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Pope: If world insists on success, then make life more just, humane

IMAGE: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Do not fall for the allure of money, which can enslave and alienate like a cult, Pope Francis told business school students.

"And it is also important that you be able to learn today the strength and courage to not blindly obey the invisible hand of the market," he said.

The pope spoke Oct. 19 at the Vatican to a group of students from a private Catholic school, "Institution des Chartreux," in Lyon, France. They are preparing for higher education in business and finance.

The pope said he was pleased they were receiving an education that touched on the "human, philosophical and spiritual" dimensions of life and said these aspects would be essential for their future professional life.

"Learn to remain free from the allure of money, from the slavery" that befalls those who "turn it into a cult," he said.

He called on them to promote and defend more fairness and to manage the world's resources adequately and justly.

"You are able to decide your future," he said, urging them to feel and become more responsible for the world and human life.

"Never forget that every injustice against a poor person is an open wound and diminishes your very dignity," he said.

"Even if this world expects that you strive for success, give yourselves the means and the time to follow paths of fraternity, to build bridges between people rather than walls" and to take part in the building of a more just and human world, he said.

 

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Morning Briefing, Roman style

From a new Rome-centric version of Morning Briefing: Pope Francis explains why he speaks so freely in press conferences, the former head of the Vatican children's hospital is found guilty of abuse of office, and prisoners use a lunch with the pope to give their prison the slip.

Francis, the comic strip

Francis, the comic strip: It seems Francis himself has recognized the humor inherent in being pope. "Francis," the comic strip, picks up on that cue.

Change your lives

The Peace Pulpit: "Know that many are called, but few are chosen," Jesus concludes a parable. That story of today's Gospel is very important for us as we reflect on this call to change our lives. Those who were invited began to make excuses.

Prayer as both gift and task

Young Voices: Prayer is getting a bit of a bum rap these days, at least when it is tagged on to the end of the platitude most often employed in the face of tragedy — "thoughts and prayers."

Bishops' migration chairman asks for extension of immigration status

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The head of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration said some migrants from Honduras and El Salvador cannot safely return to their home countries in the near future and should have a special immigration permit extended.

The U.S. government will consider in early November whether to extend, for some migrants hailing from the two countries, what's known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS. The designation is for those who come to the U.S. from certain countries because of a natural disaster, continuing armed conflict or other extraordinary conditions. The status for Honduras and El Salvador is set to expire in early 2018.

"There is ample evidence to suggest that current TPS recipients from Honduras and El Salvador cannot return safely to their home country at this time," said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration. He cited a report issued by bishops' Office of Migration and Refugee Services titled "Temporary Protected Status: A Vital Piece of the Central American Protection and Prosperity Puzzle."

The report recommends that the U.S. government extend TPS for some 257,000 people from El Salvador and Honduras in the U.S., who currently have a work permit and reprieve from deportation.

In a letter of introduction to the report, Bishop Vasquez said: "As you read this report, I urge you to keep the people of El Salvador and Honduras, including TPS recipients, in your thoughts and prayers. I encourage you to engage the administration in requesting a TPS extension for El Salvador and Honduras . . . and to reach out to your elected congressional leaders to request they support a legislative solution for TPS recipients who have been in the United States for many years."

Advocates worry because the Department of Homeland Security, under the Trump administration, has signaled reluctance to extend the status for other countries.

In mid-September, the Trump administration announced the end of TPS for nationals from the North African nation of Sudan, prompting outcry from Catholic groups who say they worry about the conditions the migrants will face upon their return. Though the administration said it is safe for them to return, the U.S. Department of State warned against travel to the country because of "risks of terrorism, armed conflict and violent crime."

Haitians who obtained TPS after the country's devastating 2010 earthquake, also are waiting to learn whether they'll have to return to an unstable country, since DHS also has signaled it plans to end TPS status for the Caribbean nation. Catholic groups and others have said it is not safe for them to return because of instability on the island.

In a similar way, the report says Honduras is a "fragile state" and unable to accommodate the return of a large number of its nationals. El Salvador, too, has a pervasive crime problem, as well as other social ills, and, too, would face hardship with a return of large numbers of nationals, it says.

The report is based on the findings of a delegation from the USCCB and MRS that visited Honduras and El Salvador Aug. 13-19 to examine conditions in those countries and whether they can "adequately receive and integrate the possible return of existing TPS recipients."

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Editors: The full text of the report can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/fact-finding-mission-reports/upload/el-salvador-honduras-report-20171016.pdf.

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Faith brings hope even at moment of death, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians can find hope even at the hour of death, which faith teaches is not a closed door but a wide-open passage to a new life with Christ, Pope Francis said.

While all men and women are "small and helpless in front of the mystery of death," Jesus' victory over death assures Christians of the joy of the resurrection, the pope said Oct. 18 during his weekly general audience.

Despite chilly temperatures in Rome, thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square to greet the pope who rode around St. Peter's Square in the popemobile, stopping frequently to greet pilgrims and kiss babies.

Making sure one child was kept warm, the pope pulled up the hood of the baby's jacket before he was taken back to his parents.

Continuing his series of talks on Christian hope, Pope Francis reflected on death, which is "a reality that our modern civilization tends to eradicate" so completely that "when death comes to us or those around us, we are unprepared."

Past civilizations, however, "had the courage to look death in the face," he said, and viewed death not with fear but as "an inescapable reality that forced man to live for something absolute."

Death "shows us that our acts of pride, anger and hatred were vanity: pure vanity," the pope said. "We realize with regret that we have not loved enough and did not look for what was essential."

Before raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus' mourns his friend's death, the pope noted. Christ's behavior shows that despite hope in the resurrection, Christians can "feel sorrowful when a dear person passes away."

"Christian hope draws from the approach that Jesus takes against human death: if this (death) is present in creation, it is nevertheless a gash that disfigures God's plan of love, and the savior wants to heal us of it," the pope said.

In another instance, he continued, Jesus comforts Jairus after his daughter's death because "he knew that man was tempted to react with anger and desperation."

Jesus' invitation to "not be afraid," he said, is a call for all Christians to guard the "small flame" of faith within that keeps them from falling into "the precipice of fear" that comes at the moment of death.

Departing from his prepared remarks, Pope Francis asked pilgrims to close their eyes and "think about our own death and imagine the moment that will come when Jesus will take us by the hand and say, 'Come, come with me, get up.'"

"There hope will end and it will be a reality, the reality of life," Pope Francis said. "Jesus himself will come to each of us and take us by the hand with his tenderness, his meekness, his love."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Pope condemns deadly terrorist attack in Somalia

IMAGE: CNS photo/Feisal Omar, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis prayed for the victims of a terrorist attack in Mogadishu, Somalia, that left hundreds dead and countless wounded in one of the deadliest attacks in the country's history.

Before concluding his weekly general audience Oct. 18, the pope expressed his sorrow and denounced the "massacre which caused more than 300 deaths, including several children."

"This terrorist act deserves the fiercest condemnation, especially because it victimizes people that are already so tried," the pope said.

Mogadishu erupted into chaos Oct. 14 when a minivan and a truck carrying military grade explosives exploded near a security checkpoint. Investigators believe the attackers were targeting a heavily guarded compound that housed many embassies, United Nations' offices and African Union peacekeeping forces.

The second explosion caused a nearby fuel truck to ignite, causing a massive fireball to erupt in the area.

While no group has taken responsibility for the attack, government officials believe the militant terrorist group, al-Shabab, is responsible, the Associated Press reported.

Pope Francis prayed for the innocent victims and their families as well as for the conversion of the perpetrators of the deadly massacre.

"I pray for the conversion of the violent and encourage those who, with great difficulty, work for peace in that martyred land," the pope said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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

Groups settle in lawsuit against HHS contraceptive mandate

IMAGE: CNS photo/Aaron P. Bernstein, Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Dozens of Catholic groups that challenged the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act have reached a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, they announced late Oct. 16.

The groups, including the Archdiocese of Washington and the Pennsylvania dioceses of Greensburg, Pittsburgh and Erie, were represented by the Cleveland-based law firm Jones Day.

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl wrote an Oct. 16 letter to archdiocesan priests saying the "binding agreement" ends the litigation challenging the Health and Human Services' mandate and provides a "level of assurance as we move into the future."

The Washington Archdiocese was one of dozens of groups challenging the mandate, which went to the Supreme Court last year in the consolidated case of Zubik v. Burwell. Although it was most often described as the Little Sisters of the Poor fighting against the federal government, the case before the court involved seven plaintiffs and each of these combined cases represented a group of schools, churches or church-sponsored organizations.

Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik, whom the case is named for, said he was grateful for the settlement, which he described as an "agreement with the government that secures and reaffirms the constitutional right of religious freedom."

In an Oct. 17 statement, the bishop said the diocese's five-year-long challenge to the mandate "has been resolved successfully" allowing Catholic Charities in the diocese and other religious organizations of different denominations to be exempt from "insurance coverage or practices that are morally unacceptable."

He said the settlement follows the recent release of new federal regulations that provide religious organizations with a full exemption from covering items that violate their core beliefs.

On Oct. 6, the Trump administration issued interim rules expanding the exemption to the contraceptive mandate to include religious employers who object on moral grounds to covering contraceptive and abortion-inducing drugs and devices in their employee health insurance. The same day, the U.S. Department of Justice issued guidance to all administrative agencies and executive departments regarding religious liberty protections in federal law.

Cardinal Wuerl said in his letter to priests that the new guidelines and regulations were extremely helpful but that the "settlement of the Zubik litigation adds a leavening of certainty moving forward. It removes doubt where it might otherwise exist as it closes those cases."

"The settlement adds additional assurances," he added, "that we will not be subject to enforcement or imposition of similar regulations imposing such morally unacceptable mandates moving forward."

The cardinal thanked the Jones Day law firm for its legal representation in the case and thanked Catholics for their prayers and support for the petitioners in the long legal fight.

Thomas Aquinas College of Santa Paula, California, one of the groups that fell under the Washington Archdiocese's challenge of the HHS mandate to the Supreme Court, similarly thanked the law firm Jones Day for representing the school pro bono.

The school's president, Michael McLean, said in an Oct. 16 statement that as part of the settlement, the government will pay a portion of the legal costs and fees incurred by the law firm.

He said the college welcomed the broadening of the exemption from the HHS mandate by the Trump administration in early October but he similarly said the settlement of the case provides "something even better: a permanent exemption from an onerous federal directive -- and any similar future directive -- that would require us to compromise our fundamental beliefs."

"This is an extraordinary outcome for Thomas Aquinas College and for the cause of religious freedom," he added.

The school's statement said according to the terms of the settlement, the government concedes that the contraceptive mandate "imposes a substantial burden" on the plaintiffs' exercise of religion and "cannot be legally enforced" under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The contraceptive mandate, in place since 2012, required all employers to provide contraceptive coverage in their employer insurance. Last year when opposition to this mandate came to the Supreme Court, the justices unanimously returned the case to the lower courts with instructions to determine if contraceptive insurance coverage could be obtained by employees through their insurance companies without directly involving religious employers who object to paying for such coverage.

Erie Bishop Lawrence T. Persico, representing one of the groups that challenged the mandate, said in an Oct. 17 statement that it has been "difficult for people to understand that this lawsuit was not just about contraceptives.

"The real issue," he said, "was the government attempting to narrow the definition of freedom of religion, using the HHS mandate to exempt only a small subset of religious employers. Churches were declared exempt, but their hospitals, Catholic Charities agencies, schools, and universities were not."

The bishop said he was pleased with the settlement particularly because the church continues to assert that all of its ministries "are inextricably tied to the practice of our faith."

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Mark Zimmermann, editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Washington Archdiocese, contributed to this report.

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Follow Carol Zimmermann on Twitter:@carolmaczim.

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Senate confirms Callista Gingrich as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Senate confirmed Callista Gingrich as the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See.

Voting late Oct. 16, senators approved her nomination 70-23. More than 20 Democrats joined Republicans in supporting Gingrich, the wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a vocal ally of President Donald Trump.

Gingrich, 51, a lifelong Catholic and a former congressional aide, has been president of Gingrich Productions, a multimedia production and consulting company in Arlington, Virginia, since 2007.

She was expected to present her credentials at the Vatican in the coming weeks.

Gingrich's associates welcomed the vote. Among them was Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, where Gingrich has been a longtime member of the choir.

"Callista has been part of our shrine family for two decades and so, as any family rejoices when good news arrives, we rejoice with Callista," Msgr. Rossi said in an Oct. 17 statement. "Both Callista and Speaker Gingrich are wonderful supporters of our ministry here at Mary's shrine, most especially our music program.

"More importantly, Callista has a great love for the church and our country," he added. "Her faith is an integral part of her life and I am confident that her faith will be her solid foundation as she enters a new service to church and nation."

The Bethlehem University Foundation wished Gingrich "great success in her new role." The Gingrichs have been foundation patrons, serving as advisers to its executive director and donors.

During her confirmation hearing July 18, Gingrich emphasized her desire to work with the Vatican to protect religious freedom and human rights, fight terrorism and human trafficking, and seek peaceful solutions to international crises.

Gingrich also explained under sharp questioning that the U.S. wanted to be a leader in addressing environmental issues despite initiating efforts to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. She said the White House was committed to sustaining "our clean air and our clean water."

"We are all called to be stewards of the land," she said, echoing a common theme expressed by Pope Francis.

In 2010, Gingrich's company released the film "Nine Days That Changed the World" about St. John Paul II's nine-day pilgrimage to Poland in 1979 and how it played a part in the fall of communism in Europe. She also has written the "Ellis the Elephant" children's American history series and co-authored "Rediscovering God in America."

Gingrich graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, in 1988, majoring in music, a passion that has remained with her throughout life. She served as a congressional aide for more than 30 years.

She is the third woman to serve as ambassador to the Holy See after Lindy Boggs, who held the post from 1997 to 2001, and Mary Ann Glendon, who served in 2008-2009. Gingrich succeeds Ambassador Ken Hackett, who retired in January.

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