's grief at the loss of the young men who perished, its thanks for their sacrifice, and its dedication to the ideals for which they fought. It has become a prominent community landmark." Several justices wrote separate opinions in this case, dissented by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.

    Catholic filmmaker aims to bring reality of sex trafficking to light

    PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- George Elliot knows the power of a story to touch souls. He has spent years as an actor, director and playwright. Now he's on a mission to save lives. Elliot, a member of St. Therese Parish in Portland, wants to educate people about the horrific and sometimes deadly reality of sex trafficking by bringing a drama to the big screen. He has written a screenplay called "Lost in the Shadows," which follows the story of a Portland sex trafficking survivor. The production crew hopes to begin shooting the independent film this fall. "Sex trafficking is Portland's ugly little secret that people don't want to acknowledge," Elliot told the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland. "If we can bring it to light and reach out and save even one person with this film then it's worth doing. As a Catholic man, I feel I have to walk the talk. I have to use my God-given talent to raise awareness in whatever way I can." Nationally, instances of human trafficking are rising. The most common types of human trafficking are forced labor, debt bondage and prostitution, with the latter disproportionately affecting women and children. In developing the script Elliot spoke with individuals who have been through the experience. "It really humbled me how strong and resilient survivors are," he said.

    Catholic aid group raises millions for persecuted Christians

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Aid to the Church in Need raised over 111 million euros ($125 million) in 2018 to help support persecuted Christians, particularly in the Middle East where tens of thousands of Christians have been forced to flee their homes due to ongoing war and conflicts over the last decade. Releasing its 2018 annual report June 20, the Vatican-recognized foundation that assists minority Christian communities and people persecuted for their faith said the donations funded "no fewer than 5,019 pastoral projects in some 139 different countries" with 27% of the donations going to Africa and 25% to the Middle East. Projects in the Middle East have increased since the 2011 Arab Spring, the foundation said. In the past seven years, it said, the foundation has devoted to the region "a total of 99 million euros ($111.8 million), of which over 18 million euros ($20.3 million) were in 2018 alone." Over 12% of the total aid, the report said, went to assisting thousands of Christians in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq, and funded the rebuilding of nearly 1,500 Christian homes. The other nations in the top five for foundation-supported projects were India, Ukraine and Congo.

    Migration situation requires a humane, Christian response, official says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican recognizes how difficult it is for nations to manage the flow of migrants and refugees, but one thing is certain: "We must respond in a humane manner, a Christian manner, and we must try to help people, not harm them," said the Vatican foreign minister. Archbishop Paul Gallagher, whose formal title is Vatican secretary for relations with states, spoke with Vatican News June 19, the eve of the U.N.'s World Refugee Day. While the Vatican obviously respects the sovereignty of individual nations to determine how best to respond to the needs of migrants and refugees, the archbishop said, "the numbers are what they are, and we must face that and we must help." In connection with World Refugee Day, the U.N. Refugee Agency released its annual report on "forced displacement" around the world. More than two-thirds (67%) of all refugees were from five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.

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  • How do you teach a 'teaching document'? Arizona high school shows how

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si': On Care for Our Common Home" was widely lauded for its scope on the moral and ethical response to protecting Earth's environment for future generations. But if an encyclical is a teaching document, how does that get filtered down to everyday life? How does one apply its principles on the printed page to practical situations? Leave it to a teaching institution -- in this case, a Catholic high school in Arizona -- to learn how to teach a teaching document. Salpointe Catholic High School in Tucson, Arizona, run by the Carmelite Sisters, calls itself "a Laudato Si' high school." At the request of Carmelite Sister Jane Remson, a participant in her order's Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation program in Rome, teachers adapted the encyclical into lesson plans -- the low-hanging fruit of religion and science classes, but after two years, it had infused "Laudato Si'" into all parts of its curriculum. It also started thinking, and rethinking, how to make "Laudato Si'" relevant in the school's life outside the classroom.

    Update: Vaccines preserve 'moral health' of communities, say church experts

    ALBANY, N.Y. (CNS) -- Measles, chicken pox and other diseases are making a comeback as more parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children out of the fear of side effects, especially with regard to the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine. Skeptics are concerned it leads to sickness autism or death. But doctors, physicians and immunologists have come forward to debunk the loud din of the anti-vaccination movement and the Catholic Church has joined them. A long supporter of vaccines, the church continues to advocate for their use. Still, the anti-vaccination movement has continued to grow, flourishing on social media, through celebrities and uncredited sources, such as online parenting blogs. All the while, religious groups, doctors and people of science are continuing their fight to inform parents who are doubtful of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in late May that measles cases in the United States have spiked to 971 so far this year, the highest number in any single year since 1994. The CDC has debunked concerns about links between vaccines and autism. In early May, the first confirmed case of the measles was reported in the Albany Diocese. Albany Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger said: "We have a responsibility not only to protect our own health and that of our dependents, but also the community" through vaccinations.

    Cardinal calls for withdrawal of Hong Kong's divisive extradition bill

    HONG KONG (CNS) -- Cardinal John Tong Hon, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Hong Kong, and the chairman of the Hong Kong Christian Council called on chief executive Carrie Lam to withdraw a controversial extradition bill. In a June 19 statement, Cardinal Tong and the Rev. Eric So Shing-yit, who leads the council that includes 21 churches, also appealed to the special administrative region government to "launch a thorough independent inquiry" into clashes between police and protesters opposed to the bill days earlier. The two religious leaders also said they accepted Lam's June 18 public apology for the conflict over the extradition bill that has provoked mass demonstrations. Lam first announced June 15 she had suspended the bill that would allow mainland China extradition rights over any Hong Kong resident, including foreign nationals and tourists, reported. However, Hong Kong residents were not satisfied with Lam's announcement and turned out in even greater numbers June 16 than the 1 million estimated to have marched on June 9, reported In reissuing her apology, Lam told reporters that she accepted much of the responsibility for the "deficiencies in the work of the SAR government over the amendment exercise." "This has led to controversies, disputes and anxieties in society. For this I offer my most sincere apology to all people of Hong Kong," she said.

    Bishop Blaire dies; recalled for living by a simple code -- 'to serve'

    MODESTO, Calif. (CNS) -- Retired Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton died June 18 after a prolonged illness. He died at his retirement residence at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Modesto. He was 77. The much beloved bishop was recalled by many both in California and across the country as a churchman who lived by a simple code: "We are here to serve, and to do it with a touch of class. When he was installed as Stockton's fifth bishop Jan. 19, 1999, he told the standing-room-only congregation, "Jesus said, 'Remain in my love.' These words, which were spoken by Jesus to his disciples, are spoken to each and every one of us.'' He said Jesus' words express "the most central and profound truth of our faith. That we are loved by God, and we are called to love one another as God has loved us.'' He linked the sharing of that love to service. "We are committed to service in the world, to serve the kingdom of God in the world,'' he said. A native of Los Angeles and ordained a priest in 1967, Bishop Blaire retired in January 2018. Before being named to head the six-county Stockton Diocese, he had been an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles for nine years.

    Burundi's bishops caution that political intolerance poses threats

    NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- Burundi's Catholic bishops have expressed their concern at rising political intolerance in the east African country. "We are worried about the progressive increase of political intolerance which, in different parts of the country, provokes clashes," the bishops said in a statement June 7 at the end of their four-day plenary meeting in the capital, Gitega. Burundian authorities and ruling party youths "have carried out dozens of beatings, arbitrary arrests, disappearances and killings against real and suspected political opposition members," Human Rights Watch noted June 12. Political tensions over many years have forced more than 374,000 Burundians to take refuge in neighboring countries, including Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, the bishops said. Many of the 192,000 Burundian refugees in Tanzania are in camps that lack adequate security and humanitarian assistance, they said. Burundi has been in crisis since 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a third term and was re-elected in elections boycotted by most of the opposition. At least 1,200 people were killed and more than 400,000 displaced in violence that the United Nations said was mostly carried out by state security forces.

    Holy Spirit conducts symphony of communion, pope says at audience

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Like an orchestra conductor leading a symphony of different sounds and harmonies, the Holy Spirit creates a masterpiece of unity and communion that extols God's love, Pope Francis said. In creating this harmony, the Holy Spirit "makes the church grow by helping it go beyond human limits, sins and scandal," the pope said June 19 during his weekly general audience. "The Holy Spirit is the creator of communion, he is the artist of reconciliation who knows how to remove the barriers between Jews and Greeks, between slaves and free people, to make them one body." Continuing his series of talks on the Acts of the Apostles, the pope reflected on the gift of the Holy Spirit received, which the apostles received on Pentecost and was manifested in gusts of wind and tongues of fire descending upon them. The wind that blew through the cenacle was "an eruption that does not tolerate" closed doors but instead bursts them wide open, he said. Fire, which throughout biblical tradition is a symbol of God's presence, immediately descends upon the apostles, thus "purifying and revitalizing them," he added. "The church is therefore born of the fire of love, a fire that burns at Pentecost and manifests the power of the word of the Risen One imbued with the Holy Spirit."

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  • Former Lutheran minister now a priest felt call to ministry at 'early age'

    GREENVILLE, S.C. (CNS) -- The ordination of Deacon Richard Ballard as a Catholic priest marked the beginning of a new phase of the spiritual journey for the priest and his wife, Ruth, who once served as ministers in the Lutheran church. With his family and friends in attendance, Deacon Ballard became Father Ballard May 26, during the rite of ordination celebrated by Charleston Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone at Our Lady of the Rosary Church. During his homily, Bishop Guglielmone spoke about scriptural pointers to "important elements of what it means to be a priest," and how the Apostle Paul addressed dissent in the early church. "To deal with that dissension, there has to be some way of reconciling the differences, of finding exactly what is it that the Holy Spirit desires," Bishop Guglielmone said. "What is it that is the right way to inform the people of God, and to invite them to continue their journey in faith?" After the ordination, Father Ballard talked about his own spiritual journey, one that had its roots in his early childhood. "I felt from an early age that I had a call to ministry," he recalled in an interview with The Catholic Miscellany, Charleston's diocesan newspaper.

    Minnesota man and his family say praying rosary 'will change your life'

    ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- On Facebook, he is "The Rosary Guy." At home, he is Matt Wiederkehr, 89, of St. Genevieve Parish in Centerville. And from the 1960s into the 2000s, this former mechanical engineer was a pioneering national and international hot air balloonist who got his start at balloon races held during the St. Paul Winter Carnival in St. Paul. He conducted public relations tours and appearances for Coca-Cola Co.; set world records for distance, duration and altitude; and led safety classes and seminars. Always with a rosary in his pocket. Wiederkehr and his wife, Bobbie, and their daughters, Donna and Denise, believe his devotion to Mary and her son, Jesus, has seen him through illnesses that nearly killed him, his four years in the Navy in Japan and Korea during the Korean War, and his many adventures. Now, he wants people to know about a special kind of rosary, the "Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Mary," made with beads for 52 Hail Marys and seven Our Fathers. A traditional rosary has 53 Hail Marys and six Our Fathers. The Seven Sorrows rosary, which marks the sorrows of Mary including the Holy Family's flight into Egypt and Mary at the foot of the cross, dates to the Middle Ages. The Wiederkehr family believes devotion to the rosary, and Mary's call in particular to the Seven Sorrows rosary, can change people's lives.

    Scottish bishops authorize independent audit of each diocese

    MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- The Catholic bishops of Scotland have authorized an independent audit of every diocese in the country to ensure child protection procedures are as robust as possible. Baroness (Helen) Liddell of Coatdyke, chairman of the Independent Review Group of the Roman Catholic Church, said the bishops had "shown a willingness to submit their dioceses to the utmost scrutiny." She said that the audits were "a major undertaking, unique in Scotland," but added that they were necessary because self-administered audits had given the review group "real cause for concern." "There was a willingness to meet basic compliance standards, but little evidence of the requirements of a safer culture," she said in a June 15 statement sent by email to Catholic News Service. "There was also no way to check the accuracy of the results, and a lack of clarity regarding the needs of, and support for, the victims of abuse." The baroness said there was "a need for greater consistency, independent analysis and professionalism in monitoring progress" and also a reexamination of the processes for whistle-blowing.

    Catholic shelter operators in Mexico: 'We live off people's solidarity'

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- The directors of Catholic-operated migrant shelters rejected a portrayal by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador that they mismanaged government money, saying they survived on donations and the good will of generous individuals. They also said they were doing work the government has been derelict in handling as the waves of migrants moved through the country and thousands asylum seekers were being forced to wait on the Mexican side of the border as their cases proceed through U.S. courts. "The government does not help anybody," said Father Pat Murphy, director of the Scalabrinian shelter in Tijuana. "They used to give" -- in past administrations -- "but the Mexican government has cut off all aid they used to give to us." Scalabrinian Sister Leticia Gutierrez, former executive secretary of the Mexican bishops' human mobility ministry, added on social media: "We have never received money from the government. Migrant shelters are independent and autonomous. We live off people's solidarity and from foreign solidarity. (We) are not sustained by any authorities." Lopez Obrador set off the firestorm during a June 17 press conference, when he responded "yes" to a question on whether shelters would be operated by the government. He promised to open migrant shelters in the near future and also accused unnamed organizations of misappropriating public money.

    Eritrean Catholic bishops say government closes church-run health centers

    NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- All health facilities run by the Catholic Church in Eritrea have been seized by the government, the country's bishops said. Government security officers are said to have removed the staff from the health centers and closed them. Patients were ordered to go home and soldiers were deployed to guard the centers, the bishops said in a June 13 letter to the ministry of health. The church runs more than 20 clinics in Eritrea, and many are on the property of monasteries. In their letter, the bishops said the services the church provides to Eritreans could not be construed as an act of opposing the government. The church's main concern is the people in need of the services that the government action has halted, it said. In a May interview with Catholic News Service in Nairobi, an Eritrean Catholic nun said the government has some control over the church in the country and that it is a "closed" church. "We are subjected to looking over our shoulders to serve the people" of Eritrea, she said, noting that the freedom the church has in other countries "is not with us."

    'Minds, hearts' shaken by fire at Florida co-cathedral, says rector

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Masses for the vigil of the feast of Pentecost and for Pentecost were celebrated at the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More with the scars left by a June 5 fire in the sanctuary still very visible. An arrest has been made since the fire filled the church with smoke and burned three chairs -- including the cathedra, or bishop's chair, and charred the walls. When firefighters arrived, resting atop one of the chairs was a burned Bible. Luckily, the fire was caught in time and didn't spread to other parts of the cathedral. No injuries were reported. An investigation led officials to determine the cause was arson. On June 7, Jimmy Patronis, Florida state fire marshal, announced Seth Johnson, 32, was arrested and charged with first-degree felony arson. If convicted, he could face 30 years in prison. "Our minds and hearts have been shaken by this experience. Sometimes, even a physical structure can take on a persona and when it's wounded, we all feel the hurt," Father John B. Cayer, rector, wrote in a message to parishioners posted on the co-cathedral's website. "We strive now to move from shock and sadness, to resolve and rebuilding."

    Father Rosica resigns as CEO of Salt and Light Foundation

    TORONTO (CNS) -- Basilian Father Thomas Rosica has resigned as CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, the latest chapter in a scandal that has embroiled him since February. Rosica, the founding CEO of the Canadian Catholic television network Salt and Light TV and a former Vatican media liaison, has faced allegations of plagiarizing the written work of several authors in his lectures, blog posts and newspaper articles dating back several years. He has admitted that he failed to properly credit sources in some of his writings and apologized for his mistakes. He has been on sabbatical since March for "several months of rest and renewal." "After 16 years as the founding Chief Executive Officer, I have submitted my resignation to the board of directors of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation effective today," Rosica said in a June 17 statement. "It has been a great privilege to work closely with our founder, Gaetano Gagliano, his family and a dedicated board of directors on this media project. I am grateful for the young adults working with us who helped realize Gaetano's vision for Catholic television and media."

    Young adult leaders gather for post-synod discussion

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholic young adults felt the hierarchy started listening to them in preparation for the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people, and they will do whatever they can to make sure their voices continue to be heard, said a youth minister from New Zealand. "May we be bold," was the wish expressed by Isabella McCafferty from the Archdiocese of Wellington at a Vatican news conference June 18. McCafferty was one of more than 280 young people from 109 countries set to take part in a post-synod Youth Forum June 19-22. The Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life asked bishops' conferences around the world to identify two young adult leaders to participate in the forum, being held at a retreat center just south of Rome. Schonstatt Father Alexandre Awi Mello, secretary of the dicastery, told reporters, "There is always a risk that after a big event people lose enthusiasm, move on to the next thing," but Pope Francis and the dicastery are serious about not letting that happen.

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  • Lexington's pastoral plan calls for 'A Community of Missionary Disciples'

    LEXINGTON, Ky. (CNS) -- LEXINGTON, Ky. (CNS) -- The Diocese of Lexington issued a new pastoral plan on Pentecost focusing on its missionary call to serve the 50 counties in central and eastern Kentucky that make up the diocese. Pentecost, which was June 9 this year, commemorates the Holy Spirit descending upon the apostles and other followers of Christ and, as the document explains, signifies two foundational aspects of the church's nature: community and mission.The diocesan plan is inspired by Pope Francis' 2013 apostolic exhortation, "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel"), because it conveyed the same missionary spirit of rejoicing and gratitude. The plan's prologue describes Pope Francis' open invitation to Catholics "to rediscover the joy of the Gospel and to share that joy with the world." The pastoral plan outlines five mission priorities: evangelization, sacramental ministry, unity/communion, faith formation and stewardship. Some focus areas include outreach to the youth, promotion of dialogue and community, appreciation of cultural diversity and differences, creation of new initiatives for catechesis and collaboration with various regions of the diocese. "It is my hope and fervent prayer that our local church will embrace this vision and commit to the transformation of society that is at the heart of the Gospel call to conversion," said Lexington Bishop John Stowe said.

    Educational program lifts up immigrant women and their families

    HOUSTON (CNS) -- A special Mass in Houston for 1,000 Hispanic women at the Catholic Charismatic Center was celebrated to recognize the 217 women graduating from a five-year program called the Asociacion Mexicana de Superacion Integral de la Familia. Founded by a group of Catholic laywomen in Mexico more than 40 years ago, the educational program for immigrant women teaches English and provides classes on spiritual development, health exams and other topics. Known as the Mexican Association of Integral Improvement of the Family in English, it is best known as AMSIF. It was introduced to the Houston-Galveston area in 2013 through the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston's Office of Hispanic Ministry. First starting in Houston at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, the program has quickly expanded and now St. Leo the Great Catholic Church and Prince of Peace Catholic Church have some of the largest groups of participants. More than 1,000 Houston-area women participate and meet at 26 Catholic churches as "Advancement Family Centers" in the archdiocese. In interviews with Telemundo and Univision, Fabiola Veytia, AMSIF's U.S. coordinator, congratulated the graduates. "We are here to help women realize that they matter, that they count in life. It's important for them to help their spouses, their families and their communities."

    Lifetime film called an 'extraordinary story of power of bravery, faith'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The story of an angry, ill boy, a school, an AK-47, and 500 rounds of ammunition, poised to end in tragedy, is rewritten by an empathetic bookkeeper, Antoinette Tuff, whose unswerving faith changes the boy's heart and saves countless lives. Based on this true story, "Faith Under Fire: The Antoinette Tuff Story," a Lifetime film by Emmy-winning actor and director Vondie Curtis-Hall, was honored with a Christopher Award May 23 for affirming "the highest values of the human spirit." Curtis-Hall was one of five winners in the TV and cable category for his film, which dramatizes the true story of what almost became a tragic school shooting at the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Atlanta. Curtis-Hall was first approached with the script by Toni Braxton, who played Tuff, and her producer. "I read the story and I was blown away because so often these stories don't manifest with this type of ending," Curtis-Hall told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview. "So I just thought it was an extraordinary story of the power of bravery and faith and surrender, and the power of stepping outside of your own mental cognitive space."

    Georgetown panel discussion examines 'a wounded church and divided nation'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- An air of resignation and frustration overtook Georgetown University's Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life panel as it discussed the ongoing clergy sexual abuse crisis. It was, moderator John Carr observed, the seventh time the initiative had focused exclusively on it. "Lay leadership," Carr said, needs to be "building on what we do rather than what our leaders say." Looming over the event, titled "Lay Leadership for a Wounded Church and Divided Nation," were the six-year prison sentence for Australian Cardinal George Pell for being convicted of sexually assaulting two choirboys, and the recent report on financial and sexual improprieties by retired Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia. The June 14 event followed the spring meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which was almost entirely devoted to actions to address the abuse crisis by responding to the misconduct of some bishops and the failure of some bishops to properly address abuse. The bishops passed all the abuse measures before them, but none of them said these actions would hit the reset button for the church. In closing remarks, Cardinal DiNardo acknowledged that the steps they had taken were a "work in progress." "The bishops, as a body, have lost a sense of moral credibility," said panelist Kathleen Domingo, senior director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. "The credibility of individual Catholics -- I don't think that credibility has been lost. I think we have a sort of street cred."

    Catechist instructor shot dead in southern Mexico

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- A catechist instructor was shot dead at a chapel in Chiapas state -- another example of how the violence consuming Mexico is impacting the Catholic Church. The attack occurred June 15 in Acacoyagua, some 75 miles from the border with Guatemala, where 30 catechist instructors were finishing a course at the Immaculate Conception chapel, according to Bishop Jaime Calderon of Tapachula. Two young men arrived at the chapel and opened fire on the instructors. Margeli Lang Antonio, a catechist instructor, was struck by multiple gunshots and died in the attack, Bishop Calderon said. Motives for the crime are unknown, and the assailants remain at large. The diocese was among "the victims of the generalized violence the country is experiencing," Bishop Calderon said in a June 16 news conference. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has created a militarized police known as the National Guard to calm the country. The guard's first deployment, however, will be to the Tapachula area in order to slow the stream of migrants coming out of Central America.

    Everyone's temperament God-given but allows room for growth, says couple

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Drawing from their own lives and personalities, Art and Laraine Bennett spoke at a GIVEN forum June 13 about the four ancient personality types, revealing each of their strengths and weaknesses, and how to unlock each individual's potential to best serve God. The couple's presentation was one of many concerning leadership, discernment, and prayer life at the GIVEN institutes Catholic young women's leadership forum, which ran at The Catholic University of America June 12-16. Organizers structured the program to help the 120 young Catholic women discover and accept their God-given gifts, and to apply them to strengthen the Catholic community. The Bennetts spoke on accepting and utilizing "The Temperament God Gave You," also the title of the book they co-wrote. The four temperaments include choleric, phlegmatic, sanguine and melancholic. According to the Bennetts, the choleric reacts quickly and decisively, but often impulsively. On the opposite pole is the phlegmatic, who is calm, slow to act and form opinions, and generally attracted to peace. The sanguine is the classic "people person," who loves to socialize, bring harmony to social environments, and please other people. Opposed this is the melancholic, who is idealistic, analytic, deeply thoughtful and slow to react. "The temperament is a God-given gift, and that's great. But we want to grow in virtue. We don't think you actually change your temperament, you just acquire more virtues," Art Bennett.

    Quebec government passes Canada's strictest secularism bill

    QUEBEC CITY (CNS) -- A new law in Quebec prohibits the wearing of religious symbols or clothing by some government employees, including public school teachers, state lawyers, judges and police officers. The National Council of Canadian Muslims announced June 17 it will legally challenge the new bill. "Late last night the Quebec government legalized discrimination on the basis of religion," wrote the organization. It called the last-minute amendments about the surveillance provisions of workplaces "deeply troubling." Quebec's majority government passed the bill, 75-35, using closure June 16 after long hours of deliberation. Some last-minute amendments concerning surveillance provisions made the law more stringent than anticipated. Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion Simon Jolin-Barrette introduced Bill 21 March 28. It sparked controversy and heated debates; many feared it might alienate some citizens, especially Muslim women. Most religious groups -- including Christians and Muslims -- were not invited to participate in May's hearings at a National Assembly commission.

    Update: Maronite bishops urge repatriation of Syrian refugees from Lebanon

    BEIRUT (CNS) -- Maronite Catholic bishops from around the world, meeting in Lebanon, called for unity among politicians and the international community to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees. Returning the refugees to their homeland, the bishops said in their synod final statement, would lift Lebanon from the "heavy burden" it faces in hosting them, which they noted is recognized by international authorities as "exceeding Lebanon's potential." It also would encourage the preservation of Syria's history, heritage and culture, the bishops said. With an existing population of around 4 million, Lebanon has absorbed more than 1.5 million refugees from neighboring Syria. This has inflicted humanitarian and socio-economic strains on the tiny country, about two thirds the size of Connecticut. Lebanon has the world's highest number of refugees per capita. The Maronite prelates also pointed to Lebanon's housing crisis, calling on government officials to revive housing loans, which were suspended due to a weakening of the central bank's capacities. The stagnation, the bishops said, is forcing young couples to abandon marriage and plans for a family and a future. The bishops stressed that the housing sector is vital to the country's economic growth, trade and production.

    Victoria bishops become 'conscientious objectors' to assisted suicide law

    MELBOURNE, Australia (CNS) -- As euthanasia becomes legal in Australia's Victoria state, its bishops said Catholic health care services will not cooperate with the facilitation of suicide. "We cannot cooperate with the facilitation of suicide, even when it seems motivated by empathy or kindness," Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne, Bishop Paul Bird of Ballarat, Bishop Patrick O'Regan of Sale and Bishop Leslie Tomlinson of Sandhurst said in a June 14 pastoral letter. The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act takes effect June 19 in Victoria. Any resident of the southeastern state over 18, with a terminal illness and with less than six months to live can request a lethal dose of medication under the new legislation. "All of us who hold a principled opposition to euthanasia are now, in effect, conscientious objectors," the bishops said. "These words will sound hard to hear, but as pastors" of Victoria's dioceses "we feel a responsibility not just to say 'no' to VAD, but to give every encouragement to model a way of life" that renders euthanasia unnecessary, they said.

    Young women urged to reject ego, focus on life of integrity, honesty

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Spiritual advice was mixed with practical suggestions at the GIVEN Catholic Young Women's Leadership Forum held at The Catholic University of America in Washington. "To prepare yourself for motherhood, consider getting rid of your television and your smartphone," said Jeanne Schindler, an author, lecturer and former college professor at the forum's June 14 session. She said that not only does it end distractions, but it also supports the notion of a home "as a place of order and wonder." Elizabeth Kirk, director of the Institute of Faith and Culture at the University of Kansas, found herself in full agreement. "We got rid of our TV on Oct. 27, and my husband and I consider it the best decision we ever made," she told 120 attendees, most of whom were laywomen between the ages of 21 and 30. GIVEN is a year-round initiative which began in 2016 with the goal of helping young women embrace what St. John Paul II called the "feminine genius." Among its objectives are leadership training, faith formation, and the support of mentors to help young women better understand and pursue their particular mission and/or vocation. It was originated by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious. The nonprofit GIVEN Institute was founded last September. The forum is held annually; this year's event was June 12-16.

    Oregon parish mourns couple's departure to avert deportation threat

    PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- A well-known Portland Catholic married couple has moved to Canada because attorneys could not find a clear path to resolve the pair's immigration status. Osmin Zelaya and Wendy Tacuba packed their belongings and readied their 4-year-old daughter, Aliena, and drove north in May to a welcome in British Columbia. Friends at St. Andrew Parish held a poignant farewell party. Zelaya and Tacuba faced a dilemma. Staying in Portland might mean deportation for Zelaya, a Nicaraguan whose temporary protected status has been revoked by a new federal policy. "It has been difficult to say goodbye to our community in Portland, a place where our friends and family live, a place we call home," said Zelaya, a natural resources advocate. "We are leaving not because we want to but because we have to if we want to keep our family together." Tacuba, 34, had been in Portland since she was 9; Tacuba had U.S. residency under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, another program with an uncertain future. Zelaya and Tacuba met as students at Mount Hood Community College. Leaving St. Andrew was one of the most difficult tasks, said Tacuba. Aliena was baptized there. The couple's first priority in British Columbia was to find a Catholic parish.

    Former priest arrested in Italy extradited to Arizona, formally arraigned

    PHOENIX (CNS) -- Joseph J. Henn, a former Salvatorian priest, was brought back to Arizona by U.S. marshals after his arrest in Rome by Italian police May 28 and was formally arraigned June 14 on 13 charges of child sexual molestation in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix. In Arizona, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said in a statement that "neither position nor title will shield someone who harms children from accountability." Henn was accused of molesting at least three boys under the age of 15 between 1979 and 1981 when he was living and working in Phoenix. He served at St. Mark Parish in Phoenix from 1978 to 1982 as a Salvatorian priest. In 2003, Arizona's Maricopa County indicted him on 13 counts related to child molestation. He fled to Italy, where he was arrested in 2005. That country's highest court confirmed his extradition to the United States to stand trial, but he disappeared before he could be extradited. Henn was expelled from his order and removed from the priesthood in 2006. In a May 31 statement about Henn's arrest, the Diocese of Phoenix said it was pleased he had been apprehended. The diocese also said it supported the efforts of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office to extradite Henn and return him to the United States "to face the criminal charges against him."

    Bishop to remain with Hong Kong protesters 'no matter how long they stay'

    HONG KONG (CNS) -- As massive protests continued in Hong Kong, the auxiliary bishop pledged to remain with those opposing a controversial extradition bill and the resignation of the Chinese territory's leader. Although chief executive Carrie Lam announced June 15 that she had suspended the bill, Hong Kong people were not satisfied and turned out in even greater numbers June 16 than the 1 million estimated to have marched on June 9, reported The Civil Human Rights Front estimated that about 2 million people joined the latest rally -- a record for a protest in Hong Kong -- but police claimed only 338,000 attended. Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing of Hong Kong took part in a continuous ecumenical prayer meeting outside the Legislative Council building with thousands of Christians overnight after the latest rally, reported. Asked by media at midnight whether he would leave the young protesters, the 60-year-old bishop said: "I don't care. No matter how long they stay, I will continue to stay with them. The shepherd should not just be with the sheep but also guide them."

    Don't let quake shake your hope, pope tells earthquake survivors

    CAMERINO, Italy (CNS) -- Wearing a firefighter's helmet painted white and gold for the occasion, Pope Francis entered the earthquake-damaged cathedral in Camerino and prayed before a statue of Mary missing the top of its head. The pope began his visit June 16 outside the historic city by visiting the temporary modular homes of dozens of families who lost everything when an earthquake struck the region in October 2016. Pope Francis arrived in the town early in the morning, and the first couple he visited insisted he try a pastry. "I had breakfast before I left," he explained. But the woman said she would be offended if he didn't try just one, so he did. A few doors down, a young woman holding a small, squirming dog told him, "I can't believe you are really here." The centerpiece of the pope's visit was the celebration of Mass in the small square outside the still-closed cathedral.

    Paris archbishop celebrates first Mass in Notre Dame since fire

    PARIS (CNS) -- The archbishop of Paris wore a hard hat as he celebrated the first Mass in Notre Dame Cathedral since a huge blaze devastated the landmark building in April. The Mass was celebrated in the Chapel of the Virgin June 15 by Archbishop Michel Aupetit to mark the anniversary of the consecration of the cathedral's altar, an event that usually takes place June 16 each year. About 30 invited guests -- mostly clergy, cathedral employees and building contractors -- wore protective headgear because of dangers of falling masonry, although the Virgin chapel, situated behind the choir, had been designated as safe. In his homily, Archbishop Aupetit did not mention the fire but stressed the purpose of Notre Dame as a place of Christian worship, and not an ornament of the secular state. He said the building could never be reduced to a cultural or "patrimonial good" and warned the congregation that if Jesus was removed as the cornerstone, it would collapse in a spiritual rather than a physical sense.

    Synod document raises possibility of married priests, roles for women

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church must find ways to reach indigenous Catholics deprived of the sacraments in the most remote areas of the Amazon rainforest, and that may include ordaining married elders, said the working document for the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon. "Affirming that celibacy is a gift for the church, in order to ensure the sacraments for the most remote areas of the region, we are asked to study the possibility of priestly ordination for elders -- preferably indigenous, respected and accepted by the community -- even though they have an established and stable family," said the document. Published by the Vatican June 17, the document also said the church should consider "an official ministry that can be conferred upon women, taking into account the central role they play in the Amazonian church." The document, drafted after input from bishops' conferences and local communities, acknowledged that in the church "the feminine presence in communities isn't always valued." Those responding to a synod questionnaire asked that women's "gifts and talents" be recognized and that the church "guarantee women leadership as well as increasingly broad and relevant space in the field of formation: theology, catechesis, liturgy and schools of faith and politics," the 45-page document said. The synod gathering in October 2019 will reflect on the theme "Amazonia: New paths for the church and for an integral ecology."

    Update: Mitigate global warming, spare further injustice to poor, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Faced with a climate emergency, the world must act immediately to mitigate global warming and avoid committing "a brutal act of injustice" on the poor and future generations, Pope Francis told a group of energy and oil executives and global investors. "Time is running out! Deliberations must go beyond mere exploration of what can be done and concentrate on what needs to be done from today onward," he said. "We do not have the luxury of waiting for others to step forward or of prioritizing short-term economic benefits. The climate crisis requires our decisive action, here and now," he said June 14 at the Vatican. The pope spoke to leaders taking part in a conference June 13-14 on "Energy Transition and Care for Our Common Home," sponsored by the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. It was the second private meeting -- the first was in June 2018 -- aimed at dialogue with invited executives of leading energy, petroleum and natural gas companies, global investment firms, climate scholars and academics. Organizers said that participants this year included CEOs from Royal Dutch Shell, British Petroleum, Occidental Petroleum, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips.

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