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Spiritual guidance belongs in politics, Bishop Tobin says

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 13:55:00 -0600

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Providence, R.I., Apr 20, 2018 / 01:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking out on political issues is not only a right, but a duty, for religious leaders, said Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence in a recent interview.

“What we try and do is take the Gospel, the basis of our faith, and apply it to the issues of the day,” Bishop Tobin told the Providence Journal in an article published April 17.

“Now, some people will like it, some people won’t like it; some will agree, some will not. I think we have not just a right but the need to be involved in these public conversations.”

Bishop Tobin said that when he speaks about issues such as immigration and gun control, he draws criticism from conservatives, who say, “Stay out of it, it’s not your business.” When speaking about abortion or same-sex marriage, he said, he gets the same response from liberals.

“So sometimes I’m accused of being too conservative, and sometimes I’m accused of being a raging liberal.”

However, he said, it is important to preach the Gospel no matter how people respond.

One tool the bishop has been using to weigh in on political and moral debates is Twitter. In February, the prelate opened an account, @bishoptjt, which now has over 1,300 followers.

Because he alone controls the subject of his tweets, he said “there’s no filter there,” unlike his Facebook account which is managed by someone in his office.

“I thought, if the president can do it and the pope can do it, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be doing it,” he said.

Bishops Tobin uses his Twitter account to discuss both serious topics – such as liturgy and politics – and lighthearted, personal interests.

“I’ve done some devotional things, some spiritual things, and some liturgical things and some prayerful things,” the bishop said. “I’ve also put some things up about the Steelers and about my dog and about some political things and about the weather and April Fools Day.”

 

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Commentary: Religious Persecution in the Occupied Territories of Eastern Ukraine

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 12:07:00 -0600

Lviv, Ukraine, Apr 20, 2018 / 12:07 pm (CNA).- War continues to ravage eastern Ukraine, where conflict erupted in April 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the violent actions of pro-Russian separatists. Along with forcing at least 1.6 million people from their homes, the ongoing conflict has also resulted in the persecution of Protestant pastors and churches throughout the territories that are occupied by pro-Russian separatist groups. One such group is the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR), which is located in Ukraine’s Luhansk region and declared independence in May 2014. While the international community does not recognize the LNR as a legitimate state, this group’s totalitarian power is growing. During the last four years, the LNR has committed numerous acts of religious persecution against Protestant pastors and churches (as well as other pro-Ukrainian Churches) in the Luhansk region, including abduction, torture, and property confiscation. In fact, on March 27, 2018, the LNR raided the House of Prayer, a church in Stahanov, taking everything and leaving the church completely empty. The following is a brief summary and analysis to create awareness about the LNR’s new religion law and appeal to the international community to create pressure on the LNR and support our brothers and sisters in Ukraine who are losing their freedom to worship and living in constant fear as they suffer for their faith. For the last four years, Mission Eurasia has drawn the attention of the international community to the systematic religious freedom violations committed by the LNR in eastern Ukraine. And now these violations are considered a central part of the LNR’s legal framework. According to a new law passed on Feb. 2, 2018 (#211-II “About Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations”), the LNR is permitted to discriminate against any and all non-Orthodox religious communities. This law violates universal human rights, severely limits religious freedom, and threatens eastern Ukraine’s existing network of religious communities and organizations. While the law itself is a new development, the LNR has been violating religious freedom rights in Ukraine’s Luhansk region since the spring of 2014. Rather than protecting the rights of pre- existing religious communities, the LNR follows Russia’s religion laws. Therefore, in line with Russia’s strict religious freedom legislation, all religious communities and organizations in Luhansk, other than those associated with the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (the Russian Orthodox Church has preferential status), must now prove their loyalty and re-register with the LNR. The following points laid out in the LNR’s new religion law are particularly concerning for churches in Luhansk: • All religious communities and organizations must re-register with the LNR within six months of the law’s inception in order to continue operating; • The LNR will play an increasingly significant role in regulating religious communities and organizations, and in protecting the societal role of the Russian Orthodox Church; • All registered religious communities and organizations are required to provide detailed reports on all of their activities on a regular basis; • Religious communities and organizations must have juridical person status to be considered legitimate; • Religious communities and organizations must have at least 30 members to register; • Religious communities and organizations are prohibited from leading activities in private residences, which is particularly dangerous for the many home churches in Luhansk; • There are many grounds on which the LNR can suspend the activities of religious communities and organizations, such as suspected espionage, extremism, and terrorism; • Religious communities and organizations are required to coordinate the distribution of all religious materials, even among their own members, wi[...]



Pope: Without the Eucharist, everything the Church does is vain

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 06:01:00 -0600

Vatican City, Apr 20, 2018 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During a brief day-trip to two small Italian cities, Pope Francis stressed the centrality of the Eucharist to the life and actions of the Church, saying without Christ's love and self-sacrifice, everything would be done in vanity, since everything Jesus did was for others. “The Eucharist is not a beautiful rite, but it is the most intimate, the most concrete, the most surprising communion that one can imagine with God: a communion of love so real that it takes on the form of eating,” the pope said April 20. The Christian life begins again at each Mass, “where God satiates us with love. Without him, the bread of life, every effort of the Church is vain,” he said, and, quoting deceased local Bishop Antonio Bello, said “works of charity are not enough, unless those works are done with charity.” “If love is lacking in those who do the works, if the source is lacking, if the point of departure is lacking, which is the Eucharist, then every pastoral commitment is merely a whirlwind of things,” rather than an act of service. Pope Francis spoke during Mass in the Italian town of Molfetta. He traveled to the city after making a brief visit to Alessano as part of a half-day trip to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of Antonio Bello, known as “Don Tonino,” an Italian bishop whose cause for beatification opened in 2007. In his homily, Francis said whoever receives the Eucharist takes on the face and mentality of the Lord, who is the bread that was broken for us. And this bread, he said, does not “rise with pride,” but is given to others. The person who receives the Eucharist, he said, “ceases to live for themselves, for their own success, to have something or to become someone, but they live for Jesus, as Jesus, which is for others.” Quoting Bishop Bello, Francis said the Eucharist “does not support a sedentary life,” and that without rising from the table, one remains an “unfulfilled sacrament.” He asked those present to question themselves as to how they leave every Mass, and whether or not they go out as “people of communion.” He then emphasized the importance of the Word, which he said is a second element that can be taken from the day's Gospel reading from John, in which the disciples asked themselves “how can this man give us his flesh to eat?” after Jesus spoke about the need to eat his flesh in order to obtain salvation. “Many of our words are similar to this,” the pope said, noting that some people might ask: “how can the Gospel solve the problems of the world? What use is it to do good in the midst of so much evil?” By doing this, “we fall into the error of that people, who were paralyzed by discussion about the words of Jesus, rather than ready to welcome the change of life asked by him,” Francis said, adding that these people did not understand that the words of Jesus were the path to life. Jesus, he said, “does not respond according to our calculations and the conveniences of the moment, but with the 'yes' of his whole life. He does not look for our reflections, but our conversion.” Pointing to the conversion of Saul, who later became St. Paul, Pope Francis noted how when Saul was thrown from his horse he was told to rise, go into the city and do what he would be asked. “The first thing to avoid is staying on the ground” or staying “gripped by fear,” he said, stressing that a true apostle of Jesus “cannot simply get along on small satisfactions,” but must always get up and look forward. And, just as Saul was told to go into the city, each Christian is also told to go, rather than staying “closed in your reassured spaces. Risk!” he said. Christian life “must be invested in Jesus and spent for others,” he said, adding that an apostle cannot r[...]



There's no 'maybe' when answering the Lord's call, pope says

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 03:53:00 -0600

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Vatican City, Apr 20, 2018 / 03:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking in the southern Italian town of Alessano on Friday, Pope Francis said that we should be on fire for our faith, combining prayer and action after the example of the Italian bishop Tonino Bello.

“Here, this is the vocation according to Don Tonino: a call to become not only faithful devotees, but real lovers of the Lord… When the Lord sets the heart on fire, hope cannot be extinguished. When the Lord asks for a ‘yes,’ we cannot answer with ‘maybe,’” the pope said April 20.

Pope Francis visited the town of Alessano as part of a quick day-trip there and to Molfetta, to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of Antonio Bello, known as “Don Tonino,” an Italian bishop whose cause for beatification was opened in 2007.

Before speaking to around 20,000 Catholic, the pope stopped at the tomb of Don Tonino for a moment of silent prayer.

In his speech, he pointed to the bishop’s warning that Catholics not immerse themselves “in the whirlwind of affairs” without first planting themselves in front of the tabernacle – lest they work in vain for the Kingdom.

“We can ask ourselves if we start from the tabernacle or ourselves. You could also ask if, once we leave, we walk; if, like Mary, the Woman of the journey, we get up to reach and serve man, every man,” he stated.

Francis recalled a word coined by Tonino, “which gives each of us a great mission.”

Tonino, the pope noted, would say often that Christians should be “contempl-attivi,” meaning, “contemplative-actives,” people who never separate prayer and action.

Don Tonino had “his feet on the ground and his eyes on Heaven, and above all with a heart that connected Heaven and earth,” he said.

Antonio Bello was born in Alessano in 1935. He was ordained a priest in 1957, and afterward studied theology at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.

He was always close to the young and the poor, working at a seminary, as a parish priest, and as an assistant for the Italian lay Catholic association, “Azione Cattolica.”

He was appointed bishop of Molfetta, Giovinazzo, Terlizzi, and Ruvo by Pope John Paul II in 1982.

As bishop, Don Tonino supported the poor and people in difficulty, opening a Caritas soup kitchen in every diocesan parish and founding a community for drug addicts.

In 1985 he became president of Pax Christi. In this role he worked against the First Gulf War and the war in former Yugoslavia. He died in Molfetta on April 20, 1993.

Pope Francis reflected on Don Tonino’s attention to the poor, saying that “understanding the poor was for him true wealth.”

“Don Tonino reminds us not to theorize the closeness to the poor, but to be close to them, as Jesus was; that for us, as rich as he was, he became poor,” he said.

Following his message, the pope led those present in praying the ‘Hail Mary,’ and gave his benediction before departing for Molfetta by helicopter.

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Priest murdered in Mexico amid continuing wave of violence

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 03:03:00 -0600

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Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 20, 2018 / 03:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Catholic priest in the Diocese of Cuautitlán Izcalli, México, was stabbed to death inside a church Wednesday, local reports said.

The death of Fr. Rubén Alcántara Díaz, judicial vicar of the diocese, makes 22 priests who have been murdered since 2012, the Catholic Multimedia Center reported.

According to local media, the Attorney General's Office of Mexico State confirmed that the murder occurred the evening of April 18, inside Our Lady of Mount Carmel church in the Cumbria neighborhood.

Reports state that the 50-year-old priest was stabbed by a person who fled after the crime and who has yet to be identified.

The Diocese of Cuautitlán Izcalli expressed its sorrow over the death of the priest.

“While the pertinent inquiries are being conducted by the experts, we pray to God for his eternal rest and ask everyone to join in this intention,” the diocese said in a statement.

Bishop Alfonso Miranda, secretary general of the Mexican Bishops Conference, expressed his condolences on Twitter for the death of Fr. Alcántara Díaz and of “all the victims of the enormous amount of violence in Mexico. God help us.”

Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes also lamented the murder, offering prayers that “hope in the Resurrection strengthen the bishop and faithful.”

Last month Bishop Ramón Castro Castro of Cuernavaca called the murder of priests in Mexico a “painful phenomenon which has darkened the country's horizon.”

The bishop encouraged the faithful to fight to eradicate organized crime from the country with the Gospel, always seeking justice and peace.

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How a new Utah law is promoting marriage prep classes

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 00:01:00 -0600

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Salt Lake City, Utah, Apr 20, 2018 / 12:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Utah is encouraging its citizens to better prepare for marriage by discounting the cost of marriage licenses for couples who complete marriage preparation classes.  

The law, signed March 20 by Utah Governor Gary Herbert, will discount marriage licenses by $20 for couples who complete at least three hours of premarital counseling or six hours of premarital classes at least 14 days before applying for a marriage license. These services may be provided by either religious or secular organizations.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Allen Christensen, said it is an effort to counter the high divorce rate.

“Typically, in Utah, we have 25,000 marriages a year. About 10,000 of those are going to end up in divorce,” he said, according to the Brigham Young University student publication.

The co-chair of the Utah Marriage Commission, Alan Hawkins, said the premarital services ought to address marital commitment, the factors within successful marriages, and communication skills.

In a blog post on the Institute for Family Studies, Hawkins emphasized the importance that these premarital services have on lasting marriages.

“A substantial body of research has shown that premarital education can help newlywed couples get off to a stronger start and reduce the risk of divorce in the early, high-risk years of marriage,” he said.

Hawkins said the Utah Marriage Commission is partnering with the state to help spread the word, and encouraged wedding retailers to show support for the bill by matching the $20 discount.

The Commission will initiate a study to determine the success of the project over the next five years, when the law will be up for renewal. Hawkins said the goal of the law is to increase participation in premarital services from its current 30 percent of marrying couples to 50 percent.

Nine other states have created similar laws to promote marital counseling. While the discount is small, Hawkins said, “anecdotal data from other states that have adopted a similar marriage-license-discount policy suggests that lower-income couples are especially responsive to these discounts.”

“Ultimately, however, the discount is less a financial incentive and more a cultural nudge for couples to take seriously the need for marriage preparation.”

 

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Vietnamese pastor who was jailed for faith says it was 'God's gift to me'

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 16:09:00 -0600

Washington D.C., Apr 19, 2018 / 04:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After surviving six years of imprisonment and torture, Vietnamese pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh told CNA that prayer sustained him through his physical suffering and pain. In 2011, the evangelical pastor was charged with “undermining national solidarity” for conducting his Christian ministry with the Montagnard ethnic minority groups that live in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Chinh had long been an outspoken critic of the government’s ban on preaching in the region and a pro-democracy advocate. During his imprisonment, Chinh spent nearly one month in solitary confinement and his health quickly deteriorated. He was denied treatment or access to medication, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), who advocated on his behalf. Chinh told CNA that he experienced consolation in knowing that his suffering was in imitation of Christ. "Even though I suffered physical suffering and pain, I felt in my soul happiness,” Chinh told CNA through an English translator at the USCIRF summit April 18. "I viewed it as God's gift to me,” said Chinh. “It was like what Jesus Christ went through, the same suffering that his disciples experienced, and now I'm going through the same experience. That is how the good news comes out." Chinh explained his hope that sharing his experience will help increase the faith of other Christians. Prayerful communion with Christ “gave me courage to survive the prison conditions until the day that I saw freedom,” Chinh explained. The Vietnamese pastor was released from prison July 28, 2017, about halfway through his 11 year sentence. His release came with the condition that he leave Vietnam, so Chinh currently resides in the U.S. Several months before his release, Chinh’s wife, Tran Thi Hong, was beaten and interrogated because she met with the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom at the time, David Saperstein, who was advocating on her husband’s behalf. At the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom summit, Chinh was the only released prisoner to take part in a panel highlighting the specific cases of prisoners of conscience detained throughout the world. USCIRF is currently advocating for the release of prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, China, Turkey, and Pakistan. Several other prisoners of conscience were released in 2017, including Maryam Naghash Zargaran, an Iranian Christian convert from Islam who was arrested and imprisoned in 2013. "Every time you return a prisoner of conscience to his family that truly is a victory,” former USCIRF Chair Robert George told CNA. The USCIRF has actively advocated for Andrew Brunson, an American evangelical pastor incarcerated in Turkey since 2016. His trial in Istanbul this week was attended by Sam Brownback, the current U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. Brunson will face another hearing in Turkey May 7. “Since my release, the government has arrested more prisoners of conscience,” said Chinh on the prisoners of conscience panel. Although religious freedom has improved in Vietnam since the 1970s, USCIRF still designates the country as a “country of particular concern” due to ongoing violations of religious freedom within the country. David Adams, the Cross Catholic Outreach vice president for missions, explained the current situation in Vietnam to CNA. “On the one hand, churches are allowed to operate with some freedom, depending on where they are located, like in the urban areas. But in other areas, like the Central Highlands where Pastor Chin was ministering to in this case a minority, the Montagnards … the government can get quite repressive and forbid any proselytizing or evangelization or [...]



Five things Catholics can do to support international religious liberty

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 15:09:00 -0600

Washington D.C., Apr 19, 2018 / 03:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Summit on Wednesday, Robert George shared five steps Catholics can take to support religious freedom at home and abroad. “We need to remember we are our brother's keepers,” George, a Princeton professor who has twice served as chairman of the commission, told CNA. “That is true whether our brother is someone here at home who is being persecuted and discriminated against or whether that person is in the Sudan or in Syria or Iran or in Vietnam or in China or in North Korea,” he continued. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) marked the 20th anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act this year with a summit in Washington, D.C., focusing on the challenges and progress made in the state of religious freedom around the world. USCIRF is a bipartisan federal commission that monitors global religious freedom violations. "Whenever I speak about international religious freedom across the country, people always ask me what they can do to help. I always tell them first, to pray,” said current USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark in his closing remarks at the summit April 18. “First, pray … I want to second that motion,” George told CNA. The first step Catholics must take to address violations of religious freedom is prayer. “Make your voice heard,” George pointed to as the second way to aid the cause of religious freedom. “Make clear to your elected representatives that religious freedom is a priority to you – domestic religious freedom and international religious freedom.” “Third, there are wonderful organizations, including some that are Catholic, that deserve our financial support. People ask, ‘What can I do with my charitable giving? I'm not a millionaire. I don't have a lot of money, but I want to give back. I want to thank God for my blessings. I want to help others,’” said George, “I hope that some people think about religious freedom as a cause to support.’ Fourth, “educate yourself and then talk about these issues to people in your parish, people in your family, people in your community,” said George, “We now have the internet. Anybody can learn about religious freedom issues. Go to the USCIRF website.” Finally, George recommends that religious leaders and communities work together for their shared values. He encourages leaders across historic, theological, and religious divides to communicate and to work together to make a positive impact on civil society. Former USCIRF chairs Katrina Lantos Swett, Leonard Leo, and David Saperstein spoke on a panel along with George about the current state of international religious freedom. The panel discussed current threats to religious freedom posed by non-state actors abroad,  such as al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and al-Shabaab. The mistreatment of Rohingya Muslims in Burma and the Uyghurs in China were also highlighted. “While we focus on extinguishing the flames of sectarian conflict and oppression in countries like these, we cannot ignore the less-physical deeply religious freedom violations in our own backyard,” said Leonard Leo, who served as the USCIRF chair from 2009 - 2012. “To maintain our standing in the world as a beacon against oppression, we also must put our own house in order by addressing subtler forms of coercion,” continued Leo. George told CNA after the panel that the U.S. currently faces serious religious freedom challenges. “Catholics now are in many cases victims of discrimination from the forces of secular progressiveness in our own country,” said George. “You see efforts to try to coerce Catholics and other pro-lif[...]



Appeals court blocks Ohio law defunding Planned Parenthood

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 14:07:00 -0600

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Cincinnati, Ohio, Apr 19, 2018 / 02:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Ohio law which blocked federal taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood clinics in the state was struck down by a federal appeals court on Wednesday.

The law, which was signed by Governor John Kasich in 2016, prohibited federal taxpayer money from going to clinics that perform abortions in the state of Ohio. That money, about $1.5 million, would be reallocated to organizations that do not perform abortions.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit unanimously overturned the Ohio law on April 18, saying that it overstepped Planned Parenthood’s “due process rights,” since Planned Parenthood would allegedly be using funds from six federal health programs for preventative health measures that are unrelated to abortion.

One of the panel judges, U.S. Circuit Judge Helene White, said that Planned Parenthood was simply claiming the “right not to be penalized in the administration of government programs based on protected activity outside the programs,” according to Reuters.  

White was joined by two other judges: Eugene E. Siler Jr. and Eric Clay.

However, the state of Ohio argues that Planned Parenthood is seeking “a constitutional guarantee to public funding – a guarantee that forces Ohio, against its own judgment, to give public money to large abortion providers. The Constitution contains no such guarantee.”

Last year, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a regulation allowing states to choose whether to give federal funding to health clinics that perform abortions. Shortly before leaving office, former President Barack Obama’s HHS Department had issued a rule prohibiting states from denying funding on the grounds of a facility performing abortions.

A spokesman for the Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine, who defended the lawsuit in court, said they were reviewing the ruling to see if they should pursue further appellate review, Reuters reports.

The Ohio law was originally passed in February 2016 after a series of undercover videos were released the previous year, appearing to show Planned Parenthood engaging in misconduct, including the illegal sale of aborted baby tissue.

Kasich, has signed the original law, has also introduced other pro-life legislation in Ohio, including a 20-week abortion ban and a prohibition of abortions due to a Down syndrome diagnosis within the state.

 

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Catholic communicators urge greater respect in public discourse

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 12:42:00 -0600

Vatican City, Apr 19, 2018 / 12:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- This week, Catholic communicators gathered in Rome to discuss the need for more respectful dialogue in the public sphere, saying that fake news and polemics must be overcome with truth, mercy and openness. When it comes to modern day public discourse, Irish Archbishop Eamon Martin said, “we have to be aware of our language, because nowadays people switch off, they don't hear, and we cannot get the Gospel message out simply condemning everyone who lives their lives contrary to what we believe in.” Now more than ever when emotions are high, polemics are strong, and digital communication is increasingly more impersonal, mutual respect is needed in order to effectively communicate with those we don't agree with, both within the Church, and outside of it, he said. This is also true “in the kind of culture wars which we are engaging in sometimes even within the Church; they simply drown out any opportunity for people to make that personal commitment to Christ, which is really what the Gospel is about.” “This is a challenge for us within the Church, and it's exemplified by blogs countering blogs, Twitter countering Twitter, where everyone is shouting and absolutely no one is hearing anything.” The remedy, Martin said, is to focus, in every exchange, on communicating the fact that “God loves you, he loves you personally, he's calling you to conversion in your own personal life story.” Archbishop Martin spoke on the first day of an April 17-19 conference for Catholic communicators in Rome. Co-organized by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and EWTN, the three-day seminar was dedicated to the theme of “Dialogue, Respect and Freedom of Expression in the Public Arena.” Speakers and panelists included media representatives and experts from around the world who touched on issues such as polarization, fake news, defamation and how to promote values through the media. Michael Warsaw, Chairman of the Board and CEO of EWTN Global Catholic Network, gave a keynote speech on fake news and the responsibility of journalists on the final day of the conference. Warsaw pointed to a recent example of a fake story that gained a lot of steam during the U.S. presidential election of 2016. During the campaign season, a fake news site published an article titled “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President, Releases Statement,” which gained more than 100,000 comments, shares, and reactions on Facebook alone, and nearly 1 million Facebook engagements, making it “the single biggest fake news hit of the U.S. Election.” Shortly after, another fake news article appeared saying Pope Francis had endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, he said, noting that it is thanks to articles like this that modern society has come to be known as the “post-truth” or “post-fact” world. Warsaw cited various studies showing that consumers of fake news are no small minority, and, quoting the pope, said that because of this, journalists in particular are called to be “the protectors of news.” “Pope Francis, in his 2018 message, rightly condemns that 'spreading fake news can serve to advance specific goals, influence political decisions, and serve economic interests,'...But, the challenges facing journalism and the public at large today go deeper than the 'fake news' phenomenon,” he said. Rather, the real crux of the matter is growing general distrust of media, as well as a loss of trust in data, analysis, and objective facts, he said. Because of this, those who work in social communications must be offered ongoing formation, both spiritual and professional, so that both ind[...]



Cardinal Marx reportedly to speak to Pope Francis on intercommunion handout

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 12:01:00 -0600

Munich, Germany, Apr 19, 2018 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The German bishops' conference has denied reports that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has rejected its planned proposal to publish guidelines permitting non-Catholic spouses of Catholics to receive the Eucharist in some limited circumstances. “Reports that the Vatican, whether the Holy Father or dicasteries, has rejected the handout are false,” conference spokesman Matthias Kopp said April 19. In February, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising announced that the German bishops' conference would publish a pastoral handout for married couples that allows Protestant spouses of Catholics "in individual cases" and "under certain conditions" to receive Holy Communion, provided they "affirm the Catholic faith in the Eucharist”. The announcement concerned a draft version of the guidelines, which were adopted “after intensive debate” during a Feb. 19-22 general assembly of the German bishops' conference under the leadership of Cardinal Marx, who is the conference chairman. In his statement on Thursday, Kopp said that Cardinal Marx will inform his fellow bishops on the matter of the guidelines at an April 23 meeting. The Archbishop of Munich and Freising has been invited to Rome by Pope Francis to discuss the problem. Several sources claim that Cardinal Rainier Woelki of Cologne, who has asked for clarification on the draft guidelines from the Vatican, has been invited as well. It was reported yesterday by CNA and other media that the CDF had raised objections about the German bishops' proposal; sources close to the congregation had confirmed this to CNA. It is unclear whether the Vatican has asked the bishops' conference to modify the contents of the draft guidelines, whether they have suspended the development of a draft while the matter is considered further, or whether it has been entirely rejected. Last month, seven German bishops, led by Cardinal Woelki, sent a letter to the CDF and to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity asking for clarification on the matter, appending a copy of the drafted guidelines. The signatories did not consult beforehand with Cardinal Marx. The seven bishops reportedly asked whether the question of Holy Communion for Protestant spouses in interdenominational marriages can be decided on the level of a national bishops' conference, or if rather, "a decision of the Universal Church" is required in the matter. The letter was also signed by Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg, Bishop Gregor Hanke of Eichstätt, Bishop Konrad Zdarsa of Augsburg, Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau, Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg, and Bishop Wolfgang Ipolt of Görlitz. “From the view of the signatories, the goal in a question of such centrality to the Faith and the unity of the Church must be to avoid separate national paths and arrive at a globally unified, workable solution by way of an ecumenical dialogue,” the Archdiocese of Cologne told CNA Deutsch April 4. The Code of Canon Law already provides that in the danger of death or if “some other grave necessity urges it,” Catholic ministers licitly administer penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick to Protestants “who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.” [...]



Archbishop Chaput thinks you should read this young Catholic's letter

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 11:28:00 -0600

Philadelphia, Pa., Apr 19, 2018 / 11:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a time of cultural confusion and challenge, youth need clarity and guidance from the Church – and failure to give it could be disastrous, says a young father who wrote to Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. For Archbishop Chaput, who reproduced the letter April 18 at First Things, the man’s thoughts are worth considering as Catholics “seek a fuller understanding of the pastoral challenges facing young adults in a changing world.” The Catholic Church will hold a Synod on Youth this October, and Archbishop Chaput is among the Church leaders preparing for it. He received the letter just after a pre-synod meeting in Rome where about 300 young adults gathered to discuss how they view the Church and the faith. “We young people crave the truth and clarity of good teaching,” said the unnamed author, a self-described 26-year-old father of three. He suggested this craving is proved by the swift rise of Canadian professor and author Jordan Peterson, whose videos on YouTube have drawn a large following. “We crave the truth, no matter how blunt or difficult it is for us to swallow or for the shepherds of our flock to teach,” the young father said. “We urgently need the Church’s clarity and authoritative guidance on issues like abortion, homosexuality, gender dysphoria, the indissolubility of matrimony, the four last things, and the consequences of contraception (moral, anthropological, and abortifacient). My generation has never, or rarely, heard these truths winsomely taught in the parishes.” The author claimed young Catholics hear most forcefully from the U.S. bishops’ conference and from dioceses about the federal budget, border policy, gun control, and the environment. Efforts to reach out effectively to those who don’t affiliate with a religion, colloquially known as the “nones,” may also be at risk. “Though the Church’s growing focus on evangelization of the ‘Nones’ is encouraging, there have been recent discussions emanating from several prominent figures in Rome and throughout Church leadership regarding a so-called ‘paradigm shift’ relative to doctrine, the supremacy of individual conscience, and pastoral accommodation,” the man continued. “My wife and I find these developments disturbing and potentially disastrous for the evangelization of the young and the fallen-away.” “Our culture is roiled in confusion concerning the basic tenets of human nature,” the author continued, citing controversies over gender, masculinity, the family, and “propaganda” that “desecrates the nature of sex and its fruits, especially the unborn child.” This letter prompted Archbishop Chaput to reflect: “The future of the Catholic faith belongs to those who create it with their fidelity, their self-sacrifice, their commitment to bringing new life into the world and raising their children in truth, and their determination to walk Christ’s ‘narrow way’ with joy.” The archbishop prayed that God would grant the fathers of the 2018 Synod on Youth “the grace and courage to lead young people on that path.” [...]



Benedictines provide an 'oasis' of silence, Pope Francis says

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 09:42:00 -0600

Vatican City, Apr 19, 2018 / 09:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking to members of Benedictine communities in Rome Thursday, Pope Francis said the religious order provides a space for quiet and prayer in an otherwise rushed world, helping people to put God at the center of their lives. “In this age, when people are so busy that they do not have enough time to listen to God’s voice, your monasteries and convents become like oases, where men and women of all ages, backgrounds, cultures and religions can discover the beauty of silence,” the pope said April 19. At monasteries people can rediscover themselves, “in harmony with creation, allowing God to restore a proper order in their lives.” Pope Francis met with around 400 members of the Benedictine Confederation, a union of monastic congregations and the international governing body of the Order of Saint Benedict, for the 125th anniversary of its establishment by Leo XIII in 1893. Francis said the reason St. Benedict is called “a luminous star,” in the words of St. Gregory the Great, is that in his time, “marked by a profound crisis of values and institutions,” he was able to discern “between the essential and the secondary in the spiritual life, placing the Lord firmly at the center.” In the midst of Easter, he pointed out that there are some aspects of the liturgical season that are part of the everyday life of Benedictines, such as “the announcement and the surprise, the prompt response, and the heart willing to receive the gifts of God.” “Saint Benedict asks you in his Rule to ‘put absolutely nothing before Christ’, so that you will always be vigilant, today, ready to listen to him and follow him meekly,” he stated, noting that one of the ways they do this is through their attention to liturgy. “Your love for the liturgy, as a fundamental work of God in monastic life, is essential above all for yourselves, allowing you to be in the living presence of the Lord; and it is precious for the whole Church,” he said. The pope also referred to the Benedictine motto of “Ora et labora et lege,” which is realized, first, in their prayer and their meditation on the Word of God through lectio divina, he said. By first listening to God’s voice in prayer, they can also live out constant and joyful obedience. “Prayer generates in our hearts, willing to receive the amazing gifts that God is always ready to give us, a spirit of renewed fervor that leads us, through our daily work, to seek the sharing of the gifts of God’s wisdom with others,” he continued. He praised, in particular, the work Benedictines do within their communities, for people who visit their monasteries or convents searching for God, and for those who study in Benedictine-run schools and universities. “The Benedictines are known to be ‘a school of the service of the Lord,’” he said. “I urge you to give the students, together with the necessary concepts and knowledge, the tools so that they can grow in the wisdom that drives them to continually seek God in their lives.” [...]



In Haiti, Catholic Relief Services builds hospital to last

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 03:02:00 -0600

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Apr 19, 2018 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The tremor lasted less than a minute. Dr. Jude Banatte’s car was shaking, and then it was not. Banatte assumed he was driving too fast as he made his way home from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince that day in January 2010. He slowed down. But while the tremor Banatte experienced 30 minutes outside of Port-au-Prince was barely enough to shake a car, the earthquake at its epicenter had wrought large-scale devastation and would soon bring Banatte to the project that would have a hand in redefining healthcare aid in Haiti. Before the 7.0 magnitude earthquake, St. Francis de Sales Hospital was a mainstay outreach of the Catholic Church in Haiti. The nearly 100-bed facility, run by the archdiocese, was established in 1881 in the heart of downtown Port-au-Prince. The hospital served a population of about 3.3 million; including the city’s poorest and most vulnerable populations. About 70 percent of St. Francis de Sales was destroyed in the earthquake, including the hospital’s maternity and pediatric wards. Dozens of its patients and staff were killed, along with the archbishop of Port-au-Prince, who was a member of the hospital’s board of directors. “We...realized that the hospital was pretty much destroyed,” said Banatte, who was the program manager for Catholic Relief Services in Haiti and was one of the first responders after the 2010 earthquake, which damaged or leveled thousands of buildings in Port-au-Prince and killed an estimated 230,000 people. “We had to make a decision, because a lot of people came to that site looking for assistance, for medical care,” he told CNA. “Where were we going to send them?” The hospital’s medical director initially believed closing was the only option. The infrastructure was no longer there to meet the needs of the community. But the hospital decided to stay open after a team of Flemish doctors arrived, looking for ways to help. “I automatically became some sort of ad hoc chief medical officer,” Banatte said.   Banatte and his team used the hospital’s remaining generator to reconnect power to the field hospital. They found plumbers to help re-establish running water. A team of firefighters dug a path through the remnants of the hospital, and Banatte crawled through this path to retrieve critical medical supplies. “I would go into that space and find my way through the walls - under the rubble - bringing back what I thought was useful depending on the cases I saw outside in the parking lot,” Banatte said. A trained physician, Banatte was able to recognize the equipment medical volunteers in the field hospital would need. He went into the rubble and emerged with material for sterilization, profusions, materials from the blood bank. Within two days of the earthquake, the hospital’s courtyard and parking lot had been transformed into a makeshift field hospital complete with triage, operation rooms with plastic ceilings, and a post-operation ward. The goal was to provide immediate, emergency medical assistance to victims of the earthquake, including open-air surgeries to save limbs. On the first day, they served 50 patients. “When people started to know that services were being offered at St. Francis de Sales...even more people started to come,” Banatte said. As the number of patients rose, so did the number of volunteers and services. A trauma team from the University of Maryland-Baltimore arrived to the site within weeks of the earthquake and set up tents over the field hospital. The team of volunteers then performed more than 1,000 surgeries. [...]



Greeks for God: College ministry brings fraternities, sororities to Christ

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 00:50:00 -0600

Denver, Colo., Apr 19, 2018 / 12:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Fraternities and sororities are widely known for two things on a college campus. These communities, collectively known as Greek life, are known for attracting some of the highest achieving and most involved students. Some of the world’s most influential leaders, including numerous U.S. presidents, 40 Supreme Court justices, a majority of the members of Congress, and 43 out of 50 of the world’s most powerful CEOs were once involved in Greek life during their college years.   But there is a flipside: Anyone who has been to college, or has seen movies about American college life, knows the stereotype of fraternities and sororities as the powerhouses of the party scene and hookup culture on a college campus. Studies have shown that Greek college students are more likely to binge drink than their non-Greek peers, and are also twice as likely to engage sexually with someone without their consent. It is within this intense culture of both achievement and partying that missionaries with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) embed themselves, building friendships with Greek students and inviting them to bible studies, Mass, and a relationship with Christ. “We’re just trying to meet people where they’re at in the beginning, so we’re going onto campus and finding people where they’re naturally going to be hanging out already,” Katie Moran, a FOCUS Greek missionary at the University of Alabama, told CNA. “So we’re going to their philanthropies and going to their fraternity and sorority houses and places where they’re going to spend their time,” she said. According to their mission statement, FOCUS “is a Catholic collegiate outreach whose mission is to share the hope and joy of the gospel with college and university students...FOCUS missionaries encounter students in friendship where they are, inviting them into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and accompanying them as they pursue lives of virtue and excellence.” FOCUS’ main methods of outreach include bible studies, one-on-one student-missionary mentorships known as discipleships, mission trips, and other events. Within the organization, there are subgroups designed to reach more specific groups of students - such as FOCUS Greek for Greek students, or Varsity Catholic for student athletes. The ultimate goal is to unite all students together at the Catholic Church, Moran said, but FOCUS Greek (and other subgroups) “helps expose (students) to others in Greek life who are experiencing the same things, and helps them to have a community of people striving for faith within the Greek community.”   Moran has worked with FOCUS Greek on two different college campuses in the South. She said that while students in the South are fairly open to talking about Jesus, it can be a challenge to convince Greek students to prioritize their faith in their already-busy schedules. “Naturally they’re all very strong leaders and involved not just in their house but in student government and other organizations on campus, and they have to have a certain GPA to be in a sorority or fraternity, so time is very limited,” she said. Ashley Summerford was a nursing student and a member of Chi Omega sorority at the University of Alabama when she was first invited by friends to join Moran’s bible study. While she wasn’t living according to her Catholic faith at the time, Summerford said that Moran’s friendship and bible study transformed her outlook on how she could live as a Catholic on a college camp[...]