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Pope, others pray as parents of Charlie Gard end legal struggle

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Catholic News Service

MANCHESTER, England — Pope Francis is praying for the parents of Charlie Gard after a U.S. doctor told them nothing could be done to help their son.

Chris Gard and Connie Yates announced in London’s High Court July 24 that they had ended their legal struggle to take their baby overseas for treatment after a U.S. neurologist, Dr. Michio Hirano, said he was no longer willing to offer Charlie experimental nucleoside therapy after he examined the results of a new MRI scan.

People attach a message for Charlie Gard and his parents to the railings outside the High Court in London July 24. Pope Francis is praying for the parents of Charlie Gard after a U.S. doctor told them nothing could be done to help their son, who suffers from encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. (CNS photo/Peter Nicholls, Reuters)

People attach a message for Charlie Gard and his parents to the railings outside the High Court in London July 24. Pope Francis is praying for the parents of Charlie Gard after a U.S. doctor told them nothing could be done to help their son, who suffers from encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. (CNS photo/Peter Nicholls, Reuters)

Their decision means that the child, who suffers from encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, will receive only palliative care and most likely will die before his first birthday Aug. 4.

Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said in a July 24 statement that Pope Francis, who had taken a personal interest in the case, “is praying for Charlie and his parents and feels especially close to them at this time of immense suffering.”

He said: “The Holy Father asks that we join in prayer that they may find God’s consolation and love.”

The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales also issued a statement July 24 in which they expressed their “deepest sympathy and compassion” for Charlie and his parents.

“It is for Charlie, his parents and family that we all pray, hoping that they are able, as a family, to be given the support and the space to find peace in the days ahead,” the statement said.

“Their farewell to their tiny and precious baby touches the hearts of all who, like Pope Francis, have followed this sad and complex story. Charlie’s life will be lovingly cherished until its natural end,” the statement continued.

A July 24 statement from the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, a bioethical institute of the Catholic Church in the U.K. and Ireland, said it was now time “to remember the preciousness of the child at the heart of this case, and to allow his parents to be with him until he passes from this life.”

“If further treatment may no longer be worthwhile, Charlie’s life is inherently worthwhile, having the dignity and irreplaceability of every human life, and this will remain so even in the coming days,” it said.

Charlie’s parents, who live in London, had fought for eight months for medical help that might have saved the life of their son.

They raised 1.3 million pounds ($1.7 million) to take him abroad for treatment, but the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London had argued that Charlie was beyond help and that it was not in his best interests to be kept alive, triggering a protracted legal battle with the parents that led to interventions from U.S. President Donald Trump and from the pope.

“We are about to do the hardest thing that we’ll ever have to do, which is to let our beautiful little Charlie go,” the parents said in their statement to the court. “Put simply, this is about a sweet, gorgeous, innocent little boy who was born with a rare disease, who had a real, genuine chance at life and a family who love him so very dearly, and that’s why we fought so hard for him.”

“Had Charlie been given the treatment sooner, he would have had the potential to be a normal, healthy little boy,” they said. “We have always believed that Charlie deserved a chance at life.”

“One thing that does give us the slightest bit of comfort is that we truly believe that Charlie may have been too special for this cruel world,” they continued.

Concluding the statement, the couple said: “Mummy and Daddy love you so much Charlie, we always have and we always will, and we are so sorry that we couldn’t save you. We had the chance but we weren’t allowed to give you that chance. Sweet dreams baby. Sleep tight our beautiful little boy.”

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Medicaid cuts would would be detrimental to West Virginians, bishop says

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Catholic News Service

WHEELING, W.Va. — In the shadow of the national health care debate is West Virginia, a state where a large portion of the population is living in poverty, where Medicaid is the focus and concern.

Catholic Charities West Virginia reports that Medicaid serves more than

Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is seen at Wheeling Hospital Feb. 17. (CNS photo/Colleen Rowan, The Catholic Spirit)

Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is seen at Wheeling Hospital Feb. 17. (CNS photo/Colleen Rowan, The Catholic Spirit)

546,000 people in the state, a third of the population. Last year alone, 170,000 West Virginians enrolled in the program.

Cuts to Medicaid in any overhaul of the federal health care law would be detrimental to West Virginia, said Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston and officials at Catholic-run Wheeling Hospital.

“It would be a monumental health care crisis in this state if this was to take place,” said Heidi Porter, vice president of quality and regulatory affairs at Wheeling Hospital.

“We are in a state that’s poor, highly co-morbid. People have a lot of health disparities; they have chronic conditions. They are the people who have multiple diseases who … could be restricted in terms of health coverage,” Porter told The Catholic Spirit, diocesan newspaper of Wheeling-Charleston.

Wheeling Hospital is the state’s only Catholic hospital and is operated by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

A key provision of the now-collapsed Senate health care bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, was to make deep cuts to Medicaid, which the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic social service agencies and health care providers decried, saying the cuts would have harmed those most in need.

On July 25, the Senate took a procedural vote to debate health care legislation. Fifty Republicans voted yes and two GOP senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — voted no, along with the Senate’s 48 Democrats. The tiebreaking vote was necessary from Vice President Mike Pence, as president of the Senate. Late the same same day senators voted 57-43 to reject one proposal before them, a revised version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

Porter discussed the current health care debate and adverse effects cuts to Medicaid or repeal of the Affordable Care Act could have in West Virginia July 18, just hours after U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, announced that she would vote against any bill to just repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement plan.

Capito was among other GOP senators who said they would not vote on the measure, leaving the Senate without the needed 50 votes to bring the bill forward for a debate.

“As I have said before, I did not come to Washington to hurt people,” Capito said in a statement. “For months, I have expressed reservations about the direction of the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. I have serious concerns about how we continue to provide affordable care to those who have benefited from West Virginia’s decision to expand Medicaid, especially in light of the growing opioid crisis.

“All of the Senate health care discussion drafts have failed to address these concerns adequately,” she added.

“I view Medicaid as a safety net for these folks,” said Kareen Simon, vice president of operations at Wheeling Hospital, who joined Porter in discussing health care with The Catholic Spirit. “Everybody has the right to have access to health care.”

Medicaid in West Virginia, Simon noted, provides coverage of specifics related to overall wellness, coverage of basic needs for individuals and families living in poverty and in need of assistance.

“Prenatal care, pharmaceuticals such as vaccines, being able to have your children vaccinated, dental, vision, mental health services — that is all available,” she said. “It’s wellness, all the way across the continuum from birth to elderly. If you do away with that, you are looking at a population that has no access to any health care.”

Bishop Bransfield emphasized this point in his column in the July 21 issue of The Catholic Spirit, noting that the state’s children and the elderly would suffer greatly from any cuts to Medicaid benefits.

“As many of you know, West Virginia has some of the poorest communities in the United States,” the bishop said in his column. “The largest number of poor in West Virginia are children and without a doubt many senior citizens live below the poverty line. The elimination or reduction of Medicaid, especially the Children’s Health Insurance Program, CHIP, will seriously affect our people.

“The CHIP program is one of the Medicaid programs that should be renewed and whose reach should be extended,” he wrote, “in order to ensure that our young people have access to regular pediatric care and annual physicals, so that all our young people have the chance to see a doctor at least yearly and not only in emergency situations. Likewise, in a state with so many elderly living on their own, it is important that they too have access to affordable health care.”

While saddled with poverty and health care issues, West Virginia also is facing an opioid addiction crisis. According to the West Virginia Health Statistics Center, preliminary data shows that 879 people died of drug overdose in West Virginia last year. A total of 744 of those drug overdose deaths involved one or more opioids.

Access to Medicaid for those suffering and affected by this crisis, Porter and Simon said, has been vital to the state in terms of treatment and recovery.

“It’s bad,” Porter said of the state’s opioid crisis. “It’s a daily occurrence that everyone in every health care organization in West Virginia deals with. It has left zero portion of the state untouched.”

The biggest and most heartbreaking issue facing the state’s health care facilities in the opioid crisis is the treatment of babies born addicted to drugs. The condition is called NAS — neonatal abstinence syndrome, in which newborns suffer from withdrawal from the drugs they were exposed to in the womb.

“Every hospital in the state is seeing that,” Simon said. “Just by looking at a baby that’s born addicted, that’s worthwhile” to have Medicaid. “That baby needs to be treated.”

Although repeal of Obamacare seems unlikely now without the needed votes in the Senate, Porter stressed that repeal without knowing what is going to replace it is “dangerous.”

“Not knowing what is coming down the pike,” she said, “you are playing with people’s lives. It’s dangerous and could be deadly to people.”

Both Porter and Simon believe there are success stories in the expansion of and access to Medicaid in the Mountain State overall, especially with treatment of drug addiction and preventative care.

“If you have 53,000 people last year who sought treatment for substance abuse and other issues, there is success to be found in that program,” Porter said. “People are grateful to have that burden eased.

“Obviously, we are a Catholic health care institution and we will provide care regardless of whether or not someone has insurance, but you see relief in people’s faces to know that they are covered.”

By Colleen Rowan, executive editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

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Pope prays for dialogue, reconciliation in Jerusalem

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis called on Muslims and Jews in the Holy Land to “moderation and dialogue” as tensions continued around a key site in Jerusalem that is sacred to members of both faiths.

Palestinians run from tear gas fired by Israeli forces after prayer outside Jerusalem's Old City July 21. (CNS photo/Ammar Awad, Reuters)

Palestinians run from tear gas fired by Israeli forces after prayer outside Jerusalem’s Old City July 21. (CNS photo/Ammar Awad, Reuters)

After reciting the Angelus July 23, the pope asked people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the midday prayer to join him in asking the Lord to inspire reconciliation and peace in the region.

Tensions in Jerusalem have been high since July 14 when three Israeli Arabs armed with knives and guns killed two Israeli police officers at an entrance to the site the Jews call Temple Mount and the Muslims call Haram al-Sharif. The site includes the Western Wall and Al Aqsa mosque.

In his main Angelus talk, Pope Francis spoke about the parable of the weeds among the wheat from the Sunday Gospel reading.

The farmer in the parable from the Gospel of Matthew tells his workers not to pull up all the weeds because they might uproot the wheat, but to wait until the harvest when the wheat and weeds can be separated.

“With this image, Jesus tells us that in this world good and evil are so intertwined that it is impossible to separate them and eradicate all the evil, only God can do that,” the pope said.

Human beings are called to the “difficult exercise of discernment” in choosing between good and what is evil, he said, and when they fail, which all people do sometimes, the church stands ready to help with the grace of baptism and of confession.

Like the farmer in the parable, the pope said, God calls Christians to be patient as they await the harvest.

“Patience means preferring a church that is leaven in the dough, that is not afraid of getting its hands dirty washing the clothes of its children, rather than being a church of the ‘pure,’ who insist on judging beforehand who is in the kingdom of God and who isn’t.”

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Called to be joyful ‘missionary disciples’

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Special to The Dialog

‘Convocation of Catholic Leaders’ meeting engages U.S. faithful to embrace and proclaim joy of Gospel

Earlier this month, I was fortunate to represent the Diocese of Wilmington at the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America,” in Orlando, Fla. Five other delegates from our diocese joined me there: Colleen Lindsey, Deacon Bob and Marie Cousar, Arline Dosman, and Lynne Betts. Although unable to attend, Bishop Malooly kept a watchful eye on us through EWTN broadcasts and frequent telephone conversations.

As part of this unprecedented gathering of clergy, religious, lay parish leaders and volunteers convened by the U.S. bishops, we participated in a variety of presentations and discussions designed to stimulate creative and forward thinking ideas and plans of action for the American church’s response to Pope Francis’ 2013 Apostolic Exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”). As Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas said, it was “a strategic conversation on forming missionary disciples.” Read more »

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CYM golf draws record number of participants

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Dialog reporter

NEWARK — Catholic Youth Ministry welcomed a record 129 golfers to Deerfield Country Club on July 13 for its annual golf outing. The event helps make programming more affordable for young people from around the diocese. Read more »

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How Seaford’s Vacation Bible School confirms faith

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For The Dialog

Members of confirmation classes at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish model their faith for young students

 

SEAFORD – Vacation Bible School doubles as confirmation class for elementary through high school students at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.

About 20 high school students helped organize and lead the week-long program under the theme “Passport to Peru,” which helped about 40 elementary school students understand that while people may live in different ways and have different customs, they all are children of God. Read more »

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Bishop Dewane: House’s budget resolution puts the poor in jeopardy

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House budget resolution “will place millions of poor and vulnerable people in real jeopardy” because it reduces deficits “through cuts for human needs” and by trying to slash taxes at the same time, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ domestic policy committee.

The U.S. Capitol dome is seen behind the entrance to the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington. (CNS photo/Larry Downing, Reuters)

The U.S. Capitol dome is seen behind the entrance to the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington. (CNS photo/Larry Downing, Reuters)

“A nation’s budget is a moral document,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. “Congress should choose a better path, one that honors those struggling in our country.”

Bishop Dewane’s July 20 statement was issued in response to the budget resolution that was voted out of the House Budget Committee along party lines July 19.

The nonbinding Republican measure is a 10-year budget blueprint that calls for $621.5 billion in national defense spending, provides for $511 billion in nondefense spending and ties cuts to a major overhaul of the U.S. tax code.

It makes at least $203 billion in cuts over a decade in Medicaid, food stamps, tax credits for the working poor and other programs that help low-income Americans. The bill also would change Medicare into a type of voucher program for future retirees.

“The USCCB is monitoring the budget and appropriations process in Congress very carefully, and is analyzing the proposed House budget resolution in more detail,” Bishop Dewane said. “We note at the outset that the proposal assumes the harmful and unacceptable cuts to Medicaid from the American Health Care Act.”

The House May 4 passed the American Health Care Act to replace the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act. The Senate effort to repeal and replace the health care law collapsed late July 17.

In the House budget resolution, “steady increases to military spending … are made possible by cutting critical resources for those in need over time, including potentially from important programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) that provide essential nutrition to millions of people,” Bishop Dewane said.

“This would undo a bipartisan approach on discretionary spending from recent years, that, while imperfect, was a more balanced compromise given competing priorities,” he added.

Catholic Charities USA also rejected the measure’s “dramatic cuts in key social safety net programs.”

Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of the national Catholic Charities network, urged House members “to prioritize and protect programs that support and uplift the poor and vulnerable in our country.”

“While CCUSA supports the responsible use of our nation’s fiscal resources and has worked consistently to improve effectiveness in anti-poverty programs, reforms that seek only to cut our nation’s social safety net will further strain efforts to meet individual needs and risk pushing more Americans into poverty,” Sister Markham said July 20.

She made the comments in a letter to Rep. Diane Black, R-Tennessee, who is chair of the House Budget Committee, and Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Kentucky, ranking member.

Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity, who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, also wrote to Black and Yarmuth expressing her opposition to the budget resolution.

“As an organization guided by the social teachings of the Catholic Church, we firmly believe that the federal budget should be informed by moral principles and offer special protections for the poor and vulnerable,” she wrote July 18, the day the measure was unveiled.

“A budget must be fair and just and cannot be balanced on the backs of those among us who least can afford it,” Sister Keehan said. “We recognize that the proper role of federal spending programs should be to lift up the neediest among us enabling them to active participants in society.

“Unfortunately, the deep cuts in programs and services assumed by this budget proposal will severely reduce or eliminate access to basic necessities such as food, shelter, health care, education and other social supports that help lift families and individuals out of poverty and improve their health outcomes,” she said.

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Opioid addiction, overdoses an epidemic, say public health officials

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Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA — Over the past 18 years, the use of opioid drugs, both legal and illicit, has surged throughout the United States.

Thousands of overdoses, disorders and deaths have accompanied this increase, which public health and law enforcement officials have called an epidemic. Read more »

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U.S. bishops urge FCC to retain open internet, net neutrality

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — In comments delivered July 17 to the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged the FCC to use “the strongest legal authority available” to “retain open internet regulations.”

A man holds his smartphone in San Francisco in this  file photo. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has urged the Federal Communications Commission to use "the strongest legal authority available" to "retain open internet regulations." (CNS photo/Susanna Bates, EPA)

A man holds his smartphone in San Francisco in this file photo. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has urged the Federal Communications Commission to use “the strongest legal authority available” to “retain open internet regulations.” (CNS photo/Susanna Bates, EPA)

The current regulations, adopted in 2015 by a Democratic-majority FCC, treat the internet as a utility. A prior FCC effort to regulate the internet as a communication service did not stand up to judicial scrutiny. The regulations are now under review by a Republican-led FCC. The concept of an open internet has long been called “net neutrality,” in which internet service providers neither favor nor discriminate against internet users or websites.

The USCCB is “concerned that the FCC is contemplating eliminating current regulations limiting the manner by which the companies controlling the infrastructure connect people to the internet,” said USCCB assistant general counsel Katherine Grincewich.

“Without the current strong open internet regulations, including prohibitions on paid prioritization, the public has no effective recourse against internet service providers’ interference with accessibility to content,” Grincewich said.

“There will be uncertainty about how and whether those companies can block, speed up or slow down access to internet content, and nonprofit religious entities will be relegated to an internet slow lane,” she added. “Since public interest noncommercial, including religious, programming is a low priority for broadcasters and cable companies, the internet is one of the few mediums available to churches and religious groups to communicate their messages and the values fundamental to the fabric of our communities.”

Grincewich noted, “Without protections to prohibit internet providers from tampering with content delivery on the internet, the fundamental attributes of the internet, in which users have unfettered access to content and capacity to provide content to others, are jeopardized.” Such protections, she added, “have particular importance” for those “committed to religious principles” who depend on the internet to convey to the public information “on matters of faith” and on the services provided to the public by those organizations or individuals.

“The internet is an indispensable medium for Catholics, and others with principled values, to convey views on matters of public concern and religious teachings,” Grincewich said.

“The internet was constructed as a unique medium without the editorial control functions of broadcast television, radio or cable television. The internet is open to any speaker, commercial or noncommercial, whether or not the speech is connected financially to the company priding internet access or whether it is popular or prophetic These characteristics make the internet critical to noncommercial religious speakers.”

Grincewich added, “Just as importantly, the internet is increasingly the preferred method for the disenfranchised and vulnerable, the poor that the church professes a fundamental preference toward, to access services, including educational and vocational opportunities to improve their lives and their children’s lives.”

The USCCB “also supports the rights of parents to protect their children from pornography,” one consequence of an open internet, Grincewich said. “The means of protecting children from such material is available to parents,” she added, “without ceding it to companies providing internet access.”

In the USCCB’s filing, Grincewich noted how Pope Benedict XVI warned against the “distortion that occurs when the media industry becomes self-serving or solely profit-driven, losing the sense of accountability to the common good,” which the pope said in this 2006 World Day of Communication message.

“As a public service, social communication requires a spirit of cooperation and co-responsibility with vigorous accountability of the use of public resources and the performance of roles of public trust,” Pope Benedict said, “including recourse to regulatory standards and other measure or structures designed to affect this goal.”

Grincewich also noted Pope Francis has called the digital world “a public square” and said the internet “can help us be better citizens.”

An online “day of action” July 12 on net neutrality issues resulted in a reported 2 million comments on the FCC proposal being sent online to the FCC.

 

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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Korean archbishop backs South Korea’s peace initiative

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SEOUL, South Korea — The president of the Korean bishops’ conference has welcomed President Moon Jae-in’s peace initiative, saying it matches the church’s views on how peace can be achieved on the peninsula.

A Chinese tourist looks over a barbed-wire fence near the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea, in this 2015 file photo. (CNS photo/Kim Hong-Ji, Reuters)

A Chinese tourist looks over a barbed-wire fence near the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea, in this 2015 file photo. (CNS photo/Kim Hong-Ji, Reuters)

“I deeply agree with President Moon’s direction for the future relations of the two Koreas,” said Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong of Gwangju, conference president. His remarks were reported by ucanews.com.

Since taking office, Moon has said South Korea will take the lead in the peaceful coexistence with the North and presented principles aimed toward such a goal.

Moon said his administration is planning for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula through guaranteeing North Korea’s safety and the construction of a permanent peace system. There also will be economic and expanded civil exchanges, he said.

Such measures have been given full support by the Korean bishops, ucanews.com reported.

“First, we need a peace accord with support from surrounding countries, and we should resume inter-Korean exchanges such as civil exchanges, the operation of Kaesong industrial complex and tourism to Mt. Keumkang,” both of which are in North Korea, said Archbishop Kim.

The North and the South have been divided since Korea’s liberation from the Japanese at the end of World War II. The 1950-53 Korean War made the governments bitter enemies.

In recent months, tensions have been high over North Korea’s nuclear weapon and missile development.

In June, the Korean bishops’ Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People held a symposium and stressed that a peace accord would help usher in better relations with the North.

“The local church has actively participated in the exchanges between (the two nations), such as sending medicines and supporting farming development in North Korea, and it will keep doing it,” said Archbishop Kim.

Father Timothy Lee Eun-hyeong, secretary of the bishops’ committee, said, “President Moon’s direction is the same as ours.”

However, Father Lee said it would not be easy.

“The way to a peaceful Korea will not be smooth with the North’s missile development and ever-changing international affairs,” Father Lee said.

“Just as the church in Germany took an important role in the reunification of East and West Germany, the Korean church will raise our voice for the peaceful co-existence of two Koreas,” Father Lee added.

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