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.