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British Catholic schools remove ‘mother,’ ‘father’ from admission forms


Catholic News Service


MANCHESTER, England — The terms “mother” and “father” will be banned from Catholic schools’ admissions forms in England and Wales following a complaint the terms discriminated against gay and stepparents.

The Office of the Schools Adjudicator, which settles disputes on behalf of the government, upheld the objection of a parent who wished to enroll a child in Holy Ghost Catholic Primary School in London. Read more »

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Puerto Ricans see link between poverty, hurricane deaths


Catholic News Service


LARES, Puerto Rico  — Hurricane-related deaths in Puerto Rico have been attributed to drowning and illness, but many Puerto Ricans, including local media professionals, see a link between such deaths and poverty.

On a recent tour through Puerto Rico’s central-western mountains, Catholic News Service found several people voicing support for this opinion. Read more »

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Spanish prelates urge unity; some Catalonian Catholics advocate self-rule

October 30th, 2017 Posted in International News Tags: ,



BARCELONA, Spain (CNS) — Spanish church leaders reiterated support for their country’s unity as the Madrid government imposed direct control over Catalonia.

However, Catholic organizations in the breakaway region — which declared independence Oct. 27 — condemned the crackdown and warned government actions could have “incalculable consequences.” Read more »

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Theologian Gregory Baum, Vatican II participant, dies at 94


Catholic News Service

TORONTO — Gregory Baum, one of Canada’s most influential and controversial theologians and a participant in the Second Vatican Council, died Oct. 18. He was 94.

Baum was the author of the first draft of “Nostra Aetate,” the Vatican II declaration that addressed the relations of the Catholic Church with non-Christian religions.

Renowned Canadian theologian Gregory Baum, 94, author of the first draft of the Second Vatican Council’s “Nostra Aetate,” died Oct. 18 in a Montreal hospital.CNS photo/Francois Gloutnay, Presence)

After being admitted to St. Mary’s Hospital in Montreal Oct. 8, he told a friend, “I’m disappearing inside.” He decided not to continue the dialysis treatment that had kept him alive for the last four years.

As a young theologian, then-Father Baum shot to prominence in the early days of Vatican II. He was mentored by Cardinal Augustin Bea, then-president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. An ally of St. John XXIII, Cardinal Bea went looking for credible Catholic experts on Catholic-Jewish relations and found his man in Father Baum.

Gregory Baum was born to a Jewish mother and Protestant father in Berlin in 1923. At 17, in 1940, he came to Canada as a war refugee after a brief stay in England. Among the many Jewish refugees in camps in Quebec were young intellectuals who set up classes for the younger refugees, which Baum attended.

He became a Catholic during the war years and joined the Augustinian order in 1947. He was ordained a priest in 1954. He studied theology at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland and published “That They May Be One,” an influential book about Catholic ecumenism, in 1958.

His involvement in the Second Vatican Council began even before the world’s bishops met in Rome, as Vatican officials were planning the church’s first truly global meeting.

“I remember the first session I attended was in November 1960,” Baum told The Catholic Register, Toronto, in 2012. “I was at the first session of the secretariat in Rome. We had the first meeting with Cardinal Bea and Msgr. (later Cardinal Johannes) Willebrands, and this was all about ecumenism. At the end of the meeting Cardinal Bea said, ‘I just saw the pope and he said to us, he said that he wants the secretariat to prepare a statement to rethink the church’s relationship to the Jews.”

St. John XXIII’s concern about the 6 million Jews killed in the heart of Europe during World War II largely drove the Second Vatican Council. Baum had already begun publishing in academic journals about Catholic-Jewish relations.

Baum attended all three sessions of the council as a peritus, or theological expert, consulting on “Nostra Aetate”; the Decree on Ecumenism; and the Declaration on Religious Freedom.

After the council, Baum taught theology and ethics at the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto. He left the priesthood in 1974 and married. He studied sociology at the New School for Social Theory in New York and, in the 1980s, taught in the religious studies department at McGill University, Montreal.

Baum was a frequent target of conservative campaigners in English Canada and the United States. Msgr. Vincent Foy, a Canadian theologian, published frequent articles condemning Baum as a “Marxist … ex-priest.” Msgr. Foy popularized a theory that Baum had excommunicated himself by marrying before his laicization was formally recognized by the Vatican. Baum’s opinions on ordination of women and gay marriage drew frequent criticism.

Baum’s critics were further incensed when he published his 2016 autobiography, “The Oil Has Not Run Dry,” in which he spoke of his first homosexual experience, at the age of 40.

The author of more than 20 books, Baum said he was never worried by the criticism.

“I live in a dream world in Quebec,” he told The Catholic Register. “I still belong to a wide network of progressive Catholics. I never meet any conservatives.”

He was founder and editor of the influential journal The Ecumenist from 1962 to 2004. The journal highlighted connections between theology and sociology, politics and culture. In his retirement he became outspoken on Quebec politics, multiculturalism and economics.


Swan is associate editor of The Catholic Register, Toronto.

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Kenyan bishops urge calm in the amid political crisis


Catholic News Service

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyan Catholic bishops have urged the citizens to guard the country’s peace, as a prolonged election standoff took its toll on the economy and the social conditions of ordinary people.

The bishops said the matter is grave, while highlighting growing anxiety among the people and increased polarization along political and ethnic lines.

Riot police officers detain a supporter of the Kenyan National Super Alliance opposition coalition during an Oct. 13 protest in Kisumu, Kenya. (CNS photo/James Keyi, Reuters)

“God has given us given us only one country, our nation Kenya, and it is upon every Kenyan to stand firm and say no to everything that will take away from the peace,” the bishops said in an Oct. 12 statement signed by Bishop Philip Anyolo, chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“If the election goes on as scheduled, we call upon Kenyans to turn out and exercise their democratic right peacefully,” said Bishop Anyolo. “If for any reason the election is rescheduled, we call on Kenyans to remain calm and peaceful.”

The crisis started Sept. 1, when the Supreme Court nullified the election of President Uhuru Kenyatta over irregularities and illegalities. The court ordered a repeat election in 60 days, but political positions have hardened, even as the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission planned to conduct the repeat polls Oct. 26.

On Oct. 10, the crisis appeared to deepen after Raila Odinga, the National Super Alliance coalition leader, withdrew from the repeat polls. Announcing the boycott, Odinga said the IEBC had failed to meet the demands he had presented to the officials’ “irreducible minimums.”

The veteran opposition politician has been demanding restructuring of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which he accuses of bungling his win. The opposition argues that, as constituted, the commission cannot conduct a free and fair election.

Apart from the boycott, the opposition has been threatening to disrupt the polls, but the ruling Jubilee Party insists they will take place as scheduled.

The coalition has taken to street protests to force change within IEBC. The police used tear gas to disperse the protesters, who have been blocking roads, attacking civilians and looting properties. At least 33 people have been shot dead by the police, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Monday Oct.16.

The Caritas microfinance bank branch on Cardinal Otunga Plaza near the city’s minor basilica had its windows smashed during demonstrations Oct. 11.

“We were quite lucky that the demonstrators only ‘smashed’ the windows at our offices,” msaid George Maina, bank CEO. “We would be talking of something different if (looters) had accessed the bank.”

Maina told Catholic News Service looters only managed to smash some of the office windows and the gate to the main entrance of the building.

He also said the current political instability was negatively affecting business.

“On our side within the banking operations, we are currently witnessing a general financial ‘decline’ in terms of lending and borrowing,” he told CNS without elaborating.

Meanwhile, a drought affecting millions of rural people is further adding weight to the crisis. Nurses and health workers are on strike, which has also left thousands of patients across the country without treatment.

“We call for an end to this neglect and abandonment of the lives and affairs of our people,” the bishops said. “This cannot continue under our watch.”

The bishops have moved to convene high-level mediation talks, while stressing dialogue as the way forward.


Contributing to this story was Francis Njuguna.

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To fight hunger and forced migration, end war, arms trade, pope says on World Food Day


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — It makes no sense to lament the problems of hunger and forced migration if one is unwilling to address their root causes, which are conflict and climate change, Pope Francis said.

“War and climate change lead to hunger; therefore, let’s avoid presenting it as if it were an incurable disease,” and instead implement laws, economic policies, lifestyle changes and attitudes that prevent the problems in the first place, he told world leaders at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Pope Francis is pictured next to a statue of Alan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in September 2015 while crossing the Mediterranean Sea. During a visit to the Rome headquarters of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization Oct. 16, the pope presented the marble statue as a gift to the organization. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

Pope Francis received a standing ovation after he addressed the assembly at FAO’s Rome headquarters to mark World Food Day Oct. 16, the date the organization was founded in 1945 to address the causes of poverty and hunger. The FAO was holding a conference on the theme “Changing the future of migration.”

Food insecurity is linked to forced migration, the pope said, and the two can be addressed only “if we go to the root of the problem” — conflict and climate change.

International law already has all the instruments and means in place to prevent and quickly end the conflicts that tear communities and countries apart, and trigger hunger, malnutrition and migration, he said.

“Goodwill and dialogue are needed to stop conflicts,” he said, “and it is necessary to fully commit to gradual and systematic disarmament” as well as stop the “terrible plague of arms trafficking.”

“What good is denouncing that millions of people are victims of hunger and malnutrition because of conflicts if one then does not effectively work for peace and disarmament?” he asked.

As for climate change, he said, scientists know what needs to be done and the international instruments, like the Paris Agreement, are already available.

Without specifying which nations, the pope said, unfortunately “some are backing away” from the agreement. U.S. President Donald Trump announced in June that the United States would withdraw from the accord as a way to help the U.S. economy.

“We cannot resign ourselves to saying, ‘Someone else will do it,’” he said. Everyone is called to adopt and promote changes in lifestyle, in the way resources are used and in production and consumption, particularly when it comes to food, which is increasingly wasted.

Some people believe reducing the number of mouths to feed would solve the problem of food insecurity, but, the pope said, this is “a false solution” given the enormous waste and overconsumption in the world.

“Cutting back is easy,” he said, but “sharing requires conversion and this is demanding.”

“We cannot act only if others are doing it or limit ourselves to having pity because pity doesn’t go beyond emergency aid,” the pope said.

International organizations, leaders and individuals need to act out of real love and mercy toward others, particularly the most vulnerable, in order to create a world based on true justice and solidarity.

Arriving at the FAO headquarters, Pope Francis presented a gift of a statue depicting the tragic death of Alan Kurdi (also known as Aylan), the 3-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on the shore of Turkey when a small inflatable boat holding a dozen refugees capsized in 2015. The statue, made of pure white Carrara marble, depicts a child-like angel weeping over the boy’s lifeless body.

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Bishop Vasquez urges U.S. to help solve Rohingya crisis in Myanmar


WASHINGTON — The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration called on the federal government to work with the Myanmar government and the international community to solve the crisis affecting the persecuted Rohingya people.

Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, said in written testimony to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Oct. 5 that the situation affecting the largely Muslim Rohingya population in Myanmar deserve “safe, humane and voluntary durable solutions” as they struggle amid violence that has caused them to flee their homeland.

A girl holds an umbrella as Rohingya refugees arrive for prayer at a mosque near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Oct. 6. Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, said in written testimony to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Oct. 5 that the situation affecting the largely Muslim Rohingya population in Myanmar deserves “safe, humane and voluntary durable solutions” as they struggle amid violence that has caused them to flee their homeland. (CNS photo/Damir Sagolj, Reuters)

More than 500,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state to Bangladesh since Aug. 25 after government forces began retaliating after attacks on security check posts by militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. The conflict has resulted in more than 1,000 Rohingya deaths, dozens of houses burned and countless women being raped.

Bishop Vasquez offered several recommendations to the House committee, including steps to stabilize the situation in Rakhine state and Bangladesh, provide protection and humanitarian assistance for the displace Rohingya, resettlement of Rohingya in other countries as necessary, and work for long-term peace while addressing the root causes for the displacement of people from Myanmar, also known as Burma.

The majority of Rohingya are Muslim and a minority are Hindu. They have lived in the area formerly known as Arakan, now Rakhine state, long before the Burmese occupation from 1784 to 1826 and British rule from 1826 to 1948.

Yet, Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as one of the country’s 135 ethnic groups, considering them instead as Bengali, infiltrators from Bangladesh. In 1982, a controversial law stripped citizenship from the Rohingya, officially making them stateless.

Decades of persecution by the military and extremist Buddhists forced tens of thousands to flee to various countries, mostly to Bangladesh. The most recent violence caused thousands more to seek safety.

Bishop Vasquez said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and its Migration and Refugee Services has resettled some Rohingya people in the U.S., but that the need was greater than the ability of any one country can meet.

He called on the U.S. to raise the number of refugees being admitted to the country during fiscal year 2018 from 45,000, as determined by President Donald Trump at the end of September, to 75,000. The bishop said the 45,000 figure represents the fewest number of refugees to be admitted since the passage of the 1980 Refugee Act, which formalized the country’s refugee program.

Bishop Vasquez also expressed frustration with Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s leader, for not being “publicly very vocal about the plight of these Muslims from Rakhine state.” While Suu Kyi has been an outspoken defender of civil rights and pushed for democratic reforms under the military government of Myanmar, the plight of the Rohingya has not been adequately addressed, he said.

He urged further efforts be undertaken whereby the country’s “ethnic groups have an ongoing process for seeking to build a federal, democratic system in which all of Burma’s people have access to shared governance and shared resources.”

“As we shed light on the human rights tragedies in Burma, we urge continued U.S. support to resolve these critical situations and to support the democratically elected government in addressing these situations while also supporting their broader efforts to build a new, democratic, inclusive Burma,” the bishop said.

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Poverty, violence hinder progress for many women, says nuncio at U.N.


UNITED NATIONS — Conditions in many parts of the world force women and girls to bear the burden of carrying out everyday chores for their families and communities, keeping many of them from getting even a basic education, the Vatican’s U.N. nuncio said Oct. 6.

A Palestinian woman harvests wheat by hand on a farm near Salfit, West Bank, in 2016. Education is essential in enabling women in every country “to become dignified agents of their own development,” said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations Oct. 6 at U.N. headquarters in New York. (CNS photo/Alaa Badrneh, EPA)

Females are often the victims of sexual and other violence, which prevents them from improving life for themselves and their families, said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations. Migrant women and girls are particularly vulnerable to these situations, he added.

He addressed the issue of women’s advancement during a session at the United Nations of the Third Committee, which focuses on social, humanitarian and cultural issues.

“Young women in rural areas are disproportionately involved in unpaid domestic work and especially bear the greatest burden when access to clean water and sanitation is not readily available,” Archbishop Auza said. “They are forced to spend considerable time and effort collecting water for the community, and in doing so, their access to basic education is often thwarted, not to mention that, in many isolated places, they are also exposed to risks of violence.”

Failure to achieve “that basic human right” of universal access to safe drinkable water “can undermine other human rights, as it is a prerequisite for their realization,” he said.

Pope Francis in his encyclical “Laudato Si’” points to “the abandonment and neglect … experienced by some rural populations which lack access to essential services,” Archbishop Auza said, quoting the document. In many areas, the pope noted, “some workers are reduced to conditions of servitude, without rights or even the hope of a more dignified life.”

Women and girls often bear “the heaviest burden from these deprivations,” the archbishop said.

Regarding education, “significant progress has been made toward parity between boys and girls from families of relative wealth or decent economic standing,” the archbishop said, but women and girls who live in poverty lack schooling, literacy skills and opportunities for adult education.

Adolescent girls “are at the greatest risk of exclusion from education due to social and economic hardships,” Archbishop Auza said. “Whenever young women and girls do not have access to education, they are hindered from becoming dignified agents of their own development.”

To change this reality, the “basic material needs of every school-age girl living in rural areas must be addressed,” Archbishop Auza said. One initiative that has “proven efficient,” he said, is providing school meals to reduce girls’ absenteeism. Such efforts should be encouraged “to guarantee access to education to each and every girl,” he added.

A current partnership between local farmers, including women, and the World Food Program of the United Nations to provide “homegrown school meals” in 37 countries is “a hopeful example,” Archbishop Auza said. The effort “attends to the needs of girls and boys, fosters education and increases market access for women, all at the same time,” he said.

Based in Rome, the World Food Program is the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security. It provides food aid to an average of 80 million people in 76 countries each year.

Addressing the violence women and girls face, Archbishop Auza again quoted Pope Francis in saying that eliminating violence is impossible “until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed.”

“Through poverty and exclusion, adolescent girls, especially those in rural areas, also experience heightened vulnerability to sexual exploitation, child marriage and other unacceptable forms of violence,” the archbishop said. “The horrifying prevalence of violence against women, thus, remains a salient and sad example of the deep connection between economic exclusion and violence.”

Archbishop Auza also discussed the current global migration crisis and its effect on migrant women and girls in particular, reminding the global community it has a responsibility “to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate” migrants and refugees.

“Millions of women and girls are fleeing violent conflicts or extreme poverty only to find themselves exploited by traffickers and manipulators along perilous routes and even in host communities,” the archbishop said.

The Vatican’s U.N. delegation, he said, “strongly supports the international community in its efforts to raise awareness and take concrete steps to prevent the abhorrent phenomenon of violence perpetrated against migrant women and girls.”

“Women often heroically defend and protect their families, sacrificing much to achieve a better life for themselves and their children,” Archbishop Auza said. “They deserve to be assisted and supported in order to realize their legitimate aspirations to a better life for themselves and for their loved ones.”

He said the Vatican “remains strongly committed” to endeavors aimed “at truly protecting women’s dignity, while promoting their integral development and advancement within the family and society.”

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40 Catholic institutions plan to divest $5 trillion from fossil fuel companies


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Forty Catholic institutions, including the Belgian bishops’ conference and a leading church social welfare agency in South Africa, have decided to divest from fossil fuel companies.

The organizations cited the call of Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” to take steps to protect the environment as well as the importance of making investments that lead to a carbon-neutral economy in an effort to address climate change. Read more »

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Mexicans respond to quake with generosity, concerns about aid distribution


Catholic News Service

CUERNAVACA, Mexico — Donations from Caritas chapters across Mexico started streaming into affected areas after an earthquake rocked central Mexico Sept. 19, claiming more than 300 lives, leveling homes and churches and leaving thousands homeless.

Bishop Ramon Castro Castro of Cuernavaca, Mexico, celebrates Mass Sept. 24 outside the city’s cathedral, which dates to the 1500s and was badly damaged by the Sept. 19 earthquake in Mexico. (CNS photo/David Agren)

Some of those donations being trucked into Morelos state, just south of Mexico City, were stopped, however, and diverted to government-run collection centers, said Bishop Ramon Castro Castro of Cuernavaca. He sounded the alarm in a short video — and set off a scandal.

“This surpasses any minimal moral logic,” Bishop Castro said in an online video, which described how three trucks with Caritas supplies were detained, then diverted by police. “I ask those who have the authority and ability to stop this to do so.”

Bishop Castro’s video went viral in Mexico, where people have responded to the earthquake with generosity and rushed to rescue those trapped in rubble, even risking their own lives and working without sleep in the process.

But his comments have come to embody the country’s fatigue with politicians, some of whom have been chased away or jeered by irate locals while visiting disaster areas. Some politicians have put their promotion or logos on supplies or made assistance in poor areas conditional on recipients showing an electoral identification.

Mexico’s Catholic leaders have joined in the condemnation of the country’s political class, while also accompanying a population often distrustful of their authorities and depending on each other in a time of crisis. In a homily Sept. 24, Bishop Castro called for citizen vigilance to avoid corruption and crass politicking.

“I would ask the government to honestly distribute this money, this disaster fund to reconstruct the country and that no percentage of it ends up in anybody’s pocket. That we as citizens observe and denounce any abuse,” Bishop Castro said in a Sept. 24 homily.

“We hope this tragedy serves to humanize our political class,” added an editorial published Sept. 24 in the Archdiocese of Mexico City publication Desde la Fe. “Mexicans are fed up with the excess of politicians and public officials, the corruption, scandalous salaries, benefits and frivolities … politicians’ ostentatiousness, which insults the more 50 million poor people living in our troubled country.”

The magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck central Mexico especially hard, with the epicenter about 45 miles southeast of Mexico City on the border area of Morelos and Puebla states. In Morelos, served by the Diocese of Cuernavaca, at least 73 people died. Some towns reported more than half the homes there damaged or destroyed.

The citizen solidarity and generosity in Morelos has been overshadowed somewhat by concerns state officials and politicians are trying to use the tragedy for political purposes and to promote themselves ahead of the 2018 elections.

To prevent abuse, Caritas Mexico has developed an application that allows people to identify the disaster areas with the greatest needs, but also to track the delivery of donated supplies.

The application, still in its test phase, allowed the Diocese of Cuernavaca to spot a Caritas truck carrying relief supplies from northern Mexico being stopped by state police as it entered Morelos. Caritas officials rushed to the scene so the truck would be allowed to continue to its original destination, said Oscar Cruz, diocesan communications director.

Bishop Castro told Catholic News Service the Morelos government issued a directive to have all aid arriving from out-of-state distributed by state agencies.

“They want to distribute (church aid) because later they put a label on it, ‘Government of Morelos,’” he said. “This is support from many other people, and (labeling it otherwise is) a total lack of honesty.”

The diocese reports 111 parishes were either damaged or destroyed, while 13 parish residences were left uninhabitable, leaving those priests homeless.

“Some of these churches are 400 years old,” Bishop Castro said at the Cuernavaca cathedral, which dates back to the 1500s. The cathedral was undergoing renovations, but suffered such damage that services could no longer be celebrated inside. “These buildings were still standing after previous earthquakes, storms, but didn’t survive this. That tells you how powerful this was.”

The Diocese of Cuernavaca has focused on “accompanying people,” Bishop Castro said, meaning Masses and funerals were celebrated at all parishes, outside of the buildings.

The diocese also established three collection centers, which were swamped with donations and offers of assistance. One of the centers in the diocesan seminary had as many as 800 volunteers working at a time.

“People are showing a lot of solidarity,” said Father Israel Vazquez, seminary director. He said people sent donations to the church because they thought the church would distribute the aid to those most in need.

Some in the state went straight to the disaster areas. Otilia Diaz and four relatives collected clothing and shoes they no longer needed and drove to the town of Jojutla, which was hit especially hard.

“We collected all we could find in the house to give,” she said. “One woman asked us for shoes because her husband only had sandals and was clearing the rubble of their home.”

In a Mass celebrated outdoors for the victims of the earthquake, Bishop Castro called for change after the earthquake and expressed hopes the disaster, with its expressions of solidarity and demands for better from Mexico’s political class, would lead to a better country.

“Concern yourself with your country, a more just and honest society, that there’s justice. Concern yourself with defending the truth,” Bishop Castro said. “You’re leaders in this story. You’re a protagonist in a new Mexico. It’s the opportunity for change.”

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