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  • West Virginians meet their new Catholic bishop as humble, holy man

    IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

    By Christopher Gunty

    WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- People from around the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston already have a good feeling about their new shepherd, Bishop Mark E. Brennan, who was installed Aug. 22 as the ninth bishop of the diocese.

    Ron and Jenny Gaither came from Fairmont, southwest of Morgantown, for the installation of the bishop because they believe he is an honest and holy man. The parishioners of St. Anthony in Fairmont said they were hoping to get someone who could help Catholics in West Virginia forget about the scandals in the church. They said they had heard from priests who already met Bishop Brennan that he is a wonderful man.

    John Neely of St. John Neumann Parish in Marlinton, a town with a population just over 1,000, said he hopes the bishop will be concerned with the rural parts of the state. "It's very important to get someone down to the parishes," he said, noting that they haven't had bishops visit in 20 years.

    Many of the priests in the rural areas serve three or four parishes. "Our pastor has an hour (to drive) to each of his other churches," Neely said. "They do everything for themselves; they don't have an office staff."

    He said he wants Bishop Brennan to be "a man of the people and for the people -- the poor people of the diocese."

    Father John Chapin Engler Jr., is one such pastor of three parishes in a rural part of the state northwest of Charleston.

    Before solemn vespers Aug. 21, Father Engler said, "It's a new day. I'm just thrilled" with the appointment of Bishop Brennan. He said the people of the diocese had been praying a prayer provided by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, who was apostolic administrator of the diocese from September 2018 until Bishop Brennan's installation.

    The people of the diocese prayed for a humble and noble pastor full of zeal and a love for Jesus and the poor. "It's almost like he knew when he wrote it" the kind of man the pope would appoint.

    He praised Bishop Brennan for showing up in his own Ford Taurus, carrying his own bag and serving breakfast at Wheeling's Catholic Charities Aug. 21.

    Father Engler's country parishes in Bancroft, Nitro and Dunbar are small -- 30, 50 and 70 parishioners. He said their needs are the same as many others in the diocese, "to continue to try to be a light for people in darkness."

    Noting that the state is about 4% Catholic and "that means 96% are not," Father Engler said of the new bishop: "He seems to have a knack for reaching out, with a pastoral zeal for the poor."

    He said the bishop had already agreed to visit his three parishes for their combined Labor Day picnic. That sends a good message to his people that they won't be forgotten, he said.

    Sam and Karen Gross came from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral in Charleston, where Sam is a fourth-degree Knight of Columbus and participated in the honor guard at the installation Mass.

    "He's a fresh change," Sam said, noting that Bishop Brennan's crosier is made of wood, not gold.

    Karen said she believes the bishop will help heal and end the divisiveness in the church and "bring a spiritual message to us so we can all be disciples of Jesus Christ."

    The Grosses also mentioned the challenges of life in the diocese, noting that priests in rural parishes have needs that parishioners in Charleston, Morgantown and Wheeling cannot even imagine.

    She said the bishop is humble and approachable. "You can tell by his demeanor that he puts others ahead of himself," she said. "Jesus brought him to us for a reason."

    Morgan Yost, who works for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston on the program staff of the youth ministry office, said she hopes the bishop will see the youths as part of the church community now, not just in the future, and hopes he will see that they have a role in the church.

    She said the bishop sent a video message to a Catholic summer youth camp held in Huttonsville shortly after his appointment was announced July 23. In that video, he said he hoped to be able to visit the camp in person next year.

    Lia Salinas, director of Hispanic ministry for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, attended the installation Mass to honor her former boss. Bishop Brennan had been archdiocesan vicar for Hispanics; he was a Baltimore auxiliary bishop until his appointment to Wheeling-Charleston.

    "He's a pastor who smells like his sheep. We're sorry to lose him but we know this is what West Virginia needs," she told the Catholic Review, Baltimore's archdiocesan media outlet.

    "He's a person you grow to love, a real servant of God," Salinas said.

    She described the bishop as hard-working and a people person, noting that he will spend as much time talking to a janitor as with a clergyman or a business executive.

    That attitude was visible after the installation Mass when Bishop Brennan standing on a small balcony on the corner of the cathedral blessed the crowd gathered on Eoff Street below. Returning to the street level, still in his liturgical vestments, the bishop crossed the street to greet residents of the Formosa Apartments who had been sitting on chairs in front of their building.

    Yvette Smith, Zyanne Hamlin and Kiara Moore, who live in the building, and Carrie Chambliss, who lives around the corner, were pleased to meet the new bishop, whose cathedral directly faces the apartments.

    Smith said she hopes the church opens more doors and helps the homeless and others in need, like those who live in the Formosa.

    Chambliss added that maybe they could use some prayers too, "because we're all sinners."

    "I expect good things from him," she said.

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    Gunty is associate publisher/editor of Catholic Review Media, the media arm of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

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  • Great Catholic Music online service to pay tribute to St. Louis Jesuits

    CANTON, Ohio (CNS) -- Great Catholic Music, a free audio web streaming service, will honor "the music legacy" of the St. Louis Jesuits a week ahead of the group reuniting for a final performance Sept. 29. Great Catholic Music is a project of the Living Bread Radio Network, a group of Catholic radio stations in northeast Ohio. From Sept. 23 to Sept. 28, the group's music will air an hour a day starting at 11 a.m. (EST) online at, the service's mobile app and on Alexa devices. A spokesman said the streaming service planned the special programming to pay tribute to "a big milestone for Catholic music." The St. Louis Jesuits first met and began composing music together as young Jesuit scholastics in the early 1970s while at St. Louis University. The composer-performers inspired a generation of Catholic liturgical music. The group's songs, including "One Bread, One Body" and "Earthen Vessels," have become staples of Catholic liturgies, and the St. Louis Jesuits, as a group, have recorded 35 albums and several anthology collections. The concert is "expected to be a nostalgic celebration of the five's most beloved hymns and songs for worship and personal prayer, both as St. Louis Jesuits and as solo artists," said a story about the concert on the university website, The site also has information about buying concert tickets.

    Update: Bishops welcome proposed rule on religious employers' rights

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The chairmen of three U.S. bishops' committees Aug. 21 welcomed a proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Labor aimed at clarifying religious protections that may be invoked by federal contractors, including faith-based organizations. "Faith-based groups should have the opportunity to compete on a level playing field as they seek to partner with the federal government to provide critical social services," the bishops said in a statement. "These proposed rules protect religious liberty, a core constitutional right, by clarifying existing religious exemptions consistent with federal law and recent Supreme Court precedent." The statement was issued by 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 proposed rule would clarify that religious organizations may make employment decisions "consistent with their sincerely held religious tenets and beliefs without fear of sanction by the federal government," the Labor Department said in announcing it Aug. 14. The proposal was issued by the department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, known as OFCCP.

    Vermont bishop releases list on claims, says church 'must remain' vigilant

    BURLINGTON, Vt. (CNS) -- Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington Aug. 22 released the names of 40 priests who served in Vermont and were credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor or vulnerable individual since 1950. He said he "asked that this report be compiled and published" because "the whole sordid tale of what happened in decades leading up to the U.S. bishops' 2002 'Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People' has not been fully aired." The church in Vermont and in the United States, he said, have taken "significant action" to address the sexual abuse of minors by clergy and the cover-up of those crimes "by those in authority," but there is more to be done. The Burlington Diocese's list was compiled by an independent, volunteer committee of four laymen and three laywomen assembled in November 2018. "If there were a member of the clergy involved (on the committee), it would interfere with the notion of a completely hands-off approach by the diocese. This report needed to be done by laypeople who had no vested interest in what the report came up with in terms of findings," said committee member Mark Redmond. "Transparency was promised and received," said Mike Donoghue, another committee member.

    Mexican bishop says criminal groups 'seeking an exit,' urges dialogue

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- A bishop in Mexico's heroin-producing heartland is urging the federal government to hold talks with armed groups -- including drug cartels -- saying many in the illegal drugs business are unable to make ends meet and are "seeking an exit." Mexican Interior Minister Olga Sanchez Cordero said Aug. 20 that talks were occurring with armed groups, but later clarified to say that they didn't included drug cartels and rather were with so-called community police and self-defense groups, the Associated Press reported. Such self-defense groups ostensibly form to provide security in lawless regions but are sometimes co-opted by drug cartels or stray into illegal activities. The Interior Ministry later wrote via Twitter that Sanchez Cordero "expressed a willingness to speak with authentic self-defense organizations to achieve the pacification of some parts of the country ... the disarming of these organizations and those involved in them. ... the federal government doesn't have nor will it have dialogue with any criminal organizations." But Bishop Salvador Rangel Mendoza of Chilpancingo-Chilapa told Catholic News Service that the government should "reach out" to both self-defense and criminal groups in his diocese in Guerrero state, saying leaders were ready to talk. "If the government wants to dialogue with these criminal groups and, above all, wants to talk with these community police forces, I think that's good," Bishop Rangel said.

    West Virginians meet their new Catholic bishop as humble, holy man

    WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- People from around the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston already have a good feeling about their new shepherd, Bishop Mark E. Brennan, who was installed Aug. 22 as the ninth bishop of the diocese. Ron and Jenny Gaither came from Fairmont, southwest of Morgantown, for the installation of the bishop because they believe he is an honest and holy man. The parishioners of St. Anthony in Fairmont said they were hoping to get someone who could help Catholics in West Virginia forget about the scandals in the church. They said they had heard from priests who already met Bishop Brennan that he is a wonderful man. John Neely of St. John Neumann Parish in Marlinton, a town with a population just over 1,000, said he hopes the bishop will be concerned with the rural parts of the state. "It's very important to get someone down to the parishes," he said, noting that they haven't had bishops visit in 20 years. Many of the priests in the rural areas serve three or four parishes. "Our pastor has an hour (to drive) to each of his other churches," Neely said. "They do everything for themselves; they don't have an office staff." He said he wants Bishop Brennan to be "a man of the people and for the people -- the poor people of the diocese."

    Lighting the darkness, serving the people themes of bishop's installation

    WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- Bishop Mark E. Brennan was welcomed Aug. 22 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, which encompasses the state of West Virginia, in a ceremony filled with song and applause. After processing into the cathedral, the bishop, who until now was an auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, listened as Msgr. Walter Erbe, charge d'affaires at the apostolic nunciature in Washington, read the papal bull of his appointment. Bishop Brennan held up the official document to the congregation "for those with good long-range vision," he said to laughter and sustained applause. Asked by Msgr. Erbe if he accepted the responsibility for which Pope Francis chose him, the bishop said, "With faith in Jesus Christ and with the help of God, I do accept the pastoral care of the people of God of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. I resolve to serve faithfully the spiritual needs of the local church." Msgr. Erbe represented Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the Unites States, who could not attend due to a meeting in Rome. Then Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, who has been apostolic administrator of Wheeling-Charleston since last September, led Bishop Brennan to the cathedra, the bishop's chair, and handed him his new crosier, a wooden pastoral staff -- taller than the bishop himself -- with a large curve at the top. Archbishop Lori noted that he has known Bishop Brennan since their days in the seminary. "He is the strong, loving and wise shepherd we have been praying for."

    Latin American bishops urge action to save burning Amazon rainforest

    SAO PAULO (CNS) -- "Crying out to the world for solidarity," leaders of the Latin American bishops' council urged international action to save the Amazon rainforest as massive fires continued to burn. "We urge the governments of the Amazonian countries, especially Brazil and Bolivia, the United Nations and the international community to take serious measures to save the lungs of the world," said the statement Aug. 22 by the top officers of the council, known by its Spanish acronym, CELAM. "What happens to the Amazon is not just a local issue, but is of global reach," the bishops said. "If the Amazon suffers, the world suffers." The Amazon produces 20% of the world's oxygen, according to scientific measurements. Brazil's space research institute, which is responsible for satellite monitoring of the Amazon, had reported that the number of wildfires, common in July and August, had reached a record number already in 2019, with 72,843 fires spotted. The U.S. space agency, NASA, Aug. 21 and 22 released satellite imagery showing how smoke from the fires had created "a shroud that is clearly visible across much of the center of South America."

    'ABCs' of Christian charity require helping those in need, official says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A patriotic love for one's country and culture does not mean closing off oneself to others, particularly those in need, said the Vatican foreign minister. "No one calls into question the sovereignty of a country, of a nation," Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican secretary for relations with states, told Vatican News Aug. 22. The problem is an "exaggerated view of sovereignty" that calls for "total closure to others," he said. "Perhaps it has a certain theoretical, pragmatic attraction, but I don't think it is the path to take," he said. The archbishop was in Rimini, Italy, where he was addressing a large annual meeting sponsored by the lay movement, Communion and Liberation. In the interview with Vatican News, he said that everyone is "interconnected," and it is too difficult for one nation to guarantee by itself all of its people's needs, for example, for peace, defense and security. "We very much value patriotism, the love of one's country, one's culture, the people," he said. "In the Catholic faith -- and I believe in other Christian denominations, too -- there is a view of openness toward others," which is rooted in an understanding that "there are more things we have in common than things that divide us."

    Indian priest, five nuns accused of defaming dismissed nun

    COCHIN, India (CNS) -- Police in India's Kerala state are investigating the actions of a Catholic priest and five women religious after a complaint by a nun who was dismissed from her congregation Aug. 5 accused the six of defaming and harassing her through social media. Sister Lucy Kalapura, a member of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, complained to police that Father Noble Thomas Parackal and five women religious of the congregation collaborated to share closed-circuit TV footage of her entering her convent with two male journalists on social media with the intention of defaming her, reported. The religious congregation dismissed Sister Kalapura, 54, with Vatican approval, citing several instances of indiscipline and disobedience. However, she appealed to the Vatican against the dismissal and continues to live in the convent. Along with the video, Father Parackal posted comments that the dismissed nun had used the back door of the convent to invite two men inside. The 54-year-old nun claimed the tone of the comments seemed to question her character. "These posts are clearly meant to defame and annihilate my reputation in society," Sister Kalapura told Aug. 22. However, Father Parackal, a member of the media commission of the Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Church to which the nun also belongs, denied the allegations. "What you see is what has been captured by the camera. I have not added or deleted anything. And I have not said anything to defame anyone," he said.

    Rohingya refugees reject 'unconditional return' to Myanmar

    DHAKA, Bangladesh (CNS) -- A second attempt to repatriate hundreds of Rohingya Muslims from camps in Bangladesh failed after the refugees refused to return "unconditionally" to Myanmar. Bangladesh and Myanmar had agreed to repatriate 3,540 Rohingya from three camps in Cox's Bazar district starting Aug. 22. The refugees were chosen from a list of containing 22,000 Rohingya in Bangladesh that was handed to a Myanmar delegation in July. A similar repatriation attempt in November 2018 failed, following refugee protests. This time, reported, the situation was calmer in the camps but yielded the same result. The attempt came only days before the Aug. 25 second anniversary of the military crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state, which forced more than 742,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh. Mohammad Abul Kalam, commissioner of the Bangladesh's Relief and Repatriation Commission, told journalists at a refugee camp in Teknaf that the repatriation plan was postponed because of the "unwillingness" of refugees. "We kept five buses and three trucks ready from the morning to take the refugees to repatriation points, but none turned up. During interviews with 295 listed Rohingya families, none agreed to return to Myanmar until their demands were met," Kalam said.

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  • Good Shepherd 'did a lot of work to find me,' says young religious sister

    HAMDEN, Conn. (CNS) -- After Christina Skelley graduated from Washington University, it seemed like her life had fallen into place. Years of searching led her to the Catholic Church and the Real Presence in the Eucharist. She became active in campus ministry and then landed her dream job, working for the Chicago Symphony. She was dating a young man, loved city life and at lunch would walk to a nearby church for daily Mass. But then something changed. "I felt a nagging sense that I was living my second-best life," she recalled. "When I came across the passage from Scripture that said, 'I remember how you loved me as a bride' in Jeremiah, I got the sense that Christ wanted more, he wanted me to marry him in religious life." This sense led her to discern a vocation with the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She agreed to visit one of the congregation's ministries -- Clelian Heights School for students with special needs in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. "My heart had been searching so long, and then I felt at home," she recalled. She entered the formation program in August 2012 and made her first vows in 2015 in Hamden, Connecticut, where the order's U.S. province is based. On July 26, Sister Christina Skelley renewed her vows at Mount Sacred Heart in Hamden.

    Institute offers free online video series on thought of St. Thomas Aquinas

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Thomistic Institute in Washington has launched "Aquinas 101," a free online video course that instructs interested viewers in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. "Aquinas 101" will consist of 85 to 90 videos released over the course of the year. The series will introduce the basics of the Catholic intellectual tradition with St. Thomas Aquinas as a guide. The first three videos can now be viewed on or on The videos in the course each feature a Dominican friar/professor and are animated to illustrate the doctrines described. The priests featured include Fathers Dominic Legge, Thomas Joseph White, Thomas Petri, James Brent and Gregory Pine. The course proceeds through an introduction to St. Thomas, a basic description of his philosophy and an in-depth study of his masterwork: "Summa Theologiae." "At the end of the course, the viewer can expect to have gained a basic mastery of the essentials of Aquinas and to have acquired the tools to engage many difficult issues of faith and science, reason and revelation, and beyond," said a news release from the Thomistic Institute announcing the course. More about the institute can be found online at

    Pennsylvania authorities arrest priest accused of stealing more than $98,000

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Authorities have arrested a 56-year-old priest from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who is facing accusations that he stole more than $98,000 from a parish and used some of it to finance what the archdiocese says were "personal expenses of an inappropriate nature." The Chester County District Attorney's office announced in an Aug. 21 news release the arrest of Msgr. Joseph McLoone, the former pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, whom it accuses of stealing $98,405 to fund a "a beach house, travel, dining and spending on adult men with whom he maintained sexual relationships." He is charged with "theft by unlawful taking and related offenses," the DA's office said in the release. "Father McLoone accomplished this theft by diverting parish funds into a secret account, misappropriating fees charged to parishioners and other fraudulent activity," said Chester County officials. In detailing his actions, they said the priest opened an account called the "St. Joseph Activity Account" and for six years allegedly funneled to it special collections, fees for weddings and funerals, and other donations that were meant for the parish. He also allegedly took "the entirety of the All Souls' collection each year" and would "convert checks" to himself and "others within the parish," the DA's office said. In a statement, the archdiocese said it does not believe "Sunday collections, contributions to the parish capital campaign, or school and PREP tuition fees" were deposited into it.

    D.C. archdiocesan spokeswoman new head of USCCB Office of Public Affairs

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington has appointed Chieko T. Noguchi as director of the Office of Public Affairs at the conference's headquarters in Washington. For the past 10 years, Noguchi has been with the Archdiocese of Washington, serving as director of media and public relations since 2011. Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, general secretary of the USCCB, appointed Noguchi to the position Aug. 22. She begins work Sept. 9. "Chieko brings an extensive blend of church and private sector experience to the conference's communications mission," he said in a statement. "We are looking forward to working with her to carry the bishops' Gospel witness into the public square." As Washington's archdiocesan director of media and public relations, she served as spokesperson for the archdiocese and its archbishop, now Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory. She also directed all media relations not only for Washington's archbishop but also for 139 parishes, 95 schools and all archdiocesan ministries. In 2016, she received the Benemerenti Medal from Pope Francis in recognition of her dedication to the church. Noguchi was part of the archdiocesan team that handled media relations during the pope's trip to Washington in 2015.

    Threats to dignity, sanctity of life seen advancing at 'breakneck speed'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A globetrotting warrior for life and human dignity has taken up a new gauntlet as president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, where he will use his global expertise and Catholic bioethics education to defend against what he termed life-degrading "science fictions" that are becoming reality. Joseph Meaney, former director of international outreach and expansion for Human Life International, assumed the presidency of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, taking over from the former president of 22 years, John Haas. The new president earned his doctorate in bioethics from the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome. In an interview with Catholic News Service, Meaney said he foresees helming a difficult and fast-paced battle against an encroaching "culture of death. There are a lot of things developing at breakneck speed. We are at an unprecedented point in U.S. history. We have never seen this speed of scientific change," Meaney said. "There are huge developments in robotics, movements to replace organs and limbs with robotic parts, artificial intelligence implants directly into the brain. These all were science fiction so recently. We are taking something you would talk about in a Hollywood film and turning it into reality."

    Kenyan Catholic doctors warn against cervical cancer vaccination of girls

    NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- Catholic doctors in Kenya have warned against a mass cervical cancer vaccination program for young girls, as the government accelerates plans to roll out the program in September. The Ministry of Health has said the vaccination is targeting the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection that can cause cancer of the cervix. Two free doses of the vaccine -- administered 10 months apart -- will be given to 10-year-old girls. The vaccines will be available at 9,000 private, public and faith-based health facilities. However, members of the Kenya Catholic Doctors Association expressed concern that the vaccine can cause severe side effects, including brain damage, seizures or paralysis. The doctors also said the vaccine has not undergone necessary clinical trials in the country. "We don't think the vaccine is necessary. HVP is sexually transmitted and does not make sense to vaccine everyone against a sexually transmitted disease that can be controlled through behavior change," Dr. Wahome Ngare, a gynecologist and a member of the Catholic doctors group, told Catholic News Service. "The side effects are too risky for anyone to even dare," he added.

    Bangladesh flood victims reel as aid agencies struggle to respond

    DHAKA, Bangladesh -- Weeks after devastating floods affected millions and killed more than 100 people in Bangladesh, many families are reeling from a lack of aid as the country suffers an outbreak of waterborne diseases. Monsoon flooding in 28 of the country's 64 districts affected more than 7 million people, left tens of thousands of houses uninhabitable and destroyed crops over vast areas, reported. During a week of flooding, at least 114 people died and 14,000 others became ill from various diseases and infections, according to government data. The crisis eased somewhat in recent weeks as the rains eased and water levels receded, allowing government and disaster relief agencies to distribute emergency supplies. However, many victims said the support fell far short of the need. Jamal Khan, 40, a father of three from the flood-affected northern district of Sirajganj, said his family was struggling to get back to normal. "The government handed out some food and a charity (Caritas) also offered food and cash, but the aid was not enough," Khan, a Muslim, told "My wife, son and I have been struggling maintain the family by working as day laborers, but after flooding, there is less opportunity to find work."

    Vatican investigates abuse allegation against Chilean president's uncle

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The apostolic nunciature in Chile announced that the Vatican has opened an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse against retired Archbishop Bernardino Pinera Carvallo of La Serena, who is the uncle of Chilean President Sebastian Pinera. In a statement released Aug. 20, the nunciature said the preliminary investigation will determine the credibility of an accusation of abuse allegedly committed "more than 50 years ago" by Archbishop Pinera who, at 103, is the oldest living bishop in the world. "We are in contact with the person who filed the complaint, and, at the same time, we are acting in accordance with the principle of the presumption of innocence," the nunciature said. Shortly after the investigation was announced, Archbishop Pinera, who served as president of the Chilean bishops' conference from 1983 to 1988, released a statement saying he was "unaware of the accusation" made against him and that he would cooperate with the Vatican investigation. "I testify that in my long priestly life, which began in 1945, I have always had impeccable conduct," the archbishop said.

    Update: Australian pro-life leaders organize to block bill legalizing abortion

    SYDNEY (CNS) -- Thousands of pro-life supporters demonstrated in the streets of Sydney, expressing their opposition to a bill in the New South Wales state parliament that would permit abortion until birth for any reason. The demonstration Aug. 20 called on members of parliament (MPs) to defeat the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill that was introduced Aug. 1. The bill passed Aug. 8 in the Legislative Assembly, the lower house of the state parliament, 59-31, following a limited three-day period for comment. The bill is pending in the Legislative Council, the upper house of parliament. Legislators had planned to vote on the bill by Aug. 23. However, in response to MPs angry at the lack of due process, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejilkian announced the vote had been delayed until mid-September. Berejilkian supports the measure. New South Wales is the only Australian state where abortion remains a criminal offense. Abortion is permitted only when the mother's physical or mental health is in danger. As MPs debated the bill in the lower house, the pro-life movement maintained a vigil lasting several days outside of parliament. Many were young women concerned about the lack of protection in the bill for women and babies. Bethany Marsh, 21, a university student, was one of those leading the peaceful but lively gathering.

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  • Five bishops to lead Marian pilgrimage at historic Pennsylvania church

    CENTRALIA, Pa. (CNS) -- With the mass shootings that have taken place in this country in recent weeks and "the state of our society in our big cities and small towns," this is a time "when we all need to turn to God," said the pastor of a historic Ukrainian Catholic church in Pennsylvania. Father Michael Hutsko, pastor of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Centralia, made the comments in an interview with SSPTV of Hazelton, Pennsylvania, ahead of the annual Call to Prayer Marian Pilgrimage set to take place at the church Aug. 25. The white church, with its distinctive three onion-shaped blue domes, sits on a hill to the north of the town, which has been almost entirely condemned as a result of underground mine fires that have undermined the stability of the ground. This year's annual Marian pilgrimage will feature five bishops who will concelebrate the Divine Liturgy: Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia; Bishop Paul P. Chomnycky of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Stamford, Connecticut; Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of the Latin-rite Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Bishop Alfred A. Schlert of the Latin-rite Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania; and Auxiliary Bishop John Bura of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.

    New rules could extend time migrant children, families spend in detention

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Trump administration has moved to cast aside an agreement that previously limited the amount of time the government could detain migrant children. On Aug. 21, officials announced new rules that would allow federal officials to detain minors past the 20-day detention limit and could perhaps open the door to long-term detention of migrant children and families. The move is expected to be challenged in court and various faith groups quickly condemned it. "Today the Trump administration effectively announced that they'd like to be able to keep children in cages forever," said the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas via Twitter Aug. 21 following the news. "This is an abhorrent step that would shred the Flores agreement. We must be a welcoming nation to the most vulnerable among us!" In the tweet, the organization referred to what's come to be known as the Flores settlement or Flores agreement, a court ruling that, since 1997, has set base standards of care for migrant children, which includes the limits of time they can spend under federal detention. "The Flores agreement has been a crucially important bulwark against widespread inhumane treatment of migrant children, and it should be protected," continued the Mercy sisters on Twitter. "We must ensure that migrants are treated with dignity and compassion."

    Catholic Extension receives 48 nominations for annual Lumen Christi Award

    CHICAGO (CNS) -- Mission dioceses from all over the country have nominated "their best, brightest and most inspiring people" for Catholic Extension's 42nd annual Lumen Christi Award. The list of nominees includes pastors, sisters, brothers, lay leaders, deacons and community groups serving the Catholic Church in 48 mission dioceses across the United States. The full list with photos and profiles of each nominee can be found online at The award -- which means "Light of Christ" -- is the highest honor bestowed by the Chicago-based Catholic Extension, a national organization that raises and distributes funds to support U.S. mission dioceses, many of which are rural, cover a large geographic area, and have limited personnel and pastoral resources. It has been supporting the work and ministries of these mission dioceses since its founding in 1905. "These 48 nominees are hidden heroes in our midst who are working selflessly to bring life and hope to the forgotten corners of our country, inspiring those around them to be the 'Light of Christ' as well," said an Aug. 20 news release on the nominees. The nominees show "the enormous breadth" of the U.S. Catholic Church, it said.

    Fly tying gives Vermont religious brother a supportive connection to vets

    BURLINGTON, Vt. (CNS) -- The Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in Burlington was quiet on a steamy summer day except for the sound of a fan and occasional banter among the veterans who concentrated on the tiny pieces of feathers, fur and thread in front of them. Their hands worked diligently, yet carefully, illuminated by adjustable desk lamps. Their task: Tying fishing flies. The therapeutic task and the camaraderie are what has them hooked on their weekly get-together sponsored by Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Inc. Dr. Leigh Wheeler, 75, a parishioner at St. Andrew Church in Waterbury, Vermont, was an infantry officer in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and drives 35 miles each week to join the group. He finds support from the other veterans who empathize with his experiences in the war, especially having had a "number of contacts with the enemy" and witnessing soldiers being killed in action. "It's a comfortable environment," the retired emergency physician told Vermont Catholic magazine, publication of the Burlington Diocese. Project Healing Waters is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and veterans through fly fishing and related activities including education and outings. The nonprofit organization is incorporated in Maryland.

    Update: Hypocrisy of 'spiritual tourism' destroys the church, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians who focus more on being superficially close to the church rather than care for their fellow brothers and sisters are like tourists who wander around aimlessly, Pope Francis said. People "who are always passing by but never enter the church" in a fully communal way of sharing and caring engage in a sort of "spiritual tourism that makes them believe they are Christians but instead are only tourists of catacombs," the pope said Aug. 21 during his weekly general audience. "A life based only on profiting and taking advantage of situations to the detriment of others inevitably causes inner death," he said. "And how many people say they are close to the church, friends of priests and bishops yet only seek their own interests. These are the hypocrisies that destroy the church." During the audience, Clelia Manfellotti, a 10-year-old girl from Naples diagnosed with autism, walked up the steps to where the pope was sitting. The pope told his security detail to "let her be. God speaks" through children, prompting the crowd to erupt in applause. While greeting the Italian-speaking pilgrims at the end of the audience, Pope Francis reflected on the young girl who is "a victim of an illness and doesn't know what she is doing. I ask one thing, but everyone should respond in their heart: 'Did I pray for her; looking at her, did I pray so that the Lord would heal her, would protect her? Did I pray for her parents and for family?' When we see any person suffering, we must always pray. This situation helps us to ask this question: 'Did I pray for this person that I have seen, (this person) that is suffering?'" he asked.

    Catholic pilgrims walking to Marian shrine attacked in India

    NEW DELHI (CNS) -- Indian police arrested six suspected members of a hardline Hindu group for attacking 40 Catholics taking part in a 280-mile pilgrimage to a Marian shrine in Velankanni in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The attackers were accused of blocking the pilgrims on a public road Aug. 18 and beating and verbally abusing them, a police inspector told Aug. 21. A Marian statue the pilgrims were carrying in a decorated hand-pulled cart was destroyed in the attack, he said. The suspects remained in custody as police investigated the case. They face charges of attempted murder, rioting, hurting religious sentiments and acting to destroy religious peace. Officials of the Catholic bishops' forum in Tamil Nadu said the pilgrimage has occurred annually for more than a century. Pilgrims trek to the renowned Portuguese-built shrine on the coast of the Bay of Bengal to take part in nine days of festivities that end Sept. 8, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

    Update: Appeals court upholds Cardinal Pell conviction on abuse charges

    MELBOURNE, Australia (CNS) -- An Australian appeals court upheld the conviction of Cardinal George Pell on five counts of sexually assaulting two choirboys more than two decades ago. A three-judge panel of the Appeals Division of the Supreme Court of Victoria announced its decision Aug. 21 in Melbourne with the cardinal in attendance. "Cardinal Pell is obviously disappointed with the decision today," said his spokesperson, Katrina Lee. "Cardinal Pell maintains his innocence," and his legal team will study the panel's judgment before deciding whether to appeal to the High Court of Australia. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said an investigation of the cardinal by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would not begin until after the entire civil process concludes. "As in other cases, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is awaiting the outcome of the ongoing proceedings and the conclusion of the appellate process prior to taking up the case," he said. Nevertheless, Bruni said, as the Vatican affirmed in February when the cardinal's conviction was announced, "the Holy Father had already confirmed the precautionary measures imposed on Cardinal Pell upon his return to Australia, that is, as is the norm, the prohibition from exercising public ministry and from any voluntary contact whatsoever with minors."

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  • Update: Bike accident sidelines U.S. priest who is Franciscan minister general

    CHICAGO (CNS) -- U.S. Franciscan Father Michael Perry, minister general of the worldwide Order of Friars Minor, is stepping away from his duties for an indefinite period to recuperate from injuries sustained in a bicycling accident in Chicago. Despite the injuries, Father Perry was able to send a message to his fellow Franciscans Aug. 19 describing his accident and the aftermath. "I was riding my bike along the lakefront, something I have done each day since beginning my holiday in the United States," he wrote from the University of Chicago Medical Center, where he is hospitalized. "Unfortunately, I did not see a place in the road where there was a hole. I entered the hole but then ran into another slab of concrete, which prevented me from moving forward. As a result, I fell from the bike onto my left side," Father Perry said. "The impact of the fall onto hard cement resulted in the breakage of part of the pelvic bone that holds in place the femur and controls leg movement. As a consequence, I will undergo surgery to reconstruct of the affected areas. I thank God that no other parts of my body were injured." Franciscan Brother Octavio Duran told Catholic News Service Aug. 20 that Father Perry had surgery Aug. 19. "It was successful, but it's going to take a while for his recovery," he said.

    New Orleans' women religious donate 25 acres for flood control project

    NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- In topographically challenged New Orleans, where "running water" can be a pejorative depending on whether it is flowing inside or outside the house, a long-promised, 25-acre stormwater management and flood control project called the Mirabeau Water Garden will be a welcome sight. After eight years of design discussion and government delays, the ambitious project made possible through the vision and generosity of the Sisters of St. Joseph appears ready to start. The garden will be able to store 9.5 million gallons of water in a park-like setting and then slowly release it back into the city's overtaxed drainage system. David Waggonner, the project's lead urban and environmental architect, is eager to see how the water retention area on the Mirabeau Avenue site where the Sisters of St. Joseph's motherhouse stood before Hurricane Katrina, will transform both the hydraulics of the surrounding area and, more importantly, the deeply held view that the only solution to keeping the city safe from flooding is to pump water out of the New Orleans bowl. "The sisters were way ahead -- maybe because their faith lets them move forward," said Waggonner, the founding principal of Waggonner & Ball. He first approached the Sisters of St. Joseph in 2011 when he heard they might be thinking of making their land available for the project.

    Clergy abuse survivor to coordinate Minnesota archdiocese's outreach

    ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- Paula Kaempffer, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse she suffered as an adult working in the church, knows firsthand about the kind of healing that can take place. And as the new outreach coordinator for restorative justice and abuse prevention for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, she said healing "takes a lot of personal work" and "a lot of inner strength to recapture the power that has been taken away from you." She said she is grateful that she has done that work and "come out on the other side." Now she intends to help other victims/survivors and others across the archdiocese seek ways to move from anger and other difficult emotions into healing. "I think most parishes have not had an opportunity to talk about this issue," she said. Kaempffer's office also is offering a listening ear and resources to help people who might face a variety of challenges, including the emotions of a property crime or homicide, said Janell Rasmussen, deputy director of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment, the archdiocesan office that oversees its child protection efforts. "Her outreach will be much broader than sexual abuse," Rasmussen said.

    Nine-count indictment returned against Cincinnati priest

    CINCINNATI (CNS) -- A grand jury returned a nine-count indictment of rape against a Cincinnati archdiocesan priest Aug. 19 for crimes committed when he was a parish music director, prior to ordination. The priest, Father Geoff Drew, was removed July 23 as pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish in Cincinnati when more recent and less severe allegations against him were made known to the archdiocese. Father Drew is charged with raping an altar boy from St. Jude Parish in the Cincinnati suburb of Bridgetown. The incidents are said to have occurred about 30 years ago. Father Drew was music director at the parish from 1984 to 1999. He was ordained a priest in 2004. An Aug. 20 statement from the archdiocese said it was not made aware of the rape allegations until after Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati removed Father Drew from his pastorate. "We have fully cooperated with this investigation and will continue to do so," the statement said. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer daily newspaper, a grand jury in Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, interviewed the priest's accuser -- now 41 years old -- who outlined a series of incidents that he said occurred over a two-year period sometime between 1988 and 1991. Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters, at an Aug. 19 news conference, said the accuser told investigators the rapes occurred in the music director's office after school hours.

    Prayers greet people attending so-called black mass in Canadian capital

    OTTAWA, Ontario (CNS) -- About 200 people, most clutching a rosary, held a prayer vigil as a satanic black mass occurred Aug. 17 at a heavy metal club in the Canadian capital. Other Catholics attended adoration at Notre-Dame Cathedral a few blocks away or circled the block where the widely publicized event sponsored by the Satanic Temple of Ottawa took place. The day began with Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast celebrating a Mass of reparation at Annunciation of the Lord Church in suburban Ottawa. "Though Christ has won the definitive battle against sin and evil, we are still involved in mopping up operations," Archbishop Prendergast said. "There are still skirmishes and outbreaks of violence against Christ's bride, the church." He offered prayers for the people attending the event and led those gathered for the Mass in making reparation "for the blasphemies uttered against God in our midst." The archbishop was flanked by Auxiliary Bishop Christian Riesbeck and several priests from the Companions of the Cross, all wearing purple, penitential robes. Nicholas Marc, national coordinator for the Satanic Temple in Canada, told Global News he believed the gathering at The Koven nightclub was "the first organized public black mass in Canadian history."

    Face facts, says LCWR official, sisters have been part of abuse scandal

    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (CNS) -- Catholic sisters must face the reality that they have also been part of the sexual abuse scandal in the church, said Holy Cross Sister Sharlet Wagner. "We have all been affected by this scandal. We have listened to the trauma of survivors, and we have felt shame for the church we love and outrage over the crimes committed," Sister Wagner said Aug. 15 during the Leadership Conference of Women Religious Assembly in Scottsdale. "We have journeyed with our lay sisters and brothers as they have grappled with what it means to continue to be faithful in this moment in our church," she said. "And we have heard the stories of women religious, both in the United States and around the world, who have themselves been abused by clergy or other religious." But the guilt does not fall on priests and bishops alone, she said. "It is a source of deep pain for us that in some instances, our own sisters have been perpetrators of the abuse," she said. "This is a truth we must not attempt to avoid." She spoke on the issue in her presidential address. Her one-year term as LCWR president ended during the Aug. 13-16 assembly, which drew nearly 700 women religious and guests.

    Chaldean Catholics celebrate Mary, culture, family at Ohio national shrine

    CAREY, Ohio (CNS) -- With its one stoplight and surrounding cornfields, the small Ohio village of Carey seems an unlikely travel destination. Yet, once a year, an estimated 5,000 visitors swell the town population to more than double. For nine days, climaxing on the evening of Aug. 14, scores of charter buses drop off pilgrims, most of whom are Iraqi Christians. Hundreds of families fill a five-acre plot with tents, recreational vehicles, Middle Eastern food and music. "We feel that we're like in our old village back home. Like when I walk around I know a lot of people," said Khalid Markos, who is now a resident of Sterling Heights, Michigan, but was born in Alanish, Iraq. His family, like most of the pilgrims, fled from war and persecution in their home country. Now exiled refugees, they have found consolation by celebrating their faith and traditions at the aptly named Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey. "We love our faith a lot and as you may know, we left our country because we didn't want to deny our faith," Conventual Franciscan Friar Raad Eshoo told Catholic News Service, "and it's sad that we see a lot of people here and in Iraq there are few Christians, Chaldean Christians." The Chaldean Catholic Church, based in Iraq, is one of the 22 Eastern Catholic churches in full communion with Rome. Chaldean Catholics trace their faith back to the second century and still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

    India expels Spanish nun, 86, who treated poor people for five decades

    NEW DELHI (CNS) -- The Indian government has declined to renew the visa of an elderly Spanish nun who had ministered to the country's poor people for five decades. Sister Enedina, 86, a member of the Daughters of Charity, had her visa renewal refused Aug. 11 and was then told by the government she had 10 days to leave the country, reported. The nun, who trained as a medical doctor, had helped poor people in the country's east since the mid-1960s. She flew Aug. 20 from New Delhi on a flight to Spain. Sister Martha Pradhan, provincial leader of the congregation's North India province, said Sister Enedina had renewed her visa periodically since she arrived in me to Behrampur in 1965, but the government rejected her application this time around. "She applied online to renew her visa in the first week of August, paid the fees and completed all the formalities. ... We then received the notice that she had to leave the country within 10 days," Sister Pradhan said. "We were not told why the visa was not renewed." India's Ministry of External Affairs deals with visa issues but maintains a policy of not stating any reason when a visa is denied.

    Update: Planned Parenthood decides to withdraw from Title X program

    SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- The Planned Parenthood Federation of America announced Aug. 19 it is withdrawing from the federal Title X program over the Trump administration's "Protect Life Rule" barring these funds from being used for promoting or providing abortion as family planning. Planned Parenthood called the rule a "gag order" on its operations that needed to be lifted. It said Aug. 14 it would withdraw from the program if it did not get "emergency judicial relief" in the form of an injunction from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to keep the new policy from taking effect. The San Francisco-based court did not do that. The administration "is trying to force us to keep information from our patients. The gag rule is unethical, dangerous, and we will not subject our patients to it," Planned Parenthood said in its Aug. 19 statement. It will no longer receive $60 million of the $286 million allocated annually through Title X. Pro-life groups' reaction to the Planned Parenthood decision was swift. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the national Susan B. Anthony List organization said: "Today, Planned Parenthood showed its true colors by prioritizing abortion over family planning, refusing to comply with the Protect Life Rule and dropping out of the Title X program. ... Women have the most to gain from this news."

    Investigation underway into cause for sainthood for martyrs of Burundi

    NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- The grisly murders of missionary priests and a local priest, a lay volunteer and 40 seminarians in Burundi are the focus of a recently opened investigation into their sainthood cause. Catholic bishops in this central African nation June 21 welcomed the step petitioned to the Vatican by the Xaverian Missionaries, founded in 1898 by St. Guido Conforti as the Pious Society of St. Francis Xavier for Foreign Missions. "The church that is in Burundi through us bishops wants to celebrate a group of people who, in the name of Jesus, offered their lives to show that our fraternity in Christ is more important than belonging to an ethnic group," the bishops said in a statement. "It is a great testimony, a message that we believe is truly necessary for all Christians." The step, which was approved by the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes, is the first involving the Burundian church, according to the Fides News Agency of the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith. The killings occurred at different times and localities in the country. Those who died include two Italian Xaverian Missionary priests, Father Ottorino Maule, 53, and Father Aldo Marchiol, 65; lay volunteer Catina Gubert, 74; local priest, Father Michael Kayoya, 38; and the seminarians.

    Pope applauds launch of abuse investigation center in Chile

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A specialized center at Chile's premier Catholic university can help the Catholic Church protect minors and vulnerable persons from the scourge of clerical sexual abuse, which has plagued the Catholic Church in the country and around the world, Pope Francis said. In a video message played Aug. 15 during the inaugural ceremony of the Center for Investigation of Abuse and Early Prevention at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, the pope praised the center's aim to "not only take charge of various problems, of prevention and of abuse, but also of investigation, of looking for policies to continue saving minors from every form of abuse, every form of manipulation that in some way destroys their heart. Through the use of all the auxiliary sciences you will utilize, you are focusing on the hearts of children, on the hearts of minors; to take care of the hearts of children," he said. According to its website, the center, which is also known by its acronym "CUIDA" ("CARE"), "seeks to identify the structural, cultural, social and family aspects that allow abuse in childhood and adolescence, as well as those aspects that promote the protection of children and reparation of harm."

    Congo's church urges contributions from multinationals for development

    KINSHASA, Congo (CNS) -- Foreign companies working in mineral-rich Congo ought to contribute part of their profits to local development programs, said an official of the country's Catholic bishops' conference. Msgr. Donatien Nshole, secretary-general of the bishops' conference, said in a presentation Aug. 16 in Kinshasa that the country's economy "rests on exploitation of natural resources," but that the Congolese people have seen few benefits from the extractive industry. "Instead of contributing to our country's development and benefitting our people, however, our mineral, petrol and forest resources have become the cause of our misfortune," he said in discussing reports on the African country's mining, agricultural and environmental sectors commissioned the Catholic Church's Episcopal Commission for Natural Resources. "Our fellow-citizens find themselves stripped of their lands, without any reward or compensation, through concessions and sales made to this or that mine or forest exploiter," he added. The reports called for companies to pay between 3.5% and 10% into a new community development fund for reinvestment in roads, wells, schools, hospitals and infrastructural projects to benefit local inhabitants.

    Hospital ship begins serving people along the Amazon

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Even before the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon begins, a new church initiative in the region set sail: the Pope Francis Hospital Ship. The Catholic Church is called to preach the Gospel and heal the sick wherever they are, including in remote villages and settlements along the Amazon River, Pope Francis said in a message read Aug. 17 during an inauguration ceremony in the port of Belem, Brazil. The ship is a joint initiative of Diocese of Obidos and the Fraternity of St. Francis of the Providence of God, which runs hospitals, including one visited by Pope Francis in Rio de Janeiro in 2013. Father Francisco Belotti, superior general of the fraternity, explained that Pope Francis asked six years ago if the priests and brothers worked in the Amazon, and when the answer was no, he encouraged them to carry out a project in the region. They presented the plan for the hospital ship in November 2018. The ship will serve people along a 620-mile stretch of the Amazon River and will be staffed by volunteer doctors and nurses, including members of Franciscan men's and women's orders. In his message, the pope expressed gratitude that the ship would "carry the word of God and offer access to better health to the neediest populations" along the river.

    Popular movements key to social change, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Popular movements can spark the change needed to ensure a future that is no longer in the hands of elites and powerful people, but includes the poor who have the inalienable right to a life of dignity, Pope Francis said. Grassroots organizations representing the poor, the underemployed, indigenous communities and farmworkers are "a sprout that, like a mustard seed, will bear much fruit: the springboard of a great social transformation," the pope wrote in the preface of a book that will be published in September by LEV, the Vatican publishing house. "Popular movements, and this is the first thing I would like to highlight, represent in my opinion a great social alternative, a profound cry, a sign of contradiction, a hope that everything can change," he said. According to Vatican News, the new book, titled, "The Emergence of Popular Movements: Rerum Novarum of Our Time," was prepared by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and will be published in Spanish. "Rerum Novarum" was Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical on worker's rights and is considered the foundational document for the church's social teaching. The new book explores a series of World Meetings of Popular Movements held since 2014 and supported by Pope Francis, Vatican News reported.

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  • Faith leaders ask for end to Trump administration rule for asylum-seekers

    SILVER SPRING, Md. (CNS) -- Calling it "a backdoor asylum ban," more than 250 faith leaders and organizations called for an end to the Trump administration's policy to turn away asylum-seekers if they don't first seek protection in countries along their way to the U.S. "The rule fails to understand or acknowledge the realities of asylum-seekers' journeys and the lack of options they have been left with," said the leaders in joint public comment filed Aug. 15 with the Executive Office for Immigration Review. "No one flees their home or country by choice. For those passing through Northern Triangle countries and Mexico, applying for asylum and waiting for a decision from a country that has little or no ability to process such claims may put the asylum-seeker at further risk of harm," it continued. A copy of the public comment was released by the Silver Spring-based Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., or CLINIC. The new rule Asylum Eligibility and Procedural Modifications was published July 15 by the Trump Administration. It "provide(s) that, with limited exceptions, an alien who enters or attempts to enter the United States across the southern border after failing to apply for protection in a third country outside the alien's country of citizenship, nationality, or last lawful habitual residence through which the alien transited en route to the United States is ineligible for asylum."

    Florida governor asked to spare life of man set to be executed

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- The executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops asked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, himself a Catholic, to stay the Aug. 22 execution of Gary Ray Bowles, who pleaded guilty to a 1994 murder and was sentenced to death. "Each of us is more than the worst thing we have done," said the Aug. 14 letter from Michael B. Sheedy. "Mr. Bowles is more than a man who committed multiple murders. He is a human being who survived many years of childhood abuse and, after escaping his stepfather's violence as a young teenager, endured years of homelessness and child prostitution." Sheedy added, "Neuroscientific research has found that such traumatic experiences severely affect a child's developing brain, and thus affect subsequent behavior." He noted, "Premeditated, state-sanctioned homicide of Mr. Bowles would only perpetuate the cycle of violence that victimized him, and which he later perpetuated." In the letter, Sheedy said, "Intentionally ending Mr. Bowles' life is unnecessary. Society can remain safe from any future violent actions of his through lifelong incarceration without parole." He added, "Killing him will only further erode the sense of the sacredness of human life and implicate us all -- the citizens of the State of Florida -- in his death."

    LCWR award recipient embraces 'holy chaos' of her ministry to migrants

    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (CNS) -- "Holy chaos" is how Sister Norma Pimentel describes her ministry. As the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley on the U.S.-Mexico border, Sister Pimentel sees up to 800 migrants every day pouring into her center in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas. The center is often their first stop after being released from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Here, the Missionaries of Jesus sister and her staff help them organize the rest of their journey to their final destinations, and provide them with new clothes, a hot meal and shower. More than 150,000 migrants have passed through her ministry's doors. That work has led to her being praised by, and later meeting, Pope Francis, being featured on "60 Minutes," "20/20," CNN and in newspapers around the world. On Aug. 16, she received the Leadership Conference of Women Religious Outstanding Leadership Award during the organization's annual assembly in Scottsdale, Arizona. "There are times we must decide who we are, what we stand for," Sister Pimentel told the nearly 700 Catholic sisters attending the assembly. "We must ask ourselves, dear sisters, 'What else must I do in the world today?'" The need is urgent, she said. "If it is not now, then when? If it is not you, then who?" Sister Pimentel asked. "For it is in times of extreme pain and suffering, extreme measures of love are needed."

    Outgoing LCWR president asks women religious 'to model hope' amid despair

    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (CNS) -- Holy Cross Sister Sharlet Wagner loves theme parks, especially roller coasters -- which is a good thing, she said, because religious life is often like the rides that "throw us onto our backs, turn us upside-down, lead us to scream and to laugh and sometimes to mutter, 'This is crazy. Why am I doing this?'" Despite the twists and turns of a world filled with hateful rhetoric and political division, a church beset by a decades-long abuse scandal and the diminishing number of women religious, Catholic sisters are called to stand together and be models of hope, Sister Wagner said in her Aug. 15 presidential address to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious' annual assembly. The Aug. 13-16 assembly in Scottsdale drew nearly 700 women religious and guests. "Religious life has a prophetic role in the church that we must claim and exercise, and in exercising that prophetic call, we are stronger when we are able to discern and lift our voices together," she said. "The signs of our times reveal a particular call in our day to reach across borders to nurture and strengthen our global sisterhood." A troubled planet is depending on sisters, said Sister Wagner, who is her congregation's first councilor and was completing her one-year term as LCWR president. "Our world longs for the words and example of home people of faith can bring," she said. "While some elected leaders seek to scatter through promotion of fear, we are called to gather through promotion of hope."

    South Carolina school expels two students involved in racist videos

    COLUMBIA, S.C. (CNS) -- A Catholic high school in the Diocese of Charleston is boosting security and stepping up diversity training after expelling two students tied to racist videos and threats against the institution. Robert Loia, principal of Cardinal Newman School in Columbia, announced the steps and discussed the expulsions during an emotionally charged town hall meeting Aug. 8. The gathering followed days of controversy set off by racist and threatening videos distributed via text messages by a 16-year-old former student. The former student, unidentified because of his age, was arrested by the Richland County Sheriff's Department July 17. He was charged with making threats in regard to statements that he was going to "shoot up" the school. Loia said the second student who was expelled was connected with the videos, but he did not elaborate in what way. Parents were unaware of the videos and threats until local media reported on them the weekend of Aug. 3-4. Loia and the sheriff's department have been under heavy criticism for not releasing information as soon as the videos came to light in mid-July. Cardinal Newman officials said they were made aware of the first set of videos after a parent found them on her child's tablet July 13. The videos featured the 16-year-old using racist language and talking about violence against African Americans. After investigating, school officials were shown a second set of videos that featured the same student making threats against the school.

    Priest: Lack of planning to help priests causes issues in southern Africa

    LUANDA, Angola (CNS) -- A regional bishops' conference representative in southern Africa warned that none of the conferences have set up policies for the financial and other support of clergy. "At best, we have seen pious statements not supported by real, serious policy decisions," said Father Dumisani Vilakati, who heads the pastoral department of the Zimbabwe-based Inter-Regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa, known as IMBISA. Father Vilakati, a diocesan priest from Manzini, Swaziland, addressed the first congress of the clergy held by the bishops' conference of Angola, Sao Tome and Principe Aug. 17. The self-sustainability of the clergy was the theme of the meeting in the Angolan capital of Luanda. The fact that the region's bishops' conferences have not planned for clergy support causes "lots of anxiety among members of the clergy, who more often than not embark on self-help projects to make ends meet," Father Vilakati said. While priests doing self-help projects "is not bad in itself, this may hamper the work of the church as more time and energy are spent on projects and activities that are at times foreign to the missionary spirit expected of the clergy," he said.

    U.S. women religious urged to think globally even as they work locally

    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (CNS) -- Throughout the Bible, God's people keep being forced into the desert, where resources are few, the way is long and the dangers are many. But the desert, Sister Pat Murray told the Leadership Conference of Women Religious Aug. 14, is where God works wonders. "We are constantly reminded that 'the place of scarcity, even death, is revealed by Jesus as a place of hope and new life,'" Sister Murray said, quoting author Belden C. Lane. "It is here in the desert that people are fed, 5,000 at a time, and a new community takes shape." Murray, a sister of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or Loreto sisters, spoke to more than 700 sisters in her keynote address Aug. 14 at the annual LCWR assembly, held this year from Aug. 13-16 in Scottsdale. Sister Murray is executive director of the International Union of Superiors General, which has its headquarters in Rome and represents congregations of women religious around the world. LCWR represents about 80% of the congregations in the United States. She noted it is not just an era of change but, as Pope Francis said, a change of eras, not just for the world, but for religious life, as well. "A glance worldwide at developments within religious congregations points to a life cycle moving through the stages of birth, maturity, loss and diminishment, leading in some cases to conclusion," she said. "We are living the cycle of passion, death and resurrection at personal and organizational levels."

    Pope at Angelus: Christians choose fidelity to Gospel over hypocrisy

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians must not be hypocrites, Pope Francis said. Not being a hypocrite, he said, means being ready to "pay the price" of being faithful to the Gospel in concrete situations every day. Before praying the Angelus with visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square Aug. 18, Pope Francis reflected on the day's Gospel reading (Lk 12:49-53) in which Jesus says he has come "to set the earth on fire" and to bring "division," not peace. What this means, the pope said, is Jesus has come to separate "good from evil, the just from the unjust. In this respect, he has come to 'divide,' to spark a 'crisis' -- in a healthy way -- in the life of his disciples, shattering the simple illusions of those who believe they can combine Christian life and worldliness, Christian life and compromises of all kinds, religious practices and attitudes against one's neighbor. It is about living not like a hypocrite, but by being willing to pay the price" of making choices that are consistent with the Gospel. "It's nice to call oneself a Christian, but it demands, above all, being Christians in concrete situations, giving witness to the Gospel, which essentially is love for God and for one's brothers and sisters" in the human family, he said.

    Voracious goats keep Wisconsin cemetery looking beautiful the natural way

    APPLETON, Wis. (CNS) -- Goats tend to get a bad rap in church traditions -- with the devil often portrayed with goat horns and hoofs, and Jesus speaking of separating goats from sheep, as told in Matthew 25, verses 32 and 33. But at St. Mary Cemetery in Appleton, goats are getting positive reviews. In early July, five goats arrived in the cemetery from a farm in nearby Black Creek. They're helping tackle the cemetery's problem with buckthorn, an aggressive, invasive species of shrub that had overtaken the cemetery's riverbank. "We had been working the last couple of years to clean up the riverbank, to give a little better view of the river," explained Brian Dresang, cemetery director. "We ran into an issue of buckthorn. Buckthorn will tear you apart if you get into it. We had a couple of trees down, or with branches down, and we wanted to get that cleaned up. And right under those trees is buckthorn. Obviously, that was trouble." The cemetery considered using herbicides to kill the shrub. "Herbicide is quicker, but we thought it was better to do it naturally," Dresang told The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay. "We were afraid of killing off other things we didn't want to kill off: lots of deer, turkeys, squirrels, chipmunks. We figured it would harm them too. This is a definitely longer process but, in the long run, it's a lot better."

    Myanmar fighting forces people to take shelter at churches, monasteries

    MANDALAY, Myanmar (CNS) -- About 1,000 people fled their homes and took refuge at religious sites as renewed fighting erupted in Myanmar's Shan state. Aid workers said more than 300 people were sheltering at a Catholic church in a village in Hsenwi township Aug. 19, while 700 people were at Mansu Shan Buddhist monastery in the town of Lashio, reported Tensions remain high and fighting has spread to several townships in Shan state since Aug. 15, following coordinated attacks by police and Myanmar's military forces in Mandalay Division. The clashes have left 14 people dead -- nine military officers, three police officers and two civilians. The military was fighting with three northern alliance groups: the Ta'ang National Liberation Army, the Arakan Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army. A man identified only as Eddie, project coordinator of Karuna Lashio, a branch of Caritas Myanmar, said people started fleeing their homes and taking refuge at the church Aug. 17. Most, he said, were ethnic Kachins. He said Caritas was arranging to send cash and food to the internally displaced people; agency staffers could not travel there due to roads being blocked by the authorities.

    Christ's love gives hope to forgotten ones, cardinal says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a world where many are often marginalized and discriminated against, the message of Jesus' love must continue to be proclaimed, a Vatican official wrote on behalf of Pope Francis. In a message sent Aug. 16 to the 40th Meeting in Rimini, an annual event sponsored by the Communion and Liberation movement, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said that countless men, women and children, especially those fleeing war and poverty, "are often treated as statistics and numbers" rather than as human beings with faces, names and stories. The theme of the Aug. 18-24 meeting -- "Your name was born from what you gazed upon" -- was inspired by a poem written by St. John Paul II which referred to St. Veronica who, according to legend, wiped the face of Christ on his way toward Calvary. "In an age where people are often faceless, anonymous figures because they have no one to look at, the poetry of St. John Paul II reminds us that we exist because we are connected," Cardinal Parolin wrote. Reflecting on the event's theme, the Vatican secretary of state said that only by "fixing one's gaze upon Jesus' face and attaining familiarity with him" can Christians be purified and prepared "to look at everything with new eyes."

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  • 'So many funerals,' says El Paso priest who comforted grieving kin

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Father Fabian Marquez was the right priest at a very wrong time. He was among several priests in El Paso, Texas, summoned to help out where they could in the hours following the brazen Aug. 3 assault at a Walmart store in the Texas border town that left 22 dead and dozens of others wounded. Father Marquez's role was to go to an elementary school in the city that had been set up as a "reunification center" for the loved ones of those who might have been in harm's way during the massacre. And as for how many "hours following" the rampage? Father Marquez, by his own count, was there for 48 hours. It fell upon him to console family after family when police told them that a spouse, child or parent was among the dead. As a result, Father Marquez has celebrated many funeral Masses, even of Catholics who were not members of his church, El Buen Pastor (Good Shepherd) just outside El Paso in Sparks, Texas, where he has served as pastor for the past four years. When reached by Catholic News Service Aug. 16, he was hours away from presiding at the funeral Mass of Andre Anchondo. He and his wife, Jordan, were killed -- allegedly by Patrick Crucius, according to police -- as they were shielding their infant son, Paul, just 2 months of age, from the hail of gunfire.

    Update: Yearlong 'window' in New York statute of limitations on abuse suits opens

    ALBANY, N.Y. (CNS) -- New York state's yearlong "window" in the statute of limitations opened Aug. 14, allowing suits to be filed by victims alleging abuse by priests, church workers and employees of public schools, hospitals and other institutions no matter how long ago the alleged abuse occurred. New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan in a video message on Twitter noted that the day was also the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who gave his life at the Nazis' Auschwitz death camp in Poland to spare the life of a young father. The saint, the cardinal said, is revered for his bravery but also for something else: "He kept his faith and hope and love in a very dark time. Today I don't mind admitting to you this is a dark time in the life of the church," Cardinal Dolan said. "You've probably been hearing that this is the first day of the opening of the statute of limitations, so we're going to hear a lot today about people bringing suit against the Catholic Church and other organizations, public schools, government organizations, Boy Scouts and hospitals ... you name it ... for past sexual abuse." Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act into law Feb. 14, opening this window in the state's statute of limitations and making it easier for abuse victim-survivors to sue over the next year. The state's Catholic bishops supported the final measure because it was drafted to include both private and public institutions. Earlier versions only targeted the Catholic Church.

    Retired Albany Bishop Hubbard says he has 'never sexually abused anyone'

    ALBANY, N.Y. (CNS) -- Retired Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany said in a statement Aug. 16 he "never sexually abused anyone" and is taking a voluntary leave of absence from the Diocese of Albany to deal with the allegations. The Evangelist, Albany's diocesan newspaper, reported that a lawsuit filed Aug. 14 accuses Bishop Hubbard of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old in the late 1990s. The suit was filed the day New York state's Child Victims Act went into effect. The new law opens a yearlong "window" in the statute of limitations, allowing suits to be filed by victims alleging abuse by priests, church workers and employees of public schools, hospitals and other institutions no matter how long ago the alleged abuse occurred. "When I retired as bishop of the Diocese of Albany five years ago, I put my name on the list of retired priests who help out as needed in our parishes," said Bishop Hubbard, who headed the diocese for 37 years. "For the last five years, I have had the privilege of celebrating Mass and presiding at weddings, baptisms, confirmations, graduations and funerals at parishes in every corner of our diocese. This opportunity for continued service to our people has been a spiritual joy for me," he said in a statement. "Earlier this week, I was publicly accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing a minor in the 1990s. With full and complete confidence, I can say this allegation is false. I have never sexually abused anyone in my life. I have trust in the canonical and civil legal processes and believe my name will be cleared in due course."

    Gomez: With El Paso shootings, 'a line has been crossed in our nation'

    LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Since the mass shootings in California, Texas and Ohio in late July and early August, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said he has been praying and reflecting on the tragedies but noted El Paso "hit me in a personal way. My family is Mexican and American, and we trace our roots back to the early 1800s in what is now Texas," he said. "I lived much of my adult life there, including my five years as archbishop of San Antonio. But El Paso is more than personal," he added. "With El Paso, a line has been crossed in our nation." Archbishop Gomez made the comments in an Aug. 13 column in Angelus News, the online media outlet of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. "In recent years, we have seen the evil of African Americans being targeted in racist terror attacks, notably with the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015," he said. "With El Paso, for the first time, a massacre has been carried out in the name of stopping Mexican migration." The shooter's rampage at a Walmart in an El Paso shopping center Aug. 3 left 22 people dead and another 26 injured. He reportedly posted a manifesto on a site called 8chan some minutes before his shooting rampage in which he described wanting to end "a Hispanic invasion" in Texas.

    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."

    Jury finds Washington priest guilty on four counts of child sexual abuse

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A Capuchin Franciscan priest was found guilty Aug. 15 of four counts of child sexual abuse stemming from when he served as a parochial vicar at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Washington. Father Urbano Vazquez, who served at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart from 2014 until his November 2018 arrest, was found guilty in D.C. Superior Court on three felony counts of second-degree child sexual assault with aggravating circumstances, and on one misdemeanor count of sexual abuse of a child. The verdicts came after an eight-day trial and two days of jury deliberation. Father Vazquez, 46, will be sentenced in November and faces a maximum sentence of up to 45 years in prison. "The archdiocese respects the decision of the jury's finding that Father Vazquez is guilty of the charges brought against him and will continue to support the legal system through the sentencing process and any subsequent proceedings," the Archdiocese of Washington said in an Aug. 15 statement after the verdicts were announced. "Father Vazquez will have no authority to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Washington." Father Vazquez was arrested last November on charges of second-degree sexual child abuse, and was arrested again in December and charged with abusing two others, including a minor. Also in December, D.C. Superior Court Judge Juliet J. McKenna ordered Father Vazquez to remain in jail until his trial.

    Illinois bishop decries 'crisis of gun violence,' asks for solutions

    BELLEVILLE, Ill. (CNS) -- Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville decried "a crisis of gun violence" in the United States and asked Catholics in his diocese to come together to suggest ways to stop it. "The crisis is caused, in part, by a small number of gun owners who abuse the firearms that are readily available to them and by the lack of consensus on the part of the American people and their elected representatives," Bishop Braxton said in his message, issued Aug. 6, days after the previous weekend's mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that left 31 dead and dozens more wounded. Bishop Braxton said that, in the past, he has asked Catholics in his diocese for prayers for the victims, the survivors, those grieving and for elected officials after noted mass shootings, but "in recent months, I have not written to you because these heartbreaking assaults on the value and dignity of every human life have been happening so frequently that it has not been possible to keep up." In his reflection, "A National Crisis: A Pastoral Reflection on the Deadly Epidemic of Gun Violence in the United States," he added: "According to published statistics, there have been 255 mass shootings -- four or more victims -- in this country already this year. One hundred people a day and 36,500 people a year die from gun violence." Bishop Braxton said, "Like you, I am deeply distressed by the erosion of fundamental moral principles."

    Ukrainian archbishop rules out 'appeasement' as fighting flares again

    KYIV, Ukraine (CNS) -- As fighting intensified in eastern Ukraine, the major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church warned against "appeasing the aggressor" in the five-year war against Russian-backed separatists. "However hard we try to heal the wounds of war, it will have no definitive effect until the aggressor stops inflicting these wounds," said Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych. "Peace cannot mean capitulation and submission -- this would be an imitation peace with consequences worse than war itself. ... It would just be a change in how people are wounded." The archbishop spoke to Ukraine's news agency Aug. 14 as international monitors reported new deployments and shelling by Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine, including around the besieged port of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. He said conflict over the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk "people's republics" had "cut a live scar" through his church, leaving 11 parishes under separatist control and the region's bishop unable to return for the past five years. A further five Catholic parishes in Crimea, forcibly annexed by Russia in 2014, were now functioning under "personal care" of the Vatican, Archbishop Shevchuk said.

    Massachusetts senior care community joins Carmelite health care network

    GERMANTOWN, N.Y. (CNS) -- A leading senior care and wellness community in Massachusetts has become a member of the Carmelite System, a Catholic not-for-profit health network sponsored by the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm. The D'Youville Life & Wellness Community of Lowell, Massachusetts, is the newest member of the system, which has its headquarters in Germantown. The community "will continue to advance its mission of compassionate senior care while maintaining a strong local presence in Massachusetts, said an Aug. 13 news release. The agreement follows a request by D'Youville's founder and current Catholic sponsor, the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa, that the community form a new association with another Catholic elder care entity because the Sisters of Charity have experienced "a decline of numbers over time," it said. Facilities in the Carmelite System currently serve communities in Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio and Ireland. "Each facility is dedicated to the mission and core values of the Carmelite System and its sponsor, the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm," according to the system's mission statement.

    Cardinal Bo: Myanmar is 'a bleeding nation,' people must seek justice

    YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) -- Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon said the hopes that came with democracy have not been realized and, instead, the country is wounded and bleeding. In a 7,000-plus word statement, released on the feast of the Assumption, Aug. 15, the cardinal expressed deep concerns about the challenges faced by Myanmar's people, reported "Seven years ago, we saw what we thought was the beginning of a new dawn," Cardinal Bo said. "As political prisoners were released, cease-fires were signed, space for civil society and the media relaxed, and a dialogue between political leaders led to the first credible elections in a quarter of a century and the election of a democratic, civilian-led government in 2015. "But in recent years, very dark clouds have appeared again, overshadowing the flickers of light that had begun to emerge. Continuing conflict, continuing abuses, and the spread of religious and racial hatred threaten the hopes, freedoms, and dignity of people throughout the country." The cardinal -- who interspersed his statement with quotes from church documents, previous popes and even the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. -- added that the country faced growing threats to religious freedom as preachers of hatred incited discrimination and violence, while unjust laws and regulations imposed restrictions on religious freedom for minorities. Identity politics had also mixed race, religion and politics into a dangerous cocktail of hate and intolerance.

    Degree program delves into Catholic thought, perspective on human rights

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- This fall, five graduate students will embark on a unique, one-year journey back to the origins of thought on human nature. They will study natural law and natural rights, anthropology, international law, religious liberty, global politics and papal encyclicals, emerging from the program with a fully formed, Catholic understanding of human rights and a zeal to defend and explain these rights. The Institute for Human Ecology at The Catholic University of America is offering this master of arts degree in human rights for the first time in the fall of 2019. The program, headed and organized by William Saunders, lawyer and longtime human rights scholar and activist, is interdisciplinary, drawing classes from five of Catholic University's schools. "Now is the time for this, because we need people who can help us think clearly about human rights to be part of this conversation," Saunders told Catholic News Service. "Any ordinary person on the street would be in favor of human rights, but if you ask, 'What are human rights?' they don't know." According to Saunders, the master's program will provide students with a holistic understanding of the underlying philosophy that governing the accepted lists of human rights, and explaining their purpose.

    Vatican official: Church must be prudent judging Medjugorje apparitions

    KNOCK, Ireland (CNS) -- Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, is a place of prayer, conversion and pilgrimage for millions of people, but the church must be prudent and not rush to any judgment on the alleged Marian apparitions there, said Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. Speaking to Catholic News Service at Knock Shrine in County Mayo Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption, Archbishop Fisichella spoke of attending the first officially approved church festival at Medjugorje in early August. "I confess the experience was very beautiful, seeing about 70,000 young people praying and living together and listening to catechesis," he told CNS, describing it as a mini-World Youth Day. The presence of so many young people there was, he suggested, "one of the fruits" of the pastoral efforts of Medjugorje. Visionaries claim to have seen than 40,000 Marian apparitions since June 1981, when six teenagers first claimed they first saw an apparition of Our Lady while herding sheep. As always, when confronted with an apparition, the church "is always prudent," Archbishop Fisichella said.

    Mass with Swahili hymns brings new vibrancy to Edmonton parish

    EDMONTON, Alberta (CNS) -- As the sound of drums, tambourines and Swahili hymns reverberated through St. Andrew's Church, Elizabeth Muturi and fellow parishioners swayed their arms and hips, dancing down the aisle with the Book of Gospels raised behind them. For Muturi, who grew up attending Mass in Kenya, the sight and sounds were a dream come true. "It's so touching to see this come to fruition," she said. "Even to see our priest willing to learn to some Swahili -- it is exciting. I have to thank God, because it's all by the power of the Holy Spirit." A Mass that incorporated the Swahili language and African Catholic customs was celebrated for the first time at the north Edmonton parish Aug. 11. Muturi initiated the effort, and her prayer was that the Mass would bring many souls back to the church. "The way we celebrate the Mass back home is full of life -- you can sing, scream, clap your hands, you can freely be yourself and praise God," she said. "And I have to be honest, many people have told me that they stopped going to the Catholic Church after moving to Canada because they felt bored. But I left Africa and came to Canada and I did not change my faith. It's been my prayer for a long time that it will be the same for others. Because a lot of souls are running away, not just with Africans but with many other people. Even if it's only once a month, I know we can grab certain souls with this Mass and bring them back to church."

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  • Police in Wyoming recommend sex abuse charges against retired bishop

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Last August, a police department in Wyoming put out a public call looking for information regarding alleged sex abuse relating to Catholic clergy. Though they didn't name anyone in particular, it was no secret they were looking into allegations surrounding retired Bishop Joseph H. Hart, whom the Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyoming, had investigated and found "credible" allegations against. Now authorities in Cheyenne are recommending sex abuse charges be brought against an unnamed clergy member, believed to be the retired 87-year-old bishop, as well as against a second unnamed "person seeking membership" in the Catholic clergy for accusations of abuse that may have occurred in the 1970s and 1980s, said an Aug. 14 news release by the Cheyenne Police Department. "The investigation stems from a case initiated in 2002 that was reopened in 2018 when new information was produced and provided to the Cheyenne Police Department by an independent investigation conducted by the Wyoming Diocese of the Catholic Church," the release said.

    Attorneys say allegation against South Carolina bishop 'provably false'

    CHARLESTON, S.C. (CNS) -- Attorneys for Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston released a statement Aug. 14 saying that the allegations of sexual abuse of a minor levied against him are "provably false." In the lawsuit, Powers v. Diocese of Rockville Centre, filed the same day in State Court in Nassau County, New York, the plaintiff alleged that Bishop Guglielmone sexually abused him in 1978 or 1979. At the time, the bishop was serving as a priest at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Amityville, New York, in the Diocese of Rockville Centre. "These allegations are false, provably false," wrote attorneys Bruce Barket and Aida Leisenring. "As the plaintiff admitted to a family member, he made this up in order to get money from the church ('it's worth a try,' the plaintiff said)." The statement continued: "Bishop Guglielmone is a good man who has devoted his entire career to the church, education and community service. Although he was under no obligation to do so, he submitted himself to a polygraph examination, which he passed." The attorneys stated their intentions in no uncertain terms. "We will not allow these false allegations to tarnish the outstanding and selfless work he has done throughout his life. We will see the plaintiff in court and the bishop will be cleared," they stated. The lawsuit was filed the same day that New York state extended its statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims. The Child Victims Act allows victims to file civil suits and criminal charges against abusers or institutions until they reach age 55.

    LCWR calls on Trump to stop 'divisive and polarizing rhetoric'

    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (CNS) -- Delegates at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious' annual assembly, meeting in Scottsdale, approved a letter to be sent to President Donald Trump asking that he stop using "divisive and polarizing rhetoric. We implore you to never use language that disrespects, dehumanizes or demonizes others," the letter said. "We expect our president, and all who serve this nation as leaders, to be always mindful of the common good and the dignity of each and every person." LCWR, in an Aug. 14 announcement on the letter, said there were 663 members in attendance at the Aug. 13-16 assembly. LCWR represents religious orders with about 35,000 sisters. Trump has been accused of sowing division and discord with his public remarks and especially through his use of Twitter. "We are outraged and heartbroken when our political leaders appeal to our basest instincts and stoke the fires of fear that threaten to tear the fabric of our nation apart," the sisters said. "We cannot, we will not, let the voices of hatred and fear carry the day."

    Update: In Colombia, bishops, religious listen to Amazonians before synod

    BOGOTA, Colombia (CNS) -- Bishops, nuns, priests and residents of the Amazon basin met in Colombia's capital city in mid-August to prepare for a special Synod of Bishops for the Amazon this fall at the Vatican. The meeting gave bishops who will be attending the synod a chance to develop proposals and listen to residents of the Amazon region, before they head to the Vatican in October for the gathering. Similar pre-synod meetings have been held recently in Peru and Brazil. Pope Francis "wants to give visibility to the people of the Amazon and listen to their concerns, their teachings, their spirituality," said Bishop Joaquin Pinzon Guiza of Puerto Leguizamo-Solano, a vicariate deep in the world's largest rainforest. "As bishops we don't just want to take our thoughts to the synod, but also what lies within our peoples' hearts." The synod, announced by Pope Francis in October 2017, will focus on how to improve the church's work in the vast but sparsely populated Amazon biome, which sprawls across nine South American countries and is largely inhabited by indigenous groups. Approximately 110 bishops that lead church jurisdictions in the Amazon will attend as well as representatives of continental episcopal conferences and 32 observers, including indigenous leaders. One of the topics that will be discussed is the ordination of married men as priests in far-flung villages where Catholics are currently struggling to get sacraments, and even celebrate Sunday Mass, due to the scarcity of qualified church personnel.

    'You cannot be a Catholic and sit on the sidelines,' archbishop says

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a crowded bar, bustling with young adult Catholics from the Washington area for the monthly Theology on Tap, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory shared his pain over what this archdiocese suffered in the past year due to priestly abuse scandals, and encouraged the young adults to turn to the Eucharist as a source of healing. "I'm not quite as young as you, but I, too, am let down by the leadership in the church," Archbishop Gregory said. "I've been embarrassed. I've been embarrassed as a Catholic, as a priest, and as a bishop, because of the behavior by some of my fellow clerics. When the family has been embarrassed, everyone in the family feels embarrassed, and I do too," said the 71-year-old archbishop. "I know this past year has been an extraordinarily painful year for Washington." Hundreds attended Theology on Tap Aug. 13 to hear from the archbishop, who answered questions ranging from his daily prayer life and his favorite restaurants in Rome, to his conversion story as a young boy in Chicago. He also answered questions about the abuse crisis, inclusivity and sensitivity within the church, and evangelization. "You cannot be a Catholic and sit on the sidelines," Archbishop Gregory told the young people. "To be a member of the church means you've got to get in and get your hands dirty in the mix of the whole arena of faith from what we believe and profess to how we live and treat one another. ... You can't not invest yourself into this family."

    Singles for Christ organization grounds daily life, says meeting attendee

    PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- JD Duran was 2 when his parents noticed something was off. He could run and walk, but he was tripping far more than a typical toddler. Concerned, they met with numerous doctors in search of answers. Eventually their son received a diagnosis -- Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a degenerative nerve disorder. "I didn't always need a wheelchair," Duran, now 24, told a crowd of Catholics at this year's national Singles for Christ conference. Though his disease is not considered fatal, it's characterized by progressive loss of muscle tissue and sensation across various parts of the body. How it will affect him long term is unclear. What did become clear through intense prayer is that "Jesus -- he's got me covered," said the member of St. Charles Parish in Northeast Portland. Duran's story of moving from fear and uncertainty to solace and strength was one of many testimonies shared at the 25th Singles for Christ conference. The love of God, the power of community and the need to share one's gifts were among the central messages of the Aug. 2-4 gathering, which brought around 350 young adults from across the country to Portland.

    After protests, Sudanese bishop says country is fragile, future unclear

    NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- Sudanese Catholic Bishop Yunan Andali of El Obeid said his country has become too fragile, after months of protests in which demonstrators have been pushing for a civilian government. The bishop said developments had left most civilians confused, with glaring signs that the ruling Transition Military Council was not ready for a civilian government. He said he feared the council was using tricks to continue the authoritarian rule of ousted President Omar al-Bashir. "The situation is too fragile; the future is very unclear. This is a country of coups, and anything can happen here," said Bishop Andali. "(For the) experienced and specialized in our country's history, the country is back to its rulers, and the revolution lost the track." On Aug. 4, Freedom for Change, a body representing the protesters and the council, announced an agreement to form a transitional government. The proclamation, to be signed formally Aug. 17, cut the military council's participation in the process of transitioning to a civilian government, ended the military leaders' immunity from prosecution and put the brutal Janjaweed militia under the command of the armed forces. Six civilians and five military officials will lead the Sudanese government, but Bishop Andali said the current political and constitutional arrangements had left out issues that initially ignited the uprising.

    All San Diego diocesan employees meet to hear new steps in abuse fight

    SAN DIEGO (CNS) -- Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego gathered all 2,500-plus diocesan employees for the first time in its history to announce an expansion of the fight against the sexual abuse of children not just within the local church but in the greater society. U.S. church reforms adopted in the early 2000s have contributed to a dramatic decline in cases of child abuse by clergy. The San Diego Diocese has not had a confirmed incident of sexual abuse of a minor by any of its priests in the past 20 years, records show. But much more remains to be done to confront abuse, Bishop McElroy told the employees at the Aug. 13 meeting at the University of San Diego. The bishop said Pope Francis, in a directive issued in May, had challenged bishops worldwide to not merely change procedures, but to commit to personal and institutional transformation to eradicate abuse. Bishop McElroy then outlined his plan to drive that transformation within the diocese. In his "motu proprio" titled "Vos Estis Lux Mundi" ("You Are the Light of the World"), Pope Francis challenges Catholics to "recognize that while the church's mission to eliminate sexual abuse must begin with the internal life of the church and the sin and scandal of clergy sexual abuse, our efforts as disciples of Jesus Christ must also reach into those structures of societal and family life that generate and protect the sexual victimization of minors," Bishop McElroy said.

    New England dioceses launch system for reporting misconduct by bishops

    SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (CNS) -- In advance of a mandated national third-party reporting system for allegations or complaints regarding bishops, the Catholic dioceses of four New England states have launched a third-party, independent system to report abuse by Catholic bishops. The dioceses in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine make up the Boston Province, led by Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, who is the metropolitan archbishop of the province. The bishops of the province have agreed to make a reporting system available now in the wake of Pope Francis' document "Vos Estis Lux Mundi" ("You are the light of the world") and the bishops' vote during their spring general assembly in June to implement it. The pope issued the landmark document in May to help the Catholic Church safeguard its members from abuse and hold its leaders accountable. The "motu proprio" was one of the measures that came out the Vatican's February summit on clergy sexual abuse attended by the presidents of the world's bishops' conferences. "I am grateful to Cardinal O'Malley for his leadership in implementing this important facet of 'Vos Estis Lux Mundi' here in the Boston Province," Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski said in a statement in response to the Aug. 14 announcement of the Boston Province establishing the independent reporting system.

    Assumption feast invites people to look to heaven with hope, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Mary's assumption into heaven calls people to put aside all those insignificant, mundane and petty concerns competing for their attention and instead be drawn to God and his greatness, Pope Francis said. After reciting the Angelus prayer on the feast of the Assumption Aug. 15, Pope Francis also blessed thousands of rosaries that will be given to Catholics in Syria "as a sign of my closeness, especially for families who have lost someone because of the war. Prayers made with faith are powerful. Let us keep praying for peace in the Middle East and the whole world," said the pope, who explained that Aid to the Church in Need spearheaded the initiative to send some 6,000 rosaries to Catholic communities in Syria. He also expressed his concern and prayers for those affected by monsoons in South Asia. A week of heavy rains triggered deadly landslides and flooding in India, where, according to government officials, nearly 300 people died and more than 1.2 million people were forced from their homes. Officials in Myanmar reported more than 50 people have died there.

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  • Fearing threat, Pittsburgh church cancels summertime parish festival

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A church in the Diocese of Pittsburgh announced Aug. 13 it was canceling a popular summer event, its parish festival, after receiving what it called "a disturbing message." In a news release, the diocese didn't disclose more detailed information but only said that an office in its pastoral center received a handwritten letter that said "cancel August 14-17 Festival Security Problem is Huge," and that "only one parish, Our Lady of Grace in Scott, was scheduled to hold a festival on those dates." The release mentioned recent incidents of mass violence in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, and also the Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh, where a synagogue was the scene of a mass shooting in October 2018. "Although there was no direct threat, the letter raised grave concern due to the appalling chain of mass violence that our nation has experienced," the diocese said. "Father David Bonnar, the priest-administrator, was immediately notified, and he immediately notified law enforcement. The sender has not been identified, so Father Bonnar announced today, with deep regret, that the festival has been canceled." In an Aug. 13 story, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review daily newspaper said the priest was worried about safety and didn't want to risk loss of life, even if it meant the parish would lose money.

    Bishops reflect on abuse crisis on anniversary of Pa. grand jury report

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- On the anniversary of the Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing alleged abuse by clergy and other church workers over several decades in six dioceses, bishops in those dioceses reflected on what the past year has wrought and described how their dioceses have acted to help past victims and prevent future victims. The grand jury report, released Aug. 14, 2018, was based on a monthslong investigation into alleged abuse in the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Allentown, Scranton, Erie, Harrisburg and Greensburg, Pennsylvania. It covered a 70-year period starting in 1947. "It was devastating for me, as the pastor of this diocese, to see the ugly details of what had happened within the church," said a statement by Bishop Lawrence T. Persico of Erie on his diocese's website. "I knew that survivor/victims, as well as all Catholics and the entire community, would need time to grapple with the report. Their deep pain, anger and grief was understandable." He added, "My apology is only one step in the long and complex process of healing. I know words mean very little without action. The Diocese of Erie has taken many important steps in the last year, and will continue on this path." Bishop Persico said, "It is clear that bringing about healing and rebuilding trust is the work we are being called to do as church. It will take time, patience and fidelity, but the Lord will provide the grace we need. With every confidence in that grace, I look forward to the work that needs to be accomplished."

    Disrespect for life, lack of moral center seen as factors in gun violence

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In this American age of violence, where 165 shootings happened this year alone, where politicians scream at each other across the aisle about gun laws and Second Amendment rights without even the common ground of mutual respect, religious leaders, scholars and TV personalities alike notice a more insidious problem with American culture. The problem behind the problem, they suggest, is a pervasive disregard for the sanctity of life. On Aug. 5 in, the archdiocesan news outlet, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput republished a statement he had given before the U.S. Senate as testimony in response to the Columbine High School shooting 20 years ago in Colorado, when he was archbishop of Denver. He paired it with a current response to the shootings in Gilroy, California, in late July and in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in early August, which left a total of 34 people dead and dozens more injured. "The real problem (of Columbine-like violence in our culture) is in here, in us," Archbishop Chaput said before the Senate in 1999. "In the last four decades, we've created a culture that markets violence in dozens of different ways, seven days a week. It's part of our social fabric. ... When we glorify and multiply guns, why are we shocked when kids use them?"

    Mexican bishops: No matter how life is conceived, abortion is wrong

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- The Mexican bishops' conference has expressed concerns over a Supreme Court decision that upheld a health norm allowing access to abortion in public clinics if a woman has been the victim of sexual violence. "We say clearly: Respect for the right to life cannot be infringed upon by the circumstances in which a human being is conceived," the conference said in an Aug. 13 statement. "The Mexican bishops are not trying to impose a religious concept on the life and dignity of the embryo, rather adhere to the guarantee of the right to life, which should be administered by a government respectful of human rights." In an 8-3 decision Aug. 5, the court ruled a norm known as NOM-046 was constitutional, rejecting a petition from Baja California state government and the Aguascalientes state legislature to overturn the measure. The norm permits women, having suffered sexual violence, to request an abortion at any public health clinic without first filing a criminal complaint with the police. Only a sworn statement would be necessary. It also permits a victim over the age of 12 to receive an abortion in such circumstances without obtaining the permission of a parent or guardian.

    Church-backed petition has 1 million-plus names seeking elections in Congo

    OXFORD, England (CNS) -- Catholic leaders in Congo have gathered more than 1.5 million signatures on a petition that demands local elections to curb corruption and strengthen democracy. "Democracy must have roots right down to (the) local level, and people must be allowed to designate who governs them," said Msgr. Andre Massinganda, deputy secretary-general of the Congolese bishops' conference. "The Catholic Church stands ready to help obtain what's demanded for the good of the Congolese people -- it won't ever shirk its true mission," he said. In an Aug. 14 Catholic News Service interview, Msgr. Massinganda said the petition, launched in May with the Church of Christ, was the largest petition in the country's history, with 20 times the number of backers required to push through a constitutional revision. "The authorities can't ignore these demands -- we must hope they respond positively by agreeing to organize the elections," the bishops' conference official said. "There have always been great problems with voting here. But if the authorities have the will, they'll find ways of surmounting them, thus removing a source of corruption which gravely hampers development."

    Ground broken for new St. Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine in New Mexico diocese

    GALLUP, N.M. (CNS) -- The rosary walk at a new shrine to be built in the Gallup Diocese to honor St. Kateri Tekakwitha "will imitate" the life and example of the Native American saint, popularly known as the "Lily of the Mohawks," said Gallup Bishop James S. Wall. "We will take advantage of the natural beauty that God offers to us, as the rosary will wind its way through the beautiful landscape that he has already given to us," he added in remarks during the Aug. 11 groundbreaking for the shrine. "We will rely on the intercession of Our Lady, under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who we know first appeared to an indigenous person, that being St. Juan Diego. And so this shrine will be a special place for everyone, but especially to the indigenous people of this land, the Native American peoples of this land." The shrine is being built through a new partnership of the diocese, the Knights of Columbus and the Southwest Indian Foundation. The Knights announced its participation in the initiative during its Supreme Convention in Minneapolis in early August. The groundbreaking event featured drumming as well as the Butterfly and Eagle dances from members of the Laguna tribe. Besides Bishop Wall, others who spoke were Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, and Father Henry Sands, director of the Black and Indian Mission Office in Washington.

    Minnesota Catholics join Archbishop Hebda for CRS trip to Laos, Cambodia

    ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- When Michael Wenger of Nativity of Our Lord Parish in St. Paul served lunches to hungry elementary school students in Laos, he knew exactly why he had accepted an invitation to join a trip to Southeast Asia with other local Catholics. Wenger -- joined by his father, Brian Wenger, Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis and three other local Catholics -- learned during the Catholic Relief Services-sponsored trip that the food the agency and its partners provide is critical to keeping the students nourished and in school. He said he was glad to witness the difference CRS, the U.S. bishops' international relief and development agency, is making in the lives of people in impoverished communities worldwide. "I thought that was beautiful, just being able to be with (the students)," said Wenger, 24, who came away from the June 22-30 journey pondering the possibility of someday working for a relief agency such as CRS. "I was kind of entranced in the moment" while serving lunches of rice and vegetables. Later in the trip, the contingent visited the Lao Disabled Women's Development Center in the capital of Vientiane. There the group saw women learning and using skills to help earn money to support themselves and their families. Some of the dozens of women at the center had been maimed by explosives or landmines that date to the military conflicts of the 1970s.

    New seminary rector-president named to succeed late Bishop Christian

    MENLO PARK, Calif. (CNS) -- Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco has named Father Daniel B. Donohoo as president-rector of St. Patrick's Seminary & University and Father Anthony Stoeppel as vice rector. Both appointments are for five-year terms effective Aug. 15, the archdiocese announced in a website posting. These appointments became necessary upon the untimely death San Francisco Auxiliary Bishop Robert F. Christian in July. Bishop Christian was president-rector of the seminary from Jan. 14 until his death July 11. Archbishop Cordileone said Father Donohoo has served the seminary with dedication for more than six years, most recently as vice rector and dean of men. "He has a keen understanding of the challenges of diocesan priesthood and the spiritual and human formation required for a successful vocation," Archbishop Cordileone said in a statement. "Father Donohoo is uniquely prepared and qualified to take on the leadership of this important institution at this time." Father Donohoo's previous positions at the seminary include terms as dean of students and vice president of administration. In addition, in his home Archdiocese of Indianapolis he served as a judge in the metropolitan tribunal and led a successful program for continuing education for clergy. He also served as pastor of a number of parishes in the Indianapolis Archdiocese, including the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul.

    Independent firm reviewing Charlotte Diocese's priest files

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CNS) -- An independent investigative firm is reviewing the Diocese of Charlotte's priest personnel files as part of the diocese's effort to release the names of all clergy credibly accused of child sexual abuse, the diocese announced Aug. 12. U.S. Investigative Security Services Agency of Charlotte is conducting a comprehensive review of all priest files since the diocese was established in 1972, searching for any indication of sexual abuse of a minor. Their task involves reviewing tens of thousands of pages in more than 1,000 files. Any suggestion of abuse turned up will be forwarded to the diocese's Lay Review Board to determine whether the allegations are credible, the diocese said in a statement. Bishop Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte has committed to making public the names of any clergy found to be credibly accused, with the goal of publishing a list before the end of this year. Since 2002, the names of clergy credibly accused of abuse have been publicized -- no matter when that abuse occurred -- as called for by the U.S. bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." The names of at least 20 priests who formerly served in the diocese have already been made public over the years, in the Diocese of Charlotte's newspaper, the Catholic News Herald, and other media.

    African bishop: Church must work to end violence against albinos

    CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) -- The church in Africa must work to end violence against people with albinism through its schools and other education efforts, said Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of Mthatha, South Africa, first vice president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar. The symposium, known as SECAM, condemns "all forms of violence against albinos," from murders to mutilations to harmful attitudes, Bishop Sipuka said in an Aug. 14 telephone interview. "It's the mindset that needs to be changed," said Bishop Sipuka, noting that superstitions are entrenched. About 150 people with albinism have been killed for their body parts since 2014 in countries that include Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and Congo. With 76 murders, Tanzania reported the highest number of killings, Amnesty International said in an Aug. 14 statement from Johannesburg. Across southern Africa, albinos "live in fear of being killed or abducted for their body parts," Amnesty International said. "These waves of violent attacks are fueled by the false and dangerous myth that body parts of persons with albinism can make someone rich," it said. The body of a person with albinism can bring many thousands of dollars on the black market.

    Update: Marian apparition claims in Texas not endorsed by diocese, bishop

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, said claims that Bishop Michael F. Olson has authenticated local sightings and messages of Mary are "not true. These claims of apparitions and messages are not verified or endorsed by the church, and in no way are the claims true that the Mystical Rose is a ministry of the Diocese of Fort Worth or of St. Mark (Parish)," said the Aug. 8 statement. It also added: "Bishop Olson does not encourage anyone to offer credence or support for these claimed apparitions." A website about the reported apparitions, made by the visionary and others, claimed the first sighting of Mary was May 5, 2017, while she was praying inside Immaculate Conception Church in Fort Smith, Arkansas. All subsequent visions happened at St. Mark Church in Argyle, Texas, hence the name Our Lady Mystical Rose of Argyle. Those appearances -- said to have occurred on the 30th of each month from July to December -- were in the church's outdoor courtyard. The initial seven messages are said to have focused on the sanctity of life. In February of this year, the visionary claimed to have received warning messages from Mary about a cleansing of the church and a "removal of bad shepherds who had taken the place of true shepherds." The website said these messages and oral and written accounts of what happened were given to the Fort Worth Diocese.

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  • As Calif. novena ends, Christians urged to be society's 'moral conscience'

    SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco called for Christians to be the "moral conscience" of society during a Mass marking the end of a novena against an upcoming abortion bill. From Aug. 3 to Aug. 11, Californian dioceses and archdioceses prayed a novena for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe to defeat a measure approved by the state Senate, S.B. 24, which would require state college and university health centers to stock medication abortion pills. The state Assembly was expected to take up the bill soon after the Legislature's Aug. 12 return from its recess. In his homily for the 9 a.m. Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral, the archbishop spoke about the culture of death's expression in society and how Christians can respond to it. He began by citing a recent New York Times editorial that called for embracing the basic values that have historically glued American society together. "The idea is that by focusing on the common good, we can retrieve a sense of public decency," he said. "This is a sentiment we can all agree with, certainly we're here in church, certainly this is something we all here would agree with," Archbishop Cordileone continued. "However, let's think about that, let's think about it deeply. Is it really possible to retrieve a sense of common decency when we consider what is going on in our country?"

    Catholic peace advocates commemorate Hiroshima, Nagasaki anniversaries

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- About 40 peace advocates representing about a dozen religious communities held a special Hiroshima and Nagasaki Commemoration Prayer Service of Repentance midday Aug. 9 outside the White House in Washington. It was the 74th anniversary of the United States dropping an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, killing about 74,000 people. Three days earlier, the group held a similar observance at the Pentagon to mark the Aug. 6, 1945, bombing by the U.S. of Hiroshima, killing more than 100,000 people. It was the first atomic bomb used in warfare. Japan surrendered Aug. 15. Organizers of the commemoration said the two nonviolent acts of public witness called on the U.S. government to repent for the bombings of Japan and urged the abolition of all nuclear weapons in the U.S. and worldwide. Anniversary actions and events were held Aug. 6-9 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as at nuclear weapons facilities throughout the U.S. In Washington, the peace group heard testimony from Michiko Kodama, who, at age 7, experienced the Hiroshima atomic bombing. At 82, she is now the assistant secretary-general of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations.

    Final public Mass, tears mark closing of Poor Clare monastery in Memphis

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. (CNS) -- Concealed behind tall brick walls and strong iron gates in a struggling Memphis neighborhood, nuns have been quietly praying for the city and its people since 1932. Few people have been behind the walls of this monastery. The silent and prayerful lives of the women, who have chosen to live here in community, remain a mystery and a curiosity to most outsiders. But they do have friends. The many friends of the Monastery of St. Clare, are a loyal group of followers who have supported them in every way you can imagine, only asking for prayer in return. In a neighborhood that is plagued by crime and residents fighting to climb out of poverty, these women have chosen a life that St. Clare called the "privilege of highest poverty." The nuns rely on their friends for generosity, food, donations and even occasional help around the monastery. They have been called to a life of prayer and silence. To live in community and in radical poverty. The day they celebrated the feast of St. Clare, which is Aug. 11, the sisters were applauded for all the fruits of their prayer during their last public Mass for the Catholics of Memphis. The chapel was full; it was standing-room only. "In these past 87 years, the community began to dwindle," explained Franciscan Father Albert Haase during that Mass.

    Texas author's book a 'love letter' to Paris cathedral, the French people

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A testament to the great Notre-Dame de Paris, "The Girl and the Cathedral" is a beautiful retelling of the history of the "greatest flower of Paris" and the "garden of people" who grew around it. Texan Nicolas Jeter, a combination Francophile, history nerd and lawyer, wrote the children's book in remembrance of the great cathedral that watched French history roll by as a steady, stone sentinel guarding the city until the day of the fire in April. The book will proceed to the publication process in seven days if the project meets its $10,000 Kickstarter goal by Aug. 20. "In the broader sense, Notre Dame is an important building because of what it represents to so many Catholics, and because so much of our civilization is built on a Europe that was so heavily influenced by the Roman Church," the author said. "It is built into our cultural DNA. I think that explains why so many nonreligious Americans were so profoundly affected by the fire." Jeter tells the story through the eponymous "girl," whom he calls the "god" of Paris. At the beginning of the book, the girl plants a garden that grows into Paris, and the most beautiful flower in the garden is Notre-Dame de Paris. As other flowers bloom around the cathedral, the girl watches her garden in turmoil, as weeds pop up during the French Revolution and World War II, but she also sees times of flourishing. Finally, she witnesses the destruction of her greatest, most beautiful flower, Notre-Dame de Paris. The real-life vigils held in front of the cathedral the night of the fire inspired Jeter's retelling of that climactic scene.

    Religion, state of the church among topics at annual Napa conference

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Under the clear, California-blue skies of Napa Valley, 15 bishops and 100 priests gathered with over 500 lay Catholics and women religious to discuss religion and drink wine, brainstorm solutions and smoke cigars, not to mention celebrate Mass over 100 times in the span of just a few days. The Napa Institute, founded in 2010, hosted its ninth annual Summer Conference in late July, focusing on the theme of authentic reform and the current state of the church. John Meyer, executive director of the Napa Institute, explained the goal of the conference. "Faith and culture. We try to look at issues that Catholic leaders face in culture and respond to those issues in a meaningful way," Meyer told Catholic News Service. "We want people to really be able to articulate why we believe what we believe, and not just what we believe. ... We want them to be equipped to win the debate in the culture." During the conference, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, Bishop Joseph E. Strickland of Tyler, Texas, and Bishop Thomas A. Daly of Spokane, Washington, spoke on a panel synthesizing discussions at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' annual spring assembly in June. Meyer described the panel as a sort of "State of the Union for the Church."

    Update: Those on path to legal immigration face roadblock on public funds

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Trump administration announced Aug. 12 a plan to deny permanent legal immigration status for those who use public funds such as food stamps or public housing. The news came as no surprise as administration officials had been publicly discussing for months instituting a "public charge" policy that would hurt immigrants' chances at permanent residency, citizenship and even threatened deportation for those who sign up for public benefits. The National Immigration Law Center said the term "public charge" in immigration law refers to "a person who is primarily dependent on the government for support," and explained the new rule "would broaden the definition of who is to be considered a public charge so that it includes immigrants who use one or more government programs listed in the proposed rule." Though immigrants have had to prove self-sufficiency to obtain permanent residency, the expansion of the definition would add a hurdle for some. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had long argued against it and in September 2018 said such action would "prevent families from accessing important medical and social services vital to public health and welfare." The new policy is set to take effect in 60 days, but it will likely be challenged in court. "Through the public charge rule, President (Donald) Trump's administration is reinforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, ensuring that immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful here in America," said Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, during a White House briefing Aug. 12.

    Update: Opinion on abortion's legality unchanged; some shifting within groups

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- While a survey of more than 54,000 Americans showed little change in their attitudes between 2014 and 2018 on the legality of abortion, researchers detected movement in many demographic groups, Catholics included. Natalie Jackson, director of research for the Public Religion Research Institute, said the changes in attitude reflect the nation's political divisions. According to the survey, which was released Aug. 13, 54% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 40% believe it should be illegal in most or all cases. "These numbers are essentially unchanged since 2014," the survey said; then 55% of Americans said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 41% said it should be illegal in most or all cases. In an Aug. 12 phone interview with Catholic News Service, the 1% change in the overall numbers is not statistically significant, but "everything that we are calling out as differences (from the 2014 survey) are statistically significant," Jackson said. Catholics "mirror the rest of the country pretty closely, particularly white Catholics," she added. Fifty-three percent of white Catholics believe most or all abortions should be legal compared to 40% who say most or all should be illegal, Jackson noted, "so they're right in line" with the majority of Americans.

    Melkite Catholic young adults in Middle East find hope at gathering

    BEIRUT (CNS) -- Full of zeal for their faith, 920 Melkite Catholic young adults from the Middle East gathered in Lebanon for the first conference especially for them. Meeting under the theme, "To You I Say Rise," the participants, ages 18-35, came from the Palestinian territories, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and Lebanon for the Aug. 9-13 event, hosted by the Melkite Catholic Patriarchate. Edward Nazarian, 22, a student in medical devices engineering from Aleppo, Syria, said the conference restored hope for young people, particularly those from Syria. "After going through so many years of war, we fell into despair. We are here to renew that hope, that confidence and faith," he told Catholic News Service. Melkite Father Kamil Melhem, spiritual director for young adults, told the group at the opening that the conference would "be the first spark that will illuminate the paths of our faltering lives in the East." The main venue was the Liqaa ("gathering") Conference Center, located in a valley beneath the Melkite Patriarchate in Rabweh, 12 miles north of Beirut. The event combined prayer, educational workshops -- including communication and social media -- and presentations related to the Melkite Catholic identity. Participants also visited holy sites of Lebanon, including Harissa, Our Lady of Lebanon, the tomb of St. Charbel and the biblical coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon in South Lebanon.

    Kenya wind farm welcomed, but indigenous wonder who benefits most

    NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- As turbines turn on Africa's largest wind farm on the shores of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya, Catholic leaders welcomed the project as good for the environment and important for human development. Bishop Peter Kihara Kariuki of Marsabit, in whose diocese the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project is located, hailed the newly minted project as safe for the environment in the region, where climate change has led to dry pastures and water shortages that have ignited frequent, sometimes deadly, clashes among herder communities. "The windmills (turbines) are not destroying the environment. They are not interfering with the climate," Bishop Kariuki told Catholic News Service. "I have followed the project since its start and I think it's a good one. I welcome it." From a remote rocky and hilly stretch of the wilderness in Loyangalani district, the ever-present winds in the region effortlessly turn the turbines, producing 310 megawatts, about 17% of Kenya's current generating capacity. It's enough to power 1 million homes, according to projections. In all, 356 turbines stand on 40,000 acres on the homeland of the Turkana people and other nomadic indigenous communities that use the land for settlement, livestock grazing and access to water. "The local people have accepted the project. They believe it will open up their areas and bring more development. If the people are happy, we (clergy) are also happy," said Father Martin Omondi Oluoch, a priest at Loyangalani parish.

    Closeness is God's answer to suffering, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In hopeless situations of pain and suffering, God never abandons his children but rather remains close to them, Pope Francis said. "God's answer to our pain is a closeness, a presence that accompanies us, that doesn't leave us alone. Jesus made himself the same as us and for this reason we have him near us, to cry with us in the most difficult moments of our lives. Let us look at him, entrust him with our questions, our sorrows, our anger," the pope said in a letter published Aug. 13 in the Italian newspaper "Il Secolo XIX." In his letter, the pope commemorated the first anniversary of the fatal collapse of the Morandi bridge that killed 43 people and "inflicted a wound in the heart of your city. In the face of such events, the pain of loss is excruciating and not easy to relieve, as is the feeling of not resigning oneself in the face of a disaster that could have been avoided," he wrote.

    Update: Mexican Cardinal Sergio Obeso Rivera dead at age 87

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Sergio Obeso Rivera, retired archbishop of Xalapa, Mexico, who was created a cardinal by Pope Francis a little over a year ago, died at the age of 87. According to Vatican News, Cardinal Obeso died Aug. 11 in Xalapa. The pope expressed his condolences in an Aug. 12 telegram to Archbishop Hipolito Reyes Larios of Xalapa and prayed that Jesus may grant the deceased cardinal "the crown of glory that never withers. Remembering this selfless shepherd who, throughout many years and with faithfulness, gave his life to the service of God and the church, I pray for the eternal rest of his soul," Pope Francis said. In 1931, he was born into a prominent family, which founded and operates one of Mexico's main supermarket chains. Despite his upbringing, colleagues described the cardinal as austere and unassuming. He entered the seminary in 1944, studied philosophy and theology in Rome and was ordained a priest there in 1954. After his ordination, then-Father Obeso held various positions at the seminary in Xalapa and eventually was appointed rector.

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