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  • Priest says Egypt's Christians feel they could be martyrs at any time

    IMAGE: CNS photo/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters


    CAIRO (CNS) -- Christians in Egypt "are getting to this idea that we could be a martyr at any moment," the spokesman for the nation's Catholic bishops told Catholic News Service.

    The spokesman, Father Rafic Greiche, also lamented the number of children killed in an attack on a bus carrying Coptic Orthodox Christians to St. Samuel Monastery in southern Egypt May 26.

    At least 26 people, many of them children, were killed when masked assailants attacked the bus. Dozens of others were injured.

    "It is too early to say who is behind it, but certainly terrorists, and the security forces are now scanning the area" to find the culprits, Tarek Attia, Interior Ministry official, told Sky News Arabia, an Arabic-language television station, May 26.

    He said three cars carrying the masked gunmen had attacked the bus at roughly 10:30 a.m. in the southern governorate of Minya, a traditional stronghold of Egypt's Christian community, which accounts for a tiny percent of the country's mostly Sunni Muslim population.

    At the Vatican, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a message to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, expressing Pope Francis' prayers and solidarity after the "barbaric attack."

    "Mindful in a particular way of those children who have lost their lives, His Holiness commends the souls of the deceased to the mercy of the Almighty. He assures their grieving families and all who have been injured of his ardent prayers, and he pledges his continued intercession for peace and reconciliation throughout the nation," the telegram said.

    The attack marked the latest in a series of deadly attacks on Coptic Christians, whose church was founded by St. Mark the Apostle in the first century, and whose community represents the largest of the Middle East's Christian minorities.

    On April 9, two suicide bombers attacked St. George's Cathedral in Egypt's northern city of Tanta and St. Mark's Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria. Those attacks killed and maimed dozens in what was the deadliest attack against Christians in Egypt's recent history. A nationwide state of emergency has been in place since.

    In a widely publicized visit to Egypt soon after the April attacks, Pope Francis addressed the terrorist violence carried out in the name of a fundamentalist reading of Islam. Pope Francis frequently has said there are more Christians being martyred today than during the persecutions of the church in the early centuries of Christianity. And, using the term "ecumenism of blood," he has noted how Christians divided into churches and denominations are united in mourning for their members killed not because they are Orthodox or Catholic, but simply because they are Christian.

    The pope paid tribute to the Coptic Orthodox Church's modern martyrs, praying before a memorial in Cairo marking the place where 29 people were killed and 31 wounded in December by a suicide bomber. He told Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, "Your sufferings are also our sufferings."

    After the May 26 attack, the Coptic Orthodox Church released a statement saying, "We extend our condolences to all the affected families and are suffering with the entire country due to this evil and violence."

    "We hope for the necessary procedures to prevent these kinds of attacks, which degrade the image of Egypt and cause so much suffering to Egyptians," the statement said.

    Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak of Alexandria sent condolences to Pope Tawardros and "all families of all the martyrs," reported the Egyptian paper, Al Masry al Youm.

    Ashraf Sultan, Egyptian parliament spokesman, told Sky News Arabia, "This is an attack on the entire society and affects us all."

    And Egypt's top authority on Islam, Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar University, said that "such attacks can never satisfy a Muslim or a Christian." 

    In Washington, Cardinal Daniel N. Di Nardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, compared the May attacks with previous attacks, noting that, again, children were murdered as they traveled to church.

    "Though our grief is unbearable, our unity grows all the more strong. That unity is the way to peace," he said, sending prayers and condolences to the Egyptians.

    Other church leaders around the world also reacted. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem expressed the condolences of churches in the Holy Land.

    Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, offered prayers and said, "This attack reminds us again of the horrific persecution of our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East and their courageous witness to their faith."

    An Egyptian Interior Ministry statement said unknown assailants driving three four-wheel-drive vehicles had attacked by "randomly shooting" the bus carrying the Copts, and that an official count of the final toll was underway.

    Local media showed grainy images of bloody bodies strewn on sandy ground, indicating many of the slain had fled the bus trying to escape the assailants' bullets.

    Later, the media showed images of the wounded being taken to hospitals and reported that el-Sissi was calling for an emergency security meeting to address the attack. El-Sissi had instructed authorities to take all necessary measures to attend to the injured and arrest the assailants, the local media reported.

    Asked about government assurances that security in the country would be tightened, Father Greiche told CNS: "It is now time for action, not just words."

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  • Priest says Egypt's Christians feel they could be martyrs at any time

    CAIRO (CNS) -- Christians in Egypt "are getting to this idea that we could be a martyr at any moment," the spokesman for the nation's Catholic bishops told Catholic News Service. The spokesman, Father Rafic Greiche, also lamented the number of children killed in an attack on a bus carrying Coptic Orthodox Christians to St. Samuel Monastery in southern Egypt May 26. At least 26 people, many of them children, were killed when masked assailants attacked the bus. Dozens of others were injured. "It is too early to say who is behind it, but certainly terrorists, and the security forces are now scanning the area" to find the culprits, Tarek Attia, Interior Ministry official, told Sky News Arabia, an Arabic-language television station, May 26. He said three cars carrying the masked gunmen had attacked the bus at roughly 10:30 a.m. in the southern governorate of Minya, a traditional stronghold of Egypt's Christian community, which accounts for a tiny percent of the country's mostly Sunni Muslim population. At the Vatican, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a message to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, expressing Pope Francis' prayers and solidarity after the "barbaric attack."

    Federal appeals court upholds injunction against Trump's travel ban

    RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, based in Richmond, issued a 10-3 ruling May 25 to uphold a Maryland federal court's injunction against President Donald Trump's temporary travel ban. Writing for the majority, Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory said: "Congress granted the president broad power to deny entry to aliens, but that power is not absolute. It cannot go unchecked when, as here, the president wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation." Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Trump administration will file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. "President Trump's executive order is well within his lawful authority to keep the nation safe," Sessions said in a statement. "The Department of Justice strongly disagrees with the decision of the divided court, which blocks the president's efforts to strengthen this country's national security. As the dissenting judges explained, the executive order is a constitutional exercise of the president's duty to protect our communities from terrorism." He added that the president "is not required to admit people from countries that sponsor or shelter terrorism, until he determines that they can be properly vetted and do not pose a security risk to the United States."

    Spiritual writings of Canada's first bishop available in English

    QUEBEC CITY (CNS) -- It took three centuries, but the writings of Canada's first bishop are now available in English. The book, "The Spiritual Writings of Francois de Laval," responds to an Anglophone demand that now exceeds French demand for writings by the man who was canonized by Pope Francis in 2014. Jean Duval, director of the Francois-de-Laval Animation Center, has observed this increasing interest for a number of years, based on the requests he receives and the written prayers left at the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica in Quebec City, where the center is located. "It's a tourist request, because more Anglophones come to the cathedral, including many Americans," he said. When the Diocese of Quebec was erected in 1674, Francois de Laval became its first bishop. The diocese included every French and unexplored territory in North America, with the exception of the English and Spanish colonies. The center already had a biography of Bishop de Laval in English, but Jean Duval also wanted to give people the opportunity to get in touch with the saint's thought and his time. With the Quebec Seminary, he developed the project to translate Msgr. Hermann Giguere's 2011 book about St. Francois de Laval's spiritual writings. It offers a selection 39 texts that illustrate the spiritual experience of the first Canadian bishop.

    Pope, President Trump speak of hopes for peace

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump spent 30 minutes speaking privately in the library of the Apostolic Palace May 24, and as the president left, he told the pope, "I won't forget what you said." The atmosphere at the beginning was formal and a bit stiff. However, the mood lightened when Pope Francis met the first lady, Melania Trump, and asked if she fed her husband "potica," a traditional cake in Slovenia, her homeland. There were smiles all around. Pope Francis gave Trump a split medallion held together by an olive tree, which his interpreter told Trump is "a symbol of peace." Speaking in Spanish, the pope told Trump, "I am giving you this because I hope you may be this olive tree to make peace." The president responded, "We can use peace."

    Military archdiocese completes phase in cause for Vietnam-era chaplain

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A tribunal of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services has wrapped up its nearly four-year inquiry into whether the life of Father Vincent R. Capodanno, a Vietnam War hero and U.S. Navy chaplain, merits consideration for sainthood. Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, who heads the Washington-based military archdiocese, announced May 21 that the archdiocesan phase in the Maryknoll priest's cause has concluded. His announcement came at the end of the 23rd annual memorial Mass celebrated to honor U.S. military members, living and dead, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The decision clears the way for the tribunal's findings to go to the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes for its review and a possible decision on whether to advance the priest's cause to the next stage in the sainthood process. Archbishop Broglio has called Father Capodanno, who died in Vietnam Sept. 4,1967, one of the "great priest chaplains."

    Bishop commends Ghana's plan to hand back management of mission schools

    ACCRA, Ghana (CNS) -- The government of Ghana has indicated it might be making a move to return management and supervision of mission schools to religious bodies. Church leaders welcomed the move but called for an educational partnership agreement to make a smooth transition. Bishop John Kwofie of Sekondi-Takoradi, who is in charge of education for the bishops' conference, said the government originally helped mission schools because it was in charge of education. "Educating the population of a country is an immense duty that the state cannot do alone," he said. "This assistance, however, evolved into what seemed like taking over the schools from their rightful owners who have, in some instances, been relegated to the background on account of the lack of clear policies or agreement," he said.

    College presidents appeal to homeland security for meeting on 'dreamers'

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Worried about the fate of some of their students, more than 65 college presidents representing U.S. Catholic institutions asked for a meeting with the Secretary of Homeland Security to talk about immigration policy. "As leaders of Catholic colleges and universities, we are dedicated to educating students from all backgrounds. In keeping with this commitment, many of our institutions are home to young men and women who are undocumented and have met the criteria for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). We are deeply concerned about the futures of our undocumented students," said the May 23 letter addressed to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. In the letter, they cited incidents in which DACA recipients have been placed under immigration detention, including a case in which one of them was deported, and said that "recent actions and statements by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) about young people who met the DACA criteria raise many questions about the safety of our students." They referred in particular to a tweet from ICE that said: "DACA is not a protected legal status, but active DACA recipients are typically a lower level of enforcement priority." Addressing Kelly, they said: "implementation of immigration enforcement policies falls under your discretion. We respectfully request a meeting with you to better understand how enforcement agencies are approaching DACA holders."

    Mission means never saying, 'It's always been done this way,' pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholics, especially members of religious orders, are called to be bold, creative and consoling "missionaries without borders," Pope Francis said. Meeting May 26 with members of the general chapter of the Don Orione Sisters, the pope said focusing on the call to reach out to others and share the Gospel with them is what helps Christians stop being preoccupied with their own worries and concerns. "Mission and service to the poor put you in the position of going out and help you overcome the risks of being self-referential, of limiting your concerns to survival and of defensive rigidity," the pope told the sisters. Those engaged in mission and evangelization, at home or abroad, must be "bold and creative," the pope said. "The comfortable criteria of 'it's always been done this way' won't work. It won't work." Modern societies and new forms of poverty pose new challenges, particularly for religious orders with a specific mission of evangelization and care for the poor, he said. "We are living in a time when it's necessary to rethink everything in light of what the Spirit is asking us."

    Prayer, memory, mission create a joy no one can take away, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Christian road map for life's journey is to keep Jesus in one's heart, one's eyes on heaven and one's feet on the ground, spreading the Gospel, Pope Francis said. "Christian life will be beautiful and will also be joyful" if people hold in their hearts the joy they felt when they first encountered Christ, pray daily to God in heaven and go forth in mission, he said May 26 during a morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. In his homily, the pope said the sacred Scriptures indicate three places and things that make up "the road map of the Christian spirit": Galilee and memory; heaven and prayer; the world and mission. The first place is one's own personal Galilee, where he or she encountered Christ the very first time and "we had this joy, this enthusiasm to follow him. To be a good Christian, it is necessary to always remember the first encounter with Jesus or successive encounters," he said, because with this "grace of memory," each person will find certainty and strength during times of trial. The second point of reference, he said, is prayer, knowing that Jesus is in heaven ready "to intercede for us."

    Pope names Rome auxiliary bishop to be his vicar for the city

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As his vicar for the Diocese of Rome, Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Angelo De Donatis, an auxiliary bishop and well-known spiritual director, who led Pope Francis' first Lenten retreat as pope. The pope is the bishop of Rome, but the pope's responsibilities are so vast that he needs a vicar to ensure the proper pastoral care of the Diocese of Rome. The Vatican announced the appointment May 26. The papal appointment automatically elevates the auxiliary bishop of Rome to archbishop and includes serving as grand chancellor of Rome's Pontifical Lateran University and archpriest of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral church of the Rome Diocese. Archbishop De Donatis will succeed Cardinal Agostino Vallini June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the patron saints of Rome. Addressing priests gathered at St. John Lateran for the announcement, Archbishop De Donatis said his task would be "to announce God's mercy with the word and life" as well as "protect and promote ecclesial communion. I ask for the gift of knowing how to always listen deeply," he said.

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  • Monument honors lives of two religious sisters fatally stabbed in 2016

    DURANT, Miss. (CNS) -- A downpour of rain didn't dampen a dedication and blessing ceremony of a monument to honor the lives of Sisters Margaret Held and Paula Merrill, who were slain in their Durant home Aug. 25, 2016. They were both 68. A crowd of about 100 gathered the afternoon of May 20 in Durant's Liberty Park to pay tribute to the two sisters, who both made a lasting impact on the community in which they resided for the last 15 years of their lives. Sister Merrill was a member of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth based in Nazareth, Kentucky, and Sister Held belonged to the School Sisters of St. Francis congregation based in Milwaukee. The two nurse practitioners worked at Lexington Medical Clinic and attended St. Thomas Catholic Church in Lexington, located about 10 miles west from their home. "It was wonderful to see so many people come here from around the country," said Franciscan Father Greg Plata, pastor of St. Thomas, who led the service. "Even though it was a horrible day weather-wise, that did not deter from the joy of the day that we come together. I think that every time I go that way, (the monument) will be a place for me to stop and say a prayer and be thankful to God for these two amazing women. It's just a great way to remember our sisters."

    Cristo Rey community says DeVos intrigued by school's education model

    INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- As Precious Mayfield and Froylan Avila awaited the arrival of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at their school May 23, the two students talked about the impact that Providence Cristo Rey High School in Indianapolis has had on them and their families. The two teenagers will both be the first in their families to go to college. "It makes me feel very accomplished that I can fulfill the dreams that my family has," said Mayfield, who is 17. Standing nearby, 19-year-old Avila said, "Anything is possible if you put your mind to it, and you work hard." Moments later, Mayfield and Avila were among a group of students who were welcoming and shaking hands with a smiling DeVos as she entered the school that combines a work-study program and a college preparatory education for students from low-income families. It's a model that has led all 46 students in the school's class of 2017 to be accepted into college. It's also a model that intrigued DeVos so much that she made a special visit to Providence Cristo Rey as part of her two-day trip to Indianapolis.

    Doctors said Chilean mom would die, but miracle credited to Spanish priest

    SANTIAGO, Chile (CNS) -- Chileans call it the Chilean miracle. And this October, when Pope Francis canonizes Spain's Blessed Faustino Miguez, the woman at the center of the miracle -- Veronica Stoberg Tejo -- hopes to be in attendance. Stoberg lives with her husband and family in a part of Santiago called La Florida. In 2003, she was pregnant with her fourth child when she became seriously ill. Although her son, Sebastian, was born without any problem in an emergency cesarean section, doctors told the family that the mother would die. "I was 36 weeks (pregnant) when the pain started. I knew they were not contractions, because I already had three children. Soon I was screaming with pain. When my daughter, who was only 12, saw how bad I was, she called a neighbor," Stoberg said. The neighbor, who works in health care, checked her blood pressure and discovered it was very high. Stoberg's doctor told her to get to the clinic. When Stoberg's husband, Pedro Nunez, came home, he picked her up in his arms and drove her to the hospital as quickly as possible, with her neighbor waving a white handkerchief through the window so they could get there quicker. Stoberg said she felt like she was dying, and when they finally arrived at Las Lilas Clinic in Santiago, she lost consciousness. Dr. Jose Luis Troncoso remembers her condition very well. He helped her give birth to her other three children. "When she arrived, she was suffering from severe hypertension, severe pre-eclampsia, and was having a complication called HELLP syndrome," said the doctor. This life-threatening syndrome involves a breakdown of red blood cells, elevated liver enzymes and low platelet counts.

    Archbishop: Migration should be a choice, not 'something forced'

    UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- Migration should be "a choice rather than something forced or involuntary," said Philippine Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican's permanent observer to the United Nations. For that to happen, he cautioned, the "right to remain" must be respected. Archbishop Auza said a proposed U.N. global compact on migration must give the right to remain a higher priority than the right to emigrate. The archbishop made his remarks May 22 as part of a panel on human-made crises as drivers of migration. The panel was a side event taking place during U.N. preparations for the compact he was addressing. "There is no worse human-made crisis that drives people forcibly to migrate or internally displaces populations than wars and violent conflicts. More than half of the world's refugees, forced migrants and internally displaced persons have been forced to abandon their homes and properties and, indeed, to flee their countries, because of conflicts and violence, the tremendous negative impact of which continues in the odyssey of the victims," Archbishop Auza said.

    Gunmen take Catholic hostages; Philippines' Duterte imposes martial law

    MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- Gunmen claiming to have links with the Islamic State group threatened to kill hostages, including a Catholic priest, who were taken from the southern Philippine city of Marawi May 23. President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law across the entire Muslim-majority region of Mindanao late May 23, but reported that many, including church leaders, characterized the imposition of martial law as an overreaction. As of early morning May 25, nothing had been heard of the whereabouts of the priest and the prelature's staff and some churchgoers who were taken captive. Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato appealed to Muslim religious leaders to intercede with the gunmen, who claimed to be Muslims, for the safety of the hostages who were reportedly used as "human shields" when the militants attacked the city. Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Philippine bishops' conference, said the terrorists "have threatened to kill the hostages if government forces pitted against them are not recalled. As the government forces ensure that the law is upheld, we beg of them to make the safety of the hostages a primordial consideration," he added.

    University says diocese's purchase of property helps secure its future

    WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- Wheeling Jesuit University, the only Catholic institution of higher education in West Virginia, announced May 23 that the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston's purchase of the university's property will help the school stabilize its financial outlook and secure its future. In recent years, the Jesuit university "has experienced a series of financial challenges," like many small, public and private universities, a university news release said. Earlier this year, the school's trustees appealed to the diocese "to take action to help secure its long-term future and lower its operating costs," the release said. "Specifically, the university was challenged by its long-term debt, and determined that the annual payments were more than it could sustain." Wheeling-Charleston Bishop Michael J. Bransfield and the diocese responded by redeeming Wheeling Jesuit University's bonds, it said. The diocese will purchase all university property in exchange for the bond redemption. It originally gave the property to the school as a gift in 1952.

    New cardinal from Laos is ethnic Khmu known for kindness

    BANGKOK (CNS) -- Cardinal-designate Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, who will become the first cardinal from Laos, is an ethnic Khmu, a hill tribe from northern Laos and southern China. When St. John Paul II named Cardinal-designate Ling as apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos, in 2000, the cardinal-designate told, "I never dreamed that this appointment was possible." On May 21, Pope Francis named his to the College of Cardinals; he will be elevated in a consistory at the Vatican June 28. Father Raphael Tran Xuan Nhan of Vietnam's Vinh Diocese has worked in Laos since 2005. He described Cardinal-designate Ling as "a kind, friendly, wise and open-minded man. He is interested in evangelization work and welcomes all foreign missionaries to his country. Bishop Ling expertly uses dialogue rather than confrontation when addressing church issues and has helped government officials to understand that the Catholic Church is focused on social development," he told Father Nhan explained that the cardinal-designate has worked hard to integrate Christian values into Laotian cultures and traditions so that the church can live in harmony with the Buddhist-majority nation.

    Guidebook helps delegates prepare for Convocation of Catholic Leaders

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The 3,000 people attending the upcoming Convocation of Catholic Leaders are being seen as members of diocesan teams who will return home to act on what they see and learn while discussing the church's role in a changing social landscape. A combination guidebook and journal has been developed to help the delegates prepare for the gathering in Orlando, Florida, set for July 1-4. The 68-page book offers activities for the diocesan teams as they meet during the weeks leading to the gathering, allowing them to reflect and pray on Scripture and the teachings of Pope Francis, particularly his apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel"). "To get something done, we want people to have prepared as teams before they come in to get more out of (the convocation)," said Jonathan Reyes, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development and a convocation planner. "What you get out of this is what you put into it." The booklet is being sent to each registered participant to the invitation-only event. It also is available online to anyone interested in learning more about the convocation at

    Appointment not about career, but service, cardinal-designate says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal-designate Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona, Spain, said his appointment isn't a job promotion but a call to be more like Jesus, who came to serve the poor and marginalized. "This isn't about great honors, attaining positions of responsibility, of honor, of glory. It's not about making a career, but of service," the cardinal-designate told Vatican Radio May 22. "That is our mission." Pope Francis announced May 21 he would be making the 71-year-old Spanish archbishop a cardinal during a consistory in June. Although past archbishops from Barcelona have been named cardinals, Archbishop Omella said he was still surprised by the announcement. Speaking to journalists the day after the pope announced the June 28 consistory, Cardinal-designate Omella said he was blessing a new Caritas facility in a local parish when his friend, a bishop, called to congratulate him. "I answered and he said, 'Congratulations, Cardinal!' And I said, 'Enough with the jokes, you're always messing around with me.' And he said, 'No, no. I'm here in St. Peter's Square and I just heard (the pope) say your name,'" he said May 22.

    Pope will elevate Sweden's sole bishop to College of Cardinals

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal-designate Anders Arborelius of Stockholm is Sweden's only Catholic bishop and the first native Swede to hold the post since the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s. He was also the first Swede to be named a bishop in more than 400 years when he was named by St. John Paul II to head the country's lone diocese in 1998. Now, Pope Francis will make him the first cardinal in Sweden's history when he is formally inducted into the College of Cardinals June 28 along with new cardinals from Mali, Spain, Laos and El Salvador. "It's really a historical event and I think it's typical of Pope Francis that he looks to those parts of the world that are far away -- other cardinals were named for the first time for Laos and for Mali -- so he wants to encourage those minorities scattered all over the world and show that they are important in God's eyes and in the eyes of the church even if they are very small realities," the cardinal-designate told Vatican Radio May 22. The Catholic Church in Sweden has had an important role in helping "integrate many refugees, and we know that this is a very important issue for the pope, and we also have a very broad ecumenical dialogue with all the Christian churches," he told the radio.

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  • As Trump and the pope meet, peace offerings in person and via Twitter

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Though there are few details about what was said when Pope Francis and Donald Trump talked privately May 24, much was made online about the U.S. president's wide smile and the pope's more serious stance as the two posed for public photos at the Vatican. The pope showed his trademark smile when he met the president's accompanying family members -- his wife, daughter and son-in-law -- after their meeting, which was described as "cordial" by the Vatican. But away from the cameras, in the public arena of ideas about how the world should work, the two men have clearly been at odds on a long list of subjects such as immigration, the environment, how to fight poverty, using militarization instead of diplomacy, to name a few. "We know that His Holiness and President Trump differ strongly on a number of issues, particularly treatment of migrants and the environment, and (the pope's) expression and body language while receiving Trump conveyed seriousness and concern," Michele Dunne of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington told Catholic News Service. "Still, the two leaders worked hard to hold a constructive meeting and to find common ground -- which they did, particularly as regards the need for peace in the Middle East and protection of Christians there." Signaling some openness to the pope's thinking, Trump is said to have uttered, "I won't forget what you said," as he left their private session.

    Movies with Catholic themes to hit cinemas, video

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- New movies are in the works with distinctively Catholic themes. A documentary featuring the pope, "Pope Francis -- A Man of His Word," was bought by Focus Features for later theatrical release. And a dramatization of the Marian apparitions at Fatima, Portugal, starring American actor Harvey Keitel was announced May 18 by Arclight Pictures, at the Cannes Film Festival in France. The "Pope Francis" movie was written and directed by Wim Wenders, who has been nominated for Best Documentary Feature Oscars three times -- for 1999's "Buena Vista Social Club," 2011's "Pina" and 2014's "Salt of the Earth." The German-born Wenders started out directing feature films, most notably "Wings of Desire" and "Paris, Texas," but later in his career gravitated to documentaries. "Pope Francis -- A Man of His Word" was touted by Focus Features, which bought distribution rights to the film, as "only the second co-production that the Vatican has made with outside filmmakers and the first in which a pope addresses the audience directly, discussing topics such as ecology, immigration, consumerism and social justice."

    After years of cramped spaces, Ukrainian Catholics bless chapel in Odessa

    ODESSA, Ukraine (CNS) -- When Anastasia Voinikova joined the local Ukrainian Catholic community more than 20 years ago, liturgies were celebrated at the basement of the Roman Catholic church. Later, in 2005, the community was able to purchase a private house and reconstruct it into a small chapel, which served as the cathedral for the Odessa Exarchate, which covers huge territory of southern Ukraine and at that time, Crimea. But about 10,000 Ukrainian Catholics lived in Odessa, and the chapel could not house more than 100 people at a time. On May 21, local Ukrainian Catholics blessed a new chapel at the outskirts of Odessa. With the help of Dutch and German aid agencies -- and some financial support from Ukrainian Catholics in the United States -- parishioners were able to buy abandoned Soviet-style construction materials and construct the chapel. The faithful were really engaged in this project, because they waited so long for more suitable place to pray, said Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Mykhaylo Bubniy of Odessa. "We dreamed of a golden-domed church," he told Catholic News Service. "This is very important in our circumstances in Odessa, where we are often not considered as a 'real' church. A dome is a sign."

    Execs at helm of Nashville Predators aim to foster culture of service

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- The recent scene in downtown Nashville of mobs of hockey fans was almost unthinkable a decade ago. Fans in bright yellow jerseys clamored to get inside the Bridgestone Arena May 22 to witness the Predators' first appearance in the NHL's Western Conference Finals. They also filled nearby parks and restaurants to watch the game on the big screen. Ten years ago, the team was in financial peril and considering moving out of the city. But slowly, surely, the team grew into a bona fide success, and convinced this Southern city that it is a hockey town after all. Two of the chief architects who helped build the Predators into the team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history, are the team's chairman, Tom Cigarran, and its CEO, Sean Henry, both active members of the Nashville Catholic community. "It was electric," Henry said in describing the atmosphere inside Bridgestone Arena when the Predators beat the Anaheim Ducks in Game 6 of the conference finals to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals. Having a packed house of passionate hockey fans and a team in serious contention for the Stanley Cup "is all we've ever imagined," added Henry, a parishioner at St. Matthew Church in Franklin. "It's everything."

    Online format offers resources, formation materials for parishioners

    ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- One-size-fits-all faith formation programs don't exist, but a new online platform called FORMED has taken a serious stab at providing a wealth of resources to fit with parishioners' hectic lives. "Not everybody has the time to be able to sign up for a multiweek series or be able to come to the parish because they work or they have different schedules," said Andy Wagenbach, co-director of faith formation and youth ministry at St. Peter Parish in North St. Paul. Through FORMED, "they can do these things at their house. The fruit of that is that they're able to still be formed even though they're not able to come on site." Forty parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis have been offering the program since it launched in 2015. At the website, FORMED provides a one-stop shop of formation materials ranging from videos to Catholic Church documents to help adults, youth and families grow in their faith. The program was created by the Augustine Institute in Denver, which has provided both faith formation and theological education since 2004. "It's meant to be in every home within the parish, really empowering, enabling parishioners to take ownership of their own formation so that the great teachings of the Catholic Church aren't confined to a parish program," said Annie Grandell, YDisciple coordinator for the Augustine Institute. "YDisciple," or Young Disciple, is an online platform the institute said it designed to help parents and parishes work together to reach more teens more effectively with the Gospel.

    Washington group provides way to track U.S. aid to Central America

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In fiscal year 2016, three countries in Central America received a combined $750 million from the U.S. to help their governments fight some of the toughest challenges they face and which drive immigration: violence, drugs, lack of economic opportunity. But it's not always easy to gauge the impact the assistance has in solving social ills. To help measure results, the nonprofit Washington Office on Latin America, or WOLA, has launched the Central America Monitor, a way of tracking U.S. assistance and its impact on the so-called "Northern Triangle" countries of Latin America -- Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador -- that receive the bulk of the aid. Adriana Beltran, of WOLA's citizen security program, helped introduce the monitor during a panel in Washington May 17. "WOLA and our partners welcome the renewed attention to Central America, the support and interest of the U.S. Congress to figure out a way of addressing the many challenges that the region faces: the violence, the weak institutions, the lack of economic opportunity and the poverty that are driving these people to leave their communities," Beltran said.

    New mobile apps, backed by CRS, help pregnant Indian women in rural areas

    KOLKATA, India (CNS) -- Usha Devi, a 25-year-old field worker, is three months pregnant with her third child. But this child, she said confidently, will be born in the hospital. "Unlike my previous pregnancies, now I know when to call the ambulance," Devi told Catholic News Service by phone. Devi is keeping all of her pregnancy details stored on an app in Sunita Prajapati's mobile phone, and she knows she will receive reminders of all the important dates. Prajapati, a 26-year-old single mother, is not just her friend but an accredited social health activist. The nearest hospital to her village is five miles away. With no means of public transportation available, the village women have to be alerted by the health activists to make use of basic maternity health services and opt for institutional deliveries of their child. Prajapati owns an Android phone with two specific apps in which she maintains the record of all the pregnant and lactating mothers in her vicinity. The apps -- part of the ReMIND program -- serve as the medium of knowledge-sharing and data storage for the rural health workers. "My child was born at home, and I had a terrible time during my pregnancy," Prajapati said. "But now I ensure that right information about mother and child's health reaches every corner of the villages here. And these apps help me maintain records of the women and also educate them about maternal and child health.

    Faith, love, service are key to bishops' ministry, pope tells Italians

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bishops must be models of confident trust in the Lord, constantly reaching out with the good news of the Gospel and avoiding all temptation to despair or to cling to vestiges of worldly power, Pope Francis wrote to the bishops of Italy. The pope opened the annual general assembly of the Italian bishops' conference May 22 at the Vatican. But rather than reading the speech he prepared, he had it distributed to them. Instead, as "servant of the servants of God," he said he was ready to answer their questions, listen to their experiences and even to their criticisms. "When one presides and does not permit dialogue, gossip reigns." Pope Francis thanked the journalists present for their interest in covering the bishops' conference, but said, "extra omnes," the formal Latin phrase for "everyone out." The phrase is pronounced at the beginning of a conclave when only cardinals are allowed to remain in the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope. According to the Vatican press office, the pope and bishops spent about two hours speaking behind closed doors.

    God is no warlord claiming victory with enemies' blood, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- If it seems hard to find God in this world, it is because he chooses to be with the defeated and dejected and in places where most people are loath to go, Pope Francis said. "God does not like to be loved the way a warlord would like, dragging his people to victory, debasing them in the blood of his enemies," the pope said May 24 at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square. The audience began just after Pope Francis had met U.S. President Donald Trump. "Our God is a dim flame that burns on a cold and windy day, and, for as fragile as his presence seems in this world, he has chosen the place everyone disdains," Pope Francis told the crowd in the square. Continuing his series of talks on Christian hope, the pope looked at the Gospel of Luke's account of the two disciples traveling on the road to Emmaus after Jesus had been crucified and buried. In the story, the pope said, the disciples, are struggling to understand how such a fate could have befallen the man they had faith in: the son of God.

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  • Pope, English church leaders offer prayers after Manchester Arena attack

    MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- Pope Francis decried the "barbaric attack" on concertgoers in Manchester, adding his voice to Catholic leaders dismayed at what British officials said was the deadliest case of terrorism since 2005. In a telegram sent to English church officials on Pope Francis' behalf, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said the pope "was deeply saddened to learn of the injury and tragic loss of life" after a suicide bomb killed at least 22 people and injured another 59 at Manchester Arena May 22. Many concertgoers at the Ariana Grande concert were teenagers, young adults and families. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack. The pope "expresses his heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this senseless act of violence," the telegram said, as "he commends the generous efforts of the emergency and security personnel and offers the assurance of his prayers for the injured, and for all who have died. Mindful in a particular way of those children and young people who have lost their lives, and of their grieving families, Pope Francis invokes God's blessings of peace, healing and strength upon the nation."

    U.S. extends Temporary Protected Status for Haitians for six months

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Tens of thousands of Haitians enrolled under the Temporary Protected Status program can stay in the United States until at least January. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly renewed the designation May 22. The decision affects more than 58,000 Haitians in the U.S. The designation, also known as TPS, was implemented by the U.S. government for Haiti days after a powerful earthquake in January 2010 leveled much of the country surrounding the capital of Port-au-Prince. It allowed Haitian nationals to stay in the U.S. because of adverse conditions in their homeland. Kelly's order extends Temporary Protected Status until Jan. 22, 2018, six months beyond the original expiration date of July 22. Previous extensions had been granted for 18 months. Kelly did not adopt the recommendation of the acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that called for ending the designation for Haitians altogether in July. In an April 10 memo to Kelly, James W. McCament said "conditions in Haiti no longer support its designation for TPS," but suggested delaying the effective date of the termination for six months to allow "for a period of orderly transition" for Haitian nationals.

    Covenant House to benefit from 'Red Nose Day' fundraiser

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The work that Covenant House has been doing over the past 45 years to help kids and teenagers left to their own devices on the streets is getting a boost from the third annual "Red Nose Day" fundraiser in the United States May 25. In 2015, Red Nose Day generated $23 million in donations to help end child poverty in the United States in its first year. Last year's Red Nose Day collected more than $36 million last year, and Covenant House was awarded $1 million, according to its executive director, Sister Nancy Downing, a Sister of Notre Dame. As the concept takes greater hold in the United States, aided by a three-hour prime-time programming block on NBC that evening, expectations are even higher. "We'll be wearing our red noses," available for sale only at the Walgreens and Duane Reed chains' drugstores, Sister Nancy said. "It's a fun way to help raise funds for us. We'd really like to encourage others, friends and family, to participate as well." Covenant House, which started in New York City, now serves young people in 30 U.S. cities as well as overseas. About 36,000 were helped last year, Sister Nancy told Catholic News Service in a May 19 telephone interview from Covenant House headquarters.

    Catholic groups sue over St. Louis ordinance protecting abortion advocacy

    ST. LOUIS (CNS) -- St. Louis archdiocesan elementary schools, a Catholic-run shelter for homeless pregnant women, and a for-profit holding company and its owner have sued the city of St. Louis over a new ordinance they say violates their religious freedom because it grants "protected status" to abortion advocates. The Thomas More Society, a national not-for-profit law firm, filed the lawsuit on the plaintiffs' behalf May 22 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Enacted in February, the city ordinance provides a protected-class status to any woman who chooses to have an abortion and those who support her in that action -- while also discriminating against those who promote pro-life alternatives, the lawsuit stated. The language also creates protections for anyone who has "made a decision related to abortion," even when the abortion is not their own. The ordinance also forces private businesses to include abortion coverage in their employee health plans even if company owners have sincere objections to abortion. At a May 22 news conference on the courthouse steps, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis said the archdiocese "will not comply" with the ordinance.

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

    JERUSALEM (CNS) -- Following his official welcome to Jerusalem by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, U.S. President Donald Trump began his two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories with a private visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Western Wall. Details of the visits to the holy sites had been a carefully guarded secret until the last moment, but from early May 22 the alleyways of the Old City were closed to both residents and tourists, and the main thoroughfares leading to the Old City were closed off to all traffic. Under tight security and led by the traditional kawas honor guard announcing the way with the thumping of their ornamental staffs, the president made his way by foot through the Old City's alleyways to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. He and first lady Melania Trump were welcomed at the entrance of the church courtyard by Greek Orthodox Patriarch Archbishop Theophilos III; Franciscan Father Francesco Patton, custos of the Holy Land; and Armenian Patriarch Nourhan Manougian. The president spoke briefly to the religious leaders and stopped at the entrance of the church for a group photograph after also speaking to a few other religious. Trump, who also was accompanied into the church by his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, spent about 30 minutes in the church, which encompasses the area where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was crucified, buried and later rose from the dead. At the entrance of the church is the stone of unction, where tradition holds that Jesus' body was laid out and washed after his crucifixion. Inside the central rotunda is the newly renovated Edicule, where Jesus was buried.

    Pope announces new cardinals from Mali, Spain, Sweden, Laos, Salvador

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis announced he will create five new cardinals June 28; the new cardinals-designate come from Mali, Spain, Sweden, Laos and El Salvador. Unusually, the group of prelates announced by the pope May 21 includes an auxiliary bishop whose archbishop is not a cardinal; he is Cardinal-designate Gregorio Rosa Chavez, 74, the current auxiliary bishop of San Salvador. The other churchmen who will receive red hats are: Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali, 73; Archbishop Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona, Spain, 71; Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Sweden, 67; and Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos, 73. After briefly talking about the day's Gospel reading, leading the crowd in St. Peter's Square in reciting the "Regina Coeli" prayer and greeting various groups present, instead of wishing everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch -- the normal procedure at the noon prayer -- Pope Francis made his announcement. The five new cardinals coming from "different parts of the world demonstrates the catholicity of the church spread across the globe," Pope Francis said. And the practice of assigning to each of them a church in Rome "expresses that the cardinals belong to the Diocese of Rome," which, as St. Ignatius of Antioch explained, "presides in charity over all the churches."

    Salvadoran cardinal-designate dedicates appointment to Blessed Romero

    SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (CNS) -- Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez dedicated his appointment as El Salvador's first Catholic cardinal to his longtime friend and mentor, Blessed Oscar Romero, a slain archbishop who has come to symbolize the small Central American country's fight for justice. Cardinal-designate Rosa Chavez said he was surprised by a 5 a.m. call May 21 with news of announcement from the Vatican. He said at first thought it was a joke. He expressed his "profound gratitude" to God and Pope Francis, who named him and archbishops from Mali, Spain, Sweden and Laos as the next cardinals. "It's a gift from God," Cardinal-designate Rosa Chavez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, said in remarks to the media in El Salvador. The decision, unique because San Salvador's archbishop is not a cardinal, comes as the church in Salvador has pushed for sainthood for Blessed Romero, who was shot to death in 1980 at the start of the country's 12-year civil war as he celebrated Mass in a hospital chapel. "I dedicate this appointment to Archbishop Romero,'' said Cardinal-designate Rosa Chavez. "I believe that he would have been called for this, but he will have to receive it in heaven due to his martyrdom."

    Mexican bishops condemn attacks on journalists

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- The Mexican bishops' conference has expressed "support and solidarity" with journalists after a spate of attacks on reporters and editors shocked the country and reinforced Mexico's reputation as a deadly and dangerous country to work in the media. "We call on the (civil authorities) to guarantee that everyone can carry out their profession with freedom and security, and to combat the impunity and corruption that so strikes and injures our nation," said the bishops' statement, signed by the conference secretary-general, Auxiliary Bishop Alfonso Miranda Guardiola of Monterrey. "Journalists fall for showing the truth and revealing the alarming relationships between criminals and the authorities, who have been corrupted by the power of an enemy that is destroying us," read a May 21 editorial on the murdered journalists and priests in the Archdiocese of Mexico City publication, Desde la Fe. It noted that journalists "name and identify the disappeared and the victims in the web of death in which we are falling. We would like to have good news and the confidence the authorities will do their duty and punish those that attack journalists, priests and the thousands of families who have not had justice," the archdiocesan editorial read. "But this seems impossible and reality tells us the opposite: 99 percent of the crimes committed against journalists remain in impunity."

    Guatemalan Catholics are heirs of a martyred church, bishop says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Guatemalan bishops thanked Pope Francis for recognizing the martyrdom of Father Stanley Rother of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, the first martyr born in the United States. Eighteen prelates from Guatemala met with the pope May 22 during their "ad limina" visit, presenting him with an embroidered image of the slain American priest. Bishop Gonzalo de Villa Vasquez of Solola-Chimaltenango, the diocese where Father Rother lived, worked and died, said the priest who is to be beatified in September is one of many priests and laity in the country who gave their lives for Christ during the country's brutal 1960-1996 civil war. "That was the reason for this conversation, because we are the heirs of a martyred church," Bishop de Villa told Catholic News Service May 23. The bishop said he was moved by the pope's affection and concern for the people of Guatemala, a closeness shared by Father Rother, who served as a missionary to the indigenous people of Santiago Atitlan until his murder July 28, 1981.

    Ohio high school senior makes prom dreams come true with dress giveaway

    CLEVELAND (CNS) -- Ashley Wilson beamed at the array of sequined and beaded gowns in pink, purple, red, blue and black. But she wouldn't wear any of them to her prom the following evening. The senior graduating from Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School in Cleveland had gathered the collection for Prom Me Please, her effort to give prom dresses to girls who couldn't afford to buy them. "A lot of people told me this was a really dumb idea, that girls didn't need prom dresses," Wilson told Catholic News Service. "And I gave away 200! So it definitely is something that is needed." Last fall, Wilson decided to celebrate her 18th birthday by collecting and distributing prom gowns. She thinks all teenagers should have a chance to experience prom, a sometimes prohibitively expensive tradition. David Csank, principal of Villa Angela-St. Joseph, permitted the teen to use the school as a collection point. "It's really something we preach to these students all the time," Csank said. "You look out for others. You take care of others. That's what we believe we are called by God to do."

    Devil prefers comfy, business-savvy church that overlooks truth, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The devil would like to see a church that never takes any risks, never speaks out with the truth and just settles on being wishy-washy, comfortable and business-savvy, Pope Francis said. God's prophets always were persecuted because they created a disturbance, much like those today who denounce worldliness in the church and get ostracized, the pope said May 23 during a morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. However, "a church without martyrs gives rise to distrust; a church that takes no risks gives rise to distrust; a church that is afraid to proclaim Jesus Christ and cast out demons, idols and the other lord that is money is not the church of Jesus," he said. The pope's homily looked at how Paul and Silas ended up in prison in Philippi after Paul cast a spirit out of a slave girl, and he and Silas were accused of disturbing the city and promoting unlawful customs. The day's first reading (Acts 16:22-34), the pope said, shows that after helping the possessed girl Paul understood that even though people in the city accepted Christ's doctrine, their hearts had not been converted "because everything stayed quiet" and easy. "It was not Christ's church," he said.

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  • Priest earns doctorate with scholarship through Eastern Europe collection

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Father Jan Dolny, a priest of the Archdiocese of Kosice, Slovakia, has been in a state of transition for most of the past decade. About 10 years ago, shortly before his priestly ordination, Father Dolny was invited to spend his pastoral year in Cleveland to tend to the needs of Slovak-American Catholics. While there, he got to stay in a Benedictine monastery. Thinking the Cleveland experience would be his sole chance to work on the English he had learned in his home country, Father Dolny was even more surprised when he was given a scholarship to pursue his studies at The Catholic University of America, Washington. The scholarship came through the Collection for the Church In Central and Eastern Europe, in the U.S. bishops' Office of National Collections. The annual collection is taken in parishes nationwide. Not only was Father Dolny able to complete his seminary education, he also earned master's and doctoral degrees. He defended his doctoral dissertation last December and returned home for what he thought was for good. However, he returned to Washington to pick up his sheepskin during Catholic University's May 13 commencement exercises.

    At farewell Mass, bishop honors seafarers and those who minister to them

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- During his final Mass as bishop-promoter of the Apostleship of the Sea, retired Bishop J. Kevin Boland of Savannah, Georgia, paid homage May 20 to the largely unseen workers whose labor affects "what we wear, what we eat, what we use." He also lauded the work of priests, religious sisters and laypeople who tend to the spiritual and practical needs or seafarers or those who work in ports. At the Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington marking the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Mariners and People of the Sea, which officially falls on May 22, Bishop Boland said he recognized that "I'm participating in a lot of swan songs" but said "this is pretty special one." In an interview with Catholic News Service, he said he treasured his tenure working with "the priests, sisters and laypeople who run port ministries for the ships coming in day after day, week after week, and that provide services to those people, who help them get calling cards so they can call home, take them shopping," try to help them when they're sick, or in trouble while away from home, along with tending to their spiritual needs.

    After talks, Venezuelan bishops reiterate stance against new constitution

    CARACAS, Venezuela (CNS) -- The Venezuelan bishops' conference reiterated its rejection of a government proposal to draft a new constitution, after a rare meeting between the conference president and top government representatives. "The church's position was reaffirmed, which is that realizing a constituent assembly is unnecessary," Father Pedro Pablo Aguilar, communications director for the bishops' conference, told Catholic News Service May 21. Two days earlier, at the request of the government, Archbishop Diego Padron Sanchez, president of the bishops' conference, met with Elias Jaua, who heads Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's commission to establish an assembly to rewrite the country's constitution. Father Aguilar told CNS the bishops believed "that right now we should be discussing more important things." The country remains deadlocked in a political impasse following the opposition's overwhelming victory in 2015 congressional elections. The Supreme Court subsequently annulled nearly all of the new congress' laws, and an attempt by the court in late March to officially strip the congress of its powers sparked massive protests that continue. "One thing that Archbishop Padron has consistently said is that these protests are peaceful and, therefore, are valid," said Father Aguilar.

    Iowa Medicaid reimbursements will no longer go to abortion providers

    DAVENPORT, Iowa (CNS) -- Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, based in Des Moines, has announced plans to close four of its 12 clinics in Iowa -- three in the Diocese of Davenport and one in the Diocese of Sioux City. The clinics in Burlington, Keokuk and Sioux City will close effective June 30. The fourth clinic, in Bettendorf, will close later, according to news sources. In April, the Iowa Legislature changed the current Medicaid family planning waiver program to prevent reimbursement of abortion providers, which includes Planned Parenthood. The new rule takes effect July 1. The state will provide funds to continue a $3.3 million family planning program at no cost to Iowans making less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level. No funding will be provided for health services received at facilities where abortion services are offered. "We oppose sending public money to abortion providers. Catholics have always made the needs of the vulnerable a priority through services such as Catholic Charities, hospitals, and advocacy for public policy that protects the marginalized," said Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's Catholic bishops.

    Tobin: Being with those in need, distress communicates Christian message

    BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CNS) -- Simple acts of accompaniment communicate the Christian message of hope, said Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey. He was the keynote speaker at DeSales Media's celebration of World Communications Day in Brooklyn May 17. Held at BRIC House in the downtown area, the daylong conference brought together about 250 people involved in both the religious and secular media as well as interested parishioners. To illustrate his point, Cardinal Tobin used a well-publicized incident when he accompanied a poor Mexican immigrant who was threatened with deportation to the federal courthouse in Newark. He prayed with members of other faiths alongside Catalino Guerrero, a 59-year-old grandfather who was in the country without legal permission but had never been charged with any crimes and who suffered from diabetes and heart disease. "This act of accompaniment was simply a singular act of trying to make a difference in the face of vast hopelessness," the cardinal said. "As Christians we have no alternative but to communicate hope and we do that when we put a face on those who have been frequently demonized into being something they are not." He said this "facelessness" of the poor and the downtrodden is "aided and abetted by political rhetoric and also by a complicit news media."

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

    DEAD SEA, Jordan (CNS) -- Arab Christians voiced hope and concern over U.S. President Donald Trump's first foreign visit and his speech in Saudi Arabia to the Muslim world, in which he urged a peace-focused Islam as a counter movement to extremism. "I hope that President Trump will remind us that we have to think about youth and the future of the Middle East and its countries," Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Yousif Mirkis of Kirkuk, Iraq, told Catholic News Service. He spoke on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum meeting on the Jordanian shores of the Dead Sea May 19-21 as Trump traveled to neighboring Saudi Arabia. Youth make up the majority of most Middle Eastern countries, and they face a bleak socio-economic future, with youth unemployment hovering around 30 percent. Archbishop Mirkis cited it as one of the drivers laying the groundwork for extremist violence -- frustration over little socio-economic prospects. "Differences are a part of our culture. We cannot resolve the problem of differences, but dealing with these differences in a meaningful way can make our lives more peaceful, like here in Jordan," he said, also pointing to the region's rich mosaic of ethnic and religious diversity.

    About 100 students walk out of Pence's Notre Dame commencement address

    NOTRE DAME, Ind. (CNS) -- About 100 graduates of the University of Notre Dame walked out of Vice President Mike Pence's May 21 commencement address as he began to speak. The walkout was planned in advance by a student activist coalition, We StaND For, to protest the university's choice of Pence as graduation speaker. It said the students also wanted to show their disagreement with policies Pence supported as Indiana's governor, including a bill to restrict abortion and a religious freedom law opponents said was aimed at the gay community. The Observer, the student-run newspaper, reported that Pence's words at the start of his address could not be heard over boos from members of the audience who vocalized their objection to the walkout. "Your education here has prepared you for a life of service to your families, your communities and our country and the countries to which you will return. Notre Dame is exceptional," said Pence, who carried on with his remarks undeterred. "But a Notre Dame education doesn't end with the formation of the mind. In these halls, you've experienced the formation of the heart." He urged members of Notre Dame's class of 2017, which he called "a class of extraordinary accomplishment," to be leaders for "freedom of thought and expression," to lead "for good," "to be men and women of integrity and values, to be salt and light in these ever-changing times" and "to have faith."

    Be prophets of joy, not misfortune, pope tells nuns

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Consecrated women are called to be prophets of hope and joy in the world and avoid putting on a superficial joy that withers the soul, Pope Francis said. In order to live out the joy of the Gospel, "it must be a true joy, not a counterfeit joy" that brings about "the cancer of resignation," the pope told a group from the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master. "Please, sisters, no resignation. Only joy! The devil will say, 'We are small, we don't have many vocations.' And your face will grow long -- down, down, down -- and you lose joy," he said. "No, you cannot live like that; the hope of Jesus is joy." Founded in 1924, the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master are part of the nine institutes of consecrated life that form the Pauline Family established by Blessed James Alberione. The congregation was in Rome April 30-May 28 for their ninth general chapter on the theme "New wine in new wineskins."

    Tackle jobs gap caused by today's tech revolution, pope tells experts

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The growing gap between those who can find a place in today's rapidly changing tech-based job market and those who cannot is very serious and worrying, Pope Francis said. The problem must be tackled "out of a sense of justice between generations and responsibility for the future," he said. The pope spoke May 20 at the Vatican to participants in an international conference sponsored by the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation, which seeks to promote the teaching of St. John Paul II's 1991 encyclical on social and economic justice. The conference May 18-20 discussed "constructive alternatives in an era of global turmoil" as well as looked at incentives for "job creation and human integrity in the digital space. How could we not be worried about the serious problem of the unemployment of young people and adults who do not have at their disposal the means to 'promote' themselves? And this has reached a very serious level" of "tragic proportions," both in developed and developing nations, the pope said.

    Pope: Christians without tenderness, respect are serpents who divide

    ROME (CNS) -- The sin committed most frequently in Christian parishes and groups is bad-mouthing and backstabbing each other, which not only divides the community, it drives away people who come seeking God, Pope Francis said. "Truly, this pains me to the core. It's as if we were throwing stones among ourselves, one against the other. And the devil enjoys it; it's a carnival for the devil," he told parishioners in his homily during an evening Mass at a parish on the outskirts of Rome May 21. Pope Francis told parishioners at the church of San Pier Damiani how important their use of language was. As baptized members of the church, every Christian has been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, he said. People must continue to pray for and safeguard that gift, which includes using a "special language," not Latin, he said, but something else. "It is a language of tenderness and respect" that is also mirrored in one's behavior. "It is so awful to see these people who call themselves Christians, but they are filled with bitterness" or anger, he said in a homily that was off-the-cuff.

    Irish president gives Pope Francis symbolic 'climate bell'

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Irish President Michael D. Higgins presented Pope Francis with a unique gift that symbolizes the call to protect creation. Following a private 15-minute meeting May 22 at the Apostolic Palace, Higgins presented the pope with a gold and white "climate bell." Designed by Irish artist and sculptor Vivienne Roche, the bell symbolized the "call to action on climate change," the president's office tweeted. A spokesperson for the president's office said that ecology and the global threat of climate change are important issues for both leaders, the Irish Times reported. "The president and Pope Francis spoke of their shared conviction that new connections between ethics, economy and ecology must be at the core of all work of social and intellectual reconstruction in this new century," said the spokesperson, who was not identified in the Irish Times news story.

    Pope offers prayers for Central African Republic, Catholics in China

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis prayed for an end to armed conflicts between predominantly Christian and predominantly Muslim militias in the Central African Republic that have led to the deaths of innocent civilians and forced thousands to flee. "I am close to the population as well as the bishops and all those who work for the good of the people and for peaceful coexistence," the pope said after reciting the "Regina Coeli" prayer at noon May 21 with visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square. Clashes between the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels and the mostly Christian anti-Balaka militia took a turn for the worse in the eastern town of Bria May 20. According to the Reuters news agency, 22 people, including 17 civilians, were killed and 10,000 were people forced to flee their homes. U.N. peacekeeping forces have reinforced the town as well as Bangassou and Alindao, two cities recently struck by violent skirmishes. The pope urged both sides to end the violent clashes that "threaten the peace process."

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  • Trump nominates Callista Gingrich ambassador to Vatican

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As he prepared to meet Pope Francis for the first time, President Donald Trump formally nominated Callista Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, to be the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. The White House announced the nomination late May 19 as Trump was beginning his first overseas trip, a trip that would include a meeting with Pope Francis May 24 at the Vatican. The nomination of Gingrich, 51, a former congressional aide, had been rumored for months. If confirmed by the Senate, she would succeed Ambassador Ken Hackett, who retired in January. She would be the third woman to serve as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See after Lindy Boggs, who held the post in 1997-2001, and Mary Ann Glendon, who served in 2008-2009. Gingrich is president of Gingrich Productions, which produces documentaries as well as other materials related to her husband, Republican Newt Gingrich, who served from 1995 until 1999 as the 50th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2010, the company released the film "Nine Days That Changed the World" about Pope John Paul II's nine-day pilgrimage to Poland in 1979 and how it played a part in the fall of communism in Europe. Callista Gingrich graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, in 1988, majoring in music, a passion that has remained with her throughout life. She is a longtime member of the choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

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

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Reinstatement of the "Mexico City Policy," as provided for in President Donald Trump's Jan. 23 executive memorandum, took effect May 15. "(It) ensures that U.S. taxpayers will no longer subsidize foreign nongovernmental organizations that perform or promote abortion on demand," said the co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. Trump's memorandum also expanded the policy, now called "Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance," according to Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, who is the caucus co-chair. "This humane policy seeks to respect and protect the precious lives of unborn girls and boys from the violence of abortion," Smith, a Catholic, said in a statement. "The new policy doesn't cut global health assistance by so much as a penny." The policy was first put in place by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. It was named for the city that hosted the U.N. International Conference on Population that year and where Reagan, then in his first term as president, unveiled it.

    Archdiocese reaffirms church fully cooperated with 1969 murder probe

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- As Netflix prepared to release a seven-part documentary about the unsolved 1969 murder of a Baltimore nun, officials of the Archdiocese of Baltimore reaffirmed that the church did not attempt to interfere in the investigation of the death of Sister Catherine Cesnik. Sister Cathy, as she was known, had been a popular teacher at Archbishop Keough High School in the 1960s. She was on a year's leave of absence from her order, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, to teach in the Baltimore public school system when she was reported missing after she left her apartment Nov. 7, 1969, and never returned, the Catholic Review reported Jan. 9, 1970. Related to the investigation into her murder are allegations that she was aware of alleged sexual abuse by a priest at Archbishop Keough High School, where Sister Cathy had taught. That priest, Father A. Joseph Maskell, was not a suspect during the original investigation of the murder in 1969-1970. Debuting May 19, the Netflix documentary series, titled "The Keepers," focuses on allegations of sexual abuse in the 1960s and '70s at Archbishop Keough High by Maskell and of a relationship between that abuse and Sister Cathy's death. As of press time, neither the Catholic Review nor the Archdiocese of Baltimore had been provided with an advance copy of the series, although advance copies were provided to other media outlets. Maskell, who died in 2001, was permanently removed from ministry in 1994 by Cardinal William H. Keeler, then archbishop of Baltimore.

    Bishops tell lawmakers to focus on poor in upcoming budget

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Decrease military spending and help the poor, said the U.S. bishops in a May 19 letter addressed to Congress, before lawmakers prepare to work on the federal budget for the upcoming 2018 fiscal year. The budget requires difficult decisions, but lawmakers must "give central importance to 'the least of these,'" said the letter sent to all members of the Senate and the House of Representatives on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and signed by the chairmen of six USCCB committees. The letter urged lawmakers to "promote the welfare of workers and families who struggle to live in dignity." Increasing funding for defense and immigration enforcement while cutting "many domestic and international programs that assist the most vulnerable, would be profoundly troubling," said the letter signed by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Bishops Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico; Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vermont; Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida; George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio; and Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas. Decisions should be "guided by moral criteria that protect human life and dignity," they said, and making deep cuts to programs that help the poor "would harm people facing dire circumstances."

    Pennsylvania priest who headed Black and Indian Mission Office dies at 91

    HYATTSVILLE, Md. (CNS) -- Msgr. Paul A. Lenz, who was executive director of executive director of the Washington-based Black and Indian Mission Office from 1976 to 2007, died May 14 at Sacred Heart Home in Hyattsville. He was 91. His funeral Mass was celebrated May 18 at St. Demetrius Catholic Church in Gallitzin, Pennsylvania, the town of his birth, followed by committal of his body at St. Patrick Cemetery, also in Gallitzin. Bishop Mark L. Bartchak of Altoona-Johnstown was the main celebrant of the Mass, with Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Benedictine Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki and several diocesan priests as concelebrants. When he retired, Msgr. Lenz, a priest of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, told Catholic News Service that when he was asked to take the job with the mission office in 1976, he "wasn't too happy with it" because at the time he was on home leave from missionary work in Paraguay and was planning to return there. But Cardinal John J. Krol, then-archbishop of Philadelphia, persuaded him to take the post, he said. He said he originally expected that he would direct the office for about five years. Perhaps he should have known better: His predecessor, Sulpician Father John B. Tennelly, had held the job since 1925.

    After clashes, Central African cardinal urges more efforts toward peace

    OXFORD, England (CNS) -- A cardinal in Central African Republic called on international peacekeepers to act more effectively, after he helped end an anti-Muslim flare-up in the southeastern city of Bangassou. "In protecting civilians, this peacekeeping mission has only half fulfilled its role -- I think its manner of acting has to be corrected," said Cardinal Dieudonne Nzapalainga, president of the bishops' conference in the Central African Republic. "Although it's good United Nations forces secured the town, refugees from its mosque were left to their own devices for three days. You can't ask the population to take refuge in a particular place, and then just leave it to its sad fate." The cardinal, 50, spoke after returning May 18 from four days in Bangassou, where at least 100 people died when heavily armed rebels attacked the town's Muslim quarter May 13. Six U.N. peacekeepers were among the dead. Meanwhile, the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission urged an immediate halt to the violence, so injured people could receive medical treatment, but also asked targeted communities not to retaliate. "The persistence of insecurity shows us local realities are not being taken seriously," the commission said in a statement, published May 18 in the capital, Bangui.

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

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The proverbial plate is full of issues for U.S. bishops to tackle at their upcoming spring assembly June 14-15 in Indianapolis. They will discuss issues ranging from immigration to religious freedom, as well as the Synod of Bishops on youth and the Fifth National Encuentro gathering, both coming up in 2018. "We're certainly going to talk about the upcoming convocation in Orlando, some of the specific plans," said Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, referring to the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America" July 1-4 in Orlando, Florida. "Other topics of interest for all of the bishops have been the fifth Encuentro, coming up in 2018, how things are developing in that." Bishop Cantu, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will address the persecution of Christians abroad. "With regard to our bishops' meeting, there is the concern of the plight of Christians in parts of the world where they've been persecuted, whether it's in Africa or Syria or in any other part of the world," he said. Bishop Cantu said he will give updates about the work of his committee, which has taken him to see some of the hardships Christians face in places like Asia and the Middle East. After making his annual trip to the Holy Land in January, Bishop Cantu said he traveled to Iraq and Kurdistan. He witnessed some of the work by church members, which included the building of schools, churches and universities for displaced communities of Christians forced to leave their homelands.

    Catholic young women launch self-led initiatives across U.S. after forum

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Attending a Catholic young women's leadership forum taught Michelle Nunez, 23, that "our vocation as women is to be receptive to God's gifts." What Nunez learned about the "feminine genius," a term used by St. John Paul II to describe the gifts of women, helps her, a year later, in her volunteer work with immigrants at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas. Nunez and 300 young women representing dioceses from all 50 states are using their specific gifts to carry out their "action plans" following the June 2016 Given Forum at The Catholic University of America. An initiative of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, the forum brought young Catholic women together for a weeklong immersion in "faith formation, leadership training and networking. We wanted each (of the attendees) to receive these truths: You are a gift; you have received specific gifts of nature and grace; the church and the world await your unique expression of the feminine genius," said Sister Bethany Madonna, a Sister of Life and co-chair of the event. Part of the application process required women to submit "action plans," new initiatives inspired by their own gifts, interests and leadership skills, which would be implemented in the months following the conference.

    Chicago auxiliary signs ad decrying postelection bigotry, violence

    CHICAGO (CNS) -- Auxiliary Bishop Albert Rojas of Chicago was one of more than a dozen Catholic signatories in the Chicago area to an ad decrying the "bigotry, intimidation and violence" unleashed since last November's national election. "A surge of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and discrimination against immigrants, refugees, African-Americans, Native Americans, LGBTQ individuals, and people with disabilities has threatened the well-being of so many throughout our city and our nation," said the ad, which appeared May 14 in Chicago Tribune. The ad, titled, "Out of Many, One -- Stand Against Injustice and Hatred," featured the assent of more than 150 signatories from Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other religious organizations. "As religious leaders, we are painfully aware of humanity's capacity for scapegoating the most vulnerable in times of uncertainty. We refuse to allow our differences to be used as vessels of hatred or targets of oppression," the ad said. "We stand in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters and condemn violence and hatred against them and their sacred sites. We also stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters against any attempts to create a Muslim registry. We commit ourselves to protecting the religious freedoms that contribute to our democracy and sustain our spiritual lives."

    Pope goes door to door, blessing the homes of the poor

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Like parish priests throughout Italy do during the Easter season, Pope Francis spent an afternoon May 19 going door to door and blessing homes. Continuing the "Mercy Friday" visits he began during the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis chose a public housing complex in Ostia, a Rome suburb on the Mediterranean Sea. The Vatican press office said Father Plinio Poncina, pastor of Stella Maris parish, put up signs May 17 announcing a priest would be visiting the neighborhood to bless houses. The signs, which indicate a date and give a time frame, are a common site in Italy in the weeks before and after Easter. "It was a great surprise today when, instead of the pastor, the one ringing the door bells was Pope Francis," the press office said. "With great simplicity, he interacted with the families, he blessed a dozen apartments" and left rosaries for the residents. "Joking, he apologized for disturbing people, however he reassured them that he had respected the hour of silence for a nap after lunch in accordance with the sign posted at the entrance to the building," the press office said.

    Vancouver hosts interfaith service for those affected by opioid crisis

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CNS) -- As the strains of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" filled the sanctuary of Christ Church Anglican Cathedral in Vancouver, one by one the people in the pews rose silently. Muffled sobbing could be heard from the back corner of the church as a prayer vigil for those affected by the city's opioid crisis ended. The May 18 prayer vigil was organized by an interfaith committee that included the Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver and Providence Health Care, the Catholic organization that runs several hospitals and community clinics in the city. The Rev. Peter Elliott, dean of the cathedral parish, said various religious organizations came together to hold the vigil because all had been affected by the opioid crisis in some way. He said the committee sought to provide an occasion to remember those lost to drug overdoses and to give their loved ones a chance to "honor them without the sting of stigma." Christopher De Bono, vice president of mission, ethics and spirituality at Providence Health Care, told the people gathered at the church, "Excellent care begins with the right facts." He said 120 people died of drug overdoses in British Columbia in March 2017, an average of four people per day. Most deaths occurred in private residences. De Bono said no one died at Vancouver's safe injection sites, adding, "Maybe we need to think critically about these services."

    Vatican takes key step forward for Father Flanagan's sainthood cause

    OMAHA, Neb. (CNS) -- The Vatican has taken a key step forward in the sainthood cause of Father Edward J. Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town, local officials said May 15. The Congregation for Saints' Causes found that the Archdiocese of Omaha's three-year investigation into Father Flanagan's life was thorough and without error, and includes evidence of a reputation for sanctity, said Steven Wolf, president of the Father Flanagan League Society of Devotion, which has helped lead the sainthood effort. "This cause is moving forward toward the next step, which we pray will move Servant of God Flanagan's status to that of 'venerable,'" Wolf said at a news conference at St. Cecilia Parish in Omaha attended by, among others, Omaha Archbishop George J. Lucas; Father Steven Boes, executive director of Boys Town; members of the tribunal and commissions the archbishop appointed to investigate the cause; and backers of the effort. The Vatican's investigation will continue, Wolf said, and focus on signs of heroic virtue, which could lead to the title "venerable." Generally, a miracle attributed to the intercession of Father Flanagan would be required for beatification, and a second miracle for sainthood. Wolf also thanked Archbishop Lucas and members of the tribunal, historical and theological commissions for their support and hard work, and presented them with gifts including a framed poster, coffee mug and greeting cards honoring Father Flanagan and the cause for sainthood.

    Jesuit Father Beaubien, 101, remembered as ecumenist, theologian

    MONTREAL (CNS) -- Jesuit Father Irenee Beaubien, 101, who founded what is believed to be the world's first center for ecumenism, is being remembered as a progressive theologian and a pioneer. He died in Richelieu, Quebec, May 15. In 1963, Father Beaubien opened the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism in Montreal, widely regarded as the first of its kind and designed to promote interfaith relations. He is also credited as being a driving force, working with the United and Anglican churches, in expanding the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity from being a solely Catholic affair into an international ecumenical event. "He made a marvelous contribution to extending the boundaries of the church's mission," said Paulist Father Thomas Ryan, a former director of the center, now head of the Paulist North American Office for Interfaith Relations in Boston. Archbishop Anthony Mancini of Halifax-Yarmouth called Father Beaubien "a pioneer. He was in on the ground floor of ecumenism when these conversations were taking place in private, before Vatican II, when it was not the official church line," said Archbishop Mancini, who worked with Father Beaubien in the 1970s.

    Ideological fanatics divide the Christian community, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians who turn doctrine into ideology commit a grave mistake that upsets souls and divides the church, Pope Francis said. From the beginning, there have been people in the church who preach "without any mandate" and become "fanatics of things that aren't clear," the pope said May 19 in his homily during Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae. "This is the problem: When the doctrine of the church, the one from the Gospel, the one inspired by the Holy Spirit -- because Jesus said, 'He will teach you and remind you of what I have taught!' -- when that doctrine becomes ideology. And this is the greatest mistake of these people," he said. The pope reflected on the day's first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (15:22-31), in which, after much debate, the apostles and presbyters send representatives to allay the concerns of the gentile converts after they were ordered by overzealous believers to follow Jewish practices if they wished to be saved. However, the apostles ruled that "it is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond" abstaining from meat sacrificed to idols and from strangled animals, blood and unlawful marriages.

    Malnutrition in Venezuela at humanitarian crisis level, Caritas says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With soaring food prices and a free-falling economy, child malnutrition in Venezuela has crossed the threshold of a humanitarian crisis, the local chapter of Caritas Internationalis said. The latest figures from a Caritas Venezuela report published May 16 show that in four states, including the country's capital, Caracas, 11.4 percent of children under the age of 5 "are suffering either from moderate or severe acute malnutrition. We are extremely worried, which is why we are going public with this series of reports. We have been monitoring levels of malnutrition and providing assistance to under-5s since October across four states: Distrito Capital, Vargas, Miranda and Zulia," said Janeth Marquez, director of Caritas Venezuela. The number rises to 48 percent when children under 5, who "are at risk or suffering lower levels of malnutrition, are included," the report stated. "You see the wasting and in some cases the edema -- all the classic images of starving children. In the villages, it's the children who are worst affected, but also the adults are very wasted," said Susana Raffalli, a humanitarian specialist in food emergencies for Caritas Venezuela.

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  • Alito: Freedom of religion, speech key to democracy but now under threat

    WYNNEWOOD, Pa. (CNS) -- The graduating class at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in the Philadelphia Archdiocese received a special treat at the Concursus graduation ceremony held in the seminary chapel May 17. U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. received an honorary doctorate of letters and delivered the formal address. The award to Alito was "in testimony to and recognition of his many outstanding contributions to society," Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said in his introduction, "especially in protecting the sanctity and dignity of human life, the full responsibilities of the human person and promoting true justice and lasting peace." In his address Alito spoke of the freedom of religion as enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution and encroachments on that freedom today. A southern New Jersey native, he is well versed in the history of religious toleration as it developed in Philadelphia, and the important role that religion played in the development of the Constitution, including the visits by the Founding Fathers to the city's various churches, among them Old St. Mary's, tracing back to the Revolution. Part of freedom of religion is "no one is forced to act in violation of his own beliefs," Alito said. "Most of my life Americans were instilled in this," he added, urging his audience to "keep the flame burning." In an interview for the seminarians' blog, "Seminarian Casual," Alito said that "our most foresighted Founders understood that our country could not hold together unless religious freedom was protected."

    Convocation 'great opportunity' for U.S. church, says religious sister

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Dominican Sister Marie Bernadette Thompson can't help but see things through a teacher's eyes after spending eight years teaching elementary and high school students and belonging to an order whose charism is education and the faith formation of young people. But the 42-year-old sister, who has been council coordinator for the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious since 2014, also is not opposed to being a student particularly when it comes to learning new ways to engage others in the faith and spread the Gospel message. She hopes to pick up some pointers from other church leaders from around the country this summer at the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America" July 1-4 in Orlando, Florida. The convocation, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is an invitation-only event meant to give the 3,000 participants expected to attend a better understanding of what it means to be missionary disciples in today's world through workshop presentations, keynote addresses and prayer.

    Notre Dame students plan walkout during Pence's commencement address

    SOUTH BEND, Ind. (CNS) -- A student activist coalition at the University of Notre Dame that opposes Vice President Mike Pence as this year's commencement speaker called for students to walk out of the May 21 ceremony when he begins his address. In a May 15 tweet labeled "Taking back our commencement," the group We StaND For invited graduates and others to "sit with a friend on your college. Stand up and walk out once Mike Pence starts to speak. Respectfully and quietly exit the stadium. Join us for a short commencement celebration." Earlier We StaND For announced members would protest Pence as a representative of the Trump administration and also for policies he supported as Indiana's governor, including a religious freedom law and a bill to restrict abortion. "Students who indicated they would protest by leaving the commencement ceremony when the vice president speaks met with the Notre Dame police chief this week and assured her they would leave quietly and respectively," Paul Browne, vice president for public affairs and communications, said May 18. "They also sought her advice as to which exit to use upon leaving. They are being cooperative, which was our expectation from the start," Browne added in an email sent to Catholic News Service.

    At anniversary Mass, officials recall spiritual roots of Montreal

    MONTREAL (CNS) -- Montreal's 375th anniversary celebrations kicked off inside Notre-Dame Basilica with a celebration emphasizing that Montreal was not born out of violence or greed, but as a spiritual endeavor. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, Cardinals Gerald Lacroix of Quebec and Thomas Collins of Toronto attended the May 17 Mass, along with some 30 bishops, 400 priests, religious men and women and special guests. The Mass celebrated the birth of Ville-Marie -- Montreal's original name -- in 1642. Archbishop Christian Lepine of Montreal recalled the memory of the founders of Montreal, "those adventurers of hope" who dared "set out without being sure of tomorrow." It is through "their faith in the beauty of the project of a city founded on spirituality, togetherness and solidarity" that Montreal was born, said Archbishop Lepine. These "founding values have gone through time and are still current," he said, recalling that "the value of living together is part of the genes of Montreal and its history." In a message to Archbishop Lepine, Pope Francis also noted the solidarity that drives Montreal and its inhabitants. "In fidelity to the evangelical intuitions of the founders of Ville-Marie, the Holy Father encourages all inhabitants of Montreal to build bridges between men, respecting their differences and thus contributing to the building of a more just and fraternal society," read Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, apostolic nuncio to Canada.

    Coptic pope meets Dublin archbishop during Ireland visit

    DUBLIN (CNS) -- Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II met Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin during a five-day visit to Ireland. "Christians in Egypt are now struggling for their existence," he told Archbishop Martin May 18. Archbishop Martin told Pope Tawadros that Irish Catholics were "very aware of the suffering that your Coptic community has endured even in recent weeks," a reference to a pair of terrorist attacks April 9 at two Egyptian churches. The Islamic State group claimed credit for the attacks, which killed at least 45 people, injured more than 100 others and shook the Middle East's largest Christian community to the core. Assuring the Coptic leader of his "prayerful solidarity," Archbishop Martin expressed the hope that Egypt could "become a beacon in the region for freedom of religion and for dialogue among all believers, especially with our Muslims sisters and brothers." Pope Tawadros also met Irish President Michael Higgins, other foreign officials and members of the Coptic Orthodox communities. He also consecrated two Coptic Orthodox churches in Dublin and Waterford.

    Prudence, pastoral concern guided Medjugorje commission, member says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- If the Catholic Church recognizes as "worthy of belief" only the initial alleged apparitions of Mary at Medjugorje, it would be the first time the church distinguished between phases of a single event, but it also would acknowledge that human beings and a host of complicating factors are involved, said a theological expert in Mariology. Servite Father Salvatore Perrella, president of the Pontifical Institute Marianum and a member of the commission now-retired Pope Benedict XVI established to study the Medjugorje case, said that although Pope Francis has not yet made a formal pronouncement on the presumed apparitions, "he thought it was a good idea to clear some of the fog." The pope's remarks to journalists May 13 on his flight from Portugal to Rome "were a surprise, but he told the truth," Father Perrella told Catholic News Service May 18. "For four years, the commission established by Pope Benedict investigated, interrogated, listened, studied and debated this phenomenon of the presumed apparitions of Mary" in a small town in Bosnia-Herzegovina. "The commission did not make a definitive pronouncement," he said, but in discussing the apparitions that supposedly began June 24, 1981, and continue today, the commission opted to distinguish between what occurred in the first 10 days and what has occurred in the following three decades.

    Illness a reminder of life's value, pope tells Huntington's patients

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The frailty associated with illnesses like Huntington's disease is not a reason to shun the sick but a reminder of the value of life, Pope Francis said. Jesus came to tear down the walls of stigma and marginalization and proved through his love that disease and sickness are "never an obstacle to encountering people," the pope said May 18 during a meeting with 1,700 people -- those with the fatal genetic disorder and their families. "Fragility is not an evil. And disease, which is an expression of fragility, cannot and must not make us forget that, in the eyes of God, our value is always priceless," he said. The meeting was sponsored by HDdennomore (pronounced "Hidden no more"), a coalition of neuroscientists, research experts and institutes with the goal of "ending the stigma and shame around the disease." Huntington's disease results in the death of brain cells and causes problems with a person's mental abilities, body coordination and movement. Since the disease's discovery in 1872, the uncontrollable movements that characterize the disease have led to the marginalization of those afflicted.

    Be open to God's love, bring joy to others, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bringing joy to others is the Christian's mission, and it requires remaining in God's love, living his commandments and loving without measure, Pope Francis said in a morning homily. "We Christians -- lay, priests, consecrated, bishops -- must give joy to the people" because of the selfless love shown first by Christ, he said May 18 in his homily during Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae. The pope reflected on the day's Gospel reading from John (15:9-11), in which Jesus tells his disciples: "As the father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love" by keeping his commandments. The list of Jesus' commandments is "very large," the pope said, but it all comes down to one thing: "the father's love for his son and his love for us." The world, on the other hand, offers other kinds of love like "the love of money, for example, the love of vanity, showing off, the love of pride, power, even doing lots of unjust things to have more power," he said.

    Papal celebration of Corpus Christi moves to Sunday

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will celebrate the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ and the Corpus Christi procession on a Sunday -- June 18 -- and not on the traditional Thursday feast day, which is June 15 this year. Throughout Italy and in most other countries, the feast was transferred to the following Sunday years ago. The pope celebrating on the Sunday "can strengthen the participation of the faithful in this solemn, public act of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament," said Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the papal vicar of Rome. Announcing the change in a letter May 1, the cardinal said he hoped changing the date of the celebration to a non-work day would allow more people to participate in the traditional procession through Rome from the Basilica of St. John Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major. The date of the papal celebration was announced by the Vatican May 18 along with a list of Pope Francis' other public liturgical celebrations for June. Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in St. Peter's Square on Pentecost June 4 and he will mark the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul with Mass June 29 in St. Peter's Basilica and the blessing of palliums to be given to new metropolitan archbishops.

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  • Remains of priest exhumed, verified as part of beatification process

    OKARCHE, Okla. (CNS) -- Early on the morning of May 10, the remains of Father Stanley F. Rother were exhumed from Holy Trinity Cemetery in Okarche and transported to Oklahoma City. As required by the Catholic Church for the beatification process, his remains were examined by medical professionals and re-interred in the chapel at Resurrection Cemetery in northwest Oklahoma City. In March, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City announced that Father Rother, one its native sons who worked in Guatemala and was brutally murdered there in 1981, will be beatified Sept. 23 in a ceremony in downtown Oklahoma City. Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes, will celebrate the beatification Mass along with Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City. Thousands of cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons and other Catholics from across the United States are expected to attend. Pope Francis recognized Father Rother's martyrdom last December, making him the first martyr born in the United States and clearing the way for his beatification. The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City sent Father Rother, who grew up on a family farm in Okarche, to its mission in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, in 1968. He served a poor and indigenous community in the area, helping build a small hospital, a school and its first Catholic radio station. But he also helped the agricultural community with its crops and to build an irrigation system.

    U.S. dioceses mark Fatima centennial with Masses, processions, devotions

    MERRILLVILLE, Ind. (CNS) -- Carl Marlburg says many Catholics, especially those with a traditional or devotional spirituality, are familiar with the Fatima message of prayer, repentance and the need to turn to God, but in the presence of the traveling statue of Our Lady of Fatima, even they are overcome by a sense of "motherly care. Pretty soon there are tears in their eyes, because they are thinking of a loving mother who is trying to help them stay on course, or get back on course," said Marlburg, a Munster resident, who is the presenter and custodian of the Fatima statue taken to Marian events around the world. Marlburg, who has traveled with the statue to dozens of countries since the late '90s, made the comments ahead of the Fatima centennial in an interview with the Northwest Indiana Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Gary. The Indiana diocese was among those around the world marking the centennial of the first apparition of Our Lady of Fatima to three shepherd children in Portugal. Local celebrations and international commemorations were held on the May 13 anniversary, in the days leading up to it and afterward. Many Marian devotions took place around a visit of the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue, coordinated by the Munster-based International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima Foundation.

    Upcoming St. Louis Taize event 'first step' to heal racial divides

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Although it has been three years since the riots broke out in Ferguson, Missouri, many of the wounds have still not healed. The racial divides -- at front and center during protests of the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer -- still linger. As a way to move the city toward healing, St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson has called on outside help, inviting brothers from Taize, an ecumenical community in France, to come to St. Louis. Many Catholics might be familiar with Taize because of its members' songs, often based on the Psalms and known for their simplicity and repetition. The order's charism is reconciliation. The brothers accepted the archbishop's invitation and a few have been in St. Louis for several months preparing for the May 26-29 Pilgrimage of Trust -- days of prayer and workshops and a walk through the city May 28. Four brothers in all plan to attend the weekend's events. While the brothers' monastery in the small village of Taize in central France is worlds away from tensions in middle America, these Catholic and Protestant brothers have devoted their lives to prayer and reconciliation -- which speaks to the post-Ferguson environment. Their monastery has long been a site of Christian pilgrimage for young adults who come by the tens of thousands each summer to camp out on the grounds seeking to renew their faith.

    Outside cities, Chinese grandparents pass on faith to their grandchildren

    HONG KONG (CNS) -- Every evening, no matter how busy or tired she may be, Yiu reads the Bible at home to her 7-year-old granddaughter. Sometimes, parishioners from Changzhi Diocese in north-central China's Shanxi province, come and join her, reports Changzhi Diocese has 80 churches and 37 prayer houses for its 60,000 Catholics. Among them, only four are in cities, 18 are in suburban areas and the rest in rural zones. Local people do not feel it is an exaggeration to tell visitors that one can find an old church in almost any village that has Catholics living there. However, in the past two decades, young and middle-aged villagers have moved to find better opportunities in the cities. Their participation in church activities also shifted from the rural church to the city, reports Shanxi is one of the handful provinces in China with more than 200,000 Catholics. Numerous Catholic villages can be found in this rural area, where the faith has been passed down the generations since Franciscan missionaries introduced Catholicism in 1716. Now, the province's historic rural churches are mostly used by the elderly and children.

    Railroad is beginning of line for 100-year-old South Carolina church

    WALHALLA, S.C. (CNS) -- For a century, a simple but serenely beautiful wooden building tucked away in the picturesque mountain town of Walhalla has been the spiritual home for Catholics. St. Francis of Assisi Mission was built by parishioners who donated their time, money, hours of sweat and labor, and even the wood, so they could have their own church. Today, the mission is home to a small but strong congregation who love and care for each other and treasure the little building passed down to them by that early group of dedicated people. On May 13, current and former members packed the small church nearly to overflowing for a 100th anniversary celebration. Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston celebrated Mass followed by a joyful reception in the parish hall. The bishop congratulated the members of St. Francis on their close-knit community. "People come to an understanding of who Jesus is through seeing others who live a Christian life well-lived, and for 100 years people here at St. Francis have been doing precisely that," he said.

    Sydney archbishop on Cardinal Pell: Justice must run its course

    SYDNEY (CNS) -- Public prosecutors have submitted recommendations to Victoria Police on whether to try Australian Cardinal George Pell on decades-old abuse allegations, but their advice has not been made public. Until police decide how to proceed, Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher said he will not be commenting on the case. "Justice must be left to run its course," Archbishop Fisher said in a statement May 17. Archbishop Fisher said Cardinal Pell, currently head of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, "has cooperated in every way with multiple police, parliamentary and Royal Commission investigations. Everyone supports just investigation of complaints, but the relentless character attacks on Cardinal Pell, by some, stand the principle of innocent-until-proven-guilty on its head," Archbishop Fisher said. "Australians have a right to expect better from their legal systems and the media. Even churchmen have a right to 'a fair go.'"

    Meeting pope gives hope to Huntington's disease patients, expert says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' meeting with families affected by Huntington's disease will bring much-needed attention and hope to men, women and children who often are ostracized and even left to die alone and unloved, a U.S.-based neuroscientist said. Especially in poor countries, people suffering from Huntington's, a neural degenerative disorder, face discrimination and are forced to live in areas that "almost look like a leprosy colony" because "nobody wants to mix with them," the neuroscientist Ignacio Munoz-Sanjuan told Catholic News Service May 17. "I think the fact that a figure like the pope is going to speak about (Huntington's) disease will hopefully generate enough interest," he said. "Because I think it's just unacceptable in any country that people are left to starve. I think we need to do better as a society." Munoz-Sanjuan co-founded HDdennomore (pronounced "Hidden no more"), a coalition of neuroscientists, research experts and institutes with the goal of "ending the stigma and shame around the disease." He joined Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and several families from South America at a Vatican press briefing on the eve of their May 18 meeting with Pope Francis. Huntington's disease, an incurable disorder that is genetically inherited, results in the death of brain cells and causes problems with a person's mental abilities, body coordination and movement.

    Vatican official urges Canadians to work to reverse euthanasia decisions

    TORONTO (CNS) -- The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled, Parliament has legislated and provinces have set up new systems. For most Canadians, the assisted suicide debate is last year's news story. But Cardinal Gerhard Muller, head of the Catholic Church's theological watchdog-agency, begs to differ. "We shall prevail," Cardinal Muller told an audience of bioethicists, theologians, doctors and nurses at Toronto's St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica May 15. The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith called Canada's turn to legalized euthanasia "tragic. Euthanasia not only constitutes a grave wrong in itself, but its legalization creates toxic and deadly social pathologies that disproportionately afflict the weakest members of society," Cardinal Muller said. The cardinal was in Toronto to deliver the keynote address at a Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute conference dedicated to the conscience rights of health care professionals. He urged members of the institute "to persuade Canadian citizens to take the necessary steps to reverse the dangerous legal error of your Supreme Court and Parliament and, in the meantime, to protect the rights of conscience of health care providers who refuse to take the lives of those that they have sworn to treat and comfort."

    Commission reportedly thought first seven Medjugorje visions were real

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The commission that now-retired Pope Benedict XVI established to study the alleged apparitions of Mary at Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, reportedly voted overwhelmingly to recognize as supernatural the first seven appearances of Mary in 1981. However, according to a report published by the website Vatican Insider, the commission was much more doubtful about the thousands of alleged visions that have occurred since July 4, 1981, and supposedly continue to this day. Two of the 17 commission members and consultants thought the alleged visions after the period of June 24-July 3, 1981, were not supernatural, while the other members said it was not possible to make a judgment. The commission said it was clear that the six alleged visionaries and a seventh who claims to have begun receiving messages from Mary in December 1982 were not given adequate spiritual support. Vatican Insider published its piece on the report May 16, three days after Pope Francis spoke about some details of the report to journalists traveling with him from Fatima, Portugal. The Vatican press office May 17 declined to comment on the Vatican Insider piece.

    God dreams big, wants to transform world, defeat evil, pope says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God is right by the side of each person on earth, seeing each individual's pain and wanting to bring hope and joy, Pope Francis said. "He calls us by name and tells us, 'Rise up, stop weeping, because I have come to free you,'" the pope said May 17 at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square. The pope continued his series of talks on Christian hope by looking at the Gospel of John's account of St. Mary Magdalene visiting Jesus' tomb. She was the first to go to the tomb after his burial, he said, pointing out that the same love and loyalty can be seen today in the many women who head to the cemetery, visiting their dearly departed for years, showing how not even death can break the bonds of love. In Mary Magdalene's case, however, she experienced not only the sadness of Christ's death, but also the discovery that his body had disappeared, the pope said.

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  • After furor over remarks, DNC chair to meet with pro-life Dems' head

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After a furor erupted over his statement that the Democratic Party should support only those candidates who support legal abortion, Democratic National Committee chairman Thomas Perez will meet with the head of Democrats for Life of America, Kristen Day. Day, in a May 16 interview with Catholic News Service, said she had sought the meeting with Perez before he issued his statement prior to Democrat Heath Mello's loss May 9 in the mayor's race in Omaha, Nebraska. "We're still working on the date," said Day, who added she had been able to meet with previous DNC chairs Terry McAuliffe and Howard Dean, but not Perez's predecessor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Perez was criticized in pro-life circles when he said, "Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman's right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable," adding, "We must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice." Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who had given the invocation at both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in 2012, called Perez's remarks "disturbing." The cardinal, who is chairman of U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged members of the Democratic Party to "challenge their leadership to recant this intolerant position."

    San Francisco Catholics give thanks for the life of Archbishop Niederauer

    SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- Archbishop George H. Niederauer was remembered for his wit and his gifts as a teacher and spiritual director for two generations of priests during the funeral Mass for the retired leader of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Delivering the homily at the Mass for his lifelong friend at St. Mary's Cathedral May 12, Cardinal William J. Levada said Archbishop Niederauer lived his final days with "serenity in the face of death. We thank you, and we thank God for you," Cardinal Levada said of the man who succeeded him as archbishop of San Francisco. The cardinal quoted from Paul's letter to the Romans, which Archbishop Niederauer chose as the second reading for the Mass: "Whether we live or die, we are the Lord's." The Mass followed a May 11 vigil at Mission Dolores Basilica. Homilist Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego remembered Archbishop Niederauer for forging "unity and love" as leader of the eucharistic communities of San Francisco and Salt Lake City, where he was bishop for 11 years, before his appointment as archbishop. Archbishop Niederauer was a "great man of faith and service" who taught two generations of priests and seminarians, Bishop McElroy said.

    St. John Paul II Shrine with link to Fatima dedicated at New York church

    NEW YORK (CNS) -- On the 100th anniversary of the first Marian apparition at Fatima, a shrine was dedicated in New York May 13 to the memory of St. John Paul II, who credited Mary with saving his life after an assassination attempt in Rome on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima in 1981. The shrine is at St. Vincent Ferrer Church, whose pastoral care is entrusted by the Archdiocese of New York to the Dominican order. Dominican Father Thomas More Garrett told Catholic News Service that the idea for the shrine came from the serendipitous offer of a swatch of the blood-stained sash St. John Paul wore the day he was struck by four bullets in St. Peter's Square May 13, 1981. "Msgr. Slawomir Oder, the postulator of the pope's canonization cause, said he'd be willing to part with a small piece of the cloth if we could find a fitting place for the relic to be venerated," Father Garrett said. Mary appeared to three shepherd children at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. She first appeared May 13, and the apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13. When Mary appeared, she identified herself as Our Lady of the Rosary and instructed them to pray the rosary every day to bring peace to the world. The Dominicans have promoted devotion to the rosary since the 15th century and the late Dominican Father Thomas McGlynn consulted with Fatima visionary Sister Lucia dos Santos in 1947 while he sculpted a statue of Mary that is on display at St. Vincent Ferrer.

    Word of God, church need each other, cardinal tells Bible conference

    HOUSTON (CNS) -- The word of God and the Catholic Church need each other, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston told attendees at the National Catholic Bible Conference. "The word of God must increase within the whole church," he said in his homily at a Mass at St. John Vianney Catholic Church during the May 5-6 conference. "Hearing the word of God out loud at church (calls) for us to participate in community," he added. "The Liturgy of the Word feeds us to get us hungry for the Eucharist," Cardinal DiNardo said. The 1,300 conference attendees came from three countries and 35 states. At least 66 men and women religious also attended, joining catechetical leaders, teachers, ministers and lay Catholics all gathered to hear from biblical scholars and better understand the Bible and how to apply Scripture to daily life. John Bergsma, a theology professor at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, encouraged the faithful to be disciples of Christ, sharing his journey and experience as a convert to the Catholic faith. Bergsma noted that there were at least three converts on that weekend's conference speaking team.

    Priest stabbed while celebrating Mass in Mexico City

    MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- A priest was stabbed at the altar while celebrating Mass May 15 in Mexico City's Metropolitan Cathedral. The priest, Father Miguel Angel Machorro, was stabbed three times, according to media reports. Father Machorro was rushed to the hospital and underwent emergency surgery. His condition was listed as "delicate, but stable," according to media reports. In a tweet, Mexico City Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera offered prayers for the injured priest, "so that he is healthy and returns to his normal duties." The suspect was arrested at the scene. Mexico City security officials said the suspect identified himself as John Rock Schild, an American citizen, "approximately 28 years old" and an artist.

    Vatican official tells Hong Kong youths: Get involved in synod prep

    HONG KONG (CNS) -- Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, encouraged young Catholics in Hong Kong to get involved in preparation for the next Synod of Bishops, which will discuss young people. reported that during a 90-minute dialogue held May 13 with a group of mostly young Catholics, Cardinal Baldisseri explained how the church is preparing the October 2018 synod, which has the theme, "Young people, faith and vocational discernment." Cardinal Baldisseri added that the theme "referred to all young people on the earth, not just Catholics and Christians." He encouraged Hong Kong Catholics not to ignore the "opportunity to be involved" in the synod and to keep a look out "at the general secretariat website for a questionnaire, which you can fill out online." University student Philomena Poon and some other participants told they are interested in expressing their views.

    Iowan to celebrate two milestones: turning 97, 91st year as server

    IDA GROVE, Iowa (CNS) -- Leo "Doc" Samson will note two anniversaries June 2. The first is his 97th birthday. The second claim to fame is starting his 91st year of serving as an altar "boy." Samson and his wife, Peg, became daily Massgoers following his retirement in 1985. Peg died in 2013 at age 93 and her husband continued attending weekday Mass. Samson approached the pastor at the time, Father Gerald Fisch, in the early 1990s, when it was clear there was a scarcity of altar servers. The priest "was just tickled to death," he said, "so I asked the next pastors, Father (David) Hemann and Father (Richard) Ball if they would like my help and they said yes." His tenure as an altar server began way before that. Samson recalled being invited to serve at the altar immediately following his first Communion at St. John Church in Onawa. The greatest joy Samson receives from serving at the altar is that of being helpful to the pastor. "I also get the satisfaction of experiencing Christ in that way at Mass. It's hard to explain the joy you have doing this." he told The Catholic Globe, newspaper of the Diocese of Sioux City.

    Afghan women left everything behind -- except their sewing skills

    FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (CNS) -- Before Mahnaz left Afghanistan with her husband and four sons, she carefully packed beautiful black, red and white curtains in the few suitcases she could bring along to her new life in a country 7,000 miles away. They would be something familiar from her native land once she was surrounded by strangers whose language she didn't speak. But to her dismay, the curtains didn't fit the windows of her new home in Fredericksburg when she arrived a few months ago. "The curtains were special to me because I thought I might not be able to find them here," Mahnaz said, speaking in Dari through an interpreter. In Afghanistan, she could have easily made new curtains on one of the three sewing machines she owned -- one a gift from her mother, another from her mother-in-law, and the third a wedding present. So when Mahnaz heard that the Catholic Charities Office of Migration and Refugee Services in the Diocese of Arlington had distributed donated sewing machines to 14 women and one man last year, she hoped for one of her own. At the end of April, Mahnaz and nine other women studying English at the Fredericksburg office of Catholic Charities received sewing machines. Now they can sew for themselves and sew items to sell at craft fairs.

    U.S. urged to be more vigorous in protecting religious freedom globally

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A U.S. congressman told attendees at a Washington summit on Christian persecution that "more than ever before, vigorous U.S. leadership and diplomacy are needed to address religious freedom violations globally. Religious persecution is festering and exploding around the world. What has been unconscionable for decades, centuries, has gotten worse," Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, said May 12 in remarks at the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians. The May 10-13 summit was convened by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and drew several hundred religious leaders and victims of Christian persecution from around the world. Smith noted that a Washington conference held a month before, titled "Under Caesar's Sword," had "underscored the fact that Christians are the most persecuted religious community globally." In conjunction with that conference, a report was issued detailing the nature of persecution against Christians in different nations across the globe. "In many countries, Christians suffer genocide and face an existential threat. For many believers, refusal to renounce Jesus Christ means martyrdom, rape, torture and pain," Smith said.

    Pope wants synod dedicated to people in Amazon, archbishop says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis is considering dedicating a meeting of the Synod of Bishops to the concerns of the indigenous people of the Amazon region, a Peruvian archbishop said. Although the church has continued to assist the native populations in the Amazon, which occupies 63 percent of Peru, efforts must continue "to revitalize" the church and its work in the region, said Archbishop Salvador Pineiro Garcia-Calderon of Ayacucho, president of the Peruvian bishops' conference. "The Holy Father told us he would like a synod for the Amazonian people in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil," Archbishop Pineiro told L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper. In an interview published May 16, the archbishop said the Peruvian bishops met with Pope Francis for two and a half hours May 15 during the "ad limina" visit that bishops are required to make to the Vatican. The challenge of evangelizing in remote communities was among the main themes the bishops discussed with the pope, Archbishop Pineiro said.

    Vatican finance watchdog intensifies outreach to foreign authorities

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican's financial watchdog agency has beefed up its investigations with increased outreach to foreign authorities in a continued effort to prevent suspected money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Given the growing number of agreements it has made to share information with other foreign financial intelligence authorities and the "increasing complexity of potential money laundering schemes," the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority (AIF) made more than 700 requests to foreign authorities in 2016 -- up from about 200 requests in 2015 and just 20 requests in 2014. The requests can be for documents, data and information deemed relevant for preventing or countering criminal activity. "The main driver of the increase of the figures relating to the international cooperation and exchange of information is, on the one hand, the preventive and proactive approach taken by AIF at the international level and, on the other hand, the increase of counterparts, and lastly the sophisticated feature of cases ... involving several subjects and foreign jurisdictions," said the agency in its annual report for 2016. Rene Brulhart, president of the Financial Intelligence Authority, and Tommaso Di Ruzza, its director, presented the report at a Vatican news conference May 16.

    Bishops put U.K.'s future at top of list of election issues

    MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- The bishops of England and Wales have put the post-Brexit future of the United Kingdom at the top of a list of priority issues for Catholic voters to consider before the June 8 general election. In a two-page letter published May 15, the bishops reminded Catholics of their duty to vote and advised voters to question politicians seeking their support on a range of 10 key issues. The consideration at the top of the list was titled "leaving the European Union," and voters were asked to determine the attitude of candidates to the future status of EU citizens who live in the U.K. The bishops also invited voters to ask candidates what issues "should be the top priority when forming new international partnerships," adding that "human and workers' rights, the environment, and the development of the world's poorest countries" must be considered. In their preamble, the bishops said the election "takes place at a pivotal moment in the life of our nations as we prepare to leave the European Union," following the outcome of the June 2016 referendum on EU membership.

    World Youth Day logo shows symbols for Mary, Panama

    PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- A logo depicting symbols for Mary, Panama and the Panama Canal was selected as the winning design to promote World Youth Day 2019. The design by Amber Calvo, 20, a Panamanian student studying architecture, was chosen from 103 entries submitted for the event that will take place Jan. 22-27, 2019. The entries were first evaluated by a group of graphic design and marketing professionals who settled on three designs submitted for review by the WYD Executive Committee 2019 and the Vatican's Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. In introducing the logo, Archbishop Jose Ulloa Mendieta of Panama said the design "captures the message we wish to send to the youth of the world, the smallness of our country and the greatness of our heart, open to all held by the hand of Our Lady, who is a model of youth and courage, commitment and generosity, especially when she (said) yes to God's call." Calvo's design is in the shape of a stylized heart. It is two shades of blue with a red cross. The artwork includes a silhouette of Mary on the right at the moment she says, "Thy will be done" to God. The Panama Canal flows through Mary, symbolizing the pilgrim's path through Mary to Jesus.

    True peace can't be bought, it's a gift, pope says at morning Mass

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A peace that can be purchased can provide only a false sense of security that will not last in moments of trial and suffering, Pope Francis said during his early morning Mass. "The world teaches us a path of peace with anesthesia; it anesthetizes us to not see another reality of life: the cross," he said May 16. On the other hand, "the peace that Jesus gives is a gift; it is a gift of the Holy Spirit." The pope reflected on the day's Gospel reading (Jn. 14:27-31) in which Jesus promises his peace to his disciples. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid," Jesus said. This peace, the pope said, "goes forward amid tribulations" and is "not a sort of stoicism like that of a fakir. No, it is another thing."

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