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‘No easy answers’ — Pope Francis visits sick children at Krakow hospital

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Catholic News Service

KRAKOW, Poland — Questions about suffering have “no easy answers,” Pope Francis said in a visit to Children’s University Hospital.

Pope Francis blesses a girl during a visit to the Children's University Hospital in Krakow, Poland, July 29. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis blesses a girl during a visit to the Children’s University Hospital in Krakow, Poland, July 29. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

“How I would wish that we Christians could be as close to the sick as Jesus was, embracing them and willingly seeking them out,” Pope Francis said. “Sadly, our society is tainted by the culture of waste, which is the opposite of the culture of acceptance. And the victims of the culture of waste are those who are weakest and most frail; and this is indeed cruel.”

The brief ceremony in the hospital reception area, before a statue of St. John Paul II lifting a child, took place before 50 children in wheelchairs, some hairless from cancer treatment, clasping rosaries and papal flags. Addressing patients, parents and staff, Pope Francis said he was grateful for the sign of love offered by those welcoming and caring for “the smallest and most needy.”

He told those gathered: “To serve with love and tenderness persons who need our help makes all of us grow in humanity. … Those who engage in works of mercy have no fear of death.”

Looking solemn after his address, the pope recited the Hail Mary and delivered a blessing, before greeting the young patients and their parents, with the sound of crying children in the background.

Pope Francis said he wished to “draw near to all children who are sick, to stand at their bedside and embrace them,” adding that Jesus was “always attentive” and “moved by compassion” toward the sick, regarding them “in the same way that a mother looks at her sick child.”

However, he added that families sometimes felt “alone in providing care,” and said he wished to “listen to everyone here, even if for only a moment, and be still before questions that have no easy answers.”

“From this place, so full of concrete signs of love, I would like to say: Let us multiply the works of the culture of acceptance, works inspired by Christian love,” Pope Francis said.

“I encourage all those who have made the Gospel call to visit the sick a personal life decision: physicians, nurses, health care workers, chaplains and volunteers. May the Lord help you to do your work well, here as in every hospital in the world.”

He later visited the emergency unit and prayed in the chapel, accompanied by Father Lucjan Szczepaniak, one of 500 Catholic chaplains ministering full-time at Poland’s 550 state hospitals.

Dr. Maciej Kowalczyk, hospital director, said the children’s hospital represented the last chance for many severely sick children. He said he hoped the pope’s words and prayers would give patients and their parents “strength and hope to overcome their illnesses.”

Children’s University Hospital admits around 36,000 seriously ill young patients per year and treats 180,000 outpatients. It was founded in 1965 with finding from the U.S. government and Poles abroad.

Pope pays tribute to Holocaust victims in silence, prayer

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Catholic News Service

OSWIECIM, Poland — Sitting with head bowed and eyes closed, Pope Francis paid silent tribute to the victims of one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.

Pope Francis enters the main gate of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, July 29. (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, pool))

Pope Francis enters the main gate of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, July 29. (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, pool))

The pope arrived July 29 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, an area now blanketed by green fields and empty barracks lined by barbed wire fences, remnants of a horror that remains embedded in history.

Used by the Nazis from 1940 to 1945, the camp was the Nazi’s largest and consisted of three parts: Auschwitz I, where many were imprisoned and murdered; the Birkenau extermination camp, also known as Auschwitz II, and Auschwitz III (Auschwitz-Monowitz), an area of auxiliary camps that included several factories.

In 1942, Auschwitz became the site of the mass extermination of over 1 million Jews, 23,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war and thousands of Polish citizens of different nationalities.

Among those killed were St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar, and Edith Stein, a Jewish philosopher who converted to Catholicism and became a Carmelite nun, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Crossing the gate inscribed with the infamous motto “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work sets you free”) the pope quietly sat on a small bench for 10 minutes with his head bowed, occasionally glancing somberly around before closing his eyes in silent prayer.

He stood up, and slowly walked up to the wooden post of one of the barracks, reverently touching and kissing it.

The pope then made his way to Block 11 to greet a dozen survivors of the camp, including a 101-year-old violinist, who survived by being in the camp orchestra. Pope Francis greeted each survivor individually, gently grabbing their hands and kissing their cheeks.

Among the survivors was Naftali Furst of Bratislava, Slovakia, who was deported to Auschwitz and was evacuated to Buchenwald in January 1945 before his liberation.

Furst, who now lives in Israel, gave the pope a photograph showing him and other inmates imprisoned in the Auschwitz barracks.

Pope Francis also signed a book for Furst before he made his way toward the “death wall” where thousands of prisoners were lined up and shot in the back of the head before their bodies were sent to the crematoriums.

Candle in hand, the pope lit an oil lamp in front of the wall, before praying and laying his hand on the wall. He then turned around and entered the barracks of Block 11.

Also known as “the death block” because the Nazis used it to inflict torture, it houses the cell where St. Maximilian Kolbe spent his final hours, starved and dehydrated before being given a lethal injection of carbolic acid.

Pope Francis entered the darkened cell, illuminated by a faint light from the corridor, revealing a candle, an engraved plaque marking the site of the Franciscan friar’s death, and countless words, even a cross, etched on the walls by those who spent their final moments in the starvation cell.

Once again Pope Francis sat in silence with his head bowed. Alone in the cell for eight minutes, he occasionally looked up to contemplate his surroundings.

Outside the cell, he signed the visitors’ book, writing a simple message: “Lord, have mercy on your people. Lord, forgive so much cruelty.”

Pope Francis then made his way to the Holocaust memorial at Auschwitz II-Birkenau, driven in an electric cart on a path parallel to the railroad tracks that carried countless men, women and children to their doom. It now leads to a monument that honors their memory.

To the left of the memorial lay the ruins of one of four crematoriums used to incinerate the bodies of those who died of disease or starvation or who were executed in the two gas chambers housed within the extermination camp.

The pope approached the memorial to the victims, lined with 23 plaques, each inscribed with a message in a different language: “Forever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity, where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women and children, mainly Jews from various countries of Europe.”

Passing each plaque, Pope Francis reached the end of the monument where he set a candle in a large glass bowl and once again stood in silence, clasping his hands together over his chest in prayer.

While he prayed, the voice of Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Joseph Schudrich echoed Psalm 130 in Hebrew throughout the camp. The psalm begins with a cry to God: “From the depths I have cried out to you, O Lord.”

The event ended with the pope greeting 25 people honored as “righteous among the nations,” a recognition of non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazi extermination.

Among those present for the solemn occasion was Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a longtime friend of the pope from Buenos Aires.

Speaking to journalists July 28, Rabbi Skorka recalled a telephone conversation with Pope Francis in which he asked about the visit to Auschwitz.

“The pope told me, ‘I am going to behave the same way I did in Armenia, the places where people were killed, I will remain silent,’” he said.

“From a theological point of view and from a biblical point of view, this attitude means a lot,” the rabbi said.

 

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God shows greatness in humility, ‘Papa Franciszek’ says at Polish shrine

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Catholic News Service

CZESTOCHOWA, Poland — God chose to manifest his power not by amazing feats of greatness but rather through small acts of humility, choosing to enter the world as a child born of a woman, Pope Francis said.

The Lord’s “humble love” is reflected throughout Poland’s history, particularly through “meek and powerful heralds of mercy,” such as St. John Paul II and St. Faustina Kowalska, the pope said July 28 at a Mass outside the Marian shrine of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa. Read more »

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In Krakow for World Youth Day, Pope urges Poles to value their memories, but be open to change

By

Catholic News Service

KRAKOW, Poland — Poland’s memory and identity are the two catalysts that will lead the country forward and turn hopeless situations, such as those facing migrants, into opportunities for future generations, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis, Polish President Andrzej Duda and first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda arrive for a meeting with government authorities and the diplomatic corps in the courtyard of Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow, Poland, July 27. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis, Polish President Andrzej Duda and first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda arrive for a meeting with government authorities and the diplomatic corps in the courtyard of Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow, Poland, July 27. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Cloudy skies and a light drizzle did little to dampen the spirits of pilgrims cheering loudly as the pope’s plane landed in Krakow July 27. The arrival ceremony at Krakow’s John Paul II International Airport was marked by the presence of hundreds of Polish men and women, dressed in traditional clothes and dancing.

Stepping down from his plane and before he departed for Wawel Castle, Pope Francis was greeted by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, Polish President Andrzej Duda and first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda.

Addressing civil authorities and members of the country’s diplomatic corps, the pope noted that “memory is the hallmark of the Polish people,” a notable characteristic of his predecessor, St. John Paul II.

He said being aware of identity was “indispensable for establishing a national community on the foundation of its human, social, political, economic and religious heritage,” but that people must remain open to renewal and to change. He added that while good memory can remind society of God and his saving work, bad memory keeps the mind and heart “obsessively fixed on evil, especially the wrongs committed by others,” he said.

Pope Francis called on the people of Poland to hold on to their positive memories so they can look to the future with hope in respecting human dignity, economical and environmental concerns and “the complex phenomenon of migration.”

The issue of migration, he added, “calls for great wisdom and compassion, in order to overcome fear and to achieve the greater good.”

“Also needed is a spirit of readiness to welcome those fleeing from wars and hunger, and solidarity with those deprived of their fundamental rights, including the right to profess one’s faith in freedom and safety,” he said.

Pope Francis, who has brought attention to the plight of migrants in the past, met with 15 young refugees prior to his departure to Krakow. The Vatican press office said the young refugees are currently in Italy without documents that will allow them to travel out of the country.

“The youths, accompanied by the papal almoner, wished the pope a good journey and a happy participation at WYD, to which they cannot participate but are united spiritually,” the Vatican said.

Inviting Polish people to “look with hope to the future,” the pope said the memory of their thousand-year history would create a climate of respect that fosters a better life for future generations.

“The young should not simply have to deal with problems, but rather be able to enjoy the beauty of creation, the benefits we can provide and the hope we can offer,” he said.

Social policies, he added, must also support families who are “the primary and fundamental cell of society” as well as “helping responsibly to welcome life” so that children may be seen as a gift and not a burden.

“Life must always be welcome and protected. These two things go together, welcome and protection, from conception to natural death. All of us are called to respect life and care for it.”

 

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World is waging a fragmented war, but religions want peace, Pope Francis says

By

Catholic News Service

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT TO KRAKOW, POLAND — The world, not religion, is waging a war in pieces, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis gestures as he speaks to journalists aboard his flight from Rome to Krakow, Poland, July 27. The pope is attending World Youth Day in Krakow. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis gestures as he speaks to journalists aboard his flight from Rome to Krakow, Poland, July 27. The pope is attending World Youth Day in Krakow. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

While it “is not at as organic” as past world wars, “it is organized and it is war,” the pope told journalists July 27 on his flight to Krakow.

“Someone may think that I am speaking about a war of religions. No, all religions want peace. Others want war,” the pope said.

He spoke one day after the murder of a priest during Mass in a Catholic church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France. Two men, armed with knives, entered the church during Mass. The attackers murdered 84-year-old Father Jacques Hamel, slitting his throat.

“This holy priest who died precisely at the moment he was offering prayers for the whole church,” he said. While lamenting the priest’s death, the pope added that was one of countless innocents butchered by a war fought in pieces.

“How many Christians, how many children, how many innocents?” he said. “We are not afraid of saying this truth: The world is at war because it has lost peace.”

The pope also thanked people for their the countless condolences following the murder. He said this included French President Francois Hollande, who “wished to connect with me by telephone, like a brother.”

Pope Francis expressed his desire that young people attending World Youth Day in Krakow offer a message of hope in a chaotic world.

“Youths always give us hope. Let us hope the youths may tell us something that will give us more hope in this moment,” he said.

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Pope, U.S. bishops’ leader express shock after Islamic State murder of a priest in French church

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The murder of a priest in northern France, taken hostage with a handful of other faithful during a weekday morning Mass July 26, is another act of “absurd violence” added to too many stories of senseless violence and death, said the Vatican spokesman.

People walk past St. Therese Church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France, near Rouen July 27, a day after a French priest was killed with a knife during Mass. (CNS photo/Pascal Rossignol, Reuters)

People walk past St. Therese Church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France, near Rouen July 27, a day after a French priest was killed with a knife during Mass. (CNS photo/Pascal Rossignol, Reuters)

Pope Francis was informed about the hostage situation at the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen and the murder of 85-year-old Father Jacques Hamel, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.

“With pain and horror” for the “absurd violence,” Pope Francis expressed his condemnation of “every form of hatred” and offered his prayers for all those involved.

“We are particularly stricken because this horrible violence occurred in a church, a sacred place in which the love of God is proclaimed, with the barbaric killing of a priest,” Father Lombardi said.

Police said two men, armed with knives, entered the church during Mass. They reportedly slit the throat of Father Hamel. They said another person present at the Mass was in serious condition at the hospital. An Interior Ministry spokesman said the attackers were killed by police, ending the hostage situation.

A nun who witnessed the attack described the scene to French radio station RMC.

“In the church, everyone screamed ‘’Stop, you don’t know what you’re doing.’ They didn’t stop. They forced him to his knees; he tried to defend himself, and it was then that the drama began,” said the nun, who identified herself as Sister Danielle.

“They recorded themselves (on video). They did a little, like a sermon, around the altar in Arabic. It was a horror.”

The sister managed to escape the church and flag down a car for help, RMC reported.

She told the station about her respect for her colleague.

“It’s necessary to remember that this was an extraordinary priest,” Sister Danielle told RMC. “That’s all I want to say. He’s great, Father Jacques.”

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack via its news site, though the group’s involvement has not been confirmed by French police. French President Francois Hollande suggested the group was behind the attack.

Hollande called Pope Francis to express “the grief of the French people after the odious assassination of Father Jacques Hamel by two terrorists,” said a statement from the president’s office.

Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen, who was in Krakow, Poland, with World Youth Day pilgrims when the attacked occurred, said he would return to his archdiocese.

“The Catholic Church can take up no weapons other than those of prayer and brotherhood among people of goodwill,” the archbishop said in a statement from Krakow. He said that while he would leave Poland, hundreds of young people from his diocese would remain. “I ask them not to give in to violence,” but instead “become apostles of the civilization of love.”

Msgr. Olivier Ribadeau Dumas, secretary-general of the French bishops’ conference, also was in Krakow for World Youth Day. He told media: “We know now they were both terrorists.”

“We believe that evil and violence will not have the upper hand, and all the French bishops share this opinion,” he said.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a message of condolence to Archbishop Lebrun. The cardinal said Pope Francis was “particularly upset that this act of violence took place in a church during Mass, the liturgical act that implores God’s peace for the world.”

In the latest event of violence, the cardinal said, the pope prayed God would “inspire in all thoughts of reconciliation and brotherhood.”

Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil, Iraq, was another church leader in Krakow for World Youth Day. He told Catholic News Service the attack in France reminded him of the 2010 massacred in Baghdad’s Church of Our Lady of Deliverance “when they held the people inside the church” during Sunday evening Mass “and killed two priests and then started killing the rest.” A total of 48 people were killed and more than 100 were injured.

“This is the sort of world we are living in,” Archbishop Warda said. “We pray for the priest and everyone who was shocked and horrified.”

At the same time, “we pray for all of ISIS so they could really wake up and know the God of mercy,” he said. “We know that it is going to be harder and harder because the more you push them, they come up with more terrifying stories and events.”

“It’s shocking, it’s sad, really sad” to know they could “enter a church, a place of prayer” and commit such violence, the archbishop said. “Imagine you enter a mosque and start killing people; but that’s ISIS. That’s the way they act. Unfortunately this is the way they’ve been trained.”

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressed gratitude for “the unforgettable witness of the faithful” in the church attack.

“Jesus calls us to be sisters and brothers, to strive to care for one another, and always to reject the evil that seeks to divide us,” the archbishop wrote in a July 26 statement.

 

Contributing to this story were Colleen Dulle in Washington and Robert Duncan in Krakow.

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Krakow police raise security threat level at World Youth Day but say no concrete danger

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Catholic News Service

KRAKOW, Poland — Polish police have raised the official security threat level at World Youth Day in Krakow, after an Iraqi man was arrested with traces of explosives.

Police officers stand guard during World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, July 26. Mariusz Ciarka, spokesman for Poland's Warsaw-based police headquarters, said Polish police have raised the official threat level after an Iraqi man was arrested with traces of explosives. (CNS photo/David W. Cerny, Reuters)

Police officers stand guard during World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, July 26. Mariusz Ciarka, spokesman for Poland’s Warsaw-based police headquarters, said Polish police have raised the official threat level after an Iraqi man was arrested with traces of explosives. (CNS photo/David W. Cerny, Reuters)

However, a police spokesman said the category of high, was not linked to any “concrete threat,” adding that security arrangements were “proceeding smoothly” for the expected arrival of 2 million young people in the southern city.

“We’re determined to assure maximum security for all, and our staffers are doing everything they should,” said Mariusz Ciarka, spokesman for Poland’s Warsaw-based police headquarters.

“But we’re also urging everyone to be vigilant and to inform the police or Youth Day volunteers if they see anything suspicious, such as baggage or packs left unattended, and to show understanding if we implement selective controls and movement restrictions. Safety of such a huge gathering of people is what’s most important,” Ciarka said July 26 ahead of the official opening ceremony World Youth Day.

Officials were expecting half a million young people to attend opening ceremonies from 187 countries in Krakow’s Blonia Park.

He said security services had so far noted only “minor incidents,” such as lost documents and small injuries, as well as a July 25 bus crash in which no one was reported injured.

He said police were using mobile X-ray devices and metal detectors, as well as using dogs trained to detect explosives, at railway and bus stations and major road hubs around the city, as well as anywhere crowds gathered.

Gas tankers and large trucks had been barred from Krakow, Ciarka said, after a 19-ton truck was driven into a celebration in Nice, France, July 15.

Security fears are high in Europe in the wake of the Nice outrage and a spate of Islamist-linked attacks in neighboring Germany, as well as the July 26 killing of French Father Jacques Hamel, 84, during an attack during a Mass at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that attack.

Polish police said they had arrested a 48-year-old Iraqi man July 24 in Krakow, after explosive traces were found in his luggage and his clothes, as well as at hotels where he had stayed in Krakow and Lodz.

However, a Krakow prosecutor told journalists there were no grounds for charging the man with terrorism and said not enough explosive material had been detected to cause an explosion.

Ciarka said July 26 that 200 people had so far been barred from entering the country.

The police spokesman said drones and “unauthorized flying objects” had also been banned over a 65-mile zone around Krakow, as well as over the nearby city of Czestochowa, where Pope Francis will celebrate an open-air Mass July 29.

The carrying of arms and dangerous substances had also been outlawed, Ciarka added, as well as any objects normally not permitted aboard planes.

“From today, all movements are being limited around Krakow, as well as at Blonia and the Lagiewniki suburb, where pedestrians will have total priority,” the police official said. “The Polish government has given the police the task of serving society by ensuring this huge event passes off safely, and that’s what we will do.”

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Clinton’s VP pick, a Catholic, faces criticism for his stand on abortion

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Only a week after Donald Trump chose as his running mate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who was raised a Catholic and today is evangelical, Hillary Clinton chose as her vice presidential running mate, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a practicing Catholic who has never lost an election, as her vice presidential running mate.

U.S. Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., is seen in Miami July 23. (CNS photo/Brian Snyder, Reuters)

U.S. Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., is seen in Miami July 23. (CNS photo/Brian Snyder, Reuters)

Kaine grew up in Kansas outside Kansas City, Mo., and attended the Jesuit-run Rockhurst High School there before taking time off from Harvard Law School to work in Honduras with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. He has been a member of St. Elizabeth Parish in Richmond, Va., for 30 years and an is an on and off choir member; he sang a solo verse of “Taste and See” at Mass there July 24.

Still, the vice presidential candidate has faced criticism from Catholics for his stances on issues such as abortion and the death penalty.

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, posted on Facebook July 23 that Kaine’s positions on abortion and same-sex marriage, among other issues, “are clearly contrary to well-established Catholic teachings; all of them have been opposed by Pope Francis as well.

“Senator Kaine has said, ‘My faith is central to everything I do.’ But apparently, and unfortunately, his faith isn’t central to his public, political life,” the bishop wrote.

Similarly, Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, released a July 22 statement denouncing Kaine’s abortion stance, including his opposition to a bill that would have prevented abortions after 20 weeks, had it passed in the Senate.

“Senator Kaine is good at hiding behind his Catholic background,” Tobias said, “but no one should be fooled. His record and his openly declared legislative goals are as pro-abortion as they come.”

Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond, Kaine’s home diocese, issued a July 22 statement as well “regarding Catholics in public office” that reiterated the church’s pro-life stance though it did not mention Kaine by name.

“We always pray for our Catholic leaders that they make the right choice, act in the best judgment and in good conscience knowing the values and teachings of the Catholic Church,” the statement read.

Kaine’s platform has become more accepting of abortion since his time as governor of Virginia from 2006 to 2010, when he approved funding for crisis pregnancy centers and upheld abortion restrictions such as a 24-hour waiting period and parental notification. He followed this term with two years as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Since his 2012 election to the Senate, he has had a perfect rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America, though he has supported the Hyde Amendment, which forbids federal funding for most abortions and continues to be included in many federal appropriations bills for abortions. He hasn’t yet commented on the DNC’s platform update, which says the party aims to repeal the Hyde Amendment.

“I have a traditional Catholic personal position, but I am very strongly supportive that women should make these decisions and government shouldn’t intrude,” Kaine told CNN earlier in July.

Kaine takes the same approach to the death penalty, though this issue seems to be notably more fraught for him personally.

During Kaine’s 2005 run for governor, his personal opposition to capital punishment came under fire, and his campaign produced an ad featuring Kaine telling the camera directly, “My faith teaches life is sacred. That’s why I personally oppose the death penalty, but I take my oath of office seriously, and I’ll enforce the death penalty … because that’s the law.”

Under Kaine, Virginia carried out 11 executions, delaying some of them and granting clemency once when the prisoner to be executed was deemed mentally unfit. He vetoed every attempt to expand the penalty’s use.

Wayne Turnage, chief of staff under then-Gov. Kaine, has told multiple media outlets that on execution days, Kaine would become quiet and somber, spending the evening executions in his office alone with an open phone line to the death chamber until an aide came to report the prisoner’s last words.

Larry Roberts, Kaine’s former chief counsel, told The New York Times June 24 that he was sure Kaine was praying through each execution.

Christopher Hale, executive director of nonpartisan coalition Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, told Catholic News Service July 25 that he personally knows Kaine and sees the strength of his faith.

“The big thing to know with Kaine is he is someone who does take his faith seriously,” Hale said in a phone interview. “This isn’t just some passing facade; it’s the core of who he is.”

“The Catholic worldview has really inspired his politics. That being said, he’s not always perfect on the issues.”

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Mercy ‘sets our hearts free,’ bishop says at Mass for Native Americans

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BROWNING, Mont. — Helena Bishop George L. Thomas said at a special Mass for Native Americans that mercy may not “come easily,” but “it’s a gift that sets our hearts free.”

“Mercy transforms us when we need it most,” he said in his homily.

Father Ed Kohler, pastor of Little Flower Parish in Browning, Mont., distributes Communion during Mass July 10 at the close of North American Indian Days in Browning. (CNS photo/courtesy Catholic Extension)

Father Ed Kohler, pastor of Little Flower Parish in Browning, Mont., distributes Communion during Mass July 10 at the close of North American Indian Days in Browning. (CNS photo/courtesy Catholic Extension)

He asked the congregation to “call to mind those who have wronged you, hurt you and slighted you. Forgive them. Give up resentment. Give a friendly attitude to those who are not entitled.”

“Mercy doesn’t come easily and may have a personal cost,” he acknowledged. “But it’s a gift that sets our hearts free, lowers blood pressure and gives our body much needed rest.”

It was the 13th time Bishop Thomas said the Mass of the annual North American Indian Days, held July 7-10. The Mass was celebrated the last day. It was the 45th year the special gathering included a Mass.

Celebrated outdoors in the festival’s main dance arbor and exploding with colorful clothing, dancing and drumming, this year’s Mass once again was a strong expression of Native American Catholicism, inculturating Catholic faith into the participants’ Native American traditions.

The liturgy, which brought together Native Americans from 50 different tribes across North America, sparkled with Indian customs and symbolism — burning sage, drummers and headdresses — and powerfully expressed the church’s wide open embrace of their gifts.

“We need to build our faith within the Indian context,” said Harry Barnes, a parishioner of Little Flower Parish in Browning and chairman of the Blackfeet Tribal Council. “Even though the Catholic Church is 2,000 years old, it is the ‘new kid on the block’ for us natives. We need to combine our local cultures into the church. Catholicism widens our path.”

An estimated 20 percent of Native Americans are Catholic. In recent decades, the Catholic Church has made significant efforts to incorporate Indian traditions into Catholic liturgies, and the Diocese of Helena has made a strong commitment to ministries with Native Americans.

Celebrated this year for the 65th time, Indian Days is a four-day powwow that draws about 10,000 participants. Hosted by the Blackfeet Nation, Native Americans from every region of the country and Canada attended. They came together, many dressed in spectacularly elegant and intricately decorated native attire, to dance, play games and socialize in the arbor, a stadium-like arena.

Most attendees stayed right at the campgrounds, setting up hundreds of tipis and tents throughout the grounds. Food booths were scattered about, as well as arts and souvenirs tables and a few carnival-like rides for children.

The festival included a parade, which weaved through the town of Browning, featuring businesses, organizations, politicians and families. The parade had vehicles of all shapes, overflowing with signs, decorations and waving passengers, and horses were interspersed throughout. During the parade, pounds of candies were thrown from the passing cars to the children scooping them into bags.

Bishop Thomas greeted the crowd of about 400 by saying, “It is one of the high points of my year to be with the Blackfeet and to see how much they love and celebrate the Lord.”

A native of Montana, Bishop Thomas has a deep love for the state and its people. He is especially close to the Native Americans and has earned their respect.

One of the Blackfeet elders, 92-year-old Gertie Heavy Runner, who attends the festival annually and had a place of honor at the Mass, said of the bishop, “We have given him the name ‘Holy Warrior’ because of his courage, wisdom and integrity.”

Bishop Thomas is keenly aware of the huge challenges that Native Americans face. He understands their struggles with poverty, despair, substance abuse, domestic violence and the tensions around cultural identity and survival.

Sharing his concern is Father Ed Kohler, one of the priests who concelebrated Indian Days Mass and the pastor of Little Flower Parish in Browning.

The town of Browning, in the northwestern corner of Montana and close to the Canadian border and Glacier Park, is located in the Blackfeet Reservation. The reservation, established by treaty in 1855, runs along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, comprising 1.5 million acres, an area larger than the state of Delaware.

With more than 17,000 members, about half of whom live on the reservation, the Blackfeet Nation is one of the 10 largest tribes in the United States.

Father Kohler, the only Catholic priest within 30 miles of Browning, has been pastor since 1982. He sees the struggles of the Indians on the reservation. Recently, he said funeral Masses three days in a rows for young victims of suicide. Everyone seems to know someone who has died violently. Especially for young people, life on the reservation is tough. Thirty percent of its people live below the poverty line, and unemployment hovers around 80 percent.

Although he said a “dark cloud” hangs over the reservation, he believes that the Catholic Church can help, he told Extension magazine, which is published by Chicago-based Catholic Extension.

At Little Flower, a parish of about 250 regulars and another 250 nonregulars, he initiated the Cursillo movement, a series of retreats and workshops, to help strengthen the faith of parishioners. Across from the church, he also helped found the grade school, De La Salle Blackfeet, which has 70 students in grades four to eight.

For his devotion to Native American Catholics, Father Kohler received Catholic Extension’s Lumen Christi (“Light of Christ”) Award in 2010.

Catholic Extension is a national fundraising organization founded in 1905 to support the work and ministries of U.S. mission dioceses, like the Diocese of Helena.

The diocese was established in 1884 and originally encompassed the whole state; Catholic Extension provided its first church building grant there in 1911. The diocese now covers more than 50,000 square miles, which is almost double the size of Ireland. (The rest of the state comprises the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, established in 1904.)

Over the years, Catholic Extension has granted more than $20 million in today’s dollars to the diocese. Sixty-six of these grants have been related to Native American ministry, half going to Little Flower Parish. In the last five years, Catholic Extension has extended $1.6 million to the diocese, a total that is in the top 10 of all dioceses that the organization supports.

Catholic Extension has been a consistent supporter of Catholic Native American ministries around the country. The organization provides more than $1 million annually to support such ministries in 20 dioceses.

In his diocese, Bishop Thomas also has been dedicated to investing in young people through youth, young adult and campus ministries. The result is youth actively engaged in the church and a growing group of vocations. Currently, the diocese has 14 seminarians.

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‘Fair way’ to support a good cause

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Dialog reporter

CYM shoots a ‘24’ in its golf outings that help fund youth activities

CHRISTIANA – A relentless sun could not keep more than 100 men and women from teeing off at Cavaliers Country Club for the 24th annual Catholic Youth Ministry (CYM) golf tournament on July 18. One of those starting at the first hole has been there from the beginning and is glad to be able to support young people in the diocese.

Tom Sweeney, 79, was there with longtime tournament partners Fran Trzuskowski and Jim Keegan. He said he hasn’t played as much golf recently as he normally does, but he was happy to be at Cavailers and to see so many new faces.

“It’s great to get the young people out,” he said. Read more »

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