National and world news, August 4, 2017

Sandwiches for homeless changing lives of recipients, parishioners alike
WASHINGTON (CNS) — While driving to work with his son, Eric Von Gay Sr. noticed a homeless man walk out of his tent to look for food in the grass. That's when Eric Gay Jr. got the idea to "keep what Father Bill started."
His thought about helping the less fortunate was in response to a luncheon Father Bill Carloni hosted for underserved people a couple weeks earlier at Holy Name Catholic Church in Washington, where the priest is administrator.
Eric Jr. believed his idea would be a perfect way to get the community at Holy Name involved with doing something bigger than themselves.
Since then, Eric Sr. and his wife, Gale Gay, committed themselves to giving food to the homeless after church.
"In this day and age with all that's going on, I think people need to see that there are people out there that are trying to help them," said Gale, who spoke to Catholic News Service while giving out lunches. "A positive image that we give to them might give them a vision to what they could do for somebody else."
Before the school year ended in June, Father Carloni got some of the kids involved with the bagged lunch program.
"When school was in, we would give them (sandwiches) to Father Bill and he would have the kids … walk out with them and give them to the homeless," Eric Sr. said.
Overall it is a group effort to help those in need, he added.
Holy Name is not only changing the lives of those in need, but its parishioners as well.
"It's like a fellowship," Eric Sr. said. "There would be like 20 people down here putting together 50, 60, 70 lunches together."
Every other Sunday, parishioners gather after the 11 a.m. Mass and fill bags with a sandwich, chips and water. After the bags are prepared, the group walks around the Atlas neighborhood near the church and gives the food to homeless people.
For Eric Sr., "it's a great feeling." From the smiling faces to the conversations, he loves interacting with and giving to those in need.
He has served as the parish council president for 10 years and is a member of the 11 a.m. choir. In addition to giving meals to the homeless on the streets, he volunteers his time at the church's food pantry.

Charting change: Vatican statistics tracking church health indicators
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The health of the Catholic Church can be measured in many ways, and the Vatican has a special office just for that purpose.
The Central Statistics Office, which operates under the Vatican Secretariat of State, conducts a variety of studies for the Roman Curia throughout the year. But one of the office's biggest projects is compiling the annual, 500-page Statistical Yearbook of the Church.
Of course, the yearbook tracks the Catholic population, both by a head count of the baptized in each country and as a percentage of the world's population. The latest report, based on numbers gathered Dec. 31, 2015, tallied 1.28 billion Catholics, which is about 17.7 percent of the global population.
Ten years earlier, according to the statistics office, the Catholic community numbered just over 1.1 billion, which was 17.3 percent of the population at that time.
Worldwide Catholics operate close to 118,000 hospitals, clinics, homes for the aged, orphanages, counseling centers and rehabilitation facilities. Ten years ago, the number of such facilities was less than 115,000.
When the Statistical Yearbook of the Church is released each year, one of the first figures many people look at is what the book defines as the "workforce for the church's apostolate."
For the year ending Dec. 31, 2015, that included: 5,304 bishops; 281,514 diocesan priests; 134,142 religious order priests; 45,255 permanent deacons; 54,229 religious brothers; 670,330 religious sisters; 351,797 lay missionaries; and more than 3.1 million catechists.
But the yearbook looks even deeper, for example, by giving an indication of the "pastoral workload" of priests both in relation to the number of baptized Catholics as well as to the general population.
Catholics in Tajikistan can expect personalized pastoral care. With 38 Catholics for every priest, the country has the best Catholics-to-priest ratio in the world. Of course, there are only four priests in the country and fewer than 200 Catholics. Catholics on the nine-island nation of Tuvalu in the South Pacific do nicely with a ratio of 120 Catholics for every priest.
On the other end of the scale are Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which have tens of thousands of Catholic foreign workers from countries like India and the Philippines and restrictions on the ministry of clergy. According to the Vatican, the ratio of Catholics-to-priest is 52,000-to-1 in Qatar and a staggering 125,000-to-1 in Saudi Arabia.
The worldwide average is 3,091 Catholics for every priest. The situation in North America is better than average. In Canada, there are 2,242 Catholics for every priest, and in the United States, the ratio is 1,808 Catholics for each priest.
But both Canada and the United States also made the list of more than two dozen nations where the number of priests who died in 2015 was greater than the number of new priests ordained. Most of the other countries on the list are in Western Europe.
For the Vatican, one of the most important statistics is the number of baptisms performed each year and, specifically, what percentage of those involve new Catholics who are over the age of 7, the traditional "age of reason."
In 2015, the yearbook reported, there were a total of more than 15.7 million baptisms, and just over 17 percent of them involved persons over the age of 7.

New archbishop of Indianapolis calls faithful to be ‘bridges of unity'
INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) — July 28 was a day of joy for Catholics across central and southern Indiana as Archbishop Charles C. Thompson was installed as the seventh archbishop of Indianapolis during a festive Mass celebrated in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.
But ties of the archdiocese to the broader church and world during the installation were unmistakable.
A French archbishop who serves as Pope Francis' representative in the United States presided over the start of the liturgy.
Leaders of diverse Christian traditions and other faith communities in central and southern Indiana, as well as civic leaders, greeted Archbishop Thompson during the Mass.
And participating in it were scores of clergy and other faithful from the Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky, and Indiana's Diocese of Evansville, two local churches that Archbishop Thompson has called home. These included many of Archbishop Thompson's family and friends.
This outreach to include more people in an ever-widening circle of faith, hope and love was reflected in Archbishop Thompson's homily in which he explored what he called the "Catholic both/and" as a "conviction" that contributes to his vision of his pastoral leadership of the Catholic Church in central and southern Indiana.
"Far too often, we are being confronted with an either/or mentality," Archbishop Thompson said. "We must dare to counter the growing polarization, division and radical individualism that breed fear, distrust, hatred, indifference, prejudice, selfishness, despair, violence and radical ideology.
"Our role as people of faith — I especially hold myself accountable as bishop — is to be willing to stand in the breach of the divide, drawing people back from the ledges of extremism in self-indulgence and self-righteousness by serving as bridges of unity, ambassadors of hope and instruments of peace."
At the beginning of the installation Mass, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, quoting Pope Francis, encouraged Archbishop Thompson to reach out broadly to people in need through his leadership of the archdiocese.
"As you minister to the priests, clergy and laity being entrusted to your pastoral care and reach out to the community beyond, especially the poor and marginalized, may you keep ever in your heart the sentiments you yourself heard expressed by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, during his homily on the Solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul," said Archbishop Pierre.
"'The Lord answers our prayers,'" he said, quoting the pope. "'He is faithful to the love we have professed for him and he stands beside us at times of trial.'"
After Archbishop Pierre read from the pope's letter of appointment for Archbishop Thompson, he showed it to the congregation, and Archbishop Thompson expressed his acceptance.

Catholic says ‘exuberant' charismatic movement brought her back to church
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) — Chris Shafer grew up as a "nominal Catholic," and she wasn't even sure she still believed in God in the mid-1970s when she moved to Fort Walton Beach, Florida, where her husband, Doug, was stationed in the U.S. Air Force.
"I found that fascinating that anybody believed in God. He was like Santa Claus you believed in childhood," said Shafer, a parishioner at St. Ignatius of Antioch Church in Nashville. "This was no longer relevant."
But that began to change after talking with friends from her husband's unit who had become involved in the charismatic movement through their Episcopal church. She decided, "For this God story to survive all these thousands of years, there had to be something more than I knew about God."
Shafer found a Catholic Charismatic Renewal prayer group and decided to attend one of their prayer meetings. "I went home thinking, ‘I walked in not even believing in God, but now I'm on fire,'" she said. "I sang all the way home."
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal marks the 50th anniversary of its founding this year.
In 1967, a group of students and professors at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh were on a retreat when they felt engulfed by the fire of the Holy Spirit. Their experience ignited the renewal, which has touched the lives of Catholics around the world.
Shafer's been going to prayer meetings for 40 years, including the Glory of Zion prayer group at St. Ignatius, since it was formed in 1980. "Everything I learned about God I learned at charismatic prayer meetings," Shafer told the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville.
The movement calls people to experience the same excitement and deep relationship with God that the first Christians experienced at Pentecost.
A charismatic gathering in some ways can resemble a Pentecostal service, with an exuberant style of worship including dancing and waving of arms, people praying over others for healing, people speaking in tongues, and others prophesying about God's love for his people and inviting people to be open to that love.
"It is definitely exuberant," Shafer said. "You do what the Lord's calling you to."
"We try to present to people first and foremost the idea of God's love and forgiveness," said Teresa Seibert.
Although she is a cradle Catholic who grew up with the more traditional style of Catholic worship, Seibert wasn't fazed by the charismatic style.
"It didn't scare me," Seibert said. "The first experience of it was a real calming affect for me. I more or less saw this is what I've been looking for."
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is really more about listening to the Holy Spirit, said Father Michael Baltrus, who first got involved in the movement in the 1970s and was a member of the Glory of Zion prayer group before he left for the seminary.
"It helped me listen to God," he said, which is "one of the best aspects" of the charismatic movement.
"You become more sensitive to what God is saying, what the Spirit is doing," said Father Baltrus, the new pastor at St Catherine Church in McMinnville and St. Gregory Church in Smithville.

Cardinal says Venezuela must take blame for 10 election-related deaths
CARACAS, Venezuela (CNS) — Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino said the nation's government must take the blame for at least 10 deaths related to a controversial election.
"This is the responsibility of the president of the republic, the high command, and the ministers," Cardinal Urosa told the Caracas newspaper El Nacional July 31. "They will have to explain this to God" and the courts.
Some Venezuelans went to the polls July 30 to elect members of a Constituent Assembly, a 545-member body charged with drafting a new constitution for the country.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered on the vote May 1, but political opposition and church leaders have questioned the process, which they say overrepresented pro-government sectors, ensuring a government victory. They have warned that the new constitution could establish a one-party state. The opposition boycotted the vote and instead called on its supporters to take to the streets in protest.
"The bishops are unanimous in their rejection of this new assembly, and we are asking the government to reconsider," Cardinal Urosa told Venezuela news station Globovision the day before the vote.
On July 27, the bishops reiterated their rejection of the constituent assembly election in a seven-point communique and urged the country's armed forces to avoid more deaths in the streets.
"The primary role of the armed forces is to maintain peace and order so that all parties can act rationally and each side can build bridges to overcome the chaos we are living," the statement said.
For four months, Venezuelans have endured continuous anti-government protests that often ended in clashes with authorities. The conflicts have resulted in at least 125 dead and wounded nearly 2,000 since protests began in April.
Maduro has said the new constitution will bring peace while offering few details on how the document may be structured. Of the more than 500 delegates selected, only a handful are top government leaders, believed to be those who will lead and make decisions in the new body. Of the others elected, most are widely unknown rank-and-file Socialist Party members.
The bishops have warned that the initiative will only deepen a political and economic crisis in the country.
A three-year economic recession has resulted in shortages of basic foods and medicines.

Pope leads prayers for victims of ‘perverse plague' of trafficking
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Human trafficking is "brutal, savage and criminal," Pope Francis said, but often it seems like people see it as a sad, but normal fact of life.
"I want to call everyone to make a commitment to seeing that this perverse plague, a modern form of slavery, is effectively countered," the pope said July 30, the U.N.'s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.
After reciting the Angelus with thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis asked them to join him in praying a "Hail Mary" so that Jesus' mother would "support the victims of trafficking and convert the hearts of traffickers."
In his main Angelus address, Pope Francis focused on the parables from the day's Gospel reading: the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great price.
Both parables involve "searching and sacrifice," the pope said. Neither the person who found the treasure in the field nor the merchant who found the pearl would have made their discoveries if they were not looking for something, and both of them sell all they have to purchase their treasure.
"A disciple of Christ is not one who is deprived of something essential, but one who has found much more, has found the full joy that only the Lord can give."

African-born clergy, religious ministering in the U.S. gather July 27 in New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS (CNS) — The growing numbers of African-born clergy and religious ministering in the United States are at the vanguard of an important moment in both the U.S. and worldwide Catholic Church, said Jesuit Father Allan Deck.
He addressed about 80 members of this rapidly emerging demographic of church leaders gathered in New Orleans for the 18th annual convention of the African Conference of Catholic Clergy and Religious in the United States.
"The church is growing in Asia, in Latin America and most especially in Africa," said Father Deck, a teacher of theology and Latino studies at Loyola Maryknoll University in Los Angeles, delivering the conference's keynote address July 27.
"So at this moment in time and as we move into the future, the life of the universal church, the leadership of the universal church — and all the hard work that we need to do to evangelize — more and more has to be assumed by up-and-coming groups, and one of those groups is the Catholic faithful of the various countries of Africa," he said.
Father Deck served from 2008 to 2012 as the first executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church; the secretariat was established in November 2007 by the bishops.
The priest called the influx of foreign-born ministers "a globalized priesthood, a globalized religious." These priests and sisters, like their American counterparts, are more likely than ever to find themselves in parishes where there are multiple native languages, desired styles of worship and even clashing beliefs on how a parish meeting should be conducted, he said.
Father Deck noted that African-born clergy and religious serving in the United States already are a step ahead of their American counterparts when it comes to answering Pope Francis' call for church ministers to leave the security of their geographical parishes to find and serve those living in the margins.
"All of you, because you're here in this country, have moved out of your comfort zone, but you know what? You must continue to do (that)!" Father Deck told the assembly, which included priests, men and women religious and seminarians.
"People are mingling and encountering each other in numbers and in ways that they never have in all the history of the human race," he said, recalling a recent trip to a mission church in New Mexico where he came upon the pastor: a priest from Nigeria who spoke "beautiful Spanish" and whose flock was predominantly Mexican-American.
"We have priests and religious from all types of backgrounds working with people of all different kinds of backgrounds everywhere," Father Deck said.
The conventioneers learned a few surprising statistics on their adopted home of America. Currently, half of all Catholics in the United States trace their roots not to Europe, but to Latin America. Of those Hispanic Catholics, 65 percent are Mexican-Americans.

Slovak bishop welcomed to U.S. eparchy, seeks to build unity
PARMA, Ohio (CNS) — Slovak Bishop Milan Lach took his new post as apostolic administrator of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma wanting to encourage and unify Byzantine Catholics of the eparchy in faith.
The eparchy's clergy and faithful welcomed Bishop Lach during a Divine Liturgy July 21.
The 43-year-old Jesuit was the auxiliary bishop of the Archeparchy of Presov, Slovakia, at the time of his appointment June 24. Ordained a priest in 2001 and a bishop in 2013, Bishop Lach is the first European-born bishop to oversee the Eparchy of Parma since its founding in 1969, though he is the second European bishop to be named to the United States this year.
Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk, former auxiliary bishop of Lviv, Ukraine, was named to head the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Chicago in April.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, read the Vatican decree of Bishop Lach's appointment during the July 21 liturgy at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Parma. Byzantine Catholic Archbishop William C. Skurla of Pittsburgh, who preceded Bishop Lach as apostolic administrator for 14 months, was the celebrant.
Upon Archbishop Pierre's introduction of Bishop Lach, the more than 300 people in the congregation responded with a standing ovation and the traditional Eastern Christian hymn, "God Grant You Many Years."
"You will enjoy his presence," the nuncio told the congregation. "A bishop is there to serve the people, to be with the people." Citing Pope Francis, he said the role of bishops and priests is to be "ahead to lead the people, behind to push them, and in the middle to be with them."
In an interview after the liturgy, Archbishop Pierre commented on the contribution European bishops can make to the U.S. church.
"It's always good to have people coming from a different experience. The diversity, and especially these people who are being sent, have been chosen for their capacity to (adapt) from one country to the other but also for their abilities," he told Horizons, the newspaper of the eparchy.

Pope taps Little Brother of Jesus as rector of Rome's seminary
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — When Pope Francis chose one of the Little Brothers of Jesus to be rector of the Diocese of Rome's main seminary, members of the order founded by Blessed Charles de Foucauld were stunned.
"The explicit request of Pope Francis" that Father Gabriele Faraghini, 51, be released for service as the seminary rector "was, for our little fraternity, a bolt out of the blue, a novelty that literally floored everyone," said a note posted on the brothers' website. But the order's general chapter confirmed the nomination, which was announced July 31.
Most of the brothers live in small communities with a home life revolving around eucharistic adoration and prayer. Many of them, the priests included, are manual laborers, who strive simply to be a presence of friendship and solidarity with their co-workers and neighbors. Service in diocesan institutions and offices is not a normal part of their ministry, although it is not explicitly excluded.
Father Faraghini studied at the Rome diocesan seminary and was ordained for the Diocese of Rome in 1992, although he already had begun exploring the teachings of Blessed Charles and life with the Little Brothers of Jesus, according to the order's announcement of his appointment. Superiors at the seminary had encouraged him to continue toward ordination while discerning his "call within the call" to priesthood and religious life.
He spent five years in parish ministry in Rome before beginning his formal formation with the Little Brothers in Foligno, Italy. He did his novitiate in Nazareth before returning to Italy and making his profession as a member of the order.
As a Little Brother, he served at Italian parishes in Limiti and in Foligno and, at the recent general chapter of the order, presented a report on what it means to be a Little Brother of Jesus in a parish.

Dutch Cardinal Eijk: Catholic bishops warned of euthanasia's slippery slope
OXFORD, England (CNS) — Recent increases in euthanasia and assisted suicide deaths among psychiatric and dementia patients reflect the concerns church officials expressed years ago, said a Dutch cardinal.
Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht, Netherlands, said psychiatrist Boudewijn Chabot was right to complain that doctors were now ignoring legal requirements that a patient requesting death should be "suffering unbearably and without prospect."
Writing in the NRC Handelsblad daily, Chabot, a pioneer of the Dutch euthanasia law, said he fully favored "self-determination" and was unconcerned about the increase in euthanasia deaths. However, he added that he was alarmed by euthanasia's extension to psychiatric patients, as well as to dementia sufferers, 141 of whom were killed in 2016, compared to just 12 in 2009.
In an Aug. 1 statement to Catholic News Service, Cardinal Eijk, who heads the Dutch bishops' medical ethics commission, said, "Chabot is now complaining about a development he himself initiated."
"Of course, it's good to read that an initiator and early advocate of euthanasia and assisted suicide is now concerned," the cardinal said. "But the Dutch bishops' conference has warned from the beginning against violating the intrinsic dignity of human life through euthanasia or assisted suicide, because it is never ever allowable to violate intrinsic values, and because in doing so you put yourself on a slippery slope.
"But was it not naive, when he started this in the 1990s, to suppose that ending life for psychiatric disorders would remain limited to a few cases only?" the cardinal asked.
The Netherlands became the world's first country to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2002 and has since witnessed a rapid increase in related deaths, with 20 now occurring daily, according to a May report by the Regional Euthanasia Commission.
The report said 6,672 euthanasia deaths had been registered in 2015, compared to just 150 from assisted suicide, while 431 patients had been killed without explicit consent.
Cardinal Eijk said euthanasia had originally been permitted only "at the explicit request of a patient in the terminal stage of an incurable somatic disease," but had been steadily extended and was now accepted "before the terminal stage of life."
"When one breaks the principle that human life is an essential value, one steps on the slippery slope," the cardinal added. "Dutch experiences teach that we will be confronted time and again with the question whether the ending of life shouldn't also be possible with less serious forms of suffering."
In a landmark case in the early 1990s, Chabot was found criminally guilty, but spared punishment, for assisting the suicide of a 50-year-old healthy woman suffering "existential distress."
However, in a January 2017 petition, he and 200 other Dutch doctors warned that legal protections were "slowly breaking down," with many dementia and psychiatric patients being killed "without actual oral consent."
In his NRC Handelsblad article, Chabot accused the official Euthanasia Commission of concealing that "incapacitated people were surreptitiously killed," and said "executions" were now occurring.

The pope's intention for this month
Here are Pope Francis' prayer intentions for this month:
Artists: That artists of our time, through their ingenuity, may help everyone discover the beauty of creation.