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Justice Alito warns of infringements to freedom of religion

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Catholic News Service

WYNNEWOOD, Pa. — The graduating class at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in the Philadelphia archdiocese received a special treat at the Concursus graduation ceremony held in the seminary chapel May 17.

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. received an honorary doctorate of letters and delivered the formal address.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia applauds after awarding an honorary degree to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito May 17 at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. (CNS /SarahWebb/CatholicPhilly.com)

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia applauds after awarding an honorary degree to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito May 17 at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. (CNS /SarahWebb/CatholicPhilly.com)

The award to Alito was “in testimony to and recognition of his many outstanding contributions to society,” Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said in his introduction, “especially in protecting the sanctity and dignity of human life, the full responsibilities of the human person and promoting true justice and lasting peace.”

In his address Alito spoke of the freedom of religion as enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution and encroachments on that freedom today.

A southern New Jersey native, he is well versed in the history of religious toleration as it developed in Philadelphia, and the important role that religion played in the development of the Constitution, including the visits by the Founding Fathers to the city’s various churches, among them Old St. Mary’s, tracing back to the Revolution.

Part of freedom of religion is “no one is forced to act in violation of his own beliefs,” Alito said. “Most of my life Americans were instilled in this,” he added, urging his audience to “keep the flame burning.”

In an interview for the seminarians’ blog, “Seminarian Casual,” Alito said that “our most foresighted Founders understood that our country could not hold together unless religious freedom was protected.”

Which is why, he said, George Washington, shortly after his election as the nation’s first president “made a point of writing to minority religious groups, to the United Baptist churches in Virginia, the annual meeting of Quakers, the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, and to the nation’s tiny Catholic population.”

“Washington and other founders also saw a vital connection between religion and the character needed for republican self-government,” Alito added. “What the founders understood more than 200 years ago is just as true today.”

Regarding threats to religious freedom, the justice said, “There is cause for concern at the present time.”

He noted that in his dissent in the Obergefell decision in which the Supreme Court held that the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage, I anticipated that the decision would “be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.”

“I added, ‘I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.’”

After Alito’s talk, Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop Timothy C. Senior, rector of St. Charles Seminary, told CatholicPhilly.com, the archdiocesan news website, said the justice “was very inspiring.” “”He reminded us that of the rights imbedded in our Constitution, religious freedom is the most fundamental and it is not respected throughout the world today.”

Jim Godericci, who attended Concursus with his wife, Regina, who is a member of the seminary’s development committee of the seminary, found it encouraging that “there are still some people in the justice field who still have a God-fearing, God-respecting attitude.”

Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg, who has seminarians at St. Charles and is himself a graduate, appreciated the topic of religious freedom, especially the local flavor and historical perspective.

“It’s extremely important; so many of our citizens have no clue of the history of these issues,” he said. “The contemporary feeling is not the same as at the roots.”

 

Baldwin writes for CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Eric Banecker contributed to this story.

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For Sale: St. Katharine Drexel Shrine, Blessed Sacrament motherhouse; saint’s tomb to be moved

May 4th, 2016 Posted in Featured, National News

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Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA — The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, the congregation founded by St. Katharine Drexel, announced that it will sell its historic motherhouse in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. The 44-acre property also contains the National Shrine of St. Katharine Drexel and her tomb.

At a future date, St. Katharine’s tomb will be moved to the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.

The National Shrine of St. Katharine Drexel and the motherhouse of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in Bensalem, Pa., will be sold, it was announced May 3.(CNS photo/Sarah Webb, CatholicPhilly.com)

The National Shrine of St. Katharine Drexel and the motherhouse of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in Bensalem, Pa., will be sold, it was announced May 3.(CNS photo/Sarah Webb, CatholicPhilly.com)

At the same time, the congregation has placed for sale a 2,200-acre property in Virginia that was the location of two schools founded by St. Katharine and her sister, Louise Drexel Morrell.

Blessed Sacrament Sister Donna Breslin, the president of the congregation, said in a statement that a portion of the proceeds from the sales will support the care of retired sisters.

As her order prepares to celebrate its 125th anniversary in July, she said the sisters are also “serving some of the most vulnerable people in the United States, Haiti and Jamaica.”

Proceeds from the sale of the properties will be used “to challenge, in new ways, all forms of racism as well as the deeply rooted injustices in the world,” Sister Donna said.

The decision, according to the statement, will make it possible for the congregation to carry forward the vision and spirit of St. Katharine Drexel, who left her prominent Philadelphia family to establish a religious order in 1891 with the primary purpose to minister to Native Americans and African Americans.

In a separate statement, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput voiced his support and prayers for the sisters.

“I’m also happy to share that I have guaranteed archdiocesan support for the sisters as their plan unfolds over the next few years,” he said. “They’ve committed to keeping the national shrine open to visitors through at least 2017. When the time is right to do so, the remains of St. Katharine Drexel will be transferred to the care of the archdiocese and entombed in an appropriate location in the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.

“It is both an honor and a blessing to accept this responsibility. We’ll also work collaboratively with the sisters to make sure their archival records are cared for appropriately within our archdiocese.”

The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament at their peak numbered about 600, but have dwindled to about 104 today, with more than half retired and living at the motherhouse.

Most of the deceased members are buried on the Bensalem property as are the parents, sisters and brothers-in-law of St. Katharine and priests prominent in the congregation’s history. The statements did not address what will become of the cemeteries.

The area of the cathedral suggested for St. Katharine’s tomb is near the altar dedicated to her at the rear of the basilica. The altar was donated by St. Katharine and her sisters Elizabeth and Louise in memory of their parents, Francis and Emma Drexel.

St. Katharine Drexel was born Nov. 26, 1858 into Philadelphia’s wealthiest family. She left everything to found her congregation in 1891 and devoted her considerable fortune to the Native and African American missions.

She died March 3, 1955 and was canonized Oct. 1, 2000. The Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul where she will now be entombed was the site of her funeral Mass.

The Bensalem property that contains 10 buildings was also the site of the former Holy Providence School a small residential school.

The Virginia property was the site of St. Francis de Sales School, a residential school for African-American girls founded by St. Katharine, and St. Emma’s Academy, a residential school for African-American boys founded by Louise and Edward Morrell. Before the schools closed in the early 1970s, they educated nearly 15,000 students.

 

Baldwin writes for CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

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Black Catholics mark King holiday with rallying cry for justice

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Catholic News Service

CHESTER, Pa. — The Rev. Cean James, founding pastor of Grace Christian Fellowship Church in Philadelphia, sees little change in society since the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was slain and feels the King holiday should be celebrated by fighting injustice.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is pictured in an undated file photo. The nation honors the legacy of the slain civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate with a national holiday, observed Jan. 18 this year. (CNS file photo)

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is pictured in an undated file photo. The nation honors the legacy of the slain civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate with a national holiday, observed Jan. 18 this year. (CNS file photo)

“It’s not about service, we should be out on the streets protesting,” he said Jan. 18. “Given the lack of change in society since the death of Dr. King, a true revolution of values is needed. It should be a day of protest against injustice. We have been silent for a long time.”

He was the featured speaker at the Philadelphia archdiocese’s 33rd annual prayer service honoring the legacy of Rev. King. It was held at St. Katharine Drexel Church in Chester.

The joy-filled exuberant singing of the Philadelphia Catholic Mass Choir, an archdiocesan-wide African-American choir under the direction of Kenny Arrington, filled the church the evening of the service.

Rev. James began his talk by revealing past family experience with the Catholic Church. His grandmother was Catholic and when his father was an infant he was deathly sick and sent home by the doctors probably to die the same night. Instead his mother took him to the rectory of Chicago’s St. Ignatius Church, where the pastor and the nuns prayed over him through the night. Rev. James’ father recovered and in gratitude his mother named him for the pastor.

The rest of his talk was pure fire. It could well have been Rev. King himself.

Rev. James had special scorn for those politicians who might go to a school and paint a wall on Rev. King’s birthday and then vote against funding for schools the next day.

In their remarks, Deacon Bill Bradley, director of the Office for Black Catholics, and Father Thomas Whittingham, pastor of St. Katharine Drexel, stressed the theme of charity, as expressed by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, which the congregation was urged to study, ponder and practice throughout the year.

Also in the spirit of forgiveness was this quote from Rev. King in the program book: “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us.”

Both messages were absorbed by the congregants.

“I thought he (Rev. James) had a lot of good points,” said Dawn Chism, a member of St. Francis de Sales Parish in University City who also sang in the choir. “It is not just a day of service, it should be a day of protest and bringing the issues up.”

Ted Travis, a member of St. Athanasius Parish in West Oak Lane, thought Rev. James’ message was powerful. “Why should we have to wait? We should be living that freedom now,” he told CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said. “We have to live our Christian calling by not just doing the acts of mercy one night, it is year-round.”

For Allison Walker, a member of St. Barbara Parish in West Philadelphia, the evening was an example of the good work being done by Deacon Bradley and the Office for Black Catholics.

“It was phenomenal having us all come together praising the Lord and giving praise to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” she said.

Baldwin writes for CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

 

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Steps taken to ease concerns for papal event attendees in Philadelphia

September 10th, 2015 Posted in National News Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA — Sometimes, the folks in charge have to skip the platitudes and listen to the people.

Take the visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families Sept. 26-27. Who doesn’t love Pope Francis? Of course most people want to be there, to be part of it.

The public Mass to be celebrated by the pope Sept. 27 will take place on Philadelphia’s premier boulevard — museum-lined Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which stretches northwest from Logan Square to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The papal altar will be located in a different area than was the case when St. John Paul II visited Philadelphia in 1979. Read more »

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Pope Francis to speak from lectern Lincoln used for Gettysburg Address

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Catholic News Service

 

PHILADELPHIA — As lecterns go, it is strictly utilitarian, a simple walnut stand with none of the ornamentation commonly found in mid-19th-century furnishings.

Yet it has a distinguished past and is about to have a distinguished future.

At a news conference Aug. 7 at the Union League of Philadelphia, Robert Ciaruffoli, president of the World Meeting of Families, announced that Pope Francis, during his Sept. 26 speech at Independence Hall while in Philadelphia for the families’ meeting, will use the lectern that was most famously used by President Abraham Lincoln when he gave his Gettysburg Address. Read more »

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Knights raising money, awareness of plight of Christians in Middle East

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Catholic News Service

 

PHILADELPHIA — Christianity may be thriving around the world, but it is under severe attack and threatened with extinction in the Middle East, the region of its birth.

This was a major theme at the 133rd Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus in Philadelphia Aug. 4-6.

It was stressed at an Aug. 4 news conference with Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson and two Catholic archbishops of Eastern Catholic Churches with direct experience of the situation. They were Melkite Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart of Aleppo, Syria, and Chaldean Archbishop Bashir Matti Warda of Erbil, Iraq. The two archbishops also spoke at a general meeting of the convention. Read more »

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Wail of sirens calls priest, religious to train crash site to offer help

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Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) — The wailing of sirens called Father Tom Higgins from his parish rectory and Sisters Linda Lukiewski and Julie Sertsch from their convent to the scene of the Amtrak train derailment the evening of May 12.

At about 9:30 p.m., the TV news reported the wreck of Amtrak’s Northeast Regional Train 188, which started in Washington and was headed for New York City. Aboard were 238 passengers and five crew members.

The crash left at least eight people dead and injured more than 200 others, with at least eight in critical condition. Most of the injured were treated at nearby hospitals and released. Read more »

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La Salle University names its first female president

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Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA — La Salle University in Philadelphia has made history by choosing a laywoman as its new president.

Colleen N. Hanycz is the first female president in the school’s 152-year history and also the first lay president, other than interim presidents. Her appointment was announced Feb. 17 and she will begin her tenure in July.

Colleen Hanycz has made history as the first female and first layperson to be appointed president of Philadelphia's La Salle University. (CNS photo/courtesy La Salle University)

Colleen Hanycz has made history as the first female and first layperson to be appointed president of Philadelphia’s La Salle University. (CNS photo/courtesy La Salle University)

La Salle was founded by the Brothers of the Christian Schools and she succeeds Brother Michael J. McGinniss, the most recent in a line of 28 Christian Brothers to lead the school. He stepped down from the presidency after 15 years of service last May. James P. Gallagher is serving as interim president until Hanycz’s term begins.

Currently, Hanycz is head of Brescia University College in London, Ontario, a Catholic college founded by the Ursuline Sisters and the only all-women college in Canada.

La Salle, on the other hand, was an all-male college for its first century, although now women make up almost two-thirds of the student body.

This will not be Hanycz’s first encounter with the Christian Brothers. As a high school student in Toronto, she attended Senator O’Connor College High School, run by the congregation.

“What stands out for me is that Lasallian tradition of building authentic community,” she said in an interview with CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Philadelphia archdiocese. “It is something I saw very much as a high school student when we were required to complete a service project in order to graduate.

“That was unheard of then, although it is common now. That same charism runs through the university and that was very instrumental in my coming here,” she said.

“This is a pivotal moment in La Salle’s history,” said William R. Sautter, La Salle’s board chair. “She is an innovative academic leader with an impressive record as an agent of positive change. She is ideally suited to maximize La Salle’s potential while continuing to honor our distinctive mission and values.”

“Dr. Hanycz is passionate about sustaining and enhancing the values and attributes that are essential to the Brothers of the Christian Schools,” said Brother Dennis Molloy, a La Salle trustee and his congregation’s provincial/visitor for the District of Eastern North America. “The Christian Brothers look forward to working collaboratively with Dr. Hanycz and the board of trustees as she takes office.”

Hanycz earned her bachelor of arts degree in history from St. Michael’s College of the University of Toronto, her law degree from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and she has a postgraduate law degree, known internationally as a master of laws, and a doctorate from Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto. Osgoode is considered Canada’s premier law school.

After a period as an employment litigator, she returned to Osgoode, where she was assistant dean and associate professor of law, specializing in dispute resolution. She was there from 2003 to 2008.

Hanycz was the second lay president in the history of Brescia when she was named to the post in July 2008. During her tenure, the school saw an increase in its national profile and a dramatic growth in enrollment and retention of students, faculty and staff.

Brescia is much smaller than La Salle and London is much smaller than Philadelphia.

“I was born and raised in Toronto and I spent most of my life in Toronto,” she said. “It will be wonderful to return to a large urban center as multicultural and diverse as Philadelphia is. Having grown up in another similar city, my family and I look forward to returning to that.”

Hanycz’s family includes her husband, Peter, and three children: Erik, a college student who looks toward a career as a Catholic high school teacher; Emily, a high school sophomore; and Claire, a fourth-grader.

 

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Phila. archdiocese sells nursing homes for $145 million

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Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA — The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced July 1 that it is selling six nursing homes and one assisted living facility operated by archdiocesan Catholic Health Care Services to a Flushing, New York, health care management company for $145 million.

The company, Center Management Group, owns and operates 15 nursing homes in New York and New Jersey. Under the agreement, the company has pledged to maintain the Catholic character of the nursing homes.

The date for the sale has not been set.

Under terms of the agreement, current nursing home staff members will become employees of Center Management Group at their current rate of pay when the agreement closes. They will receive health benefits under the new company’s health care plans. The management group also has agreed to retain all residents currently living in the facilities.

The sale does not affect nursing facilities owned and operated by religious congregations, but only those directly owned by the archdiocese.

Under an agreement with the archdiocese, Center Management Group will operate each facility in accordance with the moral, ethical and social teachings of the church outlined in the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.”

The health care management group will keep Catholic priests and chaplains and a pastoral care department at each facility. Existing chapels and places of worship will remain and Masses will continue to be celebrated.

The sale of the nursing homes, placed on the market last August, is part of the ongoing effort to address the financial problems that built up for decades which have jeopardized the ability of the archdiocese to cover employee and priest pensions as well as the deposits by the parishes into the archdiocesan-operated Trust and Loan Fund.

The $145 million sale price for the nursing homes will be decreased by certain obligations under the terms of the agreement. Coupled with the initial payment of $53 million for the long-term lease of the archdiocesan cemeteries, both deals will go a long way toward easing the financial crisis.

“This agreement will serve the archdiocese and its people well by ensuring the nursing homes presently operated by Catholic Health Care Services will continue to be dignified centers of care for the elderly in the Catholic tradition and in accord with the moral and ethical teachings of the church,” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said in a statement. “I did not arrive at this decision lightly. It came only after a great deal of consultation, discussion and prayer.”

In describing the archdiocese’s financial status, he said: “We become a little more stable with each step we take. We still have a way to go, but everything is being done so that we can best fulfill the church’s mission of evangelization and service to those in need.”

“We are enthusiastic about the future and grateful for Archbishop Charles Chaput’s confidence in our ability,” said Charles-Edouard Gros, the CEO of Center Management Group, which he founded in 1999.

“We have the experience of maintaining Catholic presence in skilled nursing communities,” he said. “Part of Center Management is to service the residents and the staff and to give the residents what they need to live optimally and happily and part of that is that they are able to practice their religion appropriately and have the love and support associated with that. We are very excited to be working with the archdiocese to maintain the same level of religious conviction and religious ability as to the residents of the facilities.”

Gros received his master’s degree in public health service management and policy with a concentration in gerontology from New York Medical College in 2001. He trained as an EMT/paramedic and still volunteers as a paramedic.

“I want to bring a high level of professionalism to the industry, coupled with my love for medicine,” he said. “I have also always loved hotels and another dream I had as a child was owning hotels. Even if I haven’t owned hotels, I’ve taken that philosophy of hospitality and brought it to the nursing environment. We hope to bring that to the forefront coupled with the strong Catholic basis in the community. It will be a special and wonderful environment for the residents.”

Although the sale is generally expected to close before the end of the year, there are several conditions that must be met including Vatican approval for the sale, which has already been requested.

Center Management Group also must obtain the necessary licensing to operate the nursing homes. Both conditions are not expected to be problematic.

 

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Vatican official calls families the pillar of society

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Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA — Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia’s visit to Philadelphia May 13-14 as part of the preparation for the September 2015 World Meeting of Families was in his view a success.

“Philadelphia is magnifico,” said the archbishop. He was en route by automobile to New York City, where he addressed the United Nations May 15, the 19th annual observance of the International Day of the Family.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, was in Philadelphia last week planning for the Sept. 22-27, 2015, meeting there on families called “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.” (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Of his final day in Philadelphia, he said that “it was interesting spending the morning at the seminary and the schools and meeting with the government officials. We started to organize the World Meeting of Families. I think the event will be very important to the United States and the world.”

The newly announced theme of the Sept. 22-27, 2015, meeting in the city is “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.”

The archbishop is very familiar with Philadelphia, tracing back to his student days at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome in the 1960s. That was the time of the Second Vatican Council, and as a young seminarian he assisted then-Archbishop John Krol of Philadelphia with translations of some of the documents. The two remained friends in the years that followed.

Archbishop Paglia is president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which sponsors the World Meeting of Families every three years in a different city.

It was in his capacity as president that he represented the Vatican at the United Nations and addressed the audience there. A text of his speech was released to the press.

“The family is the pillar of humankind and of society,” he told the world body. “The family is at the heart of human development.”

The paradox as Archbishop Paglia sees it is that although most people dream of having a family and it is at the top of their desires, “We see a lot of wounded families, and when the family is wounded society is also wounded,” he said.

This vision for the role that family plays in society is not simply a Christian idea. It traces back to ancient cultures, the archbishop explained, quoting from the first century B.C. orator/philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero, who said the family is “the birth of the city and the school of the republic.”

The family “is the source of development from an economic point of view, a cultural point of view and a religious point of view,” Archbishop Paglia said. “If you are alone and think only of yourself, you risk nothing and you create nothing. With a family you weave a larger net in society.”

A challenge for Archbishop Paglia and the Vatican is that not everyone connected with the U.N. is in agreement with the Holy See on some issues that the church considers fundamental.

This was the case at a Geneva session of the U.N. Committee against Torture at the beginning of May, when one participant accused the church of “psychological torture” of women because of its opposition to abortion.

“If you go back in your life, at one time you were an embryo in the womb of a woman,” Archbishop Paglia said. “We have to include, we must welcome, not exclude.”

He decried the abortion culture that has gone to such lengths as to abort female babies because male babies are considered more desirable, a practice which, particularly in China, means millions more boys are born every year than girls.

By contrast, Pope Francis and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had a cordial meeting at the Vatican on May 9, with agreement on many points.

“It is important to build a new world, more human, more compassionate, not cruel,” Archbishop Paglia said. “In this way the pope understands the importance of the Catholic Church cooperating with others.”

 

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