National and world news, June 15, 2018

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12.

U.S.-North Korea summit brings hope for peace
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Talks between the leaders of the United States and North Korea are “truly historic” and bring hope for the start of a new era of peace, said Pope Francis’ ambassador to Korea.
A “very important” new page has been turned, Archbishop Alfred Xuereb, apostolic nuncio to South Korea and Mongolia, told Vatican News June 12.
“It marks the beginning of a still long and arduous journey, but we are hopeful because the start has been very positive, very good,” he said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump met on Singapore’s Sentosa Island for the historic summit June 12. It was the first meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.
Afterward, Trump said Kim would work to end North Korea’s nuclear program. Trump promised to end joint military exercises with South Korea.
After the summit, Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul, South Korea, and apostolic administrator of Pyeongyang, North Korea, celebrated Mass in Myeongdong Cathedral to pray for prompt execution of the summit agreement.
“When I heard the news that there was a meaningful agreement between the two summits in their first meeting, I deeply thanked God to remember our prayers for reconciliation and union of the Korean people,” Cardinal Yeom said in his homily. “I sincerely wish that the agreement can be promptly executed to achieve the common good not only for Korean people but for all people on the globe.”
He also added prayers for the believers in North Korea to have the freedom of religion and be able to lead humane lives as soon as possible.
Archbishop Xuereb told Vatican News the rhetoric has gone from unleashing “fire and fury” against North Korea to more moderate language “that speaks of peace, of relations based on understanding, therefore, we are truly full of hope and confidence.”
“You can imagine how anxiously the Korean people and the church here in Korea are experiencing this truly historic moment,” the papal nuncio said.
“The Holy See wants to support whatever possible initiative that promotes dialogue and reconciliation” while also taking advantage of being able to take the Gospel message to everyone, he said.
Pope Francis led thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square in prayer June 10, expressing hopes the summit would lead to lasting peace.

Study finds Catholic school correlates with student’s self-control
Catholic elementary school students, regardless of race, sex, or socioeconomic status, have more self-control and self-discipline than their peers enrolled in either public schools or non-Catholic private schools, a recent study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found.
The study examined two surveys of the behavior of thousands of elementary school students enrolled in public, Catholic, and non-Catholic private schools.
According to the teachers in the surveys, students at Catholic schools engaged in fewer “externalizing behaviors,” meaning they did not fight, get angry, act impulsively, or disturb ongoing activities as frequently as students at other schools.
What’s more, Catholic school students are “more likely to control their temper, respect others’ property, accept their fellow students ideas, and to handle peer pressure.” This is true across demographic lines.
Acording to its website, the Fordham Institute promotes educational excellence for every child in America via quality research, analysis, and commentary. It is often described as a conservative think-tank.
While the study is encouraging, CATO Institute expert Corey A. DeAngelis warns that it is not causal, (as there was no real way to create a control group), and there could be other factors for a child’s good behavior than the type of school he or she attends.
Still, DeAngelis says there are reasons to believe that Catholic schools in particular could provide an environment to develop a sense of self-discipline.
“Religious schools may have a competitive advantage at shaping character skills because students are not just held accountable to teachers – they are also held accountable to God,” DeAnglis told CNA.

Court rules Abp. Sheen’s remains may be moved to Peoria
PEORIA, Ill. (CNS) — The Diocese of Peoria has reacted with “great joy” to a decision by a New York court in favor of Joan Sheen Cunningham’s petition to have the remains of her uncle, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, moved from New York City to Peoria.
“It is the hope that this process will begin immediately,” said a diocesan news release, issued June 8 following the ruling by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arlene Bluth that again clears the way for the remains of the famed orator and media pioneer to be removed from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and transferred to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria, the archbishop’s home diocese.
Peoria Bishop Daniel R. Jenky said he hoped the Archdiocese of New York — which appealed Bluth’s original ruling in favor of Cunningham in late 2016 — will now “cease its legal resistance.” He asked all to pray “for a renewed spirit of cooperation” to move Archbishop Sheen’s sainthood cause forward.
Officials in the Archdiocese of New York said June 11 they “will review this decision carefully with our attorneys and determine what next steps might be taken.” The statement also said trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral “have an obligation to respect the wishes of Archbishop Sheen, as clearly stated in his will and earlier insisted upon by his niece, that he be buried in New York.”
But in 2016, Cunningham, who is Archbishop Sheen’s oldest living relative, filed a petition with the courts in New York asking that his body be moved to the Peoria cathedral. She said her uncle would not have objected to his remains being transferred to his home diocese from the crypt at St. Patrick’s Cathedral where he was entombed following his death in 1979 at age 84.
The Peoria Diocese noted “this is the second time that the Superior Court of New York has ruled in favor of Joan Sheen Cunningham’s petition. … Earlier, the Appellate Court of New York remanded the case to the Superior Court for an evidentiary hearing and issuance of a new ruling.”
Returning the prelate’s remains to Peoria “will be the next step toward bringing ‘Venerable’ Archbishop Sheen’s beatification to completion including a beatification ceremony in Peoria, Illinois,” said the diocese’s news release.

National and world news, June 1, 2018

Irish bishop hopes papal visit can help bring healing after abortion vote
DUBLIN (CNS) -- An Irish bishop said he hopes Pope Francis’ August visit can help bring healing after a divisive referendum that will pave the way for abortion on demand up to 12 weeks’ gestation.
In a May 25 referendum, voters opted by a margin of 66.4 percent to 33.6 percent to remove the right to life of the unborn from the constitution.
Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick told Massgoers May 26 that the result “is deeply regrettable and chilling for those of us who voted ‘no.’”
He said “the final result of the referendum is the will of the majority of the people, though not all the people.”
“It is a vote, of course, that does not change our position.”

Remains of St. John XXIII begin pilgrimage in his home diocese
BERGAMO, Italy (CNS) — Accompanied by Bishop Francesco Beschi of Bergamo and escorted by both Italian and Vatican police officers, the glass coffin containing the body of St. John XXIII left the Vatican early May 24 for a 370-mile drive to Bergamo.
The route taken for the trip north was kept secret for security reasons.
When the procession reached Bergamo’s central Vittorio Veneto Square, Bishop Beschi told thousands of people gathered there that it was “with great joy and emotion that I accompanied to our diocese, our city, with the mortal remains — now relics — of John XXIII, which return for a few days to the land of his birth.”
St. John, who opened the Second Vatican Council, was born Nov. 25, 1881, in Sotto il Monte, a town near Bergamo. After his ordination as a priest and years of service in the Vatican diplomatic corps, he was appointed patriarch of Venice in 1953. He was elected pope Oct. 28, 1958, and died five years later.
The pilgrimage with his remains was meant to mark the 60th anniversary of his election and the 55th anniversary of his death.
Maria Calagari was in the square with her sister and some friends to welcome St. John’s remains.
“We are fortunate because we saw him when he was pope, we saw him die and we just saw him now — 55 years later as a saint here in Bergamo,” she said. “We are fortunate.”
In connection with the pilgrimage of St. John’s relics, Pope Francis gave an interview to L’Eco di Bergamo, the area’s main daily newspaper, which is owned by the Diocese of Bergamo.

Pope Francis: Holiness means living with hope, not doing extraordinary things
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A life of holiness isn’t defined by having visions or performing extraordinary feats of devotion, but by living with the hope of salvation promised by Christ, Pope Francis said.
While the call to live like a Christian is “the same as saying to live ‘like a saint,’” it does not mean “having a face like on a prayer card,” the pope said in his homily May 29 during morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae.
“Being a saint is another thing. It means walking toward what the Lord tells us about holiness. And what does walking toward holiness mean? Peter says it: ‘Set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ,’” Pope Francis said while reflecting on the day’s first reading.
The central message of the reading, in which Peter calls on Christians to be holy “in every aspect of your conduct,” is to walk toward the light of holiness by avoiding “the world’s way of thinking,” which “takes away your freedom,” he said.
“To walk toward holiness, you must be free,” the pope said. “Free to walk looking at the light, going forward. When we return to the way we lived before encountering Jesus Christ or when we return to the plans of this world, we lose our freedom.”
Christians may experience “the temptation of looking back” during difficult moments in life, like the people of Israel did when wandering in the desert, he said.

The Pope Francis’ prayer intention
Here is Pope Francis’ prayer intention for this month:
Universal: Social Networks – That social networks may work towards that inclusiveness which respects others for their differences.

National and world news, May 18, 2018

Kansas Legislature approves Adoption Protection Act
TOPEKA – The Kansas House of Representatives and Senate on Friday, May 4, approved the Adoption Protection Act. Gov. Jeff Colyer has promised to sign the bill into law when it reaches his desk.
This legislation will protect religiously motivated adoption providers like Catholic Charities from attack by hostile government agencies and political activists, which has unfortunately happened in other states. Faith based adoption providers in Kansas will now be protected in their work serving the common good.
Catholic Charities does not have an adoption service in the Diocese of Wichita, however.

The pope’s intention
Here is Pope Francis’ prayer intention for this month:
The Mission of the Laity: That the lay faithful may fulfil their specific mission, by responding with creativity to the challenges that face the world today.

National and world news, May 4, 2018

A woman looks at flowers, candles and toys left as a memorial to Alfie Evans in Liverpool, England, April 28. The 23-month-year-old died April 28 from complications of a degenerative brain condition. (CNS photo)

Pope, others mourn death of toddler Alfie Evans
LIVERPOOL, England (CNS) -- Pope Francis said he was mourning the death of English toddler Alfie Evans, who died four days after doctors withdrew his life support system.
The 23-month-old boy died at about 2:30 a.m. April 28 after his father, Tom Evans, spent 10 minutes trying to revive him by mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, according to reports in the British media.
Tom Evans, a Catholic, announced the death of his son on Facebook later that day with words: “My gladiator lay down his shield and gained his wings at 02:30 ... absolutely heartbroken ... I LOVE YOU MY GUY.”
Alfie’s mother, Kate James, wrote: “Our baby boy grew his wings tonight at 2:30 a.m. We are heartbroken.”
Soon afterward, Pope Francis, who had met Tom Evans at the Vatican April 18, tweeted: “I am deeply moved by the death of little Alfie. Today I pray especially for his parents, as God the Father receives him in his tender embrace.”
The Vatican-owned Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome offered to care for Alfie, although doctors who examined him said not much could be done but to make him comfortable. On April 23, the Italian government granted citizenship to the boy so he could be evacuated by a waiting air ambulance.
But that same day, Alfie was taken off his ventilator, and he was expected to die imminently. He began breathing unaided, prompting appeals by his parents to the High Court and then the Court of Appeal to allow their son to leave the country.
Judges upheld the original decision that it was in the “best interests” of Alfie, who suffered from a severe degenerative brain condition, to be allowed to die.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meet inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas April 27. (CNS photo)

Pope asks Catholics to pray the rosary for peace each day in May
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis prayed that the hopes for peace strengthened by the meeting of the leaders of North and South Korea will not be dashed, and he urged Catholics during the month of May to pray the rosary for peace.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in made a “courageous commitment” April 27 to ongoing dialogue to achieve “a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons,” Pope Francis said April 29 after leading some 30,000 people in praying the “Regina Coeli.”
“I pray to the Lord that the hopes for a future of peace and more brotherly friendship will not be disappointed and that the collaboration may continue bringing good fruits for the beloved Korean people and the whole world,” the pope said.

Pittsburgh diocese plan will see number of parishes drop from 188 to 57
PITTSBURGH (CNS) — After three years of discussions, Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik said the 188 parishes of the diocese will be placed into 57 groupings that will eventually become new parishes.
Bishop Zubik announced the plan April 28 during a media conference, saying the effort was designed to promote vibrant faith and revitalize parishes.
The announcement detailed the maximum number of weekend Masses per grouping and timelines for each grouping to work toward mergers and clergy assignments.
The move to groupings — part of a diocesan planning initiative called On Mission for The Church Alive! — were to take effect Oct. 15. No church closings are part of the plan’s first phase.

Dismissal of Fr. Pat Conroy, Catholic House of Representatives chaplain, sparks outrage
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The apparent forced resignation of the chaplain who tends to the spiritual needs of the U.S. House of Representatives and is Catholic has drawn fire against the Speaker of the House, who also is Catholic.
Earlier in April, news trickled out that Jesuit Father Patrick Conroy, a beloved figure on Capitol Hill, was set to retire in May, but various news outlets on April 26 began reporting that he was “ousted” and forced to resign by House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin.
NBC News reported April 26 that it had obtained a letter penned by the chaplain to Speaker Ryan saying: “As you have requested, I hereby offer my resignation as the 60th Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives.”
Father Conroy’s office declined an interview request by Catholic News Service about the resignation, but in an interview published by The New York Times, he said he was asked to resign but didn’t know why and expects to leave the post he’s held since 2011 by May 24.
In a June 2017 interview with CNS, he said he had opinions about politics, like most people, but knew his job was focused on his role helping members of Congress without paying attention to political stripes.
“I can think anything I want,” he said. “But I can’t say it. Some people say, ‘You’re there, why don’t you say prophetic things?’ If I did, a week from now, there would be a different person here and nothing would have changed.”
Some speculate that the following prayer is what led to his ouster.
“May all members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle. May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans,” he prayed as lawmakers considered the tax bill in November.
Via Twitter, fellow Jesuit Father James Martin, editor at large of America, the Jesuits’ national magazine, said if that prayer is what led to the firing, “then a Catholic Speaker of the House fired a Catholic chaplain for praying for the poor.”
Sister Simone Campbell, a Sister of Social Service and executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization, in a message posted via Twitter, said she was “outraged.”
“From my work with Father Conroy, it was clear that his ministry is bipartisan, and he holds the needs of all -- including both Republicans and Democrats -- in his heart,” she said.
She said she had “serious questions” about the firing, whether it was for the prayer surrounding the tax vote or because Father Conroy had invited a Muslim cleric to pray.
Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor with The Catholic Association -- a Washington-based group that describes itself as “dedicated to being a faithful Catholic voice in the public square -- defended Speaker Ryan and said anyone who knows him “knows he is a devoted Catholic.” She said in a statement that the criticisms surrounding Ryan’s “decision to ask the House chaplain to step aside are baseless and downright absurd. Reportedly, there were numerous complaints from members about the pastoral care offered by the chaplain, and he was asked to leave based on job performance alone. The Speaker attempted to give Father Conroy a gracious and dignified exit, but as is frequently the case in Washington, much ado is being made about nothing.”
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley proposed on April 27 establishing a committee to look into the ouster, but House Republicans overwhelmingly voted to kill the resolution.

U.S. State Department removes ‘reproductive rights’ section from human rights report
WASHINGTON D.C., April 30 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. State Department has removed the term “reproductive rights” from its annual human rights report, drawing praise from pro-life leaders who say that the phrase had become a thinly veiled reference to abortion.
“‘Reproductive rights’ has long been a euphemism for destroying human life in the womb,” said Lila Rose, founder and president of the pro-life group Live Action.
“A phrase that sounds like empowerment is a really only code for the subjugation of preborn children.”
The U.S. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017 were released last week, and now feature statistics on “coercion in population control” instead of “reproductive rights.”
Michael G. Kozak, a senior official with the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, said in a press briefing that the changes are “not a diminishment of women’s rights or a desire to get away from it,” but rather were done in order “to stop using a term that has several different meanings that are not all the ones we intend.”

Ohio diocese announces bishop undergoing treatment for leukemia
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (CNS) -- Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown has been diagnosed with “a form of acute leukemia” and will be undergoing chemotherapy, the diocese announced April 30.
In 2017, Bishop Murry, 69, a Jesuit, became the chair of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. He also serves as chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education.
The diocese said in its statement that he was admitted to the Cleveland Clinic April 29 and will undergo intensive treatment throughout the month of May. He will not be taking visitors, the statement said.
“Please keep Bishop Murry in your prayers,” said the statement, adding that it will provide periodic updates on his health.
Bishop Murray was ordained in 1979 as a priest for the Society of Jesus and has served as auxiliary bishop of Chicago, and bishop of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Pope: Catholic media must not fall behind in digital age
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In an age when technology is ever-evolving, Catholic news organizations must be willing to adapt to effectively proclaim the Gospel to all, Pope Francis said.
Speaking to directors and employees of Avvenire, the daily newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, the pope said that the use of new digital platforms not only requires significant technological updates but also a willingness to accept that “the attachment to the past may prove to be a dangerous temptation.”
“Authentic servants of tradition are those who, while keeping memory alive, know how to discern the signs of the times and open new paths,” he said May 1.
Marking the feast of St. Joseph the Worker and International Workers’ Day, which is a public holiday in Italy and many other countries, Pope Francis noted that Jesus’ foster father was a “man of silence,” which at first “may seem the opposite of a communicator.”
But, he said, Catholic journalists and news organizations must realize that “only by shutting down the noise of the world and our own gossip will it be possible to listen, which remains the first condition of every communication.”
Particularly in today’s world where “the speed of information surpasses our capacity of reflection,” he said, church members are exposed “to the impact and influence of a culture of haste and superficiality” and risk reducing the church’s mission to a “pastoral ministry of applause, to a dumbing down of thought and to a widespread disorientation of opinions that are not in agreement.”
The example set forth by St. Joseph, he added, is a reminder for all Christians working in the field of communications to “recover a sense of healthy slowness, tranquility and patience.”
“With his silence, he reminds us that everything begins from listening, from transcending oneself in order to be open to another person’s word and history,” the pope said.
Recalling the words of Blessed Paul VI, Pope Francis said that Catholic newspapers shouldn’t just report news to “make an impression or gain clients” but rather to educate their readers “to think, to judge” for themselves.
“Catholic communicators avoid rigidities that stifle or imprison,” he said. “They do not cage the Holy Spirit, but seek to let it fly, to let it breathe within the soul. They never allow reality to give way to appearances, beauty to vulgarity, social friendship to conflict. They cultivate and strengthen every sprout of life and goodness.”
Pope Francis encouraged Avvenire’s directors, journalists and employees to be heralds of the Gospel and, like St. Joseph, be true guardians who protect society’s well-being and dignity.

The pope’s intention
Here is Pope Francis’ prayer intention for this month:
The Mission of the Laity: That the lay faithful may fulfil their specific mission, by responding with creativity to the challenges that face the world today.

Doctors criticize court refusal to allow Alfie Evans to go to Italy

By Simon Caldwell, Catholic News Service
LIVERPOOL, England (CNS) -- A group of doctors has criticized the refusal of some of their colleagues and a court to allow Alfie Evans to travel to Italy for treatment as "medical tyranny."
Dr. Anthony Cole, the Catholic chairman of the Medical Ethics Alliance, has written an open letter saying that the treatment of Alfie and his parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, brought the medical profession in the U.K. into disrepute.
"The parents are being tortured as they watch the hospital take actions expected to lead to his death," said the April 24 letter, which was co-signed by nearly 60 others, including a number of prominent Catholic doctors.
"Despite a viable alternative being available (namely transfer by air ambulance for further assessment to a specialist hospital in Rome), the hospital and doctors responsible for his care insist that he remains under their care and on a pathway toward death," the letter said.
"While he now has some oxygen and some fluid, this has taken huge effort to obtain for him," it said.
The letter continued: "Actions such as these have now brought the Alder Hey (Children's) Hospital to worldwide attention and, by extension, bring our whole profession into disrepute."
"Medical tyranny must stop," it said. "Poor Alfie must not be killed in this way," they said, demanding his safe passage to Rome.
The Italian government granted citizenship to Alfie, and Vatican-owned Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome has offered to care for the child. Doctors in the U.K. have not been able to make a definitive diagnosis of the 23-month-old child's degenerative neurological condition, but they have said keeping him on life-support would be "futile."
Three specialists from Bambino Gesu had flown to Liverpool and examined Alfie. According to the president of Bambino Gesu, "a positive outcome would be difficult, but the baby's suffering can be alleviated."
The doctors' letter also called on the General Medical Council to investigate the actions of the staff at Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool.
The intervention of the Medical Ethics Alliance, an umbrella group of medical associations committed to upholding the principles of Hippocratic medicine, came the same day a High Court judge refused to allow the 23-month-old Alfie to go to Italy for treatment. On April 25, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court decision.
Speaking to ITV News April 24, Evans noted that the High Court judge suggested Alfie might be sent home to die.
But Evans said he had been told the hospital believed such a transfer would take up to six days to complete.
"In reality we could be in Italy right now," he said, adding that a German air ambulance was already in Liverpool waiting to evacuate Alfie.
"These people are eager to get him out of the country," said Evans, a Catholic. "I am not giving up because Alfie is breathing away, he is not suffering and he is not struggling."
He said that although his son was being given oxygen and fluids -- after six hours of requests by the family -- he had received no nutrition.
"They are just starving him at the moment," Evans said. "The doctors should let us go and stop making up excuses. They just don't want him to come out of here. They want him to deteriorate in the next few hours so they can say 'we told you.'"
Alfie was removed from a ventilator April 23 for the first time since he was admitted to Alder Hey in December 2016 with an undiagnosed degenerative neurological condition. Since coming off the ventilator, he has breathed unaided, which Evans said was a "shock" both to him and the boy's mother.
Evans flew to Rome April 18 and begged Pope Francis to help get his son "asylum" in Italy.
That same day, a statement issued by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales put its weight behind the hospital and the decisions of the courts.
"The professionalism and care for severely ill children shown at Alder Hey Hospital is to be recognized and affirmed," it said. "We know that recently reported public criticism of their work is unfounded."
"We note the offer of the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome to care for Alfie Evans. It is for that hospital to present to the British Courts ... the medical reasons for an exception to be made in this tragic case."

Imprisoned clergy of Dachau remembered for fearless faith

An image of Father Alois Andritzki hangs above the altar during his Mass of beatification in Dresden, Germany, in this 2011 file photo. The young German priest was executed in 1943 at the Nazi death camp of Dachau. (CNS photo/KNA-Bild)

By George Matysek, Catholic News Service

EMMITSBURG, Md. (CNS) -- When a virulent typhus epidemic swept through a World War II concentration camp in Dachau, Germany, in early 1945, many imprisoned Polish priests volunteered to minister to the dying men.
Eighteen clerics were chosen to go to the typhus block, each knowing he was almost certainly agreeing to a death sentence. All the priestly volunteers contracted the disease, with only two surviving it.
The heroism of those Polish priests is but one example of many feats of faith among the more than 2,500 Catholic priests, brothers and seminarians imprisoned at the Nazi-run camp.
Eileen Lyon, professor of history at State University of New York at Fredonia, has researched the "priest barracks" of Dachau. She recently discussed her study during the spring meeting of the American Catholic Historical Association April 12-14 at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg.
In an interview with the Catholic Review, news outlet of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Lyon said that more than 1,000 Catholic clerical prisoners died at Dachau, sometimes by torture.
She noted that the Catholic Church already has beatified 56 of the clergymen and the causes of many more are being studied.
Catholic priests, brothers and seminarians, along with clergy from other denominations, were sent to Dachau because they posed a threat to the Nazi regime. They included German clergy who had spoken out against Hitler or his policies. A much larger group was composed of clerics from the occupied territories, including many from Poland.
At Dachau, a political re-education camp established in 1933 in an abandoned munitions factory near Munich, three barracks were designated for priests: numbers 26, 28 and 30.
In December 1940, clergy held at other camps began to be transferred to Dachau, Lyon said, following intervention from the Vatican and German bishops who were concerned about the "very harsh" treatment they were undergoing. At the Gusen concentration camp near Linz, Austria, for example, many died working in a quarry.
Because clergy were exempt from heavy labor, she said, the Nazis decided to find other "uses" for them at Dachau.
"They did horrific experiments with malaria and with temperature," the historian said. "They were pseudo-medical experiments that had no scientific value."
Nazis permitted ethnically German priests to celebrate Mass in a chapel erected in Barrack 26. But Polish priests, for significant periods of time, were barred from the chapel. They celebrated Masses in their barracks or work sites, Lyon said, or German priests smuggled consecrated hosts to them so they could receive the Eucharist.
A common tactic among the Nazis was to offer freedom to any priest who promised to renounce his priesthood.
"I can't find anyone who took them up on that," Lyon said. "It's not possible to say whether that's because of their deep commitment to the priesthood or they didn't trust the deal."
Lyon said one of the most extraordinary moments in the history of the concentration camp was the priestly ordination of Blessed Karl Leisner, a young German who received the sacrament by an imprisoned French bishop. Blessed Leisner had already been ordained a deacon prior to his arrest by the Gestapo.
"He was terminally ill (with tuberculosis)," Lyon said, "and just so desired to receive that sacrament of ordination."
Diaries and reflections written after their release show many clerical prisoners found their faith deepened after surviving Dachau.
"They felt they were contemplating the faith in a much purer way," she said. "They talk about the way it really deepens their experience, and they understand what it is to rely upon God in a way they didn't before."
After Americans liberated Dachau in April 1945, many clerical prisoners returned to academia and pastoral ministry within months. Others were so weakened by their ordeal that they were physically unable to continue ministry.
About a dozen of the former prisoners became bishops, and some participated in the Second Vatican Council.
"In their memoirs, they really talk about reconciliation," Lyon said. "There is not a sense of bitterness, a sense of blame, particularly in terms of the Germans who had perpetrated this."
Rebuilding the Catholic Church after World War II was a tremendous task, Lyon said. Some dioceses in Poland lost more than half their priests, with many summarily executed at the outset of the Nazi invasion.
"The task of rebuilding the church is a very difficult one," Lyon said. "There's also the coming to terms and trying to address the fact that the torture they endured (and) the genocide that had been committed was something perpetrated by the baptized. So how do you try and restart the spiritual life of Europe after that?"
Lyon said researching the Holocaust is difficult because "you are confronted with evil on a scale that's hard to imagine."
"When you see them able to forgive all they had suffered," she said, "it's a very powerful witness to the faith that they have."
Editor's Note: The interview with Lyon was broadcast on the radio program "Catholic Baltimore" and can be heard at
Matysek is digital editor for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Abp. Chaput: Our culture is replacing Christianity with a different religion

Our culture isn’t reverting to the paganism of the past, according to Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, instead it is creating a religion to replace Christianity – and today’s new sexual mores are part of that change.
The Most Rev. Chaput, archbishop of Philadelphia, was one of the speakers at the Humanae Vitae 50th Anniversary Symposium April 4-6, at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.
The moral conflicts society faces, such as broken families, social unraveling, and gender confusion stems “from our disordered attitudes toward creation and our appetite to master, reshape and even deform nature to our wills,” Abp. Chaput said.
“We want the freedom to decide what reality is. And we insist on the power to make it so,” he said. Such thinking is manifest in efforts to master the limitations of the human body and “attack the heart of our humanity.”
A half century after the publication of Humanae Vitae, the church in the United States is at a very difficult but also very promising moment,” the archbishop said.
The church’s mission now, as always, he added, in not to surrender to the world, “but to feed and ennoble the deepest yearnings of the world and thereby to lead it to Jesus Christ and his true freedom and joy.”

Want to watch the symposium speakers?
Recordings from the symposium presentations may be viewed at
For more information about natural family planning, visit

National and world news, March 16, 2018

Third federal judge rules on ending DACA
By the Catholic News Service and the Catholic Advance
BALTIMORE (CNS) — A federal judge in Maryland has ruled that President Donald Trump acted legally in ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, saying “the decision to wind down DACA in an orderly manner was rational.”
In a 30-page decision handed down late March 5, Judge Roger W. Titus ruled in the case of CASA de Maryland v. the U.S. Department of Homeland Security et. al. Titus is a judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, based in Baltimore.
Titus said Trump’s executive order to rescind the program “is clear as to its purpose and reasoning,” but he also acknowledged Trump’s “occasionally disparaging remarks” about immigration. However, “as disheartening or inappropriate” they may be, “they are not relevant to the larger issues governing the DACA rescission.”
Danny Krug, director of Hispanic Ministry, said the issue has become politicized.
“It’s very concerning and alarming to hear the news nowadays and see how our country’s view on human dignity is heading from compassion and fairness to a bargaining tool for lawmakers,” she said.
“As Christians, our human values should be above and beyond any political or personal agenda. Let’s listen and see with our open Catholic Christian heart the suffering, anguish, fear, and uncertainty of the many Dreamers and their families.”
She urged the faithful to “raise their voices” and to pray for lawmakers, Dreamers, and so that a road to citizenship for the Dreamers and DACA recipients can be paved.
The Washington Times reported March 7 that Homeland Security said illegal immigrants who have applied for the DACA deportation amnesty won’t be deported even if their status lapsed during President Trump’s attempted phaseout.
Department spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton said they are complying with two court orders and accepting renewal applications from any of the 800,000 people who’d been previously approved for the program. That includes tens of thousands of people whose protections were slated to expire over the next few months — as long as they filed requests for renewal.
“DHS has repeatedly stated that, absent additional negative factors, DACA recipients are not a priority or target group for arrest or removal,” Mr. Houlton said.
He said there are some exceptions, such as those who amass criminal records, but “an individual who is a current DACA recipient, or who was a previous DACA recipient but has filed for renewal, will not be targeted for arrest nor will be removed from the United States while the individual has DACA protections or while the DACA renewal request is pending.”
In September, Trump announced his administration was ending the program, and he gave lawmakers until March 5 to find a legislative solution to protect the young adults benefiting from DACA, which was put in place in 2012 through an executive order signed by President Barack Obama.
Titus’ ruling does not impact previous decisions by two federal judges, in California and New York, who effectively blocked the March 5 deadline by saying Trump could not end the program and that the government must continue to accept renewal applications for DACA beneficiaries already in the program. Congress so far has failed to pass any measure to keep DACA in place.
The Trump administration appealed to the Supreme Court to hear and rule on the California federal judge’s ruling in an effort to bypass the appeals court process.

Christian activists warn of certain Syrian slaughter
AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) — Christian activists warn that 1 million Syrian civilians will face certain slaughter in northwestern Afrin, where they allege Turkey and its militant allies have already carried out “war crimes” and “ethnic cleansing.”
They have appealed to U.S. President Donald Trump and top U.S. officials to stop the bloodshed, warning that failure to act jeopardizes the hard-fought U.S.-led military campaign against Islamic State in Syria.
Civilians from other parts of Syria and outside the country have reportedly offered to stand as “human shields” between the Kurdish-backed fighters and Turkish forces set to storm Afrin.
Cardinal Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria, said, “I have never seen so much violence as in Syria.” In remarks March 9, he likened the situation to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

No parking zone: Christians need to journey, take risks, pope says
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — True Christians take risks to constantly seek out Christ, because they know that receiving God’s grace is just the beginning of a lifelong journey toward real joy, Pope Francis said.
Settling and being content with the first grace one receives from God is like filling up on the appetizer and leaving the restaurant unaware that the best was yet to come, he said in his homily March 12 at morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
“There are lots of stationary Christians, who do not walk, bogged down by everyday things,” he said. They are good people, he said, “but they do not grow, they stay small.”
They are like “parked Christians — they park themselves. Caged Christians who do not know how to fly with the dream of this beautiful thing the Lord calls us to,” he said.
The pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading from St. John in which a royal official asked Jesus to heal his dying son. The pope said that while Jesus performs the miracle, he seems impatient that “unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe,” reads the verse.
The miracle led the royal official and his household to believe in Jesus; this should be not be the end, but rather the beginning of a constant journey seeking to find God, encounter him and be joyful with him, the pope said.
God is inviting everyone to keep going and seek the joy and delight of being with the Lord, as can be seen in the day’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah, the pope said.
“Do I seek the Lord this way? Or am I afraid? Am I mediocre? What is the measure of my longing? The antipasto or the whole banquet?” he asked.

Confessors should seek to bring penitents closer to Jesus, pope says
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A good confessor is a good listener, Pope Francis said.
By truly listening to the penitent during confession, “we listen to Jesus himself, poor and humble; by listening to the Holy Spirit, we put ourselves in attentive obedience, becoming listeners of the Word” in order to know what God wants to be done, he said.
This is how priests can offer “the greatest service” to all penitents, especially the young, because “we put them in touch with Jesus himself,” he said March 9.
The pope spoke to hundreds of confessors and other participants attending an annual course on the sacrament of reconciliation, sponsored by the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court that handles issues related to the absolution of sin.
He warned confessors to avoid the temptation of becoming “masters” over other people’s consciences, especially the young, who are very easily influenced.
A confessor must never forget his is not the source of mercy or grace, but he is, however, an “indispensable instrument, but always just an instrument,” the pope said.
Being a conduit between the Holy Spirit and the penitent does not diminish this ministry, rather it leads to its fulfillment, he said.
The more the priest “disappears and Christ, the supreme and eternal priest, appears more clearly,” the more the priest fulfills his vocation as “unprofitable servants.”
In light of the October Synod of Bishops on young people, faith and vocational discernment, the course this year looked at the relationship between the sacrament of reconciliation and helping others discern their vocation.
The pope said young people should be able to hear what God is saying to them, both in their own conscience and by listening to the word. To achieve this, young people need wise accompaniment by a confessor, he added.
With priest and penitent both prayerfully listening to God’s will, confession can become an occasion for discovering God’s plan for the individual, he said.

Catholics, Muslims urged at dialogue to look inward first in interreligious efforts
MUNDELEIN, Ill. (CNS) — Taking on the issue of religious prejudice, the National Muslim and Catholic Dialogue met for the third time at University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary March 6-8.
Announced in February 2016, the national dialogue, which is sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, aims to show public support for Islamic American communities.
It builds on three regional Catholic-Muslim dialogues — mid-Atlantic, Midwest and West Coast — that have taken place for more than 20 years.
Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich co-chairs the dialogue with Sayyid Syeed, national director of the Islamic Society of North America’s Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances.
During the March 7 public portion of the dialogue, Rita George-Tvrtkovic, associate professor of theology at Benedictine University in Lisle, and Irfan Omar, associate professor of theology at Marquette University in Milwaukee, delivered remarks around the theme “One God, One Humanity: Confronting Religious Prejudice.”
Delivering remarks from a Catholic viewpoint, George-Tvrtkovic addressed rooting out prejudice inside Catholic and Muslim communities, in nonreligious or non-Catholic or Muslim communities and between the two religions.
“We have to begin with our own attitudes — not just Catholics who are prejudiced, but I also mean my attitude towards my fellow Catholics who I may perceive as Islamophobic.”

The pope’s intention
Here is Pope Francis’ prayer intention for this month:
Evangelization: Formation in Spiritual Discernment That the Church may appreciate the urgency of formation in spiritual discernment, both on the personal and communitarian levels.

National and world news, March 2, 2018

Christian leaders shut Church of Holy Sepulcher to protest taxes
JERUSALEM (CNS) — Protesting several recent actions they described as a “systematic campaign ... against the churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land,” the heads of Christian churches announced Feb. 25 they were closing of the doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for an undisclosed period of time.
Bewildered pilgrims milled around the square in front of the church as Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III — flanked by Franciscan Father Francesco Patton, custos of the Holy Land, and Armenian Patriarch Nourhan Manougian — read a short statement to the press. At the same time, the only two people allowed to close the doors — the Muslim custodian of the key, Adeeb Jawad Joudeh Al Husseini, and Muslim door keeper Wajeeh Nuseibeh — closed and locked the doors.
“This systematic and unprecedented attack against Christians in the Holy Land severely violates the most basic ... and sovereign rights, trampling on the delicate fabric of relations between the Christian community and the authorities for decades,” the heads of churches said in their statement.
The church leaders were protesting the Jerusalem municipality’s intention to impose property taxes on church property, such as hotels and convention centers, not used for worship purposes. The proposal to levy taxes on some properties would run contrary to the unofficial historical tax-exempt status the churches have enjoyed for centuries.
In addition, the church leaders said they oppose a bill in the Israeli parliament that would limit the ability to sell church-owned land to private owners. The bill, whose vote was postponed following the church protest, would be specifically detrimental to the Greek Orthodox Church, which owns large tracts of land in central Jerusalem upon which many private homes are built; many of those 99-year-old building rental contracts will soon expire. The church already has sold some of the land to private owners, and homeowners whose apartments are on the land worry about losing their homes.
Rachel Azaria, the member of Parliament who sponsored the bill, said it is not meant to affect what the church can do with its property, but what happens when the land rights are sold to a third party.
As media gathered to hear the church leaders, pilgrims wandered around the church square, some kneeling in front of the massive wooden doors — the closest they would come to entering the church.
“We had one shot,” said Flavia Falcone, 25, an Italian Catholic living in Poland, who had come to Israel for four days. “This was a bad decision. Faith and politics are two different things. I came here all this way to see the church and I find it closed. It is not very pleasant.”
It is only the second time the doors to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher have been closed in the middle of the day, other than for traditional religious ceremonies.

The pope’s intention
Here is Pope Francis’ prayer intention for this month:
Evangelization: Formation in Spiritual Discernment That the Church may appreciate the urgency of formation in spiritual discernment, both on the personal and communitarian levels.

Inmates at Louisiana prison built casket for the Rev. Billy Graham
NEW ORLEANS (CNS) — In 1995, as inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola lowered the makeshift, cardboard casket containing the body of fellow inmate Joseph Siegel into freshly dug ground at the prison’s cemetery, Siegel’s body fell through the bottom of the coffin.
Then, as the pallbearers positioned the casket with care over his body and began shoveling dirt, the top collapsed.
Burl Cain, in his first year as warden at the nation’s largest maximum-security prison, where all but a fraction of the 5,000 men will die without ever walking back through the gates, had seen enough.
Cain gathered inmates for what, by Angola standards, would be an unusual warden-prisoner talk. Many of the prisoners were skilled craftsmen, who had worked for years to set up the popular Angola Prison Rodeo.
“I told them, ‘Men, you’re going to die here, and we’ve got to do this with dignity,’” Cain recalled. “’Y’all are going to build a coffin, and it’s going to be a nice coffin. When you die, you’ve served your sentence, and there’s no reason for anybody to kick your body.’”
That event more than two decades ago led to inmates at the prison building the casket for the Rev. Billy Graham, the charismatic evangelical Christian leader who died Feb. 21 at age 99.
Cain served as warden at Angola for 21 years and is credited with changing the violent and deadly prison culture through an emphasis on what he calls “moral rehabilitation.”
“I coined that term because everybody liked ‘morality’ and everybody liked ‘rehabilitation,’ and the ACLU would leave me alone,” Cain said. “I couldn’t say ‘faith-based’ and I couldn’t say ‘Christian.’ That would get me sued.”
Cain established seminary education, sponsored by the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and built several interdenominational chapels, including a hospice chapel funded by Catholic entities and an Alamo chapel, a replica of the original Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, used often by Catholic inmates.
Cain said he was being “selfish” when he decided to open Angola to the outside world, with an emphasis on theological training.
“I realized this: Moral people don’t rape, pilfer and steal,” Cain said. “So, if I could get these guys to become moral, I’d have a safer prison, I could survive.”
In 1997, Chuck Colson, an evangelical Christian who had served prison time for obstruction of justice in the Watergate scandal and who had begun a national prison ministry, visited Angola with Tex Reardon, who was associated with the Rev. Graham and his worldwide evangelical crusades.
“In the 1950s, my mother would send a check for $5 every month to Billy Graham, even though she was a school teacher and my parents were poor,” Cain said. “So, I asked Tex Reardon if there was any way he could get Billy Graham to come here — because this prison needed him.”
Not long after that, Graham’s son Franklin visited Angola and was so impressed he set the wheels in motion for the construction of two more chapels — one for the inmates and another, Cain said, for “the employees of our little city.”
“They wanted their own people to come build it, because it was a ministry for them,” Cain said. “They wanted the pews to be just old-timey so that it would look like an old-timey church.”

Change your heart, change your abortion votes, Bishop Paprocki tells Sen. Durbin
SPRINGFIELD, (CNA) - Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois has reiterated that U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin should not receive Holy Communion due to the Catholic lawmaker’s support for abortion, including a recent procedural vote against a bill that would bar abortion after 20 weeks into pregnancy.
“Sen. Durbin was once pro-life. I sincerely pray that he will repent and return to being pro-life,” Bishop Paprocki said Thursday. “Because his voting record in support of abortion over many years constitutes ‘obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin,’ the determination continues that Sen. Durbin is not to be admitted to Holy Communion until he repents of this sin. This provision is intended not to punish, but to bring about a change of heart.”

Rare snowfall leads to fun, frenzy in Rome
VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News) - Many were skeptical, but when Romans awoke Monday morning the forecast was right: the city was covered in a blanket of snow – a phenomenon so rare that schools were closed and public transport largely suspended throughout the day.
However, while much of the city is closed indoors sipping tea or hot cocoa, many of those near the Vatican zipped to St. Peter's Square for a bit of snow-filled fun: some instigated snowball fights, some built miniature snowmen, and at least one man even donned skis to make his way through the slush.
Nuns, priests and seminarians also joined in the excitement, and as locals slowly began to emerge from their houses, wrapped head to toe, they stopped to admire and snap photos of their major landmarks covered in a dusting of white, including the dome of St. Peter's Basilica.

Euthanasia in hospices ‘a serious error,’ says Archbishop Miller
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CNS) — Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver said the British Columbia provincial government must stop attempts to force hospices and care homes to provide euthanasia.
Provincial health authorities are “making a serious error” in trying to coerce caregivers — “committed to making the final stages of life for the elderly, sick, and suffering meaningful and dignified” — into supporting assisted suicide, the archbishop said in a Feb. 22 statement.
“Assisted suicide stands in stark contrast” to the care that hospices offer, and none should be compelled to provide it, he said.
More than 2,000 Canadians have died of assisted suicide since the practice was made legal in June 2016. Archbishop Miller said that points to a dire need for better end-of-life care, not increased access to a lethal injection.
“If the elderly, sick, and suffering in our population feel that euthanasia is their best option, it means we as a society and as individuals are letting them down,” he wrote.
“In nearly every case, we can provide adequate pain management to comfort patients. But what about the lonely, the abandoned, and those who see themselves as a burden to others or society? How do we address their needs and assure them life has meaning?”

Catholics protest threats to life in the Philippines
Cardinal Tagle leads priests, nuns, and laypeople round the capital’s main park
MANILA, Philippines (CNS) — Catholics came out strongly against what they described as “threats to life” in rallies held in major cities across the Philippines Feb. 24.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila led priests, nuns, and laypeople in an early morning “Walk for Life” around the capital’s main park, reported
The cardinal appealed to Catholics to value all lives, even those of their enemies and society’s so-called outcasts. reported that among the issues raised during the march were drug-related killings, a proposal in Congress to legalize divorce and changes to the constitution.
“Let us bring back the belief that the lives of other people, even of our enemies, are a gift from God,” Cardinal Tagle said.
Relatives of those who died in the government’s “war against drugs” joined the candlelit procession in which an estimated 2,000 people took part.
“Life is a gift from God. But when we start thinking of other people’s lives in terms of their usefulness to us, it becomes so easy for us to just do away and discard life,” Cardinal Tagle said.
He said it is “easy to walk for one’s loved ones, but quite difficult to do the same for one’s enemies.”
In the central Philippines, an estimated 5,000 Catholics joined a “Walk for Life With Mary” led by Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu.
The archbishop said Catholics support the government’s war against drugs but “question the manner it is done because of questionable motives and circumstances.”
“No man has the right to (end) another’s life. God is the beginning and end of life. Let us protect life from womb to tomb,” he said.
Rights groups say that close to 12,000 suspected drug users and peddlers have been killed in the government’s campaign against narcotics.
“I hope all threats to life and the series of killings will stop because we are all brothers and sisters in Jesus and Mary,” said Archbishop Palma.
In Cagayan de Oro City, in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma warned that the drug-related killings “will create more problems.”
“While we are trying to solve one problem, we are creating another,” he said, adding that it is the hope of the church “for the government to promote due process” in the campaign against illegal drugs.

Colosseum bathed in red in honor of modern martyrs
ROME (CNS) — Rome’s Colosseum, long a symbol of the persecution of early Christians, was bathed in red light late Feb. 24 as a reminder of and a prayer for the thousands of Christians being persecuted for their faith today.
The family of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death under Pakistan’s highly criticized anti-blasphemy laws, and Rebecca Bitrus, a Nigerian Christian who was held in captivity for two years by Boko Haram terrorists, told their stories before the red lights were shined on the Colosseum.
Bitrus and Bibi’s husband and daughter had met earlier in the day with Pope Francis at the Vatican. They were accompanied by leaders of Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic foundation that has a long history of assisting persecuted Christians.
Alessandro Monteduro, director of the Italian section of Aid to the Church, said the 40-minute meeting with Pope Francis was “extraordinary,” particularly because the entire encounter took place in an atmosphere of prayer by the pope and by his guests.
The pope “wanted everyone to pray together in their own languages,” he said. So Eisham, Asia Bibi’s youngest daughter, prayed in Urdu and Bitrus prayed in Hausa. “It was a moment of extraordinarily intense emotion,” Monteduro said.
Eisham had visited her mother in prison Feb. 17 and told her about the trip to Rome, he said. Asia Bibi told her, “If you meet the pope, give him a kiss from me.” And the young woman did.

Congo’s bishops: Two killed in protests against ‘dictatorship’
KINSHASA, Congo (CNS) — Congo’s bishops said a young Catholic was killed at point-blank range and another was shot dead while trying to return home from anti-government protests.
The protests, organized by the church’s Lay Coordination Committee, were designed to be peaceful marches “to say no to dictatorship,” said a statement on the bishops’ website Feb. 26, the day after the marches. They said police used tear gas and live bullets.
The bishops said Rossy Tshimanga was shot outside Kinshasa’s St. Benedict Church. After a second youth was shot, young people set fire to police buildings, the bishops said.
The confrontation was the third in two months to occur after Sunday Masses. Clashes Dec. 31 and Jan. 21 left 15 people dead, 70 injured and 115 arrested, including a dozen clergy, according to church and United Nations data.
“Human rights defenders are denouncing the brutality shown by police in scattering these peaceful demonstrators,” the bishops said. “But if we believe the city of Kinshasa’s police commissioner, no such slip-ups took place.”
A police spokesman said no one was killed as police broke up the protests.
The bishops said others were injured and detained around the country as more than 3 million protesters rallied nationwide, demanding President Joseph Kabila step down. A 2016 church-brokered accord required Kabila to resign after his second five-year term, with elections by late 2017. The country’s elections currently are scheduled for December.
“The Congolese national police suppressed peaceful marches in several Kinshasa parishes, notably at St. Francis de Sales, where riot police were deployed in the road facing the church and fired warning shots after Mass,” the bishops said.
“At Our Lady of Fatima Parish, the demonstrators were also restrained by police after scuffles, while those at Holy Trinity Parish marched along back roads before encountering the security forces.”
In a Feb. 26 statement, Leila Zerrougui, head of the U.N. stabilization mission in Congo, demanded an inquiry and said she regretted more deaths had occurred, “despite orders given to security forces to show greatest restraint in handling the demonstrations.”
On Feb. 25, Father Donatien Nshole, secretary-general of the Congolese bishops’ conference, praised the behavior of the police officers in some areas of Kinshasa and called on the population to remain vigilant.
Agence France-Presse reported that security forces had been “massively deployed before all Catholic churches” in Congo’s second-largest city, Lubumbashi, where “any attempt to gather” had been “systematically dispersed” with tear gas and live bullets. It reported that several Catholics were badly wounded when trying to sing Congo’s national anthem outside Kinsangani’s cathedral, while at least three priests had been driven away in a police jeep at the city’s St. Peter Parish.
AFP reported the government had accused church leaders of “partisan political activism” and “inciting the population to revolt” during a Feb. 24 government meeting.

Texas bishops support Charities in wake of gay adoption lawsuit
FORT WORTH, Texas, (CNA/EWTN News) - The Catholic bishops of Texas voiced strong support Tuesday for a Catholic organization being sued by a lesbian couple in Texas.
The couple, Fatma Marouf and Bryn Esplin, filed a complaint this week in district court in Washington against Catholic Charities of Fort Worth after being denied a request to adopt refugee children.
The couple believes they are being discriminated against on the grounds of their sexual orientation, and told the Washington Post that they hope their lawsuit results either in a policy change at Catholic Charities or in a loss of the organization’s taxpayer funding.
In a joint statement Tuesday, the Catholic bishops of Texas voiced their support for Catholic Charities of Fort Worth, which they said is in compliance both with Catholic teaching and “with all federal regulations associated with funding from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through its Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is carrying out the federal government's Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) and the Unaccompanied Alien Child (UC) programs.”

National and world news, February 16, 2018

Sisters from Minnesota Catholic schools play on separate Olympic teams
ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) — Few schools can claim an Olympic athlete among their alumni base.
Even fewer schools have more than one, especially from the same family. But Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood and St. Odilia School in Shoreview — both Catholic schools — are proud to make this claim.
That’s because Hannah and Marissa Brandt, graduates of both schools, play on women’s Olympic ice hockey teams competing in this year’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Hannah Brandt, a recent standout with the University of Minnesota women’s hockey team, is a forward for the U.S. Olympic team, which defeated Finland 3-1 on Feb. 11 and played Olympic Athletes from Russia Feb. 13. Marissa Brandt, who was adopted as a baby from South Korea, used her birth name, Park-Yoon Jung, for the Olympics and plays defense for the combined Koreas, which lost 8-0 to Switzerland Feb. 10.
Hill-Murray and St. Odilia recognized the sisters’ achievements in the weeks leading up to the games. The St. Odilia school office has a display of the Brandts’ successes.
Brian Ragatz, St. Odilia principal, said students are encouraged knowing that these athletes sat in the same desks as they do. He said it “really inspires them a little bit more to go out and reach their goal, because it seems a little bit more attainable.”
Students at Hill-Murray held a red, white and blue dress-up day during National Catholic Schools Week. They wore the colors to raise funds for parents of Olympians to attend the games.
Hill-Murray had T-shirts and sweatshirts made to celebrate the Brandts. The school will also televise their games in the commons area.
Principal Erin Herman said the Brandt sisters excelled on and off the ice in high school.
“Not only are they great athletes, both Hannah and Marissa were outstanding students and all-around wonderful young women,” Herman said. “They are both humble and kind; you would not have known they were Olympic athletes when you met them in the hall.”
At St. Odilia, music teacher Carrie Northrop told the elementary school students about the schools’ two Olympians, whom she taught.
“This had been a goal of Hannah’s since she was a little girl. This was something she talked about when she was going through elementary school,” Northrop said.
Northrop said Marissa Brandt originally was more of a figure skater but chose hockey because of her closeness to her sister. Marissa Brandt had a standout career at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter before making the Korean team.

Update: Report shows NGOs follow policy barring use of aid for abortion
WASHINGTON (CNS) — A Trump administration report on its reinstatement of the “Mexico City Policy” shows that nongovernmental organizations “are willing and able to comply with this policy,” said the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee chairman.
“That compliance does not appear to undermine delivery of appropriate health services,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York in a Feb. 8 statement.
The cardinal, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, made the comments in reaction to the administration’s release of a six-month report on implementation of the policy, now called Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance.
The policy ensures that U.S. foreign aid does not subsidize foreign nongovernmental organizations that perform or promote abortion on demand.
In a Jan. 23, 2017, executive memorandum — issued three days after his inauguration — President Donald Trump, reinstated and expanded the policy, which his predecessor, President Barack Obama, rescinded Jan. 23, 2009, three days after his inauguration for his first term.
In May 2017, the U.S. State Department put the reinstated policy into effect. Trump’s memorandum directed the U.S. secretary of state “to implement a plan to extend the Mexico City Policy to “global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies.’”
“Global health assistance” includes funding for international health programs, such as those for HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, malaria, global health security, and family planning and reproductive health.
Cardinal Dolan said the Trump administration has restored “our foreign assistance to its rightful goals of promoting health and human rights.
“Abortion undermines basic human rights, certainly for the child, and it also can wound the mother emotionally and physically,” he continued.
“U.S. tax dollars have no business going to organizations that are unwilling to pursue health outcomes for every person and instead insist on promoting and imposing their abortion ideology on women and children.”
He said the six-month report “provides early evidence” that 729 out of 733 NGOs are complying with the policy.
The Mexico City Policy was first put in place by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. It was named for the city that hosted the U.N. International Conference on Population that year and where Reagan, then in his first term as president, unveiled it.
It was in place until President Bill Clinton took office. He revoked it in 1993, doing away with it so quickly following his inauguration that some participants in the March for Life, conducted two days after the inauguration, carried “Impeach Clinton” signs.
In 2001, President George W. Bush reinstated it in two days into his presidency, expanding it to include all voluntary family planning activities, then Obama rescinded the policy.

Church leaders decry situation in Syria
ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan (CNS) -- As Syria’s war soon enters its eighth year, many decry the recent dangerous escalation in the conflict, whether in the country’s north, between Turkey and the Kurds, or in the south, between Iran and Israel.
Speaking from the sprawling Zaatari Refugee Camp housing 80,000 Syrians near Jordan’s border with Syria, the head of the U.N. refugee agency condemned the recent Israeli-Iranian confrontation over Syria, which threatens to open a new and unpredictable front in the war.

Pope, Melkite patriarch formalize full communion
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Formalizing their unity in the intimate setting of the chapel of the papal residence, Pope Francis and Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi concelebrated Mass together in the presence of members of the Melkite synod of bishops.
Instead of giving a homily at the early morning Mass Feb. 13, Pope Francis explained the special nature of Patriarch Absi’s visit.
“He is the father of a church, a very ancient church, and he comes to embrace Peter, to say, ‘I’m in communion with Peter,’” Pope Francis said during the Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae. The Melkite church, one of the many Eastern churches in full union with Rome, “has its own theology within Catholic theology, it has a marvelous liturgy and a people of its own.”
“At this time, a large portion of that people is being crucified like Jesus,” the pope said, referring especially to Melkites who, like Patriarch Absi, are from Syria. “We offer this Mass for the people, for the people who suffer, for the persecuted Christians of the Middle East.”
The 71-year-old patriarch, who was elected in June, told Pope Francis, “I cannot describe how beautiful this moment is,” but he said he was “very moved by your fraternal charity, by the gestures of fraternity and solidarity you have shown our church.”
At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis asked the patriarch to join him in giving the final blessing to the few dozen people invited to the morning Mass.
The pope, patriarch and bishops also had met Feb. 12 in the papal library.
“At this difficult time, many Christian communities in the Middle East are called to live their faith in the Lord Jesus in the midst of many trials,” the pope told them. He prayed that the patriarch, bishops and priests of the Melkite church would live in a way that would encourage all the faithful “to remain in the land where divine providence wanted them to be.”
Pope Francis urged them to be “pastors — like the Lord with his disciples — who reanimate the hearts of the faithful by staying close to them, consoling them, reaching down to them and their needs; pastors who, at the same time, accompany them up, to seek what is above, where there is Christ, and not the things of earth.”