Browsing News Entries

Cling to the Lord, not horoscopes, fortunetellers, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Akhtar Soomro, EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When passing through the storm of life's difficult moments, Christians must latch on to Christ and not the false sense of security offered by psychics and soothsayers, Pope Francis said.

Speaking to pilgrims before reciting the Angelus Aug. 13, Pope Francis talked about the day's Gospel passage, which recounts the story of Jesus walking on water. Jesus tells St. Peter to come to him, but his lack of faith when walking on the water toward Jesus during a storm leads to him slowly to start sinking in the sea.

Christians today, Pope Francis said, also can doubt the assurance of Christ's presence when confronting life's "turbulent and hostile waters."

"When we do not cling to the word of the Lord, but consult horoscopes and fortunetellers to have more security, we begin to sink," the pope said.

Although most Romans escape the city during the summer, hundreds of pilgrims still made their way to St. Peter's Square, waving banners and flags while cheering loudly as the pope appeared in the window of the Apostolic Palace.

Pope Francis said the Sunday Gospel reading invites all Christians to reflect on their faith "both as individuals and as an ecclesial community, even the faith of all us here today in the square."

St. Peter's request that Jesus call him, his moment of doubt and his subsequent cry for Jesus to save him, the pope said, "resembles our desire to feel close to the Lord, but also the fear and anguish that accompanies the most difficult moments of our life and of our communities, marked by internal frailty and external difficulty."

"Today's Gospel reminds us that faith in the Lord and in his word doesn't open a path where everything is easy and calm; it doesn't take away life's storms," the pope said. "Faith gives us the security of a presence, Jesus' presence, which pushes us to overcome existential storms, and the assurance of a hand that grabs us to help us face the difficulties, showing us the way even when it is dark."

The image of the boat in troubled waters, he added, also can represent the church, which throughout history has faced storms that "threaten to overwhelm her."

What saves the church is not "courage or the quality of its members," but rather "faith in Christ and his word."

"In short, faith is not an escape from life's problems but sustains it along the journey and gives it meaning," Pope Francis said.

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

- - -

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.

Archbishop says Blessed Romero could be canonized next year

IMAGE: CNS

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The archbishop officially promoting Blessed Oscar Romero's cause for sainthood said he hopes the process will conclude within a year and Catholics around the world will honor St. Oscar Romero, martyr.

"Keeping alive the memory of Romero is a noble task, and my great hope is that Pope Francis will soon canonize him a saint," Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the postulator of the Salvadoran archbishop's cause, said in a homily Aug. 12 in London.

In an interview with Vatican Radio's English program, Archbishop Paglia was more specific: "We could hope that in the next year perhaps it is possible" that the Congregation for Saints' Causes will have completed its review of an alleged miracle attributed to Blessed Romero's intervention and present its findings to the pope. Recognition of the miracle would clear the way for canonization.

Archbishop Paglia, in addition to promoting Blessed Romero's sainthood cause, is president of the Pontifical Academy for Life and chancellor of Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.

The biggest hurdle in the sainthood cause was obtaining recognition that Blessed Romero, who was shot while celebrating Mass, was a martyr, Archbishop Paglia said in London. Some church leaders, including some who worked in the Roman Curia, had insisted Blessed Romero was assassinated because of his political position.

But, Archbishop Paglia said, "The essence of his holiness was his following the Lord by giving himself completely for his people."

Still, he told the congregation in London celebrating the 100th anniversary of Blessed Romero's birth, "Romero was not a Superman. He was afraid of dying, and he confessed that to his friends on a number of occasions. But he loved Jesus and his flock more than he loved life. This is the meaning of martyrdom."

"Love for Jesus and the poor is greater than love for oneself: This is the power of Romero's message," Archbishop Paglia said. "A simple believer, if overwhelmed by love, becomes strong, unbeatable."

- - -

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.

Experts say law-abiding migrants at greater deportation risk under Trump

IMAGE: CNS photo/Michael Reynolds, EPA

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The stories come in dribs and drabs on the evening news or in timelines via Twitter, but they're steady.

On Aug. 2, two young popular soccer players, brothers living in Bethesda, Maryland, were deported to their native El Salvador. In mid-July, Jesus Lara Lopez, a 37-year-old father of four in Cleveland, was deported to Mexico. On Aug. 1, Lourdes Salazar Bautista, a Michigan mom with three U.S. citizen children also was deported to Mexico.

At some point, they all had contact with immigration authorities, but none had criminal records or a violent past, and regularly checked in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, to inform the agency of their whereabouts.

During President Barack Obama's administration, migrants like them, in the country without documentation, were not priorities for deportation, said John Sandweg, former acting director of ICE. They had been granted stays or were under supervision by immigration officials likely for humanitarian reasons -- they were taking care of family or had extenuating circumstances.

"Individuals in this group had mostly been checking in with us ' very rarely are these individuals convicted criminals," said Sandweg during a July panel titled "Immigration Policy and Practice Under the Trump Administration: Understanding What's New, What's Not and Why It Matters," sponsored by the Washington-based immigration reform group America's Voice.

Under President Donald Trump, however, the fate of these migrants has changed, said Sandweg.

"What we've seen is lots of those individuals getting picked up, and the reason those individuals get picked up is they are the lowest hanging fruit," said Sandweg. "They are the individuals who ICE can arrest most quickly and deport within a matter of two, three weeks. They're also the most sensitive cases and the cases least likely to pose a public safety threat."

But it's part of a strategy, Sandweg believes, by the Trump administration to increase the total number of deportations to record levels -- a task that will be difficult to match since Obama was given the moniker "deporter-in-chief" because of the record-breaking 2.5 million deportations that took place under his administration.

"It's very clear to me that their mission is to transcend the number of deportations. How do you do that? You don't focus on criminals," said Sandweg. "Criminals are slow to remove. Criminals who are at-large are very difficult to find and it's very time-consuming. It's time-consuming, difficult work."

Some migrants and their supporters already are sensing the shift in focus.

In early August, when Maria De Loera was called to a deportation hearing in Texas, Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso attended the meeting in her place so she could stay at the bedside of her cancer-stricken 8-year-old daughter at the hospital. De Loera left Mexico in 2014 after her husband was assassinated and fled to the U.S. looking for asylum, which was later denied. 

Some supporters had feared De Loera would immediately be deported if she showed up to the meeting with immigration officials, meaning her daughter would be left to attend cancer treatments alone at the hospital.

After Bishop Seitz met with immigration officials, De Loera was granted a six-month stay so she could continue to care for her daughter. These days, it seems as if "the most obvious humanitarian reasons for allowing a person to stay are no longer sufficient," said the bishop, while also expressing worry about the people who seem to be the new focus of deportations.

"The church certainly is going to be very concerned about action leading to prioritization of people who are really not any threat and who have not committed any crime, and who are productive members of our community," Bishop Seitz said in an Aug. 7 phone interview with Catholic News Service.

The emphasis, he said, should be on criminals "who are really a threat to our citizens," not spending time and energy going after people who are law-abiding.

David Leopold, partner and chair of the Immigration Practice Group and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the Trump administration would like others to believe "we're focusing on criminals. That's our priority."

But the focus is on "non-criminals, folks who have worked hard, have done everything they were supposed to do, played by the rules, have been here for a long time," said Leopold, who also was part of the America's Voice panel. "They're the easiest to arrest because they comply. They're going after those cases."

And while there may not be much talk about raids taking place, they're happening but in the lobbies of immigration offices, he said.

"I call them silent raids because where they're occurring is at these check-ins," said Leopold.

While fathers and mothers and children wait for their ICE removal officers, meetings that never yielded unusual developments now turn into meetings in which many have ankle bracelets placed on them, and given a date to leave, he said.

In a July 31 essay for America, a national Catholic magazine run by the Jesuits, Kevin Appleby, senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies of New York, said that under the Trump administration, Catholics must shift their focus toward opposing mass deportations because it's clear that under this presidency, steps have been taken "to implement a major deportation campaign targeted at all undocumented immigrants, including the population the U.S. bishops have sought for years to make citizens."

For fiscal year 2018, the administration has asked for 1,000 more ICE agents, 500 more Border Patrol agents, plus more than 10,000 more detention beds, not to mention $1.6 billion for a border wall, wrote Appleby.

"It is clear where this administration is headed on immigration," he wrote. "The goal is not to legalize 11 million undocumented persons but to get rid of them."

While some bishops have been on the front lines during critical moments involving the deportation of noncriminal migrants who have been long-term residents and contributing members of certain communities, Appleby urged the participation of all bishops, so as to have a plan for what to do when deportations take place in their respective dioceses and to lead other Catholics to support vulnerable immigrant families.

"We are entering a dangerous time in the history of our immigrant nation," Appleby wrote. "The stakes for our immigrant brothers and sisters, and their children, are high. History will judge whether Catholics stood up and protected their neighbors during this dark period."

Parishes are a great place to talk about those issues, to listen to "unheard narratives," said Bishop Seitz, while acknowledging that sometimes it feels as if people are listening to two different Gospels in church pews: one that says we have limited resources and we have to protect ourselves from outsiders, and one that says we're called to love others. But a person cannot call him or herself Catholic without expressing the compassion of Jesus, he said.

When a person loves others and gives of oneself for others "God will care for us even though there may be sacrifices involved," said Bishop Seitz, adding that if we give what's good and charitable, God will care for us.

"I don't think those elements are to be found in the dumbed-down Gospel that's out and about today," he said.

- - -

Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

 

- - -

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.

Bishop Cantu calls for diplomacy to ease U.S.-North Korea differences

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Diplomacy and political engagement are necessary to resolve the differences between the United States and North Korea and avoid a military conflict, the chairman of a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops committee said in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Writing Aug. 10, Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, echoed a recent call from the Korean bishops' conference to support talks to secure the peaceful future of the Korean Peninsula.

Bishop Cantu acknowledged that the escalating threat of violence from North Korea's leaders cannot be "underestimated or ignored," but that the "high certainty of catastrophic death and destruction from any military action must prompt the United States to work with others in the international community for a diplomatic and political solution based on dialogue."

The letter follows days of back-and-forth threats between President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un. Trump has threatened to unleash "fire and fury like the world has never seen" in response to Kim's warnings of imminent attacks on the U.S. Meanwhile, Kim has said his country was preparing to fire missiles into waters around Guam, a U.S. territory in the western Pacific Ocean with two military bases.

The angry talk between the leaders has escalated since the Aug. 5 passage at the United Nations of new economic sanctions threatening to cut off a third of North Korea's exports. Russia and China, two of Pyongyang's few economic trading partners, supported the sanctions. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations also adopted a statement expressing "grave concern" over North Korea's actions related to the development of nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems.

From North Korea came an announcement that the country is reviewing plans to strike U.S. military targets in Guam with medium-range ballistic missiles to create "enveloping fire." In response, the Archdiocese of Agana, Guam, in an Aug. 9 statement said everyone there should "stay grounded in the peace of Christ. Look to God during these difficult times when world peace is threatened and pray always."

"Please pray that the Holy Spirit will instill in the leaders of our country and all the nations the virtues of wisdom and understanding to promote peace rather than war."

The statement, issued by Father Jeffrey C. San Nicolas, a spokesman for the archdiocese, also reiterated what Guam's governor, Eddie Calvo, has advised, that al on the island "remain calm and trust that the security of our island is in good hands with local and national defense forces in place to address such threats."

"This is the time for all of us to come together," the priest said. "If a family member, co-worker or neighbor is troubled, take time to talk to them, pray for them and remind them of the providence of Our Lord. We place our complete trust in our God."

In his letter Bishop Cantu said his committee agreed with the stance of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea in its support for South Korean President Moon Jae-in's proposal for humanitarian and military talks with North Korea.

"In solidarity with the Catholic Church in Korea and the efforts of the South Korean government, we urge the United States to encourage and support these talks," Bishop Cantu wrote. "This avenue, unlike most others, offers the Korean Peninsula a future free from military conflicts or crises, which could simultaneously threaten entire nations and millions of lives in the region."

A former Vatican diplomat supported such talks.

In an interview with Vatican Radio Aug. 9, Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, former Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva, said that "instead of building walls and creating dissidence or admitting the possibility of recourse to violence," both countries must have a constructive approach that benefits the people.

A former member of the U.N. Panel of Experts tasked with monitoring and implementing North Korea sanctions also called for calm and a negotiated solution to the differences between the two countries.

George A. Lopez, chair emeritus of peace studies at the University of Notre Dame, told Catholic News Service Aug. 10 the interests of both countries can be addressed at the negotiating table.

"We need somebody to talk about what are the underlying security needs of both North Korea and the United States and is there a forum to talk about that," Lopez said. "If the U.S. issued a simple pledge that we seek no first use against North Koreans, we seek some way to bargain this out, you'd get some response to that."

Asian nations want stability rather than uncertainty and that will require that talks get underway to assure the peaceful co-existence of both countries, Lopez said. "So how do we get there?" he asked.

Bishop Cantu's letter reminded Tillerson that "this crisis reminds us that nuclear deterrence and mutually assured destruction do not ensure security or peace. Instead, they exacerbate tensions and produce and arms races as countries acquire more weapons of mass destruction in an attempt to intimidate or threaten other nations."

The bishop also cited a call in July by agencies of the U.S. and European Catholic bishops for all nations to develop a plan to eliminate nuclear weapons from their military arsenals.

A joint declaration released by the USCCB and the Conference of European Justice and Peace Commissions called upon the U.S. and European nations to work with other nations to "map out a credible, verifiable and enforceable strategy for the total elimination of nuclear weapons."

Bishop Cantu and Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, conference president, signed the statement.

Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International, the Catholic peace organization, told CNS the organization was praying that both nations would step away from potential confrontation. She said Aug. 9 Pax Christi expected to release a statement on the situation within days.

- - -

Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.

- - -

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.

Nun known as 'Mother Teresa of Pakistan' to receive state funeral

IMAGE: EPA

By Anto Akkara

THRISSUR, India (CNS) -- The government of Pakistan will accord a state funeral to Sister Ruth Katharina Martha Pfau, a German-born member of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary who devoted her life to eradicating leprosy in Pakistan.

Sister Ruth, dubbed the Mother Teresa of Pakistan, died Aug. 10 in Karachi. She was 87.

"Sister Ruth was a model of total dedication. She inspired and mobilized all sections of society to join the fight against leprosy, irrespective of creed or ethnic identity," Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, president of Pakistan Catholic Bishops' Conference, told Catholic News Service Aug. 11.

"We are happy that the government is according her a state funeral on Aug. 19," the archbishop said, noting it would be at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Karachi.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said Sister Ruth would be remembered "for her courage, her loyalty, her service to the eradication of leprosy, and most of all, her patriotism."

"Pfau may have been born in Germany, her heart was always in Pakistan," he said.

Born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1929, she went to France to study medicine and later joined the Society of Daughters of the Heart of Mary. Archbishop Coutts said she arrived in Karachi in 1960 due to some visa problems en route to India and was touched by what she saw at the leprosy colony off Macleod Road in Karachi. She decided to join the work Mexican Sister Bernice Vargasi had begun three year earlier, Archbishop Coutts said.

In 1962 Sister Ruth founded the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre in Karachi, Pakistan's first hospital dedicated to treating Hansen's disease, and later set up its branches in all provinces of Pakistan. She spent the rest of her life in the country and was granted Pakistani citizenship.

In 1996, the World Health Organization declared Pakistan one of the first countries in Asia to be free of Hansen's disease. The Dawn daily reported in 2016 that the number of those under treatment for leprosy fell to 531 from more than 19,000 in the 1980s.

The Pakistani bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace called Sister Ruth a "national hero of Pakistan." It said her services for humanity "were nothing less than a pure manifestation of God's divine love."

- - -

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.

Cardinal calls Salvadorans to reflect on true meaning of martyrdom

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The celebrations of the 100th anniversary Blessed Oscar Romero's birth should be a time to reflect on what it really means to call someone a martyr, said Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez of San Salvador.

Too many people in El Salvador "continue to call martyrs those who picked up arms and died following an ideal" in the country's 12-year-long civil war, the cardinal wrote in an article for L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.

The country's real martyrs, the cardinal said, "never stained their hands with blood," and they were "men and women who strove to love God and their neighbors."

The real martyrs of El Salvador are Blessed Romero, "the assassinated priests and the four U.S. women -- three religious and a laywoman -- whose lives were taken in December 1980," he said, referring to Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clarke, Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan, a laywoman.

In addition, he wrote, "we all have a debt that we must begin to settle as soon as possible. We are obliged out of gratitude to God and love for the truth to redeem the memory of hundreds of anonymous martyrs, most of whom were humble campesinos."

"For us, martyr means witness," he said. "We must walk with them in the name of Christ."

The article by Cardinal Rosa Chavez was published Aug. 10 in the Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano, but was written for the newspaper's Spanish edition, which published a special issue for Blessed Romero's birthday Aug. 15.

The cardinal began his article thanking Pope Francis for naming Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago, Chile, as his personal envoy the celebrations of Blessed Romero's anniversary.

In the nomination letter, he said, the pope described Blessed Romero as "bishop and martyr, illustrious pastor and witness to the Gospel and defender of the church and human dignity." The pope also noted that as a priest and as a bishop, Blessed Romero worked for "justice, reconciliation and peace."

- - -

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.

Italians debate whether rescuing migrants at sea can be a crime

IMAGE: CNS photo/Elio Desiderio, EPA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As temperatures heated up in Italy in late July and August, so did the debate over migration policy and, particularly, over the rescue of refugees and migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

Italian officials are investigating an Eritrean Catholic priest and a German humanitarian organization on suspicion of "aiding and abetting illegal migration," but overcrowded and unseaworthy boats carrying migrants and refugees continue to make their way toward Italy's shores.

For years Italy has been the first port of call for refugees and migrants desperate to reach Europe and, as Pope Francis often has noted, the country has received little help from its European Union partners in rescuing, caring for and processing the newcomers.

The EU's 2013 Dublin Accord stipulates that requests for asylum and migrant processing must be handled by the first EU country a migrant or refugee enters. Because of its geographical proximity to Libya -- the primary port of departure to Europe -- Italy usually is that first country, although Malta also is a frontline destination.

In late July, Italy's prime minister announced an agreement with the Libyan government to have Italian military ships join Libyan ships in patrolling the Libyan coast. Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the aim was to halt human trafficking and migrant smuggling. Migrants pay criminals for a place on the boats.

But, of course, many Italian politicians applauded the move as the best way to stop the influx of migrants and refugees.

Pope Francis, the Vatican office for migrants and refugees and a host of Catholic agencies and humanitarian organizations have long argued that the best way to defeat the traffickers is to expand quotas for legal immigration throughout Europe. Bypassing the traffickers would allow countries to organize the reception and would save migrants from the dangers that come from the sea and from extortion by the traffickers and a host of players that prey on the desperate in Libya.

The Italian government's second approach to handling the migration crisis was to attempt to forge an agreement with the nongovernmental organizations who are rescuing people at sea, providing food, water, medical care and safe transport to an Italian port.

Right-wing political groups have claimed the likelihood of being rescued simply emboldens smugglers, who provide boats that are in increasingly bad shape, betting those onboard will be rescued.

Italy asked the NGOs to sign a "code of conduct" promising, among other things: to refrain from communicating with or signaling to refugee boats in a way that facilitates their departure from Libyan waters; to inform the Rome-based Maritime Rescue Coordination Center about migrant sightings and rescue operations; to ferry rescued persons directly to a port without transferring them to or from other rescue boats; and, when requested, to allow police onboard to investigate possible cases of migrant smuggling or human trafficking.

Some NGOs, like Doctors Without Borders, refused to sign the agreement. The rule against transferring migrants between boats would mean all rescue vessels would be making long roundtrips, rather than having the bigger boats go to port and smaller boats continuing to patrol, the organization said. In addition, the organization asked for a stipulation that investigating police would not be armed because it does not permit weapons aboard its ships; the Italian Interior Ministry declined to amend the agreement.

Jugend Rettet, a Germany-based group that raised money from young Europeans to buy a rescue ship, also declined to sign the agreement.

Italian authorities seized the Jugend Rettet's ship, the Iuventa, Aug. 3, claiming that on as many as three occasions, the group did not technically rescue migrants at risk in the sea, but rather transferred them to the Iuventa from the hands of smugglers. The prosecutor in the case emphasized, however, that the group is not accused of accepting money or anything else from the smugglers.

Also under investigation for "aiding and abetting illegal immigration" is Father Mussie Zerai, a Rome-based priest from Eritrea and hero to many refugees and aid agencies that assist them. Since 2003, when someone wrote his phone number on the wall of a migrant detention center in Libya, Father Zerai has responded to distress calls from migrants on sinking boats in the Mediterranean and forwarded the position of the boats to the Italian and Maltese coast guards and to NGO rescue ships.

He told Avvenire, the Italian Catholic newspaper, that he never has had contact with Jugend Rettet, if that's how his name came up, and he has never contacted any NGO for a rescue without informing either the Italian or the Maltese coast guard. The charges, he said Aug. 9, are "slanderous."

For Vatican officials, Catholic aid agencies and even a top official from the Italian foreign ministry, the campaign against humanitarian agencies is a bizarre twist in the debate over the best way to handle the migration crisis.

Mario Giro, vice minister for foreign affairs and the former Africa expert for the Catholic Sant'Egidio Community, said Jugend Rettet and others may be examples of "humanitarian extremism," but that is more humane and more Christian than any of the other extreme positions being voiced.

"Are the NGOs right to save lives in the sea or should their salvation be the exclusive prerogative of state action," Giro asked in a guest column in Avvenire Aug. 8. Deciding whether to proceed with criminal charges against Jugend Rettet, the Italian magistrates will have to determine "how to 'sanction' those who do not respect some of the rules of conduct established by the government without introducing -- as an Avvenire editorial phrased it -- a kind of 'humanitarian crime.'"

Giro called for caution and calm, urging his government and the NGOs to take seriously each other's concerns and work together for a solution. Even with their limits, he said, the NGOs represent "the globalization of aid" as surely as the migrant smugglers and human traffickers represent the globalization of crime.

- - -

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

- - -

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.

Catholic Relief Services looks to change concept of world's orphanages

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jim Stipe, courtesy Catholic Relief Services

By Chaz Muth

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Catholic Relief Services has released an emotion-filled video as a way of starting a conversation about the world's orphanages.

Children no longer end up in orphanages in the United States, and officials at CRS want a world where there is no longer a need for such institutions.

They are not advocating shutting down orphanages in poor countries and turning the children out onto the streets. CRS officials said their vision is to transform orphanages in countries like Haiti and South Sudan into family resource centers, offering families the support they need to keep their children at home.

To help people rethink the concept of orphanages, the international Catholic aid organization wrote a script, scouted locations, employed a film crew, hired actors and traveled to Puerto Rico to tell the story of a poverty-stricken mother making the heartbreaking decision to send her daughter to an orphanage, said Sean L. Callahan, president and CEO of CRS.

Though these institutions are called orphanages, Callahan said few of the children raised in them are actually orphans. Most people are unaware that 80-90 percent of children in orphanages have at least one living parent and, in most cases, poverty or disability is the reason why they are there, he told Catholic News Service in an August interview.

CRS hopes the video, released Aug. 10, will help drive home this point, particularly to well-meaning donors who think they are helping children by supporting orphanages.

"We are battling a false perception that is deeply ingrained in the public psyche," Callahan said. "If we are to break the orphan myth and return children to their families, we need to tell the all-too-common story of how children, sadly and unwillingly, come to live in an orphanage. That's why we made this important video."

The video is a departure from CRS's tradition visual storytelling style. Typically, the organization films subjects in areas where it works and produces videos in short documentary form to show how people are affected.

"For this topic, we wanted to show the emotional response of a parent and child separating at an orphanage, and we didn't see a way of authentically capturing that with a real family," said Mark Metzger, branded content producer for CRS. "We needed to recreate that ourselves."

Though actors portray the characters in the video, the scenes were written from first-hand accounts of CRS colleagues who have witnessed such gut-wrenching events, Metzger told CNS.

Callahan said although donors in countries like the U.S. often support orphanages for the right reasons, too many of the institutions they support do little more than raise money, leaving actual child care as an afterthought.

Children in orphanages are at greater risk of sexual abuse and violence than those in family care, he said.

CRS, and its partners Lumos -- founded by author J.K. Rowling -- and Maestral International are committed to breaking what they call the orphan myth and working, country by country, to replace orphanages with family care centers for more than 8 million children now in institutions throughout the world.

The CRS video, "Changing the Way We Care," can be viewed at https://youtu.be/umSJ3b1kcDk, and Metzger said he is encouraging people to share it on social media.

"We want to get the word out," he said. "We want to educate our audience as best we can so they can understand the struggles and difficulties that families are living through, day in and day out."

- - -

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.

Let Jesus be 'your teacher, your life coach,' archbishop urges teens

IMAGE: Victor Aleman, Angelus News

By

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles told 1,600 Catholic teens gathered for the "City of Saints" conference that their faith and love for Jesus was an inspiration.

"Your desire to live your faith and share your faith -- it is so beautiful to witness. And it is so inspiring," he said in an Aug. 5 homily at the University of California at Los Angeles.

The archbishop and the Office of Religious Education of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles hosted the third annual "City of Saints" conference for teens, offering them an encounter with Christ through fellowship, praise and worship.

Teenagers attended from 80 parishes and schools throughout Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, the three counties that make up the archdiocese.

The Aug. 4-6 event featured speakers as well as music with contemporary Catholic-Christian band WAL.

Attendees had an opportunity to participate in facilitated group time and the sacrament of reconciliation. Archbishop Gomez celebrated an afternoon Mass Aug. 4 to welcome the teens, then led them in an outdoor eucharistic procession to open a area designated as "Sacred Space," where spiritual directors described different paths of prayer for the weekend..

"I want to say, as we heard St. Peter say in the Gospel passage tonight -- 'It is good that we are here, Lord!' Thanks be to God!" the archbishop said in his homily at the Aug. 5 Mass closing the full day of the conference.

"Our Gospel tonight, leads us up the high mountain -- the mountain of God," he continued. "It is almost like we are chosen witnesses to go up with Jesus. Just as he chose the three apostles to go with him in the Gospel -- St. Peter, St. James and St. John."

"We have the privilege tonight in this Gospel to see what they saw, to hear what they heard -- the 'transfiguration' of our Lord Jesus Christ," Archbishop Gomez said.

That scene was amazing, he said, with the face of Jesus "shining like the sun," his clothes turning into "white light," and the prophets Moses and Elijah appearing "out of nowhere."

Imagining what they saw "reminds us that our lives are part of a great mystery -- a cosmic reality -- the loving plan of the living God. My young friends, you and me, we are 'part of the plan,'" the archbishop told the teens.

"The purpose of our lives is to be transformed and transfigured. To become more like Jesus every day of our lives. Until one day we will shine like the sun -- just we saw his face shine like the sun in the Gospel today," Archbishop Gomez explained. "This is God's plan for your lives -- to be his sons and daughters. Just as Jesus was his beloved Son."

"Jesus is the answer" as to how to do this, he said. "Listen to him! This is the best advice you will ever receive, because it comes from God himself. Let Jesus be your teacher -- your 'life coach,' your 'personal trainer.' Enter into his plan for your life. It is a plan of love, a plan that will lead you to happiness."

Archbishop Gomez told the teens about two practical things in his life that he said have helped him listen to Jesus -- prayer and reading the Gospels. He urged them to make those two things a habit in their own lives.

He suggested they download a Bible app onto their smartphones, so "you will have the Gospels with you everywhere you go."

"When you get a minute, you can read a passage from the Gospel," Archbishop Gomez said. "It is way better than checking your Instagram feed."

And "it is true that you can follow me on Instagram, so you should check that out, too!" he added.

"The more we pray, the easier it becomes to open our hearts to God," Archbishop Gomez said. "The more we reflect on the Gospels -- the more we begin to see Jesus alive and working in our lives and in the world."

"The more we try to listen to Jesus, the easier it becomes to hear him," he said. "The more we want to be with him -- in the Eucharist, in the sacrament of reconciliation."

By following these practices, Archbishop Gomez said, "slowly, we have a 'transfiguration' in our lives. That is how it works."

- - -

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.

Pope says he's saddened by 'perfect' Catholics who despise others

IMAGE: CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God did not choose perfect people to form his church, but rather sinners who have experienced his love and forgiveness, Pope Francis said.

The Gospel of Luke's account of Jesus forgiving the sinful woman shows how his actions went against the general mentality of his time, a way of thinking that saw a "clear separation" between the pure and impure, the pope said Aug. 9 during his weekly general audience.

"There were some scribes, those who believed they were perfect," the pope said. "And I think about so many Catholics who think they are perfect and scorn others. This is sad."

Continuing his series of audience talks about Christian hope, the pope reflected on Jesus' "scandalous gesture" of forgiving the sinful woman.

The woman, he said, was one of many poor women who were visited secretly even by those who denounced them as sinful.

Although Jesus' love toward the sick and the marginalized "baffles his contemporaries," it reveals God's heart as the place where suffering men and women can find love, compassion and healing, Pope Francis said.

"How many people continue today in a wayward life because they find no one willing to look at them in a different way, with the eyes -- or better yet -- with the heart of God, meaning with hope," he said. But "Jesus sees the possibility of a resurrection even in those who have made so many wrong choices."

Oftentimes, the pope continued, Christians become accustomed to having their sins forgiven and receiving God's unconditional love while forgetting the heavy price Jesus paid by dying on the cross.

By forgiving sinners, Jesus doesn't seek to free them from a guilty conscience, but rather offers "people who have made mistakes the hope of a new life, a life marked by love," the pope said.

The church is a people formed "of sinners who have experienced the mercy and forgiveness of God," Pope Francis said. Christians are "all poor sinners" who need God's mercy, "which strengthens us and gives us hope."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

- - -

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.