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Posted: March 27, 2017, 5:30 pm

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Rhina Guidos

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The history of women and men religious in the United States is the history of American Catholicism and their archives reflect the rich role many played in weaving the fabric of the U.S. church, said a group of historians, scholars and archivists at a March 29 gathering in Washington to discuss religious order archives.

Archives particularly show the roles women religious played in the country's education, hospitals, immigrant communities and social movements, they said, and yet there's a danger of losing some of that history -- as well as that of their male counterparts -- as religious orders consolidate, convents merge or close, and their historical materials are discarded, lost or scattered.

When it comes to the records produced by the religious ministries of women religious, they tend to tell a richer story than official diocesan history, said Mary Beth Fraser Connolly, a panelist in "For Posterity: Religious Order Archives and the Writing of American Catholic History," part of a daylong series of events at The Catholic University of America aimed at discussing the fate of religious order archives.

Connolly mentioned the example of the official history of a parish school, where the priest is credited with its construction, but archives from women religious tell the story of how the women staffed the schools "for little to no salaries" and how they subsisted on other means of income to survive.

Connolly, continuing lecturer of history at Purdue University Northwest in Indiana, also gave the example of another "convent chronicle" she came across by an Italian immigrant, Sister Justina Sagale, who wrote about social settlement houses, the lives of Italian immigrant communities in Cincinnati as well as immigration laws that she felt negatively targeted Italians. Sister Sagale also told of an Italian teacher in one of the schools "who didn't have his papers yet" and was worried about the new law.

The account "provided a more complex understanding of Catholic American history," said Connolly, who has written about communities of women religious.

Another account from a group of women religious in Chicago mentions the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. assassination in 1968, but what's interesting in the account, in terms of Catholic history, is that the women mention traveling across town at night, driven by a priest.

In a simple entry, it documents some of the changes that were taking place in the daily lives of women religious following the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, Connolly said. It shows how the women were given more freedom to visit family, to have contact with others, how nieces and nephews were now more involved in their lives, how the women could watch TV, and, in general, how they were having more contact with the outside world.

"Things are starting to change and that's kind of nice and interesting," Connolly said.

Carol Coburn, professor of religious studies at Avila University in Kansas City, Missouri, said that as someone who is not Catholic, getting a glimpse at the records, as she was researching, was an "amazing experience for me."

"When we ask ourselves the question: What is the contribution of religious order records to the understanding of Catholicism? My answer is: everything," she said.

Religious order records include information about demographics, customs, financial records, all found in constitutions, annals, memoirs, photos and correspondence that members of the congregations kept, and they "add immensely to history of American Catholic life," she said.

"I would argue that to know the full history of American Catholicism, you have to know what religious orders were doing at any given historical point in time," said Coburn, who studies and writes about American Catholic sisters.

When it comes to women religious, Coburn said, the records show that women religious led Catholics and non-Catholics "in some of the most significant social movements in cultural and political transitions we've experienced in the 20th century." 

Because they were highly educated, women religious created and maintained institutions, served as faculty administrators "and CEOs of their communities and institutions, long before the vast majority of American women worked in these in these leadership roles," Coburn said. And they were participants, and in some cases, leaders in every major social movement since the 1960s, including providing treatment for HIV and AIDS patients, immigration, the anti-nuclear movement, violence against women and children, the environment, etc., Coburn said.

"This is part of all of our stories," she added. "I am not Catholic, but this part of my story because it is integrated so thoroughly within the American milieu."

While not everything in the records is important and sometimes focuses on the mundane, such as who was in charge of sweeping the back stairs and who named the convent dog, the archives have "potential to be gold mines for historians," said Connolly.

Malachy McCarthy, archivist for the Claretian Missionaries Archives in Chicago, said that if historical materials contained in religious order records are not made available, an inaccurate story will get told and gave the example of a landmark study that didn't paint an accurate picture of Latino Catholics in Los Angeles.

While the study, about Mexicans immigrating to Los Angeles from 1900 to 1945, painted a picture of Latino Catholics who didn't make many public displays of their faith, Catholic records and publications show otherwise. The Spanish-language Catholic weekly publication La Esperanza, for example, showed the vigorous and very public life of the Latino Catholic community in Los Angeles, in stark contrast to what was said in the study, McCarthy said.

"It shows you what happens when you don't have availability of sources," he said. It also shows the consequences -- incorrect information, which "becomes the canon," he said.

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Posted: March 30, 2017, 8:17 pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- President Donald Trump's executive order calling for a review of the Clean Power Plan jeopardizes environmental protections and moves the country away from a national carbon standard to help meet domestic and international goals to ease greenhouse gas emissions, said the chairman of a U.S. bishops' committee.

The executive order, signed March 28 at the Environmental Protection Agency, fails to offer a "sufficient plan for ensuring proper care for people and creation," Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice Florida, chairman of the bishop's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said in a statement March 29.

Trump, flanked by coal miners, said during the signing ceremony that his goal was to drive energy independence, bring back coal-mining and manufacturing jobs, and reduce the cost of electricity.

Explaining that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined Pope Francis in supporting environmental stewardship and has long called for the U.S. to curtail carbon emissions, Bishop Dewane said the order "means that, sadly, the United States is unlikely to meet its domestic and international mitigation goals."

The USCCB has called for a national climate standard in recent years without supporting any particular economic, technical or political approach.

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, who preceded Bishop Dewane as committee chairman, welcomed the Clean Power Plan when it was introduced in August 2015. He called it "an important step forward to protect the health of all people, especially children, the elderly and poor and vulnerable communities, from harmful pollution and the impacts of climate change."

The plan called for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by 2030 by about 32 percent from 2005 levels. It set targets for each state to reach. Coal-fired power plants are the nation's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Bishop Dewane suggested that an integral approach involving various components of U.S. society can reduce power plant emissions and still encourage economic growth and protect the environment.

"Many states have already made great progress toward carbon mitigation goals under the CPP, and this momentum ought to be encouraged and not hindered," he said.

In his statement, the bishop cited Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," which focuses attention on "the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor."

"With this recent order," Bishop Dewane continued, "the administration risks damage to our air, our waters and, most importantly, our people, particularly the poor and vulnerable, without proposing a concrete and adequate approach to meet our stewardship obligations as a nation."

A Catholic Relief Services official said the agency was "profoundly disappointed" by Trump's action.

"Climate change is hurting agriculture, spreading disease and making natural disasters worse all around the world," Bill O'Keefe, vice president for government relations and advocacy, said in statement March 30. "Refusing to help now will only lead to more conflict, migration and instability, and that is not in the U.S. interest."

O'Keefe also cited Pope Francis' encyclical in calling for humanity to remember its "moral obligation to stop damaging the environment and help those who have been harmed by it."

"Investments in climate resiliency are investments that help small farmers deal with drought and poor villages strengthen their defenses to typhoons and floods. These are the people Pope Francis called on us to help," he said.


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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Posted: March 30, 2017, 7:54 pm

IMAGE: CNS/Bob Roller

By

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican hopes that U.S. bishops and others will continue to raise their voices in defense of the obligation to fight climate change and, in time, can persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to change his position, a top Vatican official said.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, told a group of reporters March 30 that there is concern at the Vatican over Trump's policies, including on the environment.

Trump's position on immigration and his efforts to roll back U.S. commitments on environmental regulations are "a challenge for us," said the cardinal, whose office works on both questions and is charged with assisting bishops around the world as they promote Catholic social teaching.

Still, he said, "we are full of hope that things can change."

The first sign of hope, he said, is the growing number of "dissenting voices," who are calling attention to the scientific facts surrounding climate change and the ethical obligation to act to protect the environment for current and future generations.

"This, for us, is a sign that little by little, other positions and political voices will emerge, and so we hope that Trump himself will reconsider some of his decisions," the cardinal said.

"Various American bishops have already spoken about the president's position, and this could have an influence," he said. Perhaps, Trump will come to see that not all the promises he made in the campaign would be good for the country, he added.

A change in position is not impossible, Cardinal Turkson said. "There is another superpower -- China -- that is rethinking its position" and has allocated funds for programs to reduce dangerous emissions. "One hopes it is not only because it is a country with ever more smog and pollution."

The cardinal's remarks came a day after the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development said Trump's executive order calling for a review of the Clean Power Plan jeopardizes environmental protections and moves the country away from a national carbon standard to help meet domestic and international goals to ease greenhouse gas emissions.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the committee, said in a statement March 29 the order fails to offer a "sufficient plan for ensuring proper care for people and creation."

Bishop Dewane suggested that an integral approach involving various components of U.S. society can reduce power plant emissions and still encourage economic growth and protect the environment.


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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Posted: March 30, 2017, 5:15 pm

IMAGE: CNS/World Meeting of Families

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis urges families to discover God's love and be generous, forgiving, patient, helpful and respectful.

Family life will be better if people use the words "please," "thank you," and "I'm sorry" every day, he said, and the world will be a better place if the church reaches out to the imperfect and the wounded.

The pope's reflection was part of a letter to Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, which is helping plan the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Aug. 21-26, 2018. The Vatican released the text of the pope's letter March 30.

When asked about the pope's plans to attend the event next year, Cardinal Farrell told reporters at a Vatican news conference, "We hope. I can't say absolutely" since it depends on the pope's schedule, but the pope has expressed his desire to go.

The letter was meant to help Catholic families and parishes around the world prepare for the gathering, which will focus on the theme, "The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World." The pope said he hoped the event would help families reflect on and share his apostolic exhortation, "Amoris Laetitia."

"Does the Gospel continue to be a joy for the world? And also, does the family continue to be good news for today's world?" the pope asked.

The answer is, "yes," he said, because God's love is his "yes" to all of creation and a "'yes' to the union between man and woman, in openness and service to life in all its phases; it is God's 'yes' and his commitment to a humanity that is often wounded, mistreated and dominated by a lack of love."

"Only starting from love can the family manifest, spread and regenerate God's love in the world. Without love, we cannot live as children of God, as couples, parents and brothers," he said.

Making sure family life is "based on love, for love and in love" means "giving oneself, forgiving, not losing patience, anticipating the other, respecting. How much better family life would be if every day we lived according to the words, 'please,' 'thank you,' and 'I'm sorry.'"

Every day, people experience fragility and weakness, Pope Francis said. All families and pastors need humility so they will become better disciples and teachers, better at helping and being helped, and able to accompany and embrace all people of goodwill.

"I dream of an outbound church, not a self-referential one, a church that does not pass by far from man's wounds, a merciful church that proclaims the heart of the revelation of God as love, which is mercy," he said.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin told reporters that the pope's letter shows the clear, central role families have in the pope's great dream of renewal of the church and society.

"The family is called to be a place of encounter with that divine mercy which heals and liberates," he said. The family is where spouses learn to love "not in vague romantic terms but in terms of their everyday realities and difficulties."

"The pope's vision of the mission of the family does not attempt to hide the fact that families experience challenges, weakness, fragility and even breakdown," the archbishop said. "Families need a church which is with them, accompanying them in a process of discernment and integration though helping them to respond with a 'yes' to the divine love."

Happy, loving families should be recognized and be a resource for the renewal of the church and world, he said.

But the church, Archbishop Martin said, also must be "a place where those who have failed can experience not harsh judgment, but the strong embrace of the Lord which can lift them up to begin again to realize their own dream even if only imperfectly."

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Posted: March 30, 2017, 2:20 pm

IMAGE: CNS/Junno Arocho Esteves

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Recent popes have had a special affection for Our Lady of Fatima, but no pope's connection can match that of St. John Paul II.

"We cannot forget that he was saved by Our Lady of Fatima from the assassination attempt here in St. Peter's. This is fundamental and central. It is never forgotten," Portuguese Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, former prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, told Catholic News Service March 29.

Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turk, shot Pope John Paul at close range as the pope was greeting a crowd in St. Peter's Square on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, May 13, 1981.

Two bullets pierced the pope's abdomen, but no major organs were struck; a bullet had missed his heart and aorta by a few inches.

St. John Paul would later say, "It was a mother's hand that guided the bullet's path."

That miracle, the cardinal said, is key in "understanding well Pope John Paul's devotion to Our Lady of Fatima."

Given the date of the assassination attempt, the pope specifically credited Our Lady of Fatima with his miraculous survival and recovery. Several months later, he visited the site of the apparitions, the first of three visits he would make as pope to Fatima.

For St. John Paul, Cardinal Saraiva Martins said, "Our Lady of Fatima was everything," and his three visits to the Portuguese town were those of a grateful son to the mother who saved his life.

"I still remember -- I'll never forget it -- when he arrived at the little chapel of the apparitions where (the statue of) Our Lady of Fatima was," Cardinal Saraiva Martins recalled.

St. John Paul was holding one of the bullets that had struck him and slowly approached the statue, finally placing the bullet in her crown, he said. "It is still in the crown today. I witnessed these gestures, how he expressed his devotion to Our Lady. He would just walk closer and closer to Our Lady and would repeat: 'You saved me, you saved me.'"

As the prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes from 1998 to 2008, Cardinal Saraiva Martins also oversaw the process leading to the beatification by St. John Paul of Jacinta and Francisco Marto, two of the three young shepherd children, who saw Mary at Fatima.

The cardinal also shared a personal friendship with the third seer, Carmelite Sister Lucia dos Santos, who died in 2005.

It was Cardinal Saraiva Martins who, two years after Sister Lucia's death, urged Pope Benedict XVI to waive the five-year waiting period before her sainthood cause could be opened.

"The pope was very kind. He said, 'Yes, you know more about this than I do. We will do as you say,'" the cardinal recalled.

Pope Benedict, the cardinal added, was a "great devotee" of Our Lady of Fatima, even before his election to the papacy.

Interviewed in his apartment near St. Peter's Square, Cardinal Saraiva Martins grabbed a copy of part of the interview then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger did in 1985 with Vittorio Messori, an Italian journalist.

"Before becoming pope, he said: 'A stern warning has been launched from that place ... a summons to the seriousness of life, of history, to the perils that threaten humanity,'" the cardinal read.

The special papal bond with Our Lady of Fatima continues today with Pope Francis, who as archbishop of Buenos Aires, was a frequent visitor to a shrine in the Argentine city devoted to her, Cardinal Saraiva Martins said. Pope Francis will visit Fatima May 12-13 to mark the 100th anniversary of the apparitions.

The cardinal recalled Pope Francis' "beautiful" words to Portuguese-speaking pilgrims on May 13, 2015, the 98th anniversary of the apparition: "Entrust to her all that you are, all that you have, and in that way you will be able to become an instrument of the mercy and tenderness of God to your family, neighbors and friends."

"This an example of the words of Pope Francis, so he is a great devotee of Fatima," the cardinal said. "And for this reason, he will go to Fatima. For him, it will be an extraordinary day in which he will fulfill this great desire that has been expressed in so many ways."

Devotion to Our Lady of Fatima is emblematic of the popes of the last century who have "always recognized" the relevance of Mary's message, particularly its emphasis on faith, conversion, hope and peace, the cardinal said.

"Today we need faith, to be closer to God and our brothers and sisters -- not hate each other -- we need hope and we need peace," Cardinal Saraiva Martins said. "In short, the message of Fatima given 100 years ago is of extreme relevance."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Posted: March 30, 2017, 2:05 pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review

By Erik Zygmont

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Mourners from near and far, and all walks of life and various creeds, filled the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Homeland March 28 for the funeral Mass of Cardinal William H. Keeler, 14th archbishop of Baltimore.

Thirty prelates, including six cardinals, and dozens of priests and deacons mourned Cardinal Keeler, who died March 23 at 86, and commended his soul to God.

Dignitaries and officials came to pay their respects, including Maryland Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., Baltimore County Executive Kevin B. Kamenetz, retired U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and State Sen. James "Ed" DeGrange Sr.

In his closing remarks, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori ranked Cardinal Keeler among the most illustrious of his predecessors, including Archbishop John Carroll, the nation's first archbishop, Cardinal James Gibbons (1877-1921) and Cardinal Lawrence Shehan (1961-1974).

While he was a churchman of the highest stature, to be sure many came to Cardinal Keeler's funeral to remember a man who had simply never forgotten them.

"He always remembered who I was and what church I came from," said Jo Anne Harris, mother of Father Raymond Harris, who was ordained by Cardinal Keeler and now is pastor of Holy Family Parish in Randallstown. "You would always get a smile and a handshake, and you knew it wasn't phony. It was from the heart."

Sheila Peter, a cathedral parishioner, remembered bringing her son, Tommy, then 10, to see Cardinal Keeler in the sacristy after a Good Friday veneration of the cross.

"I said, 'Here's a big fan of yours,' and the cardinal held his (zucchetto) over Tommy's head and we took a picture," she told the Catholic Review, Baltimore's archdiocesan news outlet.

In his homily, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York described the "indefatigable, friendly, ever-unflappable gentleman of faith, William Cardinal Keeler," who took to heart a bit of advice to priests from St. John Paul II:

"Love for Jesus and his church must be the passion of your life."

"He not only knew the quote, he lived it and radiated it," Cardinal Dolan said.

He and others acknowledged that Cardinal Keeler's passion overflowed, particularly in the ecumenical and interreligious arena.

When he stepped down as moderator for Jewish affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a position that included co-chairing key dialogue between the two faiths, Cardinal Keeler asked Cardinal Dolan to take over, the latter recalled.

"I had rehearsed my 'No,' having just arrived in New York and obviously preoccupied, but he described the dialogue with such zeal and excitement, it sounded like he was inviting me to a game at Camden Yards, with all the cold beer and hotdogs, kosher, I could eat," Cardinal Dolan said.

Cardinal Keeler's "zeal and excitement" for working with the Jewish community was reciprocated.

Before the funeral Mass, Rabbi Abie I. Ingber, executive director of the Center for Interfaith Community Engagement at Xavier University in Cincinnati, reflected on what the cardinal had meant to him.

"We could start with the word 'everything,'" Rabbi Ingber said, recalling how Cardinal Keeler had introduced him to St. John Paul II in 1999, a meeting that "directed" the next 18 years of his life, inspiring him to help build an exhibit on the saint and the Jewish people, "A Blessing to One Another."

Over the years, Rabbi Ingber and Cardinal Keeler continued their correspondence and visits, and the rabbi visited the cardinal, when his health was failing, at St. Martin's Home for the Aged.

"I asked for his blessing and I gave him mine," Rabbi Ingber said.

As he looked around the cathedral, he noted that his grandparents had been murdered in the Holocaust.

"Here I am, the grandchild of Jews who were killed at the Holocaust, lovingly seated at the funeral of a cardinal of the Catholic Church," he said. "That's a good world."

The liturgy included a message from Pope Francis, read by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., in which the pope expressed his condolences for the loss of the "wise and gentle pastor."

The readings and Gospel held special meaning for the cardinal, who chose them himself.

In the first reading, from the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses exhorts the Israelites to "love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, your whole being, and with your whole strength."

The cardinal's episcopal motto, "Do the work of an evangelist," came from the words of the second reading from St. Paul's Second Letter to Timothy: "But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry."

The Gospel described Jesus' call to his first apostles, Peter, Andrew, James and John, who left their work as fishermen to follow him.

At the conclusion of Mass, Archbishop Lori, the main celebrant, thanked members of the cardinal's family "for sharing Cardinal Keeler with us all these many years, and sharing him so generously."

He also thanked the Little Sisters of the Poor, who operate St. Martin's Home, "for welcoming him into your home as you would welcome Christ." The sisters received a standing ovation.

The archbishop also reflected on the last four or five years of Cardinal Keeler's life, drawing a parallel between it and the "grand silence," a former seminary tradition that called for silence from 9 p.m. every evening until Mass was celebrated the following day.

It was not the most popular rule, the archbishop remembered, "and rumor has it there were many infractions -- I wouldn't know about that."

Nevertheless, Archbishop Lori said, the grand silence was valuable as a time of prayer and rest which "taught the important lesson of preparing one's mind and heart for the next day and the important responsibilities each new day brings."

Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and former archbishop of Baltimore, offered the final commendation, and Cardinal Keeler's eight pallbearers carried his remains out of the cathedral, where deacons, priests, bishops and cardinals chanted "Salve Regina."

A funeral procession took his remains to their final resting place, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption in Baltimore.

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Zygmont is on the staff of the Catholic Review, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Posted: March 29, 2017, 6:31 pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic environmental advocates decried President Donald Trump's executive order that would begin a review of his predecessor's Clean Power Plan, which set targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The advocates said that reversing any effort that reduces greenhouse gas pollution endangers the planet and puts the world's most vulnerable people at risk because of climate change.

Citing the efforts by Pope Francis, Pope Benedict, St. John Paul II and the U.S. bishops to address the importance of protecting the environment, Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, said Trump's action "neither protects our common home nor promotes the common good."

"The administration claims that these new orders will create jobs and grow the economy," Misleh said in a statement March 28, the day Trump signed the order. "The fact is, however, that those who work in energy conservation and renewable energy are already experiencing an economic boom."

Misleh also called for bipartisan cooperation to reach solutions to climate change.

Trump, flanked by coal miners, signed the order, titled "Energy Independence." In his remarks at the EPA, the president said the country will still have clean water and clean air, but his order seeks to eliminate what he said are too many job-killing regulations.

The president said his goal was to drive energy independence and bring back coal-mining and manufacturing jobs while reducing the cost of electricity.

According to Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network, Trump's order indicates the administration "does not care about climate change" or protecting people of color and low-income and indigenous communities that are most likely to experience the effects of pollution.

"By cutting the Clean Power Plan, the administration is demonstrating that corporate polluters are more important than the health and prosperity of our common home," Carolan said in a statement.

Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, episcopal liaison to the Catholic Climate Covenant, did not refer specifically to the executive order during a March 28 conference call -- introduced as " President Trump's Dirty Energy Executive Order Conference Call" -- that was held shortly before Trump's executive order was issued.

But he cited three effects of climate change: the increasingly intense weather events that "we believe are an assault on God's creation" and which affect the world's poor more drastically than others; the support the U.S. bishops, as well as Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services, have given, in a letter to Congress, of the Clean Power Plan, vehicle fuel economy standards, the Green Climate Fund and the Paris climate agreement; and a growth in jobs from alternative energy efforts.

"Pope Francis could not be more strong on jobs," said Bishop Pates, who referred to the pope's 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home."

"He believes that providing work is a moral imperative of every economy." In Iowa, he added, 35 percent of the state's energy comes from wind or solar power, and has created 17,300 jobs, and has been cited by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, as having been a source for "good, high-paying jobs, helping families grow."

Bishop Pates said the bishops and their allies would "work closely" with the White House, Congress and "everybody who's involved with this."

Others on the conference call with the bishop described other effects of the Trump order.

"The American Lung Association and its partners from coast to coast will push back," said Lyndsay Moseley Alexander, assistant vice president and director of its Healthy Air Campaign, citing the projected loss of 300,000 school and work days a year to 2030, and an estimated 3,600 "lives ended prematurely," if the Clean Power Plan is scuttled.

The executive order also would have deleterious effects on the military, according to Stephen Cheney, a retired Marine brigadier general who is CEO of the American Security Project. "On the domestic side, it certainly threatens our coastal military bases with sea-level rise, and increases the risk to our soldiers, sailors, Air Force and Marines," he said. Internationally, he added, "it also acts as a threat multiplier all over the world."

Shannon Baker-Branstetter, energy and environment policy counsel for Consumers Union, said the goal of short-term gain risks the Clean Power Plan's long-term benefits, pointing to an estimated $150 a year in annual savings per household on utility bills by 2030. Medical saving costs also would result from cleaner power, Baker-Branstetter added.

Reverting to old ways means a higher likelihood of weather-related crop failures, meaning higher food costs and insurance premiums. "They shift the cost away from polluting entities and onto families," she said. Baker-Branstetter also voiced concern that the executive order could " prohibit the government from quantifying the impact" of the changes ordered by Trump.

Gina McCarthy, a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard's Kennedy School and former EPA administrator, charged in a statement that the Trump administration wants "us to travel back to when smokestacks damaged our health and polluted our air, instead of taking every opportunity to support clean jobs of the future."

"This is not just dangerous; it's embarrassing to us and our businesses on a global scale to be dismissing opportunities for new technologies, economic growth and U.S. leadership," said McCarthy, who is Catholic.

Thomas J. Donohue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce president, supported Trump's action to "make regulatory relief and energy security a top priority."

"These executive actions are a welcome departure from the previous administration's strategy of making energy more expensive through costly, job-killing regulations that choked our economy," he said in a statement released late March 27.

Beyond the Clean Power Plan, Trump's order prioritizes the development of domestic coal, oil and natural gas reserves over renewable energy sources and opens federal land to coal leases. The president's blueprint calls for dismantling many of the environmental initiatives of President Barack Obama that were meant to address what the vast majority of scientists have concluded is human-caused climate change.

The Trump administration has maintained that there can be a balance between the need for jobs and economic growth and protecting the environment.

Coal usage for electrical power generation has seen a decline in recent years as utility companies converted plants from coal to less costly natural gas during the past decade.

While Trump has ordered a review of the Obama's signature plan, it has been on hold, however, as a federal appeals court weighs a legal challenge from 27 states and 100 companies. The plan was Obama's primary tool to meet the country's emissions reductions goals under the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Meanwhile, the CEO of the nation's largest privately held coal company urged Trump to "temper his expectations" about mining industry jobs making a comeback.

Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy, told The Guardian newspaper March 27 that he supported the review of the Clean Power Plan, but that it was market forces, rather than government regulations, that largely affect employment in the U.S. coal industry.

Critics have described the Obama-era plan as an overreach by the EPA that exceeds the original intent of the Clean Air Act. Supporters have said the plan would lead to thousands of clean energy jobs, reduce illnesses caused by air pollution and slow climate change.

The plan called for reducing power plant emissions by 2030 by about 32 percent from 2005 levels. It set targets for each state to reach. Coal-fired power plants are the nation's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

The EPA introduced the Clean Power Plan in August 2015, 26 months after Obama outlined general principles for tighter limits on power plant emissions in a speech at Georgetown University. He also stressed then the importance of meeting the country's growing electrical demand through renewable energy sources and called for efficiency upgrades to the country's electrical grid.

The Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Michigan, said Trump's action "sends a dangerous signal to the rest of the world that the United States is reneging on its pledge to cut carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2025, putting the historic Paris agreement -- and the well-being of people and planet -- in jeopardy."

The Paris climate agreement has been ratified by 134 of the 197 countries that approved it in December 2015 under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. President Barack Obama ratified the agreement on his own, bypassing the U.S. Senate. The agreement went into force last October after enough countries ratified it.

The Dominicans' statement said Trump's order "will not put all coal miners to work (because) most mining is increasingly mechanized."

"It will give a green light to planet-warming carbon pollution, threatening to relegate our children to an irreversible future of extreme weather events, droughts, floods, and untold billions in costs to adapt to these harmful impacts," it said.

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Contributing to this report was Mark Pattison in Washington. Follow Sadowski and Pattison on Twitter: @DennisSadowski and @MeMarkPattison.

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Posted: March 29, 2017, 3:23 pm

IMAGE: NS photo/Ammar Awad, Reuters

By Dale Gavlak

ZAATARI, Jordan (CNS) -- As the U.N. secretary-general visited the world's biggest camp for Syrian refugees in late March, he made an impassioned plea: Stop Syria's devastating war.

"I want to make a strong appeal to the parties of the conflict and those who have an influence on (them) to understand that we must make peace," Antonio Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister, told reporters at the camp on the eve of a summit gathering Arab leaders on the shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan.

"This has not only become a tragedy for the Syrian people, but it has become a threat to the stability of the region, a global security threat for the world, as terrorism is benefiting from the crisis in Syria and other crises in the world," he said.

Guterres, 67, is no stranger to the camp, having served as the U.N. refugee agency's high commissioner for a decade, visiting the dusty desert facility numerous times. He headed UNHCR when the Syrian conflict broke out in March 2011. But this visit was different, now as the U.N. chief, coming with the burden of Syria's grinding war on his shoulders.

"I remember six years ago at the border, when I saw the first Syrian refugees coming to Jordan. How sad it is, how terrible it is, that today we still have Zaatari camp ... and that the tragedy of Syrians is going on and on and on," he said.

Syria's war has killed more than 320,000 people and has forced 4.9 million people to flee their country.

Guterres is a practicing Catholic and clearly demonstrates his compassion for people. He listened carefully to the concerns of refugee women battling family violence and early marriage in the camp of some 80,000.

"These things are very worrying. Are there people to listen and solve the problems?" he asked, inquiring about the appropriate support systems available to help them.

He empathized with another woman requesting the need for family reunification. Her husband and a son are now in Germany; another son is in Turkey; she and two other sons are in Zaatari camp.

"This is not good. It would be much better if everyone could be reunified," Guterres told her.

"When I was head of UNHCR, we discussed family reunification a lot. It always seemed like the right thing to do. But, unfortunately, a lot of countries are still not willing to do it. But we will see what we can do," the U.N. chief said.

Guterres' face lit up as he visited a boisterous classroom of fourth-grade refugee children learning English. He encouraged a special book club and information technology forum, dubbed the "Tiger Girls," to keep pursuing their dreams.

The adolescent girls are championing reading and are considered role models for their community. He encouraged them to do well in school so they can one day return to Syria and perhaps become members of parliament.

One told him that she wanted to become a psychologist when she grew up, to help her people traumatized by the conflict.

Guterres told the teen that his wife and sister are psychiatrists. "Psychiatrists do very important things. They make people feel happy again."

"He is very open about his Catholic identity," said Msgr. Robert Vitillo, secretary-general of the Geneva-based International Catholic Migration Commission. "I have always found him so passionate and compassionate for refugees and how he tries to find a solution.

"While visiting refugee camps, he isn't someone who goes off in a suit and tie. He went as someone who really wanted to listen. You could see that he is someone who cares a great deal. This is what impresses me most about him," Msgr. Vitillo told Catholic News Service by phone.

"People are the center of his attention. This will make him a very good secretary-general of the U.N.," said the church leader.

Msgr. Vitillo served for years as the Caritas Internationalis head of delegation to the United Nations in Geneva before assuming his current post with the International Catholic Migration Commission.

The commission is a network of Catholic bishops' conferences and organizations that work with migrants and refugees, and it advocates on the global level. In the Mideast, the commission provides humanitarian assistance inside Syria, including medical services for pregnant women and children, and makes available safe play spaces for children.

Guterres has established new procedures at the U.N. against sexual abuse to address violations carried out in by U.N. peacekeepers and staff. There are now internal controls to prohibit someone with such history from consideration for a U.N. job, Msgr. Vitillo said.

"He made it absolutely clear that there is zero tolerance for such behavior. I'm very impressed with his strong stand on this," Msgr. Vitillo said. "We have to make sure that this is not happening in the refugee community."

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Posted: March 29, 2017, 2:20 pm

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Hope is not built on people's predictions, assurances or line of reasoning, Pope Francis said.

Real Christian hope "is not based on our word, but on God's Word" and promises of salvation and eternal life, the pope said during his general audience in St. Peter's Square March 29.

Continuing a series of reflections on how the Apostle Paul describes the nature of Christian hope, the pope looked at how Abraham's faith is held up as a model for everyone in the apostle's Letter to the Romans (4:16-25).

Despite all logic -- Abraham was old and his wife infertile -- Abraham "believed, hoping against hope that he would become 'the father of many nations,'" which shows how faith is so closely connected to hope, the pope said.

"Our hope is not based on human reasoning, predictions and assurances," he said; real hope arises "where there is no more hope, where there is nothing left to hope for."

True hope "is rooted in faith and, precisely for this reason, it is able to go beyond all hope" because it is built on faith in God and his promise, he said.

"This is the paradox and, at the same time, the strongest part," he said, because from a human point of view, that promise seems "unsure and unforeseeable."

Looking at the people gathered for the general audience, the pope asked them if they really believed in God's love for them and his promise of eternal life.

"There is only one price" to be paid for this, he said. "Opening your heart. Open your hearts and God's power will carry you forward. He will do miraculous things and he will teach you what hope is."

Just "open your heart to faith and he will do the rest," he added.

Mary, too, believed in the unbelievable when the angel told her she would become the mother of God, the pope said in remarks to pilgrims from Arabic-speaking countries, particularly Iraq.

Like Mary, they are called to embrace that which they do not understand God is doing, and to open their hearts and minds to him, so that his will may be done, he said.

He later launched an appeal for more to be done to protect civilians in Iraq, reaffirming his prayers for civilians trapped in parts of Mosul and those displaced by war.

The pope also greeted a delegation of Iraqi authorities representing Shiites and Sunnis, and one representing Christians and other religious minorities, who were accompanied by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

"The richness of the beloved Iraqi nation lies precisely in this mosaic that represents unity in diversity, the strength of union, prosperity in harmony," the pope said.

He encouraged them to continue their efforts and invited people to pray that "Iraq may find peace, unity and prosperity through reconciliation and harmony among its diverse ethnic and religious communities."

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Posted: March 29, 2017, 2:03 pm

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the United States, gets plenty of questions about Pope Francis.

A March 27 discussion at Georgetown University, sponsored by the university's Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, was no exception. The nuncio, who sat onstage with John Carr, the initiative's director, was asked about the pope's key issues and his impact in the four years since his election.

Instead of emphasizing the pope's special qualities or accomplishments, Archbishop Pierre, who has been in the Vatican diplomatic corps for almost 40 years, stressed how Catholics are called to view the pope and essentially work with him in the mission of spreading the Gospel.

He told the audience, nearly filling a campus auditorium, that it is not a question of whether the pope is good or bad or if one agrees with him or not. The issue, for Catholics, is to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying through the pope.

"We have to pay a lot of attention to the person of the pope and to his message and to his testimony because the pope is not just words but he is also actions and actions that are powerful words," the nuncio said.

Archbishop Pierre, who was appointed to the U.S. post by Pope Francis last April, would not comment on the pope's approval ratings compared to politicians nor would he address the current political climate, but he stressed that one's personal faith can't be separated from daily life and that people need to use discernment even in civic duties like voting.

When asked about care for migrants in today's world, he said Christians should be the "soul of this country" and Catholics should follow the example of Pope Francis who goes out to the borders and reaches out to those who are broken and those who suffer.

"The church is in the business of evangelization," he added, saying this works best when the church "goes outside herself" to meet people where they are. And in a pointed statement to this country, he added: If America is the center of the world then it has "a huge responsibility to help others."

When the nuncio was joined on stage by other panelists, they reiterated the importance of the pope's message that has come across just as much from his actions as his words.

To sum up the pope's message to Catholics today, Ken Hackett, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See and former president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, looks to the example of the pope's visit to the United States in 2015 where the pope's presence, in front of Congress and with the poor, and his words at each stop made Catholics proud of their faith.

Kim Daniels, a member of the Vatican's Secretariat for Communications, said the pope's message has resonated not just with Catholics but also with those who have heard him even through social media. She said he has made the call to live out one's faith "something that's concrete and not abstract" and something "we can do right here, right now, where we are."

For Maria Teresa Gaston, managing director of the Foundations of Christian Leadership Program at the Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina, the pope has been clearest on his message of community, telling people, including "those who are undocumented: You are loved and valued."

She also points to his message to youths at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013 as something that still resonates with her. He told the crowd "not to be afraid, to take risks and to be courageous" stressing they should prepare for "courageous and prophetic action in solidarity with the earth and with the poor."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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Posted: March 28, 2017, 8:30 pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Edgard Garrido, Reuters

By David Agren

CUERNAVACA, Mexico (CNS) -- An editorial in a publication of the Archdiocese of Mexico City condemned Mexican companies wishing to work on the proposed wall being built on the U.S.-Mexico border as "traitors."

"What's regrettable is that on this side of the border, there are Mexicans ready to collaborate with a fanatical project that annihilates the good relationship between two nations that share a common border," said the March 26 editorial in the archdiocesan publication Desde la Fe.

"Any company that plans to invest in the fanatic Trump's wall would be immoral, but above all, their shareholders and owner will be considered traitors to the homeland," the editorial continued. "Joining a project that is a grave affront to dignity is like shooting yourself in the foot."

President Donald Trump ran on a promise of constructing a wall between the United States and Mexico and has signed an executive order to begin building the barrier on the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

The Mexican government has repeatedly said it will not pay for any border wall. Security analysts say illegal merchandise mostly crosses through legal ports of entry and express doubts a wall would keep out drugs, as Trump insists. Catholics who work with migrants transiting the country en route to the United States express doubts, too, saying those crossing the frontier illegally mostly do so with the help of human smugglers, who presumably pay bribes on both sides of the border.

Some Mexican companies have mused about working on the wall, though others such as Cemex -- whose share prices surged on speculation it would provide cement for the wall -- told the Los Angeles Times that it would not participate in the building of a border barrier.

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray Caso has urged company officials to use their conscience when considering work on the wall, though the archdiocesan editorial said, "What is most surprising is the timidity of the Mexican government's economic authorities, who have not moved firmly against these companies."

Desde la Fe has previously blasted Trump's proposed policies. In September 2015, it called Trump "ignorant" and a "clown" and blasted Mexican government passivity in defending its migrants as "unpardonable."

Father Hugo Valdemar, Archdiocese of Mexico City spokesman, told Catholic News Service some conservative Catholics in Mexico viewed Trump's positions on pro-life issues favorably and were still angry the U.S. ambassador to Mexico marched in the annual pride parade. But he said he knew of no one in Mexico that openly supported the U.S. president.

"What we see from him is an authentic threat and an unstable person," Father Valdemar said.

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Posted: March 28, 2017, 5:15 pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rick Bajornas, UN

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Today's threats to global peace and security must be countered through dialogue and development, not nuclear weapons, Pope Francis told the United Nations.

"How sustainable is a stability based on fear, when it actually increases fear and undermines relationships of trust between peoples," the pope asked in a letter sent to a U.N. meeting on nuclear arms.

"International peace and stability cannot be based on a false sense of security, on the threat of mutual destruction or total annihilation, or on simply maintaining a balance of power," he said in the message, released by the Vatican March 28. The message was read aloud at the U.N. by Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, Vatican undersecretary for relations with states.

The pope's message was sent to Elayne Whyte Gomez, president of the U.N. Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards Their Total Elimination. The conference was being held at the U.N. headquarters in New York March 27-31, with a follow-up meeting June 15-July 7.

A number of nations -- many of which already possess nuclear arms -- were boycotting the negotiations to ban such weapons. These included the United States, France, the United Kingdom and about 40 other nations. Some continue to support the Non-Proliferation Treaty to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters in New York March 28 that it was the responsibility of leaders to keep their nations safe.

"There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons. But we have to be realistic," Haley said.

"In this day and time, we can't honestly say that we can protect our people by allowing the bad actors to have them and those of us that are good, trying to keep peace and safety, not to have them," she said.

However, Pope Francis said in his message that the strategy of nuclear deterrence was not an effective response to today's threats to peace and security: terrorism, cybersecurity, environmental problems and poverty.

"Peace must be built on justice, on integral human development, on respect for fundamental human rights, on the protection of creation, on the participation of all in public life, on trust between peoples, on the support of peaceful institutions, on access to education and health, on dialogue and solidarity," he said.

The world needs "to adopt forward-looking strategies to promote the goal of peace and stability and to avoid short-sighted approaches to the problems surrounding national and international security," he said.

The complete elimination of nuclear weapons is "a moral and humanitarian imperative" that should prompt people to reflect on "an ethics of peace and multilateral and cooperative security that goes beyond the fear and isolationism that prevail in many debates today."

Making a total global ban possible will demand more dialogue, trust and cooperation. "This trust can be built only through dialogue that is truly directed to the common good and not to the protection of veiled or particular interests," he added.

Humanity has the ability, freedom and intelligence to work together to "lead and direct technology, to place limits on our power, and to put all this at the service of another type of progress: one that is more human, social and integral," he said.

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Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Posted: March 28, 2017, 2:22 pm

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People should stop blaming and complaining so they can be filled with God's joy and rise up to life's challenges, Pope Francis said.

Forgetting what joy is and languishing in self-pity come with the sin of sloth, the pope said March 28 in his homily during morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"It's a terrible disease: 'Well, I'm comfortable as is, I've gotten used to it. Life, of course, has been unfair to me.' You see resentment, bitterness in that heart," he said.

The pope's homily was a reflection on the Gospel of St. John reading in which Jesus heals a lame man at the pool of Bethesda.

A large number of people who were ill, blind or crippled gathered at the pool because it was believed if a person immersed himself just when the waters were stirred by an angel, he would be healed. Jesus saw a lame man, who had been waiting by the poolside for 38 years, and asked him, "Do you want to be well?"

Pope Francis said, "This is beautiful; Jesus always asks us this: Do you want to be healed? Do you want to be happy? Do you want to make your life better? Do you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit?"

If Jesus had asked any of the other people there desperate for help, the pope said, "they would have said, 'Yes, Lord, yes.' But this was a strange man" because instead he started complaining about how he had no one to help him into the water and everyone else always managed to get in before him.

The man is like a tree planted near streams of water, but he cannot grow and prosper because his roots are dried up, "those roots don't reach the water, he couldn't take in the well-being of the water," the pope said.

"This is a terrible sin, the sin of sloth. This man was ill not so much from paralysis, but from sloth, which is worse than having a lukewarm heart," he said. "It is living, but only because I am alive and have no desire to go on, have no desire to do something in life, to have lost his memory" of what joy is.

But Jesus does not scold him, the pope said; he tells him to rise, take his sleeping mat and walk, which he does, disappearing into the crowd, without saying thank you or even asking Jesus his name.

"Sloth is a sin that paralyzes, makes us lame. It doesn't let us walk. Even today the Lord looks at each one of us, we have all sinned, we are all sinners," the pope said, but Jesus still looks and "tells us, 'Rise.'"

Everyone is asked to pick up his or her sleeping mat and walk, "take your life as it is, beautiful, terrible" whatever it's like and go, the pope said.

"It is your life, it is your joy," he said. The Lord is asking, "Do you want to be healed?" Do not be afraid to say "yes," ask for help and go toward the waters. "Quench your thirst with joy" because it is the joy of salvation, he said.

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Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Posted: March 28, 2017, 2:05 pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Robert Duncan

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In Spanish, the word "encuentro" means encounter and in the modern church in the U.S., it refers to a series of meetings that will take place over the next four years aimed at getting to know Latinos and producing more involvement in the church of its second largest and fastest growing community.

"The intent is for Latinos to have an encounter with the entire church and for the church to have an encounter with Latinos, understanding who they are, how they think, how they live their faith, so we can work together and move together and build a church together," said Mar Munoz-Visoso, executive director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

A recent report by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University commissioned by the U.S. bishops shows that more than half of millennial-generation Catholics born in 1982 or later are Hispanic or Latino. Those numbers alone call for the church to have a plan of how it will bring Latinos in the U.S. into the church's leaderships roles, its vocations and their role in society, Munoz-Visoso said.

"You cannot plan the future of the church without having an important conversation about this population," she told Catholic News Service. "This effort is very important."

While the numbers of Latinos in the church are growing, "there is a gap between the numbers of Latinos in the pews, and the numbers of Latinos in leadership, and the numbers of vocations, or (Latino students) in Catholic schools," Munoz-Visoso said.

The first part of encuentro, as the process is called, started in early 2017 and it's the fifth such process of its kind. Encuentros in the U.S. church took place in 1972, 1977, 1985 and 2000, but the Fifth National Encuentro, also known as "V Encuentro," is expected to be the biggest one of its kind in terms of attendance.

Participants first meet in small Christian communities at the local level to discern, dialogue, reflect about faith and the baptismal call, Munoz-Visoso said. Later in the year, parishes will hold parish encuentros of their own, which will later lead to diocesan, regional and finally a nationwide encuentro, set for Sept. 20-23, 2018, in Grapevine, Texas, in the Diocese of Fort Worth. The final part is a "post-national encuentro" that will include publishing a national working document about ways to implement what was learned during the process.

Encuentro organizers hope the process will yield an increase in vocations of Latinos to the priesthood, religious life, permanent diaconate, an increase in the percentage of Latino students enrolling at Catholic schools, and create a group of Latino leaders for the church, as well as an increase Latinos' sense of belonging and stewardship in the U.S. church.

At the fall 2016 meeting of U.S. bishops in Baltimore, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley expressed concern that the younger generations of Latinos "is a demographic that is slipping away from the church and I think we have a window of opportunity and the window of opportunity is closing."

Many Latinos are "joining the ranks of 'nones,'" said Cardinal O'Malley, referring to the growing number of Americans who are choosing to be unaffiliated with any organized religion.

"We have very few, relatively, Hispanics in our Catholic schools. They're underrepresented in our religious education programs, and I'm hoping that the outreach that is going to be done as part of the preparation for this 'encuentro' will make a difference," he said.

Munoz-Visoso said Latinos are being courted by all kinds of groups, not just other church denominations.

"And we are at this juncture in history where we have this dilemma, where the majority of the Catholic Church in the country is becoming Latino, but at the same time, more Latinos than ever are leaving the church," she said. "So, we have to address this situation because we have to really engage them, re-enamor them, their faith and make sure they're committed to their faith."

For those wanting to become involved, they can contact their local parish to see if the parish is involved in the process. More than 5,000 parishes have signed up to participate, said Munoz-Visoso.

Parish-level encuentros take place this May and June. Diocesan encuentros will take place in the fall in more than 150 dioceses with a total of 200,000 participants. The regional encuentros are slated for March-June 2018, with 10,000 delegates expected to attend. The regions conform to the U.S. bishops' 14 episcopal regions. Then comes the Fifth National Encuentro in Texas, which will have as its theme "Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of God's Love." This is then followed by the post-encuentro working document.

Alejandro Aquilera-Ttitus, assistant director of Hispanic affairs in the diversity secretariat, is national coordinator of the Fifth National Encuentro.

The materials for the encuentro meetings were designed so they could be used by small and large groups, Munoz-Visoso told CNS, and there are dioceses that plan to use them with migrant workers in the fields, among prison populations, on university campuses, in prison ministry and in military services so that U.S. service men and women who want to participate can do so anywhere in the world.

"The intent is for Latinos ... but we're inviting everybody (to participate), if they want to have it in their community," Munoz-Visoso said, adding that the website www.vencuentro.org has information about getting started.

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Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

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Posted: March 27, 2017, 5:30 pm

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Acknowledging correspondence and treating victims with respect is the very least church officials can offer, said survivors of clergy sex abuse.

Never letting a letter or email languish unanswered was such a key "best practice" of showing care and concern for victims of sexual abuse by clergy and religious that Marie Collins, an Irish survivor, stepped down from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors over the issue.

When it comes to whether an office should respond to a victim, "There's an amazing ability to take whatever is simple" and make it sound "as if it's highly complex," said Declan Murphy, who was abused as an adolescent by two Christian Brothers in Dublin in the 1960s. Murphy, who was in South Korea, spoke to Catholic News Service via Skype in mid-March.

It's a "basic courtesy" to respond, even if it is just a brief acknowledgment of receiving the letter with a general time frame of intended follow-up. "That's the way most people work when they value and respect a person," he said.

However, "if your starting point is not wanting to do it, you will drag in lots of reasons" to justify why writing back cannot or should not be done, he said.

After 38 years of keeping his abuse hidden from everyone and "coping on my own," Murphy said he was back to relying on his own resilience, with the support of family, to make sure his voice was heard with repeated calls and arranging meetings with church leaders after he came forward in 2006.

The most hurtful response he got, he said, was telling a high-level church representative about being raped for three years by two religious priests and "he looked at me in the eye and said, 'I can't help you,'" in "a cold and callous" way.

That kind of dismissal only made sense, Murphy said, for someone who looks at the issue from a legal or organizational point of view, in which different people are responsible for their own separate jurisdictions -- and the problem gets volleyed back and forth over ecclesial lines.

In every situation, he said, the thing that hurt most "was the fundamental lack of respect for me as a human being whose childhood was taken away."

"No one can go back and fix what happened to me," Murphy said, and "I try to remain fair, articulate and balanced. But what I've seen is horrendous" when it comes to how people have responded to his coming forward.

Murphy said he had three objectives in all of his efforts to reach out to the church: "Somebody to listen to my story; I wanted them to believe me and say 'I'm sorry'; and I wanted my costs back," meaning medical and legal costs incurred since 2006, the year his health broke down and he revealed the past abuse.

The best responses he received, he said, were when someone said he was going to do something and then actually did it. Another time, the same person "sent a Christmas card. It was a small gesture, but it showed a human side."

Church leaders and personnel should not be driven by legal concerns, fears of litigation or self-interest, he said, but by a pastoral compassion that asks, "What can we do to help you? Tell us what you need."

Helen McGonigle, a lawyer living in western Connecticut, told CNS in a series of emails that she faced so many "obstructionist tactics at the local level in the secular legal system, what choice do we have but to turn to the Vatican, canon law and natural law," since the sexual violence against children is a crime against nature.

McGonigle and her sister, who later died from a prescription drug overdose in 2005, were victims of late-Norbertine Father Brendan Smyth when he was assigned to Rhode Island.

He was ordained and assigned to ministry in Northern Ireland, Ireland, Rhode Island, North Dakota and other places, despite the knowledge and complaints by other religious that he had molested children, as found in an independent Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry. He died in prison one month after starting his sentence for 117 counts of children molestation in Ireland and Northern Ireland over four decades.

Because Father Smyth was a member a religious order, based out of an abbey in Ireland and was sent to multiple dioceses, McGonigle wrote to numerous jurisdictional bodies in her efforts to gain information and help.

"I tried the local route in every imaginable way and felt the need to circumvent" the appropriate channels after letters went unanswered and questions and requests went unaddressed. Her civil suit was dismissed because of the statute of limitations.

However, when recipient offices at the Vatican denied having "competence" in the matter and redirected her to other authorities, McGonigle said she felt "that an internal strategy of leaving survivors twisting in the wind seems to have been adopted by the Vatican."

There is no way to know how many survivors are ever able to bring themselves to write or even bother, she said, which is why "those who do choose to write should be acknowledged in some way and provided some measure of assurance that their concerns are being listened to. After having been raped and our rights trampled upon, it is the very least these people could do. Are they beyond compassion?"

The most helpful responses, she said, came from a priest in North Dakota who confirmed facts "in an open and candid way." In fact, she said when news broke in 1994 of Father Smyth's crimes, the Diocese of Fargo "went door to door in their outreach campaign."

McGonigle said she wrote to church leaders, not to be "listened to," but to do "the right thing. I did feel it was right to make an attempt to do my part in exposing Smyth's crimes and requesting honesty and transparency" in her right to know the truth.

The very heart of the correspondence, however, is not just about eliciting a reply letter, she said: "What survivors want to see is action, child protection, perpetrators prosecuted and removed."

"Action goes a lot farther than any one letter," McGonigle said.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Posted: March 27, 2017, 4:27 pm

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Following the resignation of a prominent member and abuse survivor, a pontifical commission charged with addressing issues related to clergy sex abuse vowed to continue to seek input from victims and survivors.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors said the resignation of Marie Collins was a "central topic" of its March 24-26 plenary assembly, and it "expressed strong support for her continuing work" to promote healing for abuse victims and ensuring best practices for prevention.

"Commission members have unanimously agreed to find new ways to ensure its work is shaped and informed with and by victims/survivors. Several ideas that have been successfully implemented elsewhere are being carefully considered for recommendation to the Holy Father," the commission said in a March 26 statement published by the Vatican.

Among the main concerns addressed by the commission was outreach out to victims, an issue first raised by Collins shortly after she resigned from her position.

In an editorial published online March 1 by National Catholic Reporter, Collins said an unnamed dicastery not only refused to respond to letters from victims, it also refused to cooperate on the commission's safeguarding guidelines.

In its statement, the commission emphasized Pope Francis' letter to the presidents of the bishops' conferences and superiors of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life, in which he called for their close and complete cooperation with the Commission for the Protection of Minors.

"The work I have entrusted to them includes providing assistance to you and your conferences through an exchange of best practices and through programs of education, training and developing adequate responses to sexual abuse," the pope wrote Feb. 2, 2015.

Commission members spoke again of their willingness to work together with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith communicating a "guidelines template" to episcopal conferences and religious congregations, both directly and through the commission website, the statement said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Posted: March 27, 2017, 3:10 pm

IMAGE: CNS/Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- Pope Francis asked 45,000 children preparing for confirmation to promise Jesus they would never engage in bullying.

Turning stern during a lively and laughter-filled encounter March 25, Pope Francis told the youngsters he was very worried about the growing phenomenon of bullying.

He asked them to be silent and reflect on if there were times when they made fun of someone for how they looked or behaved. And, as a condition of their confirmation, he made them promise Jesus that they would never tease or bully anyone.

The pope ended his daylong visit to Milan by participating in an expanded version of the archdiocese's annual encounter for pre-teens preparing for confirmation. An estimated 78,000 people filled the city's famed San Siro soccer stadium; the archdiocese expects to confirm about 45,000 young people this year.

A boy named Davide asked the pope, "When you were our age, what helped your friendship with Jesus grow?"

First of all, the pope said, it was his grandparents. One of his grandfathers was a carpenter, who told him Jesus learned carpentry from St. Joseph, so whenever the pope saw his grandfather work, he thought of Jesus. The other grandfather taught him to always say something to Jesus before going to sleep, even if it was just, "Good night, Jesus."

His grandmothers and his mother, the pope said, were the ones who taught him to pray. He told the kids that even if their grandparents "don't know how to use a computer or have a smartphone," they have a lot to teach them.

Playing with friends taught him joy and how to get along with others, which is part of faith, the pope said. And going to Mass and to the parish oratory also strengthened his faith because "being with others is important."

A couple of parents, who introduced themselves as Monica and Alberto, asked the pope's advice on educating their three children in the faith.

Pope Francis borrowed little Davide's question and asked the parents to close their eyes and think of the people who transmitted the faith to them and helped it grow.

"Your children watch you continually," the pope said. "Even if you don't notice, they observe everything and learn from it," especially in how parents handle tensions, joys and sorrows.

He also encouraged families to go to Mass together and then, if the weather is nice, to go to a park and play together. "This is beautiful and will help you live the commandment to keep the Lord's day holy."

An essential part of handing on the faith, he said, is teaching children the meaning of solidarity and engaging them in the parents' acts of charity and solidarity with the poor. "Faith grows with charity and charity grows with faith," he said.

Before going to the soccer stadium, Pope Francis celebrated an afternoon Mass for the feast of the Annunciation in Milan's Monza Park.

The annunciation of Jesus' birth to Mary took place in her home in a small town in the middle of no where, which is a sign that God desired to meet his people "in places we normally would not expect," the pope said in his homily.

Just as "the joy of salvation began in the daily life of a young woman's home in Nazareth," he said, God wants to be welcomed into and given life in the homes of all people.

God is indifferent to no one, the pope said, and "no situation will be deprived of his presence."

Tens of thousands of people gathered on a warm spring day for the Mass amid the new leaves and fragile buds on the trees of the park.

Pope Francis used Milan's Ambrosian rite, a Mass that differs slightly from the Latin rite used in most parts of the world. Some of the differences included the pope blessing each of the readers and not only the deacon who proclaimed the Gospel, and the Creed being sung after the offertory, rather than after the homily.

In his homily, the pope said that like Mary at the Annunciation, people today naturally wonder how God's promises could be fulfilled. "But how can this be?" Mary asked.

The same question arises "at a time so filled with speculation. There's speculation on the poor and migrants, speculation on the young and their future," the pope said. "While pain knocks on many doors, while young people are increasingly unsatisfied by the lack of real opportunities, speculation is abundant everywhere."

Finding and living the joy of the Gospel, he said, is possible only following the path the Angel Gabriel led Mary on when he told her she would bear God's son. People must remember the great things God has done and remember that they belong to the people of God, a community that "is not afraid to welcome those in need because they know the Lord is present in them."

Finally, he said, they must have faith in the "possibility of the impossible," demonstrating the same "audacious faith" that Mary showed.

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Posted: March 25, 2017, 8:05 pm

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- Visiting Milan, the center of Italian fashion and finance, Pope Francis spent the morning with the poor and those who minister to them.

He had lunch at the city's historic San Vittore prison, where all 893 inmates -- men and women -- are awaiting trial.

But Pope Francis began his visit March 25 on the outskirts of the city, at the "White Houses," a housing development for the poor built in the 1970s. Three families welcomed the pope into their apartments: Stefano Pasquale, 59, who is ill and cared for by his 57-year-old wife, Dorotee; a Muslim couple and their three children from Morocco; and the Onetes.

Nuccio Onete, 82, was home for the pope's visit, but his wife, Adele, was hospitalized with pneumonia three days earlier, so the pope called her on the telephone.

The people of the neighborhood gave Pope Francis a handmade white stole, which he put on before addressing the crowd.

The fact that it was homemade, he said, "makes it much more precious and is a reminder that the Christian priest is chosen from the people and is at the service of the people. My priesthood, like that of your pastor and the other priests who work here, is a gift of Christ, but one sewn by you, by the people, with your faith, your struggles, your prayers and your tears."

Arriving next at Milan's massive Gothic cathedral, Pope Francis met with the archdiocese's pastoral workers and responded to questions from a priest, a permanent deacon and a religious sister, urging them to trust in God, hold on to their joy and share the good news of Christ with everyone they meet.

"We should not fear challenges," he said. "It is good that they exist" and Christians must "grab them, like a bull, by the horns."

Challenges "are a sign of a living faith, of a living community that seeks the Lord and keeps its eyes and heart open."

Asked by Father Gabriele Gioia about evangelization efforts that do not seem to result in "catching fish," Pope Francis said the work of an evangelizer -- of all Christians -- is to set out and cast the nets. "It's the Lord who catches the fish."

Preoccupation with numbers is never a good thing, Pope Francis said.

Responding to Ursuline Sister Paola Paganoni, who spoke of the challenge of reaching out when so many orders are experiencing an aging and declining membership, the pope spoke as a Jesuit, saying, "The majority of our founding fathers and mothers never thought they'd be a multitude."

Rather, he said, they were moved by the Holy Spirit to respond to the real needs of their time and "to build the church like leaven in the dough, like salt and light for the world."

Just think, he said, a dish with too much salt would be inedible. And, "I've never seen a pizzamaker who took a half kilo of yeast and 100 grams of flour to make a pizza. No, it has to be the opposite" proportion. Christians must be concerned with being leaven in society more than with being a majority.

It is not up to the pope to tell religious orders what their focus should be, he said. They must look to their founding charisms and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But in all they do, he said, "ignite the hope that has been extinguished and weakened by a society that has become insensitive to the pain of others. Our fragility as congregations can make us more attentive to the many forms of fragility that surround us and transform them into spaces of blessing."

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Posted: March 25, 2017, 2:28 pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity, who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, doesn't mince words when it comes to the American Health Care Act, which was short of votes and withdrawn by House Republicans late March 24.

Two days before the GOP legislation was set for an initial vote in Congress and then delayed due to last-minute wrangling and efforts to gain support, she described the bill as a disgrace, a pro-life disaster, a huge step back, catastrophic for Catholic social teaching and something that would do incredible damage.

The woman religious, who heads an organization of more than 600 hospitals and 1,400 long-term care and other health facilities in the United States, has a vested interest in the nation's health care and she also knows the ins and outs of health care legislation from working behind the scenes "forever" -- as she describes it -- on the Affordable Care Act.

At the time that the ACA was being drafted, some Catholic organizations opposed key elements of the measure. Once it became law, more than 40 lawsuits were filed to challenge the subsequent Department of Health and Human Service's mandate requiring that insurance plans include coverage for artificial birth control, sterilization and drugs that lead to abortions.

Sister Keehan is quick to point out that the health care legislation signed into law seven years ago is far from perfect, but she says it was an "incredible step forward."

"I do recognize the political conflict and the imperfections in the bill, but when you can make insurance that much better for people who have it and give 20 million Americans insurance, that is a huge step forward," she told Catholic News Service March 21 in her Washington office.

At a 2015 Catholic Health Association gathering in Washington, President Barack Obama thanked Sister Keehan for her steadiness, strength and "steadfast voice."

"We would not have gotten the Affordable Care Act done had it not been for her," he said.

The immediate repeal and replacement of the ACA was a key promise of President Donald Trump's campaign, but the GOP health care measure has faced opposition from both conservative and moderate Republicans. Trump told House Republicans that he will leave ACA in place and move on to tax reform if they do not support the new health care legislation.

Watching the GOP efforts to repeal and replace the ACA has been hard for Sister Keehan mainly because she and other health care leaders were not consulted in the process.

"We should never, ever throw together a bill that's going to be such a profound impact on the people of this country in this short of time and without any input from those who care for them," she said.

The work on these two health care bills couldn't have been more different, she pointed out, noting that prior to the ACA launch she felt like she "lived in committee rooms" because she was constantly meeting with committees, groups and subgroups at the White House and Congress.

With the GOP health care plan, she said there wasn't any opportunity for hospital groups or the American Medical Association to give any advice.

"We've just been dismissed," she said, noting that she attended a few small group meetings on Capitol Hill but "they were not meetings to get our input on what ought to be done with the bill but meetings to tell us what was going to be done."

"This has just been railroaded through Congress," she added.

While the U.S. bishops have applauded pro-life elements of the American Health Care Act, they also have criticized other elements and expressed concern for its impact on the disadvantaged.

In a March 17 letter to House members about the GOP measure, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said the inclusion of "critical life protections" in the House health care bill is laudable, but other provisions, including those related to Medicaid and tax credits are "troubling" and "must be addressed."

He said the bill's restriction of funds to providers that promote abortion and prohibiting federal funding for abortion or the purchase of plans that provide abortion "honors a key moral requirement for our nation's health care policy." But he also criticized the absence of "any changes" from the current law regarding conscience protections against mandates to provide certain coverage or services considered morally objectionable by employers and health care providers.

"The ACA is, by no means, a perfect law," Bishop Dewane said. "The Catholic bishops of the United States registered serious objections at the time of its passage. However, in attempting to improve the deficiencies of the ACA, health care policy ought not create other unacceptable problems, particularly for those who struggle on the margins of our society."

Main provisions of the new House bill include: eliminating the mandate that most individuals have health insurance and putting in its place a new system of tax credits; expanding Health Savings Accounts; repealing Medicaid expansion and transitioning to a "per capita allotment"; and prohibiting health insurers from denying coverage or charging more money to patients based on pre-existing conditions.

Sister Keehan said she thanked Bishop Dewane for his letter to Congress and said the bishops had carefully gone through the legislation measure by measure on a number of issues. She also noted that she knows people in the pro-life community either think the new bill is strong enough or not doing enough.

As she sees it, the bill is "a pro-life disaster in the fact that when you take health care away from people, you take life."

"If you want to really, really strengthen the pro-life culture in this country, you make sure people know that their lives and the lives of their children are so valued by our country," she said, which means providing quality maternity and pediatric care and offering programs like Head Start and food stamps.

Although she said under the ACA no federal funds could be spent on abortion, a nonpartisan government agency in an assessment of the law in 2014 said abortion coverage was available in some plans. Sister Keehan also said the law included help for pregnant mothers to get drug rehabilitation, housing and maternity care, which are not included in the new bill.

"I don't find this a pro-life bill at all from every perspective," she added about the new measure.

When asked if there was a silver lining with people at least talking about the need to provide insurance for all Americans, Sister Keehan said the health care crisis for so many people doesn't give "the luxury of time."

"To be the only industrialized nation in the world that does not guarantee all its citizens health care is a disgrace," she said, adding: "We are at a real crossroads in our country's sense of its responsibility to its people."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.


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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Posted: March 24, 2017, 8:54 pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Europe must recover the memories and lessons of past tragedies in order to confront the challenges Europeans face today that seek to divide rather than unite humanity, Pope Francis said.

While the founding fathers of what is now the European Union worked toward a "united and open Europe," free of the "walls and divisions" erected after World War II, the tragedy of poverty and violence affecting millions of innocent people lingers on, the pope told European leaders gathered at the Vatican March 24.

"Where generations longed to see the fall of those signs of forced hostility, these days we debate how to keep out the 'dangers' of our time, beginning with the long file of women, men and children fleeing war and poverty, seeking only a future for themselves and their loved ones," he said.

Pope Francis welcomed the 27 European heads of state to the Vatican to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome, which gave birth to European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community.

Signed March 25, 1957, the treaties sought to unite Europe following the devastation wrought by World War II. The agreements laid the groundwork for what eventually became the European Union.

Entering the "Sala Regia" of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis placed his hand above his heart and bowed slightly to the European leaders before taking his seat. At the end of the audience, he and the government leaders went into the Sistine Chapel and posed for a photograph in front of Michelangelo's fresco, The Last Judgment.

In his speech, the pope said the commemoration of the treaty should not be reduced to "a remembrance of things past," but should motivate a desire "to relive that event in order to appreciate its significance for the present."

"The memory of that day is linked to today's hopes and expectations of the people of Europe, who call for discernment in the present so that the journey that has begun can continue with renewed enthusiasm and confidence," he said.

At the heart of the founding fathers' creation of a united Europe, the pope continued, was concern for the human person, who after years of bloodshed held on "to faith in the possibility of a better future."

"That spirit remains as necessary as ever today, in the face of centrifugal impulses and the temptation to reduce the founding ideals of the union to productive, economic and financial needs," he said.

But despite achievements in forging unity and solidarity, Pope Francis said, Europe today suffers from a "lapse of memory" where peace is now "regarded as superfluous."

To regain the peace attained in the past, he added, Europe must reconnect with its Christian roots otherwise "the Western values of dignity, freedom and justice would prove largely incomprehensible."

"The fruitfulness of that connection will make it possible to build authentically secular societies, free of ideological conflicts, with equal room for the native and the immigrant, for believers and nonbelievers," the pope said.

The economic crisis of the past decade, the crisis of the family "and established social models" and the current migration crisis, he said, offer an opportunity for Europe's leaders to discern and assess rather than "engender fear and profound confusion."

"Ours is a time of discernment, one that invites us to determine what is essential and to build on it," the pope said. "It is a time of challenge and opportunity."

Europe, he added, will find new hope "when man is at the center and the heart of her institutions" in order to stem "the growing 'split' between the citizenry and the European institutions which are often perceived as distant and inattentive to the different sensibilities present in the union."

The migration crisis also offers an opportunity for Europe's leaders to refuse to give in to fear and "false forms of security," while posing a much deeper question to the continent's citizens.

"What kind of culture does Europe propose today?" he asked, adding that the fear of migrants "has its root cause in the loss of ideals."

"Without an approach inspired by those ideals, we end up dominated by the fear that others will wrench us from our usual habits, deprive us of familiar comforts and somehow call into question a lifestyle that all too often consists of material prosperity alone."

By defending families, investing in development and peace and defending the family and life "in all its sacredness," Europe can once again find new ways to steer its course, Pope Francis told the European heads of state.

"As leaders, you are called to blaze the path of a new European humanism made up of ideals and concrete actions," the pope said. "This will mean being unafraid to make practical decisions capable of responding to people's real problems and of standing the test of time."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Posted: March 24, 2017, 7:12 pm
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