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Sustainable land use urged to ease growing threats to food, water

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Franciscan Friars Conventual

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Leading five seminarians on an eight-week summer service program largely through Appalachia and South America, Conventual Franciscan Father Michael Lasky saw a new awareness rising in the young men's minds.

It started by talking with visitors to the Shepherd's Table meal program at Our Lady of Hope Parish in Coal Township, Pennsylvania, outside of the eastern town of Shamokin, and learning about people's sense of place in the once-burgeoning coal mining region.

From there, they moved on to planting trees in Robinson Forest in eastern Kentucky in an effort to reclaim a mountaintop stripped bare by coal mining. They learned, too, that the forests were shrinking because of the mining, leaving fewer nesting areas for the migrating Cerulean warblers from Colombia.

The connection deepened during a hike in an old-growth forest in Colombia, one of the warbler's wintering homes. By the end, Father Lasky saw how the young friars began to better see their connection as part of God's creation.

The venture -- including time in El Salvador and New Mexico -- was designed to help the seminarians become "lesser before God" and to listen the stories of the people, seeing connections across land and community.

"I want them as a minister when they're done with the seminary training to look beyond the collar and see themselves as a member of the community in a holistic sense ... that they are interwoven in all of this," said Father Lasky, director of Justice, Peace and Care for Creation Ministry for his order's Our Lady of Angels Province based in Ellicott City, Maryland.

It's that sense of interconnectedness that all people are called to understand and live that underlies the recently released report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on global land usage, in Father Lasky's view.

In its report, the IPCC -- the United Nations body assessing the science related to climate change -- examined the growing human impact on land and how climate change compounds the stresses placed on land around the world: degradation, soil depletion, flooding and water shortages.

The report determined that only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sources -- including land use and food production -- can global warming be kept well below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the target set in the 2015 Paris climate accord to avoid catastrophic effects on the environment.

Scientific studies have found that global temperatures are about 1 degree Fahrenheit higher than 100 years ago and suggest that the burning of fossil fuels, land clearing, agriculture and other human activities are the primary sources of global warming.

"There are some huge challenges here. The report says we have to undertake fairly quickly a massive rethinking about how we use our land globally," said Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant.

Father Lasky and others told Catholic News Service the need for sustainable land use practices is crucial, especially in an era when land is viewed primarily as a commodity without regard to the needs of local communities or the future of the planet.

Agencies such as Catholic Relief Services, working with national governments and nongovernmental organizations, have helped small farmers implement sustainable practices that involve water management, conservation of natural resources, companion planting of crops and trees and reducing fertilizer usage, said Olaf Westermann, senior technical adviser on climate change at CRS.

"Our main approach is improving natural resource management because that is what poor people depend on mostly," he said.

Although thousands of small farmers have seen their crop yields increase through sustainable practices, problems persist because of the widespread desire to exploit land for economic gain, said Michael Schuck, associate professor of theology and co-director of the International Jesuit Ecology Project at Loyola University Chicago.

"The number one environmental crisis going on, now of all, where the most environmental activism is taking place worldwide, is not with respect to climate change, but the question of land grabbing," Schuck told Catholic News Service.

Among others, he cited areas of Honduras and Guatemala where forests are being bulldozed and replaced with tracts of palm trees to meet the growing worldwide demand for palm oil.

"We have a production system that doesn't respect land as a living breathing entity," he said. "It has commodified it."

Schuck and others said they do not outright oppose profit-making, but rather they echo the call of Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," to recognize that the long-term future of Earth is at stake unless practices related to high consumption and natural resource exploitation change.

The IPCC report said much the same, projecting that food production will suffer if unsustainable land use persists.

Indigenous lands have become increasingly sought for development, said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, U.N. special rapporteur for the rights of indigenous peoples.

"No one knows the conflicts between food, fuel and forests better than indigenous people and local communities. Indigenous and local people continue to face murder and criminalization when we face agro-industry, mining, logging and infrastructure projects that threaten our forests, our lives and the animals and plants we protect," she said during a news conference Aug. 8 at which the report was released.

Nowhere is such land conflict better exemplified than in the Amazon forest of Brazil. A recent announcement by President Jair Bolsonaro's administration declared that Brazil will open indigenous lands -- primarily in the Amazon region, where 60% of the country's indigenous people live -- to mineral exploration.

The number of recent requests for research and mining has generated concern among indigenous peoples, environmentalists and human rights advocates who defend the territories of indigenous peoples.

Sonia Guajajara of Brazil's Indigenous Peoples Articulation, representing about 300 indigenous groups, has criticized the model of large-scale agricultural production.

"Our mission is to defend Mother Earth, to defend nature," she said. "When we do this, we not only benefit the indigenous people, but we benefit everyone. They want to make them believe that indigenous people no longer need land."

Further, German climatologist Hans-Otto Portner, vice chairman of an IPCC working group, said in early August that the new Brazilian policies represent the opposite of what the IPCC report recommends.

In Africa, Father Charles Odira, of the Kenyan bishops' conference, chairs the Kenya Interfaith Network of Action on the Environment. He told CNS climate change is disturbing the normal planting schedule for local farmers. Rains that once fell in February now have shifted by as much as a few weeks, he said.

In addition, the unpredictability of water access causes some herding communities to expand where their herds of cattle graze, leading to confrontations over the land, he said.

But there are successes. Father Odira recalled meeting one man during a pastoral visit in the territory covered by his parish in the Diocese of Homa Bay who managed to boost millet and corn yields significantly. Asking how, Father Odira learned that the man had implemented new practices on his arid land and he asked the farmer to share those practices with others.

"From the church's perspective, it's better," he explained. "You can reach more families. And with the church involved, people trust it more."

Schuck told CNS that kind of understanding and cooperation is needed on a broad scale and that it must begin immediately.

"There's a reason for hope, but the timing is so critical," he said. "Do we have the time needed to slow us down before the precipice?"

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Contributing to this story was Lise Alves in Sao Paulo.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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Copyright © 2019 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 [email protected]

Vatican official: Church must be prudent judging Medjugorje apparitions

IMAGE: CNS photo/Sarah Mac Donald

By Sarah Mac Donald

KNOCK, Ireland (CNS) -- Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, is a place of prayer, conversion and pilgrimage for millions of people, but the church must be prudent and not rush to any judgment on the alleged Marian apparitions there, said Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

Speaking to Catholic News Service at Knock Shrine in County Mayo Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption, Archbishop Fisichella spoke of attending the first officially approved church festival at Medjugorje in early August.

"I confess the experience was very beautiful, seeing about 70,000 young people praying and living together and listening to catechesis," he told CNS, describing it as a mini-World Youth Day.

The presence of so many young people there was, he suggested, "one of the fruits" of the pastoral efforts of Medjugorje.

Visionaries claim to have seen than 40,000 Marian apparitions since June 1981, when six teenagers first claimed they first saw an apparition of Our Lady while herding sheep.

As always, when confronted with an apparition, the church "is always prudent," Archbishop Fisichella said.

In May 2018, Pope Francis named Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser as apostolic visitor to the shrine, after a papal commission recommended that Medjugorje, which attracts up to 3 million visitors annually, be designated a pontifical shrine with Vatican oversight. A ban on pilgrimages organized by dioceses and parishes was then lifted by papal decree.

Some of the six visionaries say Mary still appears to them daily and gives them messages. However, in 2017, when asked about this, Pope Francis appeared to doubt the ongoing nature of these apparitions.

Differentiating between the Vatican's pastoral care of Medjugorje and the doctrinal study of the apparitions, Archbishop Fisichella said that, following the papal commission's conclusions, "we are now in another step (phase) in order to understand what happened in Medjugorje."

"I think that for the moment it is necessary to evaluate the richness of the work in Medjugorje. We need to understand all of this together: why there is such a huge number of pilgrims, of prayers and to understand also how the possible apparitions in Medjugorje (relate) to the life of the church. For that we should wait the judgment the Holy Father will give. To rush this delicate matter is a mistake."

Archbishop Fisichella was in Knock as the keynote speaker for the feast of the Assumption as part of the annual novena at the Irish church's national shrine, which draws up to 100,000 pilgrims over the nine days of the novena.

This year marks the 140th anniversary of the apparition in Irish village. On Aug. 21, 1879, 15 people, ages 6-75, witnessed the silent vision of Mary, St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist as well as the Lamb of God standing on the altar in driving rain.

Speaking to CNS about the message of Knock, Archbishop Fisichella said he was "touched by the vision of St. John," who was seen in the apparition giving the sign of silence. "Probably not many people know that this was the request for silence made by the master among the disciples" in medieval times.

He suggested that the message of Knock and its "request of silence" was "extremely important" for today's contemporary "era of chat."

"We need to help people today, especially people who don't know the profound value of silence, to understand better the value of silence," he said.

At a seminar the same day on the theme, "Mary in the life of the church," the archbishop also expressed concern over the number of millennials who feel isolated and have no friends.

Discussing the concept of koinonia -- communion and community -- Archbishop Fisichella told the Knock seminar that "in a culture like ours, where there is such a strong individualism, we need to discover the necessity of community and relationship."

He said he had been shocked to learn of a recent finding in the United States that showed as many as 30 percent of millennials identified solitude and a lack of friends of one of their main problems.

"It is unbelievable but true. Normally we think of solitude as a problem for people in their 70s or 80s due to their condition of life. Millennials are people born in 2000, and today they are 19 years old. This solitude stems from a culture in which people close in on themselves. Without relationships you cannot trust; if you don't trust you can't communicate; if you don't communicate there is no possibility of friendship; and if there is no friendship there is no possibility to learn to express yourself."

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Update: In Colombia, bishops, religious listen to Amazonians before synod

IMAGE: CNS photo/Manuel Rueda

By Manuel Rueda

BOGOTA, Colombia (CNS) -- Bishops, nuns, priests and residents of the Amazon basin met in Colombia's capital city in mid-August to prepare for a special Synod of Bishops for the Amazon this fall at the Vatican.

The meeting gave bishops who will be attending the synod a chance to develop proposals and listen to residents of the Amazon region, before they head to the Vatican in October for the gathering. Similar pre-synod meetings have been held recently in Peru and Brazil.

Pope Francis "wants to give visibility to the people of the Amazon and listen to their concerns, their teachings, their spirituality," said Bishop Joaquin Pinzon Guiza of Puerto Leguizamo-Solano, a vicariate deep in the world's largest rainforest. "As bishops we don't just want to take our thoughts to the synod, but also what lies within our peoples' hearts."

The synod, announced by Pope Francis in October 2017, will focus on how to improve the church's work in the vast but sparsely populated Amazon biome, which sprawls across nine South American countries and is largely inhabited by indigenous groups.

Approximately 110 bishops that lead church jurisdictions in the Amazon will attend as well as representatives of continental episcopal conferences and 32 observers, including indigenous leaders.

One of the topics that will be discussed is the ordination of married men as priests in far-flung villages where Catholics are currently struggling to get sacraments, and even celebrate Sunday Mass, due to the scarcity of qualified church personnel.

Some church leaders have criticized the idea of ordaining married men, saying it presents a "breach" with apostolic tradition. But many at the Colombia session seemed to favor the move.

In an early August interview in the Italian newspaper La Stampa, Pope Francis was asked whether the possibility of ordaining older, married men to minister in remote areas would be one of the main topics of discussion at the synod. The pope replied, "Absolutely not. It is simply one number" in the working document, a discussion guide that contains 146 items, outlining various topics.

Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno of Huancayo, Peru, told participants in the Colombia meeting: "The Eucharist is at the center of our faith, and Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI both said that, without it, you cannot build the church. ... We need to reflect on how to help our brothers in these poor and abandoned communities to be full members of the Catholic Church."

Cardinal Barreto, vice president of the Pan-Amazonian Church Network, or REPAM, added that the synod "does not work as a congress" and explained that, ultimately, it is up to Pope Francis to decide if married men with a record of community service and good standing in their villages can be ordained.

He said the synod also will look at ways in which the Catholic Church can address social problems facing the Amazon region, like deforestation, destructive mining practices and threats against indigenous leaders.

"Our current economic system seeks profit, but forgets about caring" for the environment, Cardinal Barreto said. "It is a system that is killing people ... and indigenous people are especially vulnerable."

The presynod meeting was attended by dozens of indigenous leaders, government workers and members of civil society groups, who chimed in with their own ideas on how the church can help with environmental preservation.

Colombian President Ivan Duque, who attended the meeting's inaugural session, called on bishops to address drug trafficking and its impact on Amazonian communities. Duque said large tracts of the rainforest have been cleared by drug traffickers to plant coca leaves, the raw material for cocaine.

Cesar Melendez, director of CDA, a Colombian environmental agency, said bishops and priests can help by including environmental messages in sermons and in Catholic education.

"As a government agency, we can affect behavior change through sanctions and campaigns" Melendez said. "But the church has the ability to reach communities in a different way, by touching upon their spiritual side. I think people respect what is said at church."

Some members of the Catholic hierarchy have criticized the upcoming synod for trying to get involved in areas that have been traditionally beyond the church's reach.

German Cardinal Walter Brandmuller recently published an essay in which he accused the synod's working document of being heretical because it refers to the rainforest as a place of divine revelation. In the essay, published in June, Cardinal Brandmuller also criticized the synod for its plans to get involved in social and environmental affairs.

In Colombia, in contrast, indigenous groups have largely welcomed the synod process.

"The fact that the pope has included indigenous people in his agenda is already a victory for us," said Fanny Cuiro, an indigenous leader from Colombia's Huitoto tribe, who attended the presynod meeting.

"The heads of state in many of our countries often don't have time for indigenous people, so having the pope's attention fills us with hope."

Cuiro grew up in La Chorrera, a remote community in the Colombian Amazon where indigenous people were exploited for decades by rubber tappers, who forced indigenous people to work in that industry. When the rubber boom subsided, Capuchin missionaries arrived and set up a school, where they also took care of children whose parents were killed by rubber tappers.

But Cuiro said the missionaries frowned upon indigenous customs and beat children when they spoke their native language at school. She said that over the past three decades, the situation has improved, and members of the church have become much more supportive of indigenous ways.

"At first we had a difficult relationship with the church," she said. "But now the priests and nuns are friends. We trust them and we can speak with them about our plans for the future."

 

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'You cannot be a Catholic and sit on the sidelines,' archbishop says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Andrew Rozario, Catholic Standard

By Josephine von Dohlen

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a crowded bar, bustling with young adult Catholics from the Washington area for the monthly Theology on Tap, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory shared his pain over what this archdiocese suffered in the past year due to priestly abuse scandals, and encouraged the young adults to turn to the Eucharist as a source of healing.

"I'm not quite as young as you, but I, too, am let down by the leadership in the church," Archbishop Gregory said. "I've been embarrassed. I've been embarrassed as a Catholic, as a priest, and as a bishop, because of the behavior by some of my fellow clerics."

"When the family has been embarrassed, everyone in the family feels embarrassed, and I do too," said the 71-year-old archbishop. "I know this past year has been an extraordinarily painful year for Washington."

Hundreds attended Theology on Tap Aug. 13 to hear from the archbishop, who answered questions ranging from his daily prayer life and his favorite restaurants in Rome, to his conversion story as a young boy in Chicago. He also answered questions about the abuse crisis, inclusivity and sensitivity within the church, and evangelization.

"You cannot be a Catholic and sit on the sidelines," Archbishop Gregory told the young people. "To be a member of the church means you've got to get in and get your hands dirty in the mix of the whole arena of faith from what we believe and profess to how we live and treat one another. ... You can't not invest yourself into this family.

"To belong to a family means that you are invested in the life, the struggles, the pain, the joys that belong to being a member of this family, and that includes our faith, what we hold as true, and also it involves our investment in social justice dimensions of our faith. You can't be a good Catholic invested in eucharistic adoration, but unconcerned about the poor, those waiting to be born, those on death row. You've got to buy the whole lot."

Sponsored by DC Catholic, the young adult ministry of the Archdiocese of Washington, Theology on Tap invites young adults ages 21 to late 30s into monthly discussions about living out the Catholic faith in the world.

Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Gregory to head the Archdiocese of Washington in April. He was installed May 21. He had been Atlanta's archbishop since January 2005.

The appointment, he said, came as a surprise, as he expected to remain in Atlanta until retirement.

"I was stunned for a couple of reasons," he told the young people. "I was 71 and that's not usually the age you get a new job. ... But I can also say, since coming here -- even with the challenges, which there are many -- I feel energized, I feel like I have a new lease on life. I'm just glad that (Pope) Francis couldn't find anybody better."

The archbishop made a commitment during the evening to restore the trust in his archdiocese, mainly by being an "ordinary member of this local church," he said.

"That is, someone who identifies with the people, demonstrates that he is comfortable with his people, enjoys being with his people and I will try to the best of my ability to continue doing that, to be available and immersed in the life of this local church," Archbishop Gregory said.

He also shared his hope to bring a "Laudato Si'" action plan to the archdiocese, similar to what he helped form in the Atlanta alongside the University of Georgia.

"I would like to see it and would be willing to adapt it to the Archdiocese of Washington," he said, adding that he would like to be in conversation with the local universities.

The archbishop also encouraged parish churches to be open for more times of eucharistic adoration, with the hope the Eucharist can bring healing to the local church.

Many young adults said they were encouraged by the archbishop's answers to their questions.

"It's a tough time to be Catholic," Nadia Barnett, a member at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Silver Spring, Maryland, said, noting how she appreciated the archbishop's emphasis on the family of the church.

"His commitment to being the listener is refreshing," Barnett told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington. "Especially here, at a bar."

Jaime Narbon, who has been in the area for the past seven years, said the archbishop "seemed to me to be a person that knows how to reach out to communities."

"He acknowledged the pain the church faces, acknowledging the fault and culpability that the clergy has had in the whole crisis," Narbon continued. "He didn't put away blame or sugarcoat it."

Narbon said he was thankful for the archbishop's answers to questions on social justice issues, particularly his emphasis on the dignity of the human person and being created in the image and likeness of God.

"But more importantly about the Eucharist as a source of healing," Narbon said. "The church stands by the teaching of the Real Presence. He encouraged priests, religious and laity to be engaged."

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Von Dohlen is a reporter at the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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Assumption feast invites people to look to heaven with hope, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Mary's assumption into heaven calls people to put aside all those insignificant, mundane and petty concerns competing for their attention and instead be drawn to God and his greatness, Pope Francis said.

After reciting the Angelus prayer on the feast of the Assumption Aug. 15, Pope Francis also blessed thousands of rosaries that will be given to Catholics in Syria "as a sign of my closeness, especially for families who have lost someone because of the war."

"Prayers made with faith are powerful. Let us keep praying for peace in the Middle East and the whole world," said the pope, who explained that Aid to the Church in Need spearheaded the initiative to send some 6,000 rosaries to Catholic communities in Syria.

He also expressed his concern and prayers for those affected by monsoons in South Asia.

A week of heavy rains triggered deadly landslides and flooding in India, where, according to government officials, nearly 300 people died and more than 1.2 million people were forced from their homes. Officials in Myanmar reported more than 50 people have died there.

"May the Lord give strength to those (affected) and those who help them," the pope said.

With the assumption of Mary, body and soul, into heaven, she is "like a mother who waits for her children to come back home." Knowing that she is there with God in heaven "gives us comfort and hope during our pilgrimage" on earth, he said.

The feast of the Assumption of Mary is an invitation to everyone, "especially for those who are afflicted by doubt and sadness, and live gazing downward," he said.

"Let us look on high," he said, where Mary awaits. "She loves us, she smiles at us and she comes to our aid with haste."

Just as every mother wants what is best for her children, "she tells us, 'You are precious in God's eyes; you were not made for measly worldly gratifications, but for the great joys of heaven,'" the pope said.

In life, it is important to seek what is truly great, "otherwise we get lost" chasing after so many trivial things, he said.

"Mary shows us that if we want our life to be happy, God goes first because only he is great," he said.

"Instead, how often we live chasing after things that don't matter: prejudices, grudges, rivalries, jealousies, illusions, superfluous material goods. How much pettiness in life!"

But today, "Mary invites us to lift our gaze up to the great things that the Lord has done for her" and reminds people that the Lord also does great things in them.

"Let us be attracted by true beauty, let us not be swallowed up by the petty things of life, but let us choose the greatness of heaven," he said.

 

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Bishops reflect on abuse crisis on anniversary of Pa. grand jury report

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By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- On the anniversary of the Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing alleged abuse by clergy and other church workers over several decades in six dioceses, bishops in those dioceses reflected on what the past year has wrought and described how their dioceses have acted to help past victims and prevent future victims.

The grand jury report, released Aug. 14, 2018, was based on a monthslong investigation into alleged abuse in the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Allentown, Scranton, Erie, Harrisburg and Greensburg, Pennsylvania. It covered a 70-year period starting in 1947.

"It was devastating for me, as the pastor of this diocese, to see the ugly details of what had happened within the church," said a statement by Bishop Lawrence T. Persico of Erie on his diocese's website. "I knew that survivor/victims, as well as all Catholics and the entire community, would need time to grapple with the report. Their deep pain, anger and grief was understandable."

He added, "My apology is only one step in the long and complex process of healing. I know words mean very little without action. The Diocese of Erie has taken many important steps in the last year, and will continue on this path."

Bishop Persico said, "It is clear that bringing about healing and rebuilding trust is the work we are being called to do as church. It will take time, patience and fidelity, but the Lord will provide the grace we need. With every confidence in that grace, I look forward to the work that needs to be accomplished."

"In many instances, the wounds of 50, 60 or even 70 years ago have still not healed. The ripple effect continues to cause pain for survivors, their families and Catholics across the world," said a statement by Bishop Edward C. Malesic of Greensburg on his diocesan website.

"I cannot change the past. I cannot rewrite this awful chapter of our church's history. But I can try to help survivors, their families and our parishioners get through this time of suffering. I have spent nearly every day of my time as bishop solidifying our commitment to higher standards of accountability in the Diocese of Greensburg," he said.

"What I heard from our independent lay council and from countless individuals at the listening sessions, in dozens of letters and phone calls, emails and Facebook messages was this: Be accountable. Be transparent. Tell the truth," Bishop Malesic said.

"This year has been a time of grieving, of repentance for the harm done to people at the hands of priests who were expected to be trusted spiritual leaders. It has also been a time for the heart of the church to deepen its understanding of what victims/survivors have endured, and to reach out in news ways to help them heal spiritually," said an Aug. 14 statement from Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh.

"Pittsburgh is a resilient region, with a unique spirit and sense of community. People draw together to see each other through hard times and come out stronger," he added. "Today, we look to the church of the future, the faith community we want today's children and their children experience.

"My faith is in God. But I also have faith in the church of Pittsburgh: faith that our community can move forward in unity and with hope, learning from the past, protecting the weakest among us, holding each other accountable and continuing to fulfill the mission that Jesus gave to us."

"While this past year was painful, it had moments of great strength and hope for the future," said a statement from Bishop Alfred A. Schlert of Allentown on the diocese's website. "I am very grateful to victim-survivors and to our dedicated laity, clergy, and religious order sisters and brothers, who have through their honest dialogue and constructive suggestions assisted me in my responsibilities to heal and fortify our Roman Catholic family of faith."

The diocese's first priority, he added, "is to keep children safe."

"In my own name, and in the name of the diocesan church of Harrisburg, I express our profound sorrow and apologize to the survivors of child sex abuse, the Catholic faithful and the general public for the abuses that took place and for those church officials who failed to protect children," said an Aug. 14 statement from Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg.

"We have and continue to take steps forward to support survivors and ensure these abuses never occur again," Bishop Gainer said.

"Nearly one year after the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, we understand that shock, anger and disappointment are still seared in the minds of many people in northeastern and north central Pennsylvania," said an unattributed statement on the Diocese of Scranton's website.

"We continue to apologize to all survivors of sexual abuse for the sorrow and pain that they and their families have suffered. There is simply no place in civilized society for the abuse of children -- and certainly not within the church," the statement said.

"Since the release of the grand jury report in August 2018, the Diocese of Scranton has continued to build upon past efforts and has taken new steps to help restore trust in the church," it added. "We know that regaining that trust will take time and it will happen only when the faithful encounter behavior on the part of our clergy -- bishops, priests and deacons alike -- that warrants such trust."

 

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Update: Opinion on abortion's legality unchanged; some shifting within groups

IMAGE: CNS photo/Toya Sarno Jordan, Reuters

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- While a survey of more than 54,000 Americans showed little change in their attitudes between 2014 and 2018 on the legality of abortion, researchers detected movement in many demographic groups, Catholics included.

Natalie Jackson, director of research for the Public Religion Research Institute, said the changes in attitude reflect the nation's political divisions.

According to the survey, which was released Aug. 13, 54% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 40% believe it should be illegal in most or all cases. "These numbers are essentially unchanged since 2014," the survey said; then 55% of Americans said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 41% said it should be illegal in most or all cases.

In an Aug. 12 phone interview with Catholic News Service, the 1% change in the overall numbers is not statistically significant, but "everything that we are calling out as differences (from the 2014 survey) are statistically significant," Jackson said.

Catholics "mirror the rest of the country pretty closely, particularly white Catholics," she added. Fifty-three percent of white Catholics believe most or all abortions should be legal compared to 40% who say most or all should be illegal, Jackson noted, "so they're right in line" with the majority of Americans.

However, "when you look at Hispanic Catholics, you're looking at a different picture," she told CNS. "We pull out the Hispanic and Latino population, because they're a distinct group. They're divided heavily by religion and by place of birth. A healthy minority of Hispanics are evangelical, and the PRRI study looked at the attitudes of Hispanics born in the United States, Puerto Rico and Latin America separately.

"The Hispanic Catholics are a good bit different from white and other nonwhite Catholics that look like the rest of the population as whole," Jackson said.

Other nonwhite Catholics support abortion's legality by a 55% to 37% margin, approximating the views of their white co-religionists. But a majority of Hispanics, 52%, believe abortion should be illegal in most or all instances, while 41% hold the opposite view.

"White evangelical Protestants and Hispanic Catholics also report becoming more opposed than supportive" of abortion over time, the study said.

Sixteen percent of Hispanic Catholics said they've become less supportive of abortion over time, while 11% said they'd become more supportive. Among white Catholics, 8% said they're now more supportive, but 9% report growing less supportive.

Among other nonwhite Catholics, 13% say they've grown more supportive of abortion, as opposed to 9% who say they're now less supportive.

The survey, according to Jackson, did not ask the time frame in which they had changed their views, or the circumstances behind the change. The interview subjects from 2014 are not the same from 2018.

Survey respondents were also asked whether they would vote only for candidates who share their views on abortion. Among those for whom it made a difference, the percentages favored Catholic demographic groups who believe more or all abortions should be illegal.

For white Catholics, the split was 27%-15%. For Hispanic Catholics, the difference was 30%-17%. For other nonwhite Catholics, the margin was 15%-14%.

The Catholic Church teaches abortion is morally wrong, upholding the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.

"Solid majorities of all major religious groups in the U.S. support government-backed health insurance programs covering contraceptives," the survey results said. "Those numbers decline among all religious groups on support for covering abortion, with the considerable variance between only 22% support from white evangelical Protestants and 80% support among Unitarian Universalists."

Support for legal abortion was particularly strong in the northeastern United States -- New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and the six New England states -- each registering at least 61% support for legal abortion in most or all cases. White Catholics, meanwhile, have their strongest representation in the Northeast, with 20% of its white residents professing to be Catholic, according to PRRI.

"Although a few states such as Alabama and Missouri have recently passed laws that -- should they survive court challenges -- would make abortion illegal with virtually no exceptions," the survey said, "there is no state in which more than one-quarter of residents say abortion should be illegal in all cases."

The survey was conducted by phone between Jan. 3 and Dec. 30, 2018, among 54,357 respondents, 60% of them contacted via cellphone. At least 1,000 interviews were conducted each week. Interviewers asked to speak to the youngest adult living in the household. The margin of error for the total survey is 0.4 percentage points.

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Editor's Note: The full PRRI survey on abortion attitudes can be found at https://bit.ly/31tLOUa.

 

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Update: Mexican Cardinal Sergio Obeso Rivera dead at age 87

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Sergio Obeso Rivera, retired archbishop of Xalapa, Mexico, who was created a cardinal by Pope Francis a little over a year ago, died at the age of 87.

According to Vatican News, Cardinal Obeso died Aug. 11 in Xalapa.

The pope expressed his condolences in an Aug. 12 telegram to Archbishop Hipolito Reyes Larios of Xalapa and prayed that Jesus may grant the deceased cardinal "the crown of glory that never withers."

"Remembering this selfless shepherd who, throughout many years and with faithfulness, gave his life to the service of God and the church, I pray for the eternal rest of his soul," Pope Francis said.

In 1931, he was born into a prominent family, which founded and operates one of Mexico's main supermarket chains. Despite his upbringing, colleagues described the cardinal as austere and unassuming.

He entered the seminary in 1944, studied philosophy and theology in Rome and was ordained a priest there in 1954. After his ordination, then-Father Obeso held various positions at the seminary in Xalapa and eventually was appointed rector.

He was appointed bishop of Papantla in 1971 but returned to Xalapa, the Veracruz state capital, in 1974 as coadjutor archbishop. He became archbishop in 1979.

Among his accomplishments before retiring in 2007, then-Archbishop Obeso led the Mexican bishops' conference for nine years and worked closely on ending the official estrangement between Mexico and the Vatican.

In May 2018, Pope Francis announced that the retired archbishop would be among the 14 prelates created as cardinal.

Cardinal Obeso and two other prelates over the age of 80 were chosen for having "distinguished themselves for their service to the church," the pope said.

Church observers said Cardinal Obeso's inclusion into the College of Cardinals was an overdue recognition for the prelate, whose pastoral approach and personal austerity were seen as similar to those of Pope Francis.

After the announcement of his elevation, the Mexican bishops' conference praised Cardinal Obeso as a "simple and austere man, extremely helpful and attentive to the social realities of Mexico."

While in Xalapa, he promoted the canonization of St. Rafael Guizar Valencia, patron of the Archdiocese of Xalapa, and as a retired archbishop, "continued celebrating worship and announcing the Gospel," the bishops' statement said.

According to Vatican News, Cardinal Obeso will be buried in the city's cathedral after a funeral Mass Aug. 13.

His death leaves the College of Cardinals with 216 members, 119 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Copyright © 2019 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 [email protected]

USCCB Committee Chairman of International Justice and Peace and the CEO of Catholic Relief Service respond to Administration’s call for rescissions of $2-4 billion of funds for State Department and USAID

WASHINGTON- In a letter from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to the Department of State and USAID, the Administration froze between $2-4 billion that Congress approved, and the Administration signed into law for America’s development and diplomacy programs. While OMB has lifted the freeze, this is the first step in a potential rescission of the appropriated but “unobligated funds” not yet been committed to a specific contract or project) for 10 State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development accounts.

The Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace and Archbishop for the Military Services USA, and Sean Callahan, President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, issued the following statement opposing these cuts:

“Local churches and Catholic Relief Services partner with the U.S. government to reduce poverty, alleviate suffering, and foster peace around the world. Rescinding some of these and other international poverty-reducing funds will limit the United States’ ability to support poor and vulnerable communities, respond to global health challenges, address root causes of forced migration, and advance international religious freedom, global security, and peacekeeping. From Central America to the West Bank and Gaza, U.S. policy decisions that cut foreign aid already increase poverty and create a vacuum for instability.
 
We urge the Administration not to rescind foreign assistance funds. We urge Congress to reject any rescissions that target poverty-reducing and peacebuilding accounts and require the Administration to obligate previously appropriated funds. The conflicts and crises today are dire. U.S. moral and financial leadership is necessary.”  

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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, Archdiocese of Military Services, Catholic Relief Service, Sean Callahan, USAID, funds, State Department,

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Media Contact:
Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

 

 

Chairs of USCCB’s Committees on Migration and Domestic Justice and Human Development Express Deep Concern Over New Rule on Individuals and Families that Access Public Benefits

WASHINGTON— Today, bishops from two committees at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) expressed their strong opposition to a final rule on public charge put forth by the Department of Homeland Security. The rule, which is expected to be officially published on August 14th and will take effect sixty days after publication, will undoubtedly have a negative consequence for families accessing critical public benefits for which they otherwise qualify. Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of Venice, FL, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, offered the following statement.

“This rule will undermine family unity and lead many lawful immigrants to forgo vital assistance, including enrollment in nutrition, housing, and medical programs. Families already in the U.S. will be faced with deciding whether to access critical assistance programs for which they qualify, knowing that in doing so they could jeopardize their ability to stay here with their loved ones. And, it will reduce the ability of many to reunify with family in the U.S. We have already seen the culture of fear that the anticipation of this rule has created in our communities. Ultimately, we believe that this rule is in tension with the dignity of the person and the common good that all of us are called to support.”

The USCCB also opposed this rule when it was initially proposed by DHS and submitted joint comments with Catholic Charities USA detailing concerns with the rule and urging it be rescinded.

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Keywords: USCCB, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Committee on Migration,


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Media Contact:
Mark Priceman
202-541-3064