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  • Decline in baptisms leads Quebec church to rethink children's spirituality

    IMAGE: CNS photo/Philippe Vaillancourt, Presence

    By Philippe Vaillancourt

    QUEBEC CITY (CNS) -- The great doorway to growing in the Christian faith is narrowing from year to year in Quebec as baptisms have significantly declined in since 2012 and there's no indication the trend will reverse.

    Confronted with a shift away from traditional practices of transmitting the faith in childhood, leaders in the Quebec church are rethinking how to approach children's spirituality.

    Data compiled by the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec shows the number baptisms declined from 42,213 (of 88,933 births) in 2012 to 30,394 (of 83,900 births) in 2017. The figures represent a 28% decline in five years.

    Clement Vigneault, director of the Catechesis Office of Quebec, is closely monitoring the situation. Before the question of baptizing and catechizing children is even raised, he sees a growing concern -- especially among grandparents -- to consider the spiritual life of children.

    "There's a trend of waiting to baptize children in order to give them the opportunity to choose later," he said. "But how will they choose if they have never been accompanied in their spiritual life?"

    Elaine Champagne, associate professor of theology and religious studies at Laval University, has been working on children's spirituality for several years. It was while working in pediatric health care for eight years that she developed her interest in the topic.

    She noted that spiritual care in health facilities was mainly oriented toward parents and that children sometimes were forgotten. She said, however, that being interested in this "sacred, very personal space" in children is just as important.

    "You have to be respectful and listen a lot," Champagne said.

    Champagne's research has enabled her to identify three modes to better grasp children's spirituality in everyday life.

    The "existential" mode is interested in how they live in the present. In the "sensitive" mode, children communicate with their bodies and senses. "Something is said all over their bodies. The whole body expresses it, their being is coherent," Champagne said. In the "relational" mode, it's about the relationship to oneself, to others, to God and to one's environment.

    Champagne invites adults to go beyond the image they many have of children's spirituality, which is sometimes made up of projections. Certainly, the children have a "beautiful capacity for wonder," but it's also necessary to know how to respect that "in this state of becoming, there's fragility, a dependence."

    The Rev. Jean-Daniel Williams is working on a doctorate in practical theology on children's ministries. As a part-time chaplain at McGill University and an associate priest at the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal, he works with children of all ages.

    "There's of course a difference between a 3-year-old and a 10-year-old child. However, it should be emphasized that children are completely human from the beginning. If we see children as adults in the making, we don't respect the reality of their current spirituality," he explained.

    For Rev. Williams, children are the "most spiritual beings in the world" simply because they ask so many questions. "It's a bit cliche to talk about children always asking, 'Why,'" he said. "But isn't the very foundation of religion people asking, 'Why?'"

    Curiosity and openness are, he said, two distinct marks of children's spirituality.

    "It's important to understand that in institutional religion, there has been a tradition of having a normalized path: baptism, communion and so on. But the questions "Why I exist?" "How to make the right moral choice?" "Do I belong to something bigger than myself?" remain regardless of the institutional or family context," said Rev. Williams, who is the father of 11-year-old twins.

    Rev. Williams reminds that it's difficult to find the right balance to recognize the child as he or she is without treating the child as an adult. He believes that churches have not always been able to set an example in this regard.

    "Jesus says we must attract children with all our hearts. Otherwise we are not the church."

    Author of "Entre ciel et mere" ("Between Heaven and Mother"), a book of personal reflections on her role as a mother concerned about transmitting her Catholic faith, Valerie Roberge-Dion, believes that from a Christian perspective, spirituality is marked "by the great criterion of love."

    "The child awakens to love as he or she grows," Roberge-Dion, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Quebec, said of her three children, ages 7, 5 and 2. "I can see in my children that they are gradually opening up to others, becoming capable of empathy, small attentions. ... I help them to be attentive to what's stirring in them and to name the emotions that color their inner life.

    "As believers, my husband and I have exposed our children to our ways of growing in faith: Masses, activities with other believing families. We also take time every evening to do a little prayer with the family, very often chaotic. But we are trying to create a moment of communion, which is the most important thing," she said.

    In order to allow children younger than 5 years old to "awaken to the faith while having fun," officials from the Office of Faith Education of the Archdiocese of Montreal asked Christiane Boulva to develop what would become "La P'tite Pasto," or "little pastoral." Its English version is called Little Hearts Playgroup.

    The program covers 60 themes over a three-year period. It is being used in more than 100 parishes throughout Quebec as well as in Alberta, Manitoba and Yukon.

    Boulva, a mother who was interested in faith development in children, is concerned about the lack of places where children can hear about spirituality today.

    "In the future, our society must succeed in reaching them where they will be and offer them and their parents activities adapted to their aspirations, their dreams and the challenges they face on a daily basis by directly meeting their needs," Boulva said.

    In doing so, it is not necessary to be afraid to discuss spirituality with children at an early stage, she said, cautioning parents to beware that such efforts are not so much a question of wanting to "explain" God as it is of allowing children to "get to know him on a daily basis."

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    Editors: Information about the Little Hearts Playgroup is online at

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    Vaillancourt is editor of Presence info in Montreal.


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  • Pope names Archbishop Caccia as new envoy to United Nations

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Pope Francis' choice to be the Holy See's new permanent observer to the United Nations, said the pope has given him the mission of enlightening international discussions and debates with the principles of Catholic social teaching. The 61-year-old Italian archbishop has been serving as the apostolic nuncio to the Philippines since September 2017. His appointment to the U.N. post was announced by the Vatican Nov. 16. "I have really loved my time in the Philippines and will miss this beautiful country and its faithful people, to whom I express my deepest gratitude," Archbishop Caccia said in a statement released by the Holy See's U.N. office. The archbishop will take up his new post Jan. 16. "I hope to be able to fulfill well the new task Pope Francis has entrusted to me, seeking to bring the light of Catholic social teaching to the discussions and debates of the international community," he said. Archbishop Caccia succeeds Archbishop Bernardito Auza, who Pope Francis named in October as nuncio to Spain and Andorra.

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  • Archbishop urges L.A. Catholics to join him in prayer for shooting victims

    LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez asked Catholics of the archdiocese to pray with him for the victims of the Nov. 14 shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. "May God comfort their families and loved ones and bring healing. May Our Blessed Mother keep them all in her maternal care and may God give them peace," he said in a tweet a few hours after the shooting. The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department identified the suspected shooter as Nathaniel Berhow, a member of the track team and a Boy Scout who was described as a hardworking student and quiet but friendly, according to the Los Angeles Times. Sometime after the second period of school, news reports said, he allegedly pulled a 45-caliber pistol from his backpack and shot it for 16 seconds. Two students, a 15-year-old girl and 14-year-old boy, died from their wounds shortly after being taken to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in Valencia. Three students were injured. One, a 14-year-old boy, was treated and released; two of the injured, a 15-year-old girl and a 14-year-old girl, were admitted to Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills but were expected to be released in a couple of days. After shooting the others, Nathaniel shot himself in the head and was in critical condition; some news reports said he was brain dead.

    Prayers, vigil for death-row inmate Rodney Reed held outside Supreme Court

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In the hours before Supreme Court justices met in conference Nov. 15 to decide if they would take up the case of Rodney Reed, a death-row inmate scheduled for execution Nov. 20, Reed supporters kept vigil on the court steps. They gathered the night before the justices' scheduled conference holding candles and posters saying Reed was innocent. They returned the next morning along with members of a number of faith groups to show support for Reed and to pray for an end to the death penalty in this country. Members of the Catholic Mobilizing Network -- a group working to end the death penalty -- joined the vigil Nov. 14 and members of Pax Christi USA were part of a prayer service the following morning. Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network, told Catholic News Service in an email that Reed's case has captured the attention of so many people because there is "a visceral reaction, on a very human level, to situations where an innocent person is about to be executed, especially in a state that has the unfortunate distinction of being notorious for executions." Reed's case has gained attention of celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Rihanna, Meek Mill and Kim Kardashian West, along with anti-death penalty advocate Sister Helen Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille, and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas. They all have urged Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to stop Reed's scheduled execution. A group of Texas lawmakers and nearly 3 million petition signers have also urged the Abbott not to execute Reed.

    Vatican's top investigator on abuse crisis addresses Notre Dame forum

    SOUTH BEND, Ind. (CNS) -- U.S. Catholics "have to be prepared for another wave of traumatic narrative" regarding the clergy sex abuse crisis, Archbishop Charles Scicluna said Nov. 13 at the University of Notre Dame. Archbishop Scicluna of Malta is adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Vatican's chief investigator on clergy sexual abuse. He spoke at the University of Notre Dame as part of the school's 2019-2020 forum titled "'Rebuild My Church': Crisis and Response." The archbishop's remarks were made in a conversational format, in which he first answered questions from moderator John Allen, longtime Vatican reporter and editor of Crux, an online Catholic news outlet. He then fielded questions from the mostly student audience. Archbishop Scicluna made his comment about "another wave of traumatic narrative" in response to a question from Allen, who alluded to the 2018 abuse revelations surrounding now-disgraced former U.S. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick. At the forum, Allen acknowledged Archbishop Scicluna could not comment on the McCarrick case, but he noted that many Catholics wonder if anything really has changed since the U.S. bishops issued their "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" in 2002.

    Update: Pope accepts resignation of Auxiliary Bishop John Bura

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Auxiliary Bishop John Bura of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia. He is 75, the age at which canon law requires bishops to submit a letter of resignation. The resignation was announced in Washington Nov. 15 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Bishop Bura has served as the auxiliary bishop of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia since 2006. From 2009 to 2014, he served as apostolic administrator of the Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma, Ohio. "Bishop John is a kind and noble man who has served God, the church and the community at large with dedication, both as a priest and as a bishop," said Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak, head of the archeparchy and metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States. "Throughout a life that began in great danger and hardship, he remained faithful," the archbishop said in a statement. Since his own enthronement in June as head of the archeparchy, Archbishop Gudziak said, "Bishop John has been for me a most valuable and reliable guide for understanding the pastoral history and current issues of our archeparchy. He added: "Our prayers are that the Lord will grant him good health and longevity in retirement as he begins this new chapter in his life."

    New York bishops meet pope at end of 'ad limina' visits

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When Pope Francis met with bishops from New York state, he expressed his gratitude, recognizing the difficulties many of them were facing, said Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany. At the meeting Nov. 15, Pope Francis told the bishops from the eight dioceses to speak frankly and from the heart; "it was intense, in terms of the painful situations we shared," the bishop told Catholic News Service. But at the same time, the Albany bishop said, "it was joyful, there is a sense of hope," because of the sincere listening, understanding and desire to support dioceses they experienced during the papal audience and the series of meetings with officials of the Roman Curia during their Nov. 11-15 "ad limina" visit. "It was very, very edifying. I don't want to paint a rosy picture because the topics were not easy," he said in an interview a few hours after the papal audience. Each bishop, he said, talked about issues that were "close to their own hearts, like myself, I spoke about the work we're trying to do in assistance to victims and survivors" of clerical sexual abuse. Other issues brought up by the other bishops, he said, included education and the plight of immigrants. "What was heartwarming was how you could tell that Pope Francis was listening with his heart, and he expressed his gratitude realizing that we are in difficult situations where there is lots of pain and expressed great admiration for the work that's been done."

    Update: Nicaraguan authorities block priest, families from attending Mass

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- A Nicaraguan priest has denounced intimidation by the police, who surrounded his parish in the city of Masaya, cut power and water to the building and prevented family members of political prisoners from attending a Mass in their honor. Mass was celebrated Nov. 14, in Masaya, but only a small number of families could enter the parish. Videos shared on social media show Father Edwing Roman attempting to bring the families through police lines in front of St. Michael Parish. "We only want to celebrate the Eucharist," he can be heard saying as police blocked his path. He later told the press from the doors of his parish, "Let the world see and know that there is not freedom of worship in Nicaragua." Father Roman then added in a message directed at President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo, "(They) are showing their weakness, that they're in an unstable position and that one of these day Nicaragua will toss them into the trash bin of history." Protesters rose up against Ortega in April 2018, but were violently repressed as he clung to power and accused them of "coup mongering" and "terrorism."

    Iowa youth help California, Alaska teens get to national youth conference

    DUBUQUE, Iowa (CNS) -- The Archdiocese of Dubuque is once again this year sending the largest delegation in the country to the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis. From Nov. 21-23, more than 1,200 teens and more than 400 adult chaperones from across the archdiocese will be attending the biennial event, which usually draws close to 23,000 participants. While having a large number of NCYC participants is not new for the Iowa archdiocese, the effort by its young people to help their peers from other dioceses also attend is taking place for the first time. Participants from parishes in the archdiocese have raised more than $5,000 for the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska, and the Diocese of San Bernardino, California, to help offset travel costs for teens in those locations who wish to attend NCYC. This funding help was the idea of Kevin Feyen, director of adolescent faith formation for the Archdiocese of Dubuque. While talking about NCYC with other diocesan directors from around the country, Feyen learned how expensive it was for dioceses in the western part of the U.S. to send their young people. "The price for them to attend NCYC was three times more than it is for our teens," Feyen told The Witness, Dubuque's archdiocesan newspaper. "Most were only bringing 10 to 12 people."

    Update: Chile bishops urge talks to end protests, injustice country faces

    LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- Chile's bishops called for national dialogue and an end to the violence that has wracked the country for the past month. Their pleas to end the violent protests came in two messages after demonstrators sacked the Assumption of Mary Parish in Santiago, the Chilean capital, Nov. 8, burning pews and statues. Other parishes also were attacked, including one in the southern city of Valparaiso. "We are pained by the mistreatment of people, the constant looting and the violence, whatever its source," the bishops wrote in a statement Nov. 9. "We are hurt by the attack on churches and places of prayer with no respect for God for those who believe in him. Churches and other places of worship are sacred." The bishops said they "radically oppose injustice and violence" and called for those responsible to be identified and punished through the judicial system. Violent protesters "only impede us from paying due attention to the just demands of the majority of Chilean people, who long for real and peaceful solutions," they wrote.

    Pope's cousin, missionary in Thailand, will serve as his translator

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' translator in Thailand will be someone familiar with the nuances and colloquialisms of his Argentine Spanish because she grew up speaking it with him. Salesian Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, the pope's second cousin and a missionary in Thailand for more than 50 years, will translate for Pope Francis during his stay Nov. 20-23 in Thailand, said Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office. Briefing the press Nov. 15 about what to expect during the trip, Bruni also told reporters that Iwao Hakamada, an 83-year-old man who had spent 48 years on death row, had been invited by the Japanese bishops to attend the Mass Pope Francis will celebrate Nov. 25 in Tokyo. Hakamada, a former boxer, was convicted in 1968 on multiple counts of murder and was sentenced to be hanged. Numerous times courts declined to hear his appeals, but in 2014 a district court ordered his release while considering new DNA evidence. A new trial has not been held. "The pope's position on the death penalty is clear," Bruni said. Pope Francis in 2018 ordered an updating of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to assert "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person." He also committed the church to working toward abolition of capital punishment worldwide.

    Decline in baptisms leads Quebec church to rethink children's spirituality

    QUEBEC CITY (CNS) -- The great doorway to growing in the Christian faith is narrowing from year to year in Quebec as baptisms have significantly declined in since 2012 and there's no indication the trend will reverse. Confronted with a shift away from traditional practices of transmitting the faith in childhood, leaders in the Quebec church are rethinking how to approach children's spirituality. Data compiled by the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec shows the number baptisms declined from 42,213 (of 88,933 births) in 2012 to 30,394 (of 83,900 births) in 2017. The figures represent a 28% decline in five years. Clement Vigneault, director of the Catechesis Office of Quebec, is closely monitoring the situation. Before the question of baptizing and catechizing children is even raised, he sees a growing concern -- especially among grandparents -- to consider the spiritual life of children. "There's a trend of waiting to baptize children in order to give them the opportunity to choose later," he said. "But how will they choose if they have never been accompanied in their spiritual life?"

    Catechism will be updated to include ecological sins, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Following through on a proposal made at the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, Pope Francis said there are plans to include a definition of ecological sins in the church's official teaching. "We should be introducing -- we were thinking -- in the Catechism of the Catholic Church the sin against ecology, ecological sin against the common home," he told participants at a conference on criminal justice Nov. 15. Members of the International Association of Penal Law were in Rome Nov. 13-16 for the conference, which centered on the theme, "Criminal Justice and Corporate Business." Pope Francis also denounced the abuse of law and legislation to justify acts of violence and hatred. Today's throwaway culture, as well as other "psycho-social phenomenon" pose threats to the common good while insidiously promoting a "culture of hate," he said. These threats, he added, often take the form of "symbols and actions that are typical of Nazism."

    Bangladesh archdiocese pays tribute to early Christian martyrs

    CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh (CNS) -- Catholic faithful in a Bangladesh archdiocese paid tribute to early Christian missionaries and martyrs for "priceless sacrifices" that were instrumental in laying the foundation of the church in the south Asian country. Hundreds of Catholics attended a Mass at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Cathedral in the port city of Chittagong Nov. 14 and a blessing of a monument to the martyrs, reported. Archbishop Moses Costa of Chittagong during the ceremonies designated Nov. 14 to be observed in the archdiocese as Christian Martyrs' Day. "Christian faith arrived at Chittagong in 1518 and over the past 500 years, the church has attained maturity in faith," Archbishop Costa said. "We must remember that the Christian faith we behold today has come through a long, sad and bloodied history. Many Christians have shed their blood to keep the faith alive and propagate it," he said. The archbishop announced that every archdiocesan parish would observe Christian Martyrs' Day and pay tribute to Jesuit Father Francesco Fernandez, the first missionary and martyr of Bengal, as well as hundreds of Christian martyrs of the early 17th century.

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  • CLINIC director: Government violates law by not letting in asylum-seekers

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, known as CLINIC, told U.S. Catholic bishops Nov. 13 that the government is violating international and U.S. law when it denies asylum-seekers at the border entry into the U.S. Yet, some 60,000 men, women and children are forced to wait in Mexico for months, said Anna Gallagher in addressing the bishops' fall general assembly in Baltimore. Gallagher spoke of her experience as the daughter of immigrants from Ireland who arrived, much like those at the border, "with next to nothing." Even so, she told the bishops, "my parents arrived with many resources: hard work, faith, resilience, and a deep respect for family and community." But today, she sees a different U.S. than the one her parents entered, she said. When she took a trip to the border prior to starting her new position at CLINIC, "I saw a world that is hard to understand and accept, given our country's resources and values," she said. She spoke of an experience at the border seeing crowded shelters without adequate food and sanitary services and meeting migrants who had faced a variety of travails, including beatings and abuse and one who almost had a child kidnapped in a street in Tijuana, Mexico.

    Nearly 40 U.S. dioceses sign up to participate in #GivingTuesday Dec. 3

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Thirty-nine U.S. archdioceses and dioceses plan to participate in this year's #iGiveCatholic online giving day Dec. 3 to raise funds for 3,600 Catholic organizations. The day is called #GivingTuesday, and #iGiveCatholic officials have seen participation grow each year since the event was created and launched by the Archdiocese of New Orleans in 2015. That year, the archdiocese was the only participant, collecting $1.3 million. Last year, 29 archdioceses and dioceses participated and raised $5.6 million. "As Catholics, we are taught that we are responsible for all gifts we have been entrusted with, and we are compelled to give back from our gratitude and stewardship of those gifts," said Cory Howat, president of #iGiveCatholic, who is executive director of the Catholic Community Foundation for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. "From a personal and 'cradle Catholic' perspective, the impact I see this program has on the church, especially in our mission dioceses and most rural parishes and schools, is inspiring," he added. Details about the annual event can be found on the website It includes information about an advanced giving day period that begins Nov. 18.

    Kenya bishops, pro-life groups reject Nairobi population summit document

    NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- Kenya's Catholic bishops joined with international pro-life groups in rejecting the final document from an international summit on health rights for women and girls because it supported practices contrary to African cultures and religious beliefs. Their objections Nov. 14, the final day of the summit, focused on the inclusion of abortion as vital to sexual and reproductive rights of women and the opening for the introduction of same-sex unions and homosexuality into communities. The Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 met Nov. 12-14 in the Kenyan capital to mark the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994. Kenyan bishops earlier warned that that summit was ploy to introduce abortion and homosexuality in Africa and the developing world. "We are not happy with the summit. We have seen that there are a lot of lies and wrong ideologies in the conference. They are trying to re-create humanity taking the position of God," retired Bishop Alfred Rotich, vice chairman of the Family Life Commission of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Catholic News Service. "We are saying we are not going to be part of any resolution that they have come up with at the summit."

    U.S. church leaders pray for peace as religious heads meet in Lebanon

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops and the Knights of Columbus offered their "prayerful solidarity" to the Assembly of the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon as Iraq and Lebanon experience protests against political corruption and foreign interference. The support came in a Nov. 13 letter from Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus. "We pray that the effect of these protests will be a more just society for all the citizens of these two countries," the letter from the U.S. leaders said. The Mideast leaders were meeting at Bkerke, the Maronite patriarchate north of Beirut. "We urge the Iraqi and Lebanese governments to engage in a meaningful dialogue with those demonstrators, and we stand with you in urging governments to remember they exist to serve the common good of their people," the letter continued. Archbishop Broglio and Anderson wrote that they joined Pope Francis in calling on the Iraqi government to "listen to the cry of the people who are asking for a dignified and peaceful life," especially as government security forces have fired live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas cannisters directly at demonstrators.

    Pope 'seeks to shape' a church 'capable of shaping world,' says priest

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis "seeks to shape a practical ecclesiology -- a church capable of shaping the world," Father J. Bryan Hehir told an audience at Georgetown University in Washington Nov. 12. Father Hehir, a professor of religion and public life at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, delivered an annual lecture sponsored by the university's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. Titled "Vatican Diplomacy: Three Models," the lecture compared the diplomatic engagement styles of Pope Pius XII, St. John Paul II and the current pontiff. Afterward, Father Hehir made a prediction about a future pope, given the demographics of Catholic growth. "My guess is an African pope would not surprise me. And it would have a lot to support it." He also praised Pope Francis for his interactions with President Donald Trump concerning immigration and the southern border wall. In March, before his May 24 meeting with Trump, the pope warned that border-closing politicians "will become prisoners of the walls that they build." After his meeting with Trump, the pope attacked the president's policy of separating families at the border: "It falls into the greatest cruelty. To defend what? The territory, or the economy of the country, or who knows what?"

    Pastoral against racism is starting conversations, healing, bishops told

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- One year after the U.S. bishops approved their pastoral letter against racism, the document is hardly just sitting on a shelf but is the basis for listening sessions in dioceses around the country and is an educational tool for individuals, schools and parishes, the bishops were told Nov. 13. Bishop Shelton T. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, described the attention the letter is getting around the country in a presentation on the final day of the bishops' annual fall meeting in Baltimore. He reminded the bishops that in the two years since the ad hoc committee was formed, it has been "hard at work as the church works to acknowledge past harms and cultivate racial reconciliation." The document, titled "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love -- A Pastoral Letter Against Racism," sold out its first 2,000 copies eight months after it was printed and was recently sent out for a second printing. It is available online in English and Spanish along with study guides at Bishop Fabre said the ad hoc committee's most important work has been the listening sessions that began last August. So far there have been 13 sessions around the country, and more are scheduled for next year. These sessions spring from the very words of the pastoral letter: "We must create opportunities to hear the painful stories of those whose lives have been affected by racism."

    Tone somber at prayer vigil for those facing execution in weeks ahead

    TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (CNS) -- Nearly 100 people were bathed in light as they gathered for a prayer vigil at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Terre Haute, not far from the Federal Correctional Complex. Despite the lights and bright glow, the tone was heavy and somber. They were gathered to pray for the federal death-row inmates and all those affected by their pending executions scheduled for December and January at the prison. Indianapolis Archbishop Charles C. Thompson led the faithful in an hourlong prayer vigil before the Blessed Sacrament. "It's so important that we pray before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament tonight," he said in a reflection he offered as part of the Nov. 5 service. "What needs to remain constant is keeping Christ at the center, so that we are always aware of our dignity and the dignity of others, whether it be perpetrators of horrible crimes, or their victims, or their families, or those who work in correctional facilities." Christ must remain the constant, but church doctrine can develop, the archbishop noted. He explained that when Pope Francis announced in August 2018 that the death penalty was no longer admissible, it wasn't a decision the pontiff "just pulled out of the air. It was something that had been developing through the papacy of St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI," Archbishop Thompson said. "And this is a doctrine that developed along with the development of society."

    Belgian bishops: Proposal would make abortion 'normal medical procedure'

    BRUSSELS (CNS) -- Belgium's Catholic bishops have criticized legislation to liberalize abortion by extending the right to 18 weeks' gestation with just 48 hours of obligatory reflection. In a Nov. 12 statement, the bishops said the proposed measures would change the meaning of abortion by making it a "normal medical procedure," and that the changes had not been properly discussed. "If abortion is seen as a medical act, it also becomes a right -- whoever questions or refuses an abortion will have to answer for it," the bishops said. "But the rule of law guarantees protection of every person's human dignity and physical integrity. Does that not also apply to a human life still growing toward birth? Why pretend it isn't life yet -- and why draw the line there? Why do these questions rarely if ever have a place in the debate?" The European Union's member-countries have widely differing abortion laws, with some, such as Britain and the Netherlands, allowing abortion up to 24 weeks and to term in cases of fetal abnormality or threats to the mother's life. Abortions are currently permitted in Belgium up to 12 weeks, and later only for serious medical reasons.

    Pope appoints Spanish Jesuit to lead Secretariat for the Economy

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis tapped a Spanish Jesuit priest with a background in economics to head the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy. The Vatican announced Nov.14 that the pope named Jesuit Father Juan Antonio Guerrero, general counselor for the Society of Jesus, to lead the office, which had been headed by Australian Cardinal George Pell. Cardinal Pell took a leave of absence in 2017 to return to Australia to face charges of sexually abusing minors. His five-year term as head of the secretariat expired in February, a few months after a jury found him guilty of the charges. Born in Merida, Spain, in 1959, the newly appointed prefect entered the Jesuit order at the age of 20 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1992. He holds degrees in economics, philosophy and theology. Father Guerrero, who has served in various Jesuit missions in his native Spain and abroad, including as treasurer of the Society of Jesus in Mozambique, will take over as prefect in January, the Vatican said. In an interview with Vatican News published shortly after the announcement, Father Guerrero said his appointment as prefect of the secretariat was "something completely unexpected."

    Pope to students: Don't be afraid of truth, never settle for mediocrity

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis told students never to be afraid of their desire for truth and never settle for mediocrity. He encouraged them to live with open hearts and minds, and not just stick with the predominant mindset in a world that believes diversity is conflict. "May you feel a healthy ambition to add something original that also may be concrete and useful," he said Nov. 14, speaking to students and faculty of Rome's LUMSA University. Reflecting on the role of a university, Pope Francis referred to a talk Pope Benedict XVI had been scheduled to deliver in person at Rome's La Sapienza University in 2008 until student protests forced its cancellation: "The true origin of the university lies in the thirst for knowledge that is proper to man. The human being wants to know what everything around him is. He wants truth." Pope Francis said, "We must not be afraid to use this word, in a spirit of sincere dialogue. Truth, liberty, the good," which are pursued through "the integral formation of the person."

    Pope calls on leaders, tech giants to protect children online

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While digital technologies have led to advancements in communication and education, they also have led to the exploitation of children on the internet, Pope Francis said. The "spread of images of abuse or the exploitation of minors is increasing exponentially, involving ever more serious and violent forms of abuse and ever younger children," the pope told participants at a two-day conference sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences. "The challenge before us," he told them Nov. 14, "is to ensure that minors have safe access to these technologies, while at the same time ensuring their healthy and serene development and protecting them from unacceptable criminal violence or grave harm to the integrity of their body and spirit." The Nov. 14-15 conference, titled "Promoting Digital Child Dignity -- From Concept to Action," brought together religious leaders, academics, policymakers and tech industry leaders from around the world to discuss ways to combat the exploitation of children online. According to the pontifical academy's website, the event was "a follow-up of the process that began with a joint commitment for the protection of children during the Child Dignity in the Digital World meeting in 2017."

    Cardinal urges New York bishops to find solace in St. Peter's example

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With rumors swirling around about two of their members, the bishops of New York state reached the centerpiece of their "ad limina" pilgrimage to Rome: the tomb of St. Peter. The bishops' early morning Mass in the grotto of St. Peter's Basilica Nov. 14 came the morning after media reports that Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn has been accused of sexually abusing a minor in the 1970s -- a claim he strongly denied -- and rumors that Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo would step down after an apostolic visitation of his diocese amid claims of his mishandling of abuse allegations. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York was the principal celebrant and homilist at the Mass for the group's visit "ad limina apostolorum," meaning "to the threshold of the apostles." Especially in a time of "difficulty," the cardinal said, St. Peter's life offers encouragement to the bishops because of his unwavering love for Jesus despite not always understanding exactly what Jesus meant and what he was calling his disciples to. Cardinal Dolan said he often has wondered "if the moment when it all made sense for St. Peter, the moment it all came together is when his life was literally turned upside down, when he was crucified upside down." "I wonder if then he said, 'Ah, now I get it.'"

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  • Wenski: Being pro-immigrant is 'living' Christ's call to welcome stranger

    CORAL GABLES, Fla. (CNS) -- At a University of Miami Forum on Religion and Public Life, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami affirmed the rights and dignity of migrants -- from Syrian refugees to Mexican asylees -- drawing upon his 18 years of advocacy for Miami's Haitian community. Amid the nation's increasingly vitriolic immigration debates that often blame victims, the archbishop invited participants to consider "Who Is Our Neighbor?" in the light of Gospel compassion and Catholic social teaching. "Christ came to save 'the least, the last and the lost.' God takes the side of the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized -- we can, too, and must take their side as well," he said at the recent forum, sponsored by the department of religion. "Pope Francis at Lampedusa warned against the 'globalization of indifference.' Today's boat people, like those African refugees in the Mediterranean or the Haitians in the Caribbean, are modern-day Lazaruses who suffer in misery on our doorsteps," Archbishop Wenski said. His many years of immigration advocacy includes past service as director of Catholic Charities in the Miami Archdiocese when he was an auxiliary bishop, board chairman for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, or CLINIC, and chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration.

    Women at Connecticut parish see Bible program as way to help church heal

    NORWALK, Conn. (CNS) -- In an effort to rebuild and heal the Catholic Church in the wake of the sex abuse crisis, women and lay leaders have taken a more central role in the process of bringing families back to Mass. For a group of women at St. Matthew Church in Norwalk in the Diocese of Bridgeport, this renewal effort led them to apply to be an official Walking With Purpose Parish. Walking With Purpose, based in Greenwich, is a women's Bible study founded in 2008 for women to deepen their relationships with Jesus Christ, and becoming an official parish with that designation comes with training and support to run parish-based ongoing studies. "Walking with Purpose has strengthened my connection to both my home parish and the Catholic Church," said participant Mallory Moyer, a mother of three. "I helped run the program at my parish and it got me energized to be a bigger part of the Catholic Church." Prior to applying for the designation, a small group of women at St. Matthew gathered in early 2018 for a short six-week study called "Living in the Father's Love" to see if it would resonate with the group. Soon after completing it, the church applied to be an official Walking With Purpose Parish. By the fall of 2018, the church had nearly 70 participants.

    Update: Bishops hear that third-party reporting system may start in February

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- A third-party reporting system to field sexual misconduct allegations against bishops could be in place by the end of February, an official of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told the bishops during their fall general assembly in Baltimore. The company awarded the contract for the system is working quickly to implement it so that it is in place well before the May 31, 2020, deadline set by Pope Francis, said Anthony Picarello, USCCB associate general secretary, in a Nov. 13 presentation to the bishops on the final day of their three-day meeting. The precise date a toll-free hotline will be activated and links on diocesan and eparchial websites and the USCCB website will go live is going to depend on how quickly each diocese or eparchy can implement the program, Picarello said. The USCCB official explained that the exact date the system will be ready will be communicated with each province, diocese and eparchy. Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Illinois, asked how the system will filter complaints against clergy who, for example, may not exactly follow something as simple as genuflecting after the consecration of the bread and wine at Mass.

    Bishops hear follow-up Encuentro report, OK writing new pastoral plan

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops, aware of the growing numbers of Catholics in the country who are of Hispanic origin, voted to write a new pastoral plan for Latino Catholics that would be produced sometime between 2021 and 2024. The action took place Nov. 12, the second day of the bishops' Nov. 11-13 fall general meeting in Baltimore. The bishops also heard a follow-up to the V Encuentro, or Fifth National Encuentro, held last year in Grapevine, Texas. The Encuentro is a four-year process, and 2019 is year four. Leading up to national gathering were parish, diocesan and regional encuentros. Bishops in their comments detected an urgency in responding to the pastoral needs of Hispanic Catholics, who could constitute a majority of all U.S. Catholics by midcentury. "It's really important that there's a sense of 'we've got to get this done,' or it might come up here or four of five years from now," said retired Auxiliary Bishop William J. Justice of San Francisco. He added that "it's only natural" that the fervor generated at the V Encuentro "has gone down a little bit," but if such a slide continues, "we're in trouble."

    Brooklyn bishop 'categorically' denies claim he abused child decades ago

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- After an attorney threatened to file a lawsuit alleging he abused a child decades ago when he was a priest in New Jersey, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York, issued a statement Nov. 13 denying the accusation and said he "will vigorously defend" himself against the claim. "I am just learning about this allegation. In my nearly 50-year ministry as a priest, I have never engaged in unlawful or inappropriate behavior and I categorically deny this allegation. I am confident I will be fully vindicated," Bishop DiMarzio said in a statement to Catholics of the diocese. The allegation came to light as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrapped up the public portion of its fall meeting in Baltimore. Bishop DiMarzio is currently in Rome with the other bishops of New York for their "ad limina" visits. The bishops were due to meet the pope Nov. 14 or 15 and were scheduled to be in Rome until Nov. 16. The Associated Press published a story Nov. 13 relating an accusation dating to the time the bishop was a priest at St. Nicholas Parish in Jersey City, New Jersey, in the 1970s. A native of Newark, he was ordained a priest for the Newark Archdiocese in 1970. "There will be a legal process now and I will vigorously defend myself against this false allegation," Bishop DiMarzio said in the statement. "I am confident I will be fully exonerated."

    Catholic Charities program strives to ease chronic homelessness

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- An experimental program to address chronic homelessness is guiding people into permanent housing while saving millions of dollars in health care costs, the president of Catholic Charities USA told the U.S. bishops. Dominican Sister Donna Markham said Nov. 13, the third day of the bishops' fall general assembly in Baltimore, the agency's healthy housing initiative is collaborating with diocesan Catholic Charities programs, parishes, local funders, and Catholic health care systems to deliver comprehensive services for homeless people. The program involves placing homeless people into stable housing and providing essential supportive services to reduce hospital readmissions while ensuring that basic needs are met. Chronically homeless people are among the primary users of hospital emergency room care across the country because they do not have ready access to a physician or a medical clinic when they become ill or injured, Sister Markham explained. After they are discharged, homeless people often return repeatedly for care because of their lack of access to routine services on the street or a resurgence in illness or injury that caused them to seek help in the first place. The program is underway in collaboration with diocesan Catholic Charities operations in Detroit; St. Louis; Las Vegas; Portland, Oregon; and Spokane, Washington. The goal is to reduce chronic homelessness in the communities 20% by 2024, Sister Markham said.

    Pope, Anglican archbishop affirm desire to visit South Sudan together

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, said they would travel together to South Sudan if the country's leaders fulfill their promise to form a transitional government by late February. The pope and Archbishop Welby met at the Vatican Nov. 13 while the Anglican leader was in Rome to install a new director of the city's Anglican Centre. "During the friendly discussions, the condition of Christians in the world was mentioned, as well as certain situations of international crisis, particularly the sorrowful situation in South Sudan," the Vatican press office said in a statement later. "At the end of the meeting," the statement continued, "the Holy Father and the archbishop of Canterbury agreed that if the political situation in the country permits the creation of a transitional government of national unity in the coming 100 days, according to the timing set by the recent agreement signed in Entebbe, in Uganda, it is their intention to visit South Sudan together."

    Bishops urged to heed pope's call: Listen to and accompany young people

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The day after the U.S. bishops were encouraged at their Baltimore meeting to bring young people back to the church, they were urged to also pay more attention to and support the teens and young adults among them in parishes and church programs. To help them do this, they were advised Nov. 12 to use "Christus Vivit" ("Christ Lives") -- Pope Francis' reflection on the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment -- as their guide. "'Christus Vivit' is a call to action for everyone in the life of the church regardless of our age," said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, a delegate to last year's Synod of Bishops on young people. In remarks on the second day of the bishops' Nov. 11-13 meeting, he acknowledged that many in the room might feel uncertain about how to respond to and help young people in the church, but he said they can find encouragement from the pope's message and, in particular, his sentiment that young people are the church's hope. The pope's apostolic exhortation -- which is both a letter to young people about their place in the church and a plea for older members to encourage them -- was described by Bishop Caggiano as a call to action and a moment of grace that "we should not and cannot allow to slip away."

    Bishops listen to grim landscape of policy on the immigration front

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- In a wide-ranging report on immigration Nov. 12, U.S. bishops heard a grim landscape facing immigrants and refugees trying to find shelter in the United States. But they also heard of the wide network of Catholic organizations trying to help, even as they, too, face challenges. Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, president-elect of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke of how the reduction in the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. had led to the closing of 18 Catholic Charities programs around the country that had been serving refugees for over 40 years. That's because the cap on how many refugees are allowed to enter the U.S. keeps being cut by the Trump administration. The administration approved just 18,000 refugees to be admitted for fiscal year 2020, when the average number allowed under other administrations, Republican and Democrat, was about 95,000, Archbishop Gomez said. "What is going on here is truly a great reduction in our commitment to refugees," Archbishop Gomez said. "What is concerning is that we are cutting these numbers at a time when the need is greatest." The report focused on refugee resettlement, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Temporary Protected Status and the humanitarian crisis at the southern border with Mexico -- programs widely backed by the body of bishops, financially and through policy efforts.

    El Paso bishop opens up about pain of parishioners behind document

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Hours before the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops officially began in Baltimore, some fellow bishops congratulated Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, and others said to him in passing, "Great work you're doing down there." Some of it referred to a recent letter he wrote detailing the pain of Mexican-American and immigrant communities in his diocese, where racism, targeted at Latino communities, bolted into the normally tranquil border city of El Paso Aug. 3, as a gunman set on attacking those populations went inside a Walmart with an assault weapon and managed to kill 22 people and injuring two dozen others. In the wake of the tragedy, the Diocese of El Paso -- priests, religious and laity -- stepped in to help, but their shepherd, worried that as the days went by people wanted to put the incident behind, boldly decided to put it front and center again in the form of a powerful document on church teaching called a pastoral letter. In it, Bishop Seitz forced a raw look at racism, including inside the church, and at the way words, including by government officials, coupled with a person's embrace of white supremacy, contributed to the deadly event and profoundly wounded, in particular, El Paso's Latino community. "Although I myself am not of Latino origin, they're my people," Bishop Seitz told Catholic News Service in a Nov. 10 interview. "They're my family. They're my flock, if you will. They're the people I'm called to serve and to guide and, in some way, to protect, and they've been assaulted. I saw their faces. I heard their pain."

    Pope appeals for dialogue, protecting the vulnerable in Burkina Faso

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After one of the deadliest attacks in Burkina Faso in recent years, Pope Francis urged leaders there to do more to protect vulnerable civilians and to promote dialogue and social harmony. Speaking with visitors attending the general audience in St. Peter's Square Nov. 13, the pope said he was praying for all those who were killed, wounded, forced to flee and suffering because of the recurring violence. Jihadi extremist groups have been waging violent attacks in the west Africa nation for the past several years. Militants have shut down schools and shot Christians dead at their churches. Since 2016, more than 1,000 people have been killed and nearly 500,000 displaced, most of them this year, according to Reuters. The latest large-scale attack came Nov. 6 when unidentified gunmen ambushed five buses carrying 241 workers to a gold mine operated by a Canada-based company. At least 39 people were reported dead initially, but the death toll was expected to rise. Referring to the recent attack, Pope Francis said his thoughts were with the people of Burkina Faso, which is "suffering from recurring episodes of violence."

    Pope denounces increasing violence against Jewish people

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis warned that violence against Jewish people, which reached a state of horror during World War II, is on the rise again. During his weekly general audience Nov. 13, the pope reflected on the lives of Priscilla and Aquila, a first-century married couple who accompanied St. Paul in his ministry and were among the Jews expelled from Rome by Claudius Caesar. Departing from his prepared remarks, the pope said that the world has "seen so many brutalities done against the Jewish people, and we were convinced that this was over. But today the habit of persecuting Jews is beginning to be reborn," he said. "Brothers and sisters: this is neither human nor Christian; the Jews are our brothers and sisters and must not be persecuted! Understood?" The pope's warning came as more countries have reported an escalation in anti-Semitic violence and vandalism across Europe.

    In darkness, bishops must be heralds of hope, Buffalo bishop says

    ROME (CNS) -- The long nights and rain of November eventually lead to the expectation and joy of Advent and Christmas, which reminds people that Christian hope is the only way forward through difficult moments, said Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York. "In these times that appear dark, in which we sometimes feel disoriented by the evil and violence that surround us, by the distress of so many of our brothers and sisters, we need hope!" he said, quoting from Pope Francis' catechesis on Christian hope. Bishop Malone, whose diocese recently has undergone an apostolic visitation after more than a year of questions about how the bishop has handled allegations of abuse by diocesan priests, was the principal celebrant and homilist Nov. 12 at a Mass at the Rome Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. The Mass was part of the Nov. 11-15 visit "ad limina apostolorum" -- to the threshold of the apostles -- of the bishops of New York state. On the visit, the bishops pray at the apostles' tombs and meet with Vatican officials and the pope to report on the status of their dioceses.

    Update: Australian High Court to hear arguments in Cardinal Pell's case

    SYDNEY (CNS) -- The High Court of Australia has decided to give Cardinal George Pell, 78, a final chance to argue against his conviction on five counts of child sexual abuse. High Court Justices Michelle Gordon and James Edelman announced Nov. 13 that they referred the cardinal's appeal application to the full, seven-member court. The unusual move means the full court will decide whether to hear the appeal and, if it does, will proceed to hear arguments about why the conviction should be overturned or upheld. The justices gave Cardinal Pell's lawyers until Jan. 8 to file their arguments for the appeal and said the prosecutors must respond by February. No date for the hearing was announced, but it is unlikely to be before March. Matteo Bruni, Vatican spokesman, said that while "reiterating its trust in the Australian justice system, the Holy See acknowledges the decision of Australia's High Court to accept Cardinal George Pell's request of appeal, aware that the cardinal has always maintained his innocence." "At the same time," he said, "the Holy See reaffirms once again its closeness to those who have suffered because of sexual abuse on the part of members of the clergy."

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  • As Supreme Court hears DACA case, bishops voice support for beneficiaries

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- It's a population that almost every bishop in the United States comes into contact with: 700,000 young adults brought into the country as children without documents. So, it was natural that on the day the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on an important case involving them, even as they were conducting regular business during the fall meeting of the U.S. Conference Catholic Bishops in Baltimore Nov. 11-13, some bishops were monitoring the situation before the U.S. Supreme Court. The court heard arguments Nov. 12 on whether the Trump administration's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, is legal and its end can proceed. U.S. bishops across the country had issued statements, written to their hometown newspapers, or voiced their opinion in some other way on the future of hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients in the country. "It's an issue for all of us," said Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania. "And it's one that I hope can be resolved in a way that respects, especially the lives of those young people who have been here, who have known this as their only home," he told Catholic News Service in an interview Nov. 12. Bishop John E. Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, said DACA beneficiaries had proven to be upstanding citizens, had sought higher education, paid taxes and fees, and now are raising families and working. "So, why should they live in constant fear?" he asked.

    Archbishop reports on progress of document on marriage and family life

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- A new "pastoral framework for marriage and family life" should be ready for a vote by the U.S. bishops by next November at the latest, according to Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia. It may even be ready for a vote when the bishops meet in June 2020, said Archbishop Chaput, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. Archbishop Chaput, speaking to the bishops Nov. 12 during their fall general meeting in Baltimore, made it clear the forthcoming document is not a "plan," since it is intended to be applied within parishes and dioceses. "It was never meant to be a single comprehensive national plan but a resource towards the development of pastoral plans at the diocesan/eparchial levels," he said. The framework will have four "pillars": prayer and relationship with Jesus, formation, accompaniment and advocacy, he added. "Each pillar addresses areas or situations of need faced by couples and families today. Following a short description of the situation are suggested ways that a local pastoral plan might educate and encourage the faithful in these circumstances. Finally, pastoral strategies are suggested to engage audiences effectively."

    Bishops agree with call to have St. Irenaeus declared doctor of the church

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops added their assent to a call to have St. Irenaeus declared a doctor of the church. The action came Nov. 12, the second day of their Nov. 11-13 fall general meeting in Baltimore. "This is perhaps a way to correct an oversight of history," said Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Doctrine. St. Irenaeus was born sometime between A.D. 120 and A.D. 130 in Smyrna in Asia Minor, according to Bishop Rhoades. He was a disciple of St. Polycarp, who was himself a disciple of St. John the Apostle, he added. He died around 202, and the Catholic Church also deems him to be a martyr. St. Irenaeus' ministry took him to present-day France. There, he waged theological battle against the Gnostics, who emphasized personal spiritual knowledge over faith in orthodox teachings and in ecclesiastical authority. This is relevant, Bishop Rhoades said, because "we see a reemergence of gnostic ideas and what it means to be human." The saint, he added, "consistently upheld the unity of God in three persons, the unity of salvation and the unity of the church."

    Divided Supreme Court seems unsure about DACA's fate

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- In a high-stakes issue before the Supreme Court Nov. 12, it was not clear how the justices will ultimately resolve the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. The court heard arguments on three separate appellate court rulings that have blocked President Donald Trump's 2017 order to end DACA -- a 2012 program that has enabled about 700,000 qualifying young people, known as "Dreamers" to work, get health insurance, a driver's license and not face deportation. These young adults arrived in the U.S. as children without legal documentation. At issue before the crowded courtroom during 80 minutes of arguments -- and while DACA supporters rallied outside -- was not to consider if the Obama administration acted legally when it created the program but to examine how the Trump administration went about trying to end it. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said more explanation was needed about ending DACA because she said it was "a choice to destroy lives." But Solicitor General Noel Francisco defended the Trump administration's decision, whether the program was legal or not, by simply saying: "We own this." Just prior to oral arguments, Trump tweeted: "Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from 'angels,' some are very tough, hardened criminals." But in order to qualify for DACA status, applicants who are high school graduates or veterans, must prove that they have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or more than three lesser crimes.

    Catholics lead rosary on way to DACA rally outside Supreme Court

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As the U.S. Supreme Court justices prepared to hear oral arguments in a case on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program the morning of Nov. 12, Catholics met at Columbus Circle in Washington to pray the rosary for the intention of all DACA recipients, their families and all immigrants in the United States. "We're not just praying for the justices to be on the right side today, we're praying for elected officials to wake up and to finally give a solution for the 700,000 DACA recipients living in this country," said Jose Arnulfo Cabrera, a DACA recipient and the director of education and advocacy for migration for the Ignatian Solidarity Network. The prayer gathering -- which was followed by a walk to the steps of the Supreme Court, joining others participating in the national Home is Here campaign rally -- was co-sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Justice for Immigrants, the Ignatian Solidarity Network, the Catholic social justice lobby Network and others. "It's time that we give them (DACA recipients) a solution. It's time that they are recognized as the Americans that they grew up as, and that they are," Cabrera said. "This is more than just prayers for the justices; this is more than just prayers for DACA recipients. This is also prayers for ourselves because we have a long way to go. ... We're praying for that strength to keep it going and keep that fire lit in ourselves." In a 2012 executive order, President Barack Obama instituted DACA, a policy allowing immigrants brought as children by their parents into the United States without documents to apply for deferred action from deportation while also applying for a work permit or attending school. In 2017, President Donald Trump issued an executive order to end the DACA program. The resulting legal challenges led to the Supreme Court hearing the case on the program's future.

    Update: Archbishop Gomez elected USCCB president; first Latino in post

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles was elected to a three-year term as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during the bishops' fall general assembly in Baltimore. The native of Mexico was chosen Nov. 12 with 176 votes from a slate of 10 nominees. Archbishop Gomez, 67, is the first Latino to be elected president. He has served as conference vice president for the past three years, working alongside Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the outgoing president. His term as president begins when the assembly ends. The Los Angeles prelate has been a leading advocate of immigrant rights, often voicing support for newcomers as they face growing restrictions being implemented by the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies. In subsequent voting, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit, conference secretary, was elected conference vice president. He was elected on the third ballot by 151-90 in a runoff with Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services. In subsequent voting, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit, conference secretary, was elected vice president. In voting for a new secretary, the assembly elected Archbishop Broglio, 112-87, over Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Toledo, Ohio. Archbishop Broglio will serve through the end of the term in 2021.

    DACA's uncertainty prompts Wisconsin couple's decision to move to Canada

    ALLOUEZ, Wis. (CNS) -- As an immigration counselor for Catholic Charities of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Ana Rodriguez said one of her greatest joys was helping immigrants on their way to permanent residency and U.S. citizenship. "Knowing that they are able to naturalize or even get their green cards -- to have a voice -- to me that's everything," said Rodriguez. "That's why I love this job and that's why I advocate for them, because I have been in their shoes. I know how it feels not to have a voice, to live in fear of the unknown." Rodriguez's parents, Arturo and Maria De Lourdes Rodriguez brought her and her sister, Mariana, to the United States in 1998. President Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2012 to establish the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. "That day changed my life forever," Rodriguez told The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay. But DACA's uncertain future, along with its travel restrictions abroad, led Rodriguez and her husband, Victor Amezcua, to decide to move to Canada. Nov. 8 was Rodriguez's last day at Catholic Charities. The future of the program -- and those who have qualified for it -- was left in doubt after President Donald Trump was elected. In 2017, he issued an order to end DACA. This was challenged in the lower courts and has reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in the case Nov. 12. DACA has provided protections to young people brought to the United States illegally as children by their parents. Often called "Dreamers," DACA recipients received work permits and Social Security cards, and they were safe from being deported.

    Fund helps displaced Bahamas students, teachers after Hurricane Dorian

    MIAMI (CNS) -- Two months after Hurricane Dorian upended life in the northern Bahamas, a newly launched fund will support hundreds of Catholic school students displaced by the storm. The Archdiocese of Nassau recently launched the Each One Reach One initiative of its Bahamas Catholic Board of Education. Under the initiative, donors can assist some 220 students from Abaco and Grand Bahamas islands who have enrolled in Catholic schools in and around the Bahamas capital of Nassau on New Providence Island. Janelle Albury, development officer with the Bahamas Catholic Board of Education, told Catholic News Service by phone Nov. 8 that Catholic schools in the Bahamas are committed to maintaining affordable fees to ensure Catholic education is available to as many families as possible. Annual fees for Catholic schools in the Nassau Archdiocese start at close to $3,000. Albury noted a global children's charity report highlights that getting children back to school is vital for their survival after natural disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons and hurricanes. The Each One Reach One fund also will assist 35 displaced Catholic school faculty from the affected areas. All teachers and faculty at St. Francis de Sales Catholic School and Every Child Counts School had to leave Abaco, and those who did not travel to New Providence went to the U.S. or Canada, Albury added. Some teachers chose to resign and return to their home countries.

    Update: 'Faithful Citizenship' materials reflect pope's ongoing teaching

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Current issues of the day and references to the teachings of Pope Francis can be found throughout the materials approved by the U.S. bishops to supplement their existing document on Catholic participation in public life. The materials -- an introductory letter and four videos -- address concerns such as the common good, immigration, abortion, poverty, care for creation and the need for civil dialogue. The bishops approved texts of the materials Nov. 12, the second day of their fall general assembly in Baltimore. The letter was approved 207-24 with five abstentions; the vote on the video scripts was 227-5 in favor with four abstentions. The materials supplement the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' existing document, "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," which was developed as a guide help Catholics form their consciences in voting and other areas of public life. The new materials have been under development since March. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, incoming USCCB president, chaired a working group that consisted of 13 chairmen of USCCB committees who drafted the materials.

    Bishops approve new hymn texts for the Liturgy of the Hours

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops voted to approve close to 300 new hymn texts for the Liturgy of the Hours. The Nov. 12 vote was 205-5 with two abstentions. The proposal needed two-thirds of the Latin-rite bishops to vote yes, or 164 votes. They must now receive confirmation from the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. This effort is part of a "scope of work" authorized by the bishops in 2012, according to Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Connecticut, who addressed the bishops on the proposal Nov. 12, the second day of the three-day fall general meeting in Baltimore. He was filling in for Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Divine Worship, who was in Rome. As the committee's chairman-elect, Archbishop Blair succeeds Archbishop Gregory as chairman at the end of the meeting. The International Commission on English in the Liturgy -- a consortium of liturgists from the world's English-speaking episcopal conferences -- "and its team of translators and musicians has worked for several years to prepare this large collection of hymns," Archbishop Gregory said in a message to his fellow bishops that accompanied the 294 hymn texts.

    Update: Bishops OK new edition of Program of Priestly Formation

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops Nov. 12 adopted the sixth edition of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Program of Priestly Formation for U.S. dioceses and religious orders. The vote on the document, popularly known among the bishops as "the PPF," was 226-4, with three abstentions. It needed two-thirds of the bishops, or 179 votes to ensure passage. Before it can be implemented, it must first receive a "recognitio," or approval, from the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy. "It is not an entirely new document," said Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, when introducing the document Nov. 11, the first day of the bishops' fall general meeting in Baltimore. "It retains and builds on those aspects of PPF 5 which have proven to be the most effective." One change is how a seminarian's progress to ordination is tracked. What had been a seminary college or "pre-theology" followed by graduate studies -- known as the theologate -- is being replaced by new terms: the "propaedeutic stage" with preparatory and introductory teaching lasting one to two years, and a "discipleship stage," which is to last at least two years.

    Immigration reform among priorities for new USCCB president

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- It will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez that immigration reform is at the top of his priority list as the newly elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "That's something I've been working on for almost 25 to 30 years," Archbishop Gomez told Catholic News Service during the U.S. bishops' fall general assembly Nov. 11-13 in Baltimore. On Nov. 12, the body of bishops elected him to lead them for a three-year term, and he is the first Latino to hold the USCCB presidency. Archbishop Gomez has served as the conference's vice president since 2016. As president, he succeeds Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston. His term begins at the end of assembly. For the 67-year-old shepherd of the largest archdiocese in the U.S., Catholic teaching drives his advocacy for migrant rights, based on biblical principles of welcoming the stranger and upholding the dignity of immigrants and refugees as children of God. In fact, the U.S. bishops have listed immigration reform and migration rights as a top priority for many years. The bishops have sparred with the Trump administration over its policies for asylum-seekers at the border.

    Hong Kong bishop urges independent inquiry into student's death

    HONG KONG (CNS) -- A bishop is calling on the Hong Kong government to set up an independent inquiry into the death of a student during the latest pro-democracy riots. reported Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing of Hong Kong made his call during a prayer meeting to mourn Chow Tsz-lok, who died Nov. 8 after a suspicious fall at a protest venue. Chow, 22, a student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, was found injured in a parking lot Nov. 4 as police clashed with protesters. He fell into a coma while being treated at the hospital and died four days later. "This is something that no civilized society should accept, and anyone with conscience would not accept," Bishop Ha said at a Nov. 10 prayer service organized by various Christian groups, including the Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students and the Diocesan Youth Commission. Chow's cause of death remains unclear and an investigation should be held to find out the truth, Bishop Ha told the Nov. 10 prayer meeting attended by more than 1,000 citizens at Chater Garden in central Hong Kong.

    Don't join devil's game of jealousy, pope says at Mass

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The devil is real and is so jealous of Jesus and the salvation Jesus offers that he tries everything he can to divide people and make them attack each other, Pope Francis said. Celebrating Mass in the chapel of his residence Nov. 12, the pope preached about the day's first reading from the Book of Wisdom, which says: "God formed us to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made us. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world." "Some people say, 'But, Father, the devil doesn't exist,'" the pope told the small congregation in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. "But the word of God is clear." The devil's envy, which the Book of Wisdom cites, is the root of all his efforts to get people to hate and kill one another. But his first steps, the pope said, are to sow "jealousy, envy and competition" instead of allow people to enjoy brotherhood and peace. Some people will say, "'But, Father, I don't destroy anyone.' No? And your gossiping? When you speak ill of another? You destroy that person," the pope said.

    Bishop Barron urges bishops to help bring people back to the church

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles did not just bemoan the fact many young people are leaving the Catholic Church. He said church leaders need to make it a priority to bring them back. The bishop, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, who is known for his website, "Word on Fire," and for hosting the documentary series "Catholicism," offered a five-step plan of sorts to bring the religiously unaffiliated, or "nones," back to the fold. He said for starters, the church should lead with its social justice work, getting young people involved with caring for those in need, working in soup kitchens, prison ministries, helping the homeless. Leaders can reinforce this by reiterating messages on social justice from Popes Leo XIII to Francis. From there, the church should promote its own writers and artists to show people the beauty of the Catholic faith, he said. Another key step -- and he said he's been "banging this drum for a long time" -- is to stop dumbing down the faith. The bishop, who first brought up this issue of church exodus with the bishops at the spring meeting, said young Catholics, or those of any age, should be able to articulate why they believe what they do.

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  • Bolivian bishops say Morales' resignation was not a coup

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- Bolivia's bishops called for calm after the country's president resigned suddenly in the face of swelling street protests over accusations of electoral fraud. They also insisted the departure of President Evo Morales "is not a coup," even though the military had urged him to step aside. "What happened in Bolivia is not a coup d'etat. We say it to Bolivian citizens and to the entire international community," the bishops said in a Nov. 10 statement, the same day Morales resigned. "We call Bolivians to peace and to not commit acts of vandalism, revenge or anything for which we might be regretful. We have a grave obligation to defend the lives of all Bolivians," the statement said. "We agree in proposing that the Bolivian National Assembly (find) a constitutional and peaceful solution" that includes "carrying out new elections in a way that everyone can express their opinion freely and in peace," it added. Morales, 60, Bolivia's first indigenous president, resigned after the head of the army, Gen. Williams Kaliman, said Nov. 10, "We suggest the president resign ... allowing for the pacification and maintenance of stability for the good of our Bolivia."

    Archbishop invites church to join a year of service to pregnant women

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann sees the day that Catholic parishes can be one of the first places a woman facing an unexpected or challenging pregnancy can turn to for assistance rather than think of seeking an abortion. To that end, the archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, invited his fellow bishops to devote a year of service to pregnant women starting in March. In a presentation the first day of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' fall general assembly, the archbishop said Nov. 11 parishes could offer a variety of support services to women who may be thinking about whether to carry their child to term. "Women facing challenging pregnancies should see the church as a place where they can find help, especially with our myriad of social services and organizations dedicated to meeting the needs of people in crisis," he said. The archbishop cited statistics from abortion providers in 2014 that showed that 75% of women who chose abortion were poor, 60% were in their 20s and 86% were unmarried. The year would begin March 25, 2020, the 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II's encyclical "Evangelium Vitae" ("The Gospel of Life"). He called the year "Walking With Moms in Need: A Year of Service."

    O'Malley: Vatican may 'soon' release details of McCarrick investigation

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- In a brief presentation Nov. 11 to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Boston's Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley told the bishops gathered in Baltimore the Vatican may publish what it knows about the ascent to power of now-disgraced former U.S. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick by Christmas, or perhaps the New Year. McCarrick was dismissed by the Vatican from the clerical state in February following an investigation of accusations that he had abused children early on in his career of more than 60 years as a cleric, and that he also had abused seminarians as a bishop. However, he had long been one of the premier U.S. bishops, traveling the world on behalf of the church as an esteemed member of the USCCB, leaving many wondering how he could have ascended in church ranks when many are said to have been aware of his alleged abuses. "We made it clear to Cardinal (Pietro) Parolin at the leadership of the curia that the priests and the people of our country are anxious to receive the Holy See's explanation of this tragic situation, how he could become an archbishop and cardinal, who knew what and when," Cardinal O'Malley said of meeting with the Vatican secretary of state in early November. "The long wait has resulted in great frustration on the part of bishops and our people."

    Revised Program of Priestly Formation formally introduced to bishops

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops heard Nov. 11 of plans to revise the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' existing Program of Priestly Formation for U.S. dioceses. The revision was introduced by Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, chairman of the bishops' Committee for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, on the first day of their Nov. 11-13 fall general assembly in Baltimore. Known among the bishops as "the PPF," the Program for Priestly Formation had been due for an updating. The Vatican's "recognitio," or approval, on the fifth edition of the PPF expired in 2015, according to Cardinal Tobin in a message to his fellow bishops. That year, though, the Vatican extended the recognitio for five-years, through 2020. In 2016, a working group was selected by the committee to begin work on a sixth edition. In 2017, that group, run by Bishop Earl A. Boyea of Lansing, Michigan, began its deliberations. In 2018, input from bishops was sought given the Vatican's issuance the year before of the new "Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis" ("The Gift of the Priestly Vocation").

    Fairbanks bishop hopes move will help priest shortage

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Not many may notice the Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska, is being removed from the list of missionary dioceses around the world dependent on the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. But Fairbanks Bishop Chad W. Zielinski hopes the move will catch the attention of other U.S. bishops and spur them to heed Pope Francis' call for more missionary disciples to serve places such as his diocese. On Nov. 11, the Vatican announced this change for the Fairbanks Diocese, and it will now be under the direction of the Congregation of Bishops. Some hope the move for Fairbanks will lead to greater collaboration with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is from now on responsible for diocese's missionary, pastoral and economic concerns. One of the greatest of those concerns, said Bishop Zielinski, is the shortage of priests. He told Catholic News Service the hope is that others will "embrace the reality that we're still a mission diocese and we have missionary needs. We only have 18 priests serving 46 parishes. Three of those priests are over the age of 70. One of them is over the age of 90. So, we have a crisis, a clergy crisis."

    Kenyan bishops concerned Nairobi Summit will import foreign values

    NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- Although an international summit on health rights for women and girls is being held in their country, Kenyan bishops said they were concerned it was a ploy to introduce ideologies and practices seen as contrary to Africa cultures and their religious heritage. The Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, scheduled Nov. 12-14, marks the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994. The summit has been organized by the governments of Kenya and Denmark and the U.N. Population Fund. Nearly 6,000 delegates are expected to attend the conference, which will center discussions around five themes, including universal access to sexual and reproductive rights as part of universal health coverage, ending gender-based violence and harmful practices, and upholding the right to sexual and reproductive health. "We view this agenda as an intent to corrupt our youth and enslave them to foreign ideologies, for example, same-sex union and active homosexual activities," said Archbishop Philip Anyolo, chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops. In a news conference Nov. 8, he said he would have expected the summit "to focus on a program that targets actions that will uplift women and children living in extreme poverty, migration, strategies for development, literacy and education, encouraging the culture of peace." Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta also expressed reservations about some of the summit topics, issues he said he feared would destabilize family values and undermine the people's cultural heritage.

    In final presidential address, Cardinal DiNardo urges new beginning

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- In his final address as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston told his fellow bishops that it has been "an honor to serve you, even in the difficult times." The 70-year-old prelate thanked the bishops, whom he called brothers, for the last three years and was thanked by them in return when the group gave him a standing ovation at the end of his nine-minute presentation Nov. 11 at the start of the bishops' annual fall meeting in Baltimore. "Let's begin anew," he said, at the close of his address, veering away from prepared remarks, and quoting St. Augustine. The cardinal, who suffered a mild stroke earlier this year, did not elaborate on specifics of the abuse crisis in the church, particularly highlighted this past year, but spoke of the bishops' continued work of transparency related to dealing with the crisis. He said the abuse measures adopted by U.S. bishops at their meeting last June are "only a beginning. More needs to be done." He also pointed out that Pope Francis has "ushered in a new era for bishop accountability" with worldwide measures of accountability.

    Rural-urban convenings suggested to address plague of gun violence

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, said Catholic clergy and lay leaders can play a role in bringing together people along the rural-urban divide to build understanding of the need for sensible policies that can end the scourge of gun violence. His call came during a 20-minute presentation Nov. 11, the first day of the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bishop Dewane, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, outlined the USCCB's long-held stance of the need for "common sense" legislation that governs the availability of guns. But he also said it was time for people to come together so that there is greater understanding of how gun violence affects urban communities in particular. The bishop afterward told Catholic News Service that the USCCB's work on the legislative front was important, but that a pastoral response to gun violence was needed. He pointed to the need to address gun violence, which has ravaged many urban centers, while acknowledging the legitimate concerns among responsible gun owners of losing access to firearms for hunting or, in some cases, protection.

    Bishops OK 2020 budget; numbers inconclusive for 2021 assessment hike

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops voted to approve the budget for 2020 for their conference headquarters in Washington but did not register sufficient numbers to determine passage of a proposed 3% increase in the diocesan assessment for 2021. Both votes took place Nov. 11, the first day of their Nov. 11-13 fall general assembly in Baltimore. The bishops approved a budget nearing $22.69 million for next year. Budget approval required a majority of bishops present and voting. The vote was 211-11, with one abstention. The proposed 2020 budget projects a "marginal" surplus of $49,261, about 2% of the total, according to Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati, treasurer of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The figures include increases of 3.6% for policy and advocacy, 3.5% for the administrative offices, 2.7% for the general secretariat, 1.2% for the USCCB's staff house in Washington, and 0.4% for pastoral ministries. The biggest budget decreases come within the Migration and Refugee Services office, which relies on federal grants for much of its revenue. MRS operations "continue to be impacted by the very dynamic changes in the federal immigration and refugee policies and programs," Archbishop Schnurr said in a message sent to bishops prior to the meeting.

    Update: Bishops vote to revise strategic priorities for the early 2020s

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops voted overwhelmingly Nov. 11 in Baltimore on a revised set of strategic priorities to take them into the next decade. The vote was 214-4 to adopt the new set of strategic priorities and plans for 2021-24, with two abstentions. It was the first vote recorded during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' fall general meeting. Before the vote, the document was presented to the body of bishops by Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Priorities and Plans. When they met in June, the bishops gave their provisional OK to development of a new set of strategic priorities for 2021-24. The June vote allowed committees, secretariats and departments of the USCCB to continue work on how to carry out the priorities. The expectation is that the 2021-24 priorities would be implemented at the USCCB's November 2020 meeting. There are four priorities: "Evangelization: Form a joyful band of missionary disciples of Jesus Christ"; "Life and dignity of the human person: Serve the common good as the leaven in a free society"; "Protect and heal God's children: Restore integrity, foster virtue"; and "Vocations: Equip all Christ's disciples for mission."

    Ministry, mission, communion key points in nuncio's talk to U.S. bishops

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The bishop's ministry and mission, and how he forges communion, was the message in Archbishop Christophe Pierre's address to the U.S. bishops Nov. 11 in Baltimore. The "ad limina" reports submitted to the Vatican in advance of U.S. bishops' meetings with Pope Francis and curial officials -- indeed, a handful of bishops were already in Rome for these visits -- "provide a clear picture of how the church in the United States is carrying out its mission," said Archbishop Pierre, the Vatican's nuncio to the United States. He mentioned "but a few" -- in his words -- of the challenges bishops face as they gathered in Baltimore for their fall general meeting: "demographic changes; growing numbers of religiously unaffiliated people; the need to engage young people and to build a culture of vocations; welcoming and integration of migrants, especially Hispanics; continuing the fight against all forms of racism; and defending and accompanying the human family." Archbishop Pierre said, "Each of us exercises his own specific episcopal ministry, but we also try to work together in a spirit of collegiality as an episcopal body. What are the strengths of this episcopal body, and how is the body serving the needs of the people entrusted to our pastoral care?" He suggest collegiality and collaboration as an approach.

    Gomez: Nation has 'moral obligation' to keep promise to DACA recipients

    LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- The "failures" of the nation's leaders in Washington to make "comprehensive reforms to immigration policy "cut across party lines, said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles. These failures date back to 1986, he said, which was the last time Congress passed immigration reform. Ahead of the oral arguments on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals taking place Nov. 12 at the U.S. Supreme Court, Archbishop Gomez said there are "no doubt" constitutional and legal questions "raised by DACA and how it was enacted." "But we need to be clear: The fate of these young adults should never have been in the courts in the first place," the archbishop wrote in a column Nov. 6 column in the Angelus, online news outlet of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. "And it would not be, if our leaders in Washington would simply set aside their political interests and come together to fix our nation's broken immigration system." DACA was established by President Barack Obama's executive order in 2012, and President Donald Trump ordered an end to the program in 2017. Several legal challenges to this order have resulted in a consolidation of three DACA cases now before the high court. The full column can be found at

    Evangelization must take culture seriously, pope says at award ceremony

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Giving the Ratzinger prize to a philosopher from Canada and a Scripture scholar from Burkina Faso, Pope Francis said they demonstrate that "in the variety of cultures, diverse across time and space, one can and should always seek the way to God and the encounter with Christ." Pope Francis presented the awards Nov. 9 to Charles Taylor, a philosopher who has focused much of his work on secularism, and to Jesuit Father Paul Bere, who is known particularly for his contributions to developing an African theology. The prize winners were chosen by the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation, which was established in 2010 to support theological research and to promote studies on the theology and teaching of the retired pope. Taylor, the pope said, has looked at the cultural phenomenon of secularization with a "breadth of vision" few others have achieved. He said Father Bere has worked for a "true African inculturation of the Christian message" by, for example, "his work on the interpretation of Old Testament texts in a context of oral culture, thus bringing to fruition the experience of African culture."

    Economy lacking ethics leads to 'throwaway' culture, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- An economic system lacking any ethics leads to a "throwaway" culture of consumption and waste, Pope Francis said. "An economic system that is fair, trustworthy and capable of addressing the most profound challenges facing humanity and our planet is urgently needed," he said in a speech addressed to members of the Council for Inclusive Capitalism during an audience at the Vatican Nov. 11. The council was created after the Fortune-Time Global Forum, which was held in Rome in 2016 and included a meeting with the pope. Dozens of CEOs from major global corporations attended the forum, where they agreed to specific actions addressing different economic and social problems around the world. The pope thanked the new council for taking up "the challenge of realizing the vision of the forum by seeking ways to make capitalism become a more inclusive instrument for integral human well-being." "This entails overcoming an economy of exclusion and reducing the gap separating the majority of people from the prosperity enjoyed by the few," he said.

    Music, art are a gateway to discover God's greatness, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Liturgical musicians have the unique calling to interpret God's will and love through song and praise, Pope Francis said. "Every Christian, in fact, is an interpreter of the will of God in his or her own life, and by his or her life sings a joyful hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God," the pope said Nov. 9 during a meeting with participants at a Vatican conference on interpreting sacred music. The conference, titled "Church, Music, Interpreters: A Necessary Dialogue," was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music and the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm. Reflecting on the conference theme, the pope said most people think of interpreters as a kind of translator who conveys what "he or she has received in such a way that another person can understand it." Although good interpreters in the field of music essentially "translate" what a composer has written, they also should feel "great humility before a work of art that is not their property," and to "bring out the beauty of the music." Within the context of the liturgy, he added, music is a way for Christians "to serve others through the works they perform."

    Vatican no longer sees Diocese of Fairbanks as mission territory

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has decided to remove the Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska, from the list of missionary dioceses around the world dependent on the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Providing no explanation, the Vatican announced the change Nov. 11. The Diocese of Fairbanks, the geographically largest U.S. diocese, was established in 1962. According to Vatican statistics, as of Dec. 31, 2017, the diocese had almost 12,500 Catholics, 46 parishes, 12 diocesan priests, five religious order priests and 27 permanent deacons. The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples coordinates the church's initial missionary outreach and supports dioceses in lands with few Catholics, few priests and few resources. The congregation coordinates the naming of new bishops for territories under its direction while the Congregation for Bishops fulfills that role for other Latin-rite dioceses.

    Gospel is God's gift, not a means to wage war, bishop says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bishops should not give in to calls to be more combative cultural warriors in the world, said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn. "The Gospel has an internal strength that doesn't need to be waged as war but needs to be presented as God's great gift," Bishop DiMarzio said in his homily Nov. 11 during Mass at the Rome Basilica of St. Mary Major. Bishop DiMarzio was the principal celebrant and homilist at the first Mass the bishops of New York celebrated during their visits "ad limina apostolorum" -- to the threshold of the apostles -- to report on the status of their dioceses. The U.S. bishops' last "ad limina" visits were eight years ago -- in 2011-2012. Scandal, the bishop said, can come easily "to the people of God, the 'little ones,' and we've been living with that scandal now for years." "We've come to understand that our people are scandalized when they think we should be combatting the modern-day heresy more as warrior bishops, more as cultural warriors," he said. "But we're not called to that," he said. "We're called to preach the Gospel," which has its own power and is a gift.

    Christ wants to redeem everyone, pope tells mission teams

    ROME (CNS) -- No one is so far from God that Christ cannot bring them back, Pope Francis told members of the Diocese of Rome's new pastoral teams responsible for outreach. "In carrying out your service, keep hold of this knowledge, this certainty: There is no human heart in which Christ does not want to and cannot be reborn," the pope said Nov. 9, celebrating Mass on the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome. Celebrating Mass in the basilica, the pope assigned a different Scripture passage to the faithful in general, to the diocese's priests and to the new pastoral teams. The Gospel reading at the Mass was St. John's version of Jesus cleansing the temple. When Jesus is asked by what authority he acted, he replied, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Pope Francis asked the pastoral teams to remember that passage as they seek new ways to reach out to those far from the church or from faith. "In our existence as sinners we often move away from the Lord and extinguish the Spirit. We destroy the temple of God that is within each of us," he said. "But this is never a definitive situation. The Lord needs only three days to rebuild his temple inside us."

    Pope prays for eventual visit to South Sudan, peace in Bolivia

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Expressing his hope to visit South Sudan next year, Pope Francis appealed to the leaders there to continue to follow the path of dialogue and the common good. "I wish to renew my invitation to all stakeholders in the national political process to seek that which unites and to overcome that which divides in a spirit of true fraternity," he said after praying the Angelus with visitors in St. Peter's Square Nov. 10. He extended a special greeting to "the dear people of South Sudan, where I should visit" next year, he said. "The South Sudanese people have suffered too much these past years and are awaiting -- with great hope -- a better future, especially the permanent end of conflicts and a long-lasting peace," he said. After the Angelus, Pope Francis also asked for prayers for Bolivia. Speaking before the situation there had deteriorated to the point of President Evo Morales announcing his resignation, the pope had invited all citizens, especially leaders in politics and society, to await "with a constructive spirit" and "in a climate of peace and serenity" the results of a then-underway audit of elections held Oct. 20.

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  • Federal judge halts Trump administration conscience protection rule

    NEW YORK (CNS) -- A U.S. District Court judge's Nov. 6 ruling that halts a Trump administration conscience protection rule for health care professionals leaves them "vulnerable to being forced to perform, facilitate or refer for procedures that violate their conscience," said the senior counsel for the First Liberty Institute. These protections "would ensure that health care professionals are free to work consistent with their religious beliefs while providing the best care to their patients," said Stephanie Taub. The Texas-based institute focuses on religious freedom cases. In his 147-page opinion, Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, ordered HHS to vacate the rule, "Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care," in its entirety. He said it exceeded the statutory authority of HHS, was "arbitrary and capricious" and was adopted "in breach" of the procedural requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. But Engelmayer also acknowledged that "conscience provisions recognize and protect undeniably important rights." His ruling, he said, "leaves HHS at liberty to consider and promulgate rules governing these provisions. In the future, however, the agency must do so within the confines of the Administrative Procedure Act and the Constitution."

    Update: Veteran says 'Little Flower' kept him alive during months of bombing runs

    NEW HOPE, Minn. (CNS) -- A German Messerschmitt fighter plane was bearing down on Don Stoulil's B-17 bomber as he flew a mission during World War II. Stoliel, the pilot, looked out the windshield of his cockpit and saw the enemy plane zooming straight at him with machine guns blazing. "This is it," he thought, as he braced for the barrage of bullets that he expected to blast through the glass and tear into his body. It didn't happen. Not one piece of lead penetrated the cockpit. The reason? Stoulil, a member of Sacred Heart in Robbinsdale, believes he had a layer of protection no German machine gun could penetrate -- a first-class relic of St. Therese of Lisieux. Tucked into the pocket of his uniform pants, it was with him on every mission. He believes St. Therese kept him alive in the cockpit during six months of bombing runs that ended in 1944 when he reached the end of his tour of duty and returned to the United States. The then-22-year-old got the relic from a chaplain, Father Edmund Skoner, at an airfield in Molesworth, England, shortly after arriving in December 1943. After surviving 31 bombing missions into Germany, Stoulil came to believe that St. Therese was watching over him. He escaped several close calls and saw other planes flying near his get hit and go down. Nary a bullet touched his cockpit. Only once did a member of his 10-man crew get injured. None were killed. "St. Therese, oh, she took care of us -- absolutely," Stoulil told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. "She means just about everything because I wouldn't be here now if it wasn't for St. Therese."

    Abuse crisis shows need for holiness, renewal in church, priests say

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Four Catholic priests who serve in various ministries and are on the front lines facing the aftershocks of the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church gave their perspective on helping the church address the problem. They participated in an Oct. 29 panel discussion sponsored by the Catholic Project, an initiative of The Catholic University of America. The event was held at the university's Heritage Hall. "These men have felt the same anger and betrayal in recent months as the rest of us, but they have also borne the sins of their brothers," said Stephen White, executive director of the Catholic Project, who moderated the discussion on "Shepherds to a Wounded Flock: How our Priests See the Crisis." The panelists included Father Paul Scalia, vicar for clergy in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, and pastor of St. James Parish in Falls Church; Father Carter Griffin, rector of the Archdiocese of Washington's St. John Paul II Seminary; Father Robert Boxie III, parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish in Largo, Maryland; and Father Matthew Fish, administrator of Holy Family Church and School in Hillcrest Heights, Maryland. "This has been a tough year for all of us," said Father Boxie. Addressing how he dealt with the crisis, he said, "My ministry from the beginning was always to be a faithful disciple and to be a faithful priest of Jesus Christ ... to be this instrument of God's love, of God's mercy, of God's hope and of God's nearness to the people I serve."

    13th-century encounter points way to greater Christian-Muslim understanding

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Eight centuries ago, St. Francis of Assisi took a risk when he crossed the battlefield between Crusader and Muslim forces near Damietta, Egypt, desiring to meet Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil and preach his faith in Jesus Christ. At the time -- 1219 -- Christian forces were in the midst of the Fifth Crusade, which was eventually repelled by the sultan's superior army near the town that was a center of trade and commerce on the Nile River where it flows into the Mediterranean Sea. The future saint readily put his life on the line so he could witness his faith to the famed Muslim sultan, and in doing so both men came away with a new respect for the faith of the other, Franciscan Father Michael Calabria told a conference on that encounter with "the other" Nov. 7 at The Catholic University of America in Washington. Early retellings of the meeting describe al-Kamil as willingly listening to St. Francis as he preached and being a gracious host, said Father Calabria, director of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at St. Bonaventure University in New York. The future saint witnessed peacefully and his subsequent writings reveal the meeting had a profound impact on his life, the priest told participants in the event titled "The Sultan and the Saint: The Spiritual Journey of Transformative Encounter."

    Author criticized for perpetuating 'unfortunate myth' USCCB resisting pope

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The chief communications officer for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops criticized a new book on Pope Francis' papacy for perpetuating "an unfortunate and inaccurate myth" that Pope Francis is facing resistance from the leadership and staff of the bishops' conference. The author of the book in turn has called the USCCB statement "carefully constructed if defensive" and said it doesn't dispute the facts of the account he has given. At issue is a chapter in "Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis and His Struggle to Convert the Catholic Church" by Austen Ivereigh. In a chapter titled "A Church of Wounds," Ivereigh asserts that a draft of U.S. procedure for addressing abuse and cover-up allegations concerning U.S. bishops was to be voted on by the bishops at their November 2018 meeting "before Rome had a chance to see them first. The Vatican would be given the documents after the fact," Ivereigh wrote, citing an unnamed source who said, "their strategy was to confront the pope with a fait accompli." James Rogers, USCCB chief communications officer, said Nov. 7 Ivereigh "perpetuates an unfortunate and inaccurate myth that the Holy Father finds resistance among the leadership and staff of the U.S. bishops' conference."

    Letters foster one young woman's gratitude for veteran's years of service

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- At 20, Sophia Egold is part of a generation that communicates almost exclusively by text, Instagram, Facebook and other forms of social media, yet she has learned that none of them compares to the power of an old-fashioned, rapidly fading alternative. "There is nothing like getting a letter," she said. "Getting a letter is so much more powerful than a text because it takes more time writing it down and putting it in a mailbox." A letter that touched Egold's life in ways she never expected is one she wrote six years ago when she was an eighth grader at St. Barnabas School in Indianapolis. It was a letter of thanks to a World War II hero for his service to his country. Another letter is one she recently received in the mail as part of a package she was stunned to get. In November 2013, Sophia was part of a schoolwide, letter-writing project at St. Barnabas to recognize the World War II veterans of the 95th Bomb Group. Sophia drew the name of Frank Barbour, a Boston native who joined the Army Air Corps at the beginning of the war and became a decorated B-17 pilot by its end. Her letter said in part: "Dear Mr. Barbour, I've researched a little about you, and I've come to find out that you were a co-pilot and have traveled to many places like Germany, France, Poland, Hungary and I'm sure other places. I wanted to tell you that I find that very interesting, even though I'm sure it was a tough period of time in your life. I live with my mom and dad, and my two little brothers named Jacob and James. I don't know what I would do without them. I'm sure that when you were away, fighting for our country, it was a hard experience to be away from your friends, family and home ... but I can respect the sacrifices you made to protect our country." Egold received a response, and "the gist of it was thanking me for my letter," she told The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. "He said it meant a lot to him."

    Philippine bishop says child workers face dangerous conditions

    MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- A Catholic bishop in the Philippines said an increasing number of child workers are exposed to dangerous working conditions. reported that Bishop Roberto Mallari of San Jose, chairman of the bishops' Commission on Catechism and Catholic Education, said the situation was alarming and sad. "The root of this sad reality is poverty and lack of livelihood options," he said, adding that children have the right to the basic necessities of life that society has failed to provide. "The situation of the suffering children and those who are deprived of their rights and dignity leaves a great challenge to us as a church and as a society," Bishop Mallari said. The Labor Department, in a recent report, said there are more than 7,000 child workers, ranging from ages 4 to 17, in and around the capital, Manila. The report said most of the children work as street vendors, while others are engaged in waste management, construction, transportation, domestic work and manufacturing. The report also showed that 24 percent of child laborers are not attending school due to lack of financial support or are not interested in education at all.

    Concern for inmates, prison reform is obligatory act of mercy, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Visiting the imprisoned is an act of mercy that has implications for all Christians and not just those involved in prison ministry, Pope Francis said. Speaking Nov. 8 to participants at an international meeting of national and regional directors of Catholic prison ministries, Pope Francis urged greater efforts to reform prison systems, address the root causes of crime and ensure acceptance and reintegration once a person completes his or her sentence. "The whole church in fidelity to the mission received from Christ" is called to show the most vulnerable people the mercy of God, the pope said. "We will be judged on this." While not arguing against all prison sentences, Pope Francis urged Catholics to reflect on sentencing guidelines and the motivations behind them to ensure they do not promote "a throwaway culture. Many times," he said, societies "in a supposed search for good and for security, seek the isolation and imprisonment of those who act against social norms," believing that locking them up is "the ultimate solution to the problems of community life." In that way, he said, people think it "is justified that large amounts of public resources are destined to repress offenders instead of truly seeking to promote the integral development of people, which reduces the circumstances that favor committing illegal acts."

    Remote vote: New York bishops on 'ad limina' will cast USCCB ballots

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While other U.S. bishops are preparing for their general meeting in Baltimore Nov. 11-13, the bishops of New York state are packing their bags for Rome. The bishops of Albany, Brooklyn, Buffalo, New York, Ogdensburg, Rochester, Rockville Centre and Syracuse are scheduled to make their visits "ad limina apostolorum" -- to the threshold of the apostles -- Nov. 11-16. It has been eight years since the bishops made the pilgrimage to Rome to pray at the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul, make the rounds of offices of the Roman Curia and have a private meeting with the pope. But their brother bishops in Baltimore will be voting for new officers for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and new committee chairs and conducting other important business. So, after a morning of Curia meetings in Rome Nov. 12 and before celebrating Mass at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the New Yorkers will gather at the Pontifical North American College to watch the livestream of the USCCB meeting and cast their ballots. Paper ballots. "The conference has made a special accommodation for the 2019 November plenary assembly to allow the bishops who are in Rome for their ad limina visits to vote," said Chieko Noguchi, USCCB director of public affairs.

    English cardinal: Priests would die rather than break seal of confession

    MANCHESTER (CNS) -- Catholic priests would die rather than break the seal of confession to report child abusers to the police, said an English cardinal. Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse that the English and Welsh bishops would reject any attempts to compel priests to report Catholics who admit to committing sexual abuse during confession. "I think the seal of confession is an essential part of the exercise of priesthood as a nexus between my sinful humanity and the mercy of God, and I would defend the seal of confession absolutely," he told the inquiry in London Nov. 7. "The history of the Catholic Church has a number of people who've been put to death in defense of the seal of confession," he continued. "It might come to that. But the seal of confession is of a sacred nature and it's at the heart of the priest ministry acting in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

    Pope asks Catholics, Salvation Army to spread God's love through service

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Loving acts of service and charity not only help build up the Kingdom of God, they attract and influence others, Pope Francis said. Young people in particular need to witness Christians helping others "since in many cases it is absent from their daily experience," he said. "In a world where selfishness and divisions abound, the noble fragrance of genuine self-giving love can offer a much-needed antidote and open minds and hearts to the transcendent meaning of our existence," the pope said. Pope Francis spoke Nov. 8 during a meeting with a delegation of the Salvation Army, led by its international representative and CEO, General Brian Peddle. The pope thanked the members and volunteers of the Salvation Army, a Christian denomination and worldwide charitable organization. Pope Francis also made special mention of their work fighting against human trafficking and other forms of modern slavery. "Holiness transcends denominational boundaries," the pope said, quoting a comment made by the former leader, General Andre Cox, during his audience with the pope in 2014.

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  • Mercy Sister says murdered Jesuits inspired a new way of being church

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The murdered Jesuits in El Salvador, whose legacy is being commemorated around the world Nov. 16, the 30th anniversary of their deaths, were known for their academic prowess. But their legacy is much more important in the life of the church, in the way communities of faith relate to one another, said a Mercy sister who has studied the life of the Salvadoran martyrs. At Central American University in San Salvador -- popularly known as the UCA (pronounced oo-kah) -- where they were murdered, they were trying to put into effect a new path, not just for the university, a center of society where formation of conscience can take place, but also for the church, said Mercy Sister Ana Maria Pineda, a theologian and professor at Santa Clara University in California. They were using their gifts and talents and resources "to create a new kind of society, where there is fairness, there is justice, everyone has a place," said Sister Pineda, in an Oct. 31 interview with Catholic News Service. "They spoke of a new sense of being church, a new understanding of what it meant to be church," she said. That's why the lives of Jesuit Fathers Ignacio Ellacuria, Segundo Montes, Ignacio Martin Baro, Amando Lopez, Joaquin Lopez y Lopez and Juan Ramon Moreno matter and must be remembered, Sister Pineda added.

    Prayer called 'spiritual weapon' to fight many crises facing society

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Anyone arriving early for the Nov. 2 opening of the 27th International Week of Prayer and Fasting at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception found an usher tugging at their sleeve. "Could you please sit in one of the first five rows?" she asked. "We're broadcasting." She needn't have worried. The sanctuary filled up quickly for the all-day event in Washington, which was livestreamed for the first time. This year's theme combined pro-life topics with mercy, forgiveness and healing. Speakers included Abby Johnson, the former Planned Parenthood clinic director who now runs And Then There Were None; Kristan Hawkins, who heads Students for Life; and Father Chris Alar, a priest with the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, who wrote a book about dealing with the aftermath of suicide. The event combined rosaries of the sorrowful, joyful and glorious mysteries led by various national groups from parishes throughout the Washington area, and a Mass celebrated by Msgr. Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Catholic Church in Washington. Another speaker, Father Ubald Rugirangoga of Rwanda, was singled out for praise by Maureen Flynn, organizer of the event with her husband, Ted: "A lot of signs and wonders are following this priest." Father Rugirangoga, a healing priest, is a genocide survivor.

    Catholic leaders urge Texas governor to stop Rodney Reed's execution

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Sister Helen Prejean, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, and the Catholic Mobilizing Network have been joined by celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Rihanna, Meek Mill and Kim Kardashian West in urging Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to stop the scheduled Nov. 20 execution of death-row inmate Rodney Reed. A group of Texas lawmakers and more than 2 million petition signers also are pressing Abbott to spare Reed. The basis of their objections is that Reed, who has spent nearly 22 years on death row, could be executed for a crime he possibly didn't commit, pointing to new evidence they say could exonerate the 51-year-old convicted in 1996 of raping and killing 19-year-old Stacey Stites. "If the scheduled execution of Mr. Reed proceeds, there is great risk the state of Texas will execute a man who is innocent of this crime while allowing the guilty party to go free," said Bishop Vasquez in a Nov. 5 statement urging the state to "further review the full body of evidence in this case." The bishop said his prayers "remain with the family of Stacey Stites and all murder victims' families" and that he continues to "pray for healing and justice for all who have been touched by this tragedy." The bishop pointed out that he had joined other state bishops through the Texas Catholic Conference in previously writing to Abbot asking him to grant a stay of execution.

    National Council of Catholic Women prepares to celebrate centennial

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The National Council of Catholic Women was established in Washington by the U.S. bishops in 1920. In a nod to those roots, the NCCW will hold its centennial convention in the Virginia suburbs of the nation's capital next summer. Planning for the 100th anniversary has been taking place for three years already, according to Jean Kelly, NCCW president. "We've been getting ideas and getting thoughts together, and goals," Kelly told Catholic News Service in a Nov. 7 telephone interview from her home in suburban Milwaukee. "We also had to get our hotel that far in advance." But before the convention convenes in Crystal City, Virginia, with about a thousand expected to attend, Kelly will represent the organization in Baltimore when the U.S. bishops gather for their fall general meeting Nov. 11-13. And, in what is believed to be a first, the NCCW will have time on their agenda for Kelly to speak. She said she is allotting a majority of her time for a video touching on NCCW's initiatives and projects. But "since the bishops started us a hundred years ago, we've got a lot to thank them for," Kelly added.

    Advocates detail ways to shield kids from online exploitation

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates in online security gathered Nov. 5 at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington to detail how children and young people are being exploited sexually online, and ways to blunt it. "Social media is removing previous barriers to grooming victims for child abusers, sex traffickers, pimps, and even sex buyers themselves because apps make minors' accounts easily discoverable and accessible," said Haley Halverson, vice president of advocacy and outreach at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, which sponsored the symposium. "In order to dismantle the current predator's paradise online, we need age-based default safety settings on social media platforms and other apps; these would include features like automatically disabling direct messages from strangers for accounts of minors, automatically disabling geotagging, filtering out pornography, and better algorithms to remove sexually graphic or sexualizing comments on minors' photos or videos," Halverson said. "We also need policymakers to make it clear that 13 is not the digital age of adulthood after which mega-corporations suddenly have no responsibility to protect them as minors," she added. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, has introduced a bill that would raise that age to 15. Phylicia Henry, director of operations for Courtney's House, a halfway house of sorts in the Maryland suburbs of Washington for women and girls who were coerced into prostitution, said some of its past residents "have been bought and sold blocks away from where I stand today."

    Christians are called to serve Christ in the poor, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- At a time when "situations of injustice and human pain" seem to be growing around the globe, Christians are called to "accompany the victims, to see in their faces the face of our crucified Lord," Pope Francis said. The pope spoke about the Gospel call to work for justice Nov. 7 when he met with about 200 people, Jesuits and their collaborators, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Jesuits' Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat. Listing examples of places where Catholics are called to work for justice and for the safeguarding of creation, Pope Francis spoke about "a Third World War being fought in pieces," human trafficking, the growing "expressions of xenophobia and the selfish search for national interests," and the inequality between and within nations, which seem to be "growing without finding a remedy." Then there is the fact that "never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years," he said, and that environmental destruction impacts the world's poorest people most of all.

    Ohio Senate bills will 'give more babies a second chance,' say supporters

    COLUMBUS, Ohio (CNS) -- The Ohio Senate Nov. 6 passed a bill that would require a child born alive following an abortion receives the same medical care accorded any newborn at the same gestational age. A second measure OK'd the same day would mandate that abortion facilities inform women that chemical abortions can possibly be reversed to save their unborn child's life. The Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, or S.B. 208, passed with a 24-9 vote, and the Abortion Pill Reversal Act, or S.B. 155, passed with a 23-10 vote. Called "life-affirming" by the Catholic Conference of Ohio, the public policy arm of the state's Catholic bishops, the two bills will now be taken up by the Ohio House of Representatives. The conference commended the bills' sponsors, Republican Sens. Terry Johnson and Peggy Lehner, respectively. Lehner also was a co-sponsor of the Born-Alive bill. "This legislation acknowledges, promotes and preserves the dignity of human life," Johnson said in a statement. "Every new born infant deserves our compassion and care, no matter where we stand in the broader abortion debate."

    Success in protecting ozone layer offers lessons for future, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Decades of fruitful international cooperation on protecting the earth's ozone layer serve as an important lesson for guiding collaboration needed today, Pope Francis said. The pope expressed his hope that current agreements, "as well as other praiseworthy initiatives of the global community on care for our common home, can continue on this complex, challenging, but always stimulating path," he said in a written message Nov. 7. The pope's message was addressed to those attending a meeting of state parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The protocol and later revisions aim for phasing out the production of substances known to deplete ozone in the stratosphere, which absorbs a large amount of harmful ultraviolent radiation reaching the earth's surface. Entering into force in 1989, it became "the first convention of the United Nations system to gain universal endorsement on the part of the entire family of nations, which today numbers 197 signatory states," the pope wrote. This legally binding instrument has "yielded positive results" as many scientific studies have shown the thinning of the ozone layer is gradually being reduced, he wrote.

    Pope recommends pastoral 'closeness,' urges bishops to be courageous

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bishops from New England shared with Pope Francis some of the joys, challenges and sufferings of the church in the Northeast and, really, throughout the United States, three of the bishops said. Nearing the end of their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican to pray at the tombs of the apostles and report on the status of their dioceses, the bishops spent two hours Nov. 7 sitting in a circle in the papal library conversing with Pope Francis. Auxiliary Bishop Robert P. Reed of Boston told Catholic News Service later that the conversation included "the role of women in the church" and how to give them "a real seat at the table" when decisions are being made; immigration; priestly formation and the need for men preparing for priesthood in the United States to learn Spanish; the growth of secularism; and the importance of God's mercy and encouraging Catholics to avail themselves of the sacrament of reconciliation. The pope allowed the bishops to set the agenda, he said, told them they should all feel free to speak "with no pecking order" and responded to their questions and concerns with reflections based on his own experience as a priest and bishop. The overriding theme was "vicinanza" or closeness, Bishop Reed said: "You must be close to God in your prayer and your personal life; you must be close to your priests as a father and walk with them; and you must be close to your people."

    European bishops mark 30th anniversary of fall of Berlin Wall

    BRUSSELS (CNS) -- Catholic bishops from the European Union marked 30 years since the breaching of the Berlin Wall with tributes to those who worked for peaceful change, as well as warnings against resurgent "ideologies behind the building of walls. The fall of the Berlin Wall was one of the most important events in European history of the last decades, a moment full of emotion," the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union, or COMECE, said in a Nov. 6 statement. "But not all the expectations that the fall of the wall brought forth have been fulfilled. It is also true that the ideologies behind building the wall have not fully disappeared in Europe and are still present today in different forms." The statement said the Berlin Wall had symbolized "the ideological division of Europe and the whole world," adding that its breaching during mass protests Nov. 9, 1989, had "opened the way for regaining freedom" after communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe. "Having been separated by a concrete wall for more than 28 years, people -- relatives, friends and neighbors -- living in the same city were able to meet each other, celebrate and express their joy and hopes. From this moment the world looked different," said the document, signed by representatives of 26 bishops' conferences.

    'Ad limina' is time for profession of faith, hope, love, cardinal says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In front of the tomb of St. Peter, where they solemnly chanted the Creed in Latin, the bishops of New England contemplated the call and mission of the apostle, and how the Lord calls them as well. The bishops, making their visits "ad limina apostolorum" -- to the threshold of the apostles -- celebrated an early morning Mass Nov. 7 in the grotto of St. Peter's Basilica before meeting St. Peter's successor, Pope Francis. Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, principal celebrant and homilist at the Mass, noted how the prayer at the tomb of St. Peter and the earlier celebration at the tomb of St. Paul form "the very essence" of the pilgrimage bishops are required to make regularly to Rome to strengthen their faith and their bond with the pope and to report on the status of their dioceses. Referring to St. Paul as "the Pharisee" and St. Peter as "the fisherman," Cardinal O'Malley said Jesus chose "very unlikely people to lead his church." "I'm sure we feel that way about our vocations," he said. "We were not chosen because we were the best looking or the smartest or the holiest, but in God's providence he called us to this responsibility."

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  • Bishops to vote on revised strategic priorities for the early 2020s

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When they meet Nov. 11-13 in Baltimore, the U.S. bishops are expected to vote on a revised set of strategic priorities to take them into the next decade. The bishops, when they met in June, gave their provisional OK to development of a new set of strategic priorities for 2021-24. The June vote allowed committees, secretariats and departments of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to continue work on how to carry out the priorities. The expectation is the proposed 2021-24 priorities would receive a final vote for implementation at the USCCB's November 2020 meeting. For this year's vote, a simple majority of bishops present and voting is needed for passage. A working group of bishops under the aegis of the USCCB Committee on Priorities and Plans -- following two rounds of consultations with the bishops, one round with the USCCB's National Advisory Council, with recent input from five USCCB standing committees -- identified four priorities: evangelization; life and dignity of the human person; "protect and heal God's children"; and vocations. According to USCCB statutes, the bishops' strategic plan is to be reviewed and revised as needed every four years.

    Archdiocese breaks ground, blesses site of Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine

    OKLAHOMA CITY (CNS) -- Archbishop Paul S. Coakley broke ground Nov. 3 for the Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine in south Oklahoma City. "What we are about to construct here we are building for the honor and glory of God whose goodness, whose holiness, whose faithfulness, whose mercy shown through the life of Father Stanley Rother," Archbishop Coakley said during his homily. "It is God who we glorify as God reveals himself in the lives of his holy ones. We do all of this as we do all things for the glory of God and for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," he added. At the ceremony, Archbishop Coakley was joined by his predecessor, retired Archbishop Eusebius J Beltran of Oklahoma City, the city's Mayor David Holt, Bishop David A. Konderla of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas, and Benedictine Abbot Lawrence Stasyszen of St. Gregory's Abbey in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Also in attendance were nearly 2,000 priests, deacons and lay faithful.

    North Dakota university to name health sciences school for Italian saint

    BISMARCK, N.D. (CNS) -- The University of Mary plans to name its School of Health Sciences for a 20th-century Italian saint who saved the life of the child she was carrying despite a cancerous tumor in her uterus. The Catholic university announced Nov. 1, All Saints' Day, that it would name the health sciences school in honor of St. Gianna Beretta Molla as it opened a fundraising campaign for the program during its annual Candlelight Gala. University officials told supporters during the gala that St. Gianna's family allowed her name to be used for the school. "The naming of our school after St. Gianna beautifully emulates the sanctity of human life. The importance of the dignity of the human person runs deep within our school and within the hearts of our students," Glenda Reemts, chair of the university's department of nursing, said at the event. St. Gianna was born Oct. 4, 1922, near Milan, Italy, the 10th child of 13 in her family. Following World War II, she became a pediatrician. She was a Catholic leader, being active in Society of St. Vincent de Paul and other Catholic organizations.

    Family prayer, reading lives of saints inspire vocations, says sister

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- How many Catholic parents today encourage their young children to consider a vocation to the priesthood or religious life? Sister Emily Beata Marsh's parents did, giving her the freedom to be open to the possibility. One of 12, Sister Marsh said that when she and her siblings would dream about what they wanted to be in the future, her parents told the girls, "You should think about being a sister," and the boys, "You should think about being a priest. It was just in the mix with everything, not given more importance than another path or way of life," but presented as a "viable option," the now 33-year-old told Catholic News Service. Sister Marsh, a Daughter of St. Paul, traces the origins of her vocation to her family. Over breakfast, her mother read aloud from a children's book on the lives on the saints. "That was one way that I learned about what religious sisters were," Sister Marsh explained, since there were no sisters where she lived in a small town southwest of Buffalo, New York. Family prayer also influenced her vocation. "We weren't one of those families that did the rosary every night," she said. "My mom couldn't get us to sit still that long. But more like an Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, maybe a decade of the rosary, but always something."

    Three generations of Catholic women marry in same church with same dress

    NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- Southerners hold their traditions close to their hearts. That explains why Gabrielle Campo Hillman already knew what dress she would wear for her wedding earlier this year: a hand-sewn gown first worn by her grandmother, Gayle Brack Kopelman, in 1961, and then by her mother, Tammy Kopelman Campo, in 1986. "My mom already knew I was going to wear it," Hillman, 28, said. "It was always discussed." All three wore the dress as they walked down the aisle of the same church -- St. Agnes Church in Jefferson. Hillman's great grandparents had moved into this Catholic parish in the 1940s, sent their children to school there and never left. Her grandmother was 19 when she got married. Her mom was 24, and Hillman was 28 on her wedding day this April. Hillman said the original dress was designed from a dress featured in a magazine her grandmother liked. Kopelman's Aunt Elenor, a bridal dressmaker, made the classic dress from satin with lace accents, but without pearls or sequins. When her mother, Tammy, decided to wear the dress, it had not been properly preserved and parts of it had yellowed and deteriorated. "Below the bust down was never touched, but my mom removed some of the top and removed the sleeves and added see-through, puffy sleeves for her wedding," Hillman said. "My grandmother hand-sewed 5,000 pearls on it on the lace to fill in the buds of the flowers."

    Indian bishop denies claims of misconduct, says accusers oppose reforms

    NEW DELHI (CNS) -- A Catholic bishop in southern India has dismissed allegations of being a womanizer and fathering two children; he says the claims are a retaliatory response from priests opposed to his administrative reforms. reported that Bishop Kinnikadass William of Mysore told a news conference Nov. 5: "There is no truth in the allegations. A group (of priests) are behind it because of administrative reforms I introduced." The 54-year-old bishop spoke to the media after 37 of the 100 odd priests in the diocese wrote to the Vatican and its papal representative in India, plus other heads of church bodies in India. The letter alleged that Bishop William has had sexual relationships with at least 10 women. He is the father to two children, ages 12 and 5, it said. The letter, also circulated in media, sought action against the bishop. "If the allegations were true, I would not have been made a bishop," Bishop William told media.

    Teen spends final days reaching out to vulnerable, poor on city streets

    SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- When 19-year-old Nicholas Peters of San Carlos understood that his life would not be a long one, he decided to spend the days that might be left to him ministering to the forgotten and the hopeless on the streets of San Francisco. "Nicholas' biggest mission was spreading God's word and giving dignity to the homeless," his mother, Becky Peters, said in a message she delivered at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of San Mateo County's annual awards luncheon in September. The organization recognized Nicholas' legacy of Christian love by renaming its youth service award the Nicholas J. Peters Ozanam Spirit Award. The award, which recognizes service to the poor and needy by youth, pays tribute to Frederic Ozanam, a French university student who in 1833 founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to confront the dire poverty he saw on the streets of Paris. The Peters family belongs to St. Charles Parish in San Carlos. Nicholas and his sister, Lauren, attended St. Charles School from kindergarten through eighth grade. From January to July of this year, when Nicholas succumbed to the liver cancer he was diagnosed with at age 16, Peters said her son spent up to 40 hours a week or more with the homeless or homebound, volunteering at soup kitchens, homeless encampments and senior centers.

    Slum Jesus to be part of Rio de Janeiro's Carnival in 2020

    SAO PAULO (CNS) -- One of Brazil's most traditional samba schools -- the popular associations that organize annual Carnival parades in the country -- announced that the theme of its 2020 performance would be the story of Jesus taken to a Rio de Janeiro slum. Estacao Primeira de Mangueira also announced its performance song, which alludes to the increasing police brutality and to the violence suffered by minorities in Brazil. Written by the composers Manu da Cuica and Luiz Carlos Maximo, the song talks about a boy in a favela, or slum. He has a "black face, indigenous blood and the body of a woman" and is the son of an "unemployed carpenter" and of "Mary of Sorrows Brazil." The narrator of the song said the boy, who ages as the song progresses, struggles against oppression and can be met "where love finds no barriers." In another part, the song says "Favela, get the vision/ There's no future without sharing/ And no Messiah with a gun in his hand," a possible allusion to President Jair Bolsonaro's promises of loosening gun control legislation and of reducing punishment for police who kill suspected criminals. Bolsonaro's middle name is Messias. Another possible reference to Bolsonaro is the title of Mangueira's parade theme, "The truth will set you free," which was -- with a slight difference in the Portuguese wording -- one of Bolsonaro's campaign slogans in 2018. Bolsonaro, a self-described Catholic, was elected with a strong support of evangelical Christians, and his wife -- he's in his third marriage -- is a member of an evangelical denomination.

    Lebanese, protesting in streets, want a changing of the guard

    BEIRUT (CNS) -- Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese are hitting the streets across the country to demand an end to rampant corruption and poor public services. Cutting across sectarian lines, they also want the current government of entrenched politicians dating back to Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war era to step down. "There is no trust in the 'lords of the civil war,' that's what we call them. The way they are ruling the country since (dozens) of years, it doesn't work anymore -- sharing the power on a sectarian basis," Tarek Serhan, a student at St. Joseph's University in Beirut, told Catholic News Service. "We need a new government that will pass all of that -- an independent state with social justice and equality for all citizens," he said. "Since the civil war, those ruling maybe number eight people. It's the same faces. We don't trust them. That's why we want a government of independent experts to work and save this country," he said. Old and young alike have joined the often-festive protests. Citizens often carry national flag: red and white with the green cedar in the center. Hundreds gathered outside the capital's Palace of Justice Nov. 6, demanding an independent judiciary and an end to political interference. "We don't want judges who receive orders," read one sign, a response to allegations that some judges receive bribes and are indebted to the reigning politicians.

    Pope restructures Brazilian dioceses following synod proposal

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Following a proposal made during the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, Pope Francis restructured several dioceses in the Brazilian Amazon to better address the needs of local Catholics. The Vatican announced Nov. 6 that the pope restructured the Archdiocese of Belem do Para, essentially dividing the ecclesiastical territory in half to create the Archdiocese of Santarem, which borders the Brazilian state of Amazonas. He also divided the territorial prelature of Xingu, "and erected two new ecclesiastical regions: the Diocese of Xingu-Altamira and the territorial prelature of Alto Xingu-Tucuma," the Vatican said. The synod, which took place at the Vatican Oct. Oct. 6-27, addressed the challenges facing large dioceses with few resources to minister to Catholics in remote areas. In the synod's final document, bishops said that "the majority of dioceses, prelatures and vicariates of the Amazon have large territories, few ordained ministers, a shortage of financial resources and are going through difficulties in supporting the mission."

    Pilgrimage to Rome reflects unity in Christ, U.S. bishop says

    ROME (CNS) -- When U.S. bishops from New England gathered in the Basilic of St. Paul Outside the Walls to celebrate Mass and pray at the apostle's tomb, it was called "a blessing" that the day's reading would be St. Paul's Letter to the Romans. "How striking it is for us to hear Paul's words to the people of this city as we gather this afternoon," Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Portland, Maine, said in his homily during the Mass Nov. 5 at the Rome basilica. The bishops of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont were in Rome for their visits "ad limina apostolorum" -- to the threshold of the apostles. Their trip Nov. 4-8 also was to include numerous meetings at Vatican offices and with the pope, to report on their dioceses and, as Bishop Deeley said in his homily, to be strengthened in their mission as successors of the apostles. The bishops, wearing bright red vestments, prayed at the tomb of St. Paul after concelebrating Mass.

    Dialogue begins with empathy, not contempt, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians who preach the Gospel must see people who do not know Christ as children of God and not as nonbelievers worthy of hostility and contempt, Pope Francis said. The example of St. Paul's mission in Greece and his encounter with the pagan culture there serves as a reminder that Christians should "create a bridge to dialogue" with other cultures, the pope said Nov. 6 during his weekly general audience. "Paul does not look at the city of Athens and the pagan world with hostility but with the eyes of faith," he said. "And this makes us question our way of looking at our cities: Do we observe them with indifference? With contempt? Or with the faith that recognizes children of God in the midst of the anonymous crowds?" Continuing his series of talks on the Acts of the Apostles, the pope focused on St. Paul's visit to Athens, a city that "still held the primacy of culture" and was "full of idols." According to tradition, St. Paul preached to the Athenians at the Areopagus, an area that was not only a symbol of Greek political and cultural life but also the location of an altar to the "unknown god."

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