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Bishop of Evansville named to Indianapolis

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WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Bishop Charles C. Thompson of Evansville, Indiana, to head the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Archbishop Thompson, who has been Evansville’s bishop since 2011, will succeed Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, who was named to head the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., last November.

Bishop Charles C. Thompson of Evansville, Ind., smiles during a June 13 news conference after Pope Francis named him the new archbishop of Indianapolis. Archbishop Thompson, who has been Evansville's bishop since 2011, succeeds Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, who was named to head the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, last November. (CNS photo/Natalie Hoefer, The Criterion)

Bishop Charles C. Thompson of Evansville, Ind., smiles during a June 13 news conference after Pope Francis named him the new archbishop of Indianapolis. Archbishop Thompson, who has been Evansville’s bishop since 2011, succeeds Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, who was named to head the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, last November. (CNS photo/Natalie Hoefer, The Criterion)

Archbishop Thompson, 56, a native of Louisville, Ky., was vicar general of the Louisville Archdiocese from 2008 until he was named bishop of Evansville.

On the national level, he is a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Administrative Committee, the Committee on Priorities and Plans, and the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

“I pledge to dedicate myself to you without hesitation or reservation,” Archbishop Thompson told the people of the Indianapolis Archdiocese at a news conference.

“Together, we will build on the incredible foundation that already exists,” he continued, “striving to discern the signs of the times and make every effort to participate in framing the essential questions of faith and life, in order promote a shared vision rooted in Word, sacrament and service that enables us to respond rather than react to opportunities and challenges.”

He said he had been “humbled and honored” by Pope Benedict XVI naming him to Evansville and feels that way yet again with Pope Francis appointing him to Indianapolis.

“I cannot begin to fully express my deepest gratitude and affection for those with whom I have served in the Diocese of Evansville,” the archbishop said. “These past six years, I have been very blessed to serve with such wonderful priests, deacons, religious, lay colleagues and, most especially, a great mentor and brother” in retired Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger, whom he succeeded in Evansville.

The bishop “helped to form and educate me as a successor of the apostles,” he said.”Thank you for your patience and understanding in breaking in a rookie bishop. The church in southwest Indiana will always have a special place in my heart.”

He added that he is happy to be staying in Indiana to continue to be part of the Indiana Catholic Conference and to serve with “such wonderful brother bishops” in the state, Bishops Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Tim H. Doherty of Lafayette and Don J. Hying of Gary, Bishop Gettelfinger and retired Bishops William L. Higi of Lafayette and Dale J. Melczek of Gary.

“Drawing on my episcopal motto, ‘Christ the Cornerstone,’ it is my first and foremost prayer that we be Christ-centered in all aspects of our identity, mission and witness in proclaiming the joy of the Gospel,” Archbishop Thompson said.

The archbishop holds a bachelor of arts degree in accounting from Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, a master of divinity degree from St. Meinrad School of Theology in Indiana and a licentiate in canon law from St. Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario. He was ordained a priest for the Louisville Archdiocese in 1987.

At the news conference he noted that during his seminary formation and education at St. Meinrad School of Theology, now-retired Indianapolis Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, a Benedictine, was his seminary rector.

He added that following Cardinal Tobin in Indianapolis “is more than a daunting task. Moving from Evansville to Indianapolis, I cannot help but think of the best known song paying tribute to the Hoosier State, ‘Back Home Again in Indiana.’”

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Washington Letter: Forum looks at two decades of religious freedom fight in world

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — It has been nearly 20 years since the International Religious Freedom Act became law. Organizers of a forum at Georgetown University thought it a good time to see how the religious freedom landscape worldwide has changed since 1998.

People display signs showing their support for religious freedom during a 2012 rally in downtown Minneapolis. It has been 20 years since the International Religious Freedom Act was passed by Congress and became law. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)

People display signs showing their support for religious freedom during a 2012 rally in downtown Minneapolis. It has been 20 years since the International Religious Freedom Act was passed by Congress and became law. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)

Passed by overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton that year, the U.S. law created a multifacted system for promoting religious freedom as part of U.S. foreign policy, monitoring religious persecution in foreign countries and advocating on behalf of individuals persecuted in other countries for their religion.

At the forum, while the view wasn’t always encouraging, speakers professed hope for the future, along with a side dish of skepticism.

Andrew Bennett said those concerned about the issue should ask whether they ought to be similarly concerned about protecting religious beliefs of someone in another country as they are about fighting political discrimination against individuals overseas. He had been the first ambassador for religious freedom within Canada’s foreign ministry, from 2013 to 2016 until the Cabinet position created by the Conservative Party was abolished by the Liberal Party government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“We in Canada are increasingly vague as to what those answers should be,” said Bennett, now a research fellow at the Religious Freedom Research Project of Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, which sponsored the forum.

Canada’s founding story, he noted, is quite different from that of the United States, whose first refugees were those who fled England because of religious persecution, Bennett said at the forum, “Best Practices in International Religious Freedom Policy.”

Bennett cited “ignorance of religious faith and tradition” for liberal Western democracies being diplomatically tone-deaf on the matter. A “narrowing of our understanding of human rights” that may leave religious freedom out of the picture can result, he said. “We should not be equating freedom of expression with freedom of religion,” Bennett added.

Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, a Cuban-American who is a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, created as a result of the 1998 law, said her experience working in the Reagan-era State Department led her to believe that “giving a religious freedom speech was a career-killer and still is.”

Religious freedom does not always get the high priority it deserves, according to Arriaga, who noted that women’s rights trump religious freedom among key decision-makers.

In other cases, countries enforce restrictions based on religion. In Saudi Arabia, she said, “women cannot get surgery unless they have permission from a (male) guardian,” which Arriaga held as an interpretation of religious codes in the predominantly Muslim nation. Americans looking to make trade deals in that country, she added, may look askance at its “open for business” sign because of these and similar religion-based restrictions.

Tom Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Research Project and forum moderator, noted that nations that give greater religious freedom to its people are both more stable and more attractive trading partners.

Arriaga outlined several suggestions for improving U.S. analysis of religious freedom issues in other nations. One was to develop an “international balancing test” for the issues involve to avoid the dangers of missteps on religious freedom, calling for more comprehensive education for diplomats and others receiving foreign postings.

“We should be working with all the (United Nations’) special rapporteurs who work in the area” to get them attuned to religious freedom issues, Arriaga said. The United Nations’ own religious freedom specialist has no staff save for a part-time secretary, she added; the State Department, by comparison, now has about 50 people on staff working on religious freedom issues.

“We should all be principled” in international dealings, Arriaga said, such as taking Iran to task for its treatment of Baha’is living there despite the lifting of U.N. sanctions against Iran in 2015. And “raise religious freedom to the seventh floor always,” where the secretary of state’s office is in the State Department building in Washington, she added.

Rabbi David Saperstein, now a senior fellow at the Religious Freedom Research Project after his term ended earlier this year as U.S. ambassador at large for religious freedom, another outgrowth of the 1998 law, said he had then-Secretary of State John Kerry’s ear on religious freedom issues during his tenure.

He said one reason he accepted the appointment was because he was promised “structural access” to Kerry, adding Kerry would get back to him within 30 minutes on notes he had written.

Kerry set up the office on global religious freedom and that it had worked well. But “it’s not enough to talk theoretically about the role of religious freedom in statecraft,” Rabbi Saperstein said. “These issues really had to be woven in at the macro level.”

No replacement for Rabbi Saperstein has been nominated yet, but rumors were circulating aloud during the forum, and Arriaga even gave the initials of who she believed would be President Donald Trump’s nominee.

Rabbi Saperstein cautioned that diplomats have to avoid being seen as “Western imperialists” by extremists in any one country by the mere giving of assent to an event or initiative in that country that promises to expand religious freedom within that country which would win approval by its moderates. Even so, he said, “I was encouraged by how many people wanted our support, our stamp of approval.”

He added, “There are times when the tools that we have really make a difference,” referring to sanctions or the threat to apply them. “I don’t think we use the tools nearly as well as we can.”

“We feel that the problem is too large and it’s impossible to do well. That’s not true,” Arriaga said. “It is our right to live according to our deeply heal convictions. It’s our duty to defend those to others.”

 

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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House OKs aid to genocide victims; Senate urged to act quickly

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WASHINGTON — The co-authors of a House bill that will provide humanitarian aid to Christians and other religious groups suffering at the hands of Islamic State militants praised the June 6 House passage of the measure and urged the Senate to quickly act on it.

The House unanimously approved the bipartisan Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act, or H.R. 390, in a voice vote.

Chaldean Catholic Bishop Bawai Soro, head of the Diocese of St. Peter the Apostle based near San Diego, is seen in Washington June 7 during a news conference about bipartisan support in Congress for the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Chaldean Catholic Bishop Bawai Soro, head of the Diocese of St. Peter the Apostle based near San Diego, is seen in Washington June 7 during a news conference about bipartisan support in Congress for the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Co-authored by Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-California, the bill will provide emergency relief and aid to the victims of genocide in Iraq and Syria, particularly the Christians in the Middle East as well as other religious minorities.

The humanitarian aid will be directed to groups such as the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Irbil, Iraq, which provides direct care for victims, and those groups in turn get the assistance to those in need.

Smith and Eshoo held a news conference June 7 urging the Senate to continue the progress of this legislation to ensure the swift direction of funds to the Middle East.

“We are celebrating something today that we believe is something that is going to make a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of people who have been persecuted by ISIS,” Eshoo said. “Certainly the Christians, those of my own background, the Yezidis, and other minorities in the Middle East.”

Since 2013, Smith has actively worked through hearings and mission trips to spread awareness of the situation of the victims of ISIS in the Middle East. Part of the effort was to get the United States to admit that what was occurring was genocide.

“As I think many of you know, Congress has been trying for the better part of three years to finally get a designation of genocide being committed by ISIS against Christians, Yezidis and some other Muslim minorities in the area,” Smith said. “Ultimately, it did become a policy of the United States of America.”

When then-Secretary of State John Kerry issued a declaration of genocide about ISIS in March 2016, it was one of the few times in the nation’s history that the U.S. government had made such a determination. Eshoo said the declaration requires further legislation that will confirm what the victims have endured.

“They too, like people in our country, want their lives to go on, especially for their children,” Eshoo said. “The State Department would not allow any U.S. dollars to flow to church organizations and this legislation allows for that.”

In addition to sending humanitarian aid for groups in Iraq and Syria to provide to genocide victims, the bill also ensures that the government’s money will be monitored.

“There will be accountability for these dollars,” Eshoo said. “But it is so essential to work with those who are on the ground that know exactly where the dollars should go.”

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, the CEO of the Knights of Columbus, has worked with Smith to get support of the bill and has testified on behalf of the measure.

“We must have the courage to confront reality and then we must have the courage to change reality,” Anderson said.

The Knights of Columbus has donated over $12 million to groups in the Middle East aiding Christian refugees. In addition, they recently began an ad campaign in an effort to raise more funds.

“These are people who are still praying in the language of Jesus,” Anderson said. “They have every right to survive.”

Chaldean Catholic Bishop Bawai A. Soro, who heads the Diocese of St. Peter the Apostle, which is based near San Diego, also attended the news conference. He said the current situation for Christians in the Middle East remains fragile, as they suffer at the hands of radical Islamic groups.

“It is very unfortunate that Iraq as a country still lacks the certain constitutional amendments that guarantee liberty and equality to all Iraqis,” Bishop Soro said. “It remains our dream that the Christians will not be second-class citizens in their own native homeland, Iraq. But instead, they will hopefully soon have equal social, economic, political, lives and statuses just as all Iraqis have.”

Haider Elias, president of the human rights group Yazda, whose own brother and other relatives were killed by ISIS, spoke to the critical aspect of the bill.

“As this legislation has been passed by the House, we urge the Senate to act upon it and expedite it as quickly as possible,” Elias said. “These Yezidis and Christians are in dire need for such assistance in order to survive as religious minorities in our region.”

Smith said that they have contacted several representatives in the Senate who they believe will offer similar support to the bill. He said he hopes they will vote within the next couple of weeks.”

By Josephine von Dohlen

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Catholic groups decry U.S. decision to abandon climate accord

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WASHINGTON — Catholic leaders said President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate change agreement snubs the needs of impoverished people around the world and avoids the responsibility to begin addressing the causes of global warming.

They joined a broad cross section of U.S. society and world leaders and organizations in decrying the June 1 announcement.

U.S. President Donald Trump announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the landmark Paris climate agreement June 1 in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

U.S. President Donald Trump announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the landmark Paris climate agreement June 1 in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

Trump’s decision sets in motion a long formal process for withdrawal from the agreement, which entered into force Nov. 4. Under rules of the agreement, no nation can withdraw until November 2019 and mandate a one-year notice period. The earlier total withdrawal can be accomplished is in November 2020.

The leaders focused their concerns on the needs of communities around the world that they say contribute least to climate change but suffer the most from it. They pointed to impoverished people who have been forced to migrate to other lands to make a living because of drought, changing weather patterns or rising sea levels.

Many organizations pointed to Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” in which he called all people to respect God’s creation and remember that the welfare of each person is integral to human life and future of the planet.

A statement from the leaders of 11 organizations asked Trump to reconsider his action. The leaders said Catholic teaching maintains that climate change is a “grave moral issue” that threatens commitments to protect human life, health, dignity and security, promote the common good, exercise a preferential option for the poor, living in solidarity with future generations, realize peace and care for creation.

“The international agreement of 2015 demonstrates that all nations will be impacted by a warming world and that all nations have a corresponding responsibility to limit greenhouse gas pollution causing climate change,” said a statement released through the Catholic Climate Covenant soon after Trump’s announcement.

“The Catholic Church recognizes that climate change is a global problem that requires global solutions,” the statement said.

The signers included leaders of Catholic Climate Covenant, Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Franciscan Action Network, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Global Catholic Climate Movement, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, National Council of Catholic Women, Catholic Health Association of the United States, Catholic Charities USA, Carmelite NGO and Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.

Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, called Trump’s decision “deeply troubling.”

“The Scriptures affirm the value of caring for creation and caring for each other in solidarity. The Paris agreement is an international accord that promotes these values,” Bishop Cantu said in a statement released shortly after the president made his announcement in the White House Rose Garden.

“President Trump’s decision will harm the people of the United States and the world, especially the poorest, most vulnerable communities,” the bishop said.

Several other organizations issued statements in the hours after the withdrawal announcement and early into June 2.

Bill O’Keefe, vice president for advocacy and government relations at Catholic Relief Services, called the withdraw “terrible,” but said that the staff of the bishops’ overseas relief and development agency hope it could be reversed.

“American leadership is absolutely necessary on this critical global issue,” he said. “We believe we can both grow our economy and respond to the Holy Father’s call to care for creation.”

Like many newspapers around the world, the Vatican newspaper ran Trump’s decision as its top story June 2.

“Trump announces withdrawal from the Paris accord,” said the headline in L’Osservatore Romano. Above the headline, in smaller letters, it said: “Criticism from the European Union and China.”

The article itself was a brief news story that included reaction from Bishop Cantu. In a commentary further down the front page, the Vatican newspaper said the crucial question is whether a U.S. withdrawal would “neutralize all the efforts made to combat global warming.”

While one country, even a powerful one, cannot stop the rest of the world from taking action to mitigate the human impacts on climate change, the commentary said, without the United States a truly global effort “becomes unrealistic.”

The article said Trump’s decision was not based on providing economic help to large companies like Exxon, Dupont or Shell, because those companies are already reaping the rewards of investing in renewable energy. Instead, Trump “looks to his base: to the miners in West Virginia and Kentucky or the factory workers in Pennsylvania crushed” by the economic crisis.

For them, the paper said, withdrawing from the Paris accord “means saving jobs.”

Geopolitically, the L’Osservatore Romano article said, Trump’s decision “could have a domino effect,” leading other countries to withdraw and dismantle what already has been achieved. “A new world order is on the line.”

Below are excerpts of statements from other Catholic organizations:

  • Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns: “Through our witness, we recognize that our government has a moral responsibility, as one of the richest countries in the world and one of the largest historical contributors to climate change, to protect all life on earth and to prevent the worst impacts of climate.”
  • Tomas Insua, executive director, Global Catholic Climate Movement: “Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement is a backward and immoral action. Catholics are saddened and outraged that Trump is not listening to Pope Francis after their meeting last week. Still, the world will continue to accelerate climate action despite the White House’s retrograde stance.”
  • Patrick Carolan, executive director, Franciscan Action Network: “When large countries like the U.S. deny the reality of the climate crisis and pull out of commitments holding us accountable for doing our part to curb global temperature rise, we are turning our backs on the poor and vulnerable, which goes directly against our Franciscan-Christian values.”
  • Sister Patricia Chappell, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, executive director, Pax Christi USA: “The biblical mandate to care and tend to the earth for its people transcends individual countries and nations. Today’s decision makes a mockery of democracy and Pax Christi USA pledges to use every nonviolent means in joining with others to resist this decision.”
  • General Council, Adrian Dominican Sisters: “It diminishes our standing as a world leader, aligning us with Syria and Nicaragua as the only non-signatories to the landmark accord … . It blunts our competitive edge in an emerging renewable energy based global economy. And it threatens to condemn earth, our common home, and future generations to potentially catastrophic climate change.”
  • Institute Leadership Team, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas: “This decision, unfortunately, is by far the most concerning among a number of actions taken by the Trump administration to weaken the country’s commitment to address climate change and to protect those most at risk from its effect: saying he’s ‘not a believer’ in human impact on global warming, urging a review of the Clean Power Plan, proposing drastic cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, and approving the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, to name just a few.”
  • Steve Krueger, president, Catholic Democrats: “While representing his only apparent train of thought as a deal maker, President Trump once again ignored Jesus’ exhortation (Luke 12:48) best paraphrased by President John F. Kennedy, that ‘for those to whom much is given, much is required.’ We believe that this applies to nations as well, particularly given the fact that the U.S. is the largest carbon polluter in history.”

Cindy Wooden contributed to this report from Rome.

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Trump’s decision to abandon Paris climate pact called troubling, harmful

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President Donald Trump’s June 1 decision “not to honor the U.S. commitment” to the Paris climate agreement “is deeply troubling,” said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.

“The Scriptures affirm the value of caring for creation and caring for each other in solidarity. The Paris agreement is an international accord that promotes these values,” Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, said in a statement released shortly after the president made his announcement in the White House Rose Garden.

Protesters carry signs during the People's Climate March April 29 outside the White House in Washington. The U.S. bishops June 1 urged President Donald Trump to honor the nation's commitment to the Paris climate pact and protect the planet.  (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts)

Protesters carry signs during the People’s Climate March April 29 outside the White House in Washington. The U.S. bishops June 1 urged President Donald Trump to honor the nation’s commitment to the Paris climate pact and protect the planet. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts)

“President Trump’s decision will harm the people of the United States and the world, especially the poorest, most vulnerable communities,” the bishop said after Trump announced the U.S. will withdraw immediately from the Paris accord.

“The impacts of climate change are already being experienced in sea level rise, glacial melts, intensified storms, and more frequent droughts,” Bishop Cantu said. “I can only hope that the president will propose concrete ways to address global climate change and promote environmental stewardship.”

Trump said the climate accord “is less about the climate and more about other countries obtaining a financial advantage over the United States.”

He said he wants to create a “level playing field” and establish the “highest standard of living, highest standard of environmental protection.” The United States now joins Syria and Nicaragua in not being part of the accord.

Bishop Cantu said that although the Paris agreement is not the only possible mechanism for addressing global carbon mitigation, the lack of a current viable alternative is a serious concern.

He said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Pope Francis “and the entire Catholic Church have consistently upheld the Paris agreement as an important international mechanism to promote environmental stewardship and encourage climate change mitigation.”

Before Trump made his announcement, Bishop Cantu issued a statement saying the United States had an obligation to honor the Paris agreement to protect “our people and our planet” and “mitigate the worst impacts of climate change.” He urged Trump to honor the accord.

The USCCB released the earlier statement along with copies of letters sent weeks earlier to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Treasure Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster. The letters were signed by Bishop Cantu; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Sean L. Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency.

“We write about our shared obligation to care for the environment. The Judeo-Christian tradition has always understood ‘the environment’ to be a gift from God,” said the letters urging the Trump administration officials in their respective capacities to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the Paris accord.

“Pope Francis called on the world’s leaders to come together to protect the gift of our common home. … We have one common home, and we must protect it,” they said.

In both statements Bishop Cantu noted that the U.S. bishops have for years “voiced support for prudent action and dialogue on climate change,” as far back as their 2001 statement on global climate change and again in 2015 in a letter to Congress. They have, he said, “reiterated their support on several occasions.”

“Pope Francis and the Holy See have also consistently voiced support for the Paris agreement,” Bishop Cantu said. In his earlier June 1 statement, Bishop Cantu said the pope’s 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home” was timed “to urge the nations of the world to work together in Paris for an agreement that protects our people and our planet.”

The Paris accord has been ratified by 134 of the 197 countries that approved it in December 2015 under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. President Barack Obama ratified on its own, bypassing the U.S. Senate. The agreement went into force in October after enough countries ratified it.

A day before Trump announced the immediate withdrawal of the U.S. from the climate accord, Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Integral Development of People, told reporters in Washington that “the decision to possibly pull out for us is something we hoped would not have happened.”

“Certain issues should be taken out of the political discussion and not be politicized. … The truth is, climate is a global public good and not limited to any country, not limited to any nation,” the cardinal said.

“The Vatican would always respect the decision of a sovereign state,” added Cardinal Turkson, who was in Washington for a conference at Georgetown University. “We will continue to still talk about climate change and all of that, and hope that some change can occur midstream.”

Also commenting ahead of Trump’s decision was Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, who said if the president decided to withdraw the United States, “it will be a disaster for everyone.”

The bishop and the academies are at the forefront of promoting scientific studies on climate change and implementation of the recommendations in Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’” on care for the environment. The pope gave Trump a copy of the document when they met May 24 at the Vatican.

In an interview June 1 with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Bishop Sanchez said he did not think Trump and Pope Francis discussed climate change in any depth when they met, however climate change was a significant part of the discussions the president and top staff members had with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

“In that sense, if he really does what the leaks suggest, for us it will be a huge slap in the face,” the bishop said.

Obama deserves some of the blame, the bishop said, because “he took decisions on climate only through presidential orders, leaving open the possibility that his successor would change everything. That’s the problem. Today, in just one day, Trump could change all the cards on the table to the disadvantage of many and to the advantage of the oil lobby.”

Tillerson participated in Trump’s meeting with Cardinal Parolin and told reporters that while climate change did not come up in Trump’s meeting with the pope, they had “a good exchange on the climate change issue” with the cardinal.

“The cardinal was expressing their view that they think it’s an important issue,” Tillerson said shortly after the meeting. “I think they were encouraging continued participation in the Paris accord. But we had a good exchange on the difficulty of balancing addressing climate change, responses to climate change, and ensuring that you still have a thriving economy and you can still offer people jobs so they can feed their families and have a prosperous economy.”

Asked how Trump responded to Cardinal Parolin’s encouragement to stick with the Paris climate agreement, Tillerson said: “The president indicated we’re still thinking about that, that he hasn’t made a final decision. He, I think, told both Cardinal Parolin and also told Prime Minister (Paolo) Gentiloni that this is something that he would be taking up for a decision when we return from this trip. It’s an opportunity to hear from people. We’re developing our own recommendation on that. So it’ll be something that will probably be decided after we get home.”

 

Dennis Sadowski in Washington and Cindy Wooden in Rome contributed to this story.

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Bishops urge Trump to honor Paris climate pact to protect the planet

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WASHINGTON – The United States has an obligation to honor the Paris climate agreement to protect “our people and our planet” and “mitigate the worst impacts of climate change,” said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops “is on record supporting prudent action to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change,” Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, said in a June 1 statement. Read more »

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Church leaders welcome leaked HHS draft lifting contraceptive mandate

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Catholic News Service

 

WASHINGTON — A leaked draft rule from the Department of Health and Human Services exempting religious groups from the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act was welcomed by church officials and attorneys representing the Little Sisters of the Poor, one of the groups that challenged the mandate at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, said in a June 1 statement that the leaked draft has “yet to be formally issued and will require close study upon publication,” but it provides encouraging news.

“Relief like this is years overdue and would be most welcomed,” he said. Read more »

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Texas pastor named bishop for Florida diocese

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WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Holy Cross Father William A. Wack, who is a pastor in Texas, to be the bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee.

Bishop-designate Wack, 49, has been pastor of St. Ignatius Martyr Parish in Austin, Texas, since 2009. He succeeds Bishop Gregory L. Parkes, who was named last November to head the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Pope Francis has named Holy Cross Father William A. Wack, pastor of St. Ignatius Martyr Parish in Austin, Texas, since 2009, to be the bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla. He succeeds Bishop Gregory L. Parkes, who was named last November to head the Diocese of St. Petersburg. (CNS photo/courtesy Congregation of Holy Cross)

Pope Francis has named Holy Cross Father William A. Wack, pastor of St. Ignatius Martyr Parish in Austin, Texas, since 2009, to be the bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla. He succeeds Bishop Gregory L. Parkes, who was named last November to head the Diocese of St. Petersburg. (CNS photo/courtesy Congregation of Holy Cross)

The appointment was announced in Washington May 29 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

The date of Bishop-designate Wack’s episcopal ordination has not yet been determined.

“Now I know for sure that God is merciful, having called this sinner to serve in this capacity,” Bishop-designate Wack said May 29 in a statement about his appointment. “The first words which came to mind when I heard of the appointment were, ‘Lord I am not worthy … but only say the Word … .’ With joy and zeal, I accept this appointment, and I am thrilled to begin service to God’s people as a bishop.”

“While I am very sad to be leaving the parish of St. Ignatius Martyr in Austin … I couldn’t be more excited to move in and get to work here in the diocese,” he added.

He said he has always loved being a priest. “For me there is nothing higher than the privilege of celebrating the Eucharist and the other sacraments,” Bishop-designate Wack said. “Over the past 23 years I have grown tremendously in my faith, through the very mysteries I have served.”

As a Holy Cross priest, he continued, “I know of the power of the cross of Christ, and the hope that it brings to all creation. We in Holy Cross strive to be ‘educators in the faith’ wherever we go, and I am happy to continue to do this in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee.

Bishop-designate Wack added: “While I embrace a leadership position in the church once again, I believe that I stand to learn much from the very people I will serve. We are all God’s children, for we have been given God’s Spirit. It is our sacred duty to celebrate and practice our faith together, and to make God known, loved and served in all that we do.”

“Father Wack is an exemplary priest who is well respected by his brother priests and loved by those he serves,” Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin said in a statement. “Father Wack has been of great help to me, and I express my deep appreciation to him for his years of service in the Diocese of Austin.”

“As the people of Pensacola-Tallahassee come to know him, they will see his love for the church and his desire to serve his flock with warmth and compassion,” he added.

Holy Cross Father Thomas O’ Hara, provincial superior of the U. S. province of the Congregation of Holy Cross, called Bishop-designate Wack “a gifted pastor and administrator who possesses an extremely welcoming personality.”

“He is quick to reach out to all, is strong enough to lead and humble enough to listen. Above all, he is an outstanding priest who is passionate in his faith and absolutely dedicated to serving the people of God,” Father O’Hara said.

Bishop Parkes said he shared in the joy of Catholics of Pensacola-Tallahassee getting a new shepherd, who with the diocese “will be in my prayers during this time of transition.” 

Since Bishop Parkes’ appointment to St. Petersburg, Msgr. James Flaherty has served as Pensacola-Tallahassee’s diocesan administrator.

Born June 28, 1967, in South Bend, Indiana, Bishop designate-Wack is the second-youngest of 10 children. His younger brother also is a Holy Cross priest, Father Neil Wack.

William A. Wack entered the novitiate for the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1989. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in government and international relations from the University of Notre Dame in 1989. He earned a master of divinity degree in 1993, also from Notre Dame.

He professed his final vows in 1993 and was ordained a priest April 9, 1994. His assignments after ordination included associate pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Colorado Springs, Colorado, from 1994-1997. He was associate director of vocations for his congregation from 1997-2002 at Notre Dame; at that time, he also was with the Holy Cross Associates, 1998-2002.

He then spent six years, from 2002 to 2008, as director of Andre House of Hospitality in downtown Phoenix, which is ministers to the city’s poor and homeless. It runs a soup kitchen, which serves over 200,000 meals per year, and provides a small transition shelter for men and women; clothing and blanket distribution; and showers and lockers for its clients.

The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee covers about 14,000 square miles in Florida’s panhandle. Out of a total population of 1.46 million people, about 5 percent, or 67,316 people, are Catholic.

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Oregon father one of two men killed trying to protect fellow passengers

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Catholic News Service

PORTLAND, Ore. — On a crowded Portland commuter train May 26, a Catholic father of four stepped forward to calm a tense situation. He was that kind of guy.

Rick Best, a 53-year-old member of Christ the King Parish in Milwaukie, Ore., was stabbed to death May 26 when trying to defend two young women from a man who yelled epithets at them aboard a commuter train, said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. (CNS/courtesy Best family)

Rick Best, a 53-year-old member of Christ the King Parish in Milwaukie, Ore., was stabbed to death May 26 when trying to defend two young women from a man who yelled epithets at them aboard a commuter train, said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. (CNS/courtesy Best family)

Rick Best defended two women being accosted by a passenger yelling hate speech about Muslims and other groups. Best, a 53-year-old member of Christ the King Parish in Milwaukie, Oregon, would die for his noble deed.

In less than a minute, he and Namkai Meche, another defender, were slain, slashed in the neck in front of horrified onlookers. A third man survived the knife attack.

Best’s funeral Mass is set for June 5 at Christ the King Church.

The accused killer, 35-year-old Jeremy Christian, had been on a racially charged rampage. With a history of police run-ins going back 15 years at least, he was caught on camera in April, draped in an American flag and repeatedly yelling bigoted epithets during a demonstration in Portland. On his Facebook page, he posted a photo of himself performing the Nazi salute and declared himself a white supremacist.

The day before the killings, Christian hurled a bottle at a black woman at another rail station.

On the unseasonably warm afternoon of May 26, one of the young women who became Christian’s focus on the packed train was wearing a hijab; the other was black.

When the bloodied train stopped at the next station, Christian escaped, but police captured him soon after. He remained in custody in Multnomah County Jail, indicted on two counts of aggravated murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of intimidation and one count of being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon.

Best was pronounced dead at the scene. Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, a 23-year-old graduate of Reed College in Portland, died later at the hospital. Injured in the attack and recovering was Micah David-Cole Fletcher, a 21-year-old student at Portland State University.

Best leaves a wife, Myhanh Duong Best, and four children: boys ages 19, 17 and 14, and a 12-year-old daughter.

A veteran who served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan during a 23-year career in the Army, he had worked as a technician for the city of Portland’s Bureau of Development Services since 2015.

His supervisor, Kareen Perkins, told KGW-TV: “He was always the first person you would go to for help. I’ve talked to most of his co-workers today, and several of them said it’s just like Rick to step in and help somebody out.”

Best and his wife, who is from Vietnam, met at Portland Community College. He retired from the Army as a platoon sergeant in 2012. Living in the suburban town of Happy Valley, he decided the local government needed refreshing and in 2014 ran unsuccessfully for the Clackamas County commission, refusing to accept campaign donations.

In a prepared statement, Portland Archbishop Alexander K. Sample sought to comfort a city shocked by the brutal slayings. The metropolitan area of more than 1 million averages about 20 murders per year.

“Pray for those who may now feel unsafe in moving freely about a city that truly welcomes people of all cultures, faith traditions and walks of life,” Archbishop Sample said. “Pray for those whose hearts and minds may be hardened to the love of God and act out in such violent and hateful ways.”

He said “profound gratitude is owed to those who bravely stepped forward to protect the young women who were being vehemently harassed.”

During a Memorial Day homily at a cemetery not far from the Best home, Archbishop Sample told hundreds of worshippers May 29 that Best learned in the Army what it means to put one’s life on the line for others.

Best and Namkai Meche, the archbishop said, gave themselves in defense of the defenseless. In that, the archbishop said, the men closely followed Jesus.

Christ the King Parish is in shock, but has mobilized to support the Bests.

“This family is so faith filled,” Deacon Jim Pittman, who served for years at Christ the King, told the Catholic Sentinel, Portland’s archdiocesan newspaper. The Bests came to Sunday morning Mass May 28, just 40 hours after the killings.

Deacon Pittman has been meeting with the family. “I told the kids, ‘Your dad died in the way Christ told us to,’” he said. Eric, the oldest, told Deacon Pittman that he is not yet ready to forgive, but does not feel hate.

Deacon Pittman told Eric and the other children it is all right to cry. “That’s what our dad always told us,” responded Eric, who was taking a lead in making arrangements for his father’s funeral.

“They are just the nicest family ever,” said Evans Brackenbrough, a La Salle Prep student who attends Christ the King youth group with two of the Best children. “There is nothing bad in any of the kids.”

At the light rail station, a massive memorial has sprung up. Flowers, candles and chalked prayers cover the area. Citizens stand and weep, even if they did not know anyone involved. One visitor to the vigil site, Tami Soprani of St. Patrick Parish in Portland, tried to explain the feeling.

“You see someone stand up for what we all believe, and that is very powerful, very emotional,” Soprani said.

 

Langlois is editor of the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.  

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Trump nominates Callista Gingrich ambassador to Vatican

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WASHINGTON — As he prepared to meet Pope Francis for the first time, President Donald Trump formally nominated Callista Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, to be the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See.

The White House announced the nomination late May 19 as Trump was beginning his first overseas trip, a trip that would include a meeting with Pope Francis May 24 at the Vatican.

Callista Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, has been nominated by President Donald Trump to be the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. She is pictured as her husband speaks at Peachtree Academy in Covington, Georgia, in this Feb. 29, 2012, file photo. (CNS photo/Erik S. Lesser, EPA)

Callista Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, has been nominated by President Donald Trump to be the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. She is pictured as her husband speaks at Peachtree Academy in Covington, Georgia, in this Feb. 29, 2012, file photo. (CNS photo/Erik S. Lesser, EPA)

The nomination of Gingrich, 51, a former congressional aide, had been rumored for months. If confirmed by the Senate, she would succeed Ambassador Ken Hackett, who retired in January. She would be the third woman to serve as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See after Lindy Boggs, who held the post in 1997-2001, and Mary Ann Glendon, who served in 2008-2009.

Gingrich is president of Gingrich Productions, which produces documentaries as well as other materials related to her husband, Republican Newt Gingrich, who served from 1995 until 1999 as the 50th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 2010, the company released the film “Nine Days That Changed the World” about Pope John Paul II’s nine-day pilgrimage to Poland in 1979 and how it played a part in the fall of communism in Europe. Callista Gingrich graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, in 1988, majoring in music, a passion that has remained with her throughout life. She is a longtime member of the choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

Some like John Schlageter, executive director of the Bethlehem University Foundation in Washington, hailed the choice.

“It might make me biased, but I think that her years of singing in the choir at the national shrine has given her a backstage pass to some of the most important events in the life in the church in the United States, including two papal visits,” said Schlageter, who is a friend of the couple. The Gingriches are patrons of Bethlehem University, the first Catholic university in the Holy Land founded by the Vatican and the De La Salle Christian Brothers, he said.

Schlageter said Callista Gingrich’s time producing the documentary about Pope John Paul helped her create professional relationships and friendships in the U.S. and Rome that will serve her well should she be confirmed to the post.

“She also loves the church and the United States,” he said May 15. “I think she’s a wonderful choice.”

Others criticized the choice online because she admitted to having an affair for years with Newt Gingrich while he was married to his second wife. After his 1999 divorce, the two married the following year and he became a Catholic in 2009, saying Callista, a lifelong Catholic, was instrumental in making that choice.

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