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  • Safe injection sites for drug addicts 'a form of euthanasia,' priest says

    IMAGE: CNS photo/Gina Christian,

    By Gina Christian

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Safe injection sites are "a form of euthanasia," according to a Philadelphia priest who has spent almost 50 years ministering to those suffering from addiction.

    Officials are seeking to make Philadelphia the first U.S. city to open a safe injection site, modeled after a facility that has operated in Vancouver, British Columbia, since 2003.

    But Father Douglas McKay, founder and chaplain of Our House Ministries, said that plan is "a way of killing those with addiction, a way of doping them up and 'protecting' ourselves from them."

    Located in Philadelphia's Grays Ferry section -- a neighborhood long ravaged by drug and alcohol addiction -- Our House Ministries provides recovery homes, conducts numerous group recovery meetings each week and offers intensive spiritual support for those seeking sobriety.

    Our House also hosts a chapter of the Calix Society, an international organization for Catholics in recovery that stresses the power of sacramental grace in overcoming addiction.

    Father McKay, who began working with those in addiction even before his seminary studies, said he has known thousands who have died from substance abuse. He currently presides at an average of two funerals a week due to drug overdoses, "not counting the ones" he turns down.

    Addiction has hit home for the archdiocesan priest, who grew up just a few blocks from where he now ministers. In 1995, his brother Anthony died at age 30 "in a crack house, with a needle in his arm," said Father McKay. Another brother, Harry, also struggled with addiction after serving in Vietnam, but remained sober for the last 25 years of his life.

    Reflecting on an Oct. 2 federal court decision that has cleared the legal hurdles for Philadelphia's proposed safe injection site, Father McKay said such a facility would not have prevented Anthony's overdose. Instead, he noted, safe injection sites only "provide a slower death to people who are already dying."

    "These people don't need more drugs; that's the cause of their sickness," he told, the digital newspaper of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. "You're poisoning their brains and making them sicker, when they need to be made well."

    Father McKay sees the sites as the product of "a drug culture that's part of the culture of death." He likened the impact of such facilities to the "zombie effect" of extended methadone use in combating heroin addiction.

    A synthetic opioid, methadone works to eliminate withdrawal symptoms, but long-term reliance on the prescription "burns out the brains" without healing addiction, said Father McKay.

    "The whole approach here reminds me of lobotomizing violent criminals and mentally ill people," said Father McKay.

    Lobotomy, or removal of the brain's frontal lobe, was widely practiced on tens of thousands in the mid-20th century to treat severe mental illness while reducing institutional overcrowding. Patients were generally left incapacitated and cognitively unresponsive after the procedure.

    While acknowledging "there are good people on both sides" of the safe injection site debate, Father McKay said supporters of such sites fail to understand the real nature of addiction and the most effective ways to address it.

    "They point to one feature, that they won't be alone when they inject themselves," he said, "but they need to look at the whole picture."

    Recovery from addiction requires "a moment of truth" that enables the individual to grasp the impact of his or her self-destructive behavior, said Father McKay. Such awareness is central to the 12-step approach employed by Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and similar groups.

    Safe injection sites "steal that moment away from them," he said, since facilitating the use of harmful drugs, even with compassionate motives, "takes away the opportunity for sufficient reflection" and keeps the affected person mired in addiction.

    "Sobriety is the first step, and that's what we're stopping these people from taking in these safe injection sites," he said. "Without that step, there is no second step."

    A number of studies have shown that sustained participation in 12-step groups, which are free and widely available, correlates with recovery rates as high as 70%.

    The number is significantly lower for Insite, the Canadian safe injection site that has served as a model for Philadelphia's proposed facility. According to Insite's data, 48,798 -- or 1.35% -- of the 3.6 million users who have self-injected since 2003 there have accessed some form of clinical treatment for substance abuse disorder.

    Father McKay also noted that Philadelphia's plan to offer fentanyl screening at its proposed site isn't viable. A synthetic opioid, fentanyl -- which is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine -- has driven the increase in the nation's overdose deaths.

    "Fentanyl is actually a good deterrent, because they're scared to pick up (relapse) again," he said. "But these sites will take that fear away and keep them enslaved, since they'll think they can keep using."

    For some users, fentanyl is actually desirable, he added, since it provides a high they can no longer attain after repeated heroin use.

    He also noted that those in active addiction would be unlikely to travel from other sections of the city to the proposed Kensington location for Philadelphia's planned site. Many individuals already rely on a kind of "street buddy system," he said, and "watch out for each other when they're nodding off" prior to overdosing.

    Clean needles, which safe injection sites typically provide, aren't a draw either, said Father McKay.

    "They couldn't care less about clean needles when they have a death wish," he said. "That's how sick they are. They're on the brink of death."

    Safe injection sites, like the addiction they seek to treat, ultimately work to harm everyone, said Father McKay.

    "You're watching them inject themselves with poison, and they come out demoralized and dehumanized, as do the people who watch them and promote the sites," he said. "Are we really caring about them, watching them shoot up?"

    Those suffering from addiction "are our brothers and sisters" who reflect the suffering Christ, the priest said, and they are inextricably connected with the larger community.

    "You put that needle in your arm, and it goes into the arm of the Lord, and into everyone else's arm as well," said Father McKay, stressing that addiction simultaneously affects individuals, families and society.

    Instead of supporting safe injection sites, he and the Our House team are working to create "spiritual sites" where the root causes of addiction -- such as isolation and hopelessness -- can be countered with God's grace and the fellowship of others.

    "We offer healing from the shame and guilt of their past sins," said Father McKay, adding that those who struggle with addiction can become models of holiness through God's intervention in their lives.

    Noting that "we underestimate grace and the power of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist," Father McKay said he persists in his work because "there's always an answer, and that is Jesus Christ."

    "It's not a belief, it's an experience," he said. "I've seen so many people get better."

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    Christian is a senior content producer for, the digital newspaper of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

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CNS News Briefs

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  • Panel: 'Nones' now account for close to a quarter of the U.S. population

    NEW YORK (CNS) -- "None of the above" is the fastest-growing religious identifier in the United States and now approximates the percentage of Catholics in the country. While most of the religiously unaffiliated people, the so-called "nones" are young, speakers at an Oct 15 symposium at Jesuit-run Fordham University said the trend encompasses all age groups and has enormous implications for American society. Between 1972 and 2018, the percentage of nones has grown from 5% to 23%, according to Alan Cooperman, director of religion research at the Pew Research Center. In that same period, Catholics have gone from 27% of the population to 24% and Protestants from 62% to 47%. Cooperman said the increase in nones is most pronounced among millennials, those born between 1981 and 1996, which counts 35% as religiously unaffiliated. "Each recent generation is more unaffiliated that the previous one, but no generation is becoming more affiliated as it gets older," Cooperman said. In addition to people disaffiliating from the religion in which they were raised, the change in denominational membership is caused by people switching religions. "We have a very dynamic religious marketplace in the U.S.," he said. According to Pew, 59% of those raised Catholic still consider themselves Catholic. Similarly, 53% of those raised as nones "have taken a religion," he said.

    Four N.Y. priests placed on leave; accused of abuse dating back decades

    NEW YORK (CNS) -- The New York Archdiocese has placed four of its priests -- three pastors and the director of priest personnel -- on administrative leave following an allegation of abuse with minors dating back several decades. The three pastors are Msgr. Edward Barry of Holy Rosary Parish in Hawthorne, Father William Luciano of Blessed Sacrament Parish in New Rochelle and Msgr. James White of St. Vito-Most Holy Trinity Parish in Mamaroneck. The fourth priest is Msgr. Edward Weber, director of the archdiocesan Priest Personnel Office. Their ministries have been temporarily restricted. "As is our practice, we reported this to the District Attorney's Office, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said in letters sent to the three parishes Oct. 3. "The archdiocese will now follow its policy and protocols, which include having outside independent investigators look into and assess the allegation, before presenting it to our independent Lay Review Board. "At the conclusion of their deliberations, the board will determine whether the allegation has been substantiated, which will determine whether (the priest) is suitable to return to ministry." The cardinal added: "This leave is not a punishment, and no judgment has been made about the accusation," saying the priests "continue to have the presumption of innocence."

    Gov. Cuomo pledges 'full support' for public statue of Mother Cabrini

    NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced the formation of a "state commission" to work with the Columbus Citizens Foundation and the Diocese of Brooklyn, among others, to fund creation of a statue of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini and find a site for it. His announcement followed remarks he made Oct. 12 at the Columbus Citizens Foundation gala in New York City pledging his "full support" for a Cabrini statue after the city's first lady, Chirlane McCray, and her She Built NYC commission rejected the patron saint of immigrants for one of the statues it is planning. The initiative aims to increase the number of statues of women in New York City. Mother Cabrini, as the saint is best known, was passed over to be one of first seven women to have a statue built in their honor. She received the most nominations of any of the 320 women nominated. Outrage over the snubbing of Mother Cabrini by She Built NYC prompted a march in Brooklyn Oct. 6 that drew more than 1,000 people, including many Italian Americans. It was led by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn and Msgr. David Cassato, director of the Brooklyn Diocese's Italian Apostolate. Afterward, Bishop DiMarzio celebrated Mass at Sacred Hearts-St. Stephen Church. The diocese has already raised $17,000 to make their own statue.

    Australia to amend religious freedom bills to consider health facilities

    SYDNEY (CNS) -- The Australian government said it will make changes to religious freedom legislation concerning religious hospitals and aged-care facilities, after the Catholic Church pushed for changes to a recently released draft legislation package. The church's concerns were outlined in submissions lodged with the federal government. Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli, the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference spokesman on religious freedom, said the legislation required "some significant amendment." The bishops' submission was heavily focused on getting health and aged-care services included in legislative exemptions that bestow special rights of hiring and firing for religious schools. The Catholic Church estimated in its submission that it provided about 10% of Australia's health care services. "This bill would provide important protection against discrimination on the grounds of religious belief or activity and a positive protection of our freedom to act in accordance with our religious faith, but excludes vital parts of the work of the church," Archbishop Comensoli said in an emailed statement. "The government's religious discrimination bill must protect the ability of churches and other religious groups to continue to serve the poor and sick through housing and supported accommodation, hospitals and aged care, soup vans, drop-in centers, providing food and clothing, and financial and emotional support," he said.

    Safe injection sites for drug addicts 'a form of euthanasia,' priest says

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Safe injection sites are "a form of euthanasia," according to a Philadelphia priest who has spent almost 50 years ministering to those suffering from addiction. Officials are seeking to make Philadelphia the first U.S. city to open a safe injection site, modeled after a facility that has operated in Vancouver, British Columbia, since 2003. But Father Douglas McKay, founder and chaplain of Our House Ministries, said that plan is "a way of killing those with addiction, a way of doping them up and 'protecting' ourselves from them." Located in Philadelphia's Grays Ferry section -- a neighborhood long ravaged by drug and alcohol addiction -- Our House Ministries provides recovery homes, conducts numerous group recovery meetings each week and offers intensive spiritual support for those seeking sobriety. Our House also hosts a chapter of the Calix Society, an international organization for Catholics in recovery that stresses the power of sacramental grace in overcoming addiction. Father McKay, who began working with those in addiction even before his seminary studies, said he has known thousands who have died from substance abuse. He currently presides at an average of two funerals a week due to drug overdoses, "not counting the ones" he turns down.

    USCCB elevates oldest Marian shrine in U.S. to national shrine status

    ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (CNS) -- Bishop Felipe J. Estevez of St. Augustine made a surprise announcement during Mass Oct. 11 that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has elevated the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche to national shrine status. For many years, the shrine at Mission Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine has been a renowned landmark for pilgrims who visit from all over the world. It is America's oldest Marian shrine. Among the more than 200 people who attended the Mass on the feast of of Our Lady of La Leche were benefactors, members of the recently reinstated Confraternity of Our Lady of La Leche, Knights and Dames of Malta, and many others who cherish the devotion to the Virgin Mother nursing the infant Jesus. In his homily, Bishop Estevez spoke about how Mary exemplifies what it means to have a relationship with God. "Mary recognizes the living God who closes the door to the mighty of this world and raises up the little ones, the poor in spirit, who are blessed by God," he said. "She praises God in his great mercy toward those who obey him and open their hearts to him." According to the USCCB, the term "shrine" signifies a church or other sacred place to which the faithful make pilgrimages for a particular pious reason with the approval of the local ordinary. The distinguishing mark of a shrine is that it is a place to which the faithful make pilgrimages.

    Inadequate formation a factor in lack of vocations, bishops say at synod

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Existing formation programs are not preparing priests and other pastoral workers to be leaders in a church with an Amazonian and indigenous face, according to bishops participating in the synod for the Amazon. "It's not the same to evangelize in the city as in the Amazon," Bishop Rafael Cob Garcia of Puyo, Ecuador, told journalists at an Oct. 12 press briefing. "The needs are different." Formation must be adapted to meet those needs, he said. Synod participants repeatedly have mentioned the lack of sufficient priests to celebrate the Eucharist and other sacraments in the thousands of communities scattered throughout huge church jurisdictions in Amazonia. Some bishops have pointed to the church's mandatory celibacy requirement as an obstacle to indigenous vocations. In many indigenous cultures, a young man is not considered an adult and a full member of the community until he has a family. Another obstacle is academic, because quality education is lacking in rural villages, Bishop Cob said. When young men from villages go to a seminary in the city, they often find themselves behind their urban classmates academically and drop out. When a young man goes from an indigenous village to an urban seminary, he also is uprooted from his culture, Franciscan Father Joao Messias Sousa, who ministers among the Munduruku people in Brazil's Tapajos River basin, told Catholic News Service.

    Vatican congregation says claim against Texas bishop 'manifestly unfounded'

    HOUSTON (CNS) -- A Vatican congregation said an allegation of abuse made against Auxiliary Bishop George A. Sheltz of Galveston-Houston "is manifestly unfounded" and he has returned to public ministry. In an Oct. 10 statement, the Texas archdiocese said it had received the allegation against the bishop, who also is chancellor, in June and referred it to the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, "who in turn referred it to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has competency in these matters. The CDF has determined that the allegation against Bishop Sheltz is manifestly unfounded," the statement said. "The Congregation for Bishops has notified us and this brings the matter to a close and Bishop Sheltz is restored to full public ministry." It added, "We are very grateful Bishop Sheltz is resuming his normal ministry activities effective immediately."

    Pope criticizes cruelty of world marked by hunger, obesity, food waste

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Resolving the global crises of world hunger and malnutrition demands a shift away from a distorted approach to food and toward healthier lifestyles and just economic practices, Pope Francis said. "We are, in fact, witnessing how food is ceasing to be a means of subsistence and turning into an avenue of personal destruction," he said in his message to Qu Dongyu, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, to mark World Food Day Oct. 16. World Food Day marks the date the FAO was founded in 1945 to address the causes of world hunger. Pope Francis said he hoped the world day theme of 2019 -- "Our actions are our future: Healthy diets for a #ZeroHunger World" -- will be a reminder of how many people continue to eat in an unhealthy way. "It is a cruel, unjust and paradoxical reality that, today, there is food for everyone, and yet not everyone has access to it, and that in some areas of the world food is wasted, discarded and consumed in excess, or destined for other purposes than nutrition," he said. "To escape from this spiral, we need to promote 'economic institutions and social initiatives which can give the poor regular access to basic resources,'" he said, citing his encyclical, "Laudato Si'."

    Synod must give hope to indigenous, not hollow words, participant says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Indigenous people are hoping that the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon will awaken the world's conscience to their plight and not simply offer them lip service, an indigenous participant told Pope Francis. During a Vatican news briefing, Yesica Patiachi Tayori, a member of the indigenous pastoral office for the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Maldonado, Peru, told journalists that her address at the synod hall Oct. 15 centered on the discrimination against indigenous people as well as the indifference they face from those who claim to fight climate change. "We told the Holy Father that we are afraid because we are forgetting our language; it is being extinguished because we are asphyxiated by the models of development that come from outside that do not respect life," she said Oct. 16. A member of the Harakbut indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazonian region, Patiachi said indigenous people "have been, are and will continue to be the guardians of the forest." However, there are many who continue to discriminate against them because they "want to see indigenous people on display and not as a living culture."

    Honduran bishops denounce drug cartel incursion into politics

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- The Honduran bishops' conference said narcotics trafficking has permeated the Central American country's institutions and accused politicians of colluding with organized crime. "With deep pain we confirm how 'the scourge of narcotics trafficking,' as Pope Francis has called it ... is a reality, which has permeated our country's institutions and, as a consequence, has caused an accelerated deterioration of our nation's image," the Oct. 11 statement said. "Nothing of what narcotics trafficking has gained in our country could have been done without the collusion of government bodies, which, by reason of being, are called to defend life and provide security to everyone," the statement continued. "We must admit that in much of this, politicians are guilty of having colluded with organized crime." The letter comes as Juan Antonio "Tony" Hernandez, brother of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, is being tried in the United States on weapons and drug trafficking charges. Prosecutors allege drug proceeds flowed into the president's last election campaign. Tony Hernandez has pleaded not guilty. The president is not charged with any crimes and denies all accusations of wrongdoing. He has said drug cartel bosses are trying to seek revenge on him for launching a crackdown on their activities.

    Catholic schools 'essential, integral' to church's ministry, say educators

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The mission and foundation of Catholic education are directly related to evangelization, said the head of the National Catholic Educational Association. Catholic schools are obligated to evangelize simply because that is the core and mission of the Catholic Church, according to Thomas Burnford, president and CEO of the NCEA. "The apostles told the good news of Jesus Christ, and Catholic schools are an essential and integral ministry of the Catholic Church," he told Catholic News Service. Nationwide, 1.8 million students are enrolled in 6,300 Catholic schools, he noted. Additionally, 80% of students are Catholic, and the remaining 20% are non-Catholic. Despite the percentage difference, the mission of Catholic education is the same for Catholic and non-Catholic students, Burnford explained. "The teaching of the faith, the way we witness the Catholic faith fully to Catholic students is the same for all students. All students are invited and welcomed to participate fully in the whole culture of the school, the formation of the school and the life of the school," Burnford said.

    Update: Catholics among those arrested at protest over low refugee cap

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholics joined an array of faith communities, human rights groups, clergy, refugees and refugee resettlement agencies gathered outside the U.S. Capitol Oct. 15 protesting deep cuts to the refugee admissions program. Some shouted "Jesus was a refugee" toward the Capitol as others, including a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, were led from the steps of the U.S. Capitol in handcuffs in an act of civil disobedience. Catholic groups, including the Franciscan Action Network and Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, joined other Christian organizations, along with Jewish and Muslim groups demanding that the refugee cap be set at 95,000 for the upcoming fiscal year, and not the expected 18,000 the Trump administration has asked for. They also took issue with past characterizations by the administration insinuating some refugees enter the country to do harm. "We are loyal citizens, we love this country," said Nihad Awad, a Palestinian born in a refugee camp in Jordan, who is the co-founder and CEO of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Being allowed to live the U.S. "changed my life," he said. "It moved me from despair to hope." He said efforts to shut the door to those like him, seeking safety, were "immoral and un-American."

    Experts fear legislation will further reduce religion in Quebec schools

    QUEBEC CITY (CNS) -- Many experts fear the Quebec government's legislation on education will further dismiss religion and spirituality from the province's schools. Among the changes announced in a bill presented Oct. 1, the government plans to abolish the Ministry of Education's religious affairs advisory committee and to remove all references to spirituality from the Education Act. The legislation, Bill 40, coincides with ongoing debates about the place of religious beliefs in schools, especially after the adoption in June of a secularism bill that prohibits teachers from wearing religious symbols during work hours. "At a time when Bill 21 on secularism in the school system is being applied, when the future of the ethics and religious culture course is being questioned, the government is abolishing the committee that is able to give notices on these issues," said Jean-Philippe Perreault, a professor at Laval University's Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies. A specialist in ethics and religious culture, Perreault is a member of the Religious Affairs Committee. In 2000, in the wake of the deconfessionalization of the Quebec school system, the two former Catholic and Protestant committees of the Ministry of Education were replaced by the Religious Affairs Committee, whose role became only advisory.

    Pope: Evangelization must help, not hinder, people getting closer to God

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God wants everyone to be saved, which is why those who evangelize must avoid letting their prejudices get in the way of God's plan, Pope Francis said. "An evangelizer cannot be an obstacle to the creative work of God, who 'wills everyone to be saved,' but one who fosters an encounter of hearts with the Lord," the pope said Oct. 16 during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square. The pope also recalled the day marked the anniversary of the 1978 election of St. John Paul II. "Let us thank the Lord for everything good that happened in the church, in the world and in people's hearts because of the words, deeds and holiness of John Paul II. Let us remember that his appeal to open your heart to Christ is always timely," he said when greeting Polish-speaking visitors. In his main catechesis, the pope continued his series of talks on the Acts of the Apostles. He reflected on St. Luke's account of Cornelius -- the generous and God-fearing pagan, and St. Peter, whom God calls to meet with Cornelius. It was unlawful at the time for a Jewish man to meet with a Gentile, and Peter is harshly rebuked by the community in Jerusalem for visiting and baptizing him.

    Update: Vatican security chief resigns following leak of internal document

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Domenico Giani, head of the Vatican police, nearly two weeks after an internal security notice was leaked to the Italian press. The Vatican announced Oct. 14 that the pope accepted the resignation of the 57-year-old Vatican police chief who, although "bears no personal responsibility" for the leak, "tendered his resignation to the Holy Father out of love for the church and faithfulness to Peter's successor." The pope accepted Giani's resignation, and in a conversation with him, "expressed his appreciation to the commander for his gesture. Pope Francis also recalled Domenico Giani's 20 years of unquestionable faithfulness and loyalty and underlined how, by offering an outstanding witness in many parts of the world, Commander Giani was able to establish and guarantee a lasting atmosphere of ease and security around the Holy Father," the Vatican said. The day after the announcement, the Vatican announced that the pope named deputy Vatican police chief Gianluca Gauzzi Broccoletti as Giani's replacement. Gauzzi, who has been a part of the Vatican police force since 1995, was also responsible for developing the Vatican's cyber security network.

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  • L.A. Archdiocese expands fund for Southern California wildfire victims

    LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is expanding a fund established last year for victims of wildfires in California to victims of the current wildfires burning in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. The fund was created in the wake of the Thomas Fire that struck Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in 2017-18, killing two people directly and another 21 indirectly from debris and mudflows, scorching more than 280,000 acres. The fund was expanded to include those affected by last year devastating fires and is now expanding to include those affected by the current fires in the San Fernando Valley and throughout Los Angeles and Ventura counties. The Saddleridge Fire, which started Oct. 10 in the Los Angeles suburb of Sylmar, has claimed two lives, both from heart attacks. It has burned 8,400 acres in the hills of the San Fernando Valley, destroying 17 structures and damaging another 77. The archdiocese is providing support to communities affected by the fires through its local parishes and schools. Those in need of immediate temporary shelter, food or assistance can contact the pastor of their nearest parish for help.

    Edmundite priest says his life has been about serving God, God's people

    COLCHESTER, Vt. (CNS) -- The St. Edmund's Medal of Honor is presented to men and women who, like St. Edmund, see talents and expertise as God-given gifts. These are ordinary people doing extraordinary service for the church and community. This year among those being honored for such a life of service is Father Ray Doherty, 89, who is an admired presence on the campus of St. Michael's College in Colchester. He is a member of the Society of St. Edmund, which founded the Catholic college, but belonging to the religious community is not a prerequisite for receiving the medal. Other recipients this year are Stephen Moran, founder of Crossroads Physical Therapy and Camp Care in Columbia, Connecticut; Janet Steinmayer, president of Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and former president of Mitchell College in New London Connecticut; Redemptorist Father Philip Dabney, former vicar of "Boston's Basilica," the Basilica and Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help; and Travis Moran, founder of Crossroads 4 Christ Young Adult Ministry, also based in Columbia. The awards will be presented Oct. 25 at Enders Island in Mystic, Connecticut. This event celebrates the lives of those who reflect the legacy of St. Edmund, the archbishop of Canterbury and patron of Enders Island and St. Edmund's Retreat.

    Immigration advocates take part in teach-in event at U.S.-Mexico border

    EL PASO, Texas (CNS) -- Catholic Latino organizers, labor leaders, scholars and activists took part in a social justice event that was a combination teach-in and demand for action Oct. 11-13 in El Paso. The gathering, attended by about 300 people, was sponsored by a newly formed group called Latinx Catholic Leadership Coalition in collaboration with the Hope Border Institute. Organizers said the event was in response to "inhumane treatment of migrants and refugees at the border" and the El Paso shooting that authorities believe targeted Latinos this past summer. The event included workshops, trainings, strategizing sessions and a public action where participants walked across the Lerdo International Bridge from El Paso to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, to visit asylum-seekers Oct. 12. The opening session Oct. 11 had as its theme: "Our communities are under attack: undermining white supremacy through solidarity" and had as its presenter Msgr. Arturo Banuelas, pastor of St. Mark's Church in El Paso. The closing session Oct. 13 was about Latino leadership for the present moment led by Luis Fraga, director of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame. At the end of the three-day gathering, Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso released a pastoral letter titled "Night Will Be No More" and signed copies of the letter for some of those attending the border event.

    Pastoral care of Hispanics, outreach to youth top Encuentro priorities

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The pastoral care of Hispanic families and immigrants, accompaniment of youth and young adults, and leadership development were the top priorities that Hispanic ministry leaders of seven dioceses, including the Archdiocese of Washington, addressed Oct. 5 at The Catholic University of America. The gathering of about 50 Encuentro delegates, including laypeople, religious and clergy from episcopal region four, is part of the Fifth National Encuentro, or V Encuentro. This multiyear process that involves mission, consultation and community building, seeks to establish ways in which the Catholic Church can better respond to the Hispanic presence in parishes around the country. "The Encuentro process has been a real blessing for us to go deeper in the reflection (of) what are we going to do with this challenge, which is an opportunity for us to continue to spread the good news" of Jesus, Washington Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville said in an interview with the Catholic Standard, Washington's archdiocesan newspaper. The immigration crisis that affects thousands of Hispanic immigrants and their families has impacted individuals across the nation. Celia Rivas, immigration services coordinator for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, led a presentation on the topic. Rivas explained that recent immigrants have been exposed to many forms of trauma, such as gang violence in their countries, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and even detention and family separations at the border. Once they are in the country, they may face other challenges such as loneliness and depression, unemployment, bullying and vulnerability to scams.

    Mercy, service remain focus for Carlow University as it marks 90th year

    PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- Sporting orange hairnets and crinkly plastic gloves, hundreds of students, staff, faculty and administrators at Carlow University joined in packing 20,000 meals, which will be sent to people in need in Africa. The university in Pittsburgh has its roots in the traditions of the Catholic faith and the vision and values of the Sisters of Mercy. The meal-packaging event in September was one of many activities commemorating the university's 90th anniversary and evoking the university's values of mercy and service. "It really fits into our mission of service," said Mercy Sister Sheila Carney, special assistant to the president for Carlow's Office of Mercy Heritage. "We have a value of sacredness of creation, which calls upon us to build a world where everyone can thrive, so having nourishment is part of that." The meals are part of Catholic Relief Services' Helping Hands program, which partners with Rise Against Hunger, an international hunger relief agency that provides the supplies and staff for CRS Helping Hands' events at churches and schools across the country, said Mary Peirce, CRS church engagement coordinator for Helping Hands. Sister Sheila said volunteers performed specific tasks: One held a plastic bag under a funnel, another poured in rice, another poured soy, another dehydrated vegetables, and yet another a vitamin packet. Other volunteers heat-sealed each bag, boxed the bags, taped the boxes and loaded them onto pallets for shipping.

    At 50, FDLC remains focused on liturgical formation for 'people of God'

    CHICAGO (CNS) -- When the Second Vatican Council decreed that the liturgy be celebrated in people's native languages in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops knew it would need some help training clergy and laypeople in the new texts that would be developed. So in 1969, it formally established the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions as an advisory group during the process. That group, which continues to advise the USCCB on matters of liturgy, celebrated its 50th anniversary Oct. 9-11 with a gathering in Chicago. "We were founded by the bishops themselves 50 years ago in order to touch base with the grassroots to find out what the people really needed and we went right into formation in all of the liturgical texts that were coming out after the Vatican II," said Rita Thiron, FDLC's executive director. "That's still our mission today. We provide liturgical formation for parishes and especially for dioceses." The federation regularly offers trainings around the country, frequently in partnership with local diocesan liturgy offices, for priests, deacons and lay ministers involved in leading the Mass, and other liturgical rites such as the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. The goal is to help these leaders better understand new forms of the rites when they are promulgated and help enrich the experiences of the people of God. FDLC also publishes books and other resources to aid this formation. "The FDLC is still as relevant today as it was 50 years ago because we still need liturgical formation. We still need to promote competency in liturgical ministry. We still need to serve our bishops who are the chief liturgists of their dioceses," Thiron said. "And it's still important to hear the voices of the grassroots, to hear what the people need from the ground up."

    Indigenous culture can enrich liturgy, bishop says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Proposals at the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon for indigenous- or Amazonian-rite ceremonies are meant to enhance and enrich the liturgy with cultural signs and gestures, not change what is essential for Catholics, a bishop said. Spanish-born Bishop Rafael Escudero Lopez-Brea of Moyobamba, Peru, said Catholics are not asking for a new "liturgical rite," but want to maintain the essential elements "received by the Lord and the apostles in the Eucharist" while introducing cultural elements. "When we speak of this possibility, it means to introduce some symbols into the Eucharist, some rites that do not affect what is essential in the Eucharist because if not, we would ruin the sacrament and go against that revelation," Bishop Escudero told journalists Oct. 15. During that morning's session of the synod, several participants addressed the theme of inculturation which, according to a Vatican News summary, would "open the church to discover new paths within the rich diversity of Amazonian culture."

    U.S. bishops speak at synod for the Amazon

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops for the Amazon is not a "referendum" on priestly celibacy; it is looking for ways to provide for the sacramental life and formation of the people there, U.S. Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston said. "Because one of the themes is the terrible shortage of priests in the Amazonia region, I was trying to stress that, if we want to have priests in that area, we are going to have to make sacrifices to have people who can promote vocations and accompany and train seminarians in their own milieu and their own languages," he said he told synod participants. The cardinal and Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego both were appointed by Pope Francis to be voting members of the synod, which was being held Oct. 6-27 at the Vatican. The cardinal, who also is a member of the pope's Council of Cardinals, gave a summary on of what he told the synod in his talk to the general assembly and issues being brought up by the pope and others. "One of the things that the Holy Father held up in his comments was that he asked us to look at the problem of violence in the region. Not only the kind of violence symbolized in the pictures of all those who have been killed, but also understanding the violence to the forests themselves and its effects on the people who are there," he wrote in a post published Oct. 11.

    Typhoon Hagibis aftermath unlikely to affect Pope Francis' November plans

    TOKYO (CNS) -- A devastating typhoon that hit Japan over the weekend is unlikely to change the program of Pope Francis, who is scheduled to visit the country next month, reported Typhoon Hagibis, which killed more than 70 people, was the strongest storm to hit Japan in six decades. Search-and-rescue operations continued after the storm caused flooding and landslides throughout the country, leaving at least 19 people still missing as of Oct. 15. The disaster is unlikely to affect the travel plans of Pope Francis, due to visit Japan Nov. 23-26, reported. "None of the areas he will visit in Tokyo, Nagasaki and Hiroshima suffered damage from Hagibis. We expect no change in plans," said a church worker closely connected with papal trip preparations. "His schedule here is so tight that I don't imagine any changes will be made," the official told on condition of anonymity because the papal schedule is yet to be published.

    Caritas works to help Syrians displaced by Turkish bombings

    AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) -- Church bells have been ringing in Qamishli and elsewhere in northeastern Syria, signaling the alarm to Christians and others of the ongoing Turkish military operation that is having a devastating humanitarian impact on civilians. "Hundreds of thousands of people have escaped," said Yerado Krikorian, communications assistant for the Catholic aid agency Caritas Syria, which is working around the clock to aid those displaced by Turkish bombing and shelling. "They need water where they have fled, and so Caritas is distributing badly needed water bottles and other essentials to those displaced in shelters throughout the Hassakeh region," Krikorian told Catholic News Service by telephone from Damascus. Caritas Syria is the country's branch of Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Church's international network of charitable agencies. The A'louk water station, supplying water to nearly 400,000 people in Hassakeh, is out of service, according to UNICEF. The organization and Syrian government are is trying to get it fixed. Meanwhile, UNICEF warns that some 70,000 children have been displaced since hostilities escalated Oct. 7, but it expected that number to more than double as a result of ongoing violence. As of Oct. 15, the United Nations estimates that at least 160,000 people have been displaced, but 400,000 are in need of humanitarian aid as the Turkish military and its allied Syrian rebels, including Islamic State and al-Qaida militants, press deeper into northeastern Syria, battling Kurdish and Syriac Christian forces.

    Jesus does not tolerate hypocrisy, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Jesus enjoys unmasking hypocrisy, which is the work of the devil, Pope Francis said. Christians, in fact, must learn to avoid hypocrisy by scrutinizing and acknowledging their own personal faults, failings and sins, he said Oct. 15 during morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae. "A Christian who does not know how to accuse himself is not a good Christian," he said. The pope focused his homily on the day's Gospel reading (Lk 11:37-41) in which Jesus criticizes his host for being concerned only with outward appearances and superficial rituals, saying, "although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil." Pope Francis said the reading shows how much Jesus does not tolerate hypocrisy, which, the pope said, "is appearing one way but being something else" or hiding what one really thinks. When Jesus calls the Pharisees "whitewashed tombs" and hypocrites, these words are not insults but the truth, the pope said.

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  • El Paso bishop calls out racism but urges accused shooter's life be spared

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- It's a pastoral letter that pulls no punches, goes far into the past and continues up to the recent present of racism at the U.S.-Mexico border. Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, released a pastoral letter Oct. 13, on the eve of the controversial holiday that Columbus Day has become, pointing to the church's role in racism at the border, particularly among indigenous communities, describes the pain of Latinos in the El Paso area following a mass shooting in August, but also calls on authorities to spare the life of the accused perpetrator. Invoking martyrs who include St. Oscar Romero, Blessed Stanley Rother and four Maryknoll women missionaries killed in El Salvador, Bishop Seitz said he wishes that, like them, "I may speak without fear when it is called for and help to give voice to those who have not been heard." The letter titled "Night Will Be No More" was unveiled at the end of a social justice gathering of Catholic Latino organizers, labor leaders, scholars and activists in El Paso Oct.11-13. It begins and ends with the specter of the Aug. 3 shooting at a Walmart in the city, a violent and bloody event that authorities believe targeted Latinos. "Hate visited our community and Latino blood was spilled in sacrifice to the false god of white supremacy," wrote the bishop. That event led him to write the letter, he explained, "after prayer and speaking with the people of God in the church of El Paso" to "reflect together on the evil that robbed us of 22 lives."

    Glenmary releases list of credible claims, hopes it helps bring 'healing'

    CINCINNATI (CNS) -- Father Dan Dorsey, president of the Glenmary Home Missioners, said the religious community of priests and brothers "has become painfully aware that in the past we have failed to protect minors and vulnerable adults. We have realized how often our response to victims has been inadequate. We deeply regret these failures," he said Oct. 11. "We continue to seek your forgiveness for our mistakes. We are committed to healing and justice for all those involved." Father Dorsey made the comments in an open letter released with a list of men credibly abused of sexual abuse. The list is the result of a yearlong forensic review commissioned by Glenmary. The list includes the names of seven priests and four brothers and includes year of birth, when each man joined Glenmary, their current status and a list of dioceses where each man was assigned. The full list can be found online at "The nature of Glenmary's missionary work means most members have served in a variety of ministries across several dioceses," Father Dorsey said in his letter.

    Update: Oakland pastor, visiting Indian archbishop die in car accident

    OAKLAND, Calif. (CNS) -- A pastor in the Diocese of Oakland and a visiting archbishop from India were killed Oct. 10 in a traffic accident in California. Another priest traveling in the car with them was injured in the crash. The dead clergy are Archbishop Dominic Jala, 68, of the Archdiocese of Shillong, India, who also was apostolic administrator of Nongstoin, India, and Salesian Father Mathew Vellankal, 58, pastor of St. Bonaventure Parish in Concord. Injured in the accident was Father Joseph Parekkatt, pastor of St. Anne Parish in Walnut Creek. He was reported in stable condition at Santa Rosa Hospital. All three clergy were born in India. A Toyota Prius with the three clergy was hit at about 2:30 p.m. (local time) by a tractor-trailer truck on California Route 20 near Wilbur Springs, according to the California Highway Patrol. Father Vellankal, 58, was ordained for the Salesians of Don Bosco in 1987. Born in Ayavana in Kerala state, he ministered in parishes and schools in India before coming to the Diocese of Oakland in 2001. His parish assignments included Queen of All Saints in Concord, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Fremont and Holy Spirit in Fremont. "Father Vellankal's joyous spirit and faith will be deeply missed," said a statement by Bishop Michael C. Barber of Oakland. "May his soul and the soul of Archbishop Jala rest in the peace of Christ." Archbishop Jala was born July 12, 1951, and himself ordained a priest of the Salesians of Don Bosco in 1977. He was ordained as archbishop of Shillong in 2000.

    Syriac Catholic patriarch pleads for peace in northeastern Syria

    ROME (CNS) -- The patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church pleaded for "immediate and lasting peace in northeastern Syria and the preservation of innocent lives, especially for Christians, who are the original and founding component of Syria." Celebrating Mass Oct. 13 in the patriarchal Church of the Virgin Mary in Rome in the presence of people uprooted over the years from Syria and Iraq, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan said, "We Christians of the East are neglected and abandoned by this world, which searches for its immediate material interests." As fighting between Kurdish forces and the Turkish army continued following the offensive launched by Turkey into northeastern Syria Oct. 9, the patriarch said, "We know that those who will pay the price are particularly innocent, especially Christians who cannot defend themselves, while Christians believe that the world around them, especially the powerful, exploits them and does not think of them, as if they are the scum of this world." Making an "urgent appeal in this Mass," Patriarch Younan said he was uniting with Pope Francis "and all the church pastors around the world, in order to bring immediate and lasting peace" in northeastern Syria and throughout the country and "to preserve the lives of innocent people and the safety of all those who suffer. The path of our cross has been going on for many years in Iraq, and today in Syria we continue to suffer from terrorist attacks, acts of violence, blind religious and sectarian fanaticism, and thus we are displaced, uprooted and annihilated," the patriarch stressed.

    Indigenous woman brings message from her elders to pope as church elder

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Anitalia Pijachi, an indigenous woman from the Amazonian town of Leticia, Colombia, came to the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon bringing a message from the elders of her people to Pope Francis, an elder of the Catholic Church. The first Europeans to arrive in the Amazon were "invaders," she said. "They never asked permission of mother nature or of the people who lived there. They imposed the cross and the Bible. That caused a great deal of resentment," and in some cases forced indigenous peoples from their territories. But when the pope, during his 2018 visit to Peru, asked Amazonian people to tell the church how it should walk with them, "that was a question that asked permission," she told Catholic News Service. Pijachi, an Ocaina Huitoto woman who is not Catholic, said that when she heard that, she spoke to the elders of her people, who approved of her participation in presynod gatherings as long as the church respected indigenous cultures. "The elders said that first the Catholic Church and all churches must recognize us as having a right to our own culture and customs, our own spirituality," she added. "They must not impose themselves and change" those beliefs.

    U.N. nuncio praises nations for recognizing rights of indigenous peoples

    UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- The Vatican's nuncio to the United Nations called it welcome news that several nations around the world "have taken active steps to recognize the right to autonomy or self-government of indigenous peoples." Such "concrete actions provide a mutually beneficial framework for the engagement between the state government and the indigenous people," said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican's permanent observer to the United Nations, in remarks Oct. 11. "They also contribute to the recognition and realization of the rights of indigenous peoples, their extraordinary cultural and spiritual patrimony, and their valuable contribution to broader society and the common good," he added. His statement was issued in reaction to a recent report from the "special rapporteur" on the rights of indigenous peoples. His remarks were addressed to the Third Committee of the 74th session of the U.N. General Assembly for its agenda item on the "Rights of Indigenous Peoples." They were delivered by Msgr. Fredrik Hansen, first secretary at the Vatican's U.N. permanent observer mission. Quoting Pope Francis, the archbishop said: "It is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions. They are not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed."

    Update: Ecuador's president rolls back austerity measures that triggered protests

    ROME (CNS) -- Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno met with indigenous leaders and agreed to roll back austerity measures that had sparked 10 days of protests. The Catholic Church and the United Nations worked together to bring the parties to the negotiating table, according to a statement posted on the website of the Ecuadorian bishops' conference. The announcement came hours after Pope Francis, at his Oct. 13 Angelus prayer, urged Ecuadorians to "seek social peace, especially for the most vulnerable and the poor." He said he and the bishops meeting in the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon were following the events in Ecuador "with concern" and were "united with (Ecuadorians) in sorrow" for people killed and injured in the protests and those who are still missing. Moreno agreed to rescind a decree he had announced the night of Oct. 2, which eliminated a $1.4 million annual fuel subsidy as part of a multibillion-dollar loan deal with the International Monetary Fund. Government officials said the cheap fuel had benefited criminal groups operating a lucrative cross-border trade in contraband gasoline to Peru and Colombia. After the subsidy was eliminated, however, diesel fuel prices nationwide more than doubled, and gasoline prices rose by about 30 percent. The sudden increase in transportation costs was expected to increase the costs of other products.

    Ministry, ecology, mission are main themes at synod's first week

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The first week of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon saw support for the priestly ordination of married indigenous men, impassioned pleas for respect for indigenous culture and denunciations of violence against the earth. In synod working sessions Oct. 7-12, more than 90 voting members of the synod addressed the assembly and 20 observers, special guests and delegates from other Christian churches made their interventions. The Vatican synod hall is hosting 185 voting members, 25 experts, 55 observers, six delegates from other Christian communities and 12 special guests who are experts on various topics the synod is discussing. Except for the formal introductions to the synod's work Oct. 7 and Pope Francis' remarks on the occasion, the Vatican has released no texts from the synod. Instead, the press office is distributing twice daily summaries from Vatican News and invites three or four synod participants to meet the press each day during the midday break. From the summaries and the comments of briefing participants, the main discussion topics can be grouped as: ministries in the church; destruction of the environment; ending violence against people and the environment in the region; indigenous rights and culture; evangelization and mission; and migration, including the move of indigenous people from villages to cities.

    Newman's conscience insights timely today, says Sydney archbishop

    ROME (CNS) -- St. John Henry Newman's insights into the function and meaning of conscience "could not be more timely" given widespread moral confusion in the Western world, said Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher. Speaking at an Oct. 12 symposium at the Dominican-run Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, commonly called the Angelicum, Archbishop Fisher said Cardinal Newman's theology of conscience offered an antidote to the moral relativism that was convulsing many societies. The power of Cardinal Newman's teachings, he said, could be seen in the witness of the White Rose, an anti-Nazi movement in wartime Germany, which found the courage to defy Adolf Hitler partly after studying the new saint's writings on conscience. Sophie Scholl, the most famous member of the White Rose, was just 21 years old when she was beheaded in Stadelheim Prison, Munich, in February 1943 after she and her brother, Hans, flooded the famous Lichthof (atrium) of Munich University with leaflets inciting students to oppose Nazism. He cited scholarly research to emphasize how Cardinal Newman's works influenced Sophie Scholl in particular. "In 1942, she gave a volume of Newman's sermons as a parting gift to her boyfriend, Fritz Hartnagel, when he was sent to the Eastern Front," Archbishop Fisher said.

    Divine intervention: Papal tweet of support for 'Saints' goes viral

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A hashtag mix-up caused a papal tweet meant to give thanks for the Catholic Church's newest saints to be read as Pope Francis showing support for the New Orleans Saints' football team. After the Oct. 13 canonization of five new saints, the pope's official Twitter account, @Pontifex, tweeted: "Today we give thanks to the Lord for our new #Saints. They walked by faith and now we invoke their intercession." However, the Twitter hashtag automatically uploaded a fleur-de-lis, the official logo of the National Football League team. Needless to say, the tweet caught the attention of many Saints' fans, who interpreted the tweet as invoking divine intervention for their team's game that day against the Jacksonville Jaguars. "Big Guy telling you something for this afternoon," a Twitter user said, sharing the pope's tweet. "Adjust your bets accordingly, Vegas." "Time to put 10k on the #Saints," another Twitter user wrote.

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  • Prince praises St. Newman; others promote him as 'doctor of the church'

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- On the eve of the canonization of St. John Henry Newman, Britain's Prince Charles penned an article about England's newest saint for the Vatican newspaper. St. Newman's example, he wrote, "is needed more than ever for the manner in which, at his best, he could advocate without accusation, could disagree without disrespect and, perhaps most of all, could see differences as places of encounter rather than exclusion." The article was released as a conference about St. Newman was ending at the Vatican with a cardinal calling for the declaration of the 19th-century theologian, poet and pastor as a "doctor of the church." Prince Charles, who as future king of England also is the future head of the Church of England, attended the Mass and canonization of St. Newman and four others Oct. 13 in St. Peter's Square. A large delegation of Anglican priests and bishops joined him at the Mass to honor the British saint who had served as an Anglican priest before joining the Catholic Church. Christians should not be afraid of differences, Prince Charles wrote, after all, "harmony requires difference. The concept rests at the very heart of Christian theology in the concept of the Trinity." "As such," he said, "difference is not to be feared. Newman not only proved this in his theology and illustrated it in his poetry, but he also demonstrated it in his life. Under his leadership, Catholics became fully part of the wider society, which itself, thereby, became all the richer as a community of communities."

    Update: Banners unfurled as faithful share stories of five saints

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican hung banners of the Catholic Church's newly canonized saints four days before the Mass that would officially recognize that they are in heaven with God. While the hanging of the banners Oct. 10 did not coincide with the Mass, it did coincide with the kickoff of exhibits, conferences, prayer vigils and other celebrations focused on the new saints from Brazil, England, India, Italy and Switzerland. For the dozens of Brazilians at the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, most of the attention was on St. Maria Rita Lopes Pontes, popularly known as Sister Dulce. Born in 1914, she was a member of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception and founded the first Catholic workers' organization in the state of Bahia, started a health clinic for poor workers and opened a school for working families. She created a hospital, an orphanage and care centers for the elderly and disabled and became known as "the mother of the poor." St. John Paul II, who called her work "an example for humanity,'' met her in 1980 during his first trip to Brazil and, returning in 1991, he visited her in the hospital. She died in 1992 at the age of 77 with tens of thousands attending her funeral and even more gathering for her beatification in 2011. Among English-speakers, though, most of the attention was on St. John Henry Newman, the theologian, poet and cardinal who lived from 1801 to 1890. The three others canonized Oct. 13 were St. Marguerite Bays, a laywoman from Switzerland known for her service to the poor; St. Josephine Vannini, an Italian who co-founded the Daughters of St. Camillus; and St. Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan, the Indian founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family.

    Kindly lights in gloomy world: Pope declares five new saints

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Saints are people who recognized their need for God's help, who took risks to discover God's will and to help others and who nurtured a habit of thanksgiving, Pope Francis said. "The culmination of the journey of faith is to live a life of continual thanksgiving. Let us ask ourselves: Do we, as people of faith, live each day as a burden, or as an act of praise?" the pope said in his homily Oct. 13 after formally declaring five new saints for the Catholic Church. Those canonized at the Mass were: St. John Henry Newman, the British theologian, poet and cardinal who died in 1890; Brazilian St. Maria Rita Lopes Pontes, popularly known as Sister Dulce, who died in 1992; Indian St. Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan, founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family, who died in 1926; St. Marguerite Bays, a Swiss laywoman and mystic, who died in 1879; and St. Josephine Vannini, the Italian co-founder of the Daughters of St. Camillus, who died in 1911. "Three of them were religious women," the pope noted in his homily. "They show us that the consecrated life is a journey of love at the existential peripheries of the world." "St. Marguerite Bays, on the other hand, was a seamstress; she speaks to us of the power of simple prayer, enduring patience and silent self-giving," he said. Rather than describing St. Newman, Pope Francis quoted from him to illustrate the meaning of "the holiness of daily life": "The Christian has a deep, silent, hidden peace, which the world sees not .... The Christian is cheerful, easy, kind, gentle, courteous, candid, unassuming; has no pretense ... with so little that is unusual or striking in his bearing that he may easily be taken at first sight for an ordinary man." And, referencing St. Newman's famous hymn, "Lead, Kindly Light," the pope prayed that all Christians would be "'kindly lights' amid the encircling gloom."

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  • Judge blocks rule that would have kept some immigrants from legal status

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A federal judge Oct. 11 blocked an attempt by the Trump administration to deny legal status to some immigrants who applied for social safety-net programs from the government. Judge George B. Daniels of the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York said the rule, set to go into effect Oct. 15, would have caused "irreparable harm." Some Catholic groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, had launched a legal fight against its implementation, and they lauded the action. "We welcome this commonsense decision," said Anna Gallagher, executive director of Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., known as CLINIC. "We hope it will ease the worries of our immigrant brothers and sisters who are fearful of using services to which they and their families have a right." The rule would have placed a roadblock on the path to legal immigration for immigrants who are poor and would have had to choose between facing hardship or obtaining a green card or other legal documents to stay in the country. The USCCB had long argued against what came to be known as the "public charge rule."

    Update: More fetal remains found in cars owned by late abortion doctor

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill released new details Oct. 9 about the discovery of additional fetal remains in Illinois that are believed to be linked with abortions performed in Indiana. According to a news release from Hill's office, the latest remains were found in several vehicles within the confines of additional properties associated with the late Dr. Ulrich "George" Klopfer, who performed abortions at three Indiana clinics. The latest news about remains comes about a month after civil authorities found the preserved remains of 2,246 aborted babies in Klopfer's home in Will County in rural Illinois. Local authorities said Oct. 11 they have determined the newly found remains are of 165 aborted babies, bringing the total number now to 2,411. An investigation into thousands of medical records found in close proximity to these remains confirmed they all were aborted by Klopfer during a period from 2000 to 2002 at three clinics he once ran in Fort Wayne, Gary and South Bend. Klopfer was 79 when he died Sept. 3. He had performed abortions in Indiana since the 1970s but had his medical license revoked in 2016 after innumerable infractions over the years. Klopfer's South Bend clinic closed in 2016; it was the last of the three to close.

    Resettlement agencies await final word on refugee number U.S. will allow

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- The people who help refugees from around the world resettle in the Nashville area and across Tennessee are waiting to see if the Trump administration's decision to reduce the number of refugees to be admitted to the country to 18,000 in the next fiscal year, the lowest number since the resettlement program was created in 1980, will stand. "The agencies are waiting and crossing their fingers, and in the meantime continue doing what they do. And they do it well," said Holly Johnson, director of the Tennessee Office for Refugees, which oversees the resettlement program in the state. The U.S. State Department released the Trump administration's refugee cap proposal Sept. 26 and the White House issued a separate order saying states and localities must approve refugee resettlement in their regions before refugees can be sent to them. A final decision on the number of refugees the U.S. will admit will be made after consultation with Congress. A moratorium on admitting refugees has been put in place until Oct. 22, according to Johnson. "The resettlement programs we have in Tennessee are exceptional," she told the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Nashville Diocese. "They are strong programs that serve a lot of people and serve them really well." Catholic Charities of Tennessee's Refugee and Immigration Services office is one of five resettlement agencies operating in the state and one of two in the Nashville area.

    Immigrant domestic abuse victims fear reporting abuse

    PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- Amid changing immigration laws and deportation threats, advocates and lawyers have seen a decrease in immigrants who are victims of domestic violence seeking help and reporting abuse to law enforcement. Staff and partner agencies of Catholic Charities of Oregon -- the largest nonprofit immigration legal services provider in the state -- have particularly witnessed this fallout. "People are worried about calling the police because they believe they will turn them over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement," said Manuel Gutierrez, a victim advocate with a Catholic Charities partner agency in Umatilla. Last spring, seven national organizations, including the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, co-sponsored a survey of nearly 600 immigration attorneys and advocates across the country. More than 76% reported that immigrant survivors have concerns about contacting police. Catholic Charities frequently hosts information sessions for immigrants in rural Oregon to provide free legal assistance to victims. Typically, "the room is full of people," said attorney Sarah Purce, assistant director of the nonprofit's Immigration Legal Services, who said no one came to the last event. On average, victims of domestic violence -- primarily women -- make seven attempts to leave an abusive relationship before staying away for good, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Fear of an abuser's retaliation, embarrassment and a lack of financial resources to provide for children often makes victims stay, said Norma Obrist, a victim advocate with Tides for Change, which provides shelter and support for victims in Tillamook.

    Update: Advocates to Trump: Don't desert Christians, Yazidis, Kurds in Syria

    AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) -- Christians concerned with religious freedom violations resulting from the Turkish military offensive on northeastern Syria are urging U.S. President Donald Trump to "reconsider and reverse" his Oct. 6 decision to move American troops out of the way of a Turkish incursion. In the Oct. 9 letter to Trump, scores of advocacy organizations, some participating in the International Religious Freedom Roundtable that meets on Capitol Hill in Washington, called on the president "not to abandon Christians, Yazidis and Kurds" who are the inhabitants of the Syrian border region that Turkey is bombing to create a "safe zone. It was deeply shocking to us as advocates for international religious freedom," as the region "is a rare example of success for U.S. military intervention post-911 -- a showcase for religious freedom and democracy," the letter said of Trump's decision. A copy was made available to the Catholic News Service. "It undercuts our own trust that this administration is truly committed to international religious freedom and the survival of religious minorities in the Middle East," it said, adding that "the proposed invasion zone includes key historic Syriac Christian towns and churches, all Kurdish majority towns, the population, and key administrative and education centers." Signatories include Law and Liberty Trust, Family Research Council and Jubilee Campaign, all based in the Washington, D.C., area.

    Update: Women religious should have vote at synod, theologian says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the Catholic Church has made strides to include the voice of women, especially in the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, women should be included among synod voting members and in church leadership positions, a German theologian said. Medical Mission Sister Birgit Weiler, a member of the Peruvian bishops' pastoral ministry for the care of creation, told journalists at a Vatican news briefing Oct. 11 that such changes would allow the church to become "a community of sisters and brothers, sharing faith, discerning together. When you have participated fully in the whole process of sharing faith, of discerning together," then the vote is a natural expression of wanting to participate fully in the decision-making phase of the synod, she said. Full participation in the life of the church, Sister Weiler said, also includes giving women more leadership roles within the church.

    Catholic Mobilizing Network marks 10th anniversary with forward push

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- At the 10th anniversary celebration of the Catholic Mobilizing Network, a group that works to end the death penalty, the emphasis was more on the work ahead than on previous accomplishments. "A lot has changed in our moving toward the abolition of the death penalty," said Karen Clifton, founder of the network, and one of three honorees at the Oct. 10 ceremony held on World Day Against the Death Penalty at the Vatican Embassy in Washington. "I'm counting on you to carry it through to the finish line," she urged the group of Catholic leaders and anti-death-penalty advocates. Clifton thanked Sister Helen Prejean, another honoree, saying that her stories about ministering to death-row inmates "woke me up." Sister Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille, is a longtime opponent of capital punishment. Richard Dieter, a board member of the Catholic Mobilizing Network and former executive director of Death Penalty Information Center, introduced Sister Prejean as a "rock star" for her popularity from the "Dead Man Walking" movie made from her book of the same title. He went on to add that the woman religious has been "a rock to all of us in the death penalty movement." Sister Prejean read to the audience from the preface of her new book, "River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey," which describes the first execution she witnessed with this description: "No religious leaders protested the killing that night. But I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. And what I saw set my soul on fire -- a fire that burns in me still. That fire is here tonight," she said, thanking advocates for their ongoing work.

    Resident says Dorian's devastation teaches lesson: 'God is in control'

    FREEPORT, Grand Bahama (CNS) -- "After the storm" -- a phrase undoubtedly used for generations in the "Hurricane Alley" of the warm-water Atlantic -- carries added meaning following Hurricane Dorian's historic landfall more than a month ago. "We've been through a horrific hurricane and I don't think we will ever forget this one. I have not experienced anything like this in my lifetime and I have been around for a little while," said Patrick Ferguson, a retired national radio broadcaster in the Bahamas and a longtime member of Mary, Star of the Sea, the so-called mother parish on Grand Bahama. After Abaco Islands, this region of the Bahamas was the hardest hit by the Sept. 1-3 hurricane. At the start of what was the first week with restored electrical power at "Mary, Star," as it's known by locals, Ferguson, along with a core staff and volunteer team, reflected on how Hurricane Dorian has transformed the parish and its Society of St. Vincent de Paul outreach into a de facto emergency food and supplies outpost for the wider neighborhood. Donated provisions and supplies have been pouring in over the past few weeks, including the first of two shipments of donations made possible by the Archdiocese of Miami's special collection for the Bahamas, now exceeding $200,000, according to Peter Routsis-Arroyo, CEO of Miami's Catholic Charities. But it also has been a time to think about the fragility of life and how Hurricane Dorian claimed homes, lives and livelihoods, impacting an estimated 75,000 and leaving some 600 still on the government's official list of missing persons. Most of them are from Great Abaco, but some are from Grand Bahama as well.

    Vatican releases lineup for Christmas concert supporting the Amazon

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Proceeds from a Christmas concert at the Vatican starring Lionel Richie, Bonnie Tyler and Susan Boyle will go to help protect the Amazon and support indigenous communities there. Sponsored by the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education, the Dec. 14 concert will feature several Italian singers and musicians, including the Vatican's police band. But the headline performers, the Vatican said, will be: Richie, the U.S. Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter; Boyle, who was a 2009 finalist on "Britain's Got Talent"; and Tyler, whose songs "It's a Heartache" and "Total Eclipse of the Heart" are among the best-selling singles of all time. Donations and proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to a Salesian project helping indigenous communities in northwestern Brazil and to a Scholas Occurrentes awareness-raising campaign in 450,000 schools around the world promoting reforestation.

    Pope names U.S. archbishop to head Vatican academy for diplomats

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis named a U.S. archbishop serving as a nuncio to head the Vatican diplomatic academy. Archbishop Joseph S. Marino, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, 66, was named president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the Vatican announced Oct. 11. He will be only the second U.S. prelate to head the Rome-based school, which was founded more than 300 years ago; U.S. Cardinal Justin Rigali was president of the academy from 1985 to 1989. In early 2013, Pope Benedict XVI had named Archbishop Marino to be the Vatican's first nuncio to Malaysia; the Vatican and Malaysia announced the establishment of full diplomatic relations in 2011. That post also included serving as nuncio to East Timor and apostolic delegate in Brunei. Before that, the U.S. archbishop had been the nuncio to Bangladesh since 2008.

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  • Nuncio addresses violence against women, how economies affect human dignity

    UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- Filipino Archbishop Bernardito Auza, head of the Vatican's permanent observer mission to the United Nations, called for the U.N. to uphold the dignity of women, and also to safeguard the "inherent dignity and inalienable rights" of the human person when dealing with financial issues before the U.N. Archbishop Auza's addresses were delivered Oct. 7 and 8 before the U.N. General Assembly. "Much remains to be achieved" in advancing "the participation of women in social, political, economic and cultural life, and in ending violence against women and girls," Archbishop Auza said in his Oct. 7 remarks. Quoting Pope Francis' 2013 apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium," the archbishop added, "The Holy See remains deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination faced today by migrant women in particular, including female migrant workers, who 'endure situations of exclusion, mistreatment and violence, since they are frequently less able to defend their rights.'" He noted the U.N. secretary-general's July report on violence against women migrant workers, saying: "Female migrant workers, especially those with irregular migration status, are not only at risk of labor exploitation, but also face broader social exclusion. These women deserve to be welcomed, protected and integrated within our communities with dignity. They also deserve full and equal recognition before the law, including through access to the justice system." Archbishop Auza also took note of an interview Pope Francis conducted in May with a Mexican journalist in which he said, "The world without women doesn't work."

    In death penalty discussion, U.S. bishops emphasize human dignity, mercy

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Catholic Church's opposition to the death penalty stems from its view on the sacredness of human life and the value of mercy, said U.S. bishops in a roundtable discussion about capital punishment Oct. 10. The discussion, which was livestreamed by Catholic News Service, took place on the World Day Against the Death Penalty and highlighted not only the consistency of church teaching against capital punishment but also what Catholics could do to learn more about what the Catholic Church has to say on this issue. The panelists were Archbishops Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City and Wilton D. Gregory of Washington and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida. Bishop Dewane is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and Archbishop Coakley is its chairman-elect. "The death penalty is wrong, I believe, in many different ways," but particularly because it is "coarsening society," said Archbishop Coakley, who stressed that capital punishment is "not a way forward" and instead is compounding the violence already present in this country. When the bishops were asked how opposition to the death penalty can be seen as a pro-life issue, Archbishop Gregory said: "It makes us violent to do violence against another human being" whether that person is waiting to be born, has reached the end of life or has committed a serious crime. They all "belong to God's creation," he said.

    Update: Two N.Y. auxiliary bishops named; pope accepts auxiliary's resignation

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Msgr. Edmund J. Whalen, vicar for clergy for the Archdiocese of New York, and Msgr. Gerardo J. Colacicco, a parish pastor in Millbrook, New York, as auxiliary bishops for the New York Archdiocese. He also accepted the resignation of Auxiliary Bishop John J. Jenik, who is 75, the age at which canon law requires bishops turn in their resignation to the pope. The changes were announced in Washington Oct. 10 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. In October 2018, Bishop Jenik was removed from public ministry pending a Vatican review of a decades-old accusation of sexual abuse made against him, a claim he denies. He stepped down as pastor of Our Lady of Refuge Parish in the Bronx. He had been pastor there since 1985. He has been an auxiliary bishop since 2014. Bishop-designate Whalen, 61, is a native of Staten Island, New York, and was principal of Msgr. Farrell High School there for eight years until he was named vicar of clergy this year. Bishop designate-Colacicco, 64, is a native of Poughkeepsie, New York, and has been pastor of St. Joseph-Immaculate Conception Parish in Millbrook since 2015. New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan introduced the newly named prelates at a 7 a.m. Mass he celebrated with them in St. Patrick's Cathedral.

    Parish recommits to sanctuary; archbishop says immigration a pro-life issue

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CNS) -- St. William Church in Louisville reaffirmed its status as a sanctuary parish at a news conference on the steps of the church Oct. 8. Leaders of the parish, including parish administrator Sharan Benton, issued a public statement declaring its "long-standing commitment as a sanctuary parish." While the parish has no plans to house migrants or immigrants, as it did for Central Americans in the 1980s, it will continue to be a voice for those fleeing violence and persecution, its leaders said. "St. William strives to embody the central principle of Catholic social teaching, which is to uphold the dignity of human persons," said Dawn Dones, pastoral associate at St. William. In the 1980s, St. William and a number of other area churches housed Central American refugees who were fleeing oppressive governments in their countries. "In 2019, our commitment to sanctuary looks different. We are no longer equipped to house persons in the building adjacent to the church which is now a youth retreat center. "Our sanctuary declaration is instead a public rejection of the brutal and racist policies of the present administration, and a commitment to support the leadership of immigrant-led groups who work diligently to establish justice for all," Dones said.

    Bishop highlights need for lay ministries in Amazon

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Lay men and women involved in ministry have been fundamental in spreading the Gospel and furthering the Catholic Church's mission in the Amazon, a Brazilian bishop said. Bishop Wilmar Santin of Itaituba, told journalists at a Vatican press briefing Oct. 10 that the formation of "ministers of the word" among the Munduruku indigenous community in his prelature helped advance the church's mission and presence. The bishop said he was inspired to begin a permanent diaconate formation program for the indigenous community after attending a meeting with Cardinal Claudio Hummes, relator general of the synod, in Manaus, Brazil. The cardinal had said that "Pope Francis told him he has a dream of seeing that every village has its own indigenous priest. They spoke about the difficulties and the pope said, 'Begin with what the church already allows: the permanent diaconate,'" the bishop recalled. "When I heard this," he said, "I thought about it and said, 'I'm going to start.'" He began a diaconate program for the indigenous community as well as formation programs for eucharistic ministers and lectors.

    IDs give parishioners way to say, 'I belong,' regardless of legal status

    PHARR, Texas (CNS) -- The Diocese of Brownsville and a group on interfaith leaders in the Rio Grande Valley have introduced a "parish identification strategy" to provided members of parishes in the diocese a way to identify themselves to local law enforcement regardless of their legal status. Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville joined Valley Interfaith leaders to announce the program to a packed room of nearly 500 people at the Pharr Research and Development Center in Las Milpas in late September. The bishop said the need for identification has a profound significance in people's lives -- and more so for the marginalized immigrant. "I would like to emphasize that the ID means something more than simply its implication that you have an identification, an address, a picture or something to show perhaps if you're stopped at a red light or for some other reason," Bishop Flores said. "It means something much deeper: 'I belong to a parish, and so in this community, I am not living in the shadows.'" Several local officials joined in the effort, including police chiefs and officials from Pharr, Edinburg and McAllen. Emceeing the event, Oblate Father Kevin Collins, pastor of St. Eugene de Mazenod Parish in Brownsville, asked them to respond to three questions. "While we know there is no substitute for a government-issued ID, could an officer in their discretion accept a photo ID -- for example, of a school or a church ID -- in order to identify themselves? That's first," the priest said. "Second, will you train your police officers to recognize multiple forms of ID? Third, will you continue to work with us to build trust and to address crime together?"

    Central African Christians, Muslims meet together to work through trauma

    BANGUI, Central African Republic (CNS) -- Christians and Muslims in Central African Republic are gathering in community halls to talk about their traumas and find ways of healing after six years of violence. With thousands of people killed and almost 1 million of the country's 4.6 million people displaced in the past six years, trauma is rampant throughout the former French colony, said Samuel Phelps of Catholic Relief Services. In February, more than a dozen armed groups signed a peace deal with the government. An armed movement drawn from the Muslim minority took power in the majority Christian country in 2013 before being overthrown by mainly Christian militias. Both sides have been accused of committing atrocities. Trauma-healing workshops for victims of attacks or people who have witnessed atrocities are run by CRS and partners as part of efforts to build social cohesion, said Phelps, CRS' regional information officer for central Africa. CRS is the U.S. bishops' international relief and development agency. "We want to bring divided communities together again," Phelps said, noting that an interfaith forum is trying to reunite people of different faiths. Leaders of the bishops' conference, the Evangelical Alliance and the Islamic Community support each other and "travel around the country arm in arm, talking about the importance of community," he said.

    Update: Brazilian Cardinal Araujo dies at 95

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Brazilian Cardinal Serafim Fernandes de Araujo, retired archbishop of Belo Horizonte, died Oct. 8 in Brazil at the age of 95. With dozens of Brazilian bishops at the Vatican for the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, Pope Francis and other synod members offered special prayers that evening for the repose of his soul. In a message of condolence, Pope Francis drew special attention to Cardinal Araujo's more than 50 years of service as auxiliary bishop and archbishop of Belo Horizonte. "His missionary passion made love for Jesus Christ and his church grow in the heart of the faithful," the pope said. The cardinal's death left the College of Cardinals with 224 members, 127 of whom were under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope. Cardinal Araujo celebrated his 60th anniversary as a bishop in May; as a bishop, he was a member of the Second Vatican Council, which met from 1962 to 1965. And although he was a cardinal for 21 years, he never participated as an elector in a conclave, since he turned 80 eight months before St. John Paul II died.

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  • Independent compensation program for abuse victims opens in Colorado

    DENVER (CNS) -- A Colorado Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program to compensate abuse survivors in the Denver Archdiocese and the Colorado Springs and Pueblo dioceses opened Oct. 7. Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs and Bishop Stephen J. Berg of Pueblo each issued statements announcing the start of the program, which is independent of church control. It will be overseen by an independent board, chaired by former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown of Colorado. Nationally known mediators Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros are the administrators of the program, known as CIRRP, and have been working with the Colorado bishops to design it. Feinberg and Biros currently run similar programs in New York, New Jersey, California and Pennsylvania. On the opening day of the program, individuals who were sexually abused as minors by diocesan priests in the archdiocese or either of the two dioceses could begin the process of filing claims. Individuals who have previously notified Colorado church officials of allegations of abuse will be sent CIRRP packets. Individuals who have not previously notified the archdiocese or dioceses of allegations of abuse will be able to register for an initial eligibility review. Eligible victims may file claims, regardless of when the abuse might have occurred.

    Supreme Court divided over federal protections for LGBT employees

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- On the second day of the Supreme Court's new term, a divided court Oct. 8 heard oral arguments from three cases concerning protections for gay, lesbian and transgender employees under Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts. At the end of the two hours, for two consolidated cases about fired gay employees and a separate case concerning a fired transgender worker, it was not clear how the court would lean, absent the previous swing vote of now-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. But questions and comments by Justice Neil Gorsuch seemed to bridge the divide with remarks in support of the employees but also a concern about the potential of "massive social upheaval" if the court ruled in favor of these employee protections and wondered if it might be something Congress should instead address. Gorsuch commented that what the court had to determine was a "really close" case on the law, but Solicitor General Noel Francisco, arguing for the Trump administration on the side of the employers, disagreed. "I don't think it's that close. Sex and gender identity, like sex and sexual orientation, are different traits," he said, but then he also agreed in part with Gorsuch saying it is "an issue better left to Congress."

    Benedictine estimates 70 million-plus pages of manuscripts digitized

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Benedictine Father Columba Stewart never imagined there would be 50 million pages of sacred manuscripts housed in the archives at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at St. John's College in Collegeville, Minnesota, where he has been since entering religious life in 1980. He almost never had to. "There were already 40 million when I started (in 2003). We've got to be closer to 60, 75 million," he said. Doing some quick calculations in his head, Father Stewart added, "I can tell you how many digital files: 12.5 million digital files post-2003, many of them are 20-page spreads. That suggests that our real number is closer to 70, 75 million." It is doubtful that anyone entering Benedictine monastic life is identified from the get-go as having a charism in document preservation. Father Stewart is proof of it. "Around 2002-2003, the library was getting some interest from Orthodox Christians in Lebanon to get some work in their manuscript heritage. I got drafted to be a sort of formal adviser on the project. I had traveled a bit, at least, and others had not. I could speak French, and that helped." After that, he told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 8 phone interview, it was "just a series of factors -- a leadership change at the library. I was asked to step in. I was asked to unlock the door on Monday after the doors had been locked on Friday. ... Sometimes these things happen, right?"

    Cold War inspired manuscript collection effort now led by Benedictine

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- It was the global political tension of the Cold War that prompted the collection and copying of millions of pages of sacred manuscripts, a project now being led by Benedictine Father Columba Stewart at St. John's Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota. The Benedictine priest who started the effort in 1964, Father Oliver Kapsner, "feared that European Benedictine heritage would be vaporized if there were a World War III," said Father Stewart in delivering the 2019 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities Oct. 7 at a packed theater in downtown Washington. "Monte Cassino in Italy, the mother abbey of Benedictines, had been totally destroyed in 1944. A nuclear war would be far more devastating," Father Stewart said in his address, "Cultural Heritage Present and Future: A Benedictine Monk's Long View. There was not anything we monks in Minnesota could do to protect the churches and cloisters," he said, "but we could microfilm their manuscripts and keep a backup copy in the United States." Father Kapsner met with resistance from nearly all of Europe's Benedictines -- until he arrived in Austria. "Austria was one of the few countries in Europe where monastic libraries had not been seized during the Reformation or the French Revolution and its aftermath," Father Stewart said.

    Symposium explores how nationalism, with care, can serve the common good

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- American nationalism can be a force for unity that serves the common good when a country strives to open opportunities for all members of society despite their religious or ethical traditions, said participants in a Washington symposium. Just the same, the symposium heard, it's when nationalist views seek to limit participation by those who are not part of mainstream society or identify other countries as inferior that warning flags should be raised about the commitment to supporting broad-scale rights and meeting human needs. The discussion during the "God, America and Nationalism" program Oct. 8 at the National Press Club examined the wide forms of nationalism, focusing in part on whether such views met the Christian understanding of the need to serve the common good. Speakers outlined the nature of how Americans view the country and how those views influence their thoughts on nationalism. Following two keynote addresses and two panel discussions, the program left the small audience with deep questions to consider about the nature of nationalism as most commonly expressed in the 21st-century U.S. Nationalism can have numerous definitions, most of which are rooted in an individual's beliefs, speakers said, ranging from a more encompassing view that finds a country responding to its citizens' needs primarily to the realm of fascism, which places one country above all others and the use of military force to entrench such views.

    Italian Americans, others call for New York to honor saint with statue

    BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CNS) -- The outrage over the snubbing of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini by New York City first lady Chirlane McCray's She Built NYC commission culminated in a march and Mass Oct. 6 to support a public statue of Mother Cabrini, as the patron saint of immigrants is best known. More than 1,000, including many Italian Americans, joined the march in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens section led by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn and Msgr. David Cassato, director of the Brooklyn Diocese's Italian Apostolate. Afterward, Bishop DiMarzio celebrated Mass at Sacred Hearts-St. Stephen Church. The march showed support for Mother Cabrini after she wasn't selected as one of first seven women to have a statue built in their honor by the She Built NYC project, an initiative that aims to increase the number of statues of women in New York City. Mother Cabrini received the most nominations of any of the 320 women nominated, and yet she was passed over. Jane Meyer, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said She Built NYC didn't rely just on the number of public nominations. Instead, it took a "holistic" approach, she said, taking into consideration the advice of a 19-person committee that represented a diverse group of people with a broad range of expertise and backgrounds. "There wasn't one particular lever that was pulled more than another," Meyer said. "Maybe it wasn't clear along the way that it wasn't the most vote gets it."

    Church-backed program in Kenya provides energy-saving cookstoves

    KITUI, Kenya -- As Grace Kathini Kavilu pushes a few dry twigs into her cookstove, she recalls the forest that once covered her area, but has since disappeared. This day, the 32-year-old mother of two has picked the twigs falling freely from mango trees, now a main feature in her area. The resident of Kitui County, a semi-arid region in eastern Kenya, only needs a few of the sticks to light her new energy-saving cookstove. About the three years ago, she had discarded the traditional three cooking stones and constructed the latest stove with the help of Caritas Kitui, the humanitarian wing of the Diocese of Kitui. "This one emits less smoke, it's clean and cooks faster. It's not cumbersome," said Kavilu, who has since trained as an artisan and leads the construction of such stoves in the diocese. "It also protects the environment. I am saving on firewood. There are no forests (from which to) collect firewood anymore, we have to buy it," Kavilu said during an interview in her home near Kitui, a town about 100 miles east of Nairobi. In the county, like many parts of Kenya and the developing world, many women and girls continue to use open fires or traditional stoves for cooking. The three-stone stoves require women to spend long hours collecting firewood. Health experts also say the stoves emit smoke, which threatens people's health. The black carbon smoke also contributes to climate change, environmentalists say.

    Update: Most Amazon bishops support 'viri probati,' women deacons, bishop says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Most bishops who lead dioceses in the Amazon support the ordination of married men of proven virtue, or "viri probati," as a way of addressing the lack of priests in the region, a Brazilian bishop said. Speaking to journalists after a Vatican press briefing Oct. 9, retired Bishop Erwin Krautler of Xingu said, "I guess that (of) the bishops who are in the Amazon region, two-thirds are in favor of the 'viri probati.'" Several bishops and other speakers at the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon proposed the ordination of married men, preferably elders in their respective communities, as a solution for remote communities that often go from one month to up to one year without the celebration of the Eucharist. During the synod's morning session Oct. 8, the Vatican said, several bishops proposed the ordination of married "viri probati," and at least one suggested the church could "evaluate over time whether this experience is valid or not." At the briefing, Bishop Krautler said that when it comes to ordaining married men of proven virtue, "there is no other option."

    Little Sisters of the Poor again seek Supreme Court's help

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Little Sisters of the Poor filed a petition with the Supreme Court Oct. 1 asking the court to once again protect them from the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act. This has a familiar ring because in 2016 the Supreme Court granted the sisters a religious exemption from the government's mandate requiring them to include coverage of contraceptives in their employee health plans or pay hefty fines. Then, one year later, they were given further protection by an executive order issued by President Donald Trump requiring the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to write a comprehensive exemption to benefit the Little Sisters and other religious ministries from the contraceptive mandate. HHS provided this exemption in 2018 but several states challenged it, including California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, saying HHS didn't have the power to give this exemption. The states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey were able to obtain a nationwide injunction against the rules protecting religious objectors from the contraceptive mandate and that injunction was then upheld by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Philadelphia. The Little Sisters are appealing the 3rd Circuit's ruling to the Supreme Court. "It is time for the Supreme Court to finally put this issue to rest," said Mark Rienzi, president of Becket, a nonprofit religious liberty law firm that represents the sisters.

    Director: Victims call new film on abuse 'the French "Spotlight"'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Anybody who sees "By the Grace of God," a new French-language film that details a true-to-life French clerical sex abuse scandal, may be struck by similarities to the U.S. drama "Spotlight," which dealt with the abuse scandal that erupted in Boston in 2002. "The two films are complementary," said Francois Ozon, director of "By the Grace of God." "In 'Spotlight,' the story is told from the point of view of the journalists. In my film, it's from the point of view of the survivors." He added, "When I met the victims, I was very touched. And they all talked to me about 'Spotlight.' It was, of course, a big success. I understood, they trusted me, and they told me their story. In a certain way, they wanted me to do the French 'Spotlight,' because they knew 'Spotlight' won an Oscar (Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay) and was a big movie in America. And they were right." Ozon made his remarks in an Oct. 8 phone interview with Catholic News Service from Paris, where he lives. Although he answered in English, CNS' questions to him were relayed to him in French by an interpreter. "By the Grace of God," which opens Oct. 18 in select U.S. theaters, details the still-emerging scandal in the Archdiocese of Lyon, France. A priest of the diocese, Bernard Preynat, had been head of large Catholic Scout group at a Lyon parish in the 1970s and '80s, and had abused many boys in his care. The film depicts three survivors -- all now fully grown -- who come to terms with the toll taken from the abuse and ask Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, then Lyon's archbishop, to remove Preynat from ministry.

    Turkish planes bomb Syria, causing panic among Christians, others

    AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) -- Turkish warplanes have begun attacking northeastern Syria, causing widespread panic among Christian and other religious communities caught up in the aerial bombardments. "Christians and others are extremely worried," Syriac Christian political leader Bassam Ishak told Catholic News Service by phone Oct. 9. "The Turkish bombing seems designed to push people out of their towns, if, in fact, they manage to escape alive." Ishak heads the Syriac National Council. A graduate of The Catholic University of America in Washington, he is also a member of the political bureau of the Syrian Democratic Council. Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces reported civilian casualties but provided no specific numbers. Ishak has warned for months about a possible Turkish military incursion to settle scores with its perceived enemy, the Kurds, who were staunch allies of the United States and largely responsible for successfully battling Islamic State militants in Syria. Despite very strong bipartisan U.S. Congressional disapproval of President Donald Trump's abrupt decision to pull back U.S. troops from northeastern Syria, the president did not back down. He said it was too costly to keep supporting Kurdish-led forces in the region fighting Islamic State militants.

    Journalist talks about reconciling faith and career of covering executions

    HOUSTON (CNS) -- Michael Graczyk, a parishioner at a Catholic church in Montgomery County, Texas, has personally witnessed more than 400 executions of Texas inmates in death penalty cases in his career as a journalist. An Associated Press reporter since 1983, Graczyk retired last year and still freelances for AP, continuing to witness executions, including nine scheduled through the end of this year. "When you walk into the death chamber, you check your emotions at the door. I usually check my emotions at the prison gate," he said. "I've gotten to know many of the inmates through interviews. I also have sentiments for the families of the victims, who have to wait 10 or 20 years for the punishment to be carried out." Since Catholic teaching is pro-life, from conception to natural death, Graczyk reconciles the two parts of himself with a Scripture passage. "I look to the biblical passage 'render unto Caesar what is Caesar's.' Since this is the government doing these, I can remain faithful to the teachings of the church," Graczyk told the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. "The Catholic Church many times has been alone in its protection of life from conception to natural death. Liberals opposed to capital punishment are often times in favor of abortion. Conservatives are against abortion, but then favor the death penalty," he said.

    Nun's canonization delays vote on Brazil's social security reform bill

    SAO PAULO (CNS) -- The canonization of the first Brazilian-born female saint is making headlines across the country, putting news coverage of the country's current political and economic difficulties on the backburner. The canonization has even delayed approval of the government's most important Congressional bill, the social security reform. Brazil's Senate has delayed the final vote until Oct. 22, because many senators are chartering a flight to Rome for the ceremony. On Oct. 13, Blessed Maria Rita Lopes Pontes, known to Catholics around Brazil as Sister Dulce, will be canonized by Pope Francis at the Vatican. The canonization is expected to be transmitted live on TV to the entire country. Many in her hometown are flocking to stores, looking to purchase religious souvenirs connected to Sister Dulce. Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho disclosed, through social networks, that he donated more than $244,000 to Sister Dulce Social Works. In a recent interview, Coelho said he regularly helps the entity named for a nun, who was there in his hour of need.

    Bishops to vote for USCCB president, vice president at fall assembly

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops are scheduled to elect the next president and vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at their upcoming fall general assembly taking place Nov. 11-13 in Baltimore. Each office is elected from a slate of 10 candidates who have been nominated by their fellow bishops. Released Oct. 9 by the USCCB, the slate of candidates for president and vice president is as follows: Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese of the Military Services; Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut; Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City; Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco; Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas; Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles; Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee; Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois; Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana; and Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit. The president and vice president are elected to three-year terms, which begin at the conclusion of the fall assembly. The current president, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, and the current vice president, Archbishop Gomez, will complete their terms at this meeting.

    Ukrainian Catholic bishops in U.S. begin outreach for priest candidates

    PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Leaders of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States have appealed to seminarians to identify candidates for the priesthood who can be "true missionaries and pastors." The appeal came in a September letter from the six bishops of the Metropolia of Philadelphia, which covers much of the U.S. It discussed some of the challenges and opportunities facing the Ukrainian Catholic Church and outlined the "spiritual and pastoral expectations of candidates to the priesthood." The bishops said parishes throughout the metropolia "will need a substantial replenishment of its clergy over the coming years." As an example, they cited the Philadelphia Archeparchy's needs: 15 new priests in the next five years "to serve its faithful adequately and respond to their needs. We are not looking for workers to simply accomplish a task or fulfill a plan, but for true missionaries and pastors who will care for the faithful with a willingness even to sacrifice their lives for them, from love of God and neighbor," the bishops wrote.

    Africa's bishops should set up anti-trafficking offices, says coalition

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- All bishops' conferences and dioceses in Africa should create an office or point person to collaborate with judges, immigration departments and law enforcement to beef up efforts against human trafficking, said delegates to a regional conference. The Catholic Church in Africa needs to form "effective partnerships and collaboration with the aim of cutting the umbilical cord of human trafficking and of the slavery of our days," said Archbishop Philip Subira Anyolo of Kisumu, Kenya, according to Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The archbishop, who is president of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, was one of more than 100 delegates from eight countries in Africa and the United Kingdom attending the second African Regional Conference of the Santa Marta Group in Nairobi, Kenya, Oct. 1-4. Since its foundation in 2014, the Santa Marta group has been dedicated to the universal elimination of human trafficking and slavery by bringing together police chiefs, bishops and members of religious orders from around the world.

    Catholics need to recognize 'ecological sins,' synod members say

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Synod members called for the Catholic Church to deepen its theology in a way that would help people recognize "ecological sins." According to a Vatican News summary of the Oct. 8 afternoon session, members said that an "ecological conversion" was necessary to ensure that Christians understand the "gravity of sin against the environment as a sin against God, against one's neighbor and against future generations. No to individualism or indifference that makes us look at reality like a spectator, like looking at a screen," the summary said. "Yes to an ecological conversion centered on responsibility and an integral ecology that places at its center human dignity, which is too often trampled." At a Vatican press briefing Oct. 9, Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, said that a number of interventions given by bishops, observers and delegates from other Christian churches dealt with the issue of ecology and the need for a "profound ecological conversion that passes from a technocratic paradigm to a caring paradigm." Ruffini reported one member saying that Christianity is "a call to an ecological morality in the knowledge that ecological sins exist, which also can be described as 'ecocide.'"

    Cardinal Sarah: To oppose the pope is to be outside the church

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, said the people who portray him as an opponent of Pope Francis are being used by the devil to help divide the church. "The truth is that the church is represented on earth by the vicar of Christ, that is by the pope. And whoever is against the pope is, ipso facto, outside the church," the cardinal said in an interview published Oct. 7 in Corriere della Sera, an Italian daily. The 74-year-old cardinal, who Pope Francis appointed in 2014 as head of the office overseeing liturgical matters, often is portrayed as a critic of Pope Francis, especially because of the cardinal's cautious attitude toward welcoming Muslim migrants to Europe, his concern about the church acting more like a social-service agency than a missionary church and his traditional approach to the liturgy. The Corriere piece was published to coincide with the release of a new book-length interview with Cardinal Sarah, "The Day is Now Far Spent." The English edition was released Sept. 22 by Ignatius Press in the United States. The cardinal's book dedication reads: "For Benedict XVI, peerless architect of the rebuilding of the church. For Francis, faithful and devoted son of St. Ignatius. For the priests throughout the world in thanksgiving on the occasion of my golden jubilee of priesthood," which was July 20.

    The Christian battle is against evil, not people, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When Catholics attack other members of the church, they are hurting Christ, Pope Francis said. "Even those who are ideologists, because they want the 'purity' of the church, strike at Christ," he said during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square Oct. 9. Taking a break from the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, the pope led the audience and continued his series of talks on the Acts of the Apostles. He focused on the persecution of the church after St. Stephen's martyrdom, and on St. Paul's transformation from being known as Saul and a persecutor to being Paul, a disciple of Christ and courageous preacher of the Gospel. Saul wanted to destroy the church and he would hunt down Christians to be imprisoned. Pope Francis said those people at the audience who have experienced or whose communities have experienced "persecution by dictators understand well what it means to 'hunt people down,' and that is what Saul did."

    Update: New film on St. Faustina makes one-night-only debut Oct. 28

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A new film on the life of St. Faustina Kowalska, the Polish nun whose visions of Jesus led to the Divine Mercy devotion, will have a one-night-only showing Oct. 28 on more than 700 screens across the United States. The 90-minute movie, "Love and Mercy: Faustina," will also have some features about St. Faustina surrounding it, according to Marian Father Chris Alar, who is seen on-screen during the film. Shot in Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Mexico, Colombia and the United States, "Love and Mercy: Faustina" was filmed twice, with the actors speaking in English or Polish, said Father Alar in an Oct. 3 phone interview with Catholic News Service from his native Michigan, where he was giving a retreat. "That makes it fairly unique," he added. The movie was directed by Michal Kondrat, who may be familiar to some Catholics as the director of "Two Crowns," a 2017 film biography of St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest who died in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Father Alar called the Divine Mercy devotion "technically, the fastest grassroots movement in the history of the church, and its growth has been phenomenal." However, it still is not known by many people, he said, adding that "if they were practicing their faith," more Catholics would "hear about it in church." To find a nearby theater and to order tickets, go to

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  • Bishops urge U.S. Supreme Court not to redefine 'sex' in civil rights law

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The chairmen of three U.S. bishops' committees have urged the U.S. Supreme Court not to redefine "sex" in civil rights law, arguing this would change the definition of "a fundamental element of humanity that is the basis of the family and would threaten religious liberty." Redefining "sex" in the law would be "an interpretive leap away from the language and intent" of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, they said. The bishops' statement was issued Oct. 8, the same day the high court heard oral arguments in a trio of cases on the question of whether U.S. law prohibiting employment discrimination based on "sex" in Title VII includes "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" discrimination, respectively. Signing the statement were: Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester, Massachusetts, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee for Religious Liberty; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. The cases Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, and Altitude Express v. Zarda, which were consolidated because both claim discrimination based on sexual orientation. The third, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, which questions whether Title VII's protections apply to transgender employees.

    Caribbean lay consecrated missionaries building regional church

    PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (CNS) -- A move toward local missionaries after the Second Vatican Council has transformed into consecrated laypeople serving territories within the Caribbean region. The change did not happen without bumps in the road. "It was easy to accept and open up to us," said Jennifer Jennings, a member of the Living Water Community, "because we spoke and looked more like them. But, it was not so much race as it was missionaries who were laypeople in jeans, T-shirts, crosses 'round necks." Living Water Community was among the first of the new ecclesial movements in the Anglophone Caribbean to begin sending consecrated laypeople from their Trinidad base to other territories. The 600-member community currently operates resident missions in Barbados, St. Lucia and Dominica. The community began in Dominica just after Hurricane Maria struck in 2017, when Living Water sent relief and rebuilding teams. The Antilles region has been mission territory for more than 500 years but, until the late 1960s, missionaries came from outside the Caribbean. After the Second Vatican Council, "there was a drive toward 'local,'" said Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of Roseau, Dominica. "Having grown in a very foreign church with foreign leadership, people's image of God was foreign. Therefore, any kind of movement that happened within the church, happened with great effort," he said.

    Catholic Extension honors Louisiana faith leader for uniting communities

    SHREVEPORT, La. (CNS) -- Mack McCarter, who has spent a lifetime helping hurting communities by building "a system of caring relationships," starting in his hometown of Shreveport, is the winner of Catholic Extension's 2019-2020 Lumen Christi Award. He was nominated by Father Peter B. Mangum, who is the administrator of the Diocese of Shreveport. McCarter was one of 11 finalists chosen out of 49 nominees. McCarter had been pastor of an evangelical church in west Texas for many years before he returned to his hometown in 1991 and found many of its once vital and thriving neighborhoods were in decline. They were dealing with gangs, drugs, violence, crumbling homes and "people living in isolation." Believing the situation could be healed, he founded Community Renewal International in 1994 with one goal in mind: to rebuild Shreveport by uniting individuals, churches, businesses and civic groups and to resurrect the foundation of relationships in neighborhoods. "McCarter set out to build a system of caring relationships by tapping into two inherent human needs -- to love and to be loved," Catholic Extension said in an Oct. 7 news release about the Lumen Christi winner. "McCarter recognizes that relationships make people feel safe, confident and optimistic."

    Update: Project Rachel founder to receive 2020 Evangelium Vitae Medal

    NOTRE DAME, Ind. (CNS) -- The University of Notre Dame's de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture will award its 2020 Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae Medal to Vicki Thorn, founder of the post-abortion healing ministry Project Rachel. Thorn, who also is executive director of the National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Healing, will receive the honor at a Mass and banquet April 25. "Vicki Thorn has dedicated her life to caring for women and men who have been wounded by abortion," said O. Carter Snead, the William P. and Hazel B. White director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture. "Her work is a living witness to the unconditional love and mercy that lies at the heart of the culture of life. We are pleased to honor her with the Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae Medal," he said in a statement Oct. 6. The honor is announced annually on Respect Life Sunday, the first Sunday of October, which this year was Oct. 6. The Evangelium Vitae award consists of a specially commissioned medal and $10,000 prize. "Vicki Thorn's work has been a source of healing for women and men whose lives have been touched by abortion," said Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame's president. "I'm grateful to the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture for recognizing Ms. Thorn for her service to the church and to the work of mercy on behalf of a culture of life."

    Update: Protesters shout down acting DHS head at immigration conference

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Kevin McAleenan, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, could not get a word out. He was supposed to be the keynote speaker at the 16th annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference at Georgetown University Law Center the morning of Oct. 7, but he'd barely said, "Thank you," before chanting protesters drowned him out for several minutes. Finally, after the protesters had been shushed for the sixth time, he said: "We'll give it one more shot. We'll give it one more try, otherwise I'm going back to work and trying to secure this country. There's lots to cover today. There are some very serious issues we can discuss today," McAleenan began. A chant about the "jailing" of immigrant children resumed. "OK, thank you, have a good day!" he said and walked out of the lecture room. The organizers of the conference -- the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., the Georgetown University Law Center and the Migration Policy Institute -- later issued separate statements reacting to the protesters. All said that while they oppose the Trump administration's immigration policies, they are committed to having dialogue among differing groups and "hearing from all sides," something that they said has always been a hallmark of the annual conference.

    Update: Pope names North Dakota priest to head Diocese of Helena, Montana

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Austin A. Vetter, a priest of the Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota, to be the bishop of the Diocese of Helena, Montana. The appointment was announced in Washington Oct. 8 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Bishop-designate Vetter succeeds Bishop George L. Thomas, who was named in February 2018 to head the Diocese of Las Vegas, after 14 years as Helena's bishop. Msgr. Kevin O'Neill was elected Helena's diocesan administrator by the College of Consultors May 17, 2018, two days after Bishop Thomas was installed in Las Vegas. Bishop-designate Vetter, 52, has been rector-pastor of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck since 2018. He also is a vice chairman of the board of directors of Light of Christ Catholic Schools in Bismarck. From 2012 to 2018, he was director of spiritual formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. His episcopal ordination Mass and installation as the bishop of Helena will be celebrated Nov. 20 at the Cathedral of St. Helena. The diocese covers almost 52,000 square miles of western Montana.

    Synod members call for greater role of women, laity in ministry

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Synod participants offered several proposals to address the lack of priests in the Amazon region, including revising the formation program for candidates to the priesthood and instituting new ministries for lay men and women. According to a Vatican News summary of the Oct. 8 morning session of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, the proposals included discussing the "possibility of diaconal ordination for women, so as to emphasize their ecclesial vocation." While synod participants said there is a need for greater appreciation of consecrated life, they also proposed allowing local churches "to choose ministers authorized to celebrate the Eucharist or to ordain permanent deacons." Accompanied by pastors, lay ministers would assist in administering the sacraments and would help in "promoting indigenous vocations," said the summary. The synod is not releasing the texts of individuals speeches and the summaries do not identify the person or persons who made the suggestions. At a Vatican briefing Oct. 8, Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, told journalists that several speeches delivered in the synod hall highlighted the fact that indigenous Catholics often feel like "second- or third-class Catholics."

    Program provides children with small gifts, shares joy of Jesus' birth

    BOCA RATON, Fla. (CNS) -- The annual Box of Joy program "is an opportunity to consciously take time out of the busy holiday season to focus on serving others and sharing the joy of Jesus' birth," said the head of the Florida-based organization that sponsors it. Box of Joy is a project of Cross Catholic Outreach, a relief and development agency headed by Jim Cavnar as its president. It involves Catholic parishes, schools and groups nationwide who want to help children in need in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. Small gifts in shoeboxes are sent to these children, "who would otherwise receive nothing during Christmas," Cavnar said. Parishes, schools and other groups organize volunteers to pack boxes with small gifts such as toys and school supplies. They add essentials, like soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, as well as a few treats like hard candy and coloring books. Participants include $9 in each box to cover shipment from the local drop-off center to the child. Cross Catholic Outreach has designated Nov. 2-10 as Box of Joy packing week. Groups are asked to register by Oct. 15 at to receive a project leader kit.

    Haitian bishops' justice commission calls on president to step down

    PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CNS) -- As Port-au-Prince began its fourth week of paralysis due to serious social unrest, the Haitian bishops' justice and peace commission called on President Jovenel Moise to step down. Going a step further than the bishops, who squarely laid the blame for the current chaos on the present government and elected officials in late September, the justice and peace commission said, "A change in head of state is crucial as is a change in the way the authorities govern the country." Haitian leaders, it said, are "digging the people into a deeper ditch with no way out. They are the ones responsible for all the bad steps that the country is taking." This government, the commission said, "lacks the will, the competency and the capacity to take the necessary decisions to respond to the needs of the people." Haiti has been embroiled in a deepening crisis as a movement to demand accountability for government corruption scandals has turned into a broad popular insurrection to oust the president and put an end to endemic waste and embezzlement of state funds.

    Beware of those who want God to live up to their standards, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Too many Christians today are "as long as" Christians, obeying God "as long as" God and the church meet their conditions and criteria for what is acceptable, just and righteous, Pope Francis said. The "conditions Christian," Pope Francis said, says things like: "'I am a Christian as long as things are done this way.' 'No, no, these changes aren't Christian.' 'This is heresy.' 'This won't do.' Christians who place conditions on God, who place conditions on the faith and the action of God." Celebrating an early morning Mass Oct. 8 in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the pope focused on the day's first reading from Jonah, noting how the prophet first refused to do God's bidding, was swallowed by a whale, obeyed God when given a second chance and ended up angry with God because God did not destroy the city of Ninevah. Jonah was "stubborn" about what he thought faith was, the pope said. But "the Lord was stubborn in his mercy. He never leaves us. He knocks at the door of our hearts until the end." Jonah, the pope said, "is the model of those 'as long as' Christians, those Christians with conditions."

    First synod talks look at climate, priests, inculturation, Vatican says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Climate change, water resources, inculturation and indigenous practices were among the topics discussed during the first afternoon session of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon. A few presentations also focused on the question of ordaining married "viri probati," or men of proven virtue, as one possible way to help Catholics access the sacraments in very remote locations. During the general sessions of the Oct. 6-27 synod, bishops have a maximum of four minutes to talk about one topic treated by the synod's working document. The Vatican press office published a general summary of the different topics discussed during the closed-door session Oct. 7. A few speeches touched on the role of "viri probati," the press office summary said, adding that offering more frequent access to the sacraments where there was a lack of priests was a legitimate need. However, the summary said, such a provision could not be part of changing the essential nature of the priesthood and celibacy. A different suggestion was to have vocational programs for young indigenous men in order to promote evangelization in remote areas so that there would not be "first-class Catholics" who have easy access to the Eucharist and "second-class Catholics" who go without the sacrament, sometimes even for two years at a time.

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  • Encore: Christians in northeast Syria appeal for prayer for safety

    AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) -- Groups representing Christians in northeast Syria are appealing for prayer, fearful that Turkey plans to make good its numerous threats to invade the region with its military forces. Since November 2018, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to launch a large military operation east of the Euphrates River to "clear Kurdish terrorists" from the area. Syriac Christians view it as a pretext to enter more of Syria in a bid to change the northeast's demographic of Kurds and Christians, just as Turkey did in Afrin, Syria, in March 2018. The Christians' appeal was issued by the Syriac National Council of Syria, the Syriac Union Party, and the American Syriac Union. It was made available to Catholic News Service Aug. 15. Turkey has "massed its army and allied jihadists along the border. Even though the U.S. and French armies are present in northeast Syria, we know that Turkey will attack and destroy us," the three Syriac Christian groups said. They are appealing to U.S. leaders to intervene on their behalf to aid the 100,000 Christians in the region who they say are at risk. They warned that Turkey and its jihadist allies, including fighters from al-Qaida and Islamic State, could carry out "a massacre just as they did in Afrin (northwest Syria) in 2018, when the churches of Afrin were burned and the Christians and Yazidis there were hunted down. In northeast Syria, it would be much worse and destroy many more people."

    Bishops call on European citizens to wake up, rejoice

    OXFORD, England (CNS) -- Europe's Catholic bishops urged their citizens to "wake up" and find new hope by rediscovering the continent's Christian roots. In a meeting in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, church leaders from 45 European countries met in the run-up to Britain's Oct. 31 projected departure from the European Union and the Nov. 1 inauguration of a new European Union governing commission. "Europe, rejoice in the goodness of your people, of the many hidden saints who every day contribute in silence to the construction of a more just and humane civil society," the Council of European Bishops' Conferences, or CCEE, said in a message Oct. 5, near the end of their assembly. "As morning watchmen, vigilant and ready to point to the new day, we want to give a message of hope to Europe in distress and say forcefully: Wake up, Europe!" It said Europe faced contradictions from "the desire for God, but at the same time the fragility of Christian life," and "the desire for universal human rights, but at the same time the loss of respect for human dignity."

    Update: Canonization is chance for campus groups to 'reclaim' name

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The upcoming canonization of Blessed John Henry Newman begs the question: Do Catholic college students today even know who Cardinal Newman is? Yes and no, seems to be the answer, depending on where they go to school, but this could change after the Oct. 13 canonization of the British theologian and intellectual so tied in with university life. Newman centers, located on the campuses of many public universities, get their name and their role from the cardinal who died in 1890 and emphasized that Catholic students who attend public universities must be given a place to gather to support and encourage one another in their faith. Many university-based Catholic student groups no longer call themselves Newman Centers but instead go by terms like Catholic associations, Catholic student organizations or campus Catholic communities, possibly because students lack knowledge about Cardinal Newman, who has taken a bit of a back seat. Barbara McCrabb, assistant director for higher education at the Secretariat of Catholic Education of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Cardinal Newman's canonization is an "opportunity for campus ministry to reclaim some of its roots" by reintroducing the saint she described as a Renaissance man, with concern for prayer, immigrants and the poor, to today's college students. "All of what Cardinal Newman was talking about and hoping for has resonance today," she added, urging again that campus ministry "reclaim and rekindle its intellectual past" in telling the story of the new saint, who embraced the link between faith and reason and wanted laypeople to have a clear understanding of their faith that they could explain to others.

    Church, government partner to help more inmates get college education

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- So-called "Second Chance" Pell Grants, an experimental program to fund college educations for inmates and in which two Catholic institutions have been participating, are getting an expanded boost toward permanence. This summer, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called for the program, in place since 2016, to be made permanent. On Sept. 30 she endorsed the effort by Prison Fellowship, an evangelical prison ministry, to ask legislators to vote for its expansion. So far, the legislation has lacked sufficient bipartisan support. DeVos appeared at Prison Fellowship's Justice Declaration Symposium at the Museum of the Bible. The ban on inmates receiving Pell Grants, which are used for students with extreme financial need, was put in place in 1994 crime legislation. In 2015, the Obama administration launched the Second Chance program, which received its initial funding the following year. Currently, 67 colleges and universities are participating. "Education is the ticket to a good future for just about anyone and everyone," DeVos said. "We should be embracing these opportunities. We all make mistakes, and we all need the chance to be redeemed."

    Indigenous bring needed diversity of expression to synod, speakers say

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People in Western countries need to see the different cultural expressions of faith that exist in other parts of the world, said some participants at the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon. Panelists attending a Vatican briefing Oct. 7 were asked to comment on the way some media outlets and some people on social media expressed shock, disdain or concern for the presence of a wooden statue of a bare-breasted pregnant woman during a prayer service in the Vatican Gardens Oct. 4 and about the Catholic indigenous man who brought up the offertory gifts at Mass Oct. 6 wearing a headdress adorned with feathers. "It is even more important that the world of Europe and Rome learn that other cultures also know how to talk about life, about well-being, fraternal coexistence," said French-born Bishop Emmanuel Lafont, who leads the Diocese of Cayenne in French Guiana, bordering the Amazon basin. It is important people see there is another way to live "and not just consume and accumulate things," he said through a translator. "There can't be just one voice. Every culture has its voice and its wisdom," he added. He said he told the bishops of France years ago that if they were going to talk about ecology, then they also needed to listen to what indigenous people in the American and African continents had to say about their relationship with nature.

    In livestream debate, Canadian candidates discuss faith-related issues

    TORONTO (CNS) -- The Catholics of Toronto staked their election flag in the territory of reasoned, respectful debate at the largest, nonpartisan, live-audience election event of 2019. The #CatholicVote2019 debate produced and hosted by the Archdiocese of Toronto Oct. 3 attracted about 1,000 people to the John Bassett Theatre in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre downtown, but also went live to thousands more as it was livestreamed in parish halls, offices and homes from coast to coast. During the event, about 1,000 screens were tuned into the debate, some of them representing an audience of over 150 people watching on large screens at their parishes. The whole point was to present a Catholic approach to politics that relies on reason and discernment, Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto said before the debate got underway. "We need to have people engage in rational discourse with one another in a courteous way," the cardinal told The Catholic Register. "They can still disagree. They can still feel passionately about what they say and they may passionately disagree with the positions taken by others. But they should be able to discuss and continue the conversation." Too often politics today devolves into shouting, slogans and a tragic failure to listen, Cardinal Collins said. "When we shut down the conversation by, for example, calling people names or something then what more do we say? The conversation ends," he said.

    Don't fear what is new, Cardinal Hummes says, introducing synod topics

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With its mandate to seek "new pathways for the church and for an integral ecology," the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon follows Pope Francis' call for the church to move forward without fear, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes told participants. Speaking at the synod's opening session Oct. 7, Cardinal Hummes identified key issues for the synod based on consultations held in church jurisdictions in the nine Amazonian countries over the past year and a half. Near the end of this speech, he added a comment not in the prepared text, reminding participants that "ecclesial communion is constructed and preserved with Peter and under Peter, with the pope and under the guidance of the pope. That is what the Catholic faith says." Introducing the themes of the synod, the cardinal said that the church must turn outward and seek new pathways, as well as ways of inserting itself into Amazonian cultures. Synod participants also must consider new ways of providing pastoral care, possibly developing new ministries, in a place with too few church workers. "The church needs to throw open her doors, knock down the walls surrounding her and build bridges, going out into the world and setting out on the path of history," Cardinal Hummes said, underscoring the pope's emphasis on a missionary church. In times of change, he said, the church's role is to accompany people who live "on the margins of humankind."

    Justice is 'a divine characteristic' of God, archbishop says at Red Mass

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Addressing a congregation that included Supreme Court justices and law students attending the Oct. 6 Red Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory encouraged those involved in law to reflect God's justice and mercy. "Justice is a divine characteristic of God himself. Whether we are Christian, Jewish or Muslim in heritage -- we all believe that God is perfectly just and always merciful," Washington's archbishop said. "And those of you engaged in the administration of justice can and must never completely remove those divine qualities from your service and your calling." The annual Mass, traditionally held on the Sunday before the Supreme Court opens its term on the first Monday of October, invokes God's blessings and guidance on those responsible for the administration of justice as well as on all public officials. Archbishop Gregory noted, "We pray for all of the members of the judiciary and legal world because yours is the tremendous responsibility of attempting to reflect God's perfect justice and mercy in interpreting the laws of our nation and for all those who will come before you during this next year." Those affected by the administration of justice, he added, include those who may have committed crimes, and "those whose language, culture, race, or religion are not your own, as well as those who are at precarious moment on the spectrum of human life. None of them are unimportant and all of them approach you for what they hope will be a sign and an expression of God's truth," he added.

    Catholics more motivated to donate if ethical investing is assured

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Nearly nine in 10 Catholics surveyed said they want their donations to church institutions to be ethically invested and a majority of those responding voiced particular opposition to investments in companies that produce pornography, tobacco products and e-cigarettes, according to a new survey. The survey for Boston-based Catholic Investment Services found that about 87% of respondents would be more likely to donate to Catholic institutions if they knew the money would be invested in ways consistent with church teaching and values. In contrast, about 14% of respondents said ethical investing was not a consideration when donating to Catholic institutions. The results parallel those of a CIS survey released in April. Peter Jeton, the firm's outgoing CEO, said the new study sought to more specifically identify what investments motivates or deters Catholics to give to church entities. People want their donations to go "where it's good and avoid evil," Jeton said. "Ethical investing can be a motivating factor in how much people give," he told Catholic News Service. "And if I am the CFO (chief financial officer) of a diocese or if I'm the bishop of a diocese, then I should be explaining very clearly and with frequency what the policy is regarding how people's money is being invested."

    Pope names new apostolic nuncio to Chile

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis named Spanish Archbishop Alberto Ortega Martin as the new apostolic nuncio to Chile, the Vatican announced. Archbishop Ortega, 56, served as nuncio to Jordan and Iraq prior to his appointment to the South American country, the Vatican said Oct. 7. Ordained to the priesthood in 1990, Archbishop Ortega entered the Vatican diplomatic service in 1997, serving in posts in Nicaragua, South Africa and Lebanon. He was ordained a bishop in 2015. His appointment comes at a time when the Catholic Church in Chile is under continuous scrutiny over its handling of cases involving the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. Archbishop Ortega's predecessor, Italian Archbishop Ivo Scapolo, whom Pope Francis transferred to Portugal in late August, often was criticized by survivors for his alleged inaction and complicity in covering up cases of abuse. In July, Reuters news agency reported that Chilean government officials said they were investigating more than 150 cases of sexual abuse or cover-up in the church.

    Cardinal Baldisseri explains who's at Amazon synod, how it works

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon is focused on one small, but important geographical area, the issues involved impact the universal Catholic Church, said Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops. As a "special assembly" rather than an "ordinary general assembly" of the Synod of Bishops, the members of the synod for the Amazon are mainly the bishops of the Amazon region of nine South American countries, and the discussions will focus on evangelization and safeguarding creation in that region, he said at the opening session Oct. 7. But, "while regarding a specific geographic area, it is still a synod that interests the universal church," Cardinal Baldisseri said, so the heads of Vatican offices and representative bishops from around the world also are voting members. Presenting some nuts-and-bolts information about the synod members and the meeting's functioning, the cardinal was greeted with applause when he announced that, beginning with the afternoon session Oct. 7, synod members were free to wear clerical suits rather than cassocks to the meetings. He listed the 185 voting members as: 137 participating because of the office they hold, including 113 from church jurisdictions in the Amazon, 13 heads of Roman Curia offices and 11 bishops and priests from the council that prepared the synod; 14 religious priests and one religious brother elected by the Union of Superiors General; and 33 members named by the pope.

    Synod is a time to listen, discern, not despise, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops for the Amazon is a time of reflection, dialogue and listening to the needs and sufferings of indigenous people, Pope Francis said. "The Holy Spirit is the primary actor in the synod. Please, do not kick him out of the room," the pope said, opening the gathering's first working session Oct. 7. Speaking off-the-cuff, the pope said he was saddened to hear a "sarcastic" remark from a synod participant about an indigenous man wearing a feathered headdress who presented the offertory gifts at the synod's opening Mass Oct. 6. "Tell me: What difference is there between having feathers on your head and the three-cornered hat worn by some officials of our dicasteries?" he asked, eliciting applause from synod participants. Instead of becoming a series of reductive discussions that only undermine "the poetry" of indigenous people and their cultures, he said, the synod is a way for the church to walk with them "under the guidance of the Holy Spirit."

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  • Friends, family, faithful celebrate new cardinals at Vatican reception

    VATICAN (CNS) -- A long, snail-paced line of well-wishers waited to greet Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu of Kinshasa, Congo, after the ceremony in which Pope Francis placed a red hat on his head. But the several hundred Congolese who had come to celebrate with the Capuchin prelate didn't mind. Small groups sang or played small instruments while they waited. Men and women waved their nation's flag, wrapped kerchiefs of their country's colors around their necks and sported clothing fashioned from specially made, bright-colored fabric bearing images of Our Lady or the cardinal. "He's a good man, righteous, speaking out against the suffering people go through," Father Julien Matondo, who serves Congolese Catholics in London, told Catholic News Service. "We were chosen to free people, not leave them as slaves and he does that. He can fight for the people, and for that I am proud of him," added Father Matondo, who said he knows about the cardinal from having read his writings, homilies and speeches. Relatives, friends and colleagues of new cardinals described them as unpretentious men who stand with the poorest and most marginalized people and who are open to dialogue.

    Update: Fear, status quo smother fire of God's love, pope says at synod Mass

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church's mission in the world is to spread the fire of God's love and must not be limited to the "'ordinary maintenance' of those who already know the Gospel," Pope Francis said. Celebrating the opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon Oct. 6, the pope said, "Jesus did not come to bring a gentle evening breeze, but to light a fire on the earth." "If everything continues as it was, if we spend our days content that 'this is the way things have always been done,' then the gift vanishes, smothered by the ashes of fear and concern for defending the status quo," he said. Among the thousands filling St. Peter's Basilica were members of various indigenous communities from the Amazon region. Some wore traditional headpieces while others painted their faces with ornate designs, proudly displaying the artistry of their cultures. Several were chosen to present the offertory gifts during the Mass, solemnly walking up to the altar, some barefoot, and reverently bowing after presenting the gifts of bread and wine to the pope. Jair Reis, one of about 1,200 Maragua Indians living in Brazil's Amazonas state, attended the Mass. He told Catholic News Service he has received threats from miners who have entered his people's lands illegally. "We want our voices to be heard," he said. "Not for me, but for all the indigenous people of Brazil."

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