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Pope Leo XIII played the Riddler (in Latin) — 19th century pontiff created word puzzles for Roman newspaper

July 23rd, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Going by the pseudonym “X,” Pope Leo XIII anonymously crafted poetic puzzles in Latin for a Roman periodical at the turn of the 19th century.

The pope created lengthy riddles, known as “charades,” in Latin in which readers had to guess a rebus-like answer from two or more words that together formed the syllables of a new word.

Pope Leo XIII is depicted seated in an official Vatican portrait circa 1878.  The pope, credited with being the founder of Catholic social teaching, anonymously crafted Latin riddles for a Roman magazine. (CNS/Library of Congress)

Pope Leo XIII is depicted seated in an official Vatican portrait circa 1878. The pope, credited with being the founder of Catholic social teaching, anonymously crafted Latin riddles for a Roman magazine. (CNS/Library of Congress)

Eight of his puzzles were published anonymously in “Vox Urbis,” a Rome newspaper that was printed entirely in Latin between 1898-1913, according to an article in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

A reader who submitted the correct answer to the riddle would receive a book of Latin poetry written by either Pope Leo or another noted Catholic figure.

The identity of the mysterious riddle-maker, however, was soon revealed by a French reporter covering the Vatican for the daily newspaper Le Figaro.

Felix Ziegler published his scoop Jan. 9, 1899, a year after the puzzles started appearing, revealing that “Mr. X” was, in fact, the reigning pope, the Vatican newspaper said July 20.

In the pope’s hometown, Carpineto Romano, which is about 35 miles southeast of Rome, students at the middle school now named for him have published 26 of the pope’s Latin puzzles in a new book titled, “Aenigmata. The Charades of Pope Leo XIII.”

Three middle school teachers and their pupils said they have included puzzles they found, but which had never been published before.

One example of the pope’s Latin riddles talked of a “little boat nimbly dancing,” that sprung a leak as it “welcomed the shore so near advancing.”

“The whole your eyes have known, your pallid cheeks have shown; for oh! the swelling tide no bravest heart could hide, when your dear mother died,” continues the translation of part of the riddle-poem.

The answer, “lacrima,” (“teardrop”) merges clues elsewhere in the poem for “lac” (“milk”) and “rima” (“leak” or “fissure”).

Pope Leo, who headed the universal church from 1878 to 1903, had the fourth-longest pontificate in history, after being nudged out of third place by St. John Paul II.

He wrote 86 encyclicals, including the church’s groundbreaking “Rerum Novarum,” which ushered in the era of Catholic social teaching.

Known for his openness to historical sciences, Pope Leo ordered in 1881 that the Vatican Secret Archives be open to researchers and he formally established the Vatican Observatory in 1891 as a visible sign of the church’s centuries-old support for science.

A trained Vatican diplomat and man of culture, the pope was also a member of an exclusive society of learning founded in Rome in 1690 called the Academy of Arcadia, whose purpose was to “wage war on the bad taste” engulfing baroque Italy. Pope Leo, whose club name was “Neandro Ecateo,” was the last pope to be a member of the circle of poets, artists, musicians and highly cultured aristocrats and religious.

The pope was also passionate about hunting and viniculture. Unable to leave the confines of the Vatican after Italy was unified and the papal states brought to an end in 1870, he pursued his hobbies in the Vatican Gardens.

He had a wooden blind set up to hide in while trapping birds, which he then would set free again immediately.

He also had his own small vineyard, which, according to one historical account, he tended himself, hoeing out the weeds, and visiting often for moments of prayer and writing poetry.

Apparently, one day, gunfire was heard from the pope’s vineyard, triggering fears of a papal assassination attempt.

Instead, it turned out the pope had ordered a papal guard to send a salvo of bullets into the air to scare off the sparrows who were threatening his grape harvest.


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Catholic Relief adviser: Filipinos found shelter before typhoon struck

July 17th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


MANILA, Philippines — An emergency adviser for Catholic Relief Services said many Filipinos learned from Typhoon Haiyan and willingly went to shelters before Typhoon Rammasun struck.

“People realized, ‘Oh yes, we are staying in a risky area. We’re staying in a tent or shelter that’s not very sturdy,’” said Elizabeth Tromans, the Manila-based regional emergency adviser for Catholic Relief Services. “And I think people were quite willing to go into the safe areas that had been identified.”

Residents walk amid debris and mud  July 17 brought by Typhoon Rammasun, locally named Glenda, in a coastal village in Batangas, south of Manila. Catholic Relief Services teams were fanning out to affected areas after Typhoon Rammasun propelled its way across the northern half of the Philippines, leaving at least 40 people dead and destroying more than 26,000 houses. (CNS photo/Erik De Castro, Reuters)

Residents walk amid debris and mud July 17 brought by Typhoon Rammasun, locally named Glenda, in a coastal village in Batangas, south of Manila. Catholic Relief Services teams were fanning out to affected areas after Typhoon Rammasun propelled its way across the northern half of the Philippines, leaving at least 40 people dead and destroying more than 26,000 houses. (CNS photo/Erik De Castro, Reuters)

CRS teams were fanning out to affected areas in mid-July after Typhoon Rammasun propelled its way across the northern half of the Philippines, leaving at least 40 people dead and destroying more than 26,000 houses.

Tromans said the agency was assessing the Bicol region, about 250 miles southeast of Manila, where Rammasun first made landfall. She said CRS’ local partners had reported people had been moved into evacuation centers.

“And then for Quezon (province), we’re struggling to get more information. We haven’t been able to get in touch with people there. We’re thinking some of the cellphone (towers) are down,” she told Catholic News Service July 17.

Rammasun was the most powerful storm to slam the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan cut a path of destruction across the central part of the country last November, killing 6,300 people.

Rammasun affected more than a million people with winds that peaked at 115 miles per hour, knocking out power in 13 provinces and three cities. Broken trees littered streets and crumpled cars beneath them in the Manila capital region. Four of the capital region’s 16 cities and several provinces experienced floods.

Several calls to Caritas Philippines officials were not answered.

Tromans said CRS made storm preparations a day before Rammasun was expected to touch land. She said it “seemed like it was much easier” for her colleagues to move people out to evacuation centers this time around, compared to how “difficult” it was before Haiyan struck.

Parts of Samar province, just south of Bicol, were also affected by Rammasun. Haiyan’s first target was Eastern Samar, and Tromans said CRS was especially paying attention to the rebuilding efforts in the Haiyan-devastated areas.

“This is a reminder that typhoon season and monsoon season is upon us. … We are looking at those still in makeshift shelters and really trying to prioritize those within our shelter projects … looking at the infrastructure … and really keeping the training going on ‘building back better.’

“We’re really trying to prioritize those most at risk ahead of the storm season,” she said.


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Pope Francis urges financiers to reverse throwaway culture that disposes of people


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis urged a group of economists and financiers to help reverse the current “throwaway” culture and put people at the center, not the fringes, of monetary strategies and policies.

Pope Francis kisses a child during a recent general audience in St. Peter's Square. CNS file

Pope Francis kisses a child during a recent general audience in St. Peter’s Square. CNS file

Children, the elderly and young adults are all being rejected “because they’re not useful,” he said. “Who’s going to be disposed of next? Let’s stop ourselves in time, please,” he said July 12.

The pope spoke to a group of experts participating in an international seminar organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. About 70 people, many of them leading economists, central bankers, heads of international and intergovernmental organizations and church leaders, came together July 11-12 to discuss ways economic systems and policies could work toward “a more inclusive economy” and the common good.

The pope thanked participants for meeting to discuss such important issues and urged them to reflect on the current situation “without fear and with intelligence.”

He said people today have been stripped of their humanity and turned into cogs of a “social, economic system, a system where inequalities rule.”

He likened the process to the way Italian “grappa” or brandy is made, in which grapes are distilled and transformed into something completely different.

Individuals, he said, are also being run through a sort of “organizational” distillery — transforming their original essence, making them “lose their humanity” and “become an instrument of the system.”

He said there is “a politics, a sociology” and a mindset of people being “disposable; you throw away what isn’t needed, because man isn’t at the center.”

Low birthrates show that children are considered disposable, as are the elderly, and also an “entire generation of young people, and this is very serious.”

High unemployment for young adults has created a “neither-nor” generation of young people who “neither study nor work,” he said, because, for so many, getting a higher education isn’t possible and there are no jobs.

People need to be made the focus again and become “the center of society, of thinking, of reflection,” he said, urging the group to study and reflect “so that man is not disposed of.”

That the human person should be at the center of all things, “isn’t theology, it’s not philosophy, it’s human reality,” the pope said.


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Voters in two states to consider legalizing recreational pot in 2014

July 17th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — When someone close to Teresa Miller developed an addiction to prescription pain medication in 2009, the Florida mom was so distraught she enrolled herself at the University of South Florida.

Miller emerged three and a half years later with a master’s degree in mental health counseling. Miller said she wanted to do everything she could to understand the addiction dilemma and to accompany a loved one, and eventually other parents and families in the community, in navigating what is a daunting crisis.

Marijuana plants for sale are displayed at the medical marijuana farmers' market at the California Heritage Market in Los Angeles July 11. Medical marijuana laws have expanded nationally in a relatively short period. As of July 8, Washington state became the second state after Colorado to allow retail sales of recreational marijuana to adults. Voters in two more states will consider legalizing recreational pot in 2014. (CNS photo/David McNew, Reuters)

Marijuana plants for sale are displayed at the medical marijuana farmers’ market at the California Heritage Market in Los Angeles July 11. Medical marijuana laws have expanded nationally in a relatively short period. As of July 8, Washington state became the second state after Colorado to allow retail sales of recreational marijuana to adults. Voters in two more states will consider legalizing recreational pot in 2014. (CNS photo/David McNew, Reuters)

Miller joined various local and national drug task force projects and advocacy volunteer groups such as Drug Free America Inc., to promote addiction awareness.

“I had gone to three different marijuana summits, and so when (medical) marijuana got put on the ballot in Florida, I was dumbfounded and shocked,” said Miller, who is a member of Christ the King Parish in Tampa and part of a state now evenly split in its views on legal usage of medical marijuana for residents with a doctor’s prescription.

Nationally, Florida may be on track to be the first Southern state to permit even wider use of medical marijuana if voters approve the Amendment 2 constitutional ballot initiative in November.

Lawmakers had already approved this year the so-called Charlotte’s Web strain of pot developed for patients with seizures, severe and persistent muscle spasms and cancer but the medicine is low in the mind-altering chemicals found in marijuana.

Moreover, legal pot has become an issue embroiled in the state midterm-election governor’s race and has attracted large financial support from both sides of the issue. Some doubt the support is there for a 60 percent majority to pass a constitutional amendment but the issue has been rapidly evolving in Florida.

“Many I talked to at church are saying it is helping people and it’s ok,” Miller said, who started ReThinkPot.org to tell Floridians that the medical marijuana industry push is largely a foot-in-the-door approach for a profitable, loosely regulated enterprise. She thinks legalization advocates will later try to legalize recreational-use sales, as has happened in other states.

“Over the past years, I have spoken with other parents whose children had died from prescription pain addictions and all those children had used pot, so I feel it is a gateway drug,” Miller told Catholic News Service.

This year appears to crucial for marijuana legalization initiatives, according to Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a national volunteer organization chaired by former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy and which opposes the initiatives. The group cites indications that medical marijuana dispensary drugs too easily end up in the hands of youth.

Voters in Oregon and Alaska will weigh in on a November ballot initiative allowing full recreational marijuana sales, putting those states in line to join Colorado and Washington in legalizing cannabis use despite a federal ban on marijuana sales and possession. Some 23 states and the District of Columbia already allow a form of legal medical marijuana consumption.

In the state of Washington, the sale of recreational marijuana just became legal July 8, when a November 2012 voter-approved ballot initiative took effect. The law allows adults over age 21 to buy up to an ounce. Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 1998.

In neighboring Oregon, where possession of small amounts marijuana has long since been decriminalized and where medical marijuana sales got underway July 8 in neighboring Washington state, some deep-pocketed advocacy groups are hoping for full legalization through a November ballot after a previous attempt in 2012 failed.

The U.S. Catholic bishops have not taken position on the medical marijuana debate or legalization specifically. Individual bishops have addressed the issue; and moreover it is up to state Catholic conferences to monitor and lobby for good state legislation.

Todd Cooper, acting representative of the Oregon Catholic Conference in Portland, said his agency is watching the issue and there is already concern marijuana legally purchased in neighboring Vancouver, Washington, is making its way across the Columbia river into the Portland area, an anecdotal situation reminiscent of states bordering Colorado, now considered the least restrictive state for marijuana consumption.

“As a conference, we are obviously interested in the legislation and support Pope Francis’ ideas in which he said recently that any initiative to legalize drugs should be viewed with suspicion and could add to the (drug addiction) problem,” Cooper said. “It’s unfortunate Washington has legalized it and I am afraid it will happen here too. I am concerned about effects on family life, on our youth in particular.”

In Florida, where as yet the bishops have not yet taken sides on medical marijuana ballot initiative, the issue is being studied but as with most states the church here has stayed neutral thus far, according to Mike Sheedy, director of the Florida Catholic Conference in Tallahassee.

“In most places, conferences have been neutral, but experiences in states that have adopted medical marijuana have seen results that were negative and unanticipated,” Sheedy said, noting that the nonpartisan Florida Sheriffs Association has an educational campaign opposing the amendment.

In principle, it is hard to argue with physicians providing solutions to patients that would be helpful and legal marijuana derivatives that have gone through the Federal Drug Administration process would impart some confidence on its efficacy, Sheedy said.

“But with grown marijuana you don’t know the potency and what the (end product) is going to be,” he said, in reference to marijuana edibles or highly potent products that are thought to have caused an increase in emergency room visits and other mishaps among users in Colorado.

“Perhaps medical marijuana is a misnomer because it is not going through a normal pharmaceutical process,” he said.

At the federal level, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it is considered to have a high potential for dependency and no accepted medical use, making distribution a federal offense although the U.S. Justice Department has largely not interfered in many of the new state sales operations.

To Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education at the Philadelphia-based National Catholic Bioethics Center and a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, it seems “the medical uses of marijuana are limited, and that other medical modalities need generally to be exhausted prior to adverting to medical marijuana.”

“Strict controls on distribution with ongoing recertification of medical need by medical professionals also seems necessary to prevent abuses,” he told CNS in an email.

Asked how parents, and Catholics in general, can better educate themselves about marijuana, he said that when recreation pots is legalized, “it will require extra effort and commitment on the part of parents to dissuade their children from trying marijuana.”

He sees the need for “frank discussions about the various medical dangers, along with education about what an unsatisfying human choice it is to run away from our problems by ‘getting high.’”

“Often the attempt to escape through drugs,” he added, “is a proxy for the other issues in a teen’s life — poor family dynamics, loneliness, wanting to belong to a group, feeling rejected, misunderstood, etc.”

— By Tom Tracy

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Viewpoint: Unaccompanied migrant children need our help

July 17th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


Tens of thousands of children fleeing desperate conditions have entered the United States asking for help. And many more are coming. What kind of welcome is being offered to them? The answer to that question is still largely undetermined.

According to Human Rights Watch the U.S. government predicts that 90,000 unaccompanied migrant children will cross the US-Mexico border in fiscal year 2014, more than 10 times the number who crossed in 2011. And thousands of other children have crossed with a parent, also an increase from previous years.

Two young girls watch a World Cup soccer match on a television from a holding area where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Ariz., (CNS/Reuters)

Two young girls watch a World Cup soccer match on a television from a holding area where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Ariz., (CNS/Reuters)

Reportedly, more than 90 percent of these children are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where pervasive drug/gang violence and poverty have made their lives dangerous and miserable.

It’s said that drugs go north and guns and money go south. Therefore, it is essential in the U.S. that adequate treatment for addiction replace jail time for non-violent drug users, that all loopholes in gun export laws be closed, that serious gun-control laws – such as a total ban on all assault weapons – be passed, and that greatly increased U.S. aid to these Central American nations for schools, job creation through clean industry and agricultural development, infrastructure and fair trade practices become realities.

Injustices resulting from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) are contributing factors towards the flow of unaccompanied migrant children.

According to Barbara Briggs, associate director of the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights (http://www.globallabourrights.org/), these “free trade” agreements in many cases boost American corporate profits, while undercutting poor workers, domestic industries, and agriculture south of the U.S. border.

Under NAFTA and CAFTA U.S. companies are often building factories where they are permitted to pay the cheapest wages and lowest benefits to poor workers. These U.S. corporate practices are in many cases contributing factors driving Latin Americans – adults and children – to seek fairer working and living conditions in the U.S., said Briggs.

The “Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act” would greatly correct many American corporate injustices abroad. Please ask you congressional delegation to reintroduce this legislation.

While addressing the root-causes of unaccompanied migrant children is essential, we need to also kindly address the immediate needs of these young brothers and sisters.

Instead of viewing these children as criminals who are illegally entering the U.S., a totally humanitarian Christ-like response is needed.

A coalition of immigration and faith-based organizations – including the Catholic Legal Immigration Network and Catholic Charities – sponsored by Human Rights First recently sent President Barack Obama a letter opposing plans to expedite deportation of migrant children.

They wrote, “The administration’s recent statements have placed far greater emphasis on deterrence of migration than on the importance of protection of children seeking safety.”

Please urge President Obama and your congressional delegation to insure that these children get all the help they need.

And sign up to receive legislative alerts from the bishops’ campaign for immigrants by going to www.justiceforimmigrants.org.

Responding to unaccompanied migrant children seeking asylum in the U.S., Pope Francis recently wrote, “This humanitarian emergency requires … these children be welcomed and protected,” and that policies be adopted to “promote development in their countries of origin. …

“A change of attitude toward migrants and refugees is needed … moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world.”

Tony Magliano is a syndicated social justice and peace columnist, who lives in the Diocese of Wilmington.

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Peace be with you: Guns prohibited in Georgia Catholic churches


Catholic News Service

ATLANTA— Guns and other weapons are officially unwelcome at Catholic churches, schools and other buildings owned, leased or operated by the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Savannah in Georgia.

Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and Savannah Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer issued a decree prohibiting guns and knives with blades longer than 5 inches from parishes, churches, schools, administrative offices and other buildings owned or used by the Catholic community effective July 1.

In a statement, the bishops said Catholic places of worship are sanctuaries where “ways of peace and reconciliation” should be the rule. Read more »

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Call them refugees — Migrant and church officials discuss crisis of children in custody at the Mexican border

July 10th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — From the head of the U.S. agency in charge of the welfare of more than 50,000 Central American children who have been apprehended at the Mexican border, to the Honduran cardinal who heads the international Catholic relief agency, Caritas, the message was clear, those minors are as much refugees as the people fleeing upheaval in Syria or South Sudan.

This handout photo courtesy of the office of U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, shows unaccompanied migrant children at a Department of Health and Human Services facility in south Texas. Many undocumented minors coming across the U.S. border claim they are escaping gang violence in their home countries. (CNS

This handout photo courtesy of the office of U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, shows unaccompanied migrant children at a Department of Health and Human Services facility in south Texas. Many undocumented minors coming across the U.S. border claim they are escaping gang violence in their home countries. (CNS)

“How are these children different from refugees from Sudan” or other war-torn countries, asked Eskinder Negash, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, known as ORR, in the Department of Health and Human Services. “Regardless of whether they have family here, they are refugees,” he said July 8.

By virtue of his position, Negash personally is legally responsible for the welfare of approximately 50,000 minors in ORR custody as arrangements are sought for them to be placed with relatives or in foster care while deportation is pursued.

Speakers at the 2014 National Migration Conference and in interviews with Catholic News Service said broad discussions about migration issues worldwide inevitably led to the recent surge of children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador across the U.S. border.

From an average of 6,000 or 7,000 such minors a year as recently as a few years ago, by mid-June, Homeland Security had apprehended more than 52,000 such children in this fiscal year. That has created a crisis for the Border Patrol, which first encounters them, and for ORR, which must find places to safely care for them.

Negash drew gasps from the audience when he explained that his responsibility for ORR’s charges includes personally approving health care decisions, such as how to treat an 11-year-old girl who’s pregnant, or another pregnant teen, who was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The unaccompanied minors and other refugees for whom his office is responsible come with myriad horrible stories, he said.

“There is rape, human trafficking, a lot of abuse and a lot of them are sick.”

“I’m not telling you this to depress you more, but so you’ll talk about it more,” Negash said.

Describing the situation in his own country, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and president of Caritas Internationalis, the church’s global relief agency, said the children who leave Honduras “flee gangs who want to induct them into a life where they will surely die a violent death at a young age.”

Speaking at the opening plenary session July 7, Cardinal Rodriguez, who also serves as one of Pope Francis’ key advisers as head of his Council of Cardinals, said: “It is like someone has torn open an artery in Honduras and other Central American countries. Fear, grinding poverty and no future mean we are losing our lifeblood, our young people. If this continues to happen, the hearts of our nations will stop beating.”

He added that parents feel they have little choice but to send their children away to save their lives. “The children and young people of these countries need to escape the violence in the hope of finding a safe place, an education, a home, a job, even though on the migrant journey they risk violence and abuse, being trafficked and sometimes death.”

During the plenary a short time earlier, Negash had pleaded with the 800 or so participants of the conference to “please use the same language you do when you are talking about other crises,” in referring to the children being apprehended at the border.

“Is Honduras a failed state?” he asked. “Do we have organized gangs terrorizing by threatening to kill people?”

Organized gangs and drug cartels that kill with impunity are just as much a threat to a country’s stability as the terrorist networks operating elsewhere, he said.

“You don’t have to call them Al-Shabaab,” he said, referring to the East African terrorist network based in Somalia.

In an interview with CNS and the National Catholic Reporter, Cardinal Rodriguez didn’t quite describe his country as a failed state, but acknowledged that “the drug cartels have chosen our country as their battlefield.” He told of children being pressured to join drug networks or criminal gangs under threat of being killed, and of “kids killing people. Sometimes $500 is enough to take a life.”

He said some recent steps taken by the Honduran government give him some hope that law enforcement and military leaders are coming to terms with what it will take to regain control of their country. Among them are a recent declaration that any airplanes suspected of carrying drugs through Honduran air space will be shot down and the recent extradition to the United States of two Honduran drug cartel leaders. Both seem to have had some effect on the drug cartels, he said.

Other speakers at the July 8 plenary described a world awash with refugees and increasingly stretched resources to assist them.

Shelly Pitterman, regional representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, ticked off statistics: 51 million people worldwide last year in refugee situations, yet a 25-year low number of displaced people were able to repatriate to their home countries.

The refugee resettlement program in the United States “is the engine of the global program,” he said, noting that the majority of refugees are resettled through networks run by the Catholic Church. But worldwide, resources are stretched too thinly.

He also said that although most of the children being sent away from their home countries on their own are coming to the United States, it’s not the only place they go. The number going to other Central American countries has risen seven-fold, he said.

Anne Richard, assistant secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration in the State Department, said the way to combat the need for people to flee their countries is to push for peace.

“The only real solution to this massive, malignant crisis is for the fighting to stop,” she said.

The conference opened with a Mass at St. Patrick Church nearby. The principal celebrant, Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, urged Catholics to recognize the human beings behind “the data, statistics and policy responses.”

“Clearly we belong to our own natural families, but we also belong to God’s family, with an obligation to care for one another,” he said. “We need to look at one another precisely as brothers and sisters, children of a loving God who invites us to a new relationship to one another.”

Along with panel discussions and workshops, the conference also included a live video feed from the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

Located in the Turkana District of northwestern Kenya, the camp has housing, counseling and education programs for more than 160,000 refugees, provided through humanitarian organizations including Jesuit Refugee Service.

During the feed, Red, a refugee who has lived in the camp for more than 22 years, explained how he became inspired to “give what he has been given” by becoming a teacher and working with the young children in the camp.

“When I came to this camp, I didn’t know anything,” Red said. “It was only after I arrived here that I received an education and learned more than I ever believed possible. These teachers are no longer around, but I pay them back for everything they have given by providing young children with the education I have received. I believe that is what we are fighting for — to shape the lives of others in the same way my life has been shaped.”

Julia Willis contributed to this story. A video on immigrant advocates’ news conference on the border crisis can be viewed at http://youtu.be/mupXWdTyP44.


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U.S. bishops praise court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, but say fight continues

July 2nd, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s June 30 ruling that certain businesses, based on their religious objections, can be exempted from a government requirement to include contraceptives in their employee health insurance coverage means “justice has prevailed,” said two U.S. archbishops.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 30 that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods, the two family-run companies that objected to the government mandate that employees be covered for a range of contraceptives, including drugs considered to be abortifacients, are protected from the requirement of the Affordable Care Act under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

“We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to recognize that Americans can continue to follow their faith when they run a family business,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.

The court in its 5-4 ruling said that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods, the two family-run companies that objected to the government mandate that employees be covered for a range of contraceptives, including drugs considered to be abortifacients, are protected from the requirement of the Affordable Care Act under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Activists on both sides of the issue gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court on a hot Washington morning awaiting the decision and when it was announced, supporters hailed it as a religious liberty issue and opponents called it a setback to women’s health care.

Although Catholic leaders and other religious groups hailed the decision as a victory for religious freedom, they also said the issue is not resolved since the government mandate requires nonprofit organizations such as Catholic charities, hospitals and schools to provide contraceptive coverage.

The USCCB statement of Archbishops Kurtz and Lori noted that the court left the door open about the cases currently winding their way through the courts objecting to the government’s accommodation that they direct a third party to provide the required contraceptive coverage.

“The court clearly did not decide whether the so-called accommodation violates RFRA when applied to our charities, hospitals and schools, so many of which have challenged it as a burden on their religious exercise. We continue to hope that these great ministries of service, like the Little Sisters of the Poor and so many others, will prevail in their cases as well,” the statement said.

Gregory Erlandson, president of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing in Huntington, Indiana, also welcomed the ruling, adding: “Our hope is that this decision bodes well for those nonprofit religious organizations, including Our Sunday Visitor, which are seeking relief from the onerous requirements of the HHS regulations.”

In 2012, Our Sunday Visitor, one of the largest Catholic publishing houses in the country, joined with the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, the University of Notre Dame and other Catholic organizations in filing federal lawsuits to block the mandate.

Erlandson added, “Our hope is that the courts will affirm that there is no state interest so compelling as to force religious organizations such as Our Sunday Visitor to violate their religious beliefs or risk financially devastating fines.”

The court’s ruling noted that if Hobby Lobby had lost its case, the company would have been subjected to fines of up to $475 million, or $36,500 per year per affected employee. If the company had dropped all employee health care coverage, it would have been fined $26 million a year.

Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the religious liberty law firm that represented Hobby Lobby, the family-owned Oklahoma-based retailer, before the Supreme Court, told reporters after the ruling that the court’s decision bodes well for similar pending cases of nonprofit organizations.

He noted that the opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito includes a footnote reference to the Little Sisters of the Poor’s lawsuit, which he said indicates that the “government accommodation is not here for long.”

The Little Sisters of the Poor religious order has asked the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to extend an injunction blocking enforcement of the federal contraceptive mandate.

The Supreme Court’s decision points out how the government has “effectively exempted” some religious nonprofit groups from the contraceptive mandate and that to qualify for the accommodation, such an employer must self-certify as nonprofit religious group with religious objections to contraceptive coverage; the self-certification form triggers the insurance company that administers their health plan to provide the objectionable coverage to their employees.

Catholic and other groups who object to the coverage on moral grounds say even with the accommodation, they are still involved in objectionable coverage.

The ninth footnote in Alito’s opinion states that “in a separate challenge to this framework for religious nonprofit organizations, the court recently ordered that, pending appeal, the eligible organizations be permitted to opt out of the contraceptive mandate by providing written notification of their objections to the Secretary of HHS, rather than to their insurance issuers or third-party administrators.”

Rienzi’s take on that footnote is that if the government thinks something is important, such as the provision of birth control coverage, it can provide it and cannot have a “compelling interest” to “crush” groups that object to paying for it.

He said the Hobby Lobby ruling makes it clear how family-operated businesses can operate within the Affordable Care Act and said the court’s decision will likely be the “controlling opinion going forth” for nonprofit entities’ health care coverage.

John Vile, dean of the University Honors College at Middle Tennessee State University and co-editor of the Encyclopedia of the First Amendment, called the decision a “genuine win for religious freedom” and for those who wrote the RFRA and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. He said both acts were designed to extend religious freedom beyond the narrow confines the court had previously tried to impose.

Vile told Catholic News Service in an e-mail that if “corporations can be considered persons for purposes of freedom of speech, then it is only appropriate that they be considered persons for purposes of religious freedom.”

He also pointed out that even though the court agreed that the government had an “important governmental interest” in protecting the health of women, it had not used the “least restrictive means” in accomplishing this goal since it had already made provisions for providing coverage for women who worked in nonprofit organizations with religious objections and for plans that it grandfathered in without contraceptive coverage.

Vile said he does not agree with the dissenting justices who said the decision had “startling breadth” and instead pointed out that Justice Alito was careful to limit the decision to the facts at hand, and his emphasis on “least restrictive means” provides leeway in cases where other means of accomplishing governmental objectives are unavailable.


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Book reviews: Two authors take different approaches to lead people to Jesus

July 2nd, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


Catholic News Service

“Jesus: A Pilgrimage” by James Martin, SJ. HarperCollins (San Francisco, 2014). 510 pp., $27.99.

“Under the Influence of Jesus: The Transforming Experience of Encountering Christ” by Joe Paprocki. Loyola Press (Chicago, 2014). 178 pp., $15.95.

Jesuit Father James Martin, a noted author and media commentator, in
“Jesus: A Pilgrimage” takes the reader on a remarkable journey of discovering what he calls “his” Jesus, concluding with an invitation that we undertake a similar pilgrimage to find our own Jesus.

These are the covers of “Under the Influence of Jesus”€ by Joe Paprocki and “Jesus: A Pilgrimage” by Jesuit Father James Martin. The books are reviewed by Eugene J. Fisher. (CNS)

The book is organized around a trip he took with a fellow Jesuit to the Holy Land, visiting the holy sites where Jesus lived, preached, died and rose in roughly the order of the events presented in the Gospels. At each stop he narrates his personal reaction to being in the places where Jesus was, and comments on the scriptural depictions of those events along with the meditations and thoughts of major Catholic theologians and spiritual thinkers.

Father Martin is well versed in contemporary biblical scholarship, Jewish as well as Catholic, and makes excellent use of the best of them. He interweaves scholarship into a popular-level narrative which will at once introduce many readers to their work and at the same time challenge readers to understand the Gospel narratives in new ways which, meditated upon, can deepen our faith as it enlarges our vision and deepens our understanding.

One fascinating aspect that emerges throughout Father Martin’s book is his encounter with Jesus’ humanity, as he walks in his steps, sees the stones, hills, valleys and farmlands that provided the setting for so many of Jesus’ sayings and parables, which we can understand anew through a sense of being in Jesus’ presence as he pointed to these mundane realities while challenging his Jewish hearers to a new understanding of their faith in the Father, the Abba of the Jewish people and of all humanity.

At the same time Father Martin grapples in a variety of ways with how this humble yet assertive Jew, fully human, could also be fully divine, a son of the people of Israel and, in a radically different way, of the God of Israel. Again, the weaving together of the best of biblical scholarship and doctrinal reflections from across the centuries renders the book a pilgrimage both temporal, set within a distinct time and place, and eternal, a spiritual meditation following Ignatian spirituality.

Father Martin does well pointing out both major themes of the Gospels and the historical setting of many of its details.

He notes that students of the rabbis, for example, were advised to tend to the physical needs of their masters, washing their hands, as prescribed before meals for all Jews, but also washing their feet. When Jesus washes the feet of his followers, he is reversing the role of master-teacher, or rabbi, and student, showing the respect that each of us must have for all of our fellow humans, not just those with high positions.

Father Martin also is careful, throughout, to make clear that the large majority of the Jews who knew of Jesus were positive about him, with only a small minority involved in the plot against his life. Jesus died at the hands of the Romans, a human killed by sinners for the sins of all humans.

Author Joe Paprocki looks at Jesus from another angle in “Under the Influence of Jesus.” This book is a spiritual meditation on what it means to be a Christian in one’s daily life. Written on a popular level, it makes use of the Scriptures and some of the best of Catholic thinking over the centuries.

It weaves together spiritual insights with the moral teachings of Jesus and the church. Following through on this guidance, the author argues, will make one more Christlike. Doing good for those in need brings one more deeply into oneself, giving rise to a deeper personal happiness as well as the betterment of others and of society as a whole.

Paprocki begins with the image from the book of Acts of the Apostles on Pentecost coming out speaking the good news of Jesus’ resurrection and appearing intoxicated. They are in fact intoxicated with the new possibilities of what he calls, aptly, an alternate reality, the kingdom of God on earth, in which they can share through the grace of Christ.

Paprocki lists, and the book contains numerous helpful lists, what the kingdom of God, is not and what it is, a state of being marked by personal serenity in the face of life’s inevitable crises, of maintaining internal balance, accepting the foibles of others and keeping their, not one’s own, best interests in mind, even and especially when they fail us.

The author contrasts the trust of many people of Jesus’ time in Barabbas, who led a violent revolution against Roman oppression, with the message of Jesus, of nonviolence, of returning love for those who would oppress us.

Paprocki does note that this message, to eschew Barabbas and to embrace Christ’s passion for peace and justice, is of the essence of the death of Jesus, freely accepted by him, and of his resurrection, God’s sign that the life of love that can overcome the worst of human evils.

Paprocki uses well the stories of Jackie Robinson and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who met physical force with what Rev. King called “soul force” to confront American racism and move the heart of a nation whose soul has and remains scarred with its history of racism and slavery. I would add Dorothy Day, who lived a life of service to the poor and opposition to the American tendency to use military force.

The book is a wonderful retelling of the Gospel, God’s word, which works both as spiritual meditation and motivation for living a life of love, for oneself and others. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Eugene J. Fisher, who is a professor of theology at St. Leo University in Florida.


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Christians without Mary in their lives are orphans, pope says


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis told a group of young people discerning a religious vocation to never go it alone, but always stay by their mother, Mary.

“A Christian without Our Lady is an orphan. Also a Christian without the church is an orphan. A Christian needs these two women, two mothers, two virgins: the church and Our Lady,” he said June 28.

The reception of Mary into heaven is depicted in the center section of a rose window at Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Providence, R.I. (CNS/Crosiers)

The pope spoke off-the-cuff to a group of young men from the Diocese of Rome during a brief moment of prayer at the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Vatican Gardens.

He apologized for being late to the evening appointment saying he was so engrossed “in a very interesting conversation” with someone, that he lost track of the time.

“Forgive me! This is not acceptable. Punctuality must be respected,” he told them.

The pope told the young people that God had a vocation in mind for everyone, but that it was up to each person to “look for it, find it and then go on, keep going.”

The best thing to do is always pray to Mary and keep her close when one needs to make a major life decision like the choice of one’s vocation, he said.

A “test” to see if one is following the right Christian vocation is to “ask yourself: ‘How is my relationship with these two mothers I have? With the mother church and the mother Mary?’” Pope Francis said.

“This will do you good; do not ever leave her and don’t go it alone,” he said.


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