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Update: Care for the dying does not mean obstinately resisting death, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Stephen Morrison, EPA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People who are dying must be accompanied with the love of family members and the care of medical professionals, but there is no requirement that every means available must be used to prolong their lives, Pope Francis said.

"Even if we know that we cannot always guarantee healing or a cure, we can and must always care for the living, without ourselves shortening their life, but also without futilely resisting their death," the pope said in a message to the European members of the World Medical Association.

"This approach is reflected in palliative care, which is proving most important in our culture, as it opposes what makes death most terrifying and unwelcome: pain and loneliness," the pope said.

The European members of the medical association were meeting at the Vatican Nov. 16-17 for a discussion with the Pontifical Academy for Life on end-of-life care. At the same time, across St. Peter's Square, the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the International Confederation of Catholic Health Care Institutions were hosting a meeting on inequalities in health care.

Pope Francis' message touched both topics, which he said intersect when determining what level of medical intervention is most appropriate when a person is dying.

"Increasingly sophisticated and costly treatments are available to ever more limited and privileged segments of the population," the pope said, "and this raises questions about the sustainability of health care delivery and about what might be called a systemic tendency toward growing inequality in health care.

"This tendency is clearly visible at a global level, particularly when different continents are compared," he said. "But it is also present within the more wealthy countries, where access to health care risks being more dependent on individuals' economic resources than on their actual need for treatment."

A variety of factors must be taken into account when determining what medical interventions to use and for how long with a person approaching the end of his or her earthly life, Pope Francis said. For those with resources, treatments are available that "have powerful effects on the body, yet at times do not serve the integral good of the person."

Even 60 years ago, he said, Pope Pius XII told anesthesiologists and intensive care specialists that "there is no obligation to have recourse in all circumstances to every possible remedy and that, in some specific cases, it is permissible to refrain from their use."

Determining what measures amount to "therapeutic obstinacy" or "overzealous" treatment, and are therefore either optional or even harmful, requires discernment and discussion with the patient, the patient's family and the caregivers.

"From an ethical standpoint," the pope said, withholding or withdrawing excessive treatment "is completely different from euthanasia, which is always wrong, in that the intent of euthanasia is to end life and cause death."

In determining the best course of action in caring for a dying person, the pope said, "the mechanical application of a general rule is not sufficient."

If the patient is competent and able, the pope said, he or she "has the right, obviously in dialogue with medical professionals, to evaluate a proposed treatment and to judge its actual proportionality in his or her concrete case" and to refuse the treatment "if such proportionality is judged lacking."

In either case, he said, even medical professionals must follow "the supreme commandment of responsible closeness," remaining alongside those who are dying.

"It could be said that the categorical imperative is to never abandon the sick," he said. "The anguish associated with conditions that bring us to the threshold of human mortality, and the difficulty of the decision we have to make, may tempt us to step back from the patient. Yet this is where, more than anything else, we are called to show love and closeness, recognizing the limit that we all share and showing our solidarity."

"Let each of us give love in his or her own way -- as a father, a mother, a son, a daughter, a brother or sister, a doctor or a nurse. But give it!" Pope Francis said.

Dr. Frank Ulrich Montgomery, president of the German Medical Association and organizer of the meeting, said the World Medical Association has not changed the position it adopted in 1987 and reaffirmed in 2013 that euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are unethical, but doctors must respect a patient's right to decline medical treatment.

However, he said Nov. 17, the position is debated constantly at association meetings, including the one at the Vatican, and is the object of a series of regional meetings of the association's medical ethics committee.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said it was important for the Vatican to be involved in the dialogue even though some participants disagree with the teaching of the church and the position of the association. "We aren't billiard balls that meet only when knocking against each other," he said, but human beings interested in listening to one another and trying to emphasize essential human values.

Pope Francis' message, he said, reaffirmed and added precision to previous papal texts about end-of-life care by restating the church's "opposition to euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide and therapeutic abandonment" of dying patients.

"He emphasized the obligation of continuing care," which is not always the same thing as continuing medical treatment, the archbishop said.

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New museum tells the story of the Bible -- chapter and verse

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Hey, Smithsonian, there's a new kid on the block.

It's the Museum of the Bible, just a few blocks from the National Mall in Washington. With its opening to the public Nov. 18, it will tell visitors how the Bible -- both Old Testament and New Testament -- has intersected society and at times even transformed it.

The people behind the museum say that if visitors were to read the card behind every artwork, saw every video, heard every song and took part in every interactive experience -- including a Broadway-style musical called "Amazing Grace" about the song's writer, John Newton, and the biblical inspiration behind the abolitionist movement -- it would take them 72 hours to do it all.

But visitors can take their time, because there is no admission charge to the museum.

The museum was the brainchild of Steve Green, chairman of the museum's board of directors and president of the Hobby Lobby chain of arts and crafts stores. It was Hobby Lobby that successfully argued before the Supreme Court in 2014 that, as a closely held company, its owners based on their religious beliefs should not have to comply with a federal mandate to cover all forms of contraceptives because some act as abortifacients.

"It's exciting to share the Bible with the world," Green said at a Nov. 15 press preview of the museum, which is just one block from a subway stop serving three of the Washington-area subway system's six lines.

The $500 million museum had its coming-out party in 2011 at the Vatican Embassy in Washington before a gathering of business, government, academic and religious leaders.

Museum backers found a circa-1923 refrigeration warehouse that had been repurposed for other uses, bought the building and set about expanding it, adding two stories and a skylight to the top of the structure and a sub-basement for storage space.

The result: six floors of exhibits, not to mention the theater, gift shop and restaurants.

Most of the exhibits, when necessary, use the designations "B.C." and "A.D." -- Before Christ and Anno Domini, Latin for "year of the Lord" -- to refer to the timeline of civilization marked by Jesus' birth. Museum brass had discussions on the topic, Susan Jones, curator of antiquities for the museum, told Catholic News Service. "They decided that's the way they wanted to go," she said.

Most researchers, Jones noted, prefer the designations "B.C.E" and "C.E." -- Before the Common Era and Common Era -- because "they're more neutral." Also preferring the latter names is the Israeli Association for Antiquities, which has a 20-year deal with the museum to supply artifacts in a fifth-floor exhibit space. "You're in Israel now," she told a visitor as a tour guide was boasting that he had his hand on a rock from the Western Wall in Jerusalem in the exhibit.

There are a number of items on loan to the museum from the Vatican Museums and the Vatican Library. They're in a tiny space on the museum's ground floor -- relatively speaking, since the museum totals 430,000 square feet. What can't be seen in person can be accessed by two dedicated computers in the exhibit area, one for the museums and one for the library.

Brian Hyland, an associate curator for medieval manuscripts at the museum, told CNS the Vatican donations will be around for six months, then replaced by other artifacts. One of his favorite items currently in the exhibit space is the first volume of a facsimile of the Urbino Bible, which dates to the 15th century; the second volume will replace the first volume at some point in 2018.

Despite the Bible's status as the best-selling and most-read book in history, one exhibit speaks of "Bible poverty," and the fact that roughly 1 billion people have never read the Bible in their native tongue.

An organization called IllumiNations, a collaborative effort by Bible translation agencies, is trying to change that. The aim is to have, by 2033, 95 percent of the world's peoples with access to the full Bible, 99.9 percent with at least the New Testament, and 100 percent with at least some parts of the Bible translated into what museum docent William Lazenby called "their heart languages."

The exhibit space touting this endeavor is stocked with Bibles and New Testaments in various languages. Hardcover books with blank pages in the exhibit represent the untranslated languages. Wholly untranslated languages are represented by yellow covers, and partially translated tongues are represented by covers with a redder hue.

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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Chinese officials pay poor to swap religious images for portraits of Xi

IMAGE: CNS photo/Luong Thai Linh, Pool via Reuters

By

HONG KONG (CNS) -- Officials in China's eastern Jiangxi province have replaced religious images displayed by Christian families with portraits of the country's leader, Xi Jinping.

Ucanews.com reported that, on Nov. 12, pictures were uploaded to the popular social messaging service WeChat account of Huangjinbu town government, showing officials removing images of the cross and other religious subjects in Yugan County.

The message from officials said the Christians involved had "recognized their mistakes and decided not to entrust to Jesus but to the (Communist) Party" claiming the Christians voluntarily removed 624 religious images and posted 453 portraits of Xi.

The officials also claimed they were "converting" Christians to party loyalty through poverty alleviation and other schemes to help the disadvantaged. Nearly 10 percent of Yugan County's largely impoverished 1 million people is Christian.

Father Andrew, who declined to give his full name for fear of government retribution, told ucanews.com that the removal of the Christian images involved officials giving money to poor households in return for hanging Xi's portrait.

Father John, in northern China, said he felt Xi had become "another Mao" Zedong following the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in October. The priest predicted that other officials around the country would imitate what had been done in Jiangxi.

With the party's new revised "Regulations on Religious Affairs" to be implemented Feb. 1, Chinese Christians and observers believe religious policy will closely follow Xi's "Sinicization" model.

During the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, religious intolerance and Mao's dogma prevailed. Young people were encouraged to criticize their elders, including parents and teachers. People accused of spying for foreign powers were detained and beaten to obtain confessions.

Priests in China who spoke to ucanews.com did not see any direct return to the conditions of the Cultural Revolution, but said they feared religious and social controls would continue to intensify.

"It is not going to be good," said one of the priests.

The release in China of videos urging children to spy on their families has also brought back further memories of the Cultural Revolution, when youths enforced Communist Party ideology. Young people of the Red Guards engaged in the arrest and public humiliation of anyone considered to be deviating from the teachings of revolutionary leader Mao.

Recently, the Chinese Society of Education, affiliated with the Education Ministry, released two videos online aimed at teaching children to report family members who could pose a threat to national security. One video was for primary school students and another for high school students.

Both instructed children to report to the national security bureau anyone, including parents, who could be illegally relaying confidential information, especially to foreigners. The videos provided a hotline phone number to report suspicious activities.

An official notice said the videos were produced to match Xi's strategy of incorporating national security objectives into the education system.

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The original story can be found at https://www.ucanews.com/news/china-officials-replace-in-home-pictures-of-jesus-with-xi-jinping/80810.

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Update: Puerto Rico archbishop sees spiritual rebirth after storm's wrath

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Carol Zimmermann

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Almost two months after the devastating winds and rains of Hurricane Maria pummeled the island of Puerto Rico, there is still no clear path to recovery.

Although some power and phone service have been restored and relief supplies are slowly filtering in, the cleanup and rebuilding is only just beginning.

"You go day by day, but it's overwhelming and traumatic," said Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The archbishop, who attended the U.S. bishops' fall assembly in Baltimore, is acutely aware of the storm's initial and ongoing impact. Since Maria, he has visited 57 parishes in his archdiocese and has 100 more to go. Every parish in this archdiocese in the northeast corner of the island was impacted by the hurricane from minimal to extensive damage.

And as Puerto Rico's Catholics find their way through the wreckage and mud-soaked parish buildings and roofless homes while coping with minimal electricity, food and water, he said they have not lost their faith. For many, their faith has only deepened.

"Tragedies and adversities have a way of reinforcing our faith and our sense of spirituality, our dependency on God," which also goes hand in hand with an "intensified spirit of sharing, generosity and solidarity," he said.

Archbishop Gonzalez, who lived in Puerto Rico as a child and has led the San Juan Archdiocese for 18 years, said he has noticed at some recent Masses that "the choirs continue to sing the hymns they were singing before but with much more vigor and joy."

"We are in a sense being rejuvenated," he told Catholic News Service Nov. 13.

He isn't surprised by the way people are taking care of each other or as he put it -- "the enormous amount of sharing that took place and is still taking place" -- as people make meals for neighbors, for example, on gas-powered stoves.

He also has experienced this care firsthand in the calls and emails -- once they could come through -- from other bishops, along with donations and offers of rebuilding help. At the Baltimore meeting, he said a number of bishops told him: "We're with you and we'll be sending help."

Archbishop Gonzalez and Bishop Herbert A. Bevard of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands -- another region hard hit by Hurricane Maria -- were both invited as observers to the bishops' fall meeting and were introduced by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth, has its own Catholic bishops' conference and participates in the Latin American bishops' council, known as CELAM.

During the Baltimore gathering, Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president of Catholic Charities USA, told the bishops that the relief agency had given $2 million in early November to Father Enrique Camacho, director of Caritas Puerto Rico, the Catholic Charities affiliate on the island, and she had just presented Bishop Bevard with $1 million for recovery needs.

The funding has been distributed for emergency housing, food, water, cleaning supplies, clothing, bedding, diapers and other baby needs. The agency also has deployed 150 case managers in storm-battered areas to assist people in navigating the unfamiliar task of seeking assistance.

In an unscheduled discussion about recent natural disasters at the close of the bishops' public session Nov. 14, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chair the U.S. bishop's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, urged fellow bishops to think of what more could be done to help Puerto Rico. He wonders if there had been donor fatigue since the hurricane followed other natural disasters.

"We should, as a body, think of how we can help. They are destroyed," he said.

Archbishop Gonzalez doesn't deny the island can use monetary help, but he said it also needs prayers.

"We believe in the immense power and efficacy of prayers. We have felt it. I have felt the impact of so many prayers. They make a difference, " he said. "Today we're still in an emergency mode. We need water, food, clothing, basic necessities of life. In the long term, we'll need assistance rebuilding homes, churches, schools, roofs."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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Quick fixes, denial won't stop climate change, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Wolfgang Rattay, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Denial or indifference when it comes to climate change will not help further honest research or facilitate finding adequate solutions, Pope Francis told government leaders attending a meeting on implementing the Paris accord.

Ratified by 170 nations, the 2016 agreement marks "a shared strategy to tackle one of the most worrying phenomena our human race is experiencing -- climate change," the pope said in a written message.

The message was read Nov. 15 to those attending the COP23 session of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, Nov. 6-17. The Vatican released a copy of the text Nov. 16.

In the message -- addressed to the president of the COP23 session, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama of Fiji -- the pope said the Paris agreement is "a clear path of transition toward a model of low- or no-carbon economic development, encouraging solidarity and emphasizing the strong links that exist between fighting climate change and fighting poverty."

The urgency of addressing climate change demands "greater commitment from countries, some of which will have to seek to take on a leadership role in such a transition," which will also necessitate keeping in mind the needs of those who are most vulnerable, he said.

A recent U.N. Environment Program report found that current goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by the agreement's signatory nations will result in just one-third of the reductions required by global targets for 2030.

Closing some of that gap would require increased action in curbing emissions by private industries and regional governments, the report said, but even if countries were to reach their national targets, there would still be an increase of 3 degrees Celsius by 2100 -- a number beyond the Paris target of under 2 degrees Celsius.

The pope said if nations are to continue to build and implement guidelines and practices that are truly effective and able to reach the complex goals of the agreement, their "willingness to cooperate" must stay high.

"We must avoid falling into these four grievous attitudes that certainly do not help promote honest research and sincere and fruitful dialogue about building the future of our planet: denial, indifference, giving up and trusting in inadequate solutions."

Focusing on economic and technological solutions is necessary, but not enough, he said; ethical and social concerns and consequences of a new vision of development and progress must also be considered.

Pope Francis told leaders to maintain a proactive and collaborative spirit so they can better stimulate and increase awareness and the willingness "to adopt truly effective decisions" to tackle climate change and poverty, and promote true, integral human development.

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Spaghetti Bowl: Fitness, camaraderie part of U.S. seminary life in Rome

IMAGE: CNS/Robert Duncan

By Matthew Fowler

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A seminary is not typically known for its emphasis on physical activity and fitness, but many seminarians see it as an integral part of daily life.

Andrew Auer, Joseph Caraway and his cousin, Michael Caraway, are just a few of the seminarians at the Pontifical North American College in Rome who find value in sports and physical activity.

Priests need energy to serve their people, so "we need to have bodies that are prepared for it," said Auer, a seminarian from the Archdiocese of St. Louis. "We have our gym always available just to stay healthy to be able to serve, which is really the end goal."

The North American College, which is sponsored by the U.S. bishops, educates students from the United States and Australia who are preparing for the priesthood.

"The Catholic Church is a real supporter of both body and soul," said Joseph Caraway, a seminarian from the Diocese of Lake Charles in Louisiana, who did graduate studies in exercise physiology before entering the seminary. "Sometimes we can get so caught up in focusing on the soul and our prayer, which is incredibly important, but we also need to take care of our physical bodies."

The seminary stresses the importance of building a "deeply unified community," its website says, and one way the students achieve that is through sports.

With his experience and background in graduate school, Joseph Caraway has found some very concrete ways to help his brother seminarians, developing "diet programs and exercise programs to help them become more physically fit and just learn how to exercise correctly."

Sports and physical activity are not simply fun and games. In fact, Vatican guidelines for priestly formation stress the importance of helping seminarians live a healthy life.

"The Gift of the Priestly Vocation," released by the Congregation for Clergy in December 2016, says that seminarians should dedicate time to physical exercise and sports to "attain the solid physical, psycho-affective and social maturity required of a pastor."

Michael Caraway, also a seminarian for Lake Charles, said, "Being a seminarian, being a priest, we're all about being the best human being you can be and that's definitely always going to involve the physical aspect as well, because if we don't take care of ourselves, typically you're not as happy, as healthy, holy a human being."

Camaraderie and teamwork also are key elements in seminary life that benefit from the college's sports offerings.

"Sports bring everybody together," said Joseph Caraway. "I was never much of a soccer player, but you get out on the field and your brothers are there to help you out. You're struggling, you don't know how to play, but they're there to teach you and help you grow."

The college has a large turf field, which is home to Ultimate Frisbee, soccer, football and softball matches. Just beside it sits a basketball court, which is directly in front of the state-of-the-art gymnasium inaugurated in the spring.

"It's been a really great resource for guys to come together as a community and to exercise their bodies and really prepare for the days ahead," Auer said about the new gym.

Offering the seminarians so many opportunities to play the sports they grew up with also can help them feel at home as they adjust to student life in a foreign land.

Events such as the Spaghetti Bowl, which is held every year at Thanksgiving time, give the men a renewed sense of the familiar after being thrust into the unfamiliar culture of Rome.

"The Spaghetti Bowl is a long-standing tradition at the North American College," said Auer. "It's a big culminating event on Thanksgiving weekend that we do to bring everybody together, especially when it's the first holiday away from home" for first-year students. "It can be one of those things to focus on the community here and not so much on what you're missing at home."

The Spaghetti Bowl is a flag football game between the first-year men and the rest of the college, and serves to help integrate students into the daily life of the seminary, Michael Caraway said.

"I got to know so many of my classmates and brothers in the house so much better because I was out there working with them," training for the game, he said. "It's just a good, natural way to get to know some of the guys and build community."

A balanced sports life at the seminary also shows there are greater values at play, values that go beyond childhood dreams of a professional all-star career and money.

"You reach a certain age when you're not going pro, and you realize there's something more than just the game that's being played," Auer said. Amateur sports provide "a place where I can go and grow in friendship and virtue with encouragement and support from my brothers."

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Matthew Fowler, a student at Villanova University, is an intern at the CNS Rome bureau.

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

Longing for peace: Pope to preach dialogue in Bangladesh, Myanmar

IMAGE: CNS photo/Abir Abdullah, EPA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the ongoing crisis of Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar for Bangladesh will draw much attention during Pope Francis' visit to the two countries in late November, the pope also is expected to focus on interreligious dialogue, poverty and climate change.

"He will be insisting on economic justice and environmental justice," said Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, Myanmar. Justice in both areas would be "the major promoters of peace and harmony" in the region.

Although to different degrees, the two countries the pope will visit are struggling to establish a democracy that respects the rights of minorities -- both religious and ethnic. Differences are exacerbated by poverty and the difficulty of accessing very limited resources; the situation is further worsened by climate change, which is evident in the droughts, flooding and increased power and frequency of cyclones that move in from the Bay of Bengal.

Both Bangladesh and Myanmar are ranked in the top 10 on the "Long-Term Climate Risk Index" published annually by Germanwatch think tank.

Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in Myanmar Nov. 27 and stay until the afternoon of Nov. 30 when he flies to Bangladesh. He returns to Rome late Dec. 2.

Although lively and growing, the Catholic communities in both countries make up less than 1 percent of the population. The vast majority of people in Myanmar are Buddhist, while the overwhelming majority in Bangladesh are Muslim. Both countries have been plagued by political and ethnic tensions that have found religion to be an easy difference to exploit for political gain.

In Bangladesh, Pope Francis will ordain 16 priests; in 1986, St. John Paul II visited the country and ordained 18 men to the priesthood. One of the 18 is now Bishop Paul Ponen Kubi of Mymensingh.

"The Bangladesh church has grown a lot," Bishop Kubi told Catholic News Service. "We had only four dioceses and four bishops in Bangladesh; now we have eight dioceses and nine bishops."

"We are a very small minority Christian community in Bangladesh," the bishop said, but all the people want "to live together in harmony and peace, though they are of many religions and cultures. I believe that Holy Father Pope Francis will emphasize this."

"We are in the periphery," he said, but Pope Francis' presence "will make us known to the whole world. We feel proud of his coming."

Cardinal Bo told CNS that he expects interreligious initiatives for peace to be a major theme of the pope's talks in Myanmar where, like in other countries, religions can "become the tools for extremism. The pope's presence and his dialogue with various stakeholders would affirm the reconciling role of religions in this country."

The theme of the visit to Myanmar is "Love and Peace." And, similarly, the theme of the visit to Bangladesh is "Harmony and Peace."

Both Myanmar and Bangladesh have experienced tensions between religious communities and have mourned the loss of lives slaughtered in terrorist attacks. The Muslim faith of the Rohingya is cited as one of the reasons they often are seen as "foreigners" by Buddhist nationalists in Myanmar. Bangladesh, too, has had experience of hardline nationalists, this time Muslims, attacking members of its Hindu minority.

In both countries, the Catholic community has been a force for dialogue.

Cardinal Patrick D'Rozario of Dhaka, Bangladesh, told CNS that interreligious dialogue "is not imported by us, it is part of our culture."

"The Catholic Church is very active in a dialogue of service," he said, with non-Catholics accounting for 90 percent of those receiving medical care, education or development aid from the church. Only about 30 percent of the staffers are Catholic, but the entire staff discusses the human and religious values they have in common.

Also, he said, people in Bangladesh -- from the president and prime minister on down -- make a point to participate in each other's major feasts. So dialogue "is not just a cerebral discussion, but a celebration."

"The Christian community is considered a peace-living community in Bangladesh," he said.

In Myanmar, Cardinal Bo said, the church is "a small but very visible community," which has "an opportunity to be salt and light to this nation."

"We are in the forefront of interreligious initiatives for peace," he said, pointing out that Catholics organized the country's first interreligious peace conference.

"We have raised our voice for the protection of democracy, we support democratic forces," he said. "Democracy is in a very early stage, and it needs support."

The core of Pope Francis' message is likely to be similar to the heart of his message in Sri Lanka in January 2015: "The inability to reconcile differences and disagreements, whether old or new, has given rise to ethnic and religious tensions, frequently accompanied by outbreaks of violence."

Religions have a key role to play, he insisted. But that means "all members of society must work together; all must have a voice. All must be free to express their concerns, their needs, their aspirations and their fears. Most importantly, they must be prepared to accept one another, to respect legitimate diversities and learn to live as one family."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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

'Papal' Lamborghini gift to be auctioned off for charity

IMAGE: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While a Lamborghini would make a stylish popemobile, Pope Francis has decided to auction off the one he was given by the Italian automaker to aid several charities close to his heart.

The pope was presented with a one-of-a-kind white and gold Lamborghini Huracan by the luxury car manufacturer Nov. 15, just before making his way to his weekly general audience in the standard popemobile.

The pope signed and blessed the automobile, which will be auctioned off by Sotheby's. The proceeds, the Vatican said, will be given to the pope, who already has chosen to fund three projects: the resettlement of Christians in Iraq's Ninevah Plain; support for women rescued from human trafficking and forced prostitution; and assistance to the suffering in Africa.

Specifically, part of the proceeds from the auction will go to Aid to the Church in Need, a pontifical foundation, which is working to rebuild homes, houses of worship and community buildings that were destroyed by the Islamic State and caused thousands of Iraqi Christians to flee their homes.

The pope also will give funds to: the Pope John XXIII community, an Italian organization that assists women victims of prostitution and human trafficking; and to the International Group of Hand Surgeon Friends to support its projects to provide specialized medical care in Africa; and to the Italian group Amici di Centrafrica, which helps women and children in the Central African Republic.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Mass is a time of silence and prayer, not idle chitchat, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Mass is the highest form of prayer and not an appropriate moment for small talk, Pope Francis said.

At church, Catholics should spend their time in silence before Mass, preparing "to meet with Jesus" instead of engaging in "chitchat," the pope said Nov. 15 during his weekly general audience.

"Silence is so important," he said. "Remember what I told you last time: we are not going to a show. Silence prepares us and accompanies us."

The pope continued his new series of audience talks on the Mass, reflecting on the Eucharist as a form of prayer that is "the highest, the most sublime and, at the same time, the most concrete" way of encountering God's love.

"This is the greatest grace: to experience that the Eucharist is the privileged moment to be with Jesus and, through him, with God and with our brothers and sisters," the pope said.

In the Gospels, he continued, Jesus teaches his disciples that the first thing needed to pray "is to know how to say 'father'" and to trust in God with the humility of a child.

Christians also must allow themselves to be "surprised by the living encounter with the Lord," he said, and not simply "talk to God like a parrot," repeating the words of prayers without thinking.

"The encounter with God is a living encounter," the pope said departing from his prepared remarks. "It is not an encounter of a museum, it is a living encounter. And we go to Mass, not a museum! We go to a living encounter with the Lord."

Pope Francis said the Mass is also a gift and a consolation where Christians discover that God's greatest surprise is that he "loves us even in our weakness."

"The Lord encounters our frailty," the pope said. "This is the environment of the Eucharist. This is prayer."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.


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Beatification will see 'Jesus planting his cross' in heart of Detroit

IMAGE: CNS illustration/Michigan Catholic

By Mike Stechschulte

DETROIT (CNS) -- On Nov. 18, more than a few Hail Marys will be thrown around inside Ford Field. And unlike a football game, every single prayer will be answered.

That day jerseys and helmets will be replaced by chasubles and miters as thousands of bishops, clergy and faithful from across the country prepare to celebrate the beatification of Capuchin Franciscan Father Solanus Casey at the home of the NFL's Detroit Lions, the largest venue Detroit could find.

There won't be pyrotechnics or huge inflatable lions when the opening procession begins through the stadium's giant tunnel, but it should be a surreal sight nonetheless.

"The image for me, when we think about what the Mass is, becomes Jesus planting his cross -- his massive cross -- in the center of Ford Field," said Father Robert Spezia, one of several priests helping coordinate the massive liturgy. "Picture this massive crucifix that he died on coming down and being planted on the 50-yard line; that's what's going to happen on Nov. 18."

Besides the challenge of organizing Communion for 66,000 people, the liturgy of beatification will be new for almost everyone, said Capuchin Franciscan Father Larry Webber, vice postulator for Father Solanus' sainthood cause and a lead coordinator for the Mass.

"We're coordinating with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and with our postulator in Rome for all of the readings," Father Webber told The Michigan Catholic, newspaper of the Detroit Archdiocese. "The first model of the booklet we're using is from a blessed in Switzerland, which was a multilingual celebration. But we have been in touch with all of the celebrations that have happened here in the United States, including Newark and Washington, D.C."

The beatification rite itself is only a small portion of the Mass, inserted between the penitential rite and the first reading -- but an important one.

After Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron and the Capuchins' minister general offer words of thanks, Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican congregation, will read the decree from Pope Francis officially declaring Father Solanus "Blessed Solanus."

"In a kind of medieval gesture, after he reads it, the cardinal will stand and hold the decree up so everyone can see it," Father Webber said. "This is to show and prove that this is from the Holy Father. Then there's the unveiling of the image of Father Solanus, applause and music and a procession with the relics."

The relics of Father Solanus, which were collected from his tomb in July, will be carried by those who have received favors through the holy Capuchin's intercession, including the Panamanian woman whose healing from a skin disease in 2012 was the official miracle recognized to move Father Solanus' cause forward.

They will present the relics to Cardinal Amato and Archbishop Vigneron to be placed near a simple, wooden shrine.

Father Spezia said the altar, processional cross and some of the Communion vessels will be the same ones used during the 1987 Pontiac Silverdome Mass celebrated by St. John Paul II.

Father Spezia said it's a "great honor" to be asked to help coordinate such a special liturgy -- even if he isn't quite sure how to tackle the monumental task of getting Communion distributed to so many people in a timely manner. Still, considering the subject, he's confident things will work out.

"I've always found with these kinds of things that heaven really helps us. We're not doing this alone," said Father Spezia, director for clergy and consecrated life for the Archdiocese of Detroit and one of dozens of clergy and laity helping organize the massive Mass.

Between the time the doors open at 2 p.m. and the start of Mass at 4, it's possible there will be testimonials played on the stadium's "big screen," but the fanfare will be understated -- befitting a humble Capuchin's spirituality.

The readings and musical selections will be proclaimed in a variety of languages -- including English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Aramaic and Tagalog (the language of the Filipino people) -- a reflection of the diversity of the church and those Father Solanus served.

Capuchin Franciscan Father Ed Foley, professor of liturgy, music and spirituality for the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, who will direct the nearly 300 singers and 25 orchestra members for the Mass, said coordinators want the liturgy to mirror the simple, accessible spirit of Father Solanus.

"There's going to be 66,000 people and the pope's representative, so you can't be too low-key, but on the other hand we wanted it to be accessible to the ordinary folks who have showed up year after year to be with Solanus," Father Foley said.

For Father Spezia and other coordinators, the beatification is a reminder that, as Archbishop Vigneron has said, "God loves Detroit," and everyone is called to a higher purpose.

"We're celebrating the fact that God has told us by means of working a miracle through the intercession of Father Solanus that Father Solanus is in heaven with him. That's what we're celebrating," Father Spezia said. "I think it's important that we realize that this is the call for all of us."

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Stechschulte is managing editor of The Michigan Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

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Bishops to put together pastoral plan for marriage, family life ministry

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Carol Zimmermann

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- U.S. Catholic bishops acknowledged that Catholic families and married couples need more support from the church at large and hope to offer it by giving parishes plenty of resources through a pastoral plan for marriage and family life.

A proposal for such a plan was introduced to the bishops on the second day of their annual fall assembly in Baltimore Nov. 14 and was approved by paper ballot with 232 votes in favor.

The pastoral plan was described by Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, a member of the bishops' Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, as a response to Pope Francis' 2016 apostolic exhortation "Amoris Laetitia" ("The Joy of Love").

Bishop Malone, who introduced the idea to the bishops, was filling in for Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, the committee's chairman, who was in Rome for preparatory meeting for the Synod of Bishops in 2018.

The bishop said he hoped the pastoral plan would encourage long-term implementation of the pope's exhortation and also encourage a broader reading of it. Several bishops who spoke from the floor echoed this sentiment, emphasizing that the document was more than just one chapter -- referring to Chapter 8's focus on the possibility of divorced and remarried Catholics receiving communion which gained a lot of media attention.

Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles, founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, said a pastoral plan focused on the exhortation lets the Catholic Church "seize control" of its message after the "blogosphere was forcing us to read it in another way."

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, similarly noted that the exhortation's Chapter 8 "got all the headlines" and he hoped a new plan based on the text would get more people to read the entire document and "read it slowly."

A new pastoral plan for marriage and families would not be "the pastoral plan," as in the be all end all addressing every detail, but it should provide a framework to help parishes work in this area, Bishop Malone said.

Discussion from the floor on about this plan was overwhelmingly positive.

Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage, Alaska, said the church should look for ways to lift up marriage and thank couples for all they do. Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco said the church should offer more than just marriage preparation programs and should provide something for couples after they are married.

They should know about marriage before they come to church to set up their wedding, he said, emphasizing that catechism needs to start much earlier

After Bishop Malone had stressed before the body of bishops that the program would focus on the entirety of "Amoris Laetitia," not one part that generated so much attention, a reporter turned back to that section of the exhortation asking the bishop in a news conference if couples living in adultery could receive Communion.

"I'm not going to answer that here," the bishop said, re-emphasizing that the aim of the pastoral plan was to provide married couples with resources they would need to strengthen their marriage and families.

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British Catholic schools remove 'mother,' 'father' from admission forms

By Simon Caldwell

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- The terms "mother" and "father" will be banned from Catholic schools' admissions forms in England and Wales following a complaint the terms discriminated against gay and stepparents.

The Office of the Schools Adjudicator, which settles disputes on behalf of the government, upheld the objection of a parent who wished to enroll a child in Holy Ghost Catholic Primary School in London.

The parent had been asked to fill in a form which left spaces only for the names of "mother/guardian" and "father/guardian" and argued that the terms discriminated against "separated, step- and gay parents."

Peter Goringe, one of 12 adjudicators, said in a late October ruling that "in the absence of any clarification of the term 'parent,' the use of the words 'mother' and 'father' might, as the objector suggests, be taken to imply that the school is restricting its definition."

The Catholic Education Service, an agency of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, has advised more than 2,200 schools to revise their policies to take account of the adjudicator's decision.

A spokesman for the CES told Catholic News Service in a Nov. 14 telephone interview that the advice represented a clarification of the existing demands of the School Admissions Code rather than a change of policy.

"We expect all Catholic schools to comply with the School Admissions Code, and we work closely with dioceses and the Office of the Schools Adjudicator to ensure this happens," the Catholic Education Service added in a statement sent by email Nov. 14.

According to reports in the British media, hundreds of Catholic schools have already replaced "mother" and "father" with the titles "parent 1" and "parent 2."

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Vatican releases pope's schedule for visit to Chile, Peru

IMAGE: CNS photo/Felipe Trueba, EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- During his visit to Chile and Peru, Pope Francis will honor the country's religious roots and underline the plight of indigenous men and women.

The Vatican said Pope Francis will be in Chile Jan. 15-18, visiting the cities of Santiago, Temuco and Iquique. He then will fly to Peru and, from Jan. 18-21, he will visit Lima, Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo.

In Chile, the pope will meet with residents of the Mapuche indigenous community in the Araucania region. Members of the Mapuche have called for the government to return lands confiscated prior to the country's return to democracy in the late 1980s.

He will also meet with the indigenous people of the Amazon during his visit to Puerto Maldonado. The Amazon rainforest includes territory belonging to nine countries in South America and has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity.

A special gathering of the Synod of Bishops to focus on the Amazon region will take place in Rome in October 2019.

The synod, he said, would seek to identify new paths of evangelization, especially for indigenous people who are "often forgotten and left without the prospect of a peaceful future, including because of the crisis of the Amazon forest," which plays a vital role in the environmental health of the entire planet.

The Peru-Chile trip will be Pope Francis' fourth to South America. In July 2013, he visited Brazil for World Youth Day. In July 2015, he traveled to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. His trip to Colombia in September was his third visit to the continent as pope.

Here is the detailed schedule released by the Vatican. Times listed are local, with Eastern Standard Time in parenthesis when it is different from local time:

Monday, Jan. 15 (Rome, Santiago)

-- 8 a.m. (2 a.m.) Departure from Rome's Fiumicino airport.

-- 8:10 p.m. (6:10 p.m.) Arrival at Santiago International Airport. Welcoming ceremony.

-- 9 p.m. (7 p.m.) Arrival at the apostolic nunciature.

Tuesday, Jan. 16 (Santiago)

-- 8:20 a.m. (6:20 a.m.) Meeting with government authorities, members of civil society and the diplomatic corps at La Moneda presidential palace.

-- 9 a.m. (7 a.m.) Courtesy visit to Michelle Bachelet, president of the republic, at the presidential palace.

-- 10:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m.) Mass at O'Higgins Park. Homily by pope.

-- 4 p.m. (2 p.m.) Brief visit to the women's prison center in Santiago. Greeting by pope.

-- 5:15 p.m. (3:15 p.m.) Meeting with priests, men and women religious, seminarians and novices at the cathedral of Santiago. Speech by pope.

-- 6:15 p.m. (4:15 p.m.) Meeting with Chile's bishops in the cathedral's sacristy.

-- 7:15 p.m. (5:15 p.m.) Visit to the shrine of St. Alberto Hurtado. Private meeting with Jesuit priests.

Wednesday, Jan. 17 (Santiago, Temuco, Santiago)

-- 8 a.m. (6 a.m.) Departure by plane for Temuco.

-- 10:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m.) Mass at Maquehue Airport. Homily by pope.

-- 12:45 p.m. (10:45 a.m.) Lunch with indigenous residents of the Araucania region in the "Madre de la Santa Cruz" house.

-- 3:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.) Departure by plane for Santiago.

-- 5 p.m. (3 p.m.) Arrival in Santiago.

-- 5:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m.) Meeting with young people at the Shrine of Maipu. Speech by pope.

-- 7 p.m. (5 p.m.) Visit to the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. Speech by pope.

Thursday, Jan. 18 (Santiago, Iquique, Lima)

-- 8:05 a.m. (6:05 a.m.) Departure by plane for Iquique.

-- 10:35 a.m. (8:35 a.m.) Arrival at Iquique International Airport.

-- 11:30 a.m. (9:30 a.m.) Mass at Lobito beach. Homily by pope.

-- 2 p.m. (12 p.m.) Lunch at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes retreat house.

-- 4:45 p.m. (2:45 p.m.) Departure ceremony at the Iquique international airport.

-- 5:05 p.m. (3:05 p.m.) Departure by plane for Lima.

-- 5:20 p.m. Arrival at the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima. Welcoming ceremony.

Friday, Jan. 19 (Lima, Puerto Maldonado, Lima)

-- 8:30 a.m. Meeting with government authorities, members of civil society and the diplomatic corps in the courtyard of the presidential palace. Speech by pope.

-- 9 a.m. Courtesy visit to Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, president of the republic, in the Ambassadors Room of the presidential palace.

-- 9:55 a.m. Departure by plane for Puerto Maldonado.

-- 11:45 a.m. Arrival at Puerto Maldonado airport.

-- 12 p.m. Meeting with people of the Amazon at "Madre de Dios" stadium. Speech by pope.

-- 1 p.m. Meeting with the people at the Jorge Basadre Institute. Greeting by pope.

-- 1:15 p.m. Lunch with representatives of people of the Amazon at the Apaktone Pastoral Center.

-- 3:45 p.m. Visit to the "Hogar Principito" children's home. Greeting by pope.

-- 4:50 p.m. Departure by plane for Lima.

-- 6:40 p.m. Arrival at the Lima airport.

-- 7 p.m. Private meeting with Jesuits at St. Peter's Church.

Saturday, Jan. 20 (Lima, Trujillo, Lima)

-- 7:40 a.m. Departure by plane for Trujillo.

-- 9:10 a.m. Arrival in Trujillo.

-- 10 a.m. Mass at Huanchaco beach. Homily by pope.

-- 12:15 p.m. Tour of the Buenos Aires neighborhood inpopemobile.

-- 3 p.m. Brief visit to the city's cathedral.

-- 3:30 p.m. Meeting with priests, men and women religious, seminarians and novices of northern Peru at Sts. Carlos and Marcelo College Seminary. Speech by pope.

-- 4:45 p.m. Marian celebration of Our Lady of La Puerta at Plaza de Armas. Speech by pope.

-- 6:15 p.m. Departure by plane for Lima.

-- 7:40 p.m. Arrival in Lima.

Sunday, Jan. 21 (Lima)

-- 9:15 a.m. Mid-morning prayer with contemplative nuns at the Shrine of Our Lord of the Miracles. Homily by pope.

-- 10:30 a.m. Prayer before the relics of Peruvian saints in the city's cathedral.

-- 10:50 a.m. Meeting with Peru's bishops in the archbishop's residence. Speech by pope.

-- Noon. Recitation of the Angelus at Plaza de Armas.

-- 12:30 p.m. Lunch at the apostolic nunciature.

-- 4:15 p.m. Mass at Las Palmas Air Base. Homily by pope.

-- 6:30 p.m. Departure ceremony at Jorge Chavez International Airport.

-- 6:45 p.m. Departure by plane for Rome.

Monday, Jan. 22

-- 2:15 p.m. (8:15 a.m.) Arrival at Rome's Ciampino airport.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Catholic Church sometimes has been part of racism problem, says bishop

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Rhina Guidos

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Though the Catholic Church has responded to racism for many years, some leaders and church institutions have at times been part of the problem, said a bishop who is heading a committee against racism.

Bishop George V. Murry, speaking to bishops gathered Nov. 13 for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops fall gathering in Baltimore, said that while racism was not unique to the United States, it "lives in a particular and pernicious way in our country, in large part because of the experience of the historic evil of slavery."

Bishop Murry, who became the head of the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism earlier this year, said the church must recognize "and frankly acknowledge" its failings.

The country has tried to address the problem before, he said, and yet, "even with that progress, one does not need to look very far to see that racism still exists and has found a troubling resurgence in modern years."

Christ calls us to break down the walls created by the evils of racism, he said.

Though African-Americans have suffered intensely from "the sin of racism," racism also has ravaged lives and livelihoods and many people of other races, he said. Its targets seem to be growing.

Weeks ago, in Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched with hate-inspired messages, leading to violence and death, he said.

"Racial hatred that is often in hiding, for some, was on full display for many," Bishop Murry said of the events in Charlottesville.

The committee he heads, he said, is working to provide pastoral accompaniment and one way is to listen to the "voices of people suffering because of racism."

Created by the U.S. bishops in August, the committee will have listening sessions and create and disseminate theological, liturgical, pastoral and community resources. The committee, he said, is also looking at ways to best commemorate the 50th anniversary to the assassination of civil rights icon the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Bishops chimed in with comments and suggestions.

Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, whose retirement as head of the Diocese of Tucson, Arizona, was recently accepted by Pope Francis, suggested that the bishops take "symbolic actions," much in the way other church members have taken at events such as masses on both sides of the southern border.

"Racism isn't going to be conquered by speech but by actions," said Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta.

Bishop Murry said committee's efforts also will focus on evangelization geared toward healing and reconciliation, toward conversion of those who harbor racist beliefs and who commit racist actions as well as caring for the victims of racism.

"All of this is aimed at one goal: to change hearts, which will lead to a change in behavior because every human being is created in the image and likeness of God," he said.

While on the committee, he said, he has heard certain comments.

"Some people think that there's no need to confront racism or that we should confront it only in private," Bishop Murry said, but confronting racism "is necessary because the Gospel calls us to work for justice, and racism denies justice to people simply because of their race -- and that is morally wrong."

Much work has already been done, but there is much more to be done, he said.

"Racism has lived and thrived in various ways for far too long," he said. "As a result, our efforts to root it out will not succeed overnight. Yet, the church's contribution at this time is vital."

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Young people want to be heard, be part of leadership, report says

By Carol Zimmermann

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Young people in the church want to be heard and be invited to be a part of church leadership, according to a report by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in preparation for next year's Synod of Bishops on youth.

They are often at transition points in their lives, yet they don't know where to go for mentorship, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, said Nov. 13.

He presented a summary of the responses gathered from dioceses and Catholic organizations to the bishops during their annual fall assembly in Baltimore.

The cardinal noted that pulling together the responses of young people from high school age to young adults is a challenge because of the group's broad diversity and many different needs.

He also said the report affirms a growing awareness of the challenges young people face today with economics, anxiety and drug and alcohol abuse.

The cardinal pointed out that the survey responses indicate that church leaders have work to do to walk with young people and address challenges they face, but he also said there has been some positive growth in young people's faith, especially for those in high school and college.

We have "talented leaders out there doing incredible things with limited resources," Cardinal DiNardo said, adding that he is grateful for their enthusiasm and leadership.

The responses gathered by the USCCB will be sent to the Vatican which is gathering survey responses from young Catholics around the world.

The USCCB also is going to send three young adults to the pre-synod gathering next March in Rome. In announcing the meeting, the pope said: "The church wants to listen to the voices, the sensibilities, the faith as well as the doubts and criticisms of young people. We must listen to young people."

The theme for the Synod of Bishops, which will be held in October 2018, is: "Young people, faith and vocational discernment."

Young people attending the meeting will represent bishops' conferences, the Eastern Catholic churches, men and women in consecrated life and seminarians preparing for the priesthood. It will also will include representatives from other Christian communities and other religions and experts in the fields of education, culture, sports and the arts.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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

Civility must guide debate on social challenges, USCCB president says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Acknowledging wide divisions in the country over issues such as health care, immigration reform, taxes and abortion, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called for civility to return to the public debate.

Contemporary challenges are great, but that they can be addressed without anger and with love Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said in his first address as USCCB president during the bishops' fall general assembly.

"We are facing a time that seems more divided than ever," Cardinal DiNardo said. "Divisions over health care, conscience protections, immigration and refugees, abortion, physician-assisted suicide, gender ideologies, the meaning of marriage and all the other headlines continue to be hotly debated. But our role continues to be witnessing the Gospel."

He explained that the National Catholic War Council, created by the U.S. bishops in 1917 in the response to the world refugee crisis that emerged from World War I and the forerunner to the USCCB, was formed to address great national and international needs at a time not unlike today.

He said the history of the American Catholic Church is full of examples of the work of "holy men and women" responding to social challenges. He particularly mentioned Capuchin Franciscan Father Solanus Casey, who ministered alongside homeless and poor people in Detroit and who will be beatified Nov. 18.

"The history of Christianity is also the story of reconciliation. In 2017, we mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Begun as a moment of painful division, it stands as a journey toward healing, from conflict to communion," Cardinal DiNardo said.

He continued, "Civility begins in the womb. If we cannot come to love and protect innocent life from the moment God creates it, how can we properly care for each other as we come of age? Or when we come to old age?"

The cardinal lamented that abortion continues despite the existence of alternatives to save the life of unborn children.

Cardinal DiNardo also laid out several policy stances for the country to pursue.

He said hospitals and health care workers "deserve conscience protections so they never have to participate in the taking of a human life."

The cardinal called for "good and affordable health care" for poor people and action to address the country's opioid abuse epidemic.

To applause, Cardinal DiNardo urged lawmakers to enact comprehensive immigration reform and protections for the country's 800,000 young adults who have been protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

President Donald Trump in September called for an end to the program, handing off the solution to the immigration status of young adults brought to this country illegally as children to Congress and giving the lawmakers a six-month window to act.

Acknowledging that a country has the right to defend its borders, Cardinal DiNardo reminded the country's leaders that it should be done in a humane way.

"We join our Holy Father in declaring that a pro-life immigration policy is one that does not tear families apart, it protects families," he said.

Racism, too, has risen to become a major challenge for the country, the USCCB president said.

"In our towns and in our cities, as civility ebbs, we have seen bolder expressions of racism, with some taking pride in this grave sin. Sometimes it is shocking and violent, such as in Charlottesville (Virginia, in August). More often it is subtle and systematic. But racism always destroys lives and it has no place in the Christian heart," he said.

The cardinal called for a "bold national dialogue ... a frank and honest commitment to address the root causes of racism."

"Americans don't like to talk about it. Nonetheless, it is time to act. Our common humanity demands it of us. Jesus demands it of us," Cardinal DiNardo said.

He discussed the work of Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the bishops' new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. The committee will meet with people throughout the country to learn how the best can best respond "in ending this evil," he added.

Beyond such challenges, Cardinal DiNardo said, society has had to respond to a series of natural disasters including hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, wildfires in California and earthquakes in Mexico.

Such tragedies have brought the church in America together, he said, "and has reminded me of how wonderful the gifts of faith, hope and love truly are."

"We need to constantly put forward these virtues, especially in light of violence from what is a long and growing list of mass shootings in our schools, offices, churches and place of recreation," he explained.

"The time is long past due to end the madness of outrageous weapons, be they stockpiled on a continent or in a hotel room," the cardinal said.

Cardinal DiNardo said the love of Jesus is "stronger than all the challenges ahead."

"My brothers, let us follow our Holy Father ever more closely, going forth to be with our people in every circumstance of pastoral life. Drawing strength and wisdom from these past hundred years, let us sound our hands and voices joyfully. And let us always remind our people, and ourselves, that with God, all things are possible."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.

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Couples need help forming, following their consciences, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Marriage and family life are blessings for individuals and for society, but both are filled with difficult choices that Catholic couples must be helped to face prayerfully and in the light of their consciences, Pope Francis said.

Unfortunately, too many people today confuse a rightly formed conscience with personal preferences dominated by selfishness, the pope said in a video message to an Italian meeting on "Amoris Laetitia," his exhortation on the family.

"The contemporary world risks confusing the primacy of conscience, which is always to be respected, with the exclusive autonomy of the individual" even when the individual's decisions impact his or her marriage and family life, the pope said.

Repeating a remark he had made to the Pontifical Academy for Life, Pope Francis said, "There are those who even speak of 'egolatry,' that is, the true worship of the ego on whose altar everything, including the dearest affections, are sacrificed."

Confusing conscience with selfishness "is not harmless," the pope said. "This is a 'pollution' that corrodes souls and confounds minds and hearts, producing false illusions."

The conference sponsored by the Italian bishops' conference was focused on "conscience and norm" in Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation.

Diagnosing problems in the church's outreach to married couples and families, Pope Francis had written, "We have long thought that simply by stressing doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues, without encouraging openness to grace, we were providing sufficient support to families, strengthening the marriage bond and giving meaning to marital life."

"We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations," he wrote in "Amoris Laetitia." "We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them."

In his message to the meeting Nov. 11 in Rome, Pope Francis said the Catholic Church must strengthen its programs "to respond to the desire for family that emerges in the soul of the young generations" and to help couples once they are married.

"Love between a man and a woman is obviously among the most generative human experiences; it is the leaven of a culture of encounter, and introduces to the present world an injection of sociality," he said.

Marriage and family life are "the most effective antidote against the individualism that currently runs rampant," he said, but it does not do one any good to pretend that marriage and family life are free from situations requiring difficult choices.

"In the domestic reality, sometimes there are concrete knots to be addressed with prudent conscience on the part of each," he said. "It is important that spouses, parents, not be left alone, but accompanied in their commitment to applying the Gospel to the concreteness of life."

Conscience, he said, always has God's desire for the human person as its ultimate reference point.

"In the very depths of each one of us, there is a place wherein the 'Mystery' reveals itself, and illuminates the person, making the person the protagonist of his story," he said. "Conscience, as the Second Vatican Council recalls, is this 'most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, whose voice echoes in his depths.'"

Each Christian, the pope said, must be "vigilant so that in this kind of tabernacle there is no lack of divine grace, which illuminates and strengthens married love and the parental mission."

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Global cooperation needed in response to climate change, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/handout, L'Osservatore Romano

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Global problems associated with climate change demand global cooperation, Pope Francis told a group of heads of state from the Pacific Islands.

The planet Earth, when viewed from space, is a world without borders, he said, and "it reminds us of the need for a global outlook, international cooperation and solidarity, and a shared strategy" when it comes to caring for the environment.

Such a shared approach "can prevent us from remaining indifferent in the face of grave problems such as the deterioration of the environment and of the health of the oceans, which is itself linked to the human and social deterioration experienced by humanity today," he said.

The pope spoke Nov. 11 during an audience with leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum, an organization of 18 member nations, whose aim is to increase regional cooperation and its voice on the world stage.

The meeting also came as world leaders were meeting for the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, Nov. 6-15. There, governments were looking at how they could better meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, which aims to control global temperature increases by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Baron Waqa, the incoming chair of the Pacific Islands Forum and president of Nauru, told the pope that their island nations "are at the forefront of the impacts of climate change. The devastating impacts of cyclones, earthquakes and tsunamis in recent years have resulted in enormous losses for our smaller island economies, which have taken decades to build."

Waqa praised the pope's leadership in promoting the recognition that those who least contribute to greenhouse gas emissions often bear the brunt of the effects of climate change, and for his insistence on the inclusion of everyone in discussions and solutions.

The pope said he shared their concern and lamented the causes that "have led to this environmental decay," which, "sadly, many of them are due to shortsighted human activity connected with certain ways of exploiting natural and human resources."

"It is my hope that the efforts of COP-23, and those yet to come, will always keep in mind the greater picture of that 'Earth without borders,'" the pope said.

"Not only geographic and territorial distances, but also distances in time are dissolved by the realization that everything in the world is intimately connected," he said.

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At home and abroad: Bishops' conferences show collegiality, solidarity

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The role of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other bishops' conferences around the world is "catholic" -- working together to promote the church's mission, but also "to support peacebuilding and human development throughout the world," said Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

Cardinal Parolin responded to written questions from Catholic News Service Nov. 10, just before he was scheduled to travel to the United States. He was to preside and give the homily at a Mass Nov. 12 in Baltimore marking the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The U.S. bishops' conference began in 1917 as the National Catholic War Council to coordinate a common Catholic response to the need for military chaplains and relief efforts once the U.S. entered World War I.

"Although primarily concerned with coordinating the church's pastoral activity in a specific area, bishops' conferences are naturally concerned for the welfare of the entire church by virtue of the communion that unites bishops, and their particular churches, with one another and with the pope as the successor of Peter," the cardinal said.

"This collegial spirit has always marked the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which began as a practical means of providing relief to those suffering the effects of the First World War," he said. "Today, the conference continues to be 'catholic,' not only in its concern for the missions and the needs of our fellow Christians, especially those suffering persecution, but also, more generally, in its efforts to support peacebuilding and human development throughout the world."

The 62-year-old Italian cardinal, a career Vatican diplomat, is Pope Francis' top aide both for internal church matters as well as for relations with governments and international organizations. He also serves on the nine-member Council of Cardinals that advises the pope on church governance and the reform of the Roman Curia.

Asked about the state of U.S.-Vatican relations, particularly given the strong differences of opinion between Pope Francis and the Trump administration on issues like immigration and climate change, Cardinal Parolin responded, "It is not the first time a pope and a president have held differing views!"

In 2003, he recalled, St. John Paul II strongly sought to dissuade the United States under President George W. Bush and its allies from waging a war in Iraq, "which he qualified as an 'adventure of no return.' The conflict unfortunately occurred with dire consequences right up to the present."

"What is important, however, is that although there can be differences, as in any healthy relationship, this does not undermine or compromise the bonds which unite us," the cardinal said.

The U.S.-Vatican diplomatic relationship, he added, is "strong and solid," and he looks forward to working with Callista Gingrich, the new ambassador to the Holy See.

In its diplomatic relations, he said, "the Holy See is an advocate of the common good and does not seek to promote particular interests or to oblige governments to follow its views. The values we defend are based on the Gospel and natural law; they are the values of the universal church."

Pope Francis and the U.S. bishops share those values, the cardinal said, and while Pope Francis speaks on a global stage, the U.S. bishops do so nationally "to safeguard the common good and promote fundamental moral values. Doing that is a requirement of our faith."

As for the renewed importance Pope Francis has given to bishops' conferences, citing their teaching in his own major documents, Cardinal Parolin said that flowed naturally from the Argentine pope's own experience on his national bishops' conference and, especially, on the Latin America bishops' council, CELAM.

Pope Francis' vision "is essentially missionary, aimed at a renewal of ecclesial life at every level for the sake of a more incisive presentation of the Gospel message," the cardinal said. "So it is natural that the Holy Father should place a high value on the work of national conferences in discerning the needs of the local churches and responding to important moral and social issues affecting their area."

The pope also has called for greater collegiality and synodality in the Catholic Church, encouraging bishops to discuss matters openly, frankly and prayerfully in order to address modern problems, concerns and challenges.

The bishops' conferences have an important role in that, the cardinal said. "Within an ecclesiology of communion, they can serve to build solidarity and enhance communication among the particular churches, while at the same time building communion and Catholic unity on the level of the universal church."

Pope Francis, he said, "is convinced of the importance of initiating processes, making sure that all voices are heard, and exercising a farsighted discernment. We see this in his approach to the Synod of Bishops, and we see it in his approach to episcopal conferences and their working."

In 1998, St. John Paul issued an apostolic letter, "Apostolos Suos" on the theological and juridical nature of bishops' conferences. To many observers, it indicated a caution against conferences growing too large and appearing to usurp the authority of an individual bishop in his own diocese.

"Episcopal conferences have an essentially pastoral responsibility," Cardinal Parolin said. "Needless to say, this activity must be carried out prudently and in a spirit of communion, both with the bishop members of the conference and with the larger church. I believe that time and experience are helping to clarify how this is best to be done in practice."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.


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Update: Tax bill called 'unacceptable,' some provisions 'unconscionable'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 "is unacceptable" as currently written and it "contains many fundamental structural flaws that must be corrected," said the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In a Nov. 9 letter to U.S. House members, the three bishops called for amendments to the current draft of the tax reform bill "for the sake of families" and "for those struggling on the peripheries of society who have a claim on our national conscience."

The letter does not address the Senate tax reform plan introduced as the bishops' letter was on its way to House members. The plan has seven significant differences from the House bill, but senators continued to fine-tune details Nov. 10.

The USCCB continued to review the Senate proposal Nov. 10 and compare it with the House measure and did not have an immediate response to it.

Quoting St. John XXIII's 1961 social encyclical, "Mater et Magistra," they said that "decisions about taxation involve fundamental concerns of 'justice and equity,' with the goal of taxes and public spending 'becoming an instrument of development and solidarity.'"

Because tax-policy is "so far-reaching," Congress also must provide "ample time for Americans to discuss the complexities of these reforms and fully understand their effects," they wrote.

Signing the three-page letter were Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace; and Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman, Committee on Education.

"Doubling the standard deduction will help some of those in poverty to avoid tax liability, and this is a positive good contained in the bill," the bishops wrote. "However, as written, this proposal appears to be the first federal income tax modification in American history that will raise income taxes on the working poor while simultaneously providing a large tax cut to the wealthy. This is simply unconscionable."

The Nov. 9 letter referenced Bishop Dewane's Oct. 25 letter to House members in which he offered moral guidelines for lawmakers to consider in any tax reform proposal. The guidelines focused on the country's responsibilities to care for the poor; form and strengthen families; develop a progressive tax code; raise adequate revenues for the sake of the common good; avoid cuts to poverty programs to finance any tax cuts; and incentivize charitable giving.

According to the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, households with income between $20,000 and $40,000 per year will see their taxes raised in 2023, 2025, and again in 2027. Taxes also will increase on average taxpayers earning between $10,000 and $20,000 in 2025.

Average taxpayers who make over $1 million "experience dramatic tax cuts for the same periods," the bishops wrote.

The federal poverty line is $12,228 for one person and $24,339 for a two-parent family, the bishops noted, adding that nearly one in three Americans live in a family with income below 200 percent of the poverty line.

"No tax reform proposal is acceptable that increases taxes for those living in poverty to help pay for benefits to wealthy citizens, the bishops said.

They also said that the "Unified Tax Reform Framework" released Sept. 27, upon which the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 is based, "promised that any new tax code would be 'at least' as progressive as the present code. This plan breaks that promise."

The committee chairmen described as positive the tax measure's provisions in the areas of education -- "expanded access to schools of choice is a positive step" -- and modest increases to child tax credits.

But at the same time, the bill places "new and unreasonable burdens on families," and must be changed, the bishops said. They criticized elimination of among other things: the adoption tax credit and adoption assistance program exclusion; the personal exemption, which they said "will harm many larger families"; the out-of-pocket medical expenses deduction; and incentives to employees and employers dependent care assistance or child care.

The bishops' letter also cautioned that the deficit could "be used as an argument to further restrict or end programs that help those in need, programs which are investments to help pull struggling families out of poverty."

They called for fixes to the bill's "disincentives" for charitable giving and for affordable housing and community revitalization development projects.

"Because tax policy is far-reaching, Congress must provide ample time for Americans to discuss the complexities of these reforms and fully understand their effects," the bishops said. "The current timetable does not provide adequate time for that discussion.

"In many ways, this legislation is unacceptable in its present form and requires amendment," the wrote. "It must be changed for the sake of families -- the bedrock of our country -- and for those struggling on the peripheries of society who have a claim on our national conscience."

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