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Trump visits shrine on anniversary of St. John Paul II visit to Poland

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

By Dennis Sadowski

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington June 2 shortly before he was expected to sign an executive order at the White House to expand U.S. support for international religious freedom efforts.

The crosstown trip was excoriated by several Catholic leaders, including Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, who said he found it "baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles" by allowing the visit.

The Trumps' visit to the shrine in Northeast Washington came on the 41st anniversary of the start of St. John Paul II's pilgrimage to his native Poland, the first trip by the pope during which he repeatedly addressed religious and political freedom.

The White House said the president offered no remarks during the visit. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accompanied the Trumps during the brief stay at the shrine.

About 100 people, including children and their parents, had gathered near the shrine and began chanting slogans calling for justice for George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis May 25.

Archbishop Gregory said Catholic teaching calls the faithful to "defend the rights of all people, even those with whom we might disagree."

The evening before the shrine visit, Trump walked from the White House to St. John Episcopal Church, which was set afire during protests May 31 that called for the nation to address racism and police violence.

Authorities fired flash-bang shells, gas and rubber bullets to disperse a crowd that had gathered in Lafayette Square across from the White House so Trump could walk to the church, where he held up a Bible as photographers captured the scene.

The crowd was present in the park to protest the death of Floyd and other African American people at the hands of police.

Archbishop Gregory questioned the decision to disperse the protesters in such a manner.

"St. John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth. He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace."

MORE TO COME

 

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Copyright © 2020 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.

Update: Bishops around U.S. express sorrow over Floyd killing, racism

IMAGE: CNS photo/Lucas Jackson, Reuters

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Even as the United States still finds itself grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, outrage, grief and anger over the latest killing of an unarmed black man outweighed caution as hundreds of thousands turned out nationwide to protest and many of the country's Catholic bishops joined the calls for justice.

"The outrage around the death of George Floyd is understandable and justice must be served," said Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila in a May 30 statement referencing the killing of the 46-year-old Floyd, whose last moments of life were recorded on a widely disseminated video showing a white police officer in Minneapolis pushing down on his neck with his knee May 25. Floyd was later pronounced dead.

Four officers from the Minneapolis Police Department were fired May 26, including Derek Chauvin, with whom Floyd pleaded "Please, I can't breathe" as he held him down. Chauvin is facing third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges.

"What did we expect when we learned that in Minneapolis, a city often hailed as a model of inclusivity, the price of a black life is a counterfeit $20 bill?" said Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, in a May 31 statement saying he had spent the last few nights watching the protests "in great personal pain as the pent-up anger of our people caught fire across our country."

Floyd was apprehended by the group of officers after a deli worker called 911 saying he had paid with counterfeit $20 bill.

Cardinal Cupich said he's watched as "the city where I was born, the cities where I have lived, the city I pastor now, catch embers from the city where I was educated," and then he watched them "burn."

"Was I horrified at the violence? Yes. But was I surprised? No," he said.

Though protests were largely peaceful, small groups within the demonstrating masses have burned cars, broken into and looted businesses in cities such as Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York and Washington -- all which now have put curfews into place.

But in some localities, such as Coral Gables, Florida, and Flint, Michigan, authorities have dialogued and even prayed with protesters.

On May 30, police officers in Coral Gables kneeled down with heads bowed and joined protesters, observing several minutes of silence, the amount of time reports say that Floyd spent under Chauvin's knee. The same day, Sheriff Chris Swanson from Flint Township approached a mass of protesters, telling them he was putting down his weapons and is seen on video telling them: "The only reason we're here is to make sure that you got a voice -- that's it." Then they asked him to walk with them and he did.

But in other places, such as the environs of the White House, cars were burned, businesses were vandalized, and authorities used tear gas on protesters.

"The looting, vandalism and violence we are witnessing in Minneapolis and throughout our nation dishonors the legacy of Mr. Floyd and further complicates a tragic situation," said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac from Washington.

They were calls echoed by Floyd's brother Terrence, who said on a national television show that the violence was "overshadowing what is going on because he (his brother) was about peace. ... (This is) destructive unity. That's not what he was about."

Others said the tragic situation was being used for a variety of reasons and was a warning signal.

"COVID-19, the murder of George Floyd, the needless deaths of so many people of color, the shameless exploitation of social division for personal gratification or political gain -- these are apocalyptic events that are not meant simply to scare us -- to take our breath away -- but to warn us of serious trouble on the horizon as well as the true meaning the peril that is already among us," said Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, in his Pentecost homily May 31.

"We desperately need to breathe, so that we can recognize that the efforts by people of great power to divide us are diametrically opposed to the plan God has for this world," he said.

Also referencing the pandemic in his Pentecost homily, Washington's Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said the incident has served to reveal "the virus of racism among us once again even as we continue to cope with the coronavirus pandemic."

Denver's Archbishop Aquila reminded Catholics to keep church teaching in mind, not political preferences, when it comes to the killing.

"The Catholic Church has always promoted a culture of life, but too often our society has lost its sense of the dignity of every human being from the time of conception until natural death," he said. "Every Catholic has a responsibility to promote the dignity of life at every level of life. Too many have made their god their ideology, political party, or the color of their skin, and not the Gospel of Life and the dignity of every human being."

The archbishop added: "I encourage the faithful of the archdiocese to examine our consciences on how we promote a culture of life on all levels, to pray for the conversion of hearts of those who promote racism, to pray that our society may return to a culture of life, and finally and most importantly, to pray for the repose of the soul of George Floyd, for his family in their loss, and that justice may be served in his case."

In the Diocese of El Paso, Texas, Bishop Mark J. Seitz, who last year wrote a pastoral letter on racism, gathered with priests from his diocese and carrying a "Black Lives Matter" sign kneeled in silence for eight minutes, the time Floyd was said to have spent under the officer's knee before becoming unconscious and later dying.

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Copyright © 2020 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.

Selection of quotes from Pope Francis on equality, fraternity, racism

IMAGE: CNS/Joshua Roberts

By

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Here are some quotes on equality, brotherhood and racism from Pope Francis listed according to date:

"How I desire that we Christians be more deeply united as witnesses of mercy for the human family so severely tested in these days. Let's ask the Spirit for the gift of unity, for only if we live as brothers & sisters can we spread the spirit of fraternity." May 31, 2020. (Tweet from @Pontifex)

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"Now, while we are looking forward to a slow and arduous recovery from the pandemic, there is a danger that we will forget those who are left behind. The risk is that we may then be struck by an even worse virus, that of selfish indifference -- a virus spread by the thought that life is better if it is better for me, and that everything will be fine if it is fine for me. It begins there and ends up selecting one person over another, discarding the poor and sacrificing those left behind on the altar of progress. ... May we be profoundly shaken by what is happening all around us: the time has come to eliminate inequalities, to heal the injustice that is undermining the health of the entire human family!" April 19, 2020. (Homily, feast of Divine Mercy)

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"The problem is not that we have doubts and fears. The problem is when they condition our way of thinking and acting to the point of making us intolerant, closed and perhaps even -- without realizing it -- racist. In this way, fear deprives us of the desire and the ability to encounter the other, the person different from myself; it deprives me of an opportunity to encounter the Lord." (2019 message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees).

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"We live in times in which feelings that to many had seemed to be outdated appear to be reemerging and spreading. Feelings of suspicion, fear, contempt and even hatred toward other individuals or groups judged to be different on the basis of their ethnicity, nationality or religion, and as such, believed not to be sufficiently worthy to participate fully in the life of society. These feelings, then, too often inspire real acts of intolerance, discrimination or exclusion that seriously harm the dignity of those involved as well as their fundamental rights, including the very right to life and to physical and moral integrity. Unfortunately, in the political world too, it happens that one gives in to the temptation to exploit the fears and the objective difficulties of some groups and to make misleading promises out of shortsighted electoral interests." Sept. 20, 2018. (Speech, World Conference on Xenophobia, Racism and Populist Nationalism)

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"We must overcome all forms of racism, of intolerance and of the instrumentalization of the human person." July 18, 2017. (Tweet from @Pontifex)

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"We are called to live not as one without others, above or against others, but with and for others." May 22, 2017. (Tweet from @Pontifex)

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"It is of little or no use to raise our voices and run about to find weapons for our protection. What is needed today are peacemakers, not makers of arms; what is needed are peacemakers, and not fomenters of conflict; firefighters and not arsonists; preachers of reconciliation and not instigators of destruction." April 28, 2017. (Speech to an Interfaith Peace Conference, Cairo)

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"May this tireless worker of mercy help us increasingly to understand that our only criterion for action is gratuitous love, free from every ideology and all obligations, offered freely to everyone without distinction of language, culture, race or religion." Sept. 4, 2016. (Homily, canonization of St. Teresa of Kolkata)

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"Life nowadays tells us that it is much easier to concentrate on what divides us, what keeps us apart. People try to make us believe that being closed in on ourselves is the best way to keep safe from harm. Today, we adults need you to teach us, as you are doing today, how to live in diversity, in dialogue, to experience multiculturalism, not as a threat but an opportunity. You are an opportunity for the future." July 30, 2016. (World Youth Day, Krakow, Vigil)

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"The time has come to put an end to age-old prejudices, preconceptions and mutual mistrust that are often at the base of discrimination, racism and xenophobia." Oct. 26, 2015. (Speech to a pilgrimage of Roma and Sinti people)

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"Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. ... The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development." Sept. 24, 2015. (Speech to Joint Meeting of Congress, Washington)

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"A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to 'dream' of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton." Sept. 24, 2015. (Speech to Joint Meeting of Congress, Washington)

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"Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination." Sept. 23, 2015 (Speech at the White House, Washington)

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"Scapegoats are not only sought to pay, with their freedom and with their life, for all social ills such as was typical in primitive societies, but over and beyond this, there is at times a tendency to deliberately fabricate enemies: stereotyped figures who represent all the characteristics that society perceives or interprets as threatening. The mechanisms that form these images are the same that allowed the spread of racist ideas in their time." Oct. 23, 2014. (Speech to the International Association of Penal Law)

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"The problem of intolerance must be confronted in all its forms: Wherever any minority is persecuted and marginalized because of its religious convictions or ethnic identity, the well-being of society as a whole is endangered, and each one of us must feel affected." Oct. 24, 2013. (Audience with a delegation from the Simon Wiesenthal Center)

 

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As poverty rises, Mexican parishes encourage neighbors to help neighbors

IMAGE: CNS photo/David Agren

By David Agren

CHALCO, Mexico (CNS) -- Jesuit Father Raul Vazquez always wanted to better include the marginalized barrios alongside a sewage canal, which, centuries earlier, had been named "Canal de la Compania" after the Society of Jesus.

As the COVID-19 crisis crept into Mexico, he inquired about the barrios' needs, but discovered most people there already received some sort of social assistance or political patronage.

The real problem, he discovered, came from the barrios populated by merchants, many of whom sold their wares in itinerant markets and "no longer have a place to sell," Father Vazquez said. Others simply lost their jobs.

"They no longer have anything to maintain their families with," he said from one of the 14 chapels belonging to the St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish, which serves this bedroom community on the southeastern outskirts of Mexico City.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reaped misery on Mexico, where the economy is cratering and the death toll is soaring.

The pandemic is pushing people into poverty and, according to Catholics working in charitable causes, provoking problems like hunger, mental health issues and an upswing in vices such as domestic violence.

"We're confronting a problem of hunger. There's also a second problem ... the health systems in Mexico have collapsed," said Father Rogelio Narvaez, executive-secretary of Caritas Mexico.

"There's a problem of emotional attention," Father Narvaez added. "People are seeing that their families don't have anything to eat."

The Health Secretariat has reported 90,664 COVID-19 cases and 9,930 deaths as of May 31.

Still, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is proceeding with plans to reopen Mexico in stages, starting June 1, claiming the country had already "tamed" the pandemic. He previously rejected strict quarantines, preferring voluntary measures, and downplayed the pandemic's potential impact -- moves some in the church say aggravated the COVID-19 crisis.

"The quarantine was not carried out as it should have been," said Father Narvaez. "The problem now is the economy is more affected because there are signs of contagion. We're all affected because there wasn't seriousness in government policy."

Lopez Obrador has responded to the crisis with calls for austerity. He's unveiled loans for small businesses of roughly $1,100 and pushed up payments for social programs. He's also spoken of families supporting each other in the pandemic -- as often occurs in Mexican economic crises due to scant state assistance.

Father Narvaez said families were stepping up as always, but noted, "There is a high incidence of family violence, precisely because economic problems have turned into family problems."

The Catholic Church has responded by calling for donations and marshalling support from the private sector to provide care packages. It's also staffed a helpline with priests, psychologists and doctors.

The Jesuits, working with the Mexican bishops' conference, also unveiled a parish-level program called "Neighbor Networks of Solidarity in Parishes." It encourages parishioners to identify and address needs through their own initiatives, rather than depending on outside assistance.

"The biggest success is community organization," said Jesuit Father Jorge Atilano, who based the program on his experiences in rebuilding the social fabric of towns plagued by violence. "It's citizens organizing to mutually support each other, making use of their own resources and strengthening their own abilities to cope with problems."

Father Vazquez saw an opportunity for the program to work in Chalco, where St. John Paul II celebrated Mass for 500,000 in 1990. The population subsequently mushroomed as poor Mexicans flocked to the capital in search of economic opportunities.

It's now served by one of the most understaffed dioceses in Mexico; Father Vazquez's parish serves a population of 64,000 in 12 barrios, where "three families live in each home," he said.

It was tough going at first: Many people saw the coronavirus as a far-off problem or didn't believe it, and calls for quarantine were not taken seriously until "it impacted them directly or a neighbor," Father Vazquez said. "They're now seeing deaths, now seeing family members in the hospital."

Father Vazquez confessed initially thinking, "The pandemic is going to isolate us one from another," but also, "If we're going to get help, it's going to be from the people here."

He went to work in March and started by recruiting barrio delegates, who are municipal government representatives and with whom the parish had a "conflictive" relationship.

Parishioners started a census of the area to identify specific needs. Unable to knock on doors, they spread the word via loudspeakers. They also formed committees for needs such as food banks and listening centers.

In the Tres Marias barrio, the food bank operates 24 hours a day. People drop off items -- bags of beans or rice, bars of soap, packs of noodles -- and volunteers package and deliver care packages to people identified through the census, focusing on the elderly, the sick and people who have lost their jobs.

"It's been a situation in which we've gotten to know each other better," said Daniela Paredes, a nursing student and foodbank volunteer. "Perhaps this is the good part of this situation."

People with other skills stepped forward to help. Ernestina Lopez, an alternative medicine practitioner, started dispensing does of Valerian and passionflower, for managing stress and helping people sleep, she said.

Even the local Alcoholics Anonymous chapter stepped up.

"They're used to listening and we need people who will listen," Father Vazquez said. "People are listening to each other."

The most difficult part has been the deaths, which are mounting, Father Vazquez says.

Families seek him out for funerals, but services aren't being held. None of them acknowledge COVID-19 as the cause of death.

"They don't want to say it," he explained. "They're afraid of being rejected by their neighbors."

 

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Copyright © 2020 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.

Vatican official: Racism is 'spiritual' virus that must be wiped out

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Much like the coronavirus pandemic, racism is a "spiritual" virus that has spread throughout the world and must be eradicated, said Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

"I would compare (racism) to COVID-19, but it is a virus of the spirit, a cultural virus that, if not isolated, spreads quickly," Archbishop Paglia told Catholic News Service June 1.

The Italian archbishop commented on the May 25 death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis and the subsequent protests throughout the United States.

Floyd, 46, was arrested by police on suspicion of forgery. Once he was handcuffed, a white officer pinned him down on the street, putting his knee on Floyd's neck for eight minutes. A now widely circulated video shows Floyd repeatedly saying, "I can't breathe." He appears to lose consciousness or die and was later declared dead at the hospital.

Archbishop Paglia told CNS that just as people were called to self-isolate in order to care for one another, racism can only be defeated by people caring for each other.

"Today we must start a revolution of brotherhood. We are all brothers and sisters. Brotherhood is a promise that is lacking in modern times," he said. "In my opinion, the true strength that supports us in our weakness is brotherhood and solidarity. And just as it defeats the coronavirus, it also defeats racism."

The fight against racism, he added, is done "not with violence but in the style of Martin Luther King, Jr.: with words, with culture, with faith, with humanism. It is fought the same way we fight against the coronavirus."

"It's not enough to remain silent," the Italian archbishop said. "To prevent the virus of racism from multiplying, those (who oppose racism) must also multiply."

He said the United States has had a vocation of helping others, not just themselves, but "I believe they have lost" that vocation.

Archbishop Paglia said he believed Pope Francis should consider writing a document that addresses the subject of racism, a problem "all over the world."

However, he also noted that the pope's 2019 letter marking the 25th anniversary of the Pontifical Academy for Life reflects on many of the same divisions that exist in the world today.

In the letter, titled "The Human Community," the pope said the sense of fraternity between people and nations has been weakened by the erosion of mutual trust and "remains the unkept promise of modernity."

"Mutual distrust between individuals and peoples is being fed by an inordinate pursuit of self-interest and intense competition that can even turn violent. The gap between concern with one's own well-being and the prosperity of the larger human family seems to be stretching to the point of complete division," the pope wrote.

Archbishop Paglia told CNS that brotherhood among peoples can only be possible "if the discussion passes to the fact that we are one family of 7 billion people."

"It's not that I can say to my brother, 'I don't care about you' because he's the ninth brother and I only like the first five siblings," he said. Nevertheless, "I am convinced that there is a great mission for American Catholicism" in the country.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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Copyright © 2020 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.

Update: Knights 'praying for years' for beatification, says Anderson

IMAGE: CNS file photo

By Kurt Jensen

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Father Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus, may be an ideal prospective saint for the current age, said Carl A. Anderson, supreme knight of the international fraternal order.

"We've been praying for years for this to occur, and finally this day has arrived," he told Catholic News Service May 27.

First, he's a pro-life hero. The miracle recognized by the Vatican paving the way for his beatification occurred in 2015 and involved an U.S. baby, still in utero, with a life-threatening condition that, under most circumstances, could have led to an abortion.

He was found to be healed after his family prayed to Father McGivney. "The Vatican likes to be the one to discuss more details than that," Anderson said.

The Vatican announced early May 27 that Pope Francis, who met with the board of directors of the Knights of Columbus in February, had signed the decree recognizing the miracle through the intercession of Father McGivney. Once he is beatified, he will be given the title "Blessed."

Father McGivney (1852-1890), ordained a priest for what is now the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, founded the Knights of Columbus at St. Mary's Church in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1882. The fraternal order for Catholic men has become the largest lay Catholic organization in the world with 2 million members and sponsors a wide range of educational, charitable and religious activities

The initial work on his sainthood cause began in 1982 on the Knights' centenary. His cause was formally opened in Hartford in 1997, and he was given the title "servant of God." In March 2008, the Catholic Church recognized the priest heroically lived the Christian virtues, so he was given the title "venerable."

His beatification ceremony will be held in Connecticut sometime this fall -- like all other events, scheduling is uncertain because of the COVID-19 pandemic -- "and sometime after that, we'll be looking for another miracle," Anderson said.

Generally, two miracles attributed to the candidate's intercession are required for sainthood -- one for beatification and the second for canonization.

Father McGivney, who will be the first American parish priest to be beatified and has long been a hero of working-class Catholics, can be viewed as a martyr of a pandemic. When he died from pneumonia complications at age 38 in 1890, it was during an outbreak of influenza known as the Russian flu in Thomaston, Connecticut. Some recent evidence, according to the Knights, indicates the outbreak may have been the result of a coronavirus.

Anderson praised Father McGivney's modesty and "dedication to charity and unity and the way he embodied the good Samaritan" after founding the Knights of Columbus, originally a service organization to help widows and orphans, in New Haven. At the time, Father McGivney, the son of Irish immigrants, who was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, was an assistant pastor at St. Mary's Parish. He is buried in New Haven.

"Father McGivney did not want to be the leader of the Knights of Columbus," Anderson observed. "He was at first the group's secretary and then the chaplain."

Further, Father McGivney's legacy also includes "the empowerment of the laity" through service projects, Anderson said. "His work anticipated the Second Vatican Council. He created a universal call to holiness that gave the laity a way to be more faithful Catholics. He provided a mechanism for them to go into society and make a difference."

The priest's great foresight of involving the laity as leadership of the Knights also was cited by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, who is supreme chaplain of the fraternal order.

"In that, I think he looks like a forecast of the Second Vatican Council, which indeed provided for a much larger role for the laity in the life of the church, in shaping a just society," he told the Catholic Review, Baltimore's archdiocesan media outlet.

Archbishop Lori also said Father McGivney was a visionary leader in creating the Knights organization as a life insurance company, because the priest saw the need to help families left destitute when the breadwinner died, as often happened in the 19th century.

"But he also saw the need, even more importantly, for men and their families to deepen their commitment to the faith, their knowledge of the faith and their participation in the faith," the archbishop said. "So, he made the Knights a tremendous avenue for the spiritual growth of Catholic men and their families."

He called Father McGivney a model parish priest who "knew his people" and "he loved them."

"He enjoyed being with his people. He provided opportunities for spiritual growth, but also for families and parishioners to come together. He loved the poor and the outcast. He preached convincingly and beautifully," said Archbishop Lori.

The archbishop said Father McGivney was "a Pope Francis priest before there was a Pope Francis," a comment he said he thought the pope enjoyed when the board of the Knights met with him at the Vatican earlier this year and the archbishop presented a biography of the priest to the pope.

Archbishop Lori also noted the priest's connections to Baltimore: He was formed for priesthood at St. Mary's Seminary on Paca Street and ordained a priest in 1877 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Archbishop James Gibbons for Hartford.

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Editor's Note: The Knights have set up a new website for Father McGivney's sainthood cause: https://www.fathermcgivney.org.

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Contributing to this story was Christ Gunty, associate publisher/editor of Catholic Review Media, the media arm of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

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Copyright © 2020 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.

Catholics in Twin Cities grappling with Floyd's death, related rioting

IMAGE: CNS photo/Maria Wiering, The Catholic Spirit

By Maria Wiering

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- For three hours on the morning of May 30, Father Joe Gillespie walked Lake Street in Minneapolis, surveying the destruction in his neighborhood.

The Walgreens a block from his parish church, St. Albert the Great, was a burned-out shell, its ceiling completely collapsed. Plywood covered most business' windows, either because they had been smashed out, or to protect them from further vandalism. Graffiti covered buildings' facades, some of it memorializing George Floyd, an African American man who died while in the custody of a white police officer during an arrest on Memorial Day.

One of his favorite restaurants, Midori's Floating World Cafe, had been set ablaze, and he talked to the owners as they were cleaning up the mess. A day earlier, they had posted online that they didn't know if they would be able to reopen, and thanked their customers for the support over the 17 years they'd been there.

"They were literally in tears," said Father Gillespie, a Dominican priest, standing in St. Albert's narthex in red vestments following a Pentecost vigil Mass. "Their place was just destroyed. All the windows were broken."

The day before, a fellow Dominican, Brother Peter Lewitzke, described a similar walk he had taken with Dominican Father Jerry Stookey, pastor of nearby Holy Rosary Church.

"It really does shake you to have to walk through that," said Brother Lewitzke, who recently finished a yearlong internship in campus ministry at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

He walked past businesses he has visited, including a barber shop whose owner he has gotten to know. "He gives free haircuts to homeless people," he noted in an interview with The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The barber shop's windows were smashed, as were those in a nearby library.

"That upsets me," he said, "but I think the important thing is that we don't allow all of that to dismiss what started this in the first place. We can't let the cycle of violence and anger continue endlessly."

St. Albert and Holy Rosary are the closest parishes to the Minnehaha Shopping Center, where the riots began May 26 with the looting of Target and the first fire at AutoZone. And, after three nights of chaos in the city, including protesters' destruction of the Minneapolis Third Precinct police building, Father Gillespie said people in the neighborhood felt abandoned by police and uncertain about the future.

The largest deployment of the National Guard in Minnesota history brought order to the city that night, but in the evening, St. Paul and Minneapolis residents were preparing for the worst. The interstate highways closed at 7 p.m., and curfew began at 8 p.m. In south Minneapolis, residents were instructed to fill bathtubs and trash bins with water and keep garden hoses ready in case they needed to extinguish fires, turn on their lights, and, if they felt comfortable, sit in their yards to discourage vandalism.

Karen Bohaty, 69, a St. Albert parishioner who lives in south Minneapolis, said she was aghast at what happened to Floyd, but was angry about the related riots and the destruction across the Twin Cities. She had questioned whether it would be safe to attend Mass that night, the first time the parish was celebrating a public Mass since mid-March, due to the coronavirus pandemic. She was relieved the church hadn't been vandalized.

Not all churches were so lucky. At the Basilica of St. Mary on the outskirts of downtown Minneapolis, a small interior fire damaged a few pews, Father Gillespie said. Basilica director of marketing and communications Mae Desaire confirmed to The Catholic Spirit the basilica received minor damage overnight May 28, but wouldn't speak to the details.

"At this time, we pray for peace and healing in our city," she said in a prepared statement.

Throughout the day May 30, people from across the Twin Cities flocked to Lake Street to help clean the rubble.

Chris Damian, 29, a parishioner of St. Thomas More Church in St. Paul, headed to the clean up on his bike, but accepted a ride from a woman who stopped when she noticed he had a broom. "Because when the worst comes to the Twin Cities, the best comes out of the Twin Cities," he posted on Facebook.

Father Paul Shovelain, the 32-year-old pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in New Brighton, Minnesota, also spent time that day cleaning up on Lake Street. Wearing clerics, a mask and a backward sun visor with "MPLS MINN" across the band, he prayed an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be via Facebook Live for "our world, our newly ordained priests" -- May 30 was ordination day in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis -- "and for the repose of the soul of George Floyd."

Behind Father Shovelain was Cup Foods, the site where Floyd was arrested and, while handcuffed on the ground, repeatedly said, "I can't breathe" and called out for his mother, while Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, knelt on his neck, even as bystanders pleaded for the officer to let him breathe. He continued to kneel on Floyd, even after Floyd became unresponsive. A bystander filmed the incident and shared it on social media.

Floyd was later pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center. Chauvin and three other officers involved were fired. Chauvin was arrested May 29 and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The three other ex-officers have not been arrested.

Twin Cities-area Catholics are among Minnesotans still processing the horror and tragedy, and grappling with their role -- and the Catholic Church's -- both in fighting racism and rebuilding the city.

St. Joan of Arc Church in south Minneapolis planned to hold a virtual prayer service June 2. The church is located just a mile-and-a-half from Cup Foods, the convenience store where Floyd was accused of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 to buy cigarettes around 8 p.m.

Cynthia Bailey Manns, the adult learning director at St. Joan of Arc, who was scheduled to co-lead that prayer service, said May 29 it took two days for the reality of Floyd's death to sink in. It reminded her of other recent police-involved deaths of unarmed black men.

"There's that sense of denial -- here we go again. This can't be real. How many? How many more times?" she asked. "And then it was just a sense of heaviness."

For a while, her prayer has been "Lord help us, and how much longer?"

"It dawned on me yesterday," she said, "that God is saying the same thing: 'I have given you all that you need to figure this out. I've gifted you with reasoning, intellect, compassion, empathy ... love, all the things you need to figure out how to live with each other and to honor the sanctity of life. I'm weeping with you, because you guys are really struggling to figure this out and learn from the lessons of the past.'"

Floyd's death is part of a "400-year-old struggle," said Manns, who is African American, referring to the beginning of slavery in America.

"When you watch a man die on a video, and it's not the first time we've seen this. ... Two months ago, the man who was jogging gets shot. We watched him die," she said. "Remember, this is a part of our history. We have watched our ancestors be lynched. We have watched them be killed and dragged from trucks. All of that is in our legacy. There's trauma. And when something like this happens, it stirs it all up again."

Those interviewed drew a distinction between people justifiably protesting Floyd's death -- mostly peacefully -- and opportunists who spearheaded the looting and arson. However, Manns said she could understand the anger, although she made clear she didn't condone the vandalism now rampant in many major U.S. cities.

"I understand that sense of, 'How many times can you say something and hope someone would hear it?' and not only is it discounted, but you as a human being are discounted," Manns said.

Manns holds a doctorate of ministry in spiritual direction and is the coordinator of the Spiritual Direction Certificate Program and is a member of the theology faculty at St. Catherine University in St. Paul. She said she would like to see the local church provide more resources for ministry to black Catholics, and she has been involved in trying to revive an archdiocesan initiative.

Brother Lewitzke believes change is needed on individual and structural levels, and through the love of Christ. Racism can't simply be reduced to a social issue, he said.

"There's a spiritual component as well, and we have to pray for the conversion of our society. We have to pray for change. We have to pray for justice, which will likely include gathering together with people outside of our own traditions -- be it other Christians, non-Christians, etc. We need all the help we can get."

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Wiering is editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Staff writer Barb Umberger contributed to this story.

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Update: Bishops 'sickened' by Floyd's death, urge racism be met 'head-on'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Eric Miller, Reuters

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Catholic bishops said May 29 they "are broken-hearted, sickened and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes."

"What's more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences. This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion," they said in a statement about the May 25 death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.

In recent weeks, Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old African American man in Georgia, was fatally shot ,and three white men were arrested and are facing murder charges in his death. In March, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American woman, died at the hands of white police officers when they entered her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky.

"Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied about when convenient," the bishops said. "It is a real and present danger that must be met head-on."

"As members of the church, we must stand for the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference," they said. "We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life. We serve a God of love, mercy and justice."

"Indifference is not an option," they emphasized and stated "unequivocally" that "racism is a life issue."

The statement was issued by the chairmen of seven committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism; Archbishop Nelson J. Perez of Philadelphia, Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church; Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Auxiliary Bishop David G. O'Connell of Los Angeles, Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development; and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry of Chicago, Subcommittee on African American Affairs.

Floyd, 46, was arrested by police on suspicion of forgery. Once he was handcuffed, a white officer pinned him down on the street, putting his knee on Floyd's neck for eight minutes. A now widely circulated video shows Floyd repeatedly saying, "I can't breathe." He appears to lose consciousness or die and was later declared dead at the hospital.

The next day, hundreds of people protested at the intersection where police officers subdued Floyd, demanding justice for him and the arrest of the four officers involved. The officers were fired May 26 and as of midday May 29, local prosecutors filed criminal charges against at least one of the now former officers: The one seen putting his knee on Floyd's neck, identified as Derek Chauvin, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

The federal Justice Department promised a "robust" investigation into the circumstances surrounding Floyd's death.

Protests in Minneapolis have turned to violent demonstrations and lasted several days, prompting Gov. Tim Walz to bring in the National Guard May 29. The protests sparked similar rioting in at least a dozen U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, New York, Louisville, and Columbus, Ohio.

The bishops in their statement pointed to their "Open Wide Our Hearts" pastoral against racism approved by the body of bishops in 2018. In it, they said: "For people of color some interactions with police can be fraught with fear and even danger. People of good conscience must never turn a blind eye when citizens are being deprived of their human dignity and even their lives."

In their May 29 statement, the committee chairmen called for an end to the violence taking place in the wake of the tragedy in Minneapolis but also said they "stand in passionate support of communities that are understandably outraged."

They joined with Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis in praying for the repose of the soul of Floyd "and all others who have lost their lives in a similar manner."

In anticipation of the feast of Pentecost, May 31, they called on all Catholics "to pray and work toward a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit" and pray to "to rid ourselves of the harm that bias and prejudice cause."

"We call upon Catholics to pray to the Holy Spirit for the spirit of truth to touch the hearts of all in the United States and to come down upon our criminal justice and law enforcement systems," the bishops said urged every Catholic, regardless of ethnicity, to "beg God to heal our deeply broken view of each other, as well as our deeply broken society."

Here is the full text of their statement:

We are broken-hearted, sickened and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes. What's more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences. This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion.

Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied about when convenient. It is a real and present danger that must be met head-on. As members of the Church, we must stand for the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference. We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life. We serve a God of love, mercy, and justice.

While it is expected that we will plead for peaceful nonviolent protests, and we certainly do, we also stand in passionate support of communities that are understandably outraged. Too many communities around this country feel their voices are not being heard, their complaints about racist treatment are unheeded, and we are not doing enough to point out that this deadly treatment is antithetical to the Gospel of Life.

As we said eighteen months ago in our most recent pastoral letter against racism, "Open Wide Our Hearts," for people of color some interactions with police can be fraught with fear and even danger. People of good conscience must never turn a blind eye when citizens are being deprived of their human dignity and even their lives. Indifference is not an option. As bishops, we unequivocally state that racism is a life issue."

We join Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis in praying for the repose of the soul of Mr. George Floyd and all others who have lost their lives in a similar manner. We plead for an end to the violence in the wake of this tragedy and for the victims of the rioting. We pray for comfort for grieving families and friends. We pray for peace across the United States, particularly in Minnesota, while the legal process moves forward. We also anticipate a full investigation that results in rightful accountability and actual justice.

We join our brother bishops to challenge everyone to come together, particularly with those who are from different cultural backgrounds. In this encounter, let us all seek greater understanding amongst God's people. So many people who historically have been disenfranchised continue to experience sadness and pain, yet they endeavor to persevere and remain people of great faith. We encourage our pastors to encounter and more authentically accompany them, listen to their stories, and learn from them, finding substantive ways to enact systemic change. Such encounters will start to bring about the needed transformation of our understanding of true life, charity, and justice in the United States. Hopefully, then there will be many voices speaking out and seeking healing against the evil of racism in our land.

As we anticipate the Solemnity of Pentecost this weekend, we call upon all Catholics to pray and work toward a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray for a supernatural desire to rid ourselves of the harm that bias and prejudice cause. We call upon Catholics to pray to the Holy Spirit for the spirit of truth to touch the hearts of all in the United States and to come down upon our criminal justice and law enforcement systems. Finally, let each and every Catholic, regardless of their ethnicity, beg God to heal our deeply broken view of each other, as well as our deeply broken society.

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Editor's Note: The full text of the bishops' 2108 pastoral against racism, "Open Wide Our Hearts," can be found online at https://bit.ly/2XLbpYv.

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Follow Asher on Twitter: @jlasher

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Pope: Pandemic is an opportunity for mission, service to others

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While isolation, social distancing and economic uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic prove to be a challenge, Christians are called by God to take part in the church's mission in the world, Pope Francis wrote in a message for World Mission Sunday 2020.

"The impossibility of gathering as a church to celebrate the Eucharist has led us to share the experience of the many Christian communities that cannot celebrate Mass every Sunday," the pope wrote in his message, which was released by the Vatican May 31.

"In all of this, God's question: 'Whom shall I send?' is addressed once more to us and awaits a generous and convincing response: 'Here am I, send me!'" he said.

World Mission Sunday will be celebrated Oct. 18 at the Vatican and in most dioceses.

In his message, the pope said that despite the suffering and challenges posed by COVID-19, the church's "missionary journey" continues. Although pain and death "make us experience our human frailty," it also serves as a reminder of "our deep desire for life and liberation from evil."

"In this context, the call to mission, the invitation to step out of ourselves for love of God and neighbor presents itself as an opportunity for sharing, service and intercessory prayer," he wrote. "The mission that God entrusts to each one of us leads us from fear and introspection to a renewed realization that we find ourselves precisely when we give ourselves to others."

To be a "church on the move," he explained, is neither a program nor "an enterprise to be carried out by sheer force of will," but rather follows the prompting of the Holy Spirit "who pushes you and carries you."

Pope Francis said the celebration of World Mission Sunday offers an opportunity to reaffirm that one's prayers, reflections and offerings are ways "to participate actively in the mission of Jesus in his church."

He also reminded Christians that the mission of evangelization is "a free and conscious response to God's call" that can only be discerned by one's "personal relationship of love with Jesus present in his church."

"In all of this, God's question, 'Whom shall I send?' is addressed once more to us and awaits a generous and convincing response: 'Here am I, send me!'" the pope said. "God continues to look for those whom he can send forth into the world and to the nations to bear witness to his love, his deliverance from sin and death, his liberation from evil."

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The English text of the pope's message can be found at:
http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/missions/documents/papa-francesco_20200531_giornata-missionaria2020.html

The Spanish text is here:
http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/es/messages/missions/documents/papa-francesco_20200531_giornata-missionaria2020.html

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Copyright © 2020 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.

Church united by Spirit, not personal beliefs, pope says on Pentecost

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Just as the apostles were united once they received the Holy Spirit, the church is united by that same spirit and not by keeping company just with those who agree on a certain interpretation of Christian teaching, Pope Francis said on Pentecost.

Celebrating Mass May 31 in St. Peter's Basilica, the pope said that those who give in to the temptation to fiercely "defend our ideas, believing them to be good for everybody and agreeing only with those who think as we do," adhere to a faith created in their own image and "not what the Spirit wants."

"We might think that what unite us are our beliefs and our morality. But there is much more: Our principle of unity is the Holy Spirit. He reminds us that, first of all, we are God's beloved children. The Spirit comes to us, in our differences and difficulties, to tell us that we have one Lord -- Jesus -- and one Father, and that for this reason we are brothers and sisters," he said.

In February, the Vatican had announced that the pope would celebrate Pentecost in Malta. However, the trip was canceled due to the coronavirus, and instead he celebrated the Mass with a limited congregation present at the basilica's Altar of the Chair.

After celebrating Mass, the pope spoke to the socially distanced faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square before praying the "Regina Coeli." It was the first time the pope addressed the faithful from the window of the Apostolic Palace since lockdown measures forced an end to all public gatherings.

"Today, now that the square is open, we can return here. It is a pleasure" to see you, the pope said.

Reflecting on the feast of Pentecost, the pope said the coming of the Holy Spirit turned the lives of the apostles "upside down" and made them "courageous witnesses" to Christ's death and resurrection.

"The feast of Pentecost renews the awareness that the life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit dwells in us," he said. "He also gives us the courage to go outside the protective walls of our 'cenacles,' without resting in the quiet life or locking ourselves up in sterile habits."

The pope also recalled the seven-month anniversary of the conclusion of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon and offered prayers for the people of the Amazon region where the pandemic, along with deforestation and pollution, have added to the suffering of indigenous people.

"I make an appeal so that no one may lack health care assistance. Take care of people; don't save up for the economy. Care for people who are more important than the economy. We, the people, are temples of the Holy Spirit, the economy isn't," the pope said.

Earlier, in his homily at Mass, the pope reflected on the second reading from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, in which the apostle says that the church, while composed of many different parts, is one body.

Despite the many differences and difficulties, the pope said, the Holy Spirit is what unites the church's members as brothers and sisters. He also called on Catholics to "look at the church with the eyes of the Spirit and not as the world does."

"The world sees us only as on the right or left; the Spirit sees us as sons and daughters of the Father and brothers and sisters of Jesus," he explained. "The world sees conservatives and progressives; the Spirit sees children of God. A worldly gaze sees structures to be made more efficient; a spiritual gaze sees brothers and sisters pleading for mercy."

Pope Francis said that the secret to unity is that it is a gift of the Holy Spirit and that it is important to understand that God "acts not by taking away, but by giving."

"Why is this important?" the pope asked. "Because our way of being believers depends on how we understand God. If we have in mind a God who takes away and imposes himself, we, too, will want to take away and impose ourselves: occupying spaces, demanding recognition, seeking power."

"But if we have in our hearts a God who is gift, everything changes. If we realize that what we are is his gift, free and unmerited, then we, too, will want to make our lives a gift," he said.

The pope also warned Christians of the "three enemies" of God's gift that lurk "at the door of our hearts" and impede people from giving themselves to others.

The first enemy, narcissism, "is the tendency to think only of our own needs, to be indifferent to those of others and not to admit our own frailties and mistakes." However, victimhood, the second enemy, is "equally dangerous," because people close their hearts and are concerned only with their own sufferings.

Pessimism is the final enemy, and it sees everything in "the worst light" and repeatedly says that nothing will return as before.

"When someone thinks this way," the pope said, "the one thing that certainly does not return is hope. We are experiencing a famine of hope, and we need to appreciate the gift of life, the gift that each of us is. We need the Holy Spirit, the gift of God who heals us of narcissism, victimhood and pessimism."

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From Vatican Gardens, pope leads rosary to pray for pandemic's end

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With a religious sister who survived COVID-19 and a woman who lost her mother to the coronavirus, Pope Francis led the recitation of rosary and asked Mary to intercede to save the world from the pandemic.

More than 100 people joined Pope Francis May 30 for the early evening prayer in the Vatican Gardens at a replica of the grotto at Lourdes, France. More than 50 Marian shrines around the world, including Lourdes and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, were connected by satellite.

Pope Francis did not make remarks or offer a meditation during the service. Instead he opened and closed the evening with the prayers he had asked Catholics to pray during the month of May, a month traditionally dedicated to Mary.

He began by entrusting everyone to Mary under the title "Health of the Sick."

Chairs in the little square in front of the grotto were set 5 feet apart, and most people wore a mask.

A brief rain storm, which ended about an hour before the rosary began, seemed to energize the parakeets and other birds in the garden; they accompanied the prayer with their song and zipped back and forth over the little congregation.

Each decade of the rosary was led by a person directly impacted by the virus, including COVID-19 survivors Giovanni De Cerce and Sister Zelia Andrighetti, superior general of the Daughters of St. Camillus.

Tea Pompeo, who is mourning her mother, represented those who lost a loved one during the pandemic. And Federica Polinari and Manuele Bartoli, with newborn Iacopo, represented families who had welcomed a new life into the world during the lockdown.

Two doctors, a nurse, a pharmacist, a hospital chaplain, a television journalist and a civil protection volunteer also represented their peers.

A short reading from Scripture preceded the proclamation of the five glorious mysteries of the rosary: the resurrection of Jesus, his ascension into heaven, the descent of the Holy Spirit, Mary's assumption into heaven and the crowning of Mary as queen of heaven and earth.

Closing the rosary with the second prayer he wrote for Catholics this year, Pope Francis repeated the ancient and traditional prayer to Mary, "Sub tuum praesidium," or "We fly to your protection, O Holy Mother of God."

"In the present tragic situation, when the whole world is prey to suffering and anxiety, we fly to you, mother of God and our mother, and seek refuge under your protection," the pope recited.

The pope invoked Mary's comfort for those who are distraught or are in mourning, for the sick and their loved ones who cannot be with them for fear of spreading the coronavirus further.

"Fill with hope those who are troubled by the uncertainty of the future and the consequences for the economy and employment," he prayed.

The pope remembered front-line workers, government leaders who must find the best ways to protect their people and scientists working to find a cure and a vaccine.

"Beloved mother," he said, "help us realize that we are all members of one great family and to recognize the bond that unites us, so that, in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity, we can help to alleviate countless situations of poverty and need."

"Make us strong in faith, persevering in service, constant in prayer," Pope Francis prayed.

 

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Update: Racism seen 'at heart' of man's death at hands of Minneapolis police

IMAGE: CNS photo/Eric Miller, Reuters

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The racism "at the heart" of the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis "penetrates every aspect of life in the United States" and seeds "the terror that threatens communities of color and disfigures all our humanity," Pax Christi USA said May 28.

The Catholic peace organization, based in Washington, said it stands "in solidarity with our siblings in Minneapolis who are protesting white supremacy with their voices and their bodies, and we recommit ourselves to working to dismantle systemic racism in all its forms."

Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, was arrested by police May 25 on suspicion of forgery. Once he was handcuffed, a white officer pinned him down on the street, putting his knee on Floyd's neck for eight minutes. A now widely circulated video shows Floyd repeatedly saying, "I can't breathe." He appears to lose consciousness or die and was later declared dead at the hospital.

The next day, hundreds of people protested at the intersection where police officers subdued Floyd, demanding justice for Floyd and the arrest of the four officers involved. The officers were fired May 26 and as of midday May 29, local prosecutors filed criminal charges against at least one of the now former officers: The one seen putting his knee on Floyd's neck, identified as Derek Chauvin, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

For several days, protesters have set fires and vandalized police vehicles and the Minneapolis Police Third Precinct building, as well as several local businesses. The precinct building was set on fire the evening of May 28; other buildings have been torched as well. Government officials have called in the National Guard to help keep the peace. The federal Justice Department promised a "robust" investigation into the circumstances surrounding Floyd's death

Across the U.S., riots have erupted in a number of cities, including Los Angeles; Phoenix; Denver; New York; Louisville, Kentucky; and Columbus, Ohio.

In its statement, Pax Christi USA said it is "outraged and heartbroken" over Floyd's death, as well as the recent the fatal shooting of an unarmed 25 year-old African American man in Georgia, Ahmaud Arbery -- "and so many others, which reveal a complete disregard for the lives and dignity of people of color in our nation." Three white men were arrested in Arbery's death and were facing murder charges.

"Pope John Paul II called racism 'the most persistent and destructive evil of the nation,'" the statement continued. "As Catholics, it is not enough to relegate our concern to words, thoughts and prayers. Our church, at every level, must speak out boldly and unequivocally against the sin of racism, including the plague of police brutality aimed at George Floyd in Minneapolis this week."

The Catholic Church -- "from our institutional leaders through the faithful in the pews" -- must let "the injustice and violence of these needless deaths seep into our bones, rend our hearts and puncture our souls," Pax Christi USA said.

Because of "their privilege," white Catholics, it said, "are afforded a safe distance from the despair and agony that communities of color experience in moments like this. None of us can stand for this any longer."

Pax Christi USA called on its white members to "support people of color movements" in their local areas "and stand with them as allies."

In Baltimore, Archbishop William E. Lori said in a May 28 statement: "All who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ are obligated to work relentlessly to defeat the painful and persistent reality of racism in every instance and wherever it is manifested. Our hearts ache for the family of Mr. Floyd as we pray for them in this hour of their great anguish.

"We pray also for the people of Minneapolis as they now come to terms with this latest instance of injustice and with God's help begin to bind the wounds that it has exposed."

Bishop Nicolas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York, said the protests and violence that have followed Floyd's death are taking place because "persons of color feel they have no recourse."

"We Christians must be fierce in our opposition to the evil of racism, but we must respond peacefully and remember the Lord's call to us to love one another as He loves us," he added.

Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, the public policy arm of the state's bishops, prayed "for the Holy Spirit's guidance as we approach this season of Pentecost in order to work toward a society where justice, peace, and charity may be shared with all of God's children."

Bishop Robert J. Brennan of Columbus, Ohio, said Floyd's death "calls for an honest self-examination on the part of all of us that seeks to identify sinful attitudes and judgments that must be remedied. Laws and policies must do more to protect the fundamental rights of those at risk."

"As people of faith in God, we must be totally committed to eradicating racism and encouraging all our neighbors to peace toward people of every race, creed and color," he said, adding that he recognizes "most in our law enforcement community are very good people who find these situations abhorrent" and are themselves calling for investigation and action to stop such situations.

"I thank them for their service and willingness to risk their well-being to help assure the common good," Bishop Brennnan added.

Tim Marx, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, called Floyd's death a tragedy that "tears at the fibers that bring us together and shines a harsh light on the systemic injustices that too many must confront every single day of their lives. We are one human family -- what affects one of us, affects all of us."

"George Floyd was killed not far from several Catholic Charities locations serving children and adults, where staff work hard to build a culture of safety and community for individuals who have experienced unthinkable trauma in their lives," Marx said. "They are reeling, and our staff are at a loss to provide comfort."

He made the comments in a May 29 letter to the agency's supporters and friends.

It may be hard to find the words "to describe the pain, grief and anger our community is experiencing right now, but silence is not an option," he said. "We cannot be numb. We cannot separate ourselves from the injustices in our community. And we must not stop communicating, even if it's hard to find the words."

Catholic Charities' mission "is to serve those most in need and to advocate for justice in the community. We stand with all those who are working to confront the systemic racism and prejudice that created the conditions that allowed George Floyd to die so tragically," Marx said.

He said the "community is shaking with emotion and violence" and the agency was concerned about the safety and well-being of its clients, its staff and the community at large.

Pax Christi in its statement said "tangible steps" are needed to build an "anti-racist society" and include "addressing the culture of policing that upholds white supremacy and working to dismantle it"; teaching the history of "systemic and institutional racism" and diving "deeply into the discomfort that ... such realities raise for some of us, especially white people."

The history of the Catholic Church "includes support for slavery, the promotion of segregation, discrimination against people of color and the silence that equals complicity," the statement added.

In other reaction, Lawrence E. Couch, who director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, said May 29 the bottom line regarding the Floyd tragedy and the Aubrey murder is "we continue to see people of a different color as the other; and that continues to matter and reverberate throughout our society."

"And as people of goodwill, we pray for an America united in love and purpose: united in our aspiration for racial equality, in freedom for all to dream, and an opportunity for all to become who we want to be. Sadly and tragically, we are not there yet."

The Institute Leadership Team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas said: "We pray for comfort for each of these families as they face the painful loss of their loved ones. We pray for the African American community, repeatedly impacted by the trauma these killings produce, (pray) that supportive care is accessible and available. We pray for this nation's deep racial divide and that true healing will occur."

The leadership team named a third African American who died in March at the hands of white police officers when they entered her home: Breonna Taylor of Louisville. "We stand in solidarity with the many calling for justice and an end to the extrajudicial killings of African Americans," the team said.

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Louisiana bishop: 'People are losing their lives because of racism'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The bishop who heads the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism said the May 25 death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police "reminds us that people are losing their lives because of racism."

It also serves as a reminder that "racism is a life issue," said Bishop Shelton T. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, whose committee produced "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love -- A Pastoral Letter Against Racism," which was approved by the U.S. bishops in 2018.

"Until we take the human dignity of each and every person -- regardless of the circumstances of their lives -- serious(ly), there will continue to be a loss of life due to racism," he added. "It is outrageous that this is another African American death in police custody."

Bishop Fabre, in a May 29 phone interview with Catholic News Service, said: "Such events as this make it very, very clear to us that racism is not a thing of the past. It's not a political issue, it's a human issue. It's about people's lives. Racism is a danger. Racism is still with us."

Floyd, 46, was pronounced dead at a Minneapolis hospital after being handcuffed by police, with one of the four responding officers kneeling on his neck for about eight minutes. Video footage of the police tactics, with Floyd saying "I can't breathe," spread quickly across social media, sparking outrage and protests.

The four police officers were fired and as of midday May 29, local prosecutors filed criminal charges against at least one of the now former officers: The one who was seen putting his knee on Floyd's neck, identified as Derek Chauvin, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. In addition, the federal Justice Department promised a "robust" investigation into the circumstances surrounding Floyd's death.

However, those responses were not fast enough to satisfy angry and anguished protesters in Minneapolis, who overran and set fire to a police station May 28 and engaged in vandalism and looting after police retreated. Other protests against Floyd's death took place in neighboring St. Paul, Minnesota, across the Mississippi River from Minneapolis, but also at the Colorado Capitol in Denver, the Ohio Capitol in Columbus, plus New York City and Phoenix.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz sent 500 Minnesota National Guard soldiers to the Twin Cities to quell the unrest. President Donald Trump weighed in on Floyd's death on Twitter May 29, saying "THUGS" were "dishonoring" Floyd's memory, and seemed to warn against rioting: "When the looting starts, the shooting starts." Twitter censored Trump's comment as potentially "glorifying violence."

"I hope the protests will be peaceful, that we will notice them and that we will hear what the protests are trying to convey, and that they will open our hearts anew to hear what is being shared with us. This is coming from people who are not being heard, people who feel they are not being heard," Bishop Fabre told CNS.

The widespread nature of the protests "reminds us that racism is far-reaching. Each and every one of us has a story with regard to racism. People of color have a story as to how racism has deeply affected them," Bishop Fabre said. "It is something you can see in protests brewing up."

Asked if there were something in "Open Wide Our Hearts" that addresses the current moment, Bishop Fabre suggested this: "One thing we can all do is enter into conversation with people of color and ask, 'How did you feel when George Floyd lost his life?' and listen to their feelings with our hearts and with our ears. Listen to what they say. When we can continue to begin acting on that belief, that common respect for one another will lead to action. And that action will lead to an end to such loss of life as we have seen."

Otherwise, he said, "we're gong to have events like these for a long time."

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Editor's Note: The full text of the bishops' pastoral against racism, "Open Wide Our Hearts," can be found online at https://bit.ly/2XLbpYv.

 

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Vatican official says anti-religious bias was evident during lockdown

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jonathan Brady, PA Images via Reuters

By

VIENNA (CNS) -- As people spent more time online during the coronavirus lockdown, negative remarks and even the incitement of hatred based on national, cultural or religious identity increased, a Vatican representative said.

Discrimination on social media can lead to violence, the final step in a "slippery slope which starts with mockery and social intolerance," said Msgr. Janusz Urbanczyk, the Holy See's representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Msgr. Urbanczyk was one of more than 230 representatives of OSCE member nations, intergovernmental organizations, marginalized communities and civil society participating in an online meeting May 25-26 to discuss challenges and opportunities to strengthen tolerance during the pandemic and in the future.

Participants discussed the importance of inclusive policies and coalition building in strengthening diverse and multiethnic societies, as well as the need for early action to prevent intolerance from escalating into open conflict, said a statement from the OSCE.

According to Vatican News, Msgr. Urbanczyk told the meeting that hate crimes against Christians and members of other religions negatively impact their enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

"These include threats, violent attacks, murders and profanation of churches and places of worship, cemeteries and other religious properties," he said.

Also of "great concern," he said, are attempts to profess a respect for religious freedom while also attempting to limit religious practice and religious expressions in public.

"The false idea that religions could have a negative impact or represent a threat to the well-being of our societies is growing," the monsignor said.

Some of the specific measures governments took to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic involved "de facto discriminatory treatment" of religions and their members, he said.

"Rights and fundamental freedoms have been limited or derogated throughout the whole OSCE area," including in places where churches were ordered shut and where religious services faced greater restrictions than other areas of public life.

 

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Pope thanks refugee center's efforts to help migrants

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis expressed his gratitude to a Jesuit-run refugee center in Rome for its continued care for migrants and refugees fleeing war, persecution and hunger.

In the letter dated May 23, the pope said the Centro Astalli is an example that will help "inspire in society a renewed commitment for an authentic culture of welcome and solidarity."

"I wish to express my sincere appreciation to you, the employees and volunteers for the courage with which you confront the challenge of migration, especially in this delicate time for the right to asylum, for the thousands of people who flee from war, from persecution and from serious humanitarian crises," he said in the letter addressed to Jesuit Father Camillo Ripamonti, the center's director.

The Centro Astalli, which is part of the Jesuit Refugee Service, was founded by Father Pedro Arrupe, superior of the Jesuits from 1965 to 1983.

The pope's letter was sent after the center published its 2020 Annual Report detailing its work in Rome and other locations throughout Italy in 2019.

According to its report, the center assisted an estimated 20,000 migrants, 11,000 of whom were helped at its Rome location. The center also distributed 56,475 meals throughout the year.

In his letter, Pope Francis also addressed the refugees welcomed by the center and said that he was "spiritually close to all with prayer and affection, and I encourage you to have faith and hope in a world of peace, justice and brotherhood among peoples."

"I renew my encouragement to the Centro Astalli and all who collaborate with it in the wise approach to the complex phenomenon of migration, in supporting adequate support interventions and giving witness to those human and Christian values that are at the foundation of European civilization," he said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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Latin American church workers: Pandemic turmoil increases child abuse

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bruno Kelly, Reuters

By Eduardo Campos Lima

SAO PAULO (CNS) -- Catholic missionaries in Latin America say they have noticed disturbing signs of an increase in child abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The social turmoil provoked by the disease and some of the restrictions imposed by governments to avoid the further spread of the virus may be amplifying the risks, they said.

On May 26, the World Health Organization said the Americas had become the new epicenter of the disease, as Brazil's daily death rate became the highest in the world. The organization is also concerned about the rising curves in countries like Peru, Chile and El Salvador.

Most countries in the region adopted social distancing measures in mid-March, including broad quarantines in Peru, Argentina and the Dominican Republic. Even in Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro has refused to federally impose such restrictions, state governors and city mayors suspended nonessential activities. Throughout the continent, schools are closed and children are at home.

That's precisely what is most worrisome, said Brazilian Sister Roselei Bertoldo, a member of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who works with the Cry for Life Network, which fights human trafficking and sexual abuse.

"We know that sexual abuse and exploitation most of the times happen inside families. Those problems tend to grow during confinement," Sister Bertoldo told Catholic News Service.

Most children usually denounce abuse at school, she said, "but poor kids don't even have the option of distance education, so we're very worried about them."

During the pandemic, the network had to suspend most of its activities and is currently using the internet to raise awareness on prevention.

"Unfortunately, we frequently get reports from people concerning abuse. We know things are escalating," she said.

The fragility of the state security apparatus in many Latin American regions, intensified with the pandemic, also makes the situation of the victims difficult.

"Families usually fear the aggressor and avoid reporting the case to the police. Now, children are even more vulnerable," Veronica Rubi, director of Caritas in Tabatinga, Brazil, told CNS.

Rubi also is one of the coordinators of a network against human trafficking in the tri-border region. The network was created in 2014 and coordinates sisters, priests, and lay activists from Tabatinga, Brazil; Leticia, Colombia; and Santa Rosa de Yavari, Peru. In 2019, the three bishops of the region established a cooperation agreement.

"It's very easy to cross the borders. Aggressors may have a sense of impunity, given that they can simply hide in another country," Rubi said.

She said her network had to reduce activities with the pandemic but is trying to talk about prevention in any possible way.

"Caritas donated food for more than 400 families in the region. I talked about it (abuse) with each one of them," Rubi said. Reports concerning cases of abuse keep coming to members of her network.

In Peru, the number of phone calls to the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations' hotline doubled during the quarantine. A report of the ministry released at the end of April showed 90 cases of sexual abuse; 59 of them involved underaged victims.

In Madre de Dios department, in the Peruvian Amazon, the government has been combating illegal mining since 2019. Now, with the pandemic, illegal miners may have moved to indigenous reservations, raising the risks of sexual abuse.

"All roads have been closed off due to the quarantine and authorities are focusing on that. There's no control in other areas," said Carol Jeri, an official of the local Caritas.

Jeri said illegal miners often set up camps in which the prostitution of underaged girls is a constant risk.

"The church has formed an indigenous pastoral commission and is in touch with several community leaders," she said, adding that they try to address the problems reported to them.

In Colombia, besides the increasing number of abuses at home, different armed groups have intensified recruitment in the countryside. With schools closed, the number of teenagers they have attracted has doubled, said Nathalia Forero, a social worker who is also a member of tri-border network.

Since the 1960s, a number of Marxist guerrilla organizations have been active in Colombia. Far-right paramilitary groups and drug cartels also mobilize thousands of armed men and women, many of them teenagers.

"Girls who are recruited by armed groups can suffer much violence, including sexual abuse and exploitation," Forero told CNS. For five years, she worked with the congregation of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul and became familiar with the problem of sex abuse and human trafficking involving children and teenagers. "We feel very impotent at this moment," she said.

Jose Navarro, national coordinator of the Dominican Republic bishops' commission that works with mothers and children, said more risks have been posed to Dominican children and teenagers with the partial reopening of the quarantine in mid-May.

"The adults went back to work, but the schools remain closed. So, many children are alone at home, which can be a problem," he told CNS.

He said his commission offers formation for families on topics such as child nutrition, health and education. Child abuse will be one of the themes discussed this year.

"This way, we can work on prevention," Navarro said.

Rosario Alfaro, executive director of the Mexican organization Guardianes, which works to prevent child sexual abuse, said it is possible many victims currently being molested will never denounce what's happening to them during the pandemic.

"It's difficult for us to talk about things that make us feel embarrassed," she told CNS.

Since the pandemic began, Guardianes has had to suspend the courses it offers in schools about abuse prevention. Alfaro said the quarantine makes many adults grow anxious and stressed with unemployment and the fear of the disease. For adults "unprepared to deal with such emotions, eroticism is the only way to calm down. That's why there are bigger risks of sexual approach of children and teenagers in a moment like this," she said.

She speculated that the current crisis probably intensified problems such as the production and distribution of child pornography and the sexual exploitation of teenagers, traditionally connected to tourist spots.

"Each Mexican state has a particular legislation concerning child abuse. It's very difficult for a child to report a case to the police," she said.

Since 2019, Alfaro has been an adviser to the Mexican bishops' child protection council.

"The church can do much to help. It models and forms behaviors and can guide parents in prevention of sexual abuse and any other kind of violence," she said.

 

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Vatican seeks more help for Venezuelan refugees during pandemic

IMAGE: CNS photo/Manuel Rueda

By Manuel Rueda

BOGOTA, Colombia (CNS) -- The Vatican's leading diplomat has warned that Venezuelan migrants and refugees are facing a "humanitarian disaster" as lockdowns in host nations leave them without jobs and force some to return home in grueling conditions.

In an online conference on Venezuelan migration organized May 26 by Spain's government, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican's foreign minister, urged donors to "act immediately" to fund programs that help vulnerable migrants and refugees from the South American country.

"COVID-19 continues to exacerbate the current crisis," Archbishop Gallagher said. "Already underfunded organizations and programs are in critical need of increased support to upgrade shelters and services" so that they meet COVID-19 requirements.

According to the United Nations, there are currently more than 5 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees around the world, with about 3 million living in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

Food shortages, violence and poverty were forcing thousands of people to leave Venezuela each day earlier this year. But that stopped when coronavirus cases began to rise in South America in late March, prompting most countries on the continent to shut down their borders and impose stay-at-home measures.

Now, two months into the health crisis, some Venezuelan migrants are heading back home after losing their jobs, with the poorest walking for weeks as they try to reach their country.

"My landlord threatened to evict me and I had no money to pay rent," said Christian Garcia, a migrant who headed back home in April after losing his job at a construction site in Bogota.

Garcia was making a 400-mile trek toward the border, with his belongings stuffed into a large backpack.

"It will be tough in Venezuela," he acknowledged. "But at least we will not have to pay rent."

During the May 26 conference, the European Union and a coalition of member states pledged $650 million in grants for programs aimed at assisting Venezuelan refugees.

However, it is not clear yet how much of it will go toward providing relief during the pandemic.

"Some of these funds will be spread out over time," said Daphne Panayotatos, a program officer at the Washington-based advocacy group Refugees International. "We're still far from where we need to be" when it comes to funding, she said.

Earlier this year, the U.N. Refugee Agency called on donors to fund a $1.4 billion plan to help Venezuelan migrants and refugees around the hemisphere this year. On May 27, the organization's regional response website said only 12% of that amount has been funded so far.

Panayotatos said the needs faced by Venezuelan refugees have been changing due to the COVID-19 crisis, with more resources now required for urgent things like food and shelter, as thousands of migrants struggle to keep up with rent payments.

Catholic groups helping migrants on the ground have also said the pandemic has changed their operations.

In Cucuta, on Colombia's border with Venezuela, a shelter for migrants is holding just half of its capacity to avoid crowding, while a food pantry that served more than 3,500 migrants each day and was getting support from the U.S. bishops' conference has been shut down to comply with the Colombian government's measures against large crowds. A church-run day care center for migrants' children also has closed.

Father Israel Bravo from the Diocese of Cucuta said parishes have attempted to support migrants by distributing food rations that migrants can cook at home.

The poorest migrants are pooling their resources together and organizing communal meals that are cooked at improvised campfires.

"We would like to open our pantry soon," Father Bravo said. "But we must comply with government regulations."

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To stream or not: Italians debate online Masses when faithful can attend

IMAGE: CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- As Italian Catholics prepared to celebrate Pentecost, the second Sunday with Masses permitted with a limited number of faithful, bishops and priests were still debating whether to continue livestreaming Masses as well.

After a 10-week ban, Masses with the faithful were allowed again beginning May 18. The number of people permitted to attend is determined by the size of the church building, the possibility of keeping people safely distanced from one another and the enforcement of measures such as everyone wearing masks.

But people who have a fever or have been in contact in the previous 14 days with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 are not allowed to attend. And the national health service still was recommending that elderly people and people with certain ailments stay home as much as possible.

Avvenire, the daily newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference, noted a debate in Italy about whether livestreamed Masses should be "suspended, like the pope did, to encourage people to return to participating in person at the Eucharist," or should they be continued with a congregation for those who "cannot leave home or still do not feel it is right for various and respectable reasons."

Pope Francis' last livestreamed Mass from the chapel of his residence was May 17, although the next day the Vatican broadcast the Mass he celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica at the tomb of St. John Paul II to mark the 100th anniversary of the Polish pope's birth.

Commenting on the decision to stop the live broadcasts, Andrea Tornielli, editorial director for the Dicastery for Communication, noted that many people would miss the morning celebration, "but, as Francis himself said, there is a need to return to the communal familiarity with the Lord in the sacraments (by) participating in the liturgy in person."

Archbishop Lauro Tisi of Trent said he would continue his livestreamed Masses through June "because we cannot forget that not everyone can come in yet," particularly the elderly and the sick.

But the livestream also is important for the people who are present in the church for the Mass, he said. Those able to attend "must not forget that a good part of the community is still at home, and they must feel united, must feel longing and understand the suffering" of a community that still is not whole.

"I worry about the risk that in this phase (of the reopening) an individualistic approach to living the sacrament will prevail without recognizing that there always must be a community moment -- lived even with those who are at a distance if they are unable to attend," Archbishop Tisi said.

Father Tonino Lasconi, a pastor in the Marche region, told Avvenire he was continuing his online Masses because families truly gathered to participate in the liturgy -- not just watch it -- during the lockdown. "The virtual helped us live through a delicate moment, but it was not unreal. It was living reality in a different way."

But Father Dino Pirri, a pastor in Grottammare, worried that parishes rushing to get something online actually increased division among Catholics, "multiplying links without reflection" and creating a vast menu of "take-away" liturgies for each Catholic to pick and choose from.

Bishop Pietro Maria Fragnelli of Trapani halted his online Masses once the public could return to the liturgies, although he did so thanking on Facebook everyone who had been present with him the previous 10 weeks.

"It's always difficult for a pastor to say 'no,' especially when you see how the communications media had a unique value," the bishop said, "but at the Mass for the Ascension (May 21), I had the joy -- after 80 days -- of meeting the Christian community in flesh and bones again."

Father Alessandro Palermo, a pastor in Marsala, also was stopping the livestreams. "It's one thing to celebrate face-to-face and another to do so knowing that there are people on the other side of the screen listening to you and watching."

Even if the number of people allowed into the church at one time is limited, he said, people can come to weekday Masses. "Let's celebrate Mass without telephones and cameras; let the people come back," he told Avvenire.

 

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Archbishop says Floyd video 'gut wrenching,' urges respect for all people

IMAGE: CNS photo/Eric Miller, Reuters

By Maria Wiering

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- A video showing a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed man repeatedly saying "I can't breathe," and who appears to lose consciousness or die while being pinned down, is "gut wrenching and deeply disturbing," Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda  of St. Paul and Minneapolis said in a May 27 statement.

"The sadness and pain are intense," Archbishop Hebda said of the circumstances surrounding the May 25 death of George Floyd. "Let us pray for comfort for his grieving family and friends, peace for a hurting community and prudence while the process moves forward. We need a full investigation that results in rightful accountability and veritable justice."

A bystander filmed part of police's confrontation with the 46-year-old Floyd, an African American restaurant worker from St. Louis Park, Minnesota. who was reportedly arrested on suspicion of forgery. Floyd was pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center. The four officers involved Floyd's arrest have been fired, and the FBI is conducting a federal civil rights investigation. The officer who pinned Floyd is white.

The death inspired hundreds of people to protest May 26 at the intersection where police officers subdued Floyd. Some protesters vandalized police vehicles and the building for the Minneapolis Police Third Precinct building, where it is believed the officers involved worked. Police employed tear gas and flash grenades to disperse the crowd, and some protesters hurled rocks and water bottles at police.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey called May 27 for charges to be brought against the officer who pinned Floyd with his knee.

Violent protests and looting continued the night of May 27 and led to the shooting death of a man. Frey called for calm, saying, "We cannot let tragedy beget more tragedy." He has asked the National Guard to come in to help keep the peace.

In his statement, Archbishop Hebda called for respect for all people and asked for prayers for Floyd and his family.

"Particularly at this time when human fragility has been brought into focus by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are called to respect the worth and dignity of each individual, whether they be civilians in need of protection or law enforcement officers charged with providing that protection," he said.

"All human life is sacred," he said. "Please join our Catholic community in praying for George Floyd and his family, and working for that day when 'love and truth will meet (and) justice and peace will kiss' (Psalm 85)."

Archbishop Hebda also posted on Twitter May 27 that he offered Mass that morning for Floyd and his family. "In these days before Pentecost, we pray that the Holy Spirit, the Breath of God, might help ease our collective pain, promote justice, and bring about greater respect for all human life."

In a video message posted May 27, the pastor of St. Paul's historically black Catholic parish called on his parishioners "to agitate" their community, Church and world for racial justice and healing.

Father Erich Rutten, pastor of St. Peter Claver in St. Paul, shared his vision for his parish following Floyd's death.

And while Father Rutten said he doesn't know all the details of the situation, the video posted online, now well circulated, showing a white police officer kneeling on Floyd's neck while Floyd, who is handcuffed, repeatedly said he couldn't breathe, "seems so egregious."

"I am saddened. I am sickened. I am angered. And I am tired of such things happening again and again," Father Rutten said. "How long, O Lord, must we endure such things?"

Some people think white supremacy is a concept for university or talk radio debate, he said, but "here is a case where white supremacy has cost someone their life."

"The misguided idea that white people can somehow push people around, or that we own this country, or that we own Minneapolis leads to terrible disrespect, leads to poverty, leads to, in this case, violence, and in many cases, violence," said Father Rutten, who is white.

In contrast, God's love, as revealed by Jesus, shows people that they are all children of one God, equally subject to Christ the King, he said. "We are all brothers and sisters."

In other reaction, the General Council of the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Michigan, said Floyd's "anguished cry, 'I can't breathe,' as an officer pressed his knee into his neck, harkened back to the cries six years ago of Eric Garner, another unarmed African American man who died in New York police custody."

Floyd's cry "brings to mind the long and growing list of African Americans who have been killed, seemingly for no reason other than being black," the women religious said, and quoted Mayor Frey: "Being black in America should not be a death sentence."

The Dominicans said they were "deeply troubled and distressed by the violent assault" on Floyd, resulting in his death.

"Our Christian faith tradition holds that we are all one people, one body; each made in the image of God," their statement said.

The Dominicans referenced a videotaped sermon by the Rev. Otis Moss III, a prominent Chicago pastor, addressing another recent fatal shooting, that of a 25-year-old black man, for Ahmaud Arbery, in Georgia. Three white men are in custody and face a hearing on murder charges.

In the sermon, titled "The Cross and the Lynching Tree: A Requiem for Ahmaud Arbery," Rev. Moss "speaks of racism as a virus that has infected the spirit and soul of our country," the Dominicans said.

He said Arbery's death "is not an anomaly but a historical pattern of behavior that binds every American to an unexamined history of our nation."

"Rev. Moss powerfully summarizes that unexamined history in his 22-minute sermon. It is a history that we Americans must acknowledge -- and then set ourselves on a soul-searching course, powered by courage and love, to make real the ideals of freedom and equality on which our nation was founded," the women religious said.

Signing the statement were Dominican Sisters Patricia Siemen, prioress; Frances Nadolny, administrator and general councilor; Mary Margaret Pachucki, vicaress and general councilor; and Patricia Harvat and Elise D. Garcia, general councilors.

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Wiering is editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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Amid joy as Bethlehem reopens, Christians have uncertainty about future

IMAGE: CNS photo/Debbie Hill

By Judith Sudilovsky

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (CNS) -- Bethlehem residents returned to the Church of the Nativity as the holy site opened to visitors May 26 after being closed since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But amid the joy was a feeling of uncertainty about their economic future, as pilgrims and tourists are not yet able to return.

In the creche where Christians venerate as the traditional site of Jesus' birth, local Syriac Catholic tour guide Rizek Nazi was filming a video on his cellphone with his two sons, George, 10, and Aram, 9, to give pilgrims a virtual tour of the place as it opened, and to entice them to plan a visit once international travel reopens.

The sole breadwinner for his family, Nazi has not worked since March 7.

"I want people to keep the idea of coming on pilgrimage to Bethlehem in the back of their minds for when they can travel," he said.

In his videos, he emphasized the safety and health precautions being taken in Bethlehem.

"As Palestinians, we know to always try to keep some savings for the dark days, but now all that is gone," he added.

Samir Hazboun, chairman of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce, noted that unemployment was 95% in the tourism sector of what he called the "Christian triangle" of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour.

"The Christian triangle ... depends on tourism and handicrafts related to tourism. Whenever we look at tourism (now) around the world, we can see how difficult it is," he said. Though the spring and summer months are generally low season for the area, residents are still unsure when and how many visitors will return in the ensuing season, he added.

"All the hotels and restaurants are closed, bus drivers are out of work, people working in the handicraft industry producing religious articles have been heavily affected. We are trying to develop a plan," he said.

At the moment, even mail orders for the various cooperatives and fair trade workshops are not an option, because international shipping is not yet possible, he said.

"The social impact of the economic crisis on the Christian Palestinian community (will be serious.) The Christians will be heavily affected, as their income is mainly related to the tourism and service sector," said Hazboun.

Unemployment in all the Palestinian areas has doubled from the 22% pre-pandemic level, he said.

Saliba Bandak, who is Greek Orthodox, sat idly chatting with two friends, currently unemployed as tour guides. His souvenir shop normally supports his family of seven, which includes his parents and siblings.

"Without tourists, we have nothing," Bandak said. "Since the beginning of March, we have not had any income. But we are Palestinian and we keep God as our hope."

Father Rami Asakrieh of St. Catherine Parish said almost 450 families from his parish depend solely on the tourism sector for their income, and the parish council has been trying to organize special help for them.

He said Israel, which is also slowly opening up its economy, has not yet given entry permission to all the Palestinians who worked in the construction industry to return to work in Israel.

"People who had money have gone through their savings and now need to pay their outstanding checks and loans," he said.

While the Israeli government has been able to provide grants to its residents, the Palestinian government has not been able to do so, he added.

Through the Pontifical Mission, the St. Catherine parish council has been able to provide 150 families with vouchers for groceries, but now many more families than before need help to meet their basic needs, Father Asakrieh said. The usual partner organizations that help them are also feeling the crunch because their own donors are unable to contribute more, he said, so they are hoping individuals who visit the Bethlehem parish website will consider donating.

In Jerusalem May 25, sections of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher were opened to visitors who are required to wear masks and use hand sanitizer before they enter. Though the Israeli government allowed businesses and stores to reopen, souvenir shop owners in the Old City who depend on tourism have been left with no form of income. The Knights of the Holy Sepulchre launched a support fund for needy Christian families and Latin Patriarchate schools in Palestine and Jordan who have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

In Bethlehem, Father Emad Kamal of St. Catherine Parish welcomed parishioners filling the pews May 26 to recite the rosary and then celebrate the first communal Mass since March.

"I feel so happy today. When the church was closed we prayed on the phone, but it is a different feeling to pray together," said Eliana Alaly, who came to church with her three children, carrying a packet of disposable masks and wearing latex gloves. She was one of the few people who wore a mask. "We are still a bit afraid."

Before going to Mass at St. Catherine's, Naheeda Thaljieh lit a candle in the adjacent Church of the Nativity.

"When I entered the church, I just cried and cried and cried," she said. Her family depends on the income from a small grocery store but there have been few customers, she said. "After 80-plus days, I entered the church and I lit candles for all the people and that all the people who are sick in the world will get well."

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To donate to St. Catherine Parish in Bethlehem, go to www.bethlehemparish.org/portfolio-item/the-council-letter/. To help with Latin Patriarchate schools, go to https://bit.ly/36yO8Nr.

 

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