National and World News

NATION
WASHINGTON (CNS) – The American Health Care Act that passed by a four-vote margin May 4 in the House has “major defects,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Social Development. “It is deeply disappointing that the voices of those who will be most severely impacted were not heeded,” Bishop Dewane said in a May 4 statement. “The AHCA does offer critical life protections, and our health care system desperately needs these safeguards. But still, vulnerable people must not be left in poor and worsening circumstances as Congress attempts to fix the current and impending problems with the Affordable Care Act.” He added, “When the Senate takes up the AHCA, it must act decisively to remove the harmful proposals from the bill that will affect low-income people – including immigrants – as well as add vital conscience protections, or begin reform efforts anew. Our health care policy must honor all human life and dignity from conception to natural death, as well as defend the sincerely held moral and religious beliefs of those who have any role in the health care system.” One of 20 Republicans to vote against the bill was Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Many religious leaders viewed President Donald Trump’s executive order on religious freedom, which he signed in a White House Rose Garden ceremony May 4, as a step in the right direction. In a ceremony for the National Day of Prayer prior to signing the executive order, Trump told the assembled religious leaders: “We’re taking big steps to protect religious liberty” and he assured them the government “won’t stand for religious discrimination.” Three religious leaders, including Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, offered prayers during the ceremony. Just prior to the event, Cardinal Wuerl and Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, met with Trump about the order. In an interview with Catholic News Service at Reagan National Airport just after the White House ceremony, Cardinal DiNardo said the meeting with the president was brief but productive. Earlier, in a statement, the cardinal said the executive order “begins the process of alleviating the serious burden of the HHS mandate,” referring to the mandate issued by the federal Department of Health and Human Services requiring most religious employers to provide coverage of artificial birth control for their employees even if they morally oppose it.
WASHINGTON (CNS) – After Arkansas executed its fourth death-row inmate in eight days April 27, Sister Helen Prejean, a longtime opponent of capital punishment, said “future generations will look back upon the events unfolding in Arkansas tonight with horror. The barbarity is overwhelming.” Sister Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille, tweeted that message 30 minutes after Kenneth Williams was pronounced dead. His lawyers unsuccessfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay, saying the inmate should not be executed because three health care professionals had determined he was “intellectually disabled.” Relatives of a man killed by Williams in a crash during his 1999 escape from prison also pleaded with the governor to call off his execution. “There is nothing pro-life about the state-sanctioned killing of an intellectually disabled man,” was just one of the many messages Sister Prejean tweeted during Williams’ final hours. Catholic Mobilizing Network in Washington, an advocacy group seeking to end the death penalty, similarly sent Twitter updates the night of the execution and each of the eight days when other inmates were executed, including two executions April 24. Governor Asa Hutchinson ordered the executions to use a controversial drug before it would expire May 1. The state will no longer be able to get supplies of the drug, which was used in several executions in which the condemned seemed to suffer before he died.
The social media messages urged people to pray for those facing execution, their families, the victim’s families and even the prison guards.
Bishop Joseph Kopacz joined the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and hundreds of faith leaders in Arkansas in publicly deouncing the executions. Bishop Kopacz’ statement is available on the diocesean website,
www.jacksondiocese.org.
VATICAN
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – To best respond to new challenges in the field of communication, the Vatican needs smart, courageous teamwork, not nostalgia for a glorious past or doomsday forecasts, Pope Francis said. As the Vatican continues to integrate and coordinate its numerous media outlets under the Secretariat for Communication as part of a wider process of reform, the pope said “we must not be afraid of this word,” reform. Reform is not brushing a bit of fresh paint on things, but “reform is giving another form to things, organizing them in another way,” he said May 4 in a speech to the secretariat’s members, directors and officials, who were holding their first plenary assembly since the pope instituted the body in 2015. Reform, the pope added, must be done “with intelligence, meekness, but also, also, allow me (to use) the word, with a bit of ‘violence,’ but kind, good violence, in order to reform things,” he said in off-the-cuff remarks. “Let’s not allow the temptation of clinging to a glorious past to prevail. Instead, let us make great team players in order to better respond to the new challenges in communications that today’s culture demands of us without fear and without imagining apocalyptic scenarios.”

Egypt: beacon of hope and refuge

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Just as it had been for centuries, Egypt can be a sign of hope for those who long for peace, Pope Francis said.
During his weekly general audience May 3, the pope reflected on his recent visit to Egypt and said that because of its religious and cultural heritage as well as its role in the Middle East, Egypt has the task of promoting a lasting peace that “rests not on the law of force but on the force of law.”
“For us, Egypt has been a sign of hope, refuge and help. When that part of the world suffered famine, Jacob and his sons went there. Then when Jesus was persecuted, he went there,” he said. “ Egypt, for us, is that sign of hope both in history and for today, this brotherhood.”
The pope’s April 28-29 visit to Cairo began with a gathering organized by Egypt’s al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s highest institute of learning.
The visit to the university, he said, had the twofold purpose of promoting Christian-Muslim dialogue and promoting peace in the world.
Peace between Christians and Muslims in Egypt, he said, is a sign of the country’s identity “as a land of civilization and a land of covenant.”
“For all of humanity, Egypt is synonymous with ancient civilization, treasures of art and of knowledge, of a humanism that has, as an integral part, a religious dimension – the relationship with God,” he said.
Christians in Egypt, the pope continued, play a pivotal role in contributing to peace in the country and are “called to be a leaven of brotherhood,” but that is possible only if Christians themselves are united in Christ.
The historic agreement signed by Pope Francis and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II ending a longtime disagreement between the churches over the sacrament of baptism “renews the commitment” to peace and is “a strong sign of communion,” he said.
“Together we prayed for the martyrs of the recent attacks that tragically struck that venerable church,” Pope Francis said. “Their blood made fruitful that ecumenical encounter, which included Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, my dear brother.”
Talking about his Mass with the country’s Catholic community and his meeting with the country’s priests and religious men and women, Pope Francis said he encounter a “community of men and women who have chosen to give their lives to Christ for the kingdom of God.”
“I have seen the beauty of the church in Egypt,” he said, “and I prayed for all Christians in the Middle East so that, guided by their pastors and accompanied by consecrated men and women, they may be salt and light in that land.”
(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.)

Bishop Kopacz makes pilgrimage to Saltillo

By Monsignor Michael Flannery

MADISON – There is a Spanish phrase “que pasa?” (what’s happening?). In a way, it sums up the pastoral visit Bishop Joseph Kopacz and I made to the Saltillo Mission March 30 -April 3.

We can report that the good work begun by Father Patrick Quinn in 1969 is flourishing south of the border. There are two Mexican priests serving at the mission, Fathers David and Elevio. Both have a profound missionary spirit and they follow in the footsteps of Father Quinn.

We flew into Monterrey, Mexico, on Thursday, March 30. Father David was there to greet us and bring us to the mission about two hours away. He had a full schedule prepared for us. Our first visit was to the church of Cristo Rey (in the city of Saltillo) at 6:00 p.m. It is one of four churches in town served by San Miguel. The other three are; the Holy Martyrs, St. William and Christ the King. We visited other churches in the city the next day.

Saturday we set out for the village Jalapa where the villagers gathered to greet the Bishop from Mississippi. After a prayer service with the rancheros and the distribution of bags of cornmeal we set out for the village of Animas where we shared another meal with the villagers. At 2:00 p.m. we were on the road again to our most distant village of El Tapon, five hours away. There we greeted the people and Bishop Kopacz was asked to bless the seeds of corn and pinto beans to be used for sowing. Also, he was asked to bless the two goat herds. Many coyotes attack and kill the young kid goats and the blessing of the bishop was to provide protection.

After the blessing, Bishop Kopacz was offered a kid goat as a gift. I explained to the kind lady making the offer we would only be in the country five days and were forbidden to bring a goat back with us to the U.S. Instead she offered Bishop Kopacz a package of tortillas which he graciously accepted.

The next morning we went to the village of Garambullo, where we were greeted by a presentation of Aztec dancing before Mass. Father David showed us the new tin roof he had put on the church. Many of the churches in the mountain villages are in bad need of repair. An average roof on a mountain village church costs about $3,000. I had brought a suitcase full of T-shirts, a gift from Madison St. Anthony School. It was amazing to see the joy in these childrens faces as they received them. I also had brought with me 500 ball-point pens which I selectively distributed to other children telling them the pen was a gift of Bishop Kopacz.

When we arrived at La Ventura about 500 villagers were completing a live way of the cross. It was a very moving site. Because of their Mexican heritage and culture, the people relate very well to the suffering Christ. Bishop Kopacz was again front and center celebrating Mass and administering the sacrament of Confirmation.

After Mass, we had a delicious lunch with the villagers. Father David showed Bishop Kopacz a building attached to the church, consisting of two rooms, where it would be possible to house catechists who spend weekends training village catechists and performing missions throughout the year. He had plans to add another floor to the existing two rooms as La Ventura was a central village from where 6 other villages could be served.

It was now time to head back to Saltillo for dinner with the Bishop of Saltillo Don Raul Vera. Bishop Vera was very gracious and Bishop Kopacz shared with him his Pastoral Priorities and Vision for the Diocese of Jackson. The following morning, we shared a light breakfast with Father David and Father Evelio. Both priests are great visionaries and are addressing the needs of the people. Another example of their thinking outside the box, is a project now in its infancy.

San Miguel has become home to four students coming from mountain villages who cannot afford room and board while studying at the university. In exchange for room and board they accompany the priests during the weekend in their ministry in the ranchos. This project costs approximately $2,500 per student, however, that is where the church needs to be offering its services to those in need and changing the lives of people for the better.

Another worthy program at San Miguel is the catechetical program. Young catechists are brought in from remote villages to stay at San Miguel for a week or two during the summer. The rancheros are very moved by this experience. For the first time in their lives they have meals served to them by someone else. Also, they have the experience of taking a shower. That is not an option in the ranchos. It is a different world there at San Miguel.

I would like to end with one quick story. There was one four-year-old girl in Saltillo who got my last St. Anthony T-shirt. She was so excited with her new found treasure she would not take it off. The T-shirt would have fit a child of 12. It was so long it came down to her ankles. Her mother told me later that she would not take it off even to go to bed and she used it as her night gown. I also gave her the St. Anthony golf cap I was wearing. She even wore it to bed she was so overcome with joy with her gift. I can assure you that the people of Saltillo are most appreciative of all that Mississippians do for them and they wanted us to express their gratitude to you.

(Editor’s note: Msgr. Flannery is working on a book detailing the history of the Saltillo mission. a longer version of this story with details of all the rancho visits is available online at www.mississippicatholic.com)

Risen Christ calls all to follow him on path to life, pope says

By Cindy Wooden and Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Jesus is the risen shepherd who takes upon his shoulders “our brothers and sisters crushed by evil in all its varied forms,” Pope Francis said before giving his solemn Easter blessing.

With tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square April 16, the pope called on Christians to be instruments of Christ’s outreach to refugees and migrants, victims of war and exploitation, famine and loneliness.

For the 30th year in a row, Dutch farmers and florists blanketed the area around the altar with grass and 35,000 flowers and plants: lilies, roses, tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, birch and linden.

Preaching without a prepared text, Pope Francis began — as he did the night before at the Easter Vigil — imagining the disciples desolate because “the one they loved so much was executed. He died.”

While they are huddling in fear, the angel tells them, “He is risen.” And, the pope said, the church continues to proclaim that message always and everywhere, including to those whose lives are truly, unfairly difficult.

“It is the mystery of the cornerstone that was discarded, but has become the foundation of our existence,” he said. And those who follow Jesus, “we pebbles,” find meaning even in the midst of suffering because of sure hope in the resurrection.

Pope Francis suggested everyone find a quiet place on Easter to reflect on their problems and the problems of the world and then tell God, “I don’t know how this will end, but I know Christ has risen.”

Almost immediately after the homily, a brief but intense rain began to fall on the crowd, leading people to scramble to find umbrellas, jackets or plastic bags to keep themselves dry.

After celebrating the morning Easter Mass, Pope Francis gave his blessing “urbi et orbi,” to the city of Rome and the world.

Before reciting the blessing, he told the crowd that “in every age the risen shepherd tirelessly seeks us, his brothers and sisters, wandering in the deserts of this world. With the marks of the passion — the wounds of his merciful love — he draws us to follow him on his way, the way of life.”

Christ seeks out all those in need, he said. “He comes to meet them through our brothers and sisters who treat them with respect and kindness and help them to hear his voice, an unforgettable voice, a voice calling them back to friendship with God.”

Pope Francis mentioned a long list of those for whom the Lord gives special attention, including victims of human trafficking, abused children, victims of terrorism and people forced to flee their homes because of war, famine and poverty.

“In the complex and often dramatic situations of today’s world, may the risen Lord guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace,” Pope Francis said. “May he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade.”

The pope also offered special prayers for peace in Syria, South Sudan, Somalia, Congo and Ukraine, and for a peaceful resolution of political tensions in Latin America.

The pope’s celebration of Easter got underway the night before in a packed St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Easter Vigil began with the lighting of the fire and Easter candle in the atrium of the basilica. Walking behind the Easter candle and carrying a candle of his own, Pope Francis entered the basilica in darkness.

The basilica was gently illuminated only by candlelight and the low light emanating from cellphones capturing the solemn procession.

The bells of St. Peter’s pealed in the night, the sound echoing through nearby Roman streets, announcing the joy of the Resurrection.

During the vigil, Pope Francis baptized 11 people: five women and six men from Spain, Czech Republic, Italy, the United States, Albania, Malta, Malaysia and China.

One by one, the catechumens approached the pope who asked them if they wished to receive baptism. After responding, “Yes, I do,” they lowered their heads as the pope poured water over their foreheads.

Among them was Ali Acacius Damavandy from the United States who smiled brightly as the baptismal waters streamed down his head.

In his homily, reflecting on the Easter account from the Gospel of St. Matthew, the pope recalled the women who went “with uncertain and weary steps” to Christ’s tomb.

The pope said the faces of those women, full of sorrow and despair, reflect the faces of mothers, grandmothers, children and young people who carry the “burden of injustice and brutality.”

The poor and the exploited, the lonely and the abandoned, and “immigrants deprived of country, house and family” suffer the heartbreak reflected on the faces of the women at the tomb who have seen “human dignity crucified,” he said.

However, the pope added, in the silence of death, Jesus’ heartbeat resounds and his resurrection comes as a gift and as “a transforming force” to a humanity broken by greed and war.

“In the Resurrection, Christ rolled back the stone of the tomb, but he wants also to break down all the walls that keep us locked in our sterile pessimism, in our carefully constructed ivory towers that isolate us from life, in our compulsive need for security and in boundless ambition that can make us compromise the dignity of others,” he said.

Pope Francis called on Christians to follow the example of the woman who, upon learning of Christ’s victory over death, ran to the city and proclaimed the good news in those places “where death seems the only way out.”

Presiding over the Stations of the Cross Good Friday, April 14, at Rome’s Colosseum, Pope Francis offered a prayer expressing both shame for the sins of humanity and hope in God’s mercy.

A crowd of about 20,000 people joined the pope at the Rome landmark. They had passed through two security checks and were watched over by a heavy police presence given recent terrorist attacks in Europe.

At the end of the service, Pope Francis recited a prayer to Jesus that he had composed. “Oh Christ, our only savior, we turn to you again this year with eyes lowered in shame and with hearts full of hope.”

The shame comes from all the “devastation, destruction and shipwrecks that have become normal in our lives,” he said, hours after some 2,000 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea. The shame comes from wars, discrimination and the failure to denounce injustice.

Turning to the sexual abuse crisis, Pope Francis expressed “shame for all the times we bishops, priests, consecrated men and women have scandalized and injured your body, the church.”

But the pope also prayed that Christians would be filled with the hope that comes from knowing that “you do not treat us according to our merits, but only according to the abundance of your mercy.”

Christian hope, he said, means trusting that Jesus’ cross can “transform our hardened hearts into hearts of flesh capable of dreaming, forgiving and loving.”

Pope Francis carries a candle as he arrives to celebrate the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 15. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-EASTER-ROUNDUP April 16, 2017.

Papal nuncio: Pay close attention to pope’s words, actions

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the United States, gets plenty of questions about Pope Francis.

A March 27 discussion at Georgetown University, sponsored by the university’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, was no exception. The nuncio, who sat onstage with John Carr, the initiative’s director, was asked about the pope’s key issues and his impact in the four years since his election.

Instead of emphasizing the pope’s special qualities or accomplishments, Archbishop Pierre, who has been in the Vatican diplomatic corps for almost 40 years, stressed how Catholics are called to view the pope and essentially work with him in the mission of spreading the Gospel.

He told the audience, nearly filling a campus auditorium, that it is not a question of whether the pope is good or bad or if one agrees with him or not. The issue, for Catholics, is to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying through the pope.

“We have to pay a lot of attention to the person of the pope and to his message and to his testimony because the pope is not just words but he is also actions and actions that are powerful words,” the nuncio said.

Archbishop Pierre, who was appointed to the U.S. post by Pope Francis last April, would not comment on the pope’s approval ratings compared to politicians nor would he address the current political climate, but he stressed that one’s personal faith can’t be separated from daily life and that people need to use discernment even in civic duties like voting.

When asked about care for migrants in today’s world, he said Christians should be the “soul of this country” and Catholics should follow the example of Pope Francis who goes out to the borders and reaches out to those who are broken and those who suffer.

“The church is in the business of evangelization,” he added, saying this works best when the church “goes outside herself” to meet people where they are. And in a pointed statement to this country, he added: If America is the center of the world then it has “a huge responsibility to help others.”

When the nuncio was joined on stage by other panelists, they reiterated the importance of the pope’s message that has come across just as much from his actions as his words.

To sum up the pope’s message to Catholics today, Ken Hackett, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See and former president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, looks to the example of the pope’s visit to the United States in 2015 where the pope’s presence, in front of Congress and with the poor, and his words at each stop made Catholics proud of their faith.

Kim Daniels, a member of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications, said the pope’s message has resonated not just with Catholics but also with those who have heard him even through social media. She said he has made the call to live out one’s faith “something that’s concrete and not abstract” and something “we can do right here, right now, where we are.”

For Maria Teresa Gaston, managing director of the Foundations of Christian Leadership Program at the Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina, the pope has been clearest on his message of community, telling people, including “those who are undocumented: You are loved and valued.”

She also points to his message to youths at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013 as something that still resonates with her. He told the crowd “not to be afraid, to take risks and to be courageous” stressing they should prepare for “courageous and prophetic action in solidarity with the earth and with the poor.”

(Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.)

Pope: Lent breathes live into world asphyxiated by sin

By Junno Arocho Esteves
ROME (CNS) – Lent is a time to receive God’s breath of life, a breath that saves humanity from suffocating under the weight of selfishness, indifference and piety devoid of sincerity, Pope Francis said.
“Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia born of relationships that exclude, that try to find God while avoiding the wounds of Christ present in the wounds of his brothers and sisters,” the pope said March 1 during an Ash Wednesday Mass.
Pope Francis celebrated the Mass after making the traditional Ash Wednesday procession from the Benedictine monastery of St. Anselm to the Dominican-run Basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome’s Aventine Hill.
After receiving ashes on top of his head from Cardinal Jozef Tomko, titular cardinal of the basilica, the pope distributed ashes to the cardinals, his closest aides, some Benedictines and Dominicans.
He also distributed ashes to a family and to two members of the Pontifical Academy for Martyrs, which promotes the traditional Lenten “station church” pilgrimage in Rome.
Lent, he said, is a time to say “no” to “all those forms of spirituality that reduce the faith to a ghetto culture, a culture of exclusion.”
The church’s Lenten journey toward the celebration of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection is made on a road “leading from slavery to freedom” and “from suffering to joy,” he said.
“Lent is a path: It leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God’s children.”
The ashes, while a symbol of humanity’s origin from the earth, the pope said, is also a reminder that God breathes new life into people in order to save them from the suffocation of “petty ambition” and “silent indifference.”
“The breath of God’s life sets us free from the asphyxia that so often we fail to notice or become so used to that it seems normal, even when its effects are felt,” the pope said.
The Lenten season, he continued, is a “time for saying no” to the asphyxia caused by superficial and simplistic analyses that “fail to grasp the complexity of problems” of those who suffer most.
“Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia of a prayer that soothes our conscience, of an almsgiving that leaves us self-satisfied, of a fasting that makes us feel good,” the pope said.
Instead, Pope Francis said, Lent is a time for Christians to remember God’s mercy and “not the time to rend our garments before evil but rather make room in our life for the good we are able to do.”
“Lent is the time to start breathing again. It is the time to open our hearts to the breath of the One capable of turning our dust into humanity,” the pope said.
(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.)

Trump signs new executive order on refugees, excludes Iraq from ban

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – President Donald Trump’s new executive order temporarily banning refugees from certain majority-Muslim countries, signed March 6, now excludes Iraq from the ban.
Iraq had been one of seven nations in the original order, issued Jan. 27 but the implementation of which was blocked in the courts. The new order will not take effect until March 16.
Citizens of four of the countries still part of the ban – Iran, Libya, Somalia and Syria – will be subject to a 90-day suspension of visa processing. This information was given to Congress the week prior to the new executive order. The other two countries that remain part of the ban are Sudan and Yemen.
Lawful permanent residents – green card holders – are excluded from any travel ban.
While the revised executive order is intended to survive judicial scrutiny, those opposed to it have declared plans to mobilize their constituencies to block it. Church World Service and the National Council of Churches announced March 2, that they will unveil a new grass-roots ecumenical initiative in support of refugees.
Catholic immigration advocates were on tenterhooks waiting for the revised executive order, the issuance of which had been long promised but slow in coming.
Bill O’Keefe, vice president for government relations and advocacy at Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ international aid agency, told Catholic News Service that he had seen communications from “senior White House officials” that would retain the ban, but indicated the indefinite ban on Syrians would be lifted.
Religious preferences found in the would be original order would be erased, but green-card holders would be exempt from the ban. O’Keefe said. The halt of refugee admissions to “determine additional security vetting procedures” would stay in place, he added, and the number of refugee admissions would be cut for the 2017 fiscal year, which runs through Sept. 30, from 110,000 to 50,000; an estimated 35,000 have already been admitted since October, according to O’Keefe.
“Some will argue that simply sectioning out the seven Muslim-majority countries is a form of religious discrimination,” O’Keefe said. “What is clear here is that’s it’s within the prerogative of the president to lower the threshold of refugee admissions.”
One effect of the order would be to further strain the refugee-processing system at its biggest point. “The bulk of the system and the biggest part of it are those countries like Lebanon, Turkey, which are taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees,” O’Keefe said. “When we don’t do our part, it’s tough for us to tell other countries to make the sacrifices we need to play their part. The risk of the system collapsing and of governments that are already strained not being willing to keep their doors open is very serious, and we’re very worried about that.”
In Syria, he added, “some people have been (refugees there) for five, six years. They’ve had the hope of resettlement in the United States as one of the things that keeps them going.”
Kim Pozniak, CRS’ communications director, spent a week in mid-February in Amman, Jordan, where untold thousands of refugees are living – two and three families at a time – in small apartments in the city.
“I’ve met with people that are worse off than they were three years ago (when she last visited), simply because they’ve started losing hope,” Pozniak told CNS. “One woman, for example, said they’re so bad off they’re considering moving back to Syria.” Pozniak said the woman’s sister, who still lives in Syria, told her “Look, even if it’s so bad that you have to eat dirt, don’t come back here.”
Even without a ban, the uncertainty can eat away at people, Pozniak said. “I talked with one 74-year-old woman who together with her son has been in the resettlement process in the United States. They had the interview with UN (High Commissioner for Refugees), the interview with the Embassy, had the iris scan taken, now they have no idea when they’ll be resettled. They’re never given an answer as to when, where, how, and that’s the really frustrating part – being in limbo and not knowing where you’re going to be next.”
A Pew Research Center poll released Feb. 27 found Catholics opposing the ban, 62 percent-36 percent. White Catholics were very narrowly in favor, 50 percent-49 percent, while Hispanic and other minority Catholics opposed the ban 81 percent-14 percent.
Members of black Protestant churches (81 percent) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (74 percent) also opposed the ban. Protestants overall supported the ban, 51 percent-46 percent, with 76 percent support from white evangelicals. The Pew survey interviewed 1,503 adults by phone Feb. 7-12.
(Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.)

National and World News

NATION
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Michael Novak, a Catholic philosopher, theologian and author who was highly regarded for his religious scholarship and intellectual independence, died Feb. 17 at his home in Washington. He was 83. His daughter Jana Novak told The Washington Post the cause of death was complications from colon cancer. No funeral arrangements were announced. Since last August, Novak had been a faculty member of The Catholic University of America’s Tim and Steph Busch School of Business and Economics in Washington. He joined the business school’s Arthur and Carlyse Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship last year as a distinguished visiting fellow. He taught special topics in management and gave a series of lectures on campus on the topic of human ecology.

Novak studied at Catholic University in 1958 and 1959 and had lectured at the university several times prior to last year’s appointment. John Garvey, the university’s president, remembered him as “a man of great intellectual honesty. Unlike some scholars, Michael Novak made it a point to reflect on new and different topics, always with a fresh and dynamic perspective,” Garvey said in a statement. “We are immensely grateful that he could end his academic life as he began it, as a member of our community.”

Religious sisters hand beads to a man and child Feb. 19 from the Krewe of Femme Fatale float during a parade in New Orleans. Twenty Sisters of the Holy Family boarded the float, the first time in Mardi Gras history that a women's religious congregation participated as a group on a Carnival float. Over their habits they wore a T-shirt honoring Mother Henriette Delille, who founded their congregation in 1842. (CNS photo/Christine Bordelon, The Clarion Herald) See NEW-ORLEANS-PARADE-SISTERS Feb. 8, 2017.

Religious sisters hand beads to a man and child Feb. 19 from the Krewe of Femme Fatale float during a parade in New Orleans. Twenty Sisters of the Holy Family boarded the float, the first time in Mardi Gras history that a women’s religious congregation participated as a group on a Carnival float. Over their habits they wore a T-shirt honoring Mother Henriette Delille, who founded their congregation in 1842. (CNS photo/Christine Bordelon, The Clarion Herald) See NEW-ORLEANS-PARADE-SISTERS Feb. 8, 2017.

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) – For the past 50 years, Patti Gallagher Mansfield has kept the Champion Wiremaster stenographer’s notebook, 5-by-8 inches, safely tucked away among her most cherished, sacred items in her dresser drawer. The notebook has 80 ruled pages. It cost 25 cents. One was given to each of the 25 students from Duquesne University and La Roche College who attended a weekend retreat in February 1967 at The Ark and The Dove Retreat House just outside of Pittsburgh.

Between the slightly faded, tan covers are page after page of Mansfield’s handwritten reflections in blue ballpoint pen of the mysterious things that happened on that three-day retreat, a weekend that ultimately changed the course of the Catholic Church worldwide.

“Who would have ever imagined – 80 pages, Patti Gallagher – that what I would record in this notebook would have any significance to over 120 million Catholics all over the world?” Mansfield, now 70, said. “It is amazing.” The weekend – now called the “Duquesne Weekend” – is acknowledged as the birth of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement in the United States, which has spread throughout the world. The Charismatic Renewal centers on the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” in which God’s Spirit renews and fills a person with grace. Mansfield talks about releasing the graces already conferred through baptism and confirmation.

WORLD
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CNS) – Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver called on Catholics to respond to a drug overdose crisis that had been sweeping the city, “cutting across every segment of society, devastating families and communities.” In a pastoral letter released Feb. 16, Archbishop Miller said that following Jesus’ teaching would require Catholics to “scrutinize the sign of the times” and, in Vancouver, “these signs are calling the church to address today’s lethal crisis of drug overdoses.” A report released by the British Columbia Coroners Service revealed that 914 people died of illicit drug overdoses in 2016; those statistics prompted the provincial government to declare a public health emergency. That number represented an 80 percent increase in overdose deaths from the previous year. Archbishop Miller said three factors contributed to the overdose crisis: overprescription of opioid painkillers, social isolation and mental illness.

OXFORD, England (CNS) – Church leaders and organizations in Africa, Europe and the United States said it would be disastrous if U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order telling companies they no longer had to disclose whether their firms use “conflict minerals” from Congo. Western firms have been accused of working with violent gangs in Congo to obtain minerals used for producing mobile phones, laptops and other consumer objects, and of allowing trade in resources to perpetuate human rights violations.
In the United States, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ International Policy Committee wrote the acting head of the National Security Council urging Trump not to suspend the rules related to Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act. “Congolese die every day in the illegal mines and at the hands of the armed groups that destroy communities in order to expel them from potential mining sites,” wrote Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, committee chairman.
“The estimated death toll in the Congo is the highest since the end of World War II. The international community, including our own nation, nongovernmental agencies and the church, provides emergency assistance to displaced and traumatized persons and families – assistance that has real financial costs that do not appear on the balance sheets of corporations.”

Pope, cardinal advisers discuss tribunals, Curia offices

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis and members of the international Council of Cardinals advising him on church governance discussed the functions of the Vatican tribunals that handle marriage, appeals and indulgences.
Meeting with Pope Francis Feb. 13-15, the Council of Cardinals also continued its discussion of the process of selecting bishops and received updates on economic and communication reform initiatives.
Paloma Garcia Ovejero, vice director of the Vatican press office, told reporters the tribunals studied by the council included: the Apostolic Penitentiary, a church court that deals with indulgences; the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature, the Catholic Church’s highest appeals court; and the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, the Vatican court that deals mainly with marriage cases.
Continuing their examination of individual offices, the cardinals also looked at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Congregation for Eastern Churches and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Garcia Ovejero also read the statement that the cardinals issued Feb. 13 assuring the pope of their “full support for his person and his magisterium.”
At a separate meeting with the press Feb. 15, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, a council member, said that while the council “didn’t want to make it a great thing,” the cardinals saw the need to express their support for the pope.
“I think it was the time to repeat from our group (that) we are supporting the pope, we are going together with him,” Cardinal Marx said.
“We have discussions in the church, normal discussions, tensions; it will (always be) like this. But in a time like this, it is also clear for us as Catholics that loyalty to the pope is substantial for the Catholic faith and for Catholic believers.”
Although the statement said the cardinals’ support was offered “in relation to recent events,” no specific events were mentioned.
The statement came just a few days after a fake version of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, was emailed to Vatican officials and a week after posters were put up around Rome questioning the pope’s mercy in dealing with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and other groups over which the pope had placed special delegates.
“I will not add to it,” Cardinal Marx said when asked regarding the recent events. “We reflected (on) the sentence and so I will leave at that. We had the text and we said that’s enough. And I say today, it’s enough,” he told journalists.
The Council of Cardinals will meet again April 24-26.
In addition to Cardinal Marx, the council members are: Cardinals Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Sean P. O’Malley of Boston; Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; George Pell, head of the Secretariat for the Economy; and Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.

Pope: Dream, prophesy, don’t focus just on survival

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – When religious orders focus on survival rather than on sharing the joy and hope of faith in Jesus, they end up being “professionals of the sacred, but not fathers and mothers,” Pope Francis said.
“The temptation of survival turns what the Lord presents as an opportunity for mission into something dangerous, threatening, potentially disastrous,” the pope told consecrated men and women who joined him Feb. 2 for Mass on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day for Consecrated Life.
Speaking as a fellow member of a religious order, Pope Francis urged religious to keep alive the faith, hope and audacity of the men and women who founded the orders to which they belong.
“We are heirs to those who have gone before us and had the courage to dream,” he said during the Mass, which began with the blessing of candles celebrating the presentation of Christ as the light of the world.
The feast day Gospel reading from St. Luke tells the story of Mary and Joseph bringing the newborn Jesus to the temple in fulfillment of the law. The elderly and pious Simeon and Anna are in the temple and rejoice when they see Jesus, recognizing him as the Messiah.
Simeon and Anna, the pope said, testified that “life is worth living in hope because the Lord keeps his promise.”
The pope said religious have inherited Simeon and Anna’s hymn of hope from their founders and elders, who “had the courage to dream.”
Hope in the Lord and the prophetic announcement of his presence “will protect us from a temptation that can make our consecrated life barren: the temptation of survival” and of preserving institutions above all else, said the pope, a member of the Jesuit order.
“The mentality of survival makes us reactionaries, fearful, slowly and silently shutting ourselves up in our houses and in our own preconceived notions,” he said. “It makes us look back to the glory days – days that are past – and rather than rekindling the prophetic creativity born of our founders’ dreams, it looks for shortcuts in order to evade the challenges knocking on our doors today.
“A survival mentality robs our charisms of power, because it leads us to ‘domesticate’ them, to make them ‘user-friendly,’ robbing them of their original creative force,” Pope Francis continued. “It makes us want to protect spaces, buildings and structures, rather than to encourage new initiatives.”
The temptation of survival, he said, “turns us into professionals of the sacred but not fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters of that hope to which we are called to bear prophetic witness.”
Like Mary and Joseph, religious are called to bring Jesus into the midst of his people, the pope said. “Only this will make our lives fruitful and keep our hearts alive.”
All Christians, but especially those consecrated with the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, are called to be the leaven of the Gospel in the world, he said.
“Perhaps there are better brands of flour, but the Lord has called us to be leaven here and now, with the challenges we face. Not on the defensive or motivated by fear,” he said, “but with our hands on the plow, helping the wheat to grow, even though it has frequently been sown among weeds.”
“Putting Jesus in the midst of his people,” he said, “means taking up and carrying the crosses of our brothers and sisters. It means wanting to touch the wounds of Jesus in the wounds of a world in pain, which longs and cries out for healing.”