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Study asks: Why are young Catholics going, going, gone?

At a time when more young people than ever before are leaving the church, a new report is attempting to understand why so many have "disaffiliated" from Catholicism.

Roe v. Wade, 45 years later: Debate continues amid surprises, stagnation

Distinctly Catholic: Three recent developments suggest there is more fluidity in the political debate surrounding abortion than I had anticipated, and one sign of how intractable that debate remains.

At Lima Mass for 1.3 million, Pope Francis preaches message of hope

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Barbara J. Fraser

LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- Pope Francis took his message of hope to this sprawling, dusty capital of Peru, celebrating Mass within view of the rocky, waterless Andean slopes where most of the city's poorest residents live.

The day's Scripture readings, in which Jonah was sent to Nineveh and Jesus set out toward Galilee, "reveal a God who turns his gaze toward cities, past and present," the pope said in his homily.

Crowds lined the pope's route to the Las Palmas military base, where thousands of people arrived during the night and throughout the morning to participate in the Mass.

Lima's heat and blazing sun did not wither the spirits of the estimated 1.3 million Mass attendees, who chanted and sang as they waited for the liturgy to begin.

Mariana Costa of Lima felt fortunate. She had missed a chance to see Pope Francis in Poland, she said, "and now I have the opportunity to see him in my own country."

As a young adult, she was touched by his words to youth.

"Ultimately, we're the ones who have to work to make sure this faith is not lost," she said.

Sister Maria Lucero of Lima was struck by three messages the pope had for the priests, religious and seminarians with whom he met in Trujillo the day before.

"He said to remember what we are (and spoke of) joy and gratitude to God for everything we have and do not deserve," she said.

His words kindled a desire to renew her efforts, "because the people here need it," she said.

The scores of concelebrants included Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, who was in Lima to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Boston-based Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle, whose priests have worked in many Latin American countries, including Peru. Cardinal O'Malley had spoken out Jan. 20 about Pope Francis' defense of a Chilean bishop accused of covering up sexual abuse. The cardinal said he understood why victims were hurt by the pope's words.

The place where Pope Francis presided at the liturgy is not far from the vast neighborhood of Villa El Salvador, where Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in 1985, when it was a dusty shantytown in which community leaders, many of whom were active in parishes, were threatened by terrorist violence.

The poorest neighborhoods form rings around Lima and other Latin American cities, as people migrate from other parts of the country in search of opportunities.

Most build their own houses bit by bit, sometimes in hazardous areas vulnerable to disasters, like the unusual rains in early 2017 that left thousands homeless on the east side of Lima and in cities such as Trujillo, which the pope visited Jan. 20.

The majority also work in the informal economy, eking out a living with day labor, selling goods in markets or working in small, family-run businesses with no health insurance, pension or vacation time.

The pope spoke to them when he talked of "our cities, with their daily situations of pain and injustice," which "can leave us tempted to flee, to hide, to run away."

While some people can to build their lives, others are left "living on the fringes of our cities and lacking the conditions needed for a dignified existence," he said. "It is painful to realize that among these 'urban remnants' all too often we see the faces of children and adolescents. We look at the face of the future."

Seeing those things, people may be tempted to become "indifferent, anonymous and deaf to others, cold and hard of heart," he said.

Jesus, who entered Galilee upon hearing of John the Baptist's arrest, and shows a different way to respond, he said.

Jesus "began to sow the seed of a great hope," and the rippling effect of that joy and good news has been passed down through the apostles and saints, including St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin of Porres, whose relics he venerated in the morning, Pope Francis said.

"It has come to us as a timely antidote to the globalization of indifference," he said. "In the face of that love, one cannot remain indifferent."

Walking through the city with his disciples, Jesus saw people who had "given up in the face of indifference, laid low by the grave sin of corruption," Pope Francis said. "He begins to bring light to many situations that had killed the hope of his people and to awaken a new hope."

Jesus taught his disciples to see things they had overlooked before and to notice new needs, he said.

"The kingdom of heaven means finding in Jesus a God who gets involved with the lives of his people."

His words rang especially true after six days in which he raised issues such as corruption, rapacious consumerism, environmental devastation, organized crime, violence against women and industrial activities such as mining and industrial agriculture, which strip indigenous peoples of their lands and livelihoods.

As he often does, the pope challenged bishops and clergy to avoid clericalism and walk closely with the people. He called on government officials to listen to and respond to the needs of native peoples, youth, the elderly and children.

Jesus "continues to walk on our streets. He knocks today, as he did yesterday, on our doors and hearts, in order to rekindle the flame of hope," the pope told the throng of Mass-goers.

"Today the Lord calls each of you to walk with him in the city, in your city. He invites you to become his missionary disciple, so you can become part of that great whisper that wants to keep echoing in the different corners of our lives: Rejoice, the Lord is with you!"

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Follow Fraser on Twitter: @Barbara_Fraser.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Women's March renews demands for equality, justice

Catholics and Catholic reform groups were among the hundreds of thousands who turned out on the streets throughout the nation for the second annual Women's March.

Francis tells Peru's bishops to have 'episcopal spirit of prophecy'

Lima, Peru - In one of his last events of his four-day visit to the country, Francis told Peruvian bishops to speak out on behalf of their people even when it may upset the powerful.

Cardinal O'Malley: Pope caused 'great pain' for abuse survivors in Chile

Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, one of Pope Francis' key advisors on clergy sexual abuse, acknowledged Jan. 20 that the pontiff's defense of a Chilean bishop accused of covering up abuse was "a source of great pain" for survivors.

Update: Pope meets Chilean abuse victims; controversy over bishop continues

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

SANTIAGO, Chile (CNS) -- Pope Francis met in private Jan. 16 with survivors of sexual abuse by Chilean clergy, a Vatican spokesman said, but his actions threatened to be overshadowed by controversy over a Chilean bishop.

Greg Burke, the spokesman, said the pope met with "a small group of victims of sexual abuse by priests" at the apostolic nunciature in Santiago, Chile.

"The meeting took place in a strictly private way, and no one else was present: only the pope and the victims," Burke told journalists that evening.

The private setting, he added, allowed the group to speak freely with the pope "and recount their sufferings.

Pope Francis "listened, prayed and cried with them," Burke said.

Also present at the press conference was Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos Perez of Santiago, secretary-general of the Chilean bishops' conference.

Bishop Ramos addressed criticism regarding the presence of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno at several papal events, including the pope's meetings with the country's clergy as well as the bishops of Chile.

Bishop Barros' appointment as bishop by the pope in 2015 drew outrage and protests due to his connection to Father Fernando Karadima, his former mentor. Father Karadima was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.

"Bishop Barros is bishop of Osorno and was named by the pope. All bishops have the right and responsibility to participate at the events. That was the only reason why" he was present, Bishop Ramos said.

Arriving in Iquique Jan. 18 at the site of his final Mass in Chile, Pope Francis was asked by local journalists about his support for Bishop Barros.

The pope reiterated that he has yet to see any evidence that Bishop Barros knew or witnessed the abuses committed by his former mentor.

"The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny. Is that clear?" the pope told the journalists.

On Jan. 20, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, "It is understandable that Pope Francis' statements yesterday in Santiago, Chile, were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator. Words that convey the message 'If you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed' abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile.

"Not having been personally involved in the cases that were the subject of yesterday's interview, I cannot address why the Holy Father chose the particular words he used at that time. What I do know, however, is that Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones," Cardinal O'Malley said.

Cardinal O'Malley was traveling to Peru on a previously scheduled trip. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston said the trip was not related to his statement on Bishop Barros, but that he expected the cardinal would "be with the Holy Father at some point, as he normally is when he accompanies him on a papal trip."

Pope Francis named Cardinal O'Malley president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors when he established the body in 2014. The initial members' terms of office expired in December and, as of mid-January, the Vatican had not announced new members.

Earlier Jan. 16, the pope asked forgiveness from the victims of sexual abuse during an address to government authorities and members of Chile's diplomatic corps, expressing his "pain and shame at the irreparable damage caused to children by some ministers of the church."

Burke said it was significant the pope addressed the issue of clergy sex abuse during his meeting with government authorities "because normally he speaks about it when meeting with bishops or priests."

"The fact that he spoke there means that it is an evil not only for the church but for society," Burke said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Francis calls attention to increasing gang violence in northern Peru

HUANCHACO and TRUJILLO, PERU: Pope Francis has called attention to gang-related killings in Peru's northern regions, lamenting the "devastating effects" of the violence during a Mass Jan. 20 with hundreds of thousands on the country's Pacific Coast.

Every child 'a precious gift from God,' Trump tells pro-life rally

IMAGE: CNS/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In remarks broadcast to the March for Life from the White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump said that his administration "will always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life."

He invoked the theme of this year's march, "Love Saves Lives," and praised the crowd as being very special and "such great citizens gathered in our nation's capital from many places for one beautiful cause" -- celebrating and cherishing life.

"Every unborn child is a precious gift from God," he said, his remarks interrupted several times by applause from the crowd gathered on the National Mall. He praised the pro-lifers for having "such big hearts and tireless devotion to make sure parents have the support they need to choose life."

"You're living witnesses of this year's March for Life theme, 'Love Saves Lives,'" he said. His remarks were broadcast to the crowd live via satellite to a Jumbotron above the speakers' stage, a first for any U.S. president, according to March for Life.

During their tenure in office, President Ronald Reagan, President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush all addressed the march via telephone or a radio hookup from the Oval Office, with their remarks broadcast to the crowd.

Trump spoke with a crowd surrounding him in the Rose Garden, including 20 students from the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. One of those standing next to the president was a Marianne Donadio, a top official with Room at the Inn, a nationally accredited Catholic ministry based in North Carolina that serves homeless, pregnant women and single mothers with children.

Vice President Mike Pence, who addressed last year's March for Life in person at Trump's request, introduced the president as the "most pro-life president in American history," for among other things issuing an executive memorandum shortly after his inauguration to reinstate the "Mexico City Policy." The policy bans all foreign nongovernmental organizations receiving U.S. funds from performing or promoting abortion as a method of family planning in other countries.

Trump also has nominated pro-life judges to fill several court vacancies and a day before the March for Life the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced formation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights. Its aim is to protect the conscience rights of doctors and other health care workers who do not want to perform procedures they consider morally objectionable.

For the first time in a recent memory, the weather in Washington was more than tolerable for March for Life participants as they gathered on the National Mall to mark the anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. The sun was shining and the blue sky was cloudless. By the time the speeches ended and the march to the Supreme Court started, the temperature had reached 50 degrees.

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, opened the rally by calling on everyone in the crowd to text the word "March" to 7305 and to show their commitment to ending abortion and join their voices in calling on Congress to defund Planned Parenthood.

"Do you agree that's important?" she asked the crowd. "Yes!" they shouted. March for Life, she said, is about educating people about abortion and mobilizing to end it and to love all those women and families who are facing a troubled pregnancy and other needs.

"'Love Saves Lives' is this year's theme," she added. "Love and sacrifice go hand in hand It is not easy. No one ever said it was, but it is the right choice ... the self-sacrificial option."

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, was among several others who addressed the crowd.

"Thank God for giving us a pro-life president in the White House," the Catholic congressman said.

"Your energy is so infectious," he told the crowd, praising them for being "the vigor and enthusiasm of the pro-life movement."

Seeing so many young people "is so inspiring because it tells us this a movement on the rise," he said. "Why is the pro-life movement on the rise? Because truth is on our side. Life begins at conception. Science is on our side."

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Washington, gave an emotional speech about the troubled pregnancy she faced about four years ago. She and her husband, Dan, were told their unborn child had severe defects, that the baby's kidneys would never develop and the lungs were undeveloped because of a rare condition. Abortion was their only option, they were told.

Today, that baby is 4-year-old Abigail. She and her younger brother and their father stood on the stage with the congresswoman.

"Dan and I prayer and we cried (at the news of their unborn child's condition) ... and in that devastation we saw hope. What if God would do a miracle? What if a doctor was willing to try something new? Like saline infusions to mimic amniotic fluid so kidneys could develop?" she recalled.

With "true divine intervention and some very courageous doctors willing to take a risk we get to experience our daughter, Abigail," Herrera Beutler said. She is a very "healthy, happy 4-year-old big sister who some day is going to be 'the boss of mommy's work,'" she said.

Herrera Beutler asked the crowd to imagine that 45 years of legal abortion had not existed and that 60 million babies had not been lost to abortion, and if out of those people had come those who could cure cancer and correct all manner of disabling conditions, including those that exist in utero, and eradicate poverty.

"What richness we would we get to see instead of two generations missing," she added.

Another Catholic member of Congress and longtime pro-life advocate, Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, described the last 45 years of legal abortion as Orwellian.

"Every one of you here today" and millions of others throughout the country and world, he said, "are an integral part of the greatest human rights struggle on earth. Because we pray, because we fast, we will win. Babies will be protected."

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope Francis calls for church with 'Amazonian and indigenous' face

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Barbara J. Fraser

PUERTO MALDONADO, Peru (CNS) -- Pope Francis called on indigenous people of the Amazon to work with missionaries and bishops to shape a church with an "Amazonian and indigenous" face.

The pope pledged the church's "whole-hearted option for the defense of life, the defense of the earth and the defense of cultures" and called his audience to work together toward the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, which he has called for 2019.

"The native Amazonian peoples have probably never been so threatened on their own lands as they are at present," Pope Francis said. "Amazonia is not only a reserve of biodiversity, but also a cultural reserve that must be preserved in the face of the new forms of colonialism."

He also called for a change in the consumer culture that extracts resources from the Amazon without regard for the people who live there, and he had harsh words for officials who consider indigenous people an obstacle to development.

"Your lives cry out against a style of life that is oblivious to its own real cost," the pope told the audience of some 2,500 indigenous people from Peru, Brazil and Bolivia.

Upon his arrival in this Amazonian town, the pope was welcomed by children who chanted, "Pope Francis is Amazonian now." Once in Madre de Dios stadium, dancers in feathered headdresses accompanied him as he greeted the crowd.

Members of various indigenous peoples presented the pope with gifts that reflected their culture, including a basket, painting, book and woven stole. The pope left the stadium wearing a feathered headdress and strings of beads typically worn by community chiefs, presented to him by Santiago Manuin Valera, an Awajun leader from northern Peru.

The pope said he had come to listen to the people of this Amazonian region, which is rich in natural resources and indigenous cultures but increasingly devastated by illegal mining, deforestation and social problems.

A Harakbut woman and man and an Awajun woman described the threats their peoples face from outsiders who take timber and other resources from their lands, as well as their fear that their cultures could disappear and their efforts to keep those cultures alive

The pope echoed their concerns, listing oil and gas, mining, logging, industrial agriculture and even conservation programs as activities that do not take indigenous peoples into account, but "strangle" them and force young people to migrate because of a lack of alternatives.

"We have to break with the historical paradigm that views Amazonia as an inexhaustible source of supplies for other countries without concern for its inhabitants," he said.

On his journey to the Amazon, the pope flew over an area where illegal gold mining has carved huge, cratered, polluted scars visible from outer space. He noted that the mining has been accompanied by the trafficking of people for sex and labor.

The day before his visit, in a meeting with Amazonian bishops, representatives of various indigenous delegations said they hoped the pope would urge governments to respect their rights, especially by demarcating their territories and respecting laws requiring officials to consult indigenous communities about development projects that would affect them.

Without mentioning titling or prior consent laws directly, the pope called for "institutional expressions" of respect and dialogue with native peoples.

"Recognition and dialogue will be the best way to transform relationships whose history is marked by exclusion and discrimination," he said.

The pope praised the church's work among native peoples in the Amazon, although he acknowledged errors. In many parts of the Amazon, missionaries started the first schools for indigenous children.

While noting that education and building schools is the government's job, Pope Francis urged the Amazonian bishops to continue to encourage intercultural and bilingual education in schools, universities and teacher training programs.

Echoing the Harakbut speakers who had greeted him, he emphasized that education for native people must "build bridges and create a culture of encounter," in a way that "respects and integrates their ancestral wisdom as a treasure belonging to the whole nation."

The pope praised young indigenous people who are "working to reinterpret the history of their peoples from their own perspective," as well as those who "show the world your worldview and your cultural richness" through art, music, crafts and literature.

"Much has been written and spoken about you," he said. "It is good that you are now the ones to define yourselves and show us your identity. We need to listen to you."

The pope urged his listeners, many of whom are pastoral agents in remote rural communities and poor urban areas, not to let their people's Catholic faith be uprooted. Each culture "enriches the church by showing a new aspect of Christ's face," he said.

Pope Francis encouraged them to draw on the wisdom of their peoples, especially elders, to counter the pressures they face and to dialogue with missionaries and bishops.

"We need the native peoples to shape the culture of the local churches in Amazonia," he said.

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Follow Fraser on Twitter: @Barbara_Fraser.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.