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Pope Francis condemns shocking chemical massacre in Syria

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis strongly condemned a shocking chemical attack in Syria that left some 70 people, including at least 10 children, dead.

A child receives treatment inside a field hospital in Idlib, Syria, after April 3 airstrikes. A suspected chemical attack in a town in Syria's rebel-held northern Idlib province killed dozens of people April 3, opposition activists said. (CNS photo/via EPA)

A child receives treatment inside a field hospital in Idlib, Syria, after April 3 airstrikes. A suspected chemical attack in a town in Syria’s rebel-held northern Idlib province killed dozens of people April 3, opposition activists said. (CNS photo/via EPA)

“We are horrified by the latest events in Syria. I strongly deplore the unacceptable massacre that took place yesterday in the Idlib province, where dozens of civilians, including many children, were killed,” the pope said April 5 before concluding his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Images of dead men, women and children lying on the streets provoked international outrage following the attack April 4 in a rebel-held area.

Western leaders have accused Syrian President Bashar Assad and the country’s military of perpetrating the attack, based on reports that warplanes dropped chemical bombs in the early morning.

According to The New York Times, the Syrian military denied attacking the town and said the attack was caused by insurgents who blame the Syrian government for similar attacks “every time they fail to achieve the goals of their sponsors.”

Pope Francis encouraged those helping with relief efforts in Idlib province, and he appealed to world leaders to put an end to the violence.

“I appeal to the conscience of those who have political responsibility at the local and international level, so that this tragedy may come to an end and relief may come to that beloved population who for too long have been devastated by war,” the pope said.

The attack occurred the same day representatives from more than 70 countries were gathering in Brussels for an April 4-5 conference on resolving the humanitarian crisis in Syria and to discuss ways to support a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican secretary for relations with states, was among the representatives and addressed the conference April 5.

The Holy See, he said, “remains deeply concerned about the tremendous human suffering, affecting millions of innocent children and other civilians who remain deprived of essential humanitarian aid, medical facilities and education.”

He called for humanitarian laws to “be fully respected,” especially “with regard to the protection of civilian populations” and the “conditions and treatment of prisoners.”

“The Holy See invites all parties to the Syrian conflict to spare no effort to end the seemingly endless cycle of violence, to restore that sense of solidarity that is the basis of social cohesion and peaceful coexistence,” Archbishop Gallagher said.

The pope also said his thoughts and prayers were with the victims of the bombing of a metro station in St. Petersburg, Russia, that killed 14 people and left 50 wounded.

Chaos erupted April 3 when a bomb was detonated in a subway train. Police said the bomber was Akbarzhon Dzhalilov, a Russian citizen born in Kyrgyzstan. Following the attack, security forces said a second bomb was found at a nearby station, but it had failed to explode.

“As I entrust to God’s mercy those who have tragically died, I express my spiritual closeness to their families and to all who suffer because of this tragic event,” Pope Francis said.

 

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Second-half pressure pays off for Raiders in 2-0 soccer triumph

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Dialog reporter

 

ALAPOCAS – After an evenly played first half, Ursuline took control of the pace and possession and prevailed, 2-0, over St. Elizabeth in girls soccer on a damp field under sunny blue skies April 4 at Alapocas Run State Park.

Ursuline came out firing in the second half, keeping the Vikings’ defense and keeper Avery Toper quite busy. In the 41st minute, the Raiders had a free kick deflected out by a St. Elizabeth player, and three minutes later, Martha Skehan hit a post from 25 yards out. Read more »

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Raiders lacrosse holds on at St. Mark’s, picks up another top-five win

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For The Dialog

 

MILLTOWN – A day after knocking off No. 2 Polytech, the third-ranked Ursuline lacrosse team met No. 4 St. Mark’s on April 4. As in the Polytech game, the Raiders (5-0) jumped out to a 7-1 lead and held on for a 13-12 road victory to remain undefeated. Erin O’Doherty and Brooke Schmeusser scored five times each for the Raiders, including combining for three in a row after St. Mark’s tied it at nine in the second half. Read more »

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Pope Francis meets Prince Charles at the Vatican

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the duchess of Cornwall, met April 4 with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

The pope and the British royals spoke privately for 27 minutes. The Vatican did not issue a statement about the topics covered in the private conversation.

Pope Francis talks with Britain's Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, during a private audience April 4 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vincenzo Pinto/Reuters)

Pope Francis talks with Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, during a private audience April 4 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vincenzo Pinto/Reuters)

Following their private meeting, Prince Charles introduced the 15 members of a delegation accompanying him. Among them was Arthur Edwards, a Catholic who has served as the official photographer of the royal household.

“He is an important man. He has followed us for 40 years,” the prince told Pope Francis.

After the presentation, Prince Charles confessed to the pope that it was “difficult to know what to give your Holiness.”

He presented the pope with a gift basket full of produce from the Royal Gardens at Highgrove, their private residence.

“It may come in handy. Somebody else might like it. It’s all homemade things I produce,” Prince Charles told the pope.

“It’s very good,” the duchess added.

For his part, Pope Francis presented Prince Charles with a bronze sculpture of an olive branch in a white box and told him that it was “a symbol of peace.”

“Wherever you go, may you be a man of peace,” he told the prince.

“I’ll do my best,” Prince Charles replied.

Pope Francis also gave the royal couple hardbound copies of two apostolic exhortations, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”) and “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”). He also gave them a copy of “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” his 2015 encyclical on the environment.

“These are works of mine,” Pope Francis said, to which the prince jokingly replied: “Are they in English?”

Laughing, the pope responded, “Yes.”

“You are very generous. A great treat,” Prince Charles said.

After meeting the pope, the royal couple met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. According to the British embassy to the Holy See, “The environment was a theme of the visit, and His Royal Highness joined a round-table discussion with senior Holy See officials on the subject.”

Before meeting the pope, the prince and duchess were given a private tour of the Vatican Secret Archives, where they were welcomed by Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues, archivist and librarian of the Vatican Library.

The royal couple were shown original rare documents relating to the once-complicated history between the Catholic Church and Britain.

Among the documents they were shown was the last letter written by Mary, Queen of Scots before her execution in 1587 for treason.

They were also shown a letter written in 1555 by Queen Mary I and King Philip II regarding the restoration of the Catholic Church in England.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Maryland’s bishops denounce human trafficking, set information sessions

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The Catholic bishops of Maryland issued a joint statement against human trafficking April 3 and have announced information sessions to be held in the state to address the issue.

The information session on trafficking scheduled for the Diocese of Wilmington will be at St. Francis de Sales Parish in Salisbury, Md., April 22, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in English and Spanish. Read more »

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U.S. bishop remembers Martin Luther King at Vatican meeting

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The work of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to promote the “integral human development” of all peoples is a work that must continue today in the world and in the Catholic Church, Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Illinois, told participants at a Vatican conference.

Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Illinois. (CNS file/c Georgetown University)

Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Illinois. (CNS file/c Georgetown University)

Bishop Braxton moderated a panel discussion April 4 at the conference marking the 50th anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical on development, “Populorum Progressio.”

Closing the afternoon panel, the bishop reminded participants that it was the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. King, “who was only 39 years old when he was cruelly slain in the midst of trying to bring about a more integral human development for all people in the United States, especially people of color.”

“The racial divide in the United States and, sadly, in the Catholic Church in the United States is not something of the past. It is very much something of the present,” the bishop said.

Bishop Braxton told conference participants that as one of only six active African-American diocesan bishops in the United States and the only one present at the Vatican conference, he wanted to “call attention to the significance of this day,” the anniversary of Rev. King’s slaying in 1968.

The bishop described Rev. King as “the conscience of the United States, the nonviolent prophet challenging the sin and the heresy of racism and apartheid-like segregation and prejudice in the United States.”

Many people in Europe, he said, seem to think the election of Barack Obama to two terms as U.S. president signaled “an end to the racial divide in the United States. However, the racial divide has not been bridged fully; we do not live in a post-racial society in the United States or in the Catholic Church.”

Integral human development and progress in ensuring all people enjoy the benefits of well-being are still needed for members of minority communities in the United States, just as in most countries around the globe, he said.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream of the full, integral human development of all people, especially, in the United States for people of color,” the bishop said. “He died with that dream deferred.”

All Catholics everywhere, he said, need to follow “these simple imperatives: listen, learn, think, pray and act.”

“Christ needs us all,” Bishop Braxton said. “He needs our eyes to continue to see. He needs our ears to continue to hear. He needs our mouths to continue to speak. He needs our hands to continue to work. He needs our feet to continue to walk. He needs our bodies to continue to serve. And he needs our hearts to continue to love.”

 

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Raiders withstand late rally for lacrosse upset over second-ranked Polytech

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Dialog reporter

 

WILMINGTON – Ursuline jumped out to a 7-0 lead and withstood a tremendous push by Polytech late in the game to pick up a key nonconference girls lacrosse win in a battle between two top-five teams April 3 at Serviam Field. The Raiders remained undefeated with the 15-12 victory.

Seniors Brooke Schmeusser and Erin O’Doherty led the way with five goals each for Ursuline, which entered the contest ranked fourth by The News Journal and fifth by Delaware SportsZone. They got the Raiders off to the fast start against the Panthers, who came into the day ranked second in both polls. Read more »

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Wounds of past trials can strengthen the future, pope says

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Catholic News Service

ROME — While the wounds of past trials have healed, the scars that remain will serve as a reminder of strength and courage for future generations, Pope Francis told survivors of an earthquake.

Visiting Carpi and Mirandola April 2, nearly five years after a 5.8-quake rocked the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, the pope said his visit was a sign of “closeness and encouragement” as the people continue to rebuild their homes and their lives.

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass in Carpi, Italy, April 2. (CNS photo/Alessandro Garofalo, Reuters)

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass in Carpi, Italy, April 2. (CNS photo/Alessandro Garofalo, Reuters)

“Looking at these scars, you will have the strength to grow and to make your children grow in that dignity, in that strength, in that spirit of hope, in that courage that you had in the moment you received those wounds,” he said.

The pope spoke to the survivors, who were gathered in the small square outside the Mirandola cathedral, which is still covered in scaffolding and where broken stones are still piled on the ground.

Before addressing the people, he laid a bouquet of yellow and white flowers on the cathedral’s main altar, closing his eyes in prayer then lifting his hand in blessing.

Pope Francis told the people of Mirandola that he wanted to remember the victims, their families and all those “who continue to live in precarious situations.”

“May the Lord let each one of you feel his support,” the pope said. “I wanted to leave on the altar of the cathedral a bouquet of flowers in memory of those who died in the earthquake.”

The pope’s visit to the region began earlier in the day when he arrived by helicopter in the neighboring town of Carpi, which also was devastated by the 2012 earthquake.

Thousands of people, many who had been gathered since dawn, packed the central square as the pope, riding in his popemobile, waved to the excited well-wishers.

Celebrating Mass in the square, the pope said the Sunday Gospel story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead was a reminder of the “God of life, who conquers death.”

The pope noted that even Jesus, who prays and weeps at the tomb, shares in the sufferings of those who mourn when “everything seems finished.”

“This is the heart of God: far from evil, yet close to those who suffer. He doesn’t make evil magically disappear but shares in the suffering, he makes it his own and transforms it.”

However, the pope continued, Jesus does not let himself be led by the sadness of his friend’s death nor allow himself to “be captured by the emotional, resigned environment surrounding him.” Instead, he prays with confidence to God.

“Thus, in the mystery of suffering, before which thought and progress crash like flies on a window, Jesus offers us the example of how to act,” he said. “He does not escape the suffering that pertains to this life, instead he doesn’t let himself be imprisoned by pessimism.”

The image of Jesus standing in front of the tomb, the pope said, represents a “great encounter-conflict” in that one side represents the despair brought on by human mortality and the other side represents the hope given by Christ who is victorious over death.

Christians, he added, are called to decide in their own lives which side they want to be on.

“You can be either on the side of the tomb or the side of Jesus. There are those who let themselves be closed in sadness and those who are open to hope. There are those who remain trapped under the wreckage of life and those, like you, who with the help of God raise the wreckage and build with patient hope,” the pope said.

Departing from his prepared remarks, Pope Francis encouraged the people of Carpi to not fall into the temptation of remaining alone, disheartened and in mourning like those who gave up hope after Lazarus’ death.

“This is the atmosphere of the tomb,” the pope said. “The Lord wants to open the path of life, that of the encounter with him, of trusting in him, of the resurrection of the heart, the path of ‘Get up! Get up! Come forth!’ This is what the Lord asks of us and he is close to us so we can do it.”

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Senate vote allows states to redirect funds away from abortion clinics

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WASHINGTON — The Senate voted late March 30 to override a rule change made by in the last days of the Obama administration that prevented states from redirecting Title X family planning funding away from clinics that performed abortions and to community clinics that provide comprehensive health care.

People pass a Planned Parenthood clinic March 17 in New York City. The U.S. Senate voted March 30 to let states cut off funds for Planned Parenthood. (CNS photo/Justin Lane, EPA)

People pass a Planned Parenthood clinic March 17 in New York City. The U.S. Senate voted March 30 to let states cut off funds for Planned Parenthood. (CNS photo/Justin Lane, EPA)

“The clear purpose of this Title X rule change was to benefit abortion providers like Planned Parenthood,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

“Congress has done well to reverse this very bad public policy, and to restore the ability of states to stop one stream of our tax dollars going to Planned Parenthood and redirect it to community health centers that provide comprehensive primary and preventive health care,” he said in a March 31 statement.

Midday March 30, Vice President Mike Pence, as president of the Senate, cast a tiebreaking vote that allowed Senate action to proceed on a joint resolution to block the Obama-era regulation that went into Jan. 18, two days before President Barack Obama left office.

Pence also had to cast a second tiebreaking vote so the Senate could pass the measure.

The joint resolution, H.J. Res. 43, was introduced in the House by Rep. Diane Black, R-Tennessee. It passed 230 to 188 on Feb. 16, a vote that was largely along party lines.

In the Senate, the measure was introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa. Her fellow Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted against allowing the legislation to move forward and then against the bill itself.

Republicans control the Senate by only a 52-48 margin, so Pence was called on twice to break a 50-50 tie. Now the measure goes to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it into law.

Title X of the Public Health Services Act was passed by Congress in 1970 to control population growth by distributing contraceptives to low-income families. Planned Parenthood is the largest recipient of Title X funding. Planned Parenthood also is the nation’s largest abortion network — performing over a third of all abortions in the U.S. It receives more than half a billion dollars in federal funding each year.

Under the Hyde Amendment, federal funding for abortion already is prohibited, but federal family planning funds were allowed to go to clinics and facilities for other health services.

States have been acting on their own to prohibit Title X funding to agencies performing abortions.

The joint resolution is one of a series of bills Congress has passed under the Congressional Review Act, which allows federal regulations put in place during the final days of the previous administration to be rescinded by simple majority passage.

In a letter to House members urging them to vote for H.J. Res. 43, National Right to Life wrote: “Long-standing objections to the massive governmental funding of PPFA (Planned Parenthood Federation of America) have been reinforced by widely publicized undercover videos, which illuminate the callous brutality that occurs daily in these abortion mills.”

After the House vote, Ernst said in a statement she was “committed to restoring our states’ ability to make their own decisions about the best eligible Title X providers for folks.”

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Glavin’s six-goal effort paces Auks lax past Tower Hill

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Dialog reporter

 

CLAYMONT – Archmere trailed Tower Hill, 4-3, after one quarter of the teams’ nonconference boys lacrosse game on April 1. But a natural hat trick from senior Xavier Glavin to open the second gave the Auks a lead they would not relinquish in a 12-7 win.

Glavin’s first goal, and his second of the game, came 4:16 into the second quarter when a pass toward the net hit his stick and deflected past Hillers goalie Michael Gianforcaro. Glavin struck again just 26 seconds later. This time, on a delayed penalty call on Tower Hill, he slipped one through an opening into the net. Read more »

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