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Pope Francis criticizes Trump's 'zero-tolerance' migrant policy

Vatican City, Jun 20, 2018 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a new interview with Reuters, Pope Francis backed the U.S. bishops' opposition to the separation of migrant children from their parents at the Mexican border, calling the move “immoral” and “contrary to Catholic values.”

“I am on the side of the bishops’ conference,” the pope said, referring to statements made by U.S. bishops earlier this month.

Francis' comment was made in reference to the Trump administration's “zero tolerance” policy on immigration, which was rolled out in May and, among other things, enforces the separation of children from parents who have been detained by border officials.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, issued a statement at during their bi-annual meeting in Houston last week criticizing the enforcement of separating migrant families at the Mexican border, saying “separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”

He said later the bishops would consider the possibility of sending a delegation to the U.S.-Mexico border to see the detention centers for themselves and offer solidarity for incoming migrants and refugees.

“Let it be clear that in these things, I respect [the position of] the bishops conference,” Pope Francis said in the interview with Reuters.

When migrants arrive to a country, “you have to receive them, help them, look after them, accompany them and then see where to put them, but throughout all of Europe,” he said, noting that “some governments are working on it, and people have to be settled in the best possible way, but creating psychosis is not the cure.”

No full text of the interview was available, however, the pope also touched on a variety of other issues, including the possibility of a deal with China on the appointment of bishops, the sexual abuse scandal in Chile, the reform of the Roman Curia and the criticism he's faced.  

The conversation with Reuters marks the the pope's first on-the-record interview a major American news outlet.

During the 2-hour conversation, which took place in his residence at the Vatican's Saint Marta guesthouse Sunday, Francis said the ongoing reform of the Vatican's structures is going well, “but we have more work.”

In the latest reform move, the pope's Council of Cardinals in their meeting earlier this month finished the first draft of a new apostolic constitution outlining the role and structure of the Roman Curia titled “Predicatae Evangelium.”

Francis voiced satisfaction at the status of the Vatican's financial reform, saying the Vatican bank, which in the past lacked proper oversight and has now flagged and closed several suspicious accounts and transactions, “works well.”

Referring to criticism he has received throughout his papacy, the pope said he prays for those who have said “nasty things” about him.

Referring to the “dubia” letter sent to him by four cardinals, including American Cardinal Leo Raymond Burke, challenging him on excerpts of Chapter 8 of his 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation  on the family, “Amoris Laetitia,” the pope said he found out about the letter “from the newspaper.”

This, he said, is “a way of doing things that is, let’s say, not ecclesial, but we all make mistakes.” Using the analogy of a river, he said “we have to be respectful and tolerant, and if someone is in the river, let’s move forward.”

On the Chilean abuse scandal, Pope Francis, who has already accepted the resignation of three bishops, including that of Juan Barros Madrid from the Diocese of Osorno, said he could accept more in the future.

He also voiced optimism about the Vatican's ongoing discussion with China on the appointment of bishops, saying the discussions are “at a good point.”

Though he has been criticized for engaging China's communist party for a deal which would give them a say on bishop appointments, Francis said “dialogue is a risk, but I prefer risk rather than the certain defeat that comes with not holding dialogue.”

“As for the timing, some people say it’s 'Chinese time.' I say it’s God’s time. Let’s move forward serenely.”

Pope Francis: We are God's children, not his slaves

Vatican City, Jun 20, 2018 / 04:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said the ten commandments are not heartless rules imposed on mankind by an oppressive God, but are rather words given by a father to his children in order to protect them from harm.

“Man is in front of this crossroads: does God impose things on me, or take care of me? Are his commandments only a law, or do they contain a word? Is God a master or a father? Are we slaves, or children?” the pope said June 20.

This is a “battle” which takes place both inside and outside of the person, and “is continually present: a thousand times we must choose between a slave mentality and a mentality of children,” he said, adding that the Holy Spirit is a spirit “of sons, it is the Spirit of Jesus.”

“A spirit of slaves can only welcome the law in an oppressive way, and it can produce two opposite results: either a life of duties and obligations, or a violent reaction of rejection.”

The whole of Christianity, he said, is the passage “from the letter of the law to the Spirit who gives life. Jesus is the word of the Father, he is not the condemnation of the Father.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter's Square for his weekly general audience, during which he continued a new series of catechesis on the Ten Commandments.

In his address, the pope noted how at the beginning of Chapter 20 of the biblical book of Exodus, in reference to the commandments, verse one reads “God spoke these words to all.”

The phrase might seem simple, but “nothing in the bible is banal,” Francis said, noting that the passage uses the term “word,” rather than “command.”

In Jewish tradition, the commandments, also called the “Decalogue,” are referred to as “the ten words,” he said, explaining that while they are also laws, the term “decalogue” in itself is meant to connote the term “word.”

Asking what the difference between “word” and “commandment” is, Pope Francis said a command is a something which “does not require dialogue,” while word, on the other hand, “is the essential means of relationship through dialogue.”

“God the Father creates through his word, and the son is the Word made flesh. Love nourishes the word, as does education and collaboration,” he said, noting that two people who do not love each other will not be able to communicate. However, “when someone speaks to our heart, our solitude ends.”

Another difference, he said, is that a command is to receive an order, rather than having a dialogue or a conversation.

Dialogue, the pope said, “is much more than the communication of truth,” but is realized in the pleasure “of speaking and of the concrete good, which is communicated between those who love each other through words.”

The devil, Francis said, wanted to trick Adam and Eve by convincing them that God had “forbidden” them to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge in order to keep “submissive.”

However, the challenge with God's first “command” to them, he said, is to determine whether God this norm was meant to impose, or whether it was intended to protect “from self-destruction.”

“The most tragic, among the various lies the serpent tells Eve, is the suggestion of an envious and possessive deity,” Francis said, explaining that “the facts show the serpent lied.”

Pope Francis closed his audience saying it is obvious when people live as if they were children versus slaves, because people can recognize the logic. “The world does not need legalism, but care,” he said, “it needs Christians with the heart of children.”

Texas pro-life laws face sweeping legal challenge

Austin, Texas, Jun 20, 2018 / 01:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Dozens of pro-life laws in Texas are being challenged in a lawsuit claiming that they pose an undue burden on women, but a national pro-life group says abortion regulations are important for women’s health and safety.

Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United For Life, said she believes that the courts will agree that the existing laws are constitutional, protect the interests of women, and do not constitute an “undue burden” on women.

“Americans United for Life expects the federal courts involved in these lawsuits to recognize these critical interests and protect the lives of women seeking abortion through reasonable, constitutional health and safety regulations,” she told CNA.

Some of the laws being challenged by the suit include those requiring an abortion to be performed by a doctor, mandating that a women view an ultrasound and wait 24 hours before obtaining an abortion, and requiring the parents of a minor consent prior to her abortion.

The suit also seeks to legalize telemedicine abortions, in which a doctor communicates with a patient through a video conference for a medical abortion. Presently, this practice is banned in Texas.

In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 2013 Texas law that required abortions to take place in a surgical center and required doctors who performed abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. These requirements were interpreted by the Supreme Court to be an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion.

The 2013 law saw over half of the state’s abortion facilities shut down, and since then, only three have resumed operations.

Plaintiffs in the current case are hoping to use the 2016 ruling as precedent to challenge other pro-life laws in the state.

The plaintiffs in the current case are Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, the Afiya Center, Fund Texas Choice, the Lilith Fund, the Texas Equal Access Fund, the West Fund, and Dr. Bhavik Kumar, who is the medical director at Whole Woman’s Health Alliance. Whole Woman’s Health, a chain of abortion clinics throughout Texas, was the plaintiff in the 2016 Supreme Court case.

The suit also claims the University of Texas System, which includes 14 public universities in Texas, is discriminatory as it does not permit students to receive credit for internships at locations that provide abortions, nor does it place students in field rotations at places that offer abortions.

The laws being challenged by the lawsuit are hardly unusual in the United States, nor are they unique to Texas. The majority of states have a mandatory waiting period of typically 18-72 hours before an abortion and require either parental notification or consent for a minor’s abortion. Twenty-three states have laws requiring abortion providers to perform an ultrasound before an abortion or inform women about the availability of an ultrasound.

Foster noted that courts have acknowledged and upheld abortion regulations as an important part of protecting women’s health and safety.

“[The abortion industry] would prefer that women not know what the Supreme Court has...acknowledged that abortion can be risky to a pregnant woman’s health, and thus states have an ‘important interest’ in protecting women’s health and a ‘legitimate interest in seeing to it that abortion, like any other procedure, is performed under circumstances that ensure maximum safety for the patient’,” she said.

Americans United for Life has released a report documenting hundreds of safety violations in various abortion facilities throughout the United States, including in Texas. The report claims that clinics have had instances of unlicensed staff, poor protocol and unsanitary medical conditions, at times resulting in severe health complications or death for patients.

St. Alban

St. Alban was the first Christian martyr in Britain during the early 4th century. He is the patron saint of converts and torture victims. Although he was not a man of faith, St. Alban was very hospitable and compassionate. As a soldier, he sheltered a persecuted priest, Amphibalus, during a time when Christians were being put to death in Britain. The priest's faith and piety struck St. Alban, as well as his dedication to prayer.Alban soon converted to Christianity.In an effort to help the priest escape, he switched clothes with him. But Alban was caught and ordered to renounce his faith. St. Alban refused to worship idols, and when asked to state his name, answered “My name is Alban, and I worship the only true and living God, who created all things.For his refusal to deny his beliefs, he was to be tortured and beheaded. The person first selected to execute Alban heard his testimony and converted on the spot. After refusing to kill Alban, he was executed as well.A number of other conversions are claimed to have happened thanks to the witness of St. Alban’s martyrdom, specifically on behalf of spectators of his execution. Finally, when the priest learned that Alban was arrested in his place, he turned himself in, hoping to save Alban’s life. But that wasn’t the case. The priest was killed as well. St. Alban’s Cathedral now stands near the execution site. The town where he was born was also renamed after him.

Chaput asks Notre Dame student for youth synod advice

Philadelphia, Pa., Jun 19, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput turned over his weekly Catholic Philly column to a University of Notre Dame student, who hopes an upcoming Vatican synod will encourage young people to take personal responsibility for the “decisive missions” of vocations and Christian discipleship.

“It’s a very exciting time to be a young American Catholic,” wrote Notre Dame senior Daniel Lindstrom.

In a brief introduction to Lindstrom’s column, Chaput wrote that “With a world synod of bishops focusing on young people set for this fall, listening to the young and those involved in guiding them is important. So this week, as in recent weeks, I’m turning over my column to someone who can speak directly from the experience of a young adult.”

Lindstrom, the graduate of a Philadelphia-area Catholic high school, wrote that despite the “trouble the Church faces today, much more hope is blooming.” He cited programs such as FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), the Culture Project, and other organizations for their work in helping to “establish and fortify pockets of young, faithful Catholic leaders.”

While these groups are important, and form Catholic communities, Lindstrom wrote, it was the sudden death of a residence hall director on Notre Dame’s campus that sparked the realization that while community is important, solitude is equally so. In the end, explained Lindstrom, a person will be alone with God.

“The priest’s words and God’s grace caused me to switch perspective for a moment,” said Lindstrom, “and imagine how I might rely on God’s embrace at my life’s end much differently than the way I do now,” in a community of Catholics at Mass.

“After all the vitality of these young years, when we near the end of our journeys, our discipleship will depend on our own inner lives,” Lindstrom noted. Our inner selves, he explained, are “vulnerable and exposed,” and are alone with Christ.

“It’s in listening with the ears of our hearts that we’re given the opportunity to say yes to God’s call,” said Lindstrom, and that this “personal yes” is the start of a person’s vocation.

“With renewed focus and zeal on the part of the Church, young people can claim their faith and set off of on faith’s great adventure.”

On Tuesday, a working paper for the synod was released that focused on questions about sexuality and gender issues, among other social and moral issues.

The synod will be held October 3-28, in Rome. Chaput is a delegate to the meeting.

 

Sacred Hearts priest in Chile investigated for sexual abuse

Santiago, Chile, Jun 19, 2018 / 06:03 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Chilean province of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary reported Monday that a preliminary investigation is underway on Fr. Juan Andrés Peretiatkowicz Valdés, accused of sexual abuse and the abuse of power.

According to a June 18 statement, the case involves accusations of acts which “allegedly began at the end of the 1980s.” According to the congregation the priest has had no pastoral responsibilities for five years for health reasons.

“We express our will and commitment to thoroughly and rigorously investigate these acts and resolutely fight against the culture of abuse and cover up,” the congregation stated.

Provincial Superior René Cabezón Yáñez received the information in early May and “immediately began a preliminary investigation.”

The congregation welcomes this investigation “as a desperate cry in search of truth and justice which obliges us as Church to leave behind the poor and overdue job of listening. We believe this is the only way of reparation for those who have been violated or abused.”

They are also working on the review and implemntation of "new practices, procedures, and protocols which consolidate not only transparency in accusations but also provide healthy and protected environments in our pastoral ministries  and our communities especially where children and young people are participating."

“We entrust ourselves to the hearts of Jesus and Mary to help us in this task which the laity and civil society demand of us and we humbly undertake as something we owe them,” the statement concludes.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

2018 Summer Photo Challenge

Beach trips, frosty drinks, and fireworks all make summer the most Instagram-worthy time of year. With Busted Halo’s fifth annual summer photo challenge, you get…

The post 2018 Summer Photo Challenge appeared first on Busted Halo.

Chicago Catholic Charities provides showers for homeless people

Chicago, Ill., Jun 19, 2018 / 05:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Two weeks ago, Chicago's Catholic Charities opened hygienic services offering homeless persons showers and a place to do laundry in the city's River North neighborhood.

“Our guests will have comfort of a warm shower, toiletries, bedding, clothing,” said Monsignor Michael Boland, president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“These small mercies which most of us take for granted can help preserve health and restore hope to those who live at the margins of society. They can be a first step toward a life of self-sufficiency.”

On Wednesdays, guests at the St. Vincent Center at 721 N LaSalle Drive may claim a 30-minute shower spot from 10 a.m. until noon. Each person is given soap, toothpaste, shaving equipment, deodorant, and a set of clothes. The clients will also have access to a washers and dryers.

A trial of the program began two weeks ago and it was officially unveiled June 18. Since it began, the scheduled spots have been booked solid. The operating hours will expand depending on an increase of volunteers.

There are more than 80,000 homeless people in the Chicago area, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Catholic Charities in Chicago has provided food and other social services to impoverished people five days a week, serving more than 250 people a day.

Matthew Shay, 27, a substance abuse counselor for Catholic Charities, administers the program’s intake. As a former addict and vagabond, Shay insisted that cleanliness influences positive change on a practical and symbolic level.

“When they give up hygiene, they’re mentally giving up and feeling hopeless,” he said, according to the Chicago Tribune.  

“So when you provide that to somebody who doesn’t have it, it provides a sense of normalcy that common Americans take for granted. It’s a simple pleasure for us – simple pleasures that are really a privilege.”

In the last three years, Pope Francis inspired Rome-based facilities to provide laundry and bathroom services. In 2015, bathrooms were opened at St. Peter’s Square to provide showers and haircuts to homeless people. Two years later, a volunteer run laundromat was opened in the Trastevere neighborhood in Rome.

 “The Pope’s Laundry” was opened after Pope Francis’s apostolic letter Misericordia et misera, challenging Catholics “to give a ‘concrete’ experience of the grace of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.”

Charitable works has been a major feature of Pope Francis' pontificate. The Pope has previously invited homeless men and women to dine with him and to experience the Sistine Chapel. Pope Francis has encouraged Catholics to attend to people on the “peripheries” of society, expressing the importance of the works of mercy.

“To want to be close to Christ demands to be near to our brothers, because nothing is more pleasing to the Father than a concrete sign of mercy. By its very nature, mercy is made visible and tangible in concrete and dynamic action.”

US aid to Iraqi Christians, Yazidis on fast track via Catholic Relief Services

Washington D.C., Jun 19, 2018 / 04:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The United States Agency for International Development has announced it is investing $10 million into coalitions led by Catholic Relief Services and Heartland Alliance to help rebuild Christian and other minority communities in Iraq who suffered genocide under the Islamic State.

“In Iraq, although the coalition has largely driven ISIS from the battlefield, much of Northern Iraq now faces the daunting task of repairing broken infrastructure and rebuilding a shattered social fabric,” said USAID Administrator Mark Green as he announced the funding at the Interaction Forum in Washington, D.C., June 14.

The announcement came one week after reports that Vice President Mike Pence was “incensed” over the “bureaucratic delays” in delivering aid promised to the Christian and Yazidi communities in Iraq.

The United States government will stop using “slow, ineffective and wasteful United Nations programs and to instead distribute assistance through USAID in order to provide faster and more direct aid to Christian and Yazidi communities in Iraq,” according to the vice president’s press secretary.

Pence has directed Green to travel to Baghdad and Erbil in the coming weeks to “report back with an immediate comprehensive assessment addressing any issues that could delay the process of aid distribution.”

Kevin Hartigan, Catholic Relief Services’ regional director for Europe and the Middle East, told CNA that “We are grateful for this new funding that provides greater assistance for Christians and other religious minorities returning to northern Iraq.”

“It will allow Catholic Relief Services to continue and expand the projects we began in 2014, working with Caritas Iraq to provide critical assistance to Christians, Yazidis and many other Iraqis of various faiths who had been displaced by violence and are now returning to their homes,” he continued.

Since 2014, Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Iraq have served more than 300,000 Iraqis affected by the conflict through their offices in Baghdad, Kirkuk, Mosul, Dohuk, and Erbil.

CRS will use the most recent funds to “assist the Catholic Church of Iraq to help all war-affected families with the provision of shelter, emergency assistance and education and trauma healing for children,” said Hartigan.

Iraq’s Christian population was devastated by the Islamic State in 2014. Two thirds of the approximately 1.5 million Christians who formerly inhabited Iraq either fled or were forced out by the violence, according to In Defence of Christians.

“ISIS fighters used most of the 45 churches in the old city for shelter, target practice, and torture and, in the case of the Dominican church, as a place to hang their victims from inside the bell tower,” wrote Father Benedict Kiely after visiting Mosul last month.

Iraqi military forces regained control of Mosul from the Islamic State in July 2017; yet only ten Christian families have returned to Mosul’s old city, which had more than 3,000 Christian families in 2014, according to Father Kiely.

“Across the Nineveh Plain, where Christians trace their roots back to the time of the Apostles, many Christians have returned nonetheless,” noted Kiely.

Archbishop Bashar Warda, the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil said earlier this year that Christians are “scourged, wounded, but still there.”

Pope donates to volcano relief efforts in Guatemala

Vatican City, Jun 19, 2018 / 04:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following the largest volcanic eruption in Guatemala in four decades, Pope Francis has sent $100,000 to assist in the emergency relief efforts being carried out in the central American nation.

The sum, which was characterized as an initial contribution, is intended as “an immediate expression of the feeling of spiritual closeness and paternal encouragement on the part of the Holy Father,” a June 19 press release stated.

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development is responsible for the distribution of the funds, which will be given to the dioceses most affected by the volcanic eruption for assistance to people and the territory.

“The contribution, which accompanies prayer in support of the beloved Guatemalan population, is part of the aid that is being activated throughout the Catholic Church and which, in addition to various bishops’ conferences, involves numerous charitable organizations,” the release stated.

Guatemala’s disaster agency announced Sunday that search efforts would be permanently suspended in the towns of San Miguel Los Lotes and El Rodeo in the Escuintla municipality, because the zone is “uninhabitable and high risk.”

Search and rescue efforts followed the unexpected June 3 eruption of the “Volcan de Fuego,” or “Volcano of Fire,” one of Guatemala’s most active volcanoes. At least 110 people have died from fallen ash and dirt and 197 are still missing, according to a June 17 statement from disaster agency CONRED.

In a June 5 telegram to Guatemala’s apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Nicolas Henry Marie Denis Thevenin, Pope Francis said he was “deeply distressed in hearing the sad news of the violent eruption” which so far “has caused numerous victims and enormous material damage which has affected a significant number of the area’s inhabitants.”

The pope expressed his support for the families “who weep for the loss of their loved ones,” and for the wounded and those who are working in relief efforts, asking that God would grant them “the gifts of solidarity, spiritual serenity and Christian hope.”

Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Escuintla have been active in providing emergency assistance for the displaced, including hot food, water, and other necessities. Three area Catholic Churches have also opened their doors to shelter victims. More than 1 million people have been affected by the eruption.

The three church shelters are located in Escuintla, Guatemala, near ground-zero for the volcano, whose eruption spewed ash clouds nearly 33,000 feet into the air. The Escuintla district, along with Chimaltenango and Sacatepéquez, are among the areas most affected by the blast, according to CRS.