Five years a pope: Francis’ focus has been on outreach

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope just a few days after telling the College of Cardinals that the Catholic Church faced a clear choice between being a church that “goes out” or a church focused on its internal affairs.
After the cardinal from Buenos Aires, Argentina, was elected March 13, 2013, and chose the name Francis, he made “go out,” “periphery” and “throwaway culture” standard phrases in the papal vocabulary.
Catholics have a wide variety of opinions about how Pope Francis is exercising the papal ministry, and many of his comments – both in informal news conferences and in formal documents – have stirred controversy. But, as he wrote in “Evangelii Gaudium,” the apostolic exhortation laying out the vision for his pontificate: “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”
But there are two areas of internal church affairs that he recognized needed immediate attention: the reform of the Roman Curia and the full protection of children and vulnerable adults from clerical sexual abuse.
The organizational reform of the Curia has been taking place in stages, but Pope Francis has insisted that the real reform is a matter of changing hearts and embracing service.
On the issue of abuse, nine months into his pontificate, Pope Francis established the Pontifical Commission for Child Protection to advise him on better ways to prevent clerical sexual abuse and to ensure pastoral care for the survivors.
While Pope Francis has emphatically proclaimed “zero tolerance” for abusers and recently said covering up abuse “is itself an abuse,” as his fifth anniversary approached serious questions arose about how he handled accusations that Chilean Bishop Juan Barros, who was a priest at the time, covered up allegations of abuse against his mentor.
The new scandal threatened to undermine the widespread popularity of Pope Francis and his efforts to set the Catholic Church on a new course.
For Pope Francis, that new course involves evangelization first of all.
“Evangelizing presupposes a desire in the church to come out of herself,” he had told the cardinals just days before the conclave that elected him. “The church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries, not only geographically, but also the existential peripheries: the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and indifference to religion, of intellectual currents and of all misery.”

Pope Francis greets an elderly woman as he meets with people of the Banado Norte neighborhood in Asuncion, Paraguay, in this July 12, 2015, file photo. The pope has shown special concern for the aged, the sick and those with disabilities. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-FIFTH-ANNIVERSARY Feb. 13, 2018.

Mercy is the first thing the Catholic Church is called to bring to those peripheries, he says.
Although in 2013 he told reporters he would not be traveling as much as his predecessors, Pope Francis has continued their practice of literally “going out,” making 22 trips outside of Italy and visiting 32 nations.
But he also regularly visits the peripheries of Rome, both its poor suburbs and its hospitals, rehabilitation centers, prisons and facilities for migrants and refugees.
His desire to reach out has inspired innovations that were noteworthy at the beginning of the papacy, but now seem to be a natural part of a pope’s day. For example, after beginning with Vatican gardeners and garbage collectors, the pope continues to invite a small group of Catholics to join him most weekday mornings for Mass in the chapel of his residence.
The residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, is a guesthouse built by St. John Paul II with the intention of providing decent housing for cardinals when they would enter a conclave to elect a new pope. Pope Francis decided after the 2013 conclave to stay there and not move into the more isolated papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace.
On Holy Thursday each year, he has celebrated Mass at a prison, care facility or refugee center and washed the feet of patients, inmates or immigrants, both men and women, Catholics and members of other faiths. He also ordered the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments to clarify that the feet of both women and men can be washed at the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
During the 2015-16 Year of Mercy, he made a visit one Friday a month to people in particular need, including those at a school for the blind, a neonatal intensive care unit, a community of recovering alcoholics, a children’s group home and a community for women rescued from traffickers who forced them into prostitution. Once the Year of Mercy ended, the pope continued the visits, although not always every month.
In September 2015 as waves of migrants and refugees were struggling and dying to reach Europe, Pope Francis asked every parish and religious community in Europe to consider offering hospitality to one family. The Vatican offered apartments and support to a family from Syria and a family from Eritrea. Then, seven months later, Pope Francis visited a refugee center on the island of Lesbos, Greece, and brought 12 refugees back to Rome on the plane with him.
In the first three years of his papacy, he published three major documents: “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel); “Laudato Si, on Care for Our Common Home,” on the environment; and “‘Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of Love), on Love in the Family,” his reflections on the discussions of the Synod of Bishops in 2014 and 2015.
People skeptical about the scientific proof that human activity is contributing to climate change objected to parts of “Laudato Si’,” but the criticism was muted compared to reactions to Pope Francis’ document on the family, especially regarding ministry to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics and the possibility that, under some conditions, some of those Catholics could return to the sacraments.
The strongest criticism came from U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke and three other cardinals, who sent to the pope and then publicly released in November 2016 a formal, critical set of questions, known as “dubia,” insisting that allowing those Catholics to receive the sacraments amounted to changing fundamental church teaching about marriage, sexuality and the nature of the sacraments.
Pope Francis has not responded to the cardinals, two of whom have since died. But in December, the Vatican posted on its website the guidelines for interpreting “Amoris Laetitia” developed by a group of Argentine bishops, as well as Pope Francis’ letter to them describing the guidelines as “authentic magisterium.”
The guidelines by bishops in the Buenos Aires region said the path of discernment proposed by Pope Francis for divorced and civilly remarried couples “does not necessarily end in the sacraments” but, in some situations, after a thorough process of discernment, the pope’s exhortation “opens the possibility” to reception of the sacraments.
In the document and throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has emphasized God’s mercy and the power of the sacraments to spur conversion and nourish Christians as they try to progress in holiness.
Like all popes, Pope Francis frequently urges Catholics to go to confession, telling them it is not a “torture chamber.” And he repeatedly gives priests blunt advice about being welcoming and merciful to those who approach the confessional.
Like St. John Paul did each Lent, Pope Francis hears confessions in St. Peter’s Basilica. But, he surprised even his closest aides beginning in 2014 when, instead of going to the confessional to welcome the first penitent, he turned and went to confession himself.
He also has surprised people by being completely honest about his age. In April 2017, when he was still 80 years old, he told Italian young people that while they are preparing for the future, “at my age we are preparing to go.” The young people present objected loudly. “No?” the pope responded, “Who can guarantee life? No one.” From the beginning of his papacy, Pope Francis has expressed love and admiration for retired Pope Benedict XVI. Returning from South Korea in 2014, he said Pope Benedict’s honest, “yet also humble and courageous” gesture of resigning cleared a path for later popes to do the same.
“You can ask me: ‘What if one day you don’t feel prepared to go on?'” he told the reporters traveling with him. “I would do the same, I would do the same! I will pray hard over it, but I would do the same thing. He (Pope Benedict) opened a door which is institutional, not exceptional.”
Follow Cindy Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

Cinco años del papa: El enfoque de Francisco ha sido en el acercamiento

Por Cindy Wooden
CIUDAD DEL VATICANO – El cardenal Jorge Mario Bergoglio fue elegido papa sólo unos pocos días después de decirle al Colegio de Cardenales que la Iglesia Católica enfrentaba una elección entre ser una iglesia que “sale al encuentro” de otros o una iglesia enfocada en sus asuntos internos.
Después su elección el 13 de marzo del 2013, el cardenal de Buenos Aires, Argentina escogió el nombre Francisco, e hizo comunes las frases “salir al encuentro,” “periferia” y “cultura del descarte” parte del vocabulario papal.
Los católicos tienen una amplia variedad de opiniones acerca de cómo el papa Francisco está ejerciendo el ministerio papal y muchos de sus comentarios — durante informales conferencias de prensa y en documentos oficiales — han creado controversia. Pero, como él mismo escribió en “La alegría del Evangelio”, la exhortación apostólica que expone la visión para su pontificado: “Prefiero una iglesia accidentada, herida y manchada por salir a la calle, antes que una iglesia enferma por el encierro y la comodidad de aferrarse a su propia seguridad.”
Pero hay dos áreas de asuntos internos de la iglesia que él reconoce que necesitan atención inmediata: la reforma de la Curia Romana y la plena protección de niños y adultos vulnerables al abuso sexual del clero.
La reforma organizacional de la Curia se ha llevado a cabo en etapas, pero el papa Francisco ha insistido en que la reforma verdadera es cuestión de cambiar corazones y acoger una vida de servicio.
En cuanto al tema del abuso, con nueve meses en su pontificado, el papa Francisco estableció la Comisión Pontificia para la Protección de los Menores para que lo asesore sobre las mejores formas de prevenir el abuso sexual por parte del clero y asegurar el cuidado pastoral para los afectados.
Mientras el papa Francisco ha proclamado enfáticamente no tolerar a los abusadores y recientemente dijo que encubrir el abuso “es en sí mismo un abuso,” cuando se acerca su quinto aniversario como papa emergen serias preguntas sobre cómo manejó las acusaciones de que el obispo chileno Juan Barros, quien era sacerdote en ese momento, encubrió las denuncias de abuso contra su mentor.
El nuevo escándalo amenazó con enfriar la amplia popularidad del papa Francisco y sus esfuerzos por establecer un nuevo rumbo en la Iglesia Católica.
Para el Sumo Pontífice, el nuevo camino abarca la evangelización.
“Evangelizar presupone un deseo en la iglesia de salirse de sí misma,” le dijo a los cardenales sólo unos días antes del cónclave que lo eligió. “La iglesia está llamada a salir de sí misma e ir a las periferias, no sólo geográficamente sino también a las periferias existenciales: el misterio del pecado, del dolor, de la injusticia, de la ignorancia y la indiferencia a la religión, de las corrientes intelectuales y de toda miseria.”
Misericordia es lo primero que la Iglesia Católica está llamada a llevar a esas periferias, dice el papa.
Su deseo de acercamiento ha inspirado innovaciones que fueron notables al inicio del papado, pero ahora parece ser parte natural del día a día de un papa. Por ejemplo, comenzó invitando a jardineros y recolectores de basura del Vaticano a su Misa de la mañana en la capilla de su residencia y ahora el papa continúa invitando a un pequeño grupo de católicos a que se unan a él la mayoría de las mañanas.
La residencia, Casa de Santa Marta, es una casa de huéspedes construida por san Juan Pablo II con la intención de brindar vivienda decente a los cardenales, cuando participen en un cónclave para elegir un nuevo papa. El papa Francisco decidió, después del cónclave del 2013, vivir allí y no mudarse a los más aislados apartamentos papales en el Palacio Apostólico.
Cada año en Jueves Santo, él ha celebrado misa en una prisión, un hospital o un centro de refugiados y ha lavado los pies de pacientes, presos o inmigrantes, hombres y mujeres, católicos y miembros de otras corrientes religiosas. También dio indicaciones a la Congregación para el Culto Divino y la Disciplina de los Sacramentos para que clarifique que los pies de, tanto mujeres como hombres, pueden ser lavados en la Misa de la Última Cena del Señor en Jueves Santo.
Durante el Año de la Misericordia 2015-16, visitó un viernes al mes a gente necesitada, incluyendo a aquellos en una escuela para ciegos, una unidad de cuidado intensivo de recién nacidos, una comunidad de alcohólicos en recuperación, un hogar de menores y una comunidad para mujeres rescatadas de los traficantes que las forzaban a la prostitución.
En septiembre del 2015, cuando olas de inmigrantes y refugiados estaban luchando y muriendo para llegar a Europa, el papa Francisco le pidió a cada parroquia y comunidad religiosa en Europa que considerara ofrecerle hospitalidad a una familia.
A menos de tres meses en su pontificado, empezó denunciando “la cultura del descarte” como una en la cual el dinero y el poder eran los primordiales valores y algo o alguien que no progrese por dinero o poder era desechable.
En los primeros tres años de su papado, publicó tres documentos importantes: “Evangelii Gaudium” (La alegría del Evangelio); “‘Laudato Si’ (Alabado Seas), sobre el Cuidado de la Casa Común”, enfocado en el medioambiente; y “‘Amoris Laetitia’ (La Alegría del Amor), sobre el amor en la familia”, sus reflexiones sobre las conversaciones del Sínodo de los Obispos en 2014 y 2015.
Personas escépticas sobre las pruebas científicas de que la actividad humana está contribuyendo al cambio climático, se opusieron a partes de la encíclica “Laudato Si,”, pero las críticas fueron mínimas si se comparan con las reacciones al documento del papa Francisco sobre la familia, especialmente en lo relativo al ministerio para divorciados y los católicos que se han vuelto a casar por civil y la posibilidad de que, bajo ciertas condiciones, algunos de esos católicos pudieran volver a recibir los sacramentos.
La mayor crítica vino del cardenal estadounidense Raymond L. Burke y otros tres cardenales, quienes le enviaron al papa, y luego difundieron públicamente en noviembre del 2016, una lista formal de preguntas claves, conocidas como “dubia,” insistiendo que permitir que esos católicos reciban los sacramentos equivale a cambiar la enseñanza fundamental de la iglesia sobre el matrimonio, sexualidad y la naturaleza de los sacramentos.
El papa Francisco no ha respondido a los cardenales, dos de los cuales han muerto desde entonces. Pero en diciembre, el Vaticano publicó en su portal de internet los lineamientos generales para interpretar “La Alegría del Amor,” desarrollado por un grupo de obispos argentinos, así también como una carta del papa Francisco a ellos describiendo los lineamientos como “magisterio auténtico”.
Como san Juan Pablo hacía cada cuaresma, el papa Francisco escucha confesiones en la Basílica de san Pedro, pero, sorprendió incluso a sus asistentes más cercanos a inicios del 2014 cuando, en vez de ir al confesionario a recibir al primer penitente, se regresó y fue él mismo a confesarse.
También ha sorprendido a la gente por ser honesto sobre su edad. En abril del 2017, cuando tenía todavía 80 años, le dijo a jóvenes italianos que mientras ellos están preparándose para el futuro, “a mi edad, estamos preparándonos para irnos.” Los jóvenes objetaron a viva voz. “¿No?” -respondió el papa-“¿Quién puede garantizar la vida? Nadie.”

CIUDAD DEL VATICANO – El papa Francisco aparece por primera vez en el balcón central de la Basílica de San Pedro en el Vaticano en esta foto de archivo del 13 de marzo de 2013. (Foto CNS-Paul Haring)

Pope to religious: Your hearts must be open 24-7

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Lift up your eyes from your smartphones and see your brothers and sisters, those who share your journey of faith and those who are longing for the Word of life, Pope Francis told consecrated men and women.
“Today’s frantic pace leads us to close many doors to encounter, often for fear of others,” the pope said in his homily for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day for Consecrated Life. “Only shopping malls and internet connections are always open.” Yet believers’ hearts must be open as well, because every believer receives the faith from someone and is called to share it with others, the pope said at the Mass Feb. 2 in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The feast day commemorates the 40th day after Jesus’ birth when, in accordance with ancient Jewish practice, Mary and Joseph took him to the temple and presented him to the Lord. The feast’s Gospel reading from St. Luke recounts how the aged Simeon and Anna, who were praying in the temple, recognized Jesus as the Messiah.
The Mass, attended by thousands of women and men belonging to religious orders, began with the traditional blessing of candles and a prayer that God would guide people toward his son, “the light that has no end.” In his homily, Pope Francis focused on a series of encounters: between people and Jesus; between the young Mary and Joseph and the elderly Simeon and Anna; and between individuals and members of their religious communities or their neighborhoods.
“In the Christian East,” the pope explained, “this feast is called the ‘feast of Encounter’: It is the encounter between God, who became a child to bring newness to our world, and an expectant humanity.”
The pope told the religious that their own journeys were “born of an encounter and a call” which, while highly personal, took place in the context of a family, a parish or a community.
Members of religious orders must realize that they need each other – young and old – to renew and strengthen their knowledge of the Lord, he said. They must never “toss aside” the elderly members because “if the young are called to open new doors, the elderly have the keys.”
One’s brothers or sisters in the community are a gift to be cherished, he said before adding a plea: “May we never look at the screen of our cellphone more than the eyes of our brothers or sisters, or focus more on our software than on the Lord.” Pope Francis said strengthening the intergenerational bonds in a religious community also is an antidote to “the barren rhetoric of ‘the good old days’” and the only way “to silence those who believe that ‘everything is going wrong here.’”
Religious life, with its vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, always has been countercultural, he said. And yet it is the source of true freedom because while “the life of this world pursues selfish pleasures and desires, the consecrated life frees our affections of every possession in order fully to love God and other people.”

Mercy sisters embark on solidarity week with immigrants via social media

By Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) – In a strongly worded message prior to National Migration Week Jan.7-13, the president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas expressed solidarity with migrants and called on others to stop “blaming migrants and fanning anti-immigrant sentiment that divides our nation.”
“We renew our call for an immediate end to the unjust and immoral treatment of migrants and refugees, recognizing that decades of failed U.S. political and economic policies have contributed to the reasons people have fled homelands,” said the Jan. 3 statement by Mercy Sister Patricia McDermott from the sisters’ headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland.
The statement says the Sisters of Mercy “stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers who are forced by poverty, persecution or violence in their native countries to flee their homes, loved ones and livelihoods, desperately seeking safety and the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families.”
The sisters ask for passage of laws to help young adults who came to the United States without documentation, for continuation of a temporary immigration status for migrants from Haiti and Central America, and for an end to expedited deportations, travel bans and long-term detention of immigrants.
“As Pope Francis reminds us: ‘How can we not see the face of the Lord in the face of the millions of exiles, refugees and displaced persons who are fleeing in desperation from the horror of war, persecution and dictatorship?'” the statement says.
The Mercy Sisters kicked-off National Migration Week on social media, recalling their religious order’s migration journey from Ireland to the United States in the 1800s. The next day, they explored some of the “anti-immigrant sentiment in the 19th century, mirrored so often in the rhetoric of our own times,” the statement says.
During subsequent days, they highlighted how their religious community responded to a variety of immigration waves and how U.S. policies abroad drove migration to the U.S., from the 1970s until today.

Rohingya refugees walk to shore in Teknaf, Bangladesh, with their belongings after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border through the Bay of Bengal Sept. 5. (CNS photo/Mohammad Ponir Hossain, Reuters)

Rohingya refugees reach to receive aid Sept. 14 at a makeshift camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. (CNS photo/Danish Siddiqui, Reuters)

National Migration Week began under the auspices of the U.S. Catholic bishops as a way “to honor and learn about the diverse communities of the church, as well as the work that the church undertakes to serve immigrants and refugees,” said a Jan. 5 press release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“National Migration Week allows for reflection upon the biblical teaching concerning welcoming the newcomer and allows us to share the journey with our brothers and sisters who have been forced from their homes,” said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration.
A statement about the week by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called it a “time of prayer and reflection on our history as a migrant church and nation.”
The cardinal urged Catholics to think about the pope’s message on World Day of Peace, Jan. 1, when he said that migrants and refugees “bring their courage, skills, energy and aspirations, as well as the treasures of their own cultures; and in this way, they enrich the lives of the nations that receive them.”
Many organizations and groups plan to participate in National Migration Week with a focus on Caritas Internationalis’ “Share the Journey” migration campaign, a two-year effort by the humanitarian organization that urges Catholics to understand and get to know refugees and migrants who have fled poverty, hunger, violence, persecution and the effects of climate change in their homeland.
Educational materials and other resources for National Migration Week are available at

(Editor’s note: The Diocese of Jackson sponsored a number of National Migration Week activities.)

Don’t confess other’s faults, own up to sins, pope says at audience

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Fear and the shame of admitting one’s own sins leads to pointing fingers and accusing others rather than recognizing one’s own faults, Pope Francis said.
“It’s difficult to admit being guilty, but it does so much good to confess with sincerity. But you must confess your own sins,” the pope said Jan. 3 at his first general audience of the new year.
“I remember a story an old missionary would tell about a woman who went to confession and she began by telling her husband’s faults, then went on to her mother-in-law’s faults and then the sins of her neighbors. At a certain point, the confessor told her, ‘But ma’am, tell me, are you done?’ ‘No… Yes.’ ‘Great, you have finished with other people’s sins, now start to tell me yours,’” he said.
The pope was continuing his series of audience talks on the Mass, reflecting on the penitential rite.

Pope Francis hears a confession in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi, Italy, Aug. 4. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Recognizing one’s own sins prepares a person to make room in his or her heart for Christ, the pope said. But a person who has a heart “full of himself, of his own success” receives nothing because he is already satiated by his “presumed justice.”
“Listening to the voice of conscience in silence allows us to realize that our thoughts are far from divine thoughts, that our words and our actions are often worldly, guided by choices that are contrary to the Gospel,” the pope said.
Confessing one’s sins to God and the church helps people understand that sin not only “separates us from God but also from our brothers and sisters,” he added.
“Sin cuts. It cuts our relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters, in our family, in society, in the community,” the pope said. “Sin always cuts, separates, divides.”
The penitential rite at Mass also includes asking the intercession of Mary and all the angels and saints, which, he said, is an acknowledgement that Christians seek help from “friends and models of life” who will support them on their journey toward full communion with God.
Christians also can find the courage to “take off their masks” and seek pardon for their sins by following the example of biblical figures such as King David, Zacchaeus, the Samaritan woman and St. Peter.
“To take measure of the fragility of the clay with which we have been formed is an experience that strengthens us,” Pope Francis said. “While making us realize our weakness, it opens our heart to call upon the divine mercy that transforms and converts. And this is what we do in the penitential act at the beginning of Mass.”

(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju)

Cardinal Bernard Law’s death leaves conflicting legacy

JACKSON – The death of Cardinal Bernard F. Law on Dec. 20, at the age of 86, brought forth a range of conflicting reactions and emotions in the Diocese of Jackson and around the world. Cardinal Law began his priestly ministry in this diocese and was well known here for his fervent support of the Civil Rights Movement, social justice and pro-life issues. He was most famous, however, as the face of the Church’s sex abuse scandal after he became archbishop of the Archdiocese of Boston.
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston said in a statement Dec. 20, “As archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Law served at a time when the church failed seriously in its responsibilities to provide pastoral care for her people, and with tragic outcomes failed to care for the children of our parish communities.”
Cardinal O’Malley also recognized that his predecessor’s death “brings forth a wide range of emotions on the part of many people. I am particularly cognizant of all who experienced the trauma of sexual abuse by clergy, whose lives were so seriously impacted by those crimes, and their families and loved ones. To those men and women, I offer my sincere apologies for the harm they suffered, my continued prayers and my promise that the archdiocese will support them in their effort to achieve healing.”
Cardinal Law was buried in Rome, where he had his last assignment.
Bernard Francis Law was born on Nov. 4, 1931, in Torreon, Mexico, where his father, a career Air Force officer, was then stationed. He attended schools in New York, Florida, Georgia, Barranquilla, Colombia, and the Virgin Islands.
He graduated from Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. before entering St. Joseph Seminary in St. Benedict, La. in 1953. He later studied at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio.

Cardinal Bernard F. Law, second from right, is pictured during a 1969 march to the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tenn., for a memorial service for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Cardinal Law, who had been one of the United States’ most powerful and respected bishops until his legacy was blemished by the devastating sexual abuse of minors by priests in his Archdiocese of Boston, died early Dec. 20 in Rome at the age of 86. (CNS file photo)

Bernard F. Law was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson (now Jackson) in 1961. His first assignment was as associate pastor at Vicksburg St. Paul Parish from 1961-1963. In January 1963 he was appointed associate pastor of Jackson St. Therese Parish and in March became the editor and business manager of the diocesan newspaper, then The Mississippi Register. At the same time, he held several other diocesan posts, including director of the family life bureau and spiritual director at the minor seminary.
A civil rights activist, he joined the Mississippi Leadership Conference and Mississippi Human Relations Council. He received death threats for his strong editorial positions on civil rights in The Mississippi Register.
His work for ecumenism in the Deep South in the 1960s received national attention, and in 1968 he was tapped for his first national post, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
In 1973, Blessed Paul VI named him bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo. He made headlines in 1975 when, amid an influx of Vietnamese refugees arriving in the United States, he arranged to resettle in his diocese all 166 refugee members of the Vietnamese religious order, Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix.
Continuing his ecumenical work, he formed the Missouri Christian Leadership Conference. He was made a member of the Vatican’s Secretariat (now Pontifical Council) for Promoting Christian Unity and served in 1976-81 as a consultor to its Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. He also chaired the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs in the late 1970s.
St. John Paul II made him archbishop of Boston in January 1984 and the following year made him a cardinal.
A constant advocate of the right to life of the unborn, he denounced the pro-abortion stance of the Democratic vice presidential candidate, Geraldine Ferraro, a Catholic, during the 1984 presidential race.
It was his proposal for a worldwide catechism, in a speech at the 1985 extraordinary Synod of Bishops, that led to development of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church.” Cardinal Law also oversaw the first drafting of an English translation of the catechism, and unsuccessfully defended the inclusive-language version that the Vatican ultimately rejected and ordered rewritten.
The collapse of Cardinal Law’s authority and status began in January 2002 with the criminal trial of serial child molester John Geoghan and the court-ordered release of archdiocesan files on Geoghan to the media. Geoghan had been allowed to stay in active ministry for three decades before he was finally removed and subsequently laicized.
The released files showed that when complaints against Geoghan were made in one parish he would be removed, but soon assigned to another parish. The files gave firsthand proof of how such complaints were handled and demonstrated a pattern of protecting and transferring abusive priests by the cardinal and his aides.
In the first weeks following the revelations, Cardinal Law publicly apologized on several occasions and announced a series of major policy changes – most importantly, permanently removing from ministry any priest ever credibly accused of sexual abuse and turning over to district attorneys the names of all priests against whom any abuse allegation had been made.
A series of investigative reports by the Boston Globe made national headlines, and other newspapers and television news teams across the nation began investigating how their local dioceses dealt with abusive priests.
Mary Woodward, diocesan chancellor and long-time friend, remarked Cardinal Law had the ability to listen to and understand people from all walks of life. “He had an immense vocabulary and keen intellect that he used to decipher and diffuse often difficult situations,” Woodward said.
“Though his time in Boston became marred by some bad decisions and oversight, he was still a pastor at heart trying to heal and reconcile until his resignation and even beyond that. There were times when he would sneak out of his residence late at night and visit the sick in nearby hospitals. He genuinely cared about each person and I know he grieved over the immense pain endured by victims of sexual abuse at the hands of church personnel,” she added.
St. John Paul II appointed Cardinal Law in 2004 to be the new archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, one of the four major basilicas of Rome.
(Contributing to this story were Mary Woodward, chancellor for the Diocese of Jackson and Catholic News Service reporters Cindy Wooden and Junno Arocho Esteves in Rome.)

Helping refugees means converting hardened hearts

By Carol Glatz
ROME (CNS) – With so much suffering, poverty and exploitation in the world, missionary work must also include reaching out to people whose hearts are closed to receiving immigrants and refugees, Pope Francis told Jesuits in Myanmar.
“Unfortunately, in Europe there are countries that have chosen to close their borders. The most painful thing is that to take such a decision, they had to close their hearts,” he said during a private audience Nov. 29 in the chapel of the archbishop’s house in Yangon.
“Our missionary work must also reach those hearts that are closed to the reception of others,” he told 31 Jesuits from different parts of Asia and Australia, who are based in Myanmar.
The Rome-based Jesuit-run journal, La Civilta Cattolica, published a transcript Dec. 14 from the private meeting in Myanmar and the pope’s private meeting Dec. 1 at the apostolic nunciature in Dhaka with Jesuits based in Bangladesh.
In both meetings, the pope listened to and answered their comments, concerns and questions, and the journal provided an English translation of the original Spanish remarks.
A Jesuit’s mission is to be close to the people, especially those who are suffering and forgotten because “to see them is to see Christ suffering and crucified,” he said in his meeting in Myanmar.
His approach, he said, is to try to visit these places and to “speak clearly, especially with countries that have closed their borders.”
“It is a serious issue,” he said, commenting on how that evening, they all would be sitting down to a full meal, including dessert, while many refugees will “have a piece of bread for dinner.”
He recalled visiting the refugees in Lesbos, Greece, and how the children he greeded were torn between shaking his hand and reaching for candy that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople was pulling out of his pockets.
“With one hand, they greeted me with the other, they grabbed the candy. I thought maybe it was the only sweet they had eaten for days.”
The situation of many of the refugees and stories they have told him have “helped me to cry a lot before God,” he said, particularly when a Muslim man recounted how terrorists slit the throat of his Christian wife right before his eyes when she refused to take off the cross she wore.
“These things must be seen and must be told,” he said, because news of what is happening does not reach most people, and “we are obliged to report and make public these human tragedies that some try to silence.”
The Jesuits he met in Bangladesh thanked him for talking about the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority being pushed from Myanmar’s Rakhine state and seeking refuge in Bangladesh.
“Jesus Christ today is called Rohingya,” as these people are their brothers and sisters, the pope told the Jesuits.
Just as St. Peter Claver ministered in the 17th century to slaves subjected to horrible conditions, such shameful conditions people endure still persist, he said.
“Today, there is much discussion about how to save the banks. The problem is the salvation of the banks. But who saves the dignity of men and women today?”
“Nobody cares about people in ruins any longer. The devil manages to do this in today’s world. If we had a little sense of reality, this should scandalize us.”
“The impudence of our world is such that the only solution is to pray and ask for the grace of tears,” he said.
Meeting the Rohingya refugees that same day at the archbishop’s residence in Dhaka, he added, made him feel ashamed. “I felt ashamed of myself, for the whole world!”
When asked “why such attention” for the small Catholic community in Bangladesh when he elevated their archbishop in Dhaka to the rank of cardinal, Pope Francis said that in naming cardinals, he looks to the “small churches, those that grow in the peripheries, at the edges.”
It’s not meant to give them “consolation,” but is “to launch a clear message: the small churches that grow in the periphery and are without ancient Catholic traditions today must speak to the universal church, to the whole church. I clearly feel that they have something to teach us.”

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.”