National and world news

WASHINGTON (CNS) – More than 2,400 religious faith leaders, including hundreds of Catholic women religious and dozens of priests, asked the U.S. Senate to vote down tax cut legislation. In a Nov. 29 letter to senators, the leaders called the bill “fiscally irresponsible” and said that it “endangers our country’s economic health.” The letter added that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act “disproportionately benefits the wealthy at the expense of vulnerable people and low-income families.” The letter expressed concern that the legislation, with its complexity, was “being recklessly rushed through Congress” without enough time for review by voters. The correspondence was sent under the auspices of the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs and the Interfaith Healthcare Coalition. It was addressed to Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, Senate majority and minority leaders, respectively. “As people of faith, we view decisions about tax policy and the federal budget as moral decisions. Simply put, this proposed legislation is fundamentally unjust. If it becomes law, it will result in harmful consequences for those most needing support so as to the benefit of high-income earners and big corporations,” the letter said.

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski said laws need to be changed to fix the country’s broken immigration system, but in the process, immigrants should not be demonized. “Fixing illegal immigration does not require the demonization of the so-called ‘illegals,’” said Archbishop Wenski, addressing an audience at a Nov. 28 event in Miami sponsored by the Immigration Partnership and Coalition Fund. “America has always been a land of promise and opportunity for those willing to work hard. We can provide for our national security and secure borders without making America, a nation of immigrants, less a land of promise or opportunity for immigrants.” His comments were posted on the Archdiocese of Miami’s website. Laws, he said, are “meant to benefit, not to enslave, mankind,” and the laws in the country, regarding immigration, are too “antiquated” and “inadequate” to deal with the problem. “Outdated laws, ill adapted to the increasing interdependence of our world and the globalization of labor, are bad laws,” the archbishop said.

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The Archdiocese of Washington filed suit in federal court Nov. 28 over the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s advertising guidelines after the transit system rejected an Advent and Christmas advertisement. The archdiocese seeks injunctive relief after WMATA, as the agency is known, refused to allow an ad promoting the archdiocese’s annual “Find the Perfect Gift” initiative for the Advent and Christmas seasons. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The archdiocese contends WMATA’s policy that “prohibits all noncommercial advertising, including any speech that purportedly promotes a religion, religious practice or belief,” is a violation of the free speech and free exercise of religion clauses of the First Amendment and a violation of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. The WMATA’s prohibition, the archdiocese contends, “violates the free speech rights of the Archdiocese because the prohibition creates an unreasonable and disproportionate burden on the exercise of the archdiocese’s speech without any legitimate justification.”

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil, Iraq, spoke about the blessings that can be found in the midst of persecution. He made the comments in his homily during a Nov. 28 Chaldean Catholic memorial Mass for victims of genocide at the hands of Islamic State fighters. The Mass was celebrated at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington and was a part of the Week of Awareness for Persecuted Christians sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and Aid to the Church in Need. Archbishop Warda was the principal celebrant of the Mass, and was joined by Father Salar Kajo, a parish priest in Teleskof, a town in the Ninevah region of Iraq that was just liberated from Islamic State control. As the two celebrants entered the shrine at the beginning of the Mass, they chanted prayers in Aramaic. The majority of the Mass, including the eucharistic prayers and the Our Father, also was prayed in that language, which Jesus spoke as he lived 2,000 years ago in the same region of the world where Christians are being persecuted today.

WASHINGTON (CNS) – When the news broke Nov. 27 of Meghan Markle’s engagement to Prince Harry, reporters descended upon the Los Angeles Catholic school Markle attended: Immaculate Heart High School and Middle School. “They’ve been scaling the walls,” Callie Webb, communication director for the school, said with slight exaggeration, but maybe not too much, of the reporters calling and visiting the 112-year-old school with mission-style terra cotta roofs just a few miles from the landmark Hollywood sign. For two days, Webb’s phone was ringing off the hook and her email mailbox was flooded with requests from local newspapers and TV stations as well as national media and British tabloids about the school’s famous fiancee – the 1999 graduate who is not Catholic but attended the school from seventh grade (before the sixth grade was added) until graduation. ABC’s “20/20” spent a day on the campus – with six of their vans parked on the school’s ball field – for an episode airing Dec. 1.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis’ raffle to benefit those in need will give even more people a chance to win a gift once owned by the pope. Announcing the fifth annual raffle Nov. 30, the Vatican said tickets would be available for purchase online and in several areas accessible to the public, such as the Vatican Museums’ bookshop and the Vatican post office or pharmacy. Tickets also will be sold at the Paul VI audience hall to those attending the Dec. 16 Christmas charity concert. “In this way, people will have an opportunity to make a double gesture of charity,” said a statement from the Vatican City State governor’s office. For 10 euros – about $11 – ticket buyers are eligible to win one of several items originally given as gifts to Pope Francis.

Net neutrality on FCC’s chopping block

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – After collecting millions of comments on a Federal Communications Commission proposal to scuttle net neutrality – the principle that all lawful websites shall be treated the same by internet service providers – the actual plan had been unveiled and will come up for a vote at the FCC’s Dec. 14 meeting.
The proposal is likely to pass. After an Obama-era FCC plan in 2010 to preserve net neutrality was thrown out after a challenge in federal court, the FCC, under a new chairman, rewrote the rules in 2015 to liken internet service to a public utility. This has withstood judicial scrutiny.
However, with Republican Donald Trump in the White House, the FCC is entitled to have three Republicans and two Democrats make up its five members – opposite of what it had been during the Obama administration. Current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai signaled his intent to redo the rules yet again shortly after being sworn in this year. And he likely has the votes to carry the day.
That has not stopped people from all walks of life from objecting to the proposed new rules, which really mean fewer rules.
The proposed framework would allow internet service providers to charge a toll of sorts for websites to be carried in a so-called fast lane. This has worried open-internet advocates, who fear the fast lane for big spenders won’t be any faster but just result in slow lanes for everyone else – and maybe the blockage of sites that don’t pony up the cash.
“Strong net neutrality protections are critical to the faith community to function and connect with our members, essential to protect and enhance the ability of vulnerable communities to use advanced technology, and necessary for any organization that seeks to organize, advocate for justice or bear witness in the crowded and over-commercialized media environment,” said a Nov. 28 statement from Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Communications.
“Robust internet protections are vital to enable our archdioceses, dioceses and eparchies, our parishes, schools and other institutions to communicate with each other and our members, to share religious and spiritual teachings, to promote activities online, and to engage people – particularly younger persons – in our ministries,” Bishop Coyne added.
“Without open internet principles which prohibit paid prioritization, we might be forced to pay fees to ensure that our high-bandwidth content receives fair treatment on the internet,” he said. “Nonprofit communities, both religious and secular, cannot afford to pay to compete with profitable commercialized content.”
Despite the current rules being put in place, Verizon “throttled” the users of Netflix, the popular video-streaming site, meaning it slowed streaming for those users – until Netflix paid for faster speeds to keep their customers happy.
Throttling has taken place, although internet service providers – ISPs for short – don’t use that term. But they do seem to be checking for “trouble spots” a lot.
“Strong, enforceable net neutrality rules, like the one Chairman Pai plans to dismantle, are critical to the functioning of modern libraries because we rely on the internet to collect, create and disseminate essential online information and services to the public,” said a Nov. 27 statement from the American Library Association, which has long chafed at anything resembling censorship.
Internet service providers “could degrade service or block access to certain sites for libraries and their patrons but would need to tell them first,” said Larra Clark, deputy direct of the association’s Office for Information Technology Policy, in a Nov. 27 essay. The FCC would hand over much of its internet policy enforcement to the Federal Trade Commission. “While the FCC touts this as a feature, others have noted the FTC would be more limited in its ability to protect net neutrality,” she added.
And “if only the ISPs could charge content providers to reach consumers, the draft order argues, they would use this windfall to build broadband capacity for geographically isolated communities,” which Clark called “classic black-is-white doublespeak.”
“Of course,” she added, “consumers also likely will be paying higher prices to content providers, as well, as those costs get passed along.”
“For almost 20 years, both Republican and Democratic FCC chairmen have pledged to protect the right of broadband subscribers to access any lawful content or application, and to prevent the cable and telephone companies that provide the ‘on ramps’ to the internet from picking winners and losers,” said Harold Feld, president of the freedom-of-information public interest organization Public Knowledge, in a Nov. 21 statement.
“Today, for the first time, Chairman Pai proposes to leave internet subscribers completely unprotected by the FCC,” Feld added. “Chairman Pai’s radical ‘carriers first, consumers last’ approach puts broadband subscribers at the mercy of local cable companies whose ‘innovations’ have more to do with gouging consumers and crushing competition than with providing new services.”
Even retailers have objected to the proposal. Two hundred of them said future Cyber Mondays, the Monday after Thanksgiving that focuses on online purchases, could be threatened if net neutrality is eliminated.
“An internet without net neutrality protections would be the opposite of the open market, with a few powerful cable and phone companies picking winners and losers instead of consumers,” said the letter, citing slow lanes, tolls and the possibility of sites being blocked altogether. “This would put small and medium-sized businesses at a disadvantage and prevent innovating new ones form even getting off the ground.”
And that’s just a sampling of the objection. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, while admittedly a fan of net neutrality, has a bone to pick with the FCC over the comment process.
Schneiderman said his office reviewed what he called “fake comments” to the FCC, and found “tens of thousands of New Yorkers – and hundreds of thousands of Americans – may have had their identities misused.” The action likely violates state law,” Schneiderman told Pai in a Nov. 21 open letter. But the forgeries, he said in a statement the same day, “undermine the integrity of the comment process.”
Nine calls to the FCC for records to investigate these claims generated “no substantive response,” Schneiderman said, so his office has set up a webpage for New Yorkers whose names were wrongfully used without their consent. Is this the kind of website that would be throttled or blocked by an ISP if the open internet is no more?

(Pattison is media editor for Catholic News Service.)

Buddhists, Christians must reclaim values that lead to peace

By Cindy Wooden
YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) – Christians and Buddhists are called by faith to overcome evil with goodness and violence with peace, Pope Francis said during a meeting with leaders of Myanmar’s Buddhist community.
Quoting St. Francis of Assisi and Buddha, the pope insisted that in a land where the powerfully bonded pairing of religion and ethnicity have been used to prolong conflict, it was time for religious leaders to reclaim the greatest values and virtues of their faith traditions.
Pope Francis met Nov. 29 with members of the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, a government-appointed group of senior Buddhist monks who oversee some 500,000 monks and novices in Myanmar, where close to 90 percent of the population follows Buddhism.
One of the strongest anti-Muslim and anti-Rohingya currents of Myanmar society is led by Buddhist nationalists. The meeting was hosted by the Buddhists at the Kaba Aye Pagoda and Center.
As is customary, Pope Francis took off his shoes before entering the hall and walked in his black socks to his place. The Buddhist committee members sat directly opposite Pope Francis and members of his entourage across a plush, bright blue rug.
The challenge of the Buddhist monks and of the Catholic clergy, the pope said, is to help their people see that patience, tolerance and respect for life are values essential to every relationship, whether with people of the same family or ethnic group or with fellow residents of a nation.
The approach, he said, is common to both faiths.
Pope Francis quoted Buddha: “Overcome the angry by non-anger; overcome the wicked by goodness; overcome the miser by generosity; overcome the liar by truth.”
And then he pointed out how the “Prayer of St. Francis” has a similar teaching: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, let me bring pardon. … Where there is darkness, let me bring light, and where there is sadness, joy.”
“May that wisdom continue to inspire every effort to foster patience and understanding and to heal the wounds of conflict that, through the years, have divided people of different cultures, ethnicity and religious convictions,” he said.
The pope did use the word “Rohingya,” whom the Myanmar government does not recognize as a separate ethnic group, but he insisted the meeting was an occasion “to affirm a commitment to peace, respect for human dignity and justice for every man and woman.”
Faith, he said, not only should lead adherents to an experience of “the transcendent,” but also should help them see “their interconnectedness with all people.”
Bhaddanta Kumarabhivamsa, president of the committee, told the pope Buddhists believe all religions can, “in some way,” bring peace and prosperity, otherwise they would cease to exist.
Religious leaders, he said, “must denounce any kind of expression that incites (people) to hatred, false propaganda, conflict and war with religious pretexts and condemn strongly those who support such activity.”
Pope Francis ended his day with the Catholic bishops of Myanmar, urging them to “foster unity, charity and healing in the life of this nation.”
As he had earlier in the trip, the pope again defined as an example of “ideological colonization” the idea that differences are a threat to peaceful coexistence.
“The unity we share and celebrate is born of diversity,” he said. Unity in the church and in a nation “values people’s differences as a source of mutual enrichment and growth. It invites people to come together in a culture of encounter and solidarity.”

Diocese sponsors Civil Rights Museum exhibit

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – A pair of new museums set to open Dec. 9-10 in Jackson will tell the story of Mississippi and of the Civil Rights movement here – including the role the Catholic Church played in the movement. The Diocese of Jackson has sponsored an exhibit in the Civil Rights museum.
The Museum of Mississippi History takes visitors back to the earliest days of this land, including the stories of the Native Americans who hunted and traded here. The exhibits run all the way through the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum zeroes in on a 30-year period in history, 1945-1976, when the state was at the center of the Civil Rights Movement to gain civil liberties and equal rights for African Americans. The Civil Rights Museum is the first state-sponsored museum of its kind in the United States.

JACKSON – The exterior of the two museums sitting side-by-side in downtown Jackson. (Photo by Tereza Ma)

“In the early stages of the two-museums project, Bishop Joseph Kopacz asked Bishop Emeritus Joseph Latino and me to meet with Former Governor William Winter, Kane Ditto, former mayor of Jackson; and Trey Porter, director of development for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH); to discuss how the diocese could be a part of these two museums,” said Mary Woodward, diocesan chancellor. “Because of the church’s connection with the history of the state, especially in the Civil Rights Movement, Bishop Kopacz and Bishop Emeritus Latino believed the diocese should be integrally involved.”
Ultimately, the diocese offered to sponsor one of the permanent exhibits focusing on the Sovereignty Files as a gift to the State of Mississippi to mark the bicentennial. “We chose the Sovereignty Files exhibit because many of our Catholic clergy and faithful are included in the files that were kept by the State Sovereignty Commission, created in 1956, to maintain tabs on ‘subversives and outside agitators,’” Woodward continued. “The objective of the commission was to preserve segregation under the guise of defending sovereignty from interference by the federal government. Basically, the commission became a spy agency for the State of Mississippi in a time when segregation was beginning to be challenged publicly. Priests were followed, and citations in the files reflect various clergy and lay Catholics attending gatherings at Tougaloo College and being active in speaking out for civil rights and against racism,” Woodward added.
“It was a scary time; I even found my father’s name in the files, which are available online through the MDAH web site. These files show how racism was a state-sponsored system. As Catholics, we should be very proud of how the church stood for justice in a very difficult time in our country’s and state’s past. Hopefully, this will inspire us to continue to speak out and work for justice, because as we have seen over the past year, racism still is just below the surface,” Woodward concluded.
The diocesan office is not the only contributor to the effort, Valencia Hall of Natchez Holy Family Parish, is on the board of trustees for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and for the two-museum project. She came of age during the movement and her family participated in a key moment in Natchez’ Civil Rights history.
She said she has been delighted to watch the project rise up from a hole in the ground.
She recalls her pastor, Father William Morrissey, SSJ, was on many watchlists. “I remember Father Jonathan Doyle, who was an associate pastor, and Father Morrissey were in fear for their lives sometimes,” said Hall. Morrissey was the first white officer in the NAACP. During his time in Natchez, he allowed the NAACP to meet at the parish, sponsored integrated youth gatherings and spearheaded the integration of Catholic schools in Natchez at the urging of then Bishop Richard Oliver Gerow.
“Father Morrissey asked my parents to enroll us in Cathedral School to integrate the school,” said Hall. “I found out later that Bishop Gerow picked the families he wanted to approach so not too many families would integrate at one time,” she added. Hall and her sister left Holy Family, an all African-American school, to attend the all-white Cathedral. After a year, the pair did not want to return, but their parents insisted.
“I think it was the best decision for our education. It introduced us to people of different economic backgrounds and people of different color,” said Hall. She still laments that the effort was not reciprocal. No white students were asked to integrate Holy Family school.
The efforts of the Hall family did have an impact she herself can attest to. “I made a friend there – she and I will be friends until the day we die,” said Hall. Every day at recess, Hall and her friend would have to wait before they could play together. Her friend’s mother made a habit of walking to the playground at recess time to make sure her daughter was not playing with the black children. Once the mother left, Hall and her friend could play. Hall grew up and went away to school, eventually returning to Natchez.
“When I came back in 2001, I was at a celebration at St. Mary’s and my friend’s parents were the first to come up to me. Her mother gave me a huge hug. They embraced me and welcomed me home, and I thought, ‘this can’t be the same mother,’” she said. “That was a profound moment for me as an adult. They literally embraced me and I knew I could – I had – forgiven her.”
Hall said the exhibits in both museums are powerful. “This will be emotional for some people. They will look and ask why this is here, why do we have to look at it. The why is because of the profound impact of the Civil Rights Movement on the state and the nation.” Hall said the artifacts pull no punches. They include burned crosses and a lynching display. Some parts, however, recall the hope and progress the state has made. “Where the light shines in from the skylight, and you can hear ‘This Little Light of Mine’ playing. It’s wonderful,” she added.
She is delighted that the diocese supported the project and thinks the sovereignty exhibit is the perfect one to sponsor given the true nature of the church’s role in the movement. “The greatest contribution of the diocese is that we (the church) fought for the integrity and equality for all people.”
The museums are located in downtown Jackson. Details on tickets and hours are available on the website:

Report: young people want to lead

By Carol Zimmermann
BALTIMORE (CNS) – Young people in the church want to be heard and be invited to be a part of church leadership, according to a report by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in preparation for next year’s Synod of Bishops on youth.
They are often at transition points in their lives, yet they don’t know where to go for mentorship, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, said Nov. 13.
He presented a summary of the responses gathered from dioceses and Catholic organizations to the bishops during their annual fall assembly in Baltimore.
The cardinal noted that pulling together the responses of young people from high school age to young adults is a challenge because of the group’s broad diversity and many different needs.
He also said the report affirms a growing awareness of the challenges young people face today with economics, anxiety and drug and alcohol abuse.
The cardinal pointed out that the survey responses indicate that church leaders have work to do to walk with young people and address challenges they face, but he also said there has been some positive growth in young people’s faith, especially for those in high school and college.
We have “talented leaders out there doing incredible things with limited resources,” Cardinal DiNardo said, adding that he is grateful for their enthusiasm and leadership.
The responses gathered by the USCCB will be sent to the Vatican which is gathering survey responses from young Catholics around the world.
The USCCB also is going to send three young adults to the pre-synod gathering next March in Rome. In announcing the meeting, the pope said: “The church wants to listen to the voices, the sensibilities, the faith as well as the doubts and criticisms of young people. We must listen to young people.”
The theme for the Synod of Bishops, which will be held in October 2018, is: “Young people, faith and vocational discernment.”
Young people attending the meeting will represent bishops’ conferences, the Eastern Catholic churches, men and women in consecrated life and seminarians preparing for the priesthood. It will also will include representatives from other Christian communities and other religions and experts in the fields of education, culture, sports and the arts.

(Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.)

Couples need help forming, following their consciences

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Marriage and family life are blessings for individuals and for society, but both are filled with difficult choices that Catholic couples must be helped to face prayerfully and in the light of their consciences, Pope Francis said.
Unfortunately, too many people today confuse a rightly formed conscience with personal preferences dominated by selfishness, the pope said in a video message to an Italian meeting on “Amoris Laetitia,” his exhortation on the family.
“The contemporary world risks confusing the primacy of conscience, which is always to be respected, with the exclusive autonomy of the individual” even when the individual’s decisions impact his or her marriage and family life, the pope said.
Repeating a remark he had made to the Pontifical Academy for Life, Pope Francis said, “There are those who even speak of ‘egolatry,’ that is, the true worship of the ego on whose altar everything, including the dearest affections, are sacrificed.”
Confusing conscience with selfishness “is not harmless,” the pope said. “This is a ‘pollution’ that corrodes souls and confounds minds and hearts, producing false illusions.”
The conference sponsored by the Italian bishops’ conference was focused on “conscience and norm” in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation.
Diagnosing problems in the church’s outreach to married couples and families, Pope Francis had written, “We have long thought that simply by stressing doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues, without encouraging openness to grace, we were providing sufficient support to families, strengthening the marriage bond and giving meaning to marital life.”
“We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations,” he wrote in “Amoris Laetitia.” “We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them.”
In his message to the meeting Nov. 11 in Rome, Pope Francis said the Catholic Church must strengthen its programs “to respond to the desire for family that emerges in the soul of the young generations” and to help couples once they are married.
“Love between a man and a woman is obviously among the most generative human experiences; it is the leaven of a culture of encounter, and introduces to the present world an injection of sociality,” he said.
Marriage and family life are “the most effective antidote against the individualism that currently runs rampant,” he said, but it does not do one any good to pretend that marriage and family life are free from situations requiring difficult choices.
“In the domestic reality, sometimes there are concrete knots to be addressed with prudent conscience on the part of each,” he said. “It is important that spouses, parents, not be left alone, but accompanied in their commitment to applying the Gospel to the concreteness of life.”
Conscience, he said, always has God’s desire for the human person as its ultimate reference point.
“In the very depths of each one of us, there is a place wherein the ‘Mystery’ reveals itself, and illuminates the person, making the person the protagonist of his story,” he said. “Conscience, as the Second Vatican Council recalls, is this ‘most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, whose voice echoes in his depths.’”
Each Christian, the pope said, must be “vigilant so that in this kind of tabernacle there is no lack of divine grace, which illuminates and strengthens married love and the parental mission.”

U.S. bishops take on immigration, racism at fall assembly

By Carol Zimmermann (CNS)
BALTIMORE – At the start of their annual fall assembly in Baltimore Nov. 13, U.S. Catholic bishops faced some big issues – immigration and racism – straight on and zeroed in on how to raise the national level of discussion on these topics starting in the church pews. Bishop Joseph Kopacz attended the meeting and his reflection is on page 3.
They acknowledged the current polarization in the country and divides within the Catholic Church and stressed their responsibility as church leaders to promote immigration reform, educate parishioners on justice issues and listen to those affected by “sins of racism.”
On immigration, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, who is chairman of the Committee on Migration of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said there needs to be a “path to legalization and citizenship for the millions of our unauthorized brothers and sisters who are law-abiding, tax-paying and contributing to our society.”
The bishops responded with applause and an agreement by voice vote to issue a statement calling for comprehensive immigration reform.
The bishops were keenly aware that their defense of immigrants was not necessarily the view of the U.S. church at large. For example, Chicago Bishop Blase J. Cupich spoke of dangers of Catholics falling prey to and believing “poisoning rhetoric” about immigrants that demonizes them.
“There’s something wrong in our churches, where the Gospel is proclaimed, and yet people leave our worship services, our Masses on weekends, with that rhetoric still echoing in their hearts,” he said.
Several bishops also brought up the notion of prudential judgment – referring to the view Catholics could take on immigration that differs from the bishops – since it is not a specific matter of church teaching.
The bishops who spoke on the floor didn’t buy that argument and said Catholics can’t use it to push aside the need to care for immigrants. Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco took this a step further saying prudential judgment can’t be “taken lightly” on a “justice issue like immigration.”
Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami said the bishops’ defense of immigrants, as brothers and sisters, not problems, is not only right for immigrants but “for our society as a whole.”
“We can make America great, but you don’t make America great by making America mean,” he added, referring to a slogan of President Donald Trump without naming him.
On racism, Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, head of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, said the church must recognize “and frankly acknowledge” its failings. He said the issue has found a “troubling resurgence” in recent years, referring particularly to white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, this year where he said racial hatred was “on full display.”
“Racism isn’t going to be conquered by speech but by actions,” said Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, adding that this was a watershed moment where the church could play a leadership role.
He spoke about discussions happening at diocesan and parish levels, and several bishops commented about them as well noting that these discussions are not easy, but so necessary to bring about healing.
Other key issues of the day where church leaders are responding include health care, taxes and abortion, mentioned by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston in his first address as USCCB president. He took office at the close of last year’s fall assembly.
“We are facing a time that seems more divided than ever,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “Divisions over health care, conscience protections, immigration and refugees, abortion, physician-assisted suicide, gender ideologies, the meaning of marriage and all the other headlines continue to be hotly debated. But our role continues to be witnessing the Gospel.”
He explained that the National Catholic War Council, created by the U.S. bishops in 1917 in the response to the world refugee crisis that emerged from World War I and the forerunner to the USCCB, was formed to address great national and international needs at a time not unlike today.
The cardinal emphasized other modern challenges such as recent natural disasters and mass shootings.
But the problems of the day should not overwhelm church leaders who should recognize signs of new hope in the church, mentioned by the papal nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who addressed the bishops at the start of the meeting and encouraged them to make time for prayer amid “burdens of the office.”
He told them to be adventurous in the “new frontier of faith” and to make a strong effort to accompany young people who often question their faith.
The bishops also heard from the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, at a Nov. 12 Mass where he was the main celebrant and the homilist, and at a dinner celebrating the USCCB’s 100th anniversary.
The cardinal told the U.S. bishops that the church needs them today to “bring not only material assistance but also the spiritual balm of healing, comfort and hope to new waves of migrants and refugees who come knocking on America’s door.”
He also urged them to follow the pope’s call to accompany the modern church.
Prior to the Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a few protesters held placards or placed them on the sidewalk, calling on the U.S. bishops to embrace pacifism.
Also in the lobby of the hotel where the bishops were meeting, a protester sought dialogue with church leaders to urge them to offer sanctuary to immigrants facing deportation, and another voiced displeasure with church leaders he said support war.
The second public day of meetings did not tackle major societal issues but examined ways the bishops can continue to uphold the Catholic faith from specific wording in the baptismal rite, a review of catechetical materials and a pastoral plan for marriage and family life that will give Catholic couples and families resources to enable them to live out their vocation.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, delivers the homily during Mass Nov. 12 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore on the eve of the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

As part of the business side of the meeting the bishops elected Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit as the next secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He’ll take office next November. Votes also were cast for a new chairman of the bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty and chairmen-elect for the committees on Communications, Cultural Diversity in the Church, Doctrine, National Collections and Pro-Life Activities.
They highlighted past events such as the Convocation of Catholic Leaders in Orlando, Florida, this summer and previewed upcoming events such as the U.S. Catholic Church’s Fifth National Encuentro, or “V Encuentro,” next September in Grapevine, Texas, and World Youth Day Jan. 22-27, 2019, in Panama City, Panama.
The bishops identified key issues they are addressing with Congress including health care, the federal budget and tax reform, and concluded their assembly by mentioning the impact of recent disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires.
Bishop Curtis J. Guillory of Beaumont, Texas, a region hard hit by Hurricane Harvey, said often when tragedies occur “you just feel very much alone and wonder how you are going to move forward.”
He thanked the bishops for their support, in prayers, phone calls and donations, which he described as a “wonderful sign of solidarity” and sign of unity of our faith. This will be a long and costly recovery, he noted, but added that “people have deep, deep faith.”
(Contributing to this story was Rhina Guidos, Dennis Sadowski, Mark Pattison and Julie Asher. Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.)

War brings only death, cruelty, pope says at U.S. military cemetery

By Carol Glatz
NETTUNO, Italy (CNS) – “No more, Lord, no more (war)” that shatters dreams and destroys lives, bringing a cold, cruel winter instead of some sought-after spring, Pope Francis said looking out at the people gathered for an outdoor Mass at a U.S. war memorial and cemetery.
“This is the fruit of war: death,” he said, as the bright Italian sun lowered in the sky on the feast of All Souls, Nov. 2.
On a day the church offers special prayers for the faithful departed with the hope of their meeting God in heaven, “here in this place, we pray in a special way for these young people,” he said, gesturing toward the rows of thousands of graves.
Christian hope can spring from great pain and suffering, he said, but it can also “make us look to heaven and say, ‘I believe in my Lord, the redeemer, but stop, Lord,” please, no more war, he said.
“With war, you lose everything,” he said.
Before the Mass, Pope Francis placed a white rose atop 10 white marble headstones; the majority of the stones were carved crosses, one was in the shape of the Jewish Star of David.
As he slowly walked alone over the green lawn and prayed among the thousands of simple grave markers, visitors recited the rosary at the World War II Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial site in Nettuno, a small coastal city south of Rome.
In previous years, the pope marked All Souls’ Day by visiting a Rome cemetery. This year, he chose to visit a U.S. military burial ground and, later in the day, the site of a Nazi massacre at the Ardeatine Caves in Rome to pray especially for all victims of war and violence.
“Wars produce nothing other than cemeteries and death,” he said after reciting the Angelus on All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1. He explained he would visit the two World War II sites the next day because humanity “seems to have not learned that lesson or doesn’t want to learn it.”
In his homily at the late afternoon Mass Nov. 2, Pope Francis spoke off-the-cuff and said people do everything to go to war, but they end up doing nothing but destroying themselves.
“This is war: the destruction of ourselves,” he said.
He spoke of the particular pain women experience in war: receiving that letter or news of the death of their husband, child or grandchild.
So often people who want to go to war “are convinced they will usher in a new world, a new springtime. But it ends up as winter – ugly, cruel, a reign of terror and death,” the pope said.
Today, the world continues to head off fiercely to war and fight battles every day, he said.
“Let us pray for the dead today, dead from war, including innocent children,” and pray to God “for the grace to weep,” he said.
Among the more than 7,800 graves at the Nettuno cemetery, there are the remains of 16 women who served in the Women’s Army Corps, Red Cross or as nurses, as well as the graves of 29 Tuskegee airmen. Those buried or missing in action had taken part in attacks by U.S. Allies along Italy’s coast during World War II.

Pope urges Christians to think about what they say in the Our Father

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – To pray the Lord’s Prayer and believe what one is reciting takes real courage, Pope Francis said.
One must be bold “to truly believe that God is the father who accompanies me, forgives me, gives me bread, is attentive to everything I ask,” Pope Francis said in a filmed conversation about the Our Father.
The Italian bishops’ television station, TV2000, was to begin airing a nine-part series Oct. 25 featuring Pope Francis’ conversation with Father Marco Pozza, an Italian prison chaplain and theologian. A long trailer for the program was released Oct. 18.
The original idea for the project was that Father Pozza would explain the Our Father phrase by phrase and discuss its meaning and implications with a handful of famous Italians from the world of culture and entertainment.
But, the priest told reporters at a news conference, when he told one of the prisoners in Padua about it, the man said, “If he knew about it, Pope Francis would participate, too.”
“At first, I didn’t take it that seriously,” Father Pozza said, “but then I wrote to the pope.” A few days later the pope phoned him and the project was transformed.
In the program’s trailer, Pope Francis ponders whether most people who recite the Our Father really believe any of it.
“We say that we are Christians, that we have a father, but we live – I won’t say like animals – but like people who don’t believe either in God or in humanity,” the pope says. Not only do people act as if they have no faith, but “we live not in love, but in hatred, competition and wars.”
Pope Francis asked if believers really could say that God’s name is “hallowed” in “Christians who battle each other for power” or who “don’t care for their own children?”
Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer and do so together – saying “our” even when they pray alone – because they know the effort required to truly believe and to try again each day to demonstrate their belief, the pope said. “That is why it is so beautiful to pray together, because we help each other to try.”
In addition to the television program, Pope Francis’ conversation with Father Pozza will be published as a book, which will be released in Italian in late November.
In the preface, the pope writes that Jesus gave his disciples the Lord’s Prayer not simply as a formula for addressing God, but also so they would learn how to live as God’s children and as brothers and sisters to one another.
“Jesus shows us what it means to be loved by the Father and reveals to us that the Father wants to pour out on us the same lo

Youth invited to pre-synod meeting

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis has invited Christian and non-Christian young people from around the world to a meeting in preparation for the Synod of Bishops on youth in 2018.
Before concluding his weekly general audience, the pope said the March 19-24, 2018, pre-synod meeting will be an opportunity for the church to listen to the hopes and concerns of young men and women.
“Through this journey, the church wants to listen to the voices, the sensibilities, the faith as well as the doubts and criticisms of young people. We must listen to young people,” Pope Francis said Oct. 4.
The theme chosen by the pope for the Synod of Bishops, which will be held in October 2018, is: “Young people, faith and vocational discernment.”
The general secretariat of the synod said the initiative “will allow young people to express their expectations and desires as well as their uncertainties and concerns in the complex affairs of today’s world.”
Young people attending the meeting will represent bishops’ conferences, the Eastern Catholic churches, men and women in consecrated life and seminarians preparing for the priesthood, the general secretariat said.
The gathering also will include representatives from other Christian communities and other religions and experts in the fields of education, culture, sports and arts.
“The pre-synod meeting will enrich the consultation phase, which began with the publication of the preparatory document and its questionnaire, along with the launch of an online website containing a specific questionnaire for young people,” the synod office said in a statement.
Conclusions drawn from the meeting, the general secretariat added, will be given to members of the Synod of Bishops “to encourage their reflection and in-depth study.” Young people attending the meeting also will take part in the Palm Sunday Mass at the Vatican March 25, coinciding with local celebrations of World Youth Day.
(Editor’s note: Young people from the Diocese of Jackson are encouraged to take the synod survey: