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Having a friend who is poor will help you get to heaven, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The poor are the church's treasure because they give every Christian a chance to "speak the same language as Jesus, that of love," Pope Francis said, celebrating Mass for the World Day of the Poor.

"The poor facilitate our access to heaven," the pope said in his homily Nov. 17. "In fact, they open up the treasure that never ages, that which joins earth and heaven and for which life is truly worth living: love."

Thousands of poor people and volunteers who assist them joined Pope Francis for the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. After the liturgy and the recitation of the Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis hosted a luncheon for 1,500 of them while thousands more throughout the city enjoyed a festive meal at soup kitchens, parish halls and seminaries.

Served by 50 volunteer waiters in white jackets, the pope and his guests in the Vatican audience hall enjoyed a three-course meal of lasagna, chicken in a mushroom cream sauce with potatoes, followed by dessert, fruit and coffee.

To speak Jesus' language, the pope had said in his homily, one must not speak of oneself or follow one's own interests but put the needs of others first.

"How many times, even when doing good, the hypocrisy of 'I' reigns: I do good, but so people will think I'm good; I help, but to attract the attention of someone important," Pope Francis said.

Instead, he said, the Gospel encourages charity, not hypocrisy; "giving to someone who cannot pay you back, serving without seeking a reward or something in exchange."

In order to excel at that, the pope said, each Christian must have at least one friend who is poor.

"The poor are precious in the eyes of God," he said, because they know they are not self-sufficient and know they need help. "They remind us that that's how you live the Gospel, like beggars before God."

"So," the pope said, "instead of being annoyed when they knock on our doors, we can welcome their cry for help as a call to go out of ourselves, to welcome them with the same loving gaze God has for them."

"How beautiful it would be if the poor occupied the same place in our hearts that they have in God's heart," Pope Francis said.

In the day's Gospel reading from St. Luke, the crowds ask Jesus when the world will end and how they will know. They want immediate answers, but Jesus tells them to persevere in faith.

Wanting to know or to have everything right now "is not of God," the pope said. Breathlessly seeking things that will pass takes one's mind off the things that last; "we follow the clouds that pass and lose sight of the sky."

Worse, he said, "attracted by the latest ruckus, we no longer find time for God and for our brother or sister living alongside us."

"This is so true today!" the pope said. "In yearning to run, to conquer everything and do it immediately, those who lag behind annoy us. And they are judged as disposable. How many elderly people, how many unborn babies, how many persons with disabilities and poor people are judged useless. One rushes ahead without worrying that the distances are increasing, that the lust of a few increases the poverty of many."

The pope's celebration of the World Day of the Poor concluded a week of special events and services for the homeless, the poor and immigrants in Rome.

The poor served by the city's Catholic soup kitchens and Vatican charities were invited Nov. 9 to a free concert in the Vatican audience hall featuring Nicola Piovani, the Oscar-winning composer, and the Italian Cinema Orchestra.

From Nov. 10-17 dozens of physicians, nurses and other volunteers staffed a large medical clinic set up in St. Peter's Square. The clinic offered flu shots, physical exams, routine lab tests and many specialty services often needed by people who live and sleep on the streets, including podiatry, diabetes and cardiology.

As rain beat down on the square Nov. 15, Pope Francis paid a surprise visit to the clinic and spent about an hour visiting with the clients and volunteers.

Afterward, the pope went across the street to inaugurate a new shelter, day center and soup kitchen for the poor in the Palazzo Migliori, a four-story, Vatican-owned building that had housed a community of women religious. When the community moved out, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, began renovating it.

The building now can accommodate 50 overnight guests as well as offering a drop-in center for the poor and housing a large commercial kitchen. Meals will be served at the building, but also will be cooked there for distribution to the homeless who live around two Rome train stations.

The Community of Sant'Edigio, a Rome-based lay movement that already runs soup kitchens and a variety of programs for the city's poor, will manage and staff the shelter.

 

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Decline in baptisms leads Quebec church to rethink children's spirituality

IMAGE: CNS photo/Philippe Vaillancourt, Presence

By Philippe Vaillancourt

QUEBEC CITY (CNS) -- The great doorway to growing in the Christian faith is narrowing from year to year in Quebec as baptisms have significantly declined in since 2012 and there's no indication the trend will reverse.

Confronted with a shift away from traditional practices of transmitting the faith in childhood, leaders in the Quebec church are rethinking how to approach children's spirituality.

Data compiled by the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec shows the number baptisms declined from 42,213 (of 88,933 births) in 2012 to 30,394 (of 83,900 births) in 2017. The figures represent a 28% decline in five years.

Clement Vigneault, director of the Catechesis Office of Quebec, is closely monitoring the situation. Before the question of baptizing and catechizing children is even raised, he sees a growing concern -- especially among grandparents -- to consider the spiritual life of children.

"There's a trend of waiting to baptize children in order to give them the opportunity to choose later," he said. "But how will they choose if they have never been accompanied in their spiritual life?"

Elaine Champagne, associate professor of theology and religious studies at Laval University, has been working on children's spirituality for several years. It was while working in pediatric health care for eight years that she developed her interest in the topic.

She noted that spiritual care in health facilities was mainly oriented toward parents and that children sometimes were forgotten. She said, however, that being interested in this "sacred, very personal space" in children is just as important.

"You have to be respectful and listen a lot," Champagne said.

Champagne's research has enabled her to identify three modes to better grasp children's spirituality in everyday life.

The "existential" mode is interested in how they live in the present. In the "sensitive" mode, children communicate with their bodies and senses. "Something is said all over their bodies. The whole body expresses it, their being is coherent," Champagne said. In the "relational" mode, it's about the relationship to oneself, to others, to God and to one's environment.

Champagne invites adults to go beyond the image they many have of children's spirituality, which is sometimes made up of projections. Certainly, the children have a "beautiful capacity for wonder," but it's also necessary to know how to respect that "in this state of becoming, there's fragility, a dependence."

The Rev. Jean-Daniel Williams is working on a doctorate in practical theology on children's ministries. As a part-time chaplain at McGill University and an associate priest at the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal, he works with children of all ages.

"There's of course a difference between a 3-year-old and a 10-year-old child. However, it should be emphasized that children are completely human from the beginning. If we see children as adults in the making, we don't respect the reality of their current spirituality," he explained.

For Rev. Williams, children are the "most spiritual beings in the world" simply because they ask so many questions. "It's a bit cliche to talk about children always asking, 'Why,'" he said. "But isn't the very foundation of religion people asking, 'Why?'"

Curiosity and openness are, he said, two distinct marks of children's spirituality.

"It's important to understand that in institutional religion, there has been a tradition of having a normalized path: baptism, communion and so on. But the questions "Why I exist?" "How to make the right moral choice?" "Do I belong to something bigger than myself?" remain regardless of the institutional or family context," said Rev. Williams, who is the father of 11-year-old twins.

Rev. Williams reminds that it's difficult to find the right balance to recognize the child as he or she is without treating the child as an adult. He believes that churches have not always been able to set an example in this regard.

"Jesus says we must attract children with all our hearts. Otherwise we are not the church."

Author of "Entre ciel et mere" ("Between Heaven and Mother"), a book of personal reflections on her role as a mother concerned about transmitting her Catholic faith, Valerie Roberge-Dion, believes that from a Christian perspective, spirituality is marked "by the great criterion of love."

"The child awakens to love as he or she grows," Roberge-Dion, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Quebec, said of her three children, ages 7, 5 and 2. "I can see in my children that they are gradually opening up to others, becoming capable of empathy, small attentions. ... I help them to be attentive to what's stirring in them and to name the emotions that color their inner life.

"As believers, my husband and I have exposed our children to our ways of growing in faith: Masses, activities with other believing families. We also take time every evening to do a little prayer with the family, very often chaotic. But we are trying to create a moment of communion, which is the most important thing," she said.

In order to allow children younger than 5 years old to "awaken to the faith while having fun," officials from the Office of Faith Education of the Archdiocese of Montreal asked Christiane Boulva to develop what would become "La P'tite Pasto," or "little pastoral." Its English version is called Little Hearts Playgroup.

The program covers 60 themes over a three-year period. It is being used in more than 100 parishes throughout Quebec as well as in Alberta, Manitoba and Yukon.

Boulva, a mother who was interested in faith development in children, is concerned about the lack of places where children can hear about spirituality today.

"In the future, our society must succeed in reaching them where they will be and offer them and their parents activities adapted to their aspirations, their dreams and the challenges they face on a daily basis by directly meeting their needs," Boulva said.

In doing so, it is not necessary to be afraid to discuss spirituality with children at an early stage, she said, cautioning parents to beware that such efforts are not so much a question of wanting to "explain" God as it is of allowing children to "get to know him on a daily basis."

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Editors: Information about the Little Hearts Playgroup is online at http://laptitepasto.com/en/.

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Vaillancourt is editor of Presence info in Montreal.

 

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Catechism will be updated to include ecological sins, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Anushree Fadnavis, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Following through on a proposal made at the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, Pope Francis said there are plans to include a definition of ecological sins in the church's official teaching.

"We should be introducing -- we were thinking -- in the Catechism of the Catholic Church the sin against ecology, ecological sin against the common home," he told participants at a conference on criminal justice Nov. 15.

Members of the International Association of Penal Law were in Rome Nov. 13-16 for the conference, which centered on the theme, "Criminal Justice and Corporate Business."

Pope Francis also denounced the abuse of law and legislation to justify acts of violence and hatred.

Today's throwaway culture, as well as other "psycho-social phenomenon" pose threats to the common good while insidiously promoting a "culture of hate," he said. These threats, he added, often take the form of "symbols and actions that are typical of Nazism."

"I must confess," the pope said, departing from his prepared remarks, "that when I hear some speeches, some person in charge of order or the government, I am reminded of Hitler's speeches in 1934 and 1936."

"They are actions typical of Nazism that, with its persecution of Jews, gypsies and people of homosexual orientation, represent a negative model par excellence of a throwaway culture and hate," the pope said. "That is what happened in that time and today, these things are reappearing."

Today's "current of punitivism, which claims to solve social problems through the penal system," has not worked, the pope said. Instead, an "elementary sense of justice" must be applied so that "certain conduct for which corporations are usually responsible, does not go unpunished."

Chief among those crimes, he added, are acts that "can be considered as 'ecocide': the massive contamination of air, land and water resources, the large-scale destruction of flora and fauna, and any action capable of producing an ecological disaster or destroying an ecosystem."

Pope Francis also called on the international community to recognize ecocide as a "fifth category of crime against peace."

According to the Rome Statute, which was adopted by the International Criminal Court in 1998, the four core international crimes currently established are: crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and crimes of aggression.

"On this occasion, and through you," the pope told conference participants, "I would like to appeal to all the leaders and representatives in this sector to help with efforts in order to ensure the adequate legal protection of our common home."

In the synod's final document, bishops defined ecological sin as a sin against God and future generations that "manifests itself in acts and habits of pollution and destruction of the harmony of the environment."

A true model of justice, the pope said, can find "its perfect incarnation in the life of Jesus" who, after being treated violently and put to death, brought "a message of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation."

"These are values that are difficult to achieve but necessary for the good life of all," the pope said. "I don't think it's a utopia, but it's a big challenge. A challenge that we must all address if we are to treat the problems of our civilized coexistence in a way that is rational, peaceful and democratic."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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Pastoral against racism is starting conversations, healing, bishops told

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Carol Zimmermann

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- One year after the U.S. bishops approved their pastoral letter against racism, the document is hardly just sitting on a shelf but is the basis for listening sessions in dioceses around the country and is an educational tool for individuals, schools and parishes, the bishops were told Nov. 13.

Bishop Shelton T. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, described the attention the letter is getting around the country in a presentation on the final day of the bishops' annual fall meeting in Baltimore.

He reminded the bishops that in the two years since the ad hoc committee was formed, it has been "hard at work as the church works to acknowledge past harms and cultivate racial reconciliation."

The document, titled "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love -- A Pastoral Letter Against Racism," sold out its first 2,000 copies eight months after it was printed and was recently sent out for a second printing. It is available online in English and Spanish along with study guides at www.usccb.org/racism.

Bishop Fabre said the ad hoc committee's most important work has been the listening sessions that began last August. So far there have been 13 sessions around the country, and more are scheduled for next year.

These sessions spring from the very words of the pastoral letter: "We must create opportunities to hear the painful stories of those whose lives have been affected by racism."

In these sessions, starting with the first one in St. Louis, the bishop said the committee's members have heard both the hurt caused by racism and the hope that church and society will root it out.

Some of the participants, he said, have shared experiences they have rarely, if ever, spoken of before.

Diocesan bishops attending these sessions have been linked to the laity in ways that open "new possibilities for further healing," Bishop Fabre said, adding the bishops' committee is helping these dioceses with follow-up sessions or other ways to implement the pastoral letter.

All the offices and committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are committed to ending racism, he said. He highlighted in particular, the educational outreach of the USCCB's Justice, Peace and Human Development Office, which is helping to develop a children's book in response to the pastoral on racism called "Everyone Belongs."

The ad hoc committee has addressed several national Catholic organizations about their possible use of the pastoral letter. It also is working on developing catechetical resources for schools and supporting or developing Catholic college programs, seminary training and ecumenical efforts.

In closing, he said the "single cry" committee members hear most often at listening sessions is that "the laity never seems to hear homilies on racism."

"I would ask you to work with me to change that perception," he told the bishops, "so that we all will come to hear regularly, and with one voice, that racism is opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that the Catholic Church in the United States is committed to standing against the evil and sin of racism with all its strength."

To this end, he said his committee would seek to provide more homily resources to bishops and priests.

He also stressed that the committee's work "goes beyond simply calling out the evil of racism" but involves urging "all people to see the deeper reality of God's purpose and the in creating all of us with unique and unrepeatable value."

The bishop didn't say the work was easy, but he finished his presentation by saying: "With God's grace our efforts will bear fruit in these challenging times."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

 

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Tone somber at prayer vigil for those facing execution in weeks ahead

IMAGE: CNS photo/Natalie Hoefer, The Criterion

By Natalie Hoefer

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (CNS) -- Nearly 100 people were bathed in light as they gathered for a prayer vigil at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Terre Haute, not far from the Federal Correctional Complex.

Despite the lights and bright glow, the tone was heavy and somber. They were gathered to pray for the federal death-row inmates and all those affected by their pending executions scheduled for December and January at the prison.

Indianapolis Archbishop Charles C. Thompson led the faithful in an hourlong prayer vigil before the Blessed Sacrament.

"It's so important that we pray before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament tonight," he said in a reflection he offered as part of the Nov. 5 service. "What needs to remain constant is keeping Christ at the center, so that we are always aware of our dignity and the dignity of others, whether it be perpetrators of horrible crimes, or their victims, or their families, or those who work in correctional facilities."

Christ must remain the constant, but church doctrine can develop, the archbishop noted. He explained that when Pope Francis announced in August 2018 that the death penalty was no longer admissible, it wasn't a decision the pontiff "just pulled out of the air."

"It was something that had been developing through the papacy of St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI," Archbishop Thompson said. "And this is a doctrine that developed along with the development of society."

Such advances in the penal system have led to the situation today, he said, of there no longer being "the threat that there was 20 or 30 years ago in (inmates) escaping."

"And so our doctrine develops along with our society -- and that's frustrating for some," Archbishop Thompson noted. "Some of us like very black and white ways of living."

So it was in the time of Christ, he said. There were clear rules with no exceptions: a woman caught committing adultery was to be stoned -- no exceptions. A tax collector, like Zacchaeus, was a traitor and therefore a sinner -- no exceptions.

"But Jesus came along and started changing things, mixing things up," said the archbishop. "People saw the sin and the sinner. Jesus knew (Zacchaeus') sin, but he also saw the dignity of a child of God. ... When they were getting ready to stone the woman caught committing adultery, people saw a sinner. Jesus saw the dignity of a daughter of God."

To give a more current example, Archbishop Thompson described how in the span of two weeks, he gave viaticum -- a term used for the Eucharist given to a dying person during their final rites -- to both his elderly aunt and to a Catholic man slated for execution.

"In the time of Jesus, when Romans buried someone, they put a coin in their mouth," he explained. "The coin was meant to pay the toll to the next life. Viaticum for Christians is the way of saying Jesus paid the price. He's paid our toll from this life to the next.

"When I gave viaticum last week to my aunt who was dying in a hospital bed in her home, and when I gave viaticum to this inmate through the prison bars, Jesus saw the same dignity in both of them."

So, he continued, "we pray that the Lord continue to not only transform society, transform our country, transform the injustice surrounding the death penalty, but to continue to transform our hearts and our witness to the dignity and sacredness of every human person."

The sermon was followed by prayers of petition for families of all those facing execution; for civic leaders to commit to respecting every human life from conception to natural death and to ending the use of the death penalty; and for those who work in the prison system.

As for the five men facing execution, they were prayed for by name, including their current execution date: Daniel Lewis Lee, Dec. 9; Wesley Ira Purkey, Dec. 13; Alfred Bourgeois, Jan. 13, 2020; Dustin Lee Honken, Jan. 15, 2020; and Lezmond Mitchell, whose execution date has been "stayed," or delayed.

After the vigil in an interview with The Criterion, newspaper of the Indianapolis Archdiocese, Archbishop Thompson shared more about problems with the death penalty.

"The poor don't have the means to defend themselves (legally), so they're more likely to end up on death row," he said. "And we know there have been instances where (people) have been found guilty and found later to be innocent, sometimes after they'd already been executed.

"And we also know that the carrying out of the execution doesn't go smoothly. It tortures not just the person, but everyone who's there to witness it."

He also spoke personally about his hourlong visit recently with the Catholic inmate scheduled for execution, a visit the man requested.

"Doors closing and opening, keys rattling and all the security -- there's just a heaviness to it all," he described.

The convicted man was received into full communion with the Catholic Church about eight years ago, "a credit to the Sister of Providence who visited with him," the archbishop said.

With St. Mary-of-the-Woods, the order's motherhouse, just west of Terre Haute, several of the Sisters of Providence are involved in prison ministry at the federal correctional facility.

"I was impressed with this man," Archbishop Thompson said. He described him as "very intelligent" with "a good sense of Scripture and theology. "And yet, what he was convicted of was a horrible crime. ... It's a lot of mixed emotions," he admitted.

Sacred Heart parish life coordinator Barbara Black admits that within the parish, reactions to the upcoming executions have been mixed.

"Some think they should not do capital punishment," she said. "But those who've worked in the prison system are for it. They know what these prisoners have done. ... You kind of understand where they're coming from, but the bottom line is (that) every life is sacred."

Black helped organize the prayer vigil with Deacon Steven Gretencord, who is assigned to the parish. Prison ministry is among his several ministries at Sacred Heart.

When asked about the men scheduled for execution, he explained he only knew the one who is Catholic because "in the federal system, you only minister to people who have declared (your) faith tradition."

The man is "resigned to his fate," Deacon Gretencord said. "He is far more concerned about his family than he is about himself. He's approaching it very prayerfully. He's very calm at this point. ' He was very touched that the archbishop would take time out of his schedule to visit him."

Deacon Gretencord noted that the prayers of the people of the archdiocese, as well as those of others from around the country who oppose the death penalty, are "a powerful, powerful source of inspiration and hope" for the convicted Catholic man.

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Hoefer is a reporter at The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

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Cardinal urges New York bishops to find solace in St. Peter's example

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With rumors swirling around about two of their members, the bishops of New York state reached the centerpiece of their "ad limina" pilgrimage to Rome: the tomb of St. Peter.

The bishops' early morning Mass in the grotto of St. Peter's Basilica Nov. 14 came the morning after media reports that Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn has been accused of sexually abusing a minor in the 1970s -- a claim he strongly denied -- and rumors that Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo would step down after an apostolic visitation of his diocese amid claims of his mishandling of abuse allegations.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York was the principal celebrant and homilist at the Mass for the group's visit "ad limina apostolorum," meaning "to the threshold of the apostles."

The New York bishops' Vatican visit began Nov. 11 and was to conclude Nov. 15 with a group meeting with Pope Francis and the celebration of Mass at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

"To be here at the tomb of the first pope and tomorrow to be in the presence of his living successor in many ways is the goal or trophy" of the "ad limina" visit, Cardinal Dolan said in his homily.

Especially in a time of "difficulty," the cardinal said, St. Peter's life offers encouragement to the bishops because of his unwavering love for Jesus despite not always understanding exactly what Jesus meant and what he was calling his disciples to.

"He was always a bit confused by Jesus; he never completely 'got it,' never completely comprehended the teaching of Jesus," Cardinal Dolan said.

The descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost helped St. Peter, like it helped the other apostles, but as St. Peter's disputes with St. Paul show, "he was a tad stubborn" and not always a quick study, the cardinal said. "And aren't we all that way? We're all that way."

Cardinal Dolan said he often has wondered "if the moment when it all made sense for St. Peter, the moment it all came together is when his life was literally turned upside down, when he was crucified upside down."

"I wonder if then he said, 'Ah, now I get it.'"

Crucified on Vatican hill, St. Peter would have seen symbols of the Roman Empire and its "power and clout and prestige and authority and worldly success," Cardinal Dolan said, and he would have known that "none of it amounted to a hill of cold polenta."

After the Mass and prayer at the tomb of St. Peter, many of the bishops went to pray at the nearby tomb of St. Paul VI.

Coincidentally, it was the day after the 55th anniversary of Pope Paul setting his tiara on the altar of St. Peter's Basilica and renouncing the earthly power and prestige it symbolized. The pope ordered the tiara to be sold to raise money for the poor; eventually it was given to Cardinal Francis J. Spellman of New York and now is on display at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

 

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Update: Bishops hear that third-party reporting system may start in February

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- A third-party reporting system to field sexual misconduct allegations against bishops could be in place by the end of February, an official of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told the bishops during their fall general assembly in Baltimore.

The company awarded the contract for the system is working quickly to implement it so that it is in place well before the May 31, 2020, deadline set by Pope Francis, said Anthony Picarello, USCCB associate general secretary, in a Nov. 13 presentation to the bishops on the final day of their three-day meeting.

The precise date a toll-free hotline will be activated and links on diocesan and eparchial websites and the USCCB website will go live is going to depend on how quickly each diocese or eparchy can implement the program, Picarello said.

The USCCB official explained that the exact date the system will be ready will be communicated with each province, diocese and eparchy.

Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Illinois, asked how the system will filter complaints against clergy who, for example, may not exactly follow something as simple as genuflecting after the consecration of the bread and wine at Mass.

Picarello responded that complaints will be filtered so that only those concerns raised in Pope Francis' "motu proprio" "Vos Estis Lux Mundi" ("You are the light of the world") will be addressed through the new mechanism.

"The idea is we want to make sure this system is reserved for this specific, this high priority purpose," Picarello told the bishops.

Issued in May, the pope's document specifically addresses allegations of sexual misconduct and other accusations of actions or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil or church investigations of such misconduct by clergy.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, outgoing USCCB president, called on the metropolitan bishops -- through whom reports from the reporting system will funnel -- "to do our work very well. ... So we can move ahead and have this ready sooner rather than later."

"Our people are looking forward to having this and we will have to work hard to do it," he told the assembly.

Picarello said the USCCB awarded a two-year contract to Denver-based Convercent to implement the reporting system.

The bishops approved the establishment of the reporting system in June. Under it, people would be allowed to make reports of "certain complaints" through a toll-free telephone number as well as online.

Picarello reiterated the system would fall in line with the requirements of Pope Francis' "motu proprio," issued in May.

The "motu proprio" also requires dioceses and eparchies worldwide to establish "one or more public, stable and easily accessible systems for submission of reports."

The USCCB plan calls for all reports to be funneled through a central receiving hub, which would then be responsible for sending allegations to the appropriate metropolitan, or archbishop, responsible for each diocese in a province and to the papal nunciature in Washington. The U.S. has 32 metropolitans.

The metropolitan will be responsible for reporting any allegation to local law enforcement authorities as the first step toward investigating a claim.

The reporting system will be subject to review to determine its effectiveness in three years, as called for under "Vos Estis Lux Mundi."

 

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Bishops urged to heed pope's call: Listen to and accompany young people

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Carol Zimmermann

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The day after the U.S. bishops were encouraged at their Baltimore meeting to bring young people back to the church, they were urged to also pay more attention to and support the teens and young adults among them in parishes and church programs.

To help them do this, they were advised Nov. 12 to use "Christus Vivit" ("Christ Lives") -- Pope Francis' reflection on the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment -- as their guide.

"'Christus Vivit' is a call to action for everyone in the life of the church regardless of our age," said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, a delegate to last year's Synod of Bishops on young people.

In remarks on the second day of the bishops' Nov. 11-13 meeting, he acknowledged that many in the room might feel uncertain about how to respond to and help young people in the church, but he said they can find encouragement from the pope's message and, in particular, his sentiment that young people are the church's hope.

The pope's apostolic exhortation -- which is both a letter to young people about their place in the church and a plea for older members to encourage them -- was described by Bishop Caggiano as a call to action and a moment of grace that "we should not and cannot allow to slip away."

For starters, he said his fellow bishops should read the pope's document "from cover to cover and engage in dialogue" about it with church leaders on the diocesan and parish level as a way to enrich church ministries and outreach.

So the bishops would not just take his word for it, Bishop Caggiano also introduced two young adults to them who gave their insights on the pope's document.

Brenda Noriega, coordinator of young adult ministry for the Diocese of San Bernardino, California, told the bishops she was grateful for "Christus Vivit" because it provided a foundation for her work. She said one of her favorite parts of it is where the pope responds to the frustrations of many young people and reminds them that God loves them and that they matter.

She said she finds hope with pastors who are willing to listen to young people and "accompany us on the journey like spiritual fathers."

Brian Rhude, program coordinator at the Catholic Apostolate Center in Washington, said he wouldn't be before the bishops at this moment if it hadn't been for the Catholics who accompanied him over the years.

Rhude said he was particularly struck by how Pope Francis warns against looking at all young people with broad strokes and assuming they are all the same. He also said he had been inspired by message in "Christus Vivit" that "our individual stories do not occur in a vacuum" and that as people come to know more about each other they can "form the greater story that God is writing."

Bishop Caggiano stressed the importance of youth and young adult ministry already at work and suggested that bishops find ways to continue to encourage these efforts and invest in them even more, expanding efforts of a more diverse outreach.

"Quite frankly, our ministry will not reach its goal unless every young person is at the table, particularly those who are immigrants, marginalized and poor," he said.

He concluded by stressing that above all, the bishops should "listen more deeply" to young people.

"We do a lot of talking about young people and young adults," he said, "but Pope Francis is asking us in the heart to listen to and learn from them and invite them right now into appropriate leadership in the church."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

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Pope denounces increasing violence against Jewish people

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis warned that violence against Jewish people, which reached a state of horror during World War II, is on the rise again.

During his weekly general audience Nov. 13, the pope reflected on the lives of Priscilla and Aquila, a first-century married couple who accompanied St. Paul in his ministry and were among the Jews expelled from Rome by Claudius Caesar.

Departing from his prepared remarks, the pope said that the world has "seen so many brutalities done against the Jewish people, and we were convinced that this was over."

"But today the habit of persecuting Jews is beginning to be reborn," he said. "Brothers and sisters: this is neither human nor Christian; the Jews are our brothers and sisters and must not be persecuted! Understood?"

The pope's warning came as more countries have reported an escalation in anti-Semitic violence and vandalism across Europe.

In Denmark and Sweden, neo-Nazi groups coordinated acts of vandalism Nov. 10, placing yellow stars inscribed with the German word "Jude" ("Jew") on Jewish gravestones, homes and businesses, the Times of Israel reported.

During the Holocaust, the Nazi regime forced Jewish men, women and children to wear yellow stars on their clothing.

The attacks coincided with the 81st anniversary of Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), when more than 1,400 synagogues, prayer halls and thousands of Jewish shops, apartments and cemeteries were destroyed.

The 2018 Hate Crime Statistics, released Nov. 12 by the FBI, reported that of the 1,617 victims of anti-religious hate crimes reported in the United States, "56.9 percent were victims of crimes motivated by offenders' anti-Jewish bias."

In his main audience talk, the pope continued his series on the Acts of the Apostles, recalling the important role played by Priscilla and Aquila in the early beginnings of the church.

Following their expulsion from Rome, the Jewish couple settled in Corinth where they met St. Paul and welcomed him into their home. Priscilla and Aquila also accompanied the apostle on his travels to Syria.

Pope Francis said that among all of St. Paul's collaborators, Priscilla and Aquila "emerge as models of a married life responsibly committed to the service of the entire Christian community."

The couple, he added, serve as a reminder that "thanks to the faith and commitment to evangelization by so many laypeople like them, Christianity has come to us."

"Let us ask the Father, who has chosen to make of this couple his 'true, living sculpture,' to pour out his Spirit on all Christian couples so that, following the example of Aquila and Priscilla, they may open the doors of their hearts to Christ and their brothers and sisters and transform their homes into domestic churches where they can live a life of faith, hope and charity in fellowship and worship," the pope said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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In darkness, bishops must be heralds of hope, Buffalo bishop says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

ROME (CNS) -- The long nights and rain of November eventually lead to the expectation and joy of Advent and Christmas, which reminds people that Christian hope is the only way forward through difficult moments, said Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York.

"In these times that appear dark, in which we sometimes feel disoriented by the evil and violence that surround us, by the distress of so many of our brothers and sisters, we need hope!" he said, quoting from Pope Francis' catechesis on Christian hope.

Bishop Malone, whose diocese recently has undergone an apostolic visitation after more than a year of questions about how the bishop has handled allegations of abuse by diocesan priests, was the principal celebrant and homilist Nov. 12 at a Mass at the Rome Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

The Mass was part of the Nov. 11-15 visit "ad limina apostolorum" -- to the threshold of the apostles -- of the bishops of New York state. On the visit, the bishops pray at the apostles' tombs and meet with Vatican officials and the pope to report on the status of their dioceses.

Wearing bright red vestments for the day's memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop Malone said the 17th-century Basilian monk and martyr "experienced ruthless persecution and intense suffering."

But, he said, "it was clearly hope in Christ and in his Christ-filled mission that kept Josaphat going, that gave him the courage and the endurance to be able to continue working for unity" in the church and "renewal in his own diocese."

Reflecting on this "martyr for unity," Bishop Malone said, "I think in my own diocese and in the life of the church in general, the call for us bishops" is to be "ministers of unity ... especially right now when there is so much tendency toward fragmentation."

The month of November, with its long dark nights, can be "dismal and rainy and drab" and can weigh on people, Bishop Malone said.

But its feasts of All Saints and All Souls as well as the solemnity of Christ the King are the rays of hope that cut through that darkness, ushering the faithful toward Advent and "into a new year of grace with Christmas," he said.

Asking how people can live with hope, the bishop referred to the day's first reading from the Book of Wisdom (2:23-3:9) that says, "grace and mercy are with God's holy ones, and his care is with his elect."

"And that is all of us, all of us who are among the baptized, and I think in a special way we remember (the passage) for ourselves as bishops as being among the elect," he said.

Bishops are anointed and sent "as heralds of hope for our people," for the world and for one another so as to "sustain each other," he said.

Keeping hope a priority in one's life and bringing that hope to others "is not an added or extraordinary duty for us, it's not an add-on; as a matter of fact, we are just doing what we are obliged to do," he said.

"Even when times are difficult and dark," he said, "rejoice in hope."

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Update: Australian High Court to hear arguments in Cardinal Pell's case

IMAGE: CNS/Robert Duncan

By Michael Sainsbury

SYDNEY (CNS) -- The High Court of Australia has decided to give Cardinal George Pell, 78, a final chance to argue against his conviction on five counts of child sexual abuse.

High Court Justices Michelle Gordon and James Edelman announced Nov. 13 that they referred the cardinal's appeal application to the full, seven-member court. The unusual move means the full court will decide whether to hear the appeal and, if it does, will proceed to hear arguments about why the conviction should be overturned or upheld.

The justices gave Cardinal Pell's lawyers until Jan. 8 to file their arguments for the appeal and said the prosecutors must respond by February. No date for the hearing was announced, but it is unlikely to be before March.

Matteo Bruni, Vatican spokesman, said that while "reiterating its trust in the Australian justice system, the Holy See acknowledges the decision of Australia's High Court to accept Cardinal George Pell's request of appeal, aware that the cardinal has always maintained his innocence."

"At the same time," he said, "the Holy See reaffirms once again its closeness to those who have suffered because of sexual abuse on the part of members of the clergy."

A jury in December unanimously found the cardinal guilty of sexually abusing two 13-year old choirboys in Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral in the 1990s. In August, the conviction was upheld two-to-one by a panel of justices on the Victorian Court of Appeal.

If the High Court decides not to hear the appeal, Cardinal Pell, who has been held at Melbourne Assessment Prison since late February, will serve out his remaining sentence -- the non-parole period of which expires in 2022.

If the full court does hear the appeal, each judge will make his or her own decision and write up the reasons; a majority will decide the case. The court has a range of options: The two simplest are to reject the appeal, leaving Cardinal Pell in prison to serve out his term, or to acquit him, meaning he will immediately walk free.

"For the High Court, there are two questions," Melbourne lawyer Michael Bradley in an article on crikey.com.au. "It may consider that there is a question of legal significance to be dealt with, in relation to the way that an appeal court is required to handle appeals from jury verdicts."

This would revolve around the test that appeal judges should apply to themselves when considering the "safety" of a verdict. Both sides in the case are expected to offer arguments about whether Cardinal Pell could have abused the boys in the cathedral sacristy immediately after Mass and while still wearing his Mass vestments and how that relates to the burden of proof.

The second question is whether an injustice has been done. "The High Court has itself said repeatedly that, putting aside all technical legal grounds, an appeal court must quash a criminal conviction if it concludes that a miscarriage of justice has occurred. If the judges have a serious doubt, then logically the jurors should have had one, too," Bradley wrote.

The High Court also could order a retrial or refer the case back to the Victorian Court of Appeal for further consideration.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference, said Cardinal Pell had exercised the right that all Australians hold to appeal his conviction to the high court.

"This will prolong what has been a lengthy and difficult process, but we can only hope that the appeal will be heard as soon as reasonably possible and that the high court's judgment will bring clarity and a resolution for all," the archbishop said.

Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher also welcomed the decision that the High Court would consider the cardinal's appeal and expressed hope the process would be expedient.

"The cardinal has always maintained his innocence and continues to do so, and the divided judgment of the Court of Appeal reflects the divided opinion amongst jurors, legal commentators and within our community," Archbishop Fisher said.

"Many questions remain, and it is appropriate that these will be examined by our highest court."

He said the church would continue to offer pastoral support to Cardinal Pell while he remains in prison and would support "all others affected by today's outcome."

The father of the second victim in the case, now deceased from a drug overdose, was said by his lawyers to be devastated.

On Feb. 27, just after the verdict was published and Cardinal Pell was taken to jail, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith announced that it was beginning a canonical investigation of the cardinal. The congregation handles the church process for allegations of child sexual abuse by members of the clergy.

However, in August, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the process would not begin until after the Australian legal process ends.

 

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Catholics lead rosary on way to DACA rally outside Supreme Court

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

By Josephine von Dohlen

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As the U.S. Supreme Court justices prepared to hear oral arguments in a case on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program the morning of Nov. 12, Catholics met at Columbus Circle in Washington to pray the rosary for the intention of all DACA recipients, their families and all immigrants in the United States.

"We're not just praying for the justices to be on the right side today, we're praying for elected officials to wake up and to finally give a solution for the 700,000 DACA recipients living in this country," said Jose Arnulfo Cabrera, a DACA recipient and the director of education and advocacy for migration for the Ignatian Solidarity Network.

The prayer gathering -- which was followed by a walk to the steps of the Supreme Court, joining others participating in the national Home is Here campaign rally -- was co-sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Justice for Immigrants, the Ignatian Solidarity Network, the Catholic social justice lobby Network and others.

"It's time that we give them (DACA recipients) a solution. It's time that they are recognized as the Americans that they grew up as, and that they are," Cabrera said. "This is more than just prayers for the justices; this is more than just prayers for DACA recipients. This is also prayers for ourselves because we have a long way to go. ... We're praying for that strength to keep it going and keep that fire lit in ourselves."

In a 2012 executive order, President Barack Obama instituted DACA, a policy allowing immigrants brought as children by their parents into the United States without documents to apply for deferred action from deportation while also applying for a work permit or attending school. In 2017, President Donald Trump issued an executive order to end the DACA program. The resulting legal challenges led to the Supreme Court hearing the case on the program's future.

Giovana Oaxaca, a DACA recipient and the government relations associate for Network, led more than 50 people in the rosary.

"We're praying the rosary today for our elected leaders and the justices of the Supreme Court, knowing that God can open minds and change hearts," Oaxaca said. "We commend those in the DACA community and our immigrant brothers and sisters into the loving hands of blessed mother, Virgin de Guadalupe."

By gathering first in prayer, Oaxaca said the group was making a powerful statement.

"We are able to bridge a lot of divides by praying together," she said. "It is a solemn thing ... but we want everyone to know we have faith and hope."

Originally from Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, Oaxaca came to the United States at age 3. She received DACA status before applying to college, where she was able to graduate with a degree in political science and economics. Without DACA, she said, it would have been a lot harder to go to college and to afford college.

The wait to hear the Supreme Court's decision, which is expected to be issued in June, will be "painstaking," Oaxaca said.

"It will keep us all on our toes," she added, saying that work will continue to place pressure on legislators to "keep the drumbeat going."

Alyssa Aldape, associate pastor for young adult and youth ministries at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington, joined the walk from Columbus Circle to the Supreme Court building. She said she saw her participation in the day's events, "part of her faith."

"It's a way for me to stand in solidarity with those who are vulnerable," Aldape told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

For Valeria Bejar, a DACA recipient who led the group in one of the decades of the rosary, whenever she hears the number 700,000 representing DACA recipients, she said she tries to keep in mind all the other families who might remain in this country without documents.

"I try to remember it's more like double that," she said.

As to what the upcoming months might look like as many wait for the Supreme Court's decision, Bejar said she has no idea what to expect.

"There are so many different things that could happen, but we'll continue the fight," she said.

Now living in Arizona, Bejar traveled to the Washington area to join other immigrants on a walk from New York City to Washington that ended before the rally. The 230-mile walk began Oct. 26 and Bejar said she joined the group at mile 223.

"It was a beautiful expression to see the diversity in DACA recipients," Bejar said.

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Von Dohlen is a reporter at the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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Update: Archbishop Gomez elected USCCB president; first Latino in post

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles was elected to a three-year term as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during the bishops' fall general assembly in Baltimore.

The native of Mexico was chosen Nov. 12 with 176 votes from a slate of 10 nominees.

Archbishop Gomez, 67, is the first Latino to be elected president. He has served as conference vice president for the past three years, working alongside Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the outgoing president. His term as president begins when the assembly ends.

The Los Angeles prelate has been a leading advocate of immigrant rights, often voicing support for newcomers as they face growing restrictions being implemented by the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies.

In subsequent voting, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit, conference secretary, was elected vice president. He was elected on the third ballot by 151-90 in a runoff with Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services.

Under USCCB bylaws, after the election for president, the vice president is elected from the remaining nine candidates.

The two top officers begin their terms at the conclusion of the fall assembly Nov. 13.

In voting for a new secretary, the assembly elected Archbishop Broglio, 112-87, over Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Toledo, Ohio. Archbishop Broglio will serve through the end of the term in 2021.

The bishops also voted for the chairman of one committee, chairmen-elect of five other conference committees and three representatives on the board of Catholic Relief Services, which is the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency.

In the first committee vote, there was a tie vote between Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami and Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, for chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty. Each candidate received 121 votes, but Bishop Murry, at 70, became chairman under USCCB bylaws because he is the older of the two candidates. Archbishop Wenski is 69.

The committee had been chaired by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, but he stepped down earlier this year to undergo treatment for bladder and prostate cancer. Bishop Murry will serve the remaining year of Archbishop Kurtz's term.

Vote tallies for committee chairmen-elect are:

-- Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance: Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee elected over Bishop Mark L. Bartchak of Altoona-Johnstown, Pennsylvania, 144-97.

-- Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs: Bishop Daniel P. Talley of Memphis, Tennessee, elected over Bishop Steven J. Lopes of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, 123-114.

-- Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis: Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis, elected over Bishop Thomas A. Daly of Spokane, Washington, 151-88.

-- Committee on International Justice and Peace: Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, elected over Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, 140-101.

-- Committee on Protection of Children and Young People: Bishop James V. Johnson of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, was elected over Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, Missouri, 167-77.

Each chairman-elect will begin his three-year term as chairmen at the end of the 2020 fall general assembly.

In addition, several chairmen-elect chosen last year will become committee chairmen at the end of this year's assembly and will serve three-year terms:

-- Committee on Catholic Education: Bishop Michael C. Barber of Oakland, California.

-- Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations: Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen, New Jersey.

-- Committee on Divine Worship: Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Connecticut.

-- Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development: Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City.

-- Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth: Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco.

-- Committee on Migration: Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington.

A final vote was taken for three seats on the CRS board. Elected were Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut; Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas; and Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas.

 

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Fund helps displaced Bahamas students, teachers after Hurricane Dorian

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gabriella N. Baez, Reuters

By Tom Tracy

MIAMI (CNS) -- Two months after Hurricane Dorian upended life in the northern Bahamas, a newly launched fund will support hundreds of Catholic school students displaced by the storm.

The Archdiocese of Nassau recently launched the Each One Reach One initiative of its Bahamas Catholic Board of Education. Under the initiative, donors can assist some 220 students from Abaco and Grand Bahamas islands who have enrolled in Catholic schools in and around the Bahamas capital of Nassau on New Providence Island.

Janelle Albury, development officer with the Bahamas Catholic Board of Education, told Catholic News Service by phone Nov. 8 that Catholic schools in the Bahamas are committed to maintaining affordable fees to ensure Catholic education is available to as many families as possible. Annual fees for Catholic schools in the Nassau Archdiocese start at close to $3,000.

Albury noted a global children's charity report highlights that getting children back to school is vital for their survival after natural disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons and hurricanes.

The Each One Reach One fund also will assist 35 displaced Catholic school faculty from the affected areas. All teachers and faculty at St. Francis de Sales Catholic School and Every Child Counts School had to leave Abaco, and those who did not travel to New Providence went to the U.S. or Canada, Albury added. Some teachers chose to resign and return to their home countries.

The Category 5 Hurricane Dorian -- which first made landfall Sept. 1 -- resulted in the indefinite closing of St. Francis de Sales School in Abaco, which suffered both high winds and devastating storm surge. Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Academy, Grand Bahama, has reopened, but many of the homes of students there were destroyed by the hurricane.

"This program, EORO, intends to provide personal care and individual attention to those most severely impacted by Hurricane Dorian," Nassau Archbishop Patrick Pinder said in a statement. "This is charity alive and on a very human scale. This is what solidarity in action looks like."

Separately, the Archdiocese of Nassau is appealing for material and financial support for other evacuees who have relocated to New Providence and who are not living in shelters but are living with relatives and who may be in need of assistance with food, blankets, sheets, towels and toiletries.

That outreach is being managed by the Nassau Archdiocesan Office of Family Life and is a direct response to evacuees coming mostly to New Providence from Mary Star of the Sea Parish on Grand Bahama and St. Francis de Sales and Sts. Mary and Andrew parishes on Abaco.

A recent report from the Bahamas Catholic Board of Education noted that while Abaco was most severely impacted by the storm, Grand Bahama received significant damage, with only five miles of the island not flooding. Flooded homes impacted approximately 85% to 90% of the student population.

Electricity and water have been restored on Grand Bahama, but many of the buildings are not livable.

The Bahamas death toll following Hurricane Dorian stands at approximately 70 people. One estimate puts the material damage there at $7 billion after the storm lingered over Abaco and Grand Bahamas for some 70 hours.

The country's tourism industry has been appealing to foreigners to visit the country's other islands this holiday season as a means of helping the Bahamas recover economically. Tourism high season there runs from December through April.

To obtain further information or to receive instructions on making a wire transfer to the initiative, email jalbury@cec.edu.bs.

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Immigration reform among priorities for new USCCB president

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Chaz Muth

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- It will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez that immigration reform is at the top of his priority list as the newly elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"That's something I've been working on for almost 25 to 30 years," Archbishop Gomez told Catholic News Service during the U.S. bishops' fall general assembly Nov. 11-13 in Baltimore.

On Nov. 12, the body of bishops elected him to lead them for a three-year term, and he is the first Latino to hold the USCCB presidency. Archbishop Gomez has served as the conference's vice president since 2016. As president, he succeeds Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston. His term begins at the end of assembly.

For the 67-year-old shepherd of the largest archdiocese in the U.S., Catholic teaching drives his advocacy for migrant rights, based on biblical principles of welcoming the stranger and upholding the dignity of immigrants and refugees as children of God.

In fact, the U.S. bishops have listed immigration reform and migration rights as a top priority for many years. The bishops have sparred with the Trump administration over its policies for asylum-seekers at the border.

Pope Francis also has made migrant rights a top priority during his papacy.

This topic also is very personal for Archbishop Gomez, who was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and eventually migrated to the U.S., where he has served as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Denver, archbishop in San Antonio and eventually archbishop in Los Angeles.

"It's really part of my life," he said. "I have relatives and friends ... on both sides of the border. So, I think it's important for us to understand that we are all children of God. If we work together, we can find a solution for this reality and come up with a really clear, simple and good immigration system that can address the needs of the people on both sides."

Violence and poverty at home have been a driving factor for Central Americans seeking refuge in the U.S., but Archbishop Gomez points out that migration is more than an American issue -- it's a global concern.

According to statistics reported by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, by the end of 2018, "70.8 million individuals have been forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations."

The Bush and Obama administrations both attempted and failed to get immigration reform passed through Congress to make it easier for immigrants to legally migrate to the U.S.

The U.S. bishops were in dialogue with previous administrations to develop what they believe is a humane resolution to the immigration debate.

Archbishop Gomez said he will continue to talk with President Donald Trump, whose administration has been criticized by Catholic advocates for its policy of separating families at the border, its restrictions on immigrants seeking asylum and a proposal to further decrease the number of refugees accepted into the United States.

The Catholic Church does defend a nation's right to secure its borders, but most of the world's migrants are leaving their homeland to escape war, violence and extreme poverty, he said. "There is a lot of suffering. Most of them come to our country because they want to provide for their families."

Ahead of the Nov. 12 oral arguments on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at the U.S. Supreme Court, Archbishop Gomez said there are "no doubt" constitutional and legal questions "raised by DACA and how it was enacted."

"But we need to be clear: The fate of these young adults should never have been in the courts in the first place," the archbishop wrote in a Nov. 6 column in the Angelus, the online news outlet of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. "And it would not be, if our leaders in Washington would simply set aside their political interests and come together to fix our nation's broken immigration system."

The "failures" of the nation's leaders in Washington to make "comprehensive reforms to immigration policy "cut across party lines," Archbishop Gomez said.

DACA was established by President Barack Obama's 2012 executive order, and Trump ordered an end to the program in 2017. Several legal challenges to this order have resulted in a consolidation of three DACA cases now before the high court.

"Our nation made a promise to these 'Dreamers,'" Archbishop Gomez wrote. "We have a moral obligation. It is time for the president and Congress to honor that promise and live up to this obligation."

Though he's passionate about immigration reform, the archbishop said he will not be a single-issue president of the USCCB.

Continuing renewal and reform in the church with regard to the clergy sexual abuse crisis will be an ongoing priority, as will combating clericalism in the church, support and promotion of marriage and the family and evangelization. And he will continue to pray for the laity to become missionary disciples.

"It has been a challenging time for the church in these past three years," Archbishop Gomez said, and as vice president of the USCCB, he had a leadership role in dealing with the crisis. "I hope I continue to be a source of support for my brother bishops and especially to continue this time of renewal."

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Don't join devil's game of jealousy, pope says at Mass

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The devil is real and is so jealous of Jesus and the salvation Jesus offers that he tries everything he can to divide people and make them attack each other, Pope Francis said.

Celebrating Mass in the chapel of his residence Nov. 12, the pope preached about the day's first reading from the Book of Wisdom, which says: "God formed us to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made us. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world."

"Some people say, 'But, Father, the devil doesn't exist,'" the pope told the small congregation in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. "But the word of God is clear."

The devil's envy, which the Book of Wisdom cites, is the root of all his efforts to get people to hate and kill one another. But his first steps, the pope said, are to sow "jealousy, envy and competition" instead of allow people to enjoy brotherhood and peace.

Some people will say, "'But, Father, I don't destroy anyone.' No? And your gossiping? When you speak ill of another? You destroy that person," the pope said.

Someone else might say, "But, Father, I've been baptized. I'm a practicing Catholic, how's it possible that I could become an assassin?"

The answer to that is that "we have war inside of us," the pope said.

Pointing to the beginning of Genesis, he noted that "Cain and Abel were brothers, but out of jealousy, envy, one destroyed the other." And even today, he said, just turn on the TV news and you see wars, destruction and people dying either because of hatred or because others are too selfish to help.

"Behind all this, there is someone who moves us to do these things. It's what we call temptation," he said. "Someone is touching your heart to make you follow the wrong path, someone who sows destruction in our hearts, who sows hatred."

Pope Francis said he cannot help wondering why countries spend so much money on weapons and waging war when that money can be used to feed children at risk of dying of hunger or to bring clean water, education and health care to everyone.

What is happening in the world, he said, happens also "in my soul and in yours" because of the "devil's seeds of envy" sown abundantly.

Pope Francis asked the people at Mass with him to pray for an increased faith in Jesus, who became human to battle and to defeat the devil, and for the strength "to not join the game of this great envier, the great liar, the sower of hate."

 

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Bishop Barron urges bishops to help bring people back to the church

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Carol Zimmermann

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles did not just bemoan the fact many young people are leaving the Catholic Church. He said church leaders need to make it a priority to bring them back.

The bishop, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, who is known for his website, "Word on Fire," and for hosting the documentary series "Catholicism," offered a five-step plan of sorts to bring the religiously unaffiliated, or "nones," back to the fold.

He said for starters, the church should lead with its social justice work, getting young people involved with caring for those in need, working in soup kitchens, prison ministries, helping the homeless. Leaders can reinforce this by reiterating messages on social justice from Popes Leo XIII to Francis.

From there, the church should promote its own writers and artists to show people the beauty of the Catholic faith, he said.

Another key step -- and he said he's been "banging this drum for a long time" -- is to stop dumbing down the faith. The bishop, who first brought up this issue of church exodus with the bishops at the spring meeting, said young Catholics, or those of any age, should be able to articulate why they believe what they do.

For starters, "we have to beef up the intellectual content of our religion classes in Catholic schools, our religious education programs, RCIA, confirmation preparation, etc., " he said.

From his own experience, he said he has been asked very basic questions, particularly on the "AMA" (Ask Me Anything) feature on Reddit, an internet news aggregator, about faith, including: "Who is God and can you prove he exists? Can you explain evil and how do you know that your religion is right?"

He said it "breaks your heart to realize we haven't communicated our tradition effectively," but that doesn't mean throwing in the towel. Instead, the work begins locally: in one's parish.

On the parish level, Catholics need to start recognizing that their parishes are not just places where they experience the sacraments, but they should be seen as missionary grounds. This especially holds true with reaching out to young people because as he put it: "Young people aren't going to come to us; we have to go out to them."

This idea of going out to people is very much in line with Pope Francis' message of accompaniment, he added.

The bishop's last point was about using social media to turn this trend around stressing: "We should invest lot of time and money to get really good people to work our social media, suggesting that parishes, or even groups of parishes, hire someone to do effective social ministry outreach.

His presentation prompted more than one hour of discussion from the floor with bishops all in agreement that the drop in church numbers is a deep concern and offering other possibilities to combat it from increased devotion to Mary to opportunities for mission work or strengthening catechetical programs.

The bishop brought three lay leaders to the podium to help with the discussion, including Brandon Vogt, author and content director for "Word on Fire," who echoed the bishop's point that young people leaving the church is a "huge crisis."

For every one person who comes into the church, six and a half walk out the back door, he said re-emphasizing the need not only to plug the hole but to "look for those who left."

He also suggested that just as parishes and dioceses have staff members working on abuse situation, someone should be working at the local level just to reach out to those who left the church. "If it's a priority, lets emphasize it with resources," he added.

In a new conference after the presentation, Bishop Barron said he wasn't surprised by the lengthy conversation about bringing people back to church because when he first brought up this topic last spring, he said he was supposed to have 10 minutes and it went an hour.

Yes, there was a lot to take up, but we have to do it, he said, emphasizing that an individual's relationship with the Lord needs to be integrated into the life of the church.

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O'Malley: Vatican may 'soon' release details of McCarrick investigation

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Rhina Guidos

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- In a brief presentation Nov. 11 to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Boston's Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley told the bishops gathered in Baltimore the Vatican may publish what it knows about the ascent to power of now-disgraced former U.S. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick by Christmas, or perhaps the New Year.

McCarrick was dismissed by the Vatican from the clerical state in February following an investigation of accusations that he had abused children early on in his career of more than 60 years as a cleric, and that he also had abused seminarians as a bishop.

However, he had long been one of the premier U.S. bishops, traveling the world on behalf of the church as an esteemed member of the USCCB, leaving many wondering how he could have ascended in church ranks when many are said to have been aware of his alleged abuses.

"We made it clear to Cardinal (Pietro) Parolin at the leadership of the curia that the priests and the people of our country are anxious to receive the Holy See's explanation of this tragic situation, how he could become an archbishop and cardinal, who knew what and when," Cardinal O'Malley said of meeting with the Vatican secretary of state in early November. "The long wait has resulted in great frustration on the part of bishops and our people and indeed a very harsh and even cynical interpretation of the seeming silence."

Cardinal Parolin said the Vatican's intention had been to publish the report before the bishops' November meeting, Cardinal O'Malley reported, "but the investigation has involved various dioceses in the United States as well as many offices" at the Vatican and a much larger than expected "corpus" of information than anticipated.

In Baltimore, Bishop Earl A. Boyea of Lansing, Michigan, had earlier in the day asked for an update on the Vatican's report, which many of the bishops, by voice vote, also said they wanted to hear,

"There is a desire and a commitment to be thorough and transparent, so as to answer people's questions and not simply create more questions," Cardinal O'Malley said.

"I can share with you, I've recently heard the Vatican is indeed working in strenuously on this," said the USCCB's president, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Houston-Galveston. "And they are almost finished, I think, but they are in the process still of more information coming in."

Cardinal O'Malley's approximately three-minute presentation was short on details, other than to say the Vatican had showed him a "hefty document that has been assembled."

It is being translated into Italian and will be presented to Pope Francis, he said.

 

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In final presidential address, Cardinal DiNardo urges new beginning

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Carol Zimmermann

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- In his final address as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston told his fellow bishops that it has been "an honor to serve you, even in the difficult times."

The 70-year-old prelate thanked the bishops, whom he called brothers, for the last three years and was thanked by them in return when the group gave him a standing ovation at the end of his nine-minute presentation Nov. 11 at the start of the bishops' annual fall meeting in Baltimore.

"Let's begin anew," he said, at the close of his address, veering away from prepared remarks, and quoting St. Augustine.

The cardinal, who suffered a mild stroke earlier this year, did not elaborate on specifics of the abuse crisis in the church, particularly highlighted this past year, but spoke of the bishops' continued work of transparency related to dealing with the crisis. He said the abuse measures adopted by U.S. bishops at their meeting last June are "only a beginning. More needs to be done."

He also pointed out that Pope Francis has "ushered in a new era for bishop accountability" with worldwide measures of accountability.

"My service as president has been a continual reminder that, indeed, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it," he said, possibly alluding to challenges beyond the walls of the church. At the end of his talk, he spoke about how today's culture has been overtaken by various ideologies, political divisions and coarse rhetoric.

"As the followers of Christ, let us take a different path. Follow a simple truth: God is always courteous. Let us be courteous," he urged the bishops.

The cardinal highlighted key aspects of the work of the U.S. church that he witnessed firsthand in visits during the past few years with Catholic volunteers and migrants at the border, pro-life efforts to protect the unborn and his own conversations with those who had been abused by church leaders.

He said he went to the border with fellow bishops because "Jesus was already there."

Speaking to broader audience, he invited "everyone who may hear this to share our journey of solidarity with migrants and refugees."

He praised the work of volunteers at the border and also for those working at pregnancy centers around the country and those working in public policy arena promoting health care that is comprehensive enough to "nurture every child's right to life."

Again, speaking to those who might be watching the meeting, the cardinal urged women considering an abortion to call a Catholic parish where they would be provided with potential resources to help.

"The continued fight to defend unborn children" is a significant challenge and the church will continue in this work, he said, as long as "long as the most innocent lives are left unprotected."

On the issue of clergy sexual abuse, he said his life had been "forever changed" by meeting with abuse survivors, saying even though some in the church didn't listen to them, they refused to be "relegated to the shadows."

Their witness, he said, not only brought help to other survivors but it also "fueled the resolve" of fellow bishops to respond with pastoral support and prevention programs, background checks and zero tolerance policies. Survivors have "empowered us with the knowledge needed to respond," he said.

"We must never stop striving for this justice" for those abused within the church, and to work to be sure it never happens in the future, he stressed.

The cardinal also said the U.S. church must continue to correct clericalism, saying church leaders must be servants of all and said the church must continue its efforts of evangelism, particularly the work begun through the process of Encuentro gatherings across the country.

At his closing address at last year's fall meeting, Cardinal DiNardo said he opened the meeting expressing some disappointment but said he ended it with hope, referring to his announcement at the start of that meeting that the Vatican wanted the bishops to delay any vote on their response to the abuse crisis until after a global meeting focusing on the issue took place.

During a Nov. 11 news conference during the first day of the 2019 fall meeting, the cardinal said that he was 85% recovered from his stroke this spring.

He also reiterated that he still has the hope he had a year ago and that he had expressed at the beginning of his term as president, but he also acknowledged he had no idea three years ago the "rough ride" he would face.

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Rural-urban convenings suggested to address plague of gun violence

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, said Catholic clergy and lay leaders can play a role in bringing together people along the rural-urban divide to build understanding of the need for sensible policies that can end the scourge of gun violence.

His call came during a 20-minute presentation Nov. 11, the first day of the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Bishop Dewane, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, outlined the USCCB's long-held stance of the need for "common sense" legislation that governs the availability of guns. But he also said it was time for people to come together so that there is greater understanding of how gun violence affects urban communities in particular.

The bishop afterward told Catholic News Service that the USCCB's work on the legislative front was important, but that a pastoral response to gun violence was needed.

"It's time for a different approach," he said.

He pointed to the need to address gun violence, which has ravaged many urban centers, while acknowledging the legitimate concerns among responsible gun owners of losing access to firearms for hunting or, in some cases, protection.

Since 1975, the USCCB has issued a series of statements and pastoral letters addressing gun violence. Individual bishops, in their capacity as chairmen of USCCB committees, have sent letters to Congress outlining the conference's concern that lives are being needless lost because of the widening availability of guns, including military-style weapons.

However, Dewane's call goes beyond legislative efforts and appears to open the door for church leaders to seek a common ground in addressing gun violence.

"Human life is sacred ... and we need to approach this with the full strength of our teaching," he told the assembly.

Bishop Dewane also said the USCCB is not seeking a total limit to handguns, but would welcome broader background checks and some limits on gun ownership.

Over the years, he said, the bishops have supported "common sense" actions such as an assault weapon ban, limits on large capacity magazines, a federal law to criminalize gun trafficking, mandatory gun lock and safe storage requirements, improved access to mental health services and assessment of the impact of the portrayal of violence in various media on society.

Such common sense restrictions on guns would be no different than those already in place on prescription drugs and drivers. But they also are not the full solution, he suggested.

"Such regulations are helpful, but they will not ban gun violence completely. For that to happen, we need new ways of thinking. At the heart of the epidemic is a shooter. That shooter some how in some way turns inward on pain or isolation or illusions that it becomes possible to become desensitized to others, that he loses all empathy," he said.

The bishop urged society to look at the "danger signs in others that can lead to the loss of empathy (and see) early signs of self-inwardness."

"As a society we have become less and less empathetic ourselves, a clear sign that we all are, to a degree, becoming dangerous."

Bishop Dewane noted that some bipartisan support has emerged for a so-called "red flag" law, which would keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous people. He also said that there has been some support for mandatory background checks of new gun purchases.

In the country's current political environment efforts to implement a federal handgun licensing program will go nowhere, he said, because of concerns by millions of gun owners that their Second Amendment rights would be violated. The bishop suggested that individual state Catholic conferences undertake efforts to support gun-related safety legislation as the opportunities arise.

Bishop Dewane cited evidence in states where gun control measures were enacted, such as Connecticut, of fewer gun deaths and less violence, as opposed to increased gun violence where gun control measures were rescinded, such as Missouri.

The bishop also raised the possibility of utilizing the USCCB socially responsible invest guidelines to encompass the gun industry. Divestment from gun manufacturers "would send a strong signal," he said.

 

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