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Mexican bishop, Caritas staffer say situation serious, complicated after quake


MEXICO CITY — A Catholic bishop and a Caritas worker in Mexico said the situation was extremely serious after the Sept. 19 earthquake, and much aid would be needed.

“The situation is complicated, because the first earthquake (Sept. 7) had already affected thousands of people in Chiapas and Oaxaca,” Alberto Arciniega, head of communications for Caritas Mexico, told Catholic News Service Sept. 20. “The church is continuing to assist those dioceses, but with what happened yesterday, the emergency situation is being re-evaluated to get a more exact assessment of the aid that is needed.”

People mourn Sept. 20 near caskets containing the bodies of victims who died after the roof of a church in Atzala, Mexico, collapsed in the Sept. 19 earthquake. (CNS photo/Imelda Medina, Reuters)

The Vatican announced Sept. 21 that, through the Dicastery for Promoting Human Development, Pope Francis is sending an initial $150,000 to aid Mexico. Money will be distributed by the nuncio to dioceses most affected.

Arciniega said all the dioceses in Mexico were collecting food, water and other necessities for victims of the quakes. He said they were seeking economic support from inside and outside the country.

“We know it is a serious situation, and international aid is being requested,” Arciniega told Catholic News Service.

“Rehabilitation and reconstruction will take time and will be expensive,” he added. “Thousands of people have been left homeless, and many churches have been damaged.”

The magnitude 7.1 quake that hit Sept. 19 was not as strong as the earlier magnitude 8.1 quake, but the second quake was centered in Puebla state, just southeast of Mexico City, as opposed to in the Pacific Ocean. Arciniega said Puebla and Morelos states and Mexico City were worst hit in the second quake, which killed more than 230 people.

In Morelos, just to the south of Mexico City, damage was widespread. Gov. Graco Ramirez put the death toll at 73.

President Enrique Pena Nieto has visited the municipality of Jujutla, where houses were reduced to rubble.

Oscar Cruz, spokesman for the Diocese of Cuernavaca, based in the Morelos state capital, said “the damage is worse … in many towns that are even poorer.”

At least 89 parishes in Morelos state suffered damage or were destroyed, according the National History and Anthropology Institute, which is responsible for Mexico’s older churches. The Cuernavaca cathedral, which dates to the 1500s and been undergoing restoration activities, also suffered damage and parts of it cannot be used, Cruz said.

Parish residences also were damaged, leaving priests homeless, Cruz said. A pair of priests were injured by falling debris; one was still hospitalized Sept. 21.

The diocese has started collecting goods for those left homeless.

“People have been extraordinary,” Cruz said. “This has been an extraordinary moment of solidarity. People are coming out and saying, ‘I want to help.’”

Bishop Ramon Castro of Cuernavaca has been touring the hardest-hit towns of Morelos. The bishop and the state governor had been at odds in recent years of social policies promoted by the governor and the bishop’s refusal to stop condemning violence and corruption in the state.

The pair have put aside their differences in the wake of such a disaster, Cruz said.

“There’s no working together” on the relief effort, “but we’re not getting in each other’s way,” Cruz said.

Mostly, priests and the bishop “have been trying to be close to the people,” he added.

Earlier, Arciniega shared audio of an interview with Bishop Castro, who noted that parishes in his diocese had been collecting items to send to victims of the Sept. 7 earthquake in Chiapas and Oaxaca. Now those items, if they were not destroyed in the Sept. 19 quake, will be used locally, the bishop said, adding, “but it will not be enough.”

Arciniega was in Oaxaca when he spoke Sept. 20. He said the Sept. 19 earthquake was felt there, but apparently did not cause damage.

“People (in the south) are worried that the assistance will stop because the cameras and newscasts are focusing on Mexico City. There is fear that the aid will stop and the emphasis will be on the center of the country,” he said.

He added that it was raining in Tehuantepec, an area of Oaxaca damaged in the first earthquake, which killed nearly 100 people.

“That makes the housing situation more complicated. Not only did people’s homes collapse, but now it’s raining, so people are in shelters, they need food. They are setting up community kitchens. We are continuing to evaluate how much the diocese can do to help itself and requesting aid from other dioceses and from outside the country.”


Contributing to this story were David Agren in Mexico City; Barbara Fraser in Lima, Peru; and Cindy Wooden at the Vatican.

Mexicans pitch in to help after earthquake


Catholic News Service

MEXICO CITY — Mexican church leaders offered prayers and urged generosity after an earthquake struck the national capital and its environs, claiming more than 240 lives, including at least 20 children trapped in a collapsed school.

Rescue personnel remove rubble Sept. 20 at a collapsed building while searching for survivors after an earthquake hit Mexico City. The magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit Sept. 19 to the southeast of the city, killing hundreds. (CNS photo/Claudia Daut, Reuters)

The U.S. bishops joined them in prayer, asking for the protection of “Our Lady of Guadalupe, comforter of the afflicted and mother most merciful.”

The magnitude 7.1 earthquake Sept. 19 added to the misery of Mexicans who suffered a magnitude 8.1 earthquake 12 days earlier. That quake left nearly 100 dead in the country’s southern states and left thousands more homeless.

“We join the pain and grief of the victims of the earthquake, which occurred today … in various parts of our country,” the Mexican bishops’ conference said in a Sept. 19 statement. “Today, more than ever, we invite the community of God to join in solidarity for our brothers who are suffering various calamities that have struck our country.”

Mexicans have responded to the earthquake with acts of solidarity. The telephone system was overwhelmed and traffic snarled as power outages affected traffic lights. In hard-hit neighborhoods, people poured in, armed with buckets and shovels to help clear rubble from collapsed buildings, where people were trapped. Others were quick to donate food and drink to those assisting.

“Once again we are witnesses to the people of Mexico’s solidarity,” the bishops’ statement said. “Thousands of hands have formed chains of life to rescue, feed or do their small part in the face of these emergencies.”

Caritas chapters across the country opened collection centers to help those harmed by the earthquake. In Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera asked all parishes in the impacted areas, along with priests religious and laity to “collaborate with the authorities in order to assist people that have been affected and show Christian solidarity,” said an article published in archdiocesan newspaper Desde la Fe.

Dioceses in Puebla and Morelos, south of the capital, reported widespread damage to churches. Caritas Mexico, the church’s aid organization, reported at least 42 people dead in Morelos and 13 deaths in Puebla, where a dozen churches also collapsed.

Damage was widespread in parts of Mexico City, where at least 27 buildings collapsed, said President Enrique Pena Nieto.

A private school collapsed in Mexico City, trapping students ranging from kindergarten to junior high school. The Associated Press reported at least 25 students and teachers died, with others remaining unaccounted for.

As often happens in disasters, authorities expected the death toll to rise, because people could have been trapped in buildings when they collapsed.

At his general audience Sept. 20, Pope Francis prayed for victims and rescue personnel, invoking Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of Mexico.

“In this moment of suffering,” he said, “I want to express my closeness and prayers to the entire Mexican population.”

Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City expressed his sympathy to the relatives of those who had lost loved ones in the earthquake. He urged parishes, religious and the lay faithful to work with government authorities to “aid people who have been affected and demonstrate Christian solidarity.”

The quake epicenter was in Puebla, southeast of Mexico City. Earthquakes usually affect Mexico City as much of it is built on a former lake bed and buildings sway in the soft soil, even though the epicenters are in distant states. That phenomenon allows an earthquake warning to sound, giving people approximately a minute to evacuate their buildings. The alarm did not sound Sept. 19, however.

“It totally frightened me,” said Pedro Anaya, a small-business owner.

He decided to help, joining the hundreds of people hauling away debris from a collapsed apartment building in the trendy Condesa neighborhood.

“I saw that my family was OK so I came to help,” he said.


Contributing to this story was Barbara Fraser in Lima, Peru.

Jarome’s all-around game paces Pandas in volleyball sweep of Spartans


Dialog reporter


MILLTOWN – Padua’s volleyball team kept its season-opening win streak going, while handing St. Mark’s it’s first defeat of 2017 in a 3-0 win Sept. 19. The set scores in the first Catholic Conference match of the year were 25-21, 25-19 and 25-17.

A large, spirited crowd was on hand to watch the Pandas, ranked third in the state by 302Sports.com, battle the No. 4 Spartans. Both teams came into the evening with 3-0 records and just one lost set between them, as Padua defeated Newark Charter by a 3-1 score. The fans saw lots of big hits and a night full of superb defense by both teams. Read more »

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Pope cites St. Frances Cabrini as exemplar of ministry to immigrants


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Although she died 100 years ago, St. Frances Cabrini is a shining example of “love and intelligence” in ministering to the needs of immigrants and helping them become integral members of their new homelands, Pope Francis said.

Responding to “the great migrations underway today” the same way Mother Cabrini did “will enrich all and generate union and dialogue, not separation and hostility,” Pope Francis said in a letter to Sister Barbara Louise Staley, superior of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which the saint founded.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, who died 100 years ago, is a shining example of “love and intelligence” in ministering to the needs of immigrants and helping them become integral members of their new homelands, Pope Francis said in a letter to Mother Cabrini’s order this week. This stained-glass window is at the saint’s shrine chapel in the Washington Heights section of New York City. (CNS file photo)

Mother Cabrini arrived in New York in 1889 to work with Italian immigrants, setting up orphanages, schools and hospitals in nine U.S. cities. Naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1909, she died in Chicago Dec. 22, 1917.

The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were holding their general assembly Sept. 17-23 at the National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Chicago.

In her work, particularly among Italian immigrants to the United States, Mother Cabrini “focused attention on situations of greatest poverty and fragility, such as the needs of orphans and miners,” the pope wrote in his letter, which was released at the Vatican Sept. 19.

Mother Cabrini also demonstrated “a lucid cultural sensitivity” by making sure she was in constant contact with local authorities, the pope said.

“She undertook to conserve and revive in the immigrants the Christian tradition they knew in their country of origin, a religiosity which was sometimes superficial and often imbued with authentic popular mysticism,” he wrote. “At the same time, she offered ways to fully integrate with the culture of the new countries so that the Missionary Mothers accompanied the Italian immigrants in becoming fully Italian and fully American.”

With dialogue and help integrating, he said, “the human and Christian vitality of the immigrants thus became a gift to the churches and to the peoples who welcomed them.”

While Mother Cabrini and the sisters had a specific mission to assist the immigrants and strengthen their faith, he said, Catholics today cannot forget “that is the vocation of every Christian and of every community of the disciples of Jesus.”

On a more personal note, Pope Francis told the sisters, “I assure you of my remembrance and prayers with deep affection, both because I have always known the figure of Mother Cabrini and because of the special concern I devote to the cause of immigrants.”

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St. Louis archbishop calls for peace after verdict, asks community to unite


Catholic News Service

ST. LOUIS — Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis called for peace following a not guilty verdict in the trial of former St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley.

A woman says a prayer next to a police officer in riot gear during Sept. 17 protests after a not-guilty verdict in the murder trial of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley, charged with the 2011 fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, who was black. Stockley is white. (CNS photo/Lawrence Bryant, Reuters)

Stockley, who is white, was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death in 2011 of Anthony Lamar Smith, an African-American. St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson issued the ruling after Stockley waived his right to a jury trial.

“If we want peace and justice, we must come together as a community through prayer, mutual understanding, and forgiveness,” Archbishop Carlson stated. “While acknowledging the hurt and anger, we must not fuel the fires of hatred and division. We must ask God for peace in our own hearts and share it with those around us.”

Protesters began gathering in downtown St. Louis soon after the ruling was made public on the morning of Sept. 15. Media reports had warned of threatened disruptions if Stockley was found not guilty.

Protests turned violent, and more than 120 people were arrested Sept. 17 as protesters attacked police and broke windows, according to CNN, which also reported that a peaceful protest took place Sept. 18, not too far from the site of the previous night’s violence.

“Violence does not lead to peace and justice; they are opposing forces and cannot coexist,” the archbishop said in his statement. “I implore each of you to choose peace. Reject the false and empty hope that violence will solve problems. Violence only creates more violence. We must work together for a better, stronger, safer community, one founded upon respect for each other, and one in which we see our neighbor as another self.”

Archbishop Carlson was to join other faith leaders from St. Louis for an afternoon interfaith prayer service for peace and solidarity Sept. 19 in downtown St. Louis.

Two Catholic churches in St. Louis, St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Nicholas, opened for prayer and conversation after the verdict was announced. An invitation was extended to a regular peace and justice vigil held every Sunday at 7 p.m. on the stairs of St. Francis Xavier (College) Church.

At St. Nicholas Church, about half a dozen people came for the regular 12:15 p.m. Mass. Father Art Cavitt, who is the pastor and also director of the St. Charles Lwanga Center in St. Louis, said he kept the church, located just north of downtown, open throughout the day Sept. 15 for anyone in need of a place to pray or seek pastoral care.

The tensions that arose from Ferguson and what’s happening now, Father Cavitt said, “say something about us, and our country and humanity and our needs. There’s this festering that has been happening in our communities and in ourselves. It’s more reflective of that, than a specific case that pushes a button.”

Reflecting on the Sept. 15 feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, Father Cavitt said that there are people who, like the Blessed Mother, have been heartbroken time and time again, but yet keep saying “yes” through the lens of faith.

“It is that witness of faith, that witness of the Gospel that will carry us through this day in St. Louis and whatever happens the next day as well,” he told the St. Louis Review, the archdiocesan newspaper.

Assumption Parish in O’Fallon offered prayers for peace and healing at a free evening concert performance by Christian singer-songwriter PJ Anderson Sept. 15.

It was “a chance to join together as God’s beloved coming to pray for our metro area and all cities (and) to resist situations that can pull us apart,” said Amanda Suchara, media coordinator for the parish.

Four Catholic high schools in St. Louis closed in anticipation of the verdict.

By mid-afternoon Sept. 15, several hundred people were assembled at a downtown intersection near City Hall. Students and staff from St. Louis University were present at different points during the day.

Father Christopher Collins, the university’s assistant to the president for mission and identity, started the day at St. Louis University’s School of Law, just a couple of blocks from the protest site. He and several other clergy members went to the street to pray for about half an hour.

As a Jesuit, “you want to follow in a pastoral way, to be where people are hurting and to be present,” he said. “We called on God’s love for all of us.”

A group of several dozen St. Louis University students connected on GroupMe and went downtown after their morning classes.

“I came because it’s the right thing to do. I want to stand with my community and protest what’s going on here. It’s not right,” said junior Michael Winters, who is studying economics.

“The sense of complacency that people have, in that these sorts of things happen and some people come down to protest, but then we just sort of let it slide. I think I’m guilty of this as well, at times,” said junior Charlie Revord, who is studying sociology and economics.

“Today is just a reminder that we have to keep up the pressure to try and make change,” he added. “It’s only going to come through coming together, having dialogue and really standing in solidarity with the people who are suffering.”

— Also by Joseph Kenny

Brinker and Kenny are staff writers at the St. Louis Review and Catholic St. Louis, publications of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

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Key West Catholic school struggles to reopen after hurricane


Catholic News Service

KEY WEST, Fla. — Robert Wright, principal of the Basilica School of St. Mary Star of the Sea in Key West, reluctantly left town before Hurricane Irma made its historic landfall, knowing it wouldn’t be easy getting back to Florida’s southernmost tip later on.

Debris is seen Sept. 16 outside the Basilica School of St. Mary Star of the Sea in Key West, Fla., in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. (CNS photo/Tom Tracy)

Wright drove the Overseas Highway north toward the Florida mainland, braving 50-mph winds, to join his wife and five children who had evacuated to a relative’s home in Lakeland in Central Florida. Wright’s wife, Jessica, is a sixth-generation Conch, or Key West native.

“I had at first decided to stay and ride it out, but my wife wasn’t happy about that, and we have five children,” said Wright, principal of the school since 2013. “So I drove overnight to Lakeland.”

Ironically, Irma’s path shifted somewhat more inland, knocking out power where Wright and 10 family members huddled in a duplex for several days.

Wright’s fears about returning were well-founded. County officials only began letting residents head back to the lower Keys and Key West early in the morning Sept. 17.

Some days before that, Wright finally found a way back to Key West through a friend who works with a humanitarian aviation agency in Lakeland called Aero Bridge, which was flying post-hurricane relief and supplies to Summerland Key, near Key West. (The main airport in Key West was open only to military and governmental traffic at the time.)

He learned about the flight the night of Sept. 13, and, leaving his family in Lakeland, he boarded the flight the next morning along with his 120-pound dog and a couple of cases of Gatorade.

“It was a humbling sight to fly over the Middle Keys around Marathon Key, seeing the devastation,” Wright told the Florida Catholic newspaper. “I got into Key West, and my first order of business was to find fuel for my car.”

Wright found gas at a marina where his family keeps a boat. He also procured some drinking water, then set out for the basilica’s school. He spent six hours doing a full damage assessment, and spoke to the insurance adjusters and Miami archdiocesan staff working on a cleanup plan.

He contracted with a local company to begin the cleanup process beginning Sept. 18. He set Sept. 25 as the target for a full school reopening.

Meanwhile, the school began operating a half-day of free day care for area youngsters whose families didn’t evacuate and needed a safe place for their children while they recover from the storm. An estimated 8,000 residents remained behind.

“My goal is to open up the school as soon as possible, and I think that is one of the first things a community needs to return to a sense of normalcy,” Wright said.

With some 300 students, most of whom evacuated with their families in advance of Hurricane Irma, the Basilica School of St. Mary Star has been educating Key West children since 1868. The school enrolls students from prekindergarten (age 3) through eighth grade and stands next to the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea, in the heart of Key West.

Key West was not ready for an immediate, rapid return of residents. As of Sept. 18, water service was being rationed, available only four hours each day. Cellphone service was only recently restored, electricity remained out and gasoline was in short supply.

Wright also was visiting members of his staff, faculty and student families who were busy cleaning up homes. His own house suffered some minor damage, and he asked his family to stay in Central Florida until conditions improve.

Meanwhile, he said, Key West has been transformed from a beautiful resort to a beautiful state of neighbor helping neighbor, as restaurants offer free food to locals and people pitch in to clean up the island.

“It’s really is neat to see people dig deep and start to serve others,” he said. “Amidst the chaos there is great charity at work. It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself in a bad situation. But when you see the generosity and care of neighbors, it’’s a very pleasant feeling, and it takes your mind off the road ahead.”

It will be months, even years, before the island returns to what it once was, Wright said. Locals point out that 2005’s Hurricane Wilma actually brought Key West more catastrophic flooding than Irma, which will be remembered by locals for its Category 4 winds.

“I have families asking how long this will take and wondering should they enroll elsewhere,” Wright said. He believes the city of Key West in general will lose some students as their families relocate after suffering heavy damage to their homes.

Many faculty and staff of the basilica’s school, however, were waiting for the Key West airport to open to commercial flights to return. The school has its own water wells, which are now functioning again.

“It’s important to focus on the beauty of charity and progress that these moments bring out,” Wright said. “The charm of the island has shifted from palm trees and tiki huts to the beauty of people serving one another.”


Tracy is a correspondent for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.

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Salesian priest recounts his kidnapping in Yemen, imprisonment


Catholic News Service

ROME — Salesian Father Tom Uzhunnalil was sitting in a room in an unknown location, one of several he had been relocated to during his 18-month imprisonment, when he received some unexpected news.

Salesian Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was released Sept. 12 after having been kidnapped 18 months ago in Yemen, kneels at the feet of Pope Francis during a Sept. 13 meeting at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

“Those who kept me came to where I slept (and said), ‘I bring you good news. We are sending you home. If you need to go to the bathroom, go. Take a shower, but quickly.’” Father Uzhunnalil told reporters Sept. 16 at the Salesian headquarters in Rome.

The Salesian priest from India was kidnapped March 4, 2016, from a home for the aged and disabled run by the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, Yemen. On that day, four Missionaries of Charity and 12 others were murdered in the attack by uniformed gunmen.

Seeing a group of Missionaries of Charity sisters seated at the news conference in Rome, Father Uzhunnalil expressed his condolences. However, the memory of the four sisters’ martyrdom still proved too difficult to bear.

Silence filled the room as the Salesian priest covered his eyes, tears streaming down his face while doing his utmost to hold back emotions that he thought he could contain.

“I thank God Almighty for this day, for keeping me safe, healthy, clear minded; my emotions were in control until now,” he said after regaining his composure. 

“I don’t want to speak too much about the sisters because I get too emotional,” he said.

Although reports following his kidnapping suggested the attack was carried out by the so-called Islamic State, Father Uzhunnalil said his captors never identified themselves.

Knowing very little Arabic, Father Uzhunnalil said he spoke to the militants with the few words he knew: “Ana hindiin” (“I am Indian”). To this day, the Indian priest still wonders why he was the only one spared in the slaughter.

“Why they did not kill me, why they didn’t tie my hands, I don’t know,” he said. “Perhaps they wanted some ransom or whatever it is. I only believe that maybe God had put that into their heads when I said, ‘I am Indian,’ and they made me sit there while they killed the others, the sisters.”

After leaving him in the trunk of the car, the militants ransacked the chapel taking the tabernacle, wrapping it with the altar linen and placing it near the kidnapped priest. With his hands unbound, Father Uzhunnalil carefully moved the linen and found “four or five small hosts,” which he kept to celebrate the Eucharist the first few days of his capture.

After his short supply ran out, he said, he continued reciting the Mass prayers when alone despite not having bread and wine.

“I peacefully was able to say my Eucharist all from memory, although bread and wine wasn’t available. But I prayed to God to give me those items spiritually,” Father Uzhunnalil said.

He spent most of his days praying for the pope, his bishop, his Salesian brothers, and “certainly those sisters, all those persons whom God had called” on the day of his abduction.

Father Uzhunnalil said he found consolation in the words of a hymn, “One day at a time, sweet Jesus.”

“Just give me the strength to do every day what I have to do. Yesterday’s gone, sweet Jesus, and tomorrow may never be mine. Lord, help me today, show me the way, one day at a time,” he would sing to himself in the solitude of his room.

On Sept. 11, Father Uzhunnalil was given the news of his liberation. After traveling for hours blindfolded, the priest along with two of his captors waited in the car.

Several hours later, his captors told him “some arrangements weren’t done” and they headed back.

Not understanding the church’s teaching on the Holy Trinity and the “unity of God in three persons,” Father Uzhunnalil recalled, one of his captors said, “You might have prayed to the third God, now you must pray to the second God so tomorrow can go well.”

Returning to his cell, he slept briefly when he was rustled out of bed in the middle of the night Sept. 12 and taken on the same long ride, his head once again covered. He was then moved to another vehicle where a person pulled up his picture on a cell phone and asked the priest, “Is this you?”

After confirming his identity, the driver drove for more than a day through the desert and told him: “Now you are free, now you are safe.”

Father Uzhunnalil was then taken to the Omani capital of Moscat where he received medical treatment, fresh clothes, and a shaving kit.

While he knows few details about arrangements for his release, Father Uzhunnalil expressed his gratitude to those who helped secure his liberation, including Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said of Oman, the government authorities of India, and the Vatican, including Pope Francis whom he met the day after his release.

As Pope Francis entered the room Sept. 13, the Salesian knelt before him and kissed his feet. Visibly moved by the gesture, the pope helped him up and kissed his hands.

Before blessing Father Uzhunnalil, the pope embraced him and said he would continue to pray for him as he had done during his imprisonment.

“In that meeting, the pope kissed my hand. I never deserved it,” he said. “I’m only grateful to God for his blessings, I’m sure he prayed much for me.”

Even his captors, Father Uzhunnalil said, knew of the pope’s efforts and inadvertently gave him a reason to hope.

“One of the captors told me, ‘The pope has said you will be freed soon but nothing is happening still.’ From that, I knew that the whole world was there, the whole church was there, the world was worried for me. So, I am grateful,” he said.


Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Auks rush their way to 21-7 gridiron win at Conrad


Dialog reporter


WILMINGTON – Archmere used a powerful ground game, rushing for a total of 277 yards in a 21-7 win over Conrad on Sept. 16. Connor Ruggieri led the way with 116 yards, while David Dewees had two touchdown runs. Read more »

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Vatican Letter: Pope moves toward decentralization, local responsibility


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis talks about the need for a “healthy decentralization” in the Catholic Church, but how that should look and work has been a topic of debate since the Second Vatican Council.

The discussion often centers on how people describe the way the church experiences and ensures its unity around the globe: For example, by focusing on a strong, decision-making central authority, that helps unites the parts to the whole or by describing the church as a communion where unity is found in sharing, cooperative relationships among the diversity of local churches.

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate the closing Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the family in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in this 2015, file photo. The pope has spoke of a “healthy decentralization” in the Catholic Church and has made several decisions toward this goal. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“The key thing” in striving for a healthy balance and reform, one Vatican official said, is to avoid a business-management idea of decentralization and “embed theology back into the term.” In other words, it’s not about a cold transfer of power, but an emphasis on collegiality and collaboration.

Bishop Paul Tighe, adjunct secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, told Catholic News Service, “the model is the hub,” with the pope and his assistants in the Curia at the center, always connected to the local churches, which are the first to encounter new situations and the first to respond.

“The Vatican is in contact with those different churches,” not as the problem-solver, but to “put them in contact with other churches” that have been dealing with the same or similar issues, so they can share ideas and best practices, and avoid reinventing the wheel, he said.

“Rome has that ability to have that overview” because it is “a point of contact. It’s not centralizing, but building a bond of communion” between churches and church leaders at local, regional and national levels, he said.

“What should be done locally, should be done locally,” Bishop Tighe said, but when some issues “transcend one locality,” that is, they end up being “universal questions that need a harmonious response,” then the help of a central authority is essential.

“People see the church as a hierarchical, monolithic structure. But it is much richer than that,” he said.

Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane told CNS that people are used to hearing “the claim that the unity of the church doesn’t mean uniformity, and much of what Pope Francis has done and is doing is simply moving beyond the rhetoric to give some reality to that claim,” for example, in his naming of new cardinals from very diverse parts of the world.

“There may be some danger of fragmentation in passing more authority to local churches and to bishops’ conferences, but the Holy See and especially the Petrine ministry is the guarantor that a healthy decentralization doesn’t become an unhealthy fragmentation,” he said in an email response to questions.

The archbishop, who chairs the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference’s commission for evangelization and was a member of the Synod of Bishops on the family in Rome in 2015, said healthy cooperation between the Holy See and bishops requires co-responsibility.

For example, Pope Francis’ new motu proprio, “Magnum Principium,” on guiding future liturgical translations “is an attempt by the pope to restore the balance between the bishops and the Holy See in line with the provisions of Vatican II and in the light of experience since the council. It’s a document driven not by ideology but by theology, and its intent is clearly pastoral.”

A “good liturgical translation” holds the balance between the doctrinal and pastoral, he said, and that requires responsible cooperation among bishops and between bishops’ conferences and the Holy See.

“It does mean that the bishops will have to work hard at shaping a new language, drawing on the work of experts, of course, but maintaining control of the process and working trustfully with the Holy See to ensure that the communion of the church and her fidelity to doctrine are not compromised,” he said. “This will produce variety, certainly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean disunity.”

Retired Pope Benedict XVI said he, too, “always wished that the local churches be the most autonomous and lively possible, without needing assistance from Rome,” he said in the book-length interview, “Last Testament,” published in 2016.

During the Synod of Bishops on the role of the bishop in 2001, he endorsed greater responsibility for bishops as envisioned by the Second Vatican Council and spoke, to great applause, on the bishops’ duty to govern and to judge and correct doctrinal error in their own dioceses.

When that happens, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, at that time head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told the synod of bishops, “the so-desired decentralization happens automatically.”

At the end of that synod, he had stressed that unity was brought about by a harmonious unity of purpose, with a greater focus on Christ and the need to move “forward together to announce Christ to a world that needs a new proclamation of Christ and the Gospel.”

Neglecting those essential tasks because of too much attention to secondary things like internal church structures and organization has been “a way to strangle the life of the church,” he had said.

“The world’s first need is to know Christ. If it doesn’t, all the rest will not function,” he said.


Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Providing ‘good care and a good education’ with a little help from Share in the Spirit

September 15th, 2017 Posted in Featured, Our Diocese Tags:


Special to The Dialog

When Eric Eyong and his wife Myra considered a school for their children, he knew where he wanted them to be: in a Catholic school.

He knew the values Catholic education provide since he attended a Catholic boarding school while growing up in Cameroon, on Africa’s Atlantic coast. He likes the Christian values that are instilled by the Catholic Schools. And as a former public school teacher in the Chicago area, he appreciates the discipline Catholic schools provide, something he determined is especially lacking in public schools. Read more »

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