Browsing News Entries

Why women aren't choosing adoption – and how pro-lifers can change that

Washington D.C., May 29, 2017 / 03:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At 21 years old, Millie Lopus was pregnant and scared. A rising college senior at Loyola University Maryland, she was being pressured into having an abortion by her ex-boyfriend, the father of the child.

But after he drove Millie to a nearby Planned Parenthood to set up an abortion appointment, she recalled having “a sliver of grace,” and she “did not set up an appointment that day.”

“I chose instead to go through with the pregnancy,” she recalled, and gave the baby up for adoption. “I am eternally grateful that I have been spared the abortion experience,” Lopus said at a May 15 panel on “Adopting Life.”

The Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C. hosted a three-part panel series on adoption on May 8, May 15, and May 22. The goal was to discuss how the pro-life movement can create a “radical culture of hospitality” for those facing a crisis pregnancy, and for their children.

Lopus’ story reflects countless other narratives of young mothers who are pressured against giving their baby up for adoption.

Today, mothers choose abortion at a far greater rate than adoption. In 2014, there were almost 1 million abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, but there were only 18,329 infant domestic adoptions, according to numbers provided by the National Council for Adoptions.

“Adoption as a real solution is often overlooked,” said Elizabeth Kirk, a writer and researcher who spoke on one of the CIC panels.

There are several reasons for this, she explained. Women have said in studies that “adoption is not a realistic option for them” and that they would suffer more guilt in leaving their child to an unknown future than in terminating the pregnancy.

They may also be facing pressure from loved ones or advisors against adoption. There are reported instances of Planned Parenthood workers “advising women that adoption is more traumatic than abortion,” Kirk said. Even crisis pregnancy centers may be reticent to bring up adoption to a mother because they fear that broaching the topic may “drive her to abort her child.”

Yet if a women is truly incapable of raising her child, and adoption isn’t in the picture, then abortion may seem like “the only real choice,” she said.

As for Millie Lopus? After she decided to carry the baby to term, she returned to school for the fall semester of her senior year. She played the entire tennis season, where she finished first in the conference in the doubles tournament. She left Loyola in the spring to have her baby daughter, and gave her up for adoption to a Catholic family.

Her daughter is now 24 years old, an actor and singer, and Lopus has three other children of her own. She now directs the New Women’s Care Center in Baltimore, a Catholic pro-life crisis pregnancy resource center offering free pregnancy tests, sonograms, and resources for pregnant mothers. For post-abortive women, they also refer for retreats through Project Rachel.

Yet within the pro-life movement, there still exists a debate over how much emphasis to place on the option of adoption. Many mothers may be emotionally or financially unable to raise their child and some, like Kirk, argue that far too little is said to these mothers about their option to give their child up for adoption.

Negative stories from the foster care system may be responsible for much of the stigma against adoption, even though mothers have the choice of offering a child for adoption privately or through a small center. There are almost 112,000 children waiting to be adopted in the foster care system, the average wait time being 31.8 months. Around 55 percent of the children have been placed with families three or more times, Kirk noted.

Studies show detrimental effects on children the longer they stay in the system, deficits in education, relationships, and an uptick in future criminal activity.

As a result, pregnant women “think their children are better off dead than placed with an adoptive family,” Kirk said.

Yet many Catholic parents are waiting to adopt and love a child, especially if they are not able to have any of their own, panel members insisted.

Once the prohibitive costs of the process are removed from the equation, “everyone starts looking at adoption for what it really is, it’s the greatest act of love,” Mary L. Ball, J.D., founder of Holy Family Adoption Agency, said at the May 15 CIC panel.

Birth mothers “want more for their child than they can give them,” she said, while a married couple is also looking to give a child unconditional love.

“I really think that adoption is the missing link in the pro-life movement,” she said. “We don’t talk enough about it.”

Dr. Grazie Christie, a radiologist and a policy advisor for The Catholic Association, agreed, and shared her own decision to adopt after having four children.

“We didn’t need a child. We had plenty of children,” she said of her family, yet “we had so much” and wanted to adopt as “an act of love.” They adopted a child from outside the U.S.

Yet she wasn’t ready for the skepticism and criticism she faced for her decision.

“We got a lot of negativity from people around us,” she said, including questions and observations like “You’re crazy,” “You don’t know what you’re going to get,” “You’re going out to get other people’s problems and bring them home,” and “Don’t you have enough children?”

“I was pained by it,” she said, but when she received her new daughter and began caring for her, “it was hands-down the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to me.”

More married couples, upon finding that they are unable to have children, are turning to fertility treatments or in-vitro fertilization, but there are thousands of babies available for adoption, aching for a home, Dr. Christie said.

Ultimately, Christians and pro-lifers should be doing much more to promote adoption even if they themselves can’t adopt children, panel experts insisted.

“We have to very much, very specifically, very purposefully build a culture of adoption,” Dr. Christie said. “It has to be seen as yet another way that God matches children with their parents.”

“We all have a duty to practice this kind of radical hospitality” and “welcome the stranger,” Kirk said. And today’s stranger is the unwanted child in danger of abortion, she added. “Every couple is called to think about what they’re doing to help the orphan, to help the widow.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean that all couples must adopt a child, however.

For instance, Tina Andrews is CEO of ADORE Children and Family Services, which is a “therapeutic foster care agency” for children who have been neglected or abused. For prospective parents, she promotes “fostering to adopt,” where couples must undergo 40 hours of training and be involved in a foster parent support group before they can be paired with a child. ADORE monitors the placement of the child even after the family takes them in.

Many parents may “want a child,” she said, but they lack the parenting skills or the necessary support system for a child, and so her group looks to make sure that the fit will be the right one.

However, promoting adoption may be as simple as “educating people about the reality of what contemporary adoption looks like,” Kirk said.  Now, a mother has more power to choose the family she will place her child with, and this growth in culture should be talked about.

Dr. Christie said that while going through the adoption process, she was struck by the fact that adoption mirrors God’s relationship with us.  

“In bringing joy to others, in redeeming others” through adoption, “we allow ourselves to be redeemed in the process,” added Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin, resident research fellow at the Tikvah Fund.

“We need to live by example in this area,” he said of pro-lifers. “I think it’s a cultural change that needs to happen.”

 

Here's what Pope Francis and Justin Trudeau talked about

Vatican City, May 29, 2017 / 10:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a private audience which focused on religious freedom as well as reconciliation with native people of Canada.

According to a brief May 29 communique from the Vatican, Pope Francis and Prime Minister Trudeau conversed on the topics of integration and reconciliation with indigenous people, as well as religious liberty and current ethical issues.

In their 36-minute meeting which the Vatican described as “cordial,” they touched on the positive bilateral relations between the Holy See and Canada, “along with the contribution of the Catholic Church to the social life of the country.”

Afterward “in the light of the results of the recent G7 summit, attention turned to various matters of an international nature, with special attention to the Middle East and areas of conflict,” the communique stated.

During the visit, Trudeau extended an invitation to Pope Francis to visit the country of Canada, during which time he could bring the Church’s apology for harm done to indigenous people in Canada in the mid-19th through 20th centuries when 150,000 children from native tribes were forced to undergo “enculturation” to the state through attendance at residential schools.

Some 6,000 children died in the schools and though they were state-owned, a number were managed by Catholics. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which ran from 2008-2015, called for action on 94 points, one of which was an apology from the Catholic Church.

In 2009, Benedict XVI did apologize for the Church’s participation in the system during a meeting with the head of the Canadian National Assembly, Phil Fontaine, showing “his pain and anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the Church,” adding that “acts of abuse can never be tolerated by society.”

The Prime Minister's spokesman, Cameron Ahmad, said Trudeau’s main agenda for the conversation with Francis was reiterating the open invitation to the Pope to come to Canada and for “reconciliation” with the indigenous communities on this point.

Ahmad also said that other important topics for Trudeau included the climate, religious and ethnic diversity – such as interreligious dialogue – and immigration.

At the end of the meeting, the Pope gave Trudeau a medallion symbolizing forgiveness, joy and mutual acceptance. It also references the scripture passage from Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

Francis also gave him a copy of his environmental encyclical Laudato Si, as well as copies of his 2015 Apostolic Exhortation on the family “Amoris Laetitia” and his 2013 exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium.”

Along with the three customary documents, the Pope also gave the prime minister a copy of his message for the 2017 World Day of Peace, which he signed, just like the one he gave to U.S. President Donald Trump during their meeting last week.

For his part, Trudeau gifted Francis a copy of “Relations de Jesuits du Canada,” a rare 6-volume edition that documents the Jesuits’ reports on Canadian territory, and a Jesuit vocabulary in a special edition.

The meeting was not Trudeau’s first visit to the Vatican. A Catholic, he met St. John Paul II in 1980 during the papal meeting of his father, former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau with the pope.  
 
Afterward, Trudeau met with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.

Absent from Trudeau’s agenda for the audience were any topics related to life-issues, particularly that of euthanasia. Assisted suicide was legalized by the federal government in Canada on June 17, 2016. It now falls to the local provinces to reform the medical system to be in conformity with the new laws.

Canadian bishops from the provinces of Ontario and Quebec met with Pope Francis recently for their ad limina visits in April and the beginning of May. During the meetings the bishops all expressed concerns regarding the threat to freedom of conscience in relation to euthanasia’s legalization.

Holy Cross priest tapped as bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee diocese

Vatican City, May 29, 2017 / 05:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday the Vatican announced Pope Francis’ appointment of Fr. William “Bill” A. Wack to be the next bishop of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida.

A member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, a religious order of priests, Bishop-elect Wack succeeds Bishop Gregory L. Parkes, who was appointed Bishop of St. Petersburg, Florida by Pope Francis on Nov. 28, 2016 and installed on Jan. 4, 2017.

Fr. Thomas O’Hara, C.S.C., Provincial Superior of the United States Province of Priests and Brothers of the Congregation of Holy Cross, said that they are delighted at the selection of Fr. Wack to serve as bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee.

“Bishop-elect Wack is 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,” he said May 29.

Blessings on my Holy Cross brother and friend, @pt_diocese Bishop-elect Bill Wack @FrWack #SpesUnica pic.twitter.com/mLFerqkhtK

— Fr. Dennis Strach (@DennisStrachCSC) May 29, 2017 He said Fr. Wack, who has served as pastor of St. Ignatius Martyr parish in Austin, Texas since 2009, “has been a blessing” to the people there and will “no doubt be a blessing to all in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee.”

“As his brothers in Holy Cross, we are proud of him and are united with him in prayer as he assumes this important responsibility in our Church.”

Austin Bishop Joe S. Vásquez said in a statement May 29 that he received the good news of Pope Francis’ appointment “with joy” and offered his prayers for Bishop-elect Wack and the faithful of Pensacola-Tallahassee.

“I know the faithful of Pensacola-Tallahassee are excited to receive their new shepherd. Father Wack is an exemplary priest who is well-respected by his brother priests and loved by those he serves,” he said.

“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.”

Bishop-elect Wack, 49, wrote on Twitter after the announcement that in his life he has never wanted to be anything but a Holy Cross priest, but “because God called (through Pope Francis) I can only say, ‘Here I Am.’”

Pope Francis is a pope of many surprises. I just didn't think that I would be one of them! #blessed

— Fr. Bill Wack, CSC (@FrWack) May 29, 2017 Fr. Wack was born on June 28, 1967 in South Bend, Indiana. He studied government at Holy Cross College, eventually receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend in 1990.

He also did ecclesiastical studies at Notre Dame and received a diploma in Executive Management from the school in 2002.

Entering the seminary at Notre Dame in 1985, he professed his solemn vows in the Congregation of Holy Cross on August 28, 1993. He was ordained a priest in the congregation the following year on April 9, 1994.

Fr. Wack’s brother, Fr. Neil Wack, is also a Holy Cross priest.

During his formation, Fr. Wack was involved in ministering at detention centers, a prison, homeless shelters, AIDS Services of Austin, and among the people of the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota.

After his ordination, the bishop-elect served as parochial vicar of Sacred Heart Parish in Colorado Springs, Colo. for three years.

From 1997-2002 he was Associate Director of Vocations for the Congregation of Holy Cross and he was a member of the administrative council of Holy Cross Associates from 1998-2002.

He was also a member of the Caritas of the Diocese of Phoenix from 2003-2008.

Since 2009 he has been the pastor of St. Ignatius Martyr Parish in Austin, Texas. He served as a member of the Austin Diocesan Advisory School Board from 2010-2016 and was Vice President of the Presbyteral Council of the diocese and Dean of the Austin Central Deanery.

Bishop-elect Wack speaks both English and Spanish.

This is the first laundry with Down syndrome workers in Latin America

Concepción, Chile, May 28, 2017 / 04:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Three years ago the Church in Chile launched “Lavandería 21,” a new work inclusion project for people with Downs syndrome, whose results today far exceed what was hoped.

It all began in 2012 when the Archbishop Fernando Natalio Chomali Garib of Concepción learned of this successful initiative in Europe and the United States, and so he decided to organize one in his archdiocese.

Thus was opened in 2014 “Lavandería 21” – which takes its name from the third copy of chromosome 21 which causes Down syndrome.

“It is a unique project in Latin America,” Paula Abarzua, a special ed teacher and part of the team in charge of the laundry, told CNA.

Abarzua explained that the project began with 11 young people and currently there are 15, in addition to six others who now work at the Archdiocese of Concepción or the Betania Retirement Home.

There are two work shifts, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Customers include clinics, hotels, and buses.

As regards the work process, Abarzua said that “the guys are the ones who sort out, separate, weigh the laundry, and load the machines.”

“Also, when the washing process is over, they remove the laundry and put it in the dryer. After that it goes on to be ironed and folded.”

Abarzua has been working with the young people since the project started and said that “they've changed a lot.”

“They now feel more autonomous, independent, the fact they receive their salary increases their sense of self worth a lot,” she said.

In addition, “the personal growth, the maturity they've gained and the commitment to their work is very satisfying for us here. They value their work.”

For Abarzua “the fact that we're under the Church's wing shows that it is really committed to the issue of inclusion and it ought to be an idea that is replicated throughout the world.”

Our task is to make the Gospel accessible, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, May 28, 2017 / 04:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the Feast of the Ascension, Pope Francis said that when Jesus rose into heaven, he entrusted his Church with the great and dignified responsibility of spreading his Word and making it accessible to everyone.

In addition to signaling the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus’ Ascension reminds us of his constant assistance and that of his Spirit, “who gives strength and security to our Christian witness in the world,” the Pope said May 28.

The Holy Spirit “reveals to us why the Church exists: she exists to announce the Gospel” he said. “Only for that. And also, the joy of the Church is to announce the Gospel.”

Francis said the Church includes all faithful that have been baptized, who today “are invited to better understand that God has given us the great dignity and responsibility of announcing it to the world, of making it accessible to humanity.”

“This is our dignity, this is the greatest honor of the Church!” he said.

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Regina Coeli address, which is prayed during the Easter season instead of the Angelus.

In his brief speech, the Pope said Jesus’ ascension into heaven signaled the end of his own earthly ministry, and the beginning of the Church’s mission.

“From this moment, in fact, the presence of Christ in the world is mediated by his disciples, by those who believe in him and announce him,” he said, adding that this mission will last “until the end of history and will enjoy every day the assistance of the Risen Lord,” who promised to be with his disciples “until the end of the age.”

Jesus’ constant presence, he said, “brings strength in persecution, comfort in tribulation, support in situations of difficulty that the mission and the announcement of the Gospel encounter.”

As the Church throughout the world turns their gaze toward heaven, where Christ ascended and is seated at the right hand of the Father, Christians must strengthen their own steps so as “continue with enthusiasm and courage our journey, our mission of bearing witness to and living the Gospel in every environment,” the Pope said.

However, he cautioned that this mission doesn’t depend on human efforts, resources or our ability to organize, because only the “light and strength” of the Holy Spirit makes it possible to “effectively fulfill our mission of making Jesus’ love and tenderness more known and experienced.”

Pope Francis then asked for Mary’s intercession in becoming “more credible” witnesses of the Resurrection, and led pilgrims in praying the Regina Coeli.

After the prayer, voiced his closeness to Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II following the May 26 attack on buses carrying Coptic Orthodox en route to St. Samuel the Confessor monastery in Minya.

Gunmen who stopped the buses opened fire, killing 29 and injuring at least 22 others, including children. The attack marked the latest act in a string of violence against the community in recent months.

In his comments to pilgrims, Pope Francis prayed for the Coptic Orthodox community in Egypt after undergoing “another act of ferocious violence.”

“The victims, among whom were also children, are faithful who were going to the shrine to pray, and were killed after they refused to deny their Christian faith,” he said, and prayed that God would “welcome into his peace these courageous witnesses, and convert the hearts of the violent.”

He also voiced his sorrow for the May 23 terrorist attack on the Manchester Arena in England, killing some 22 people, most of whom were youth who had be enjoying a concert by popular teen artist Ariana Grande.

Francis prayed for the victims of the “horrible attack,” which left many young lives “cruelly shattered,” and voiced his closeness to the families and “all who mourn the deceased.”

Finally, the Pope noted that the day also marks World Day of Social Communications, which this year holds the theme “Fear not, for I am with you: Communicating Hope and Trust in our Time.”

Social networks, he said, “offer the opportunity to share and disseminate the news in an instant; this news can be good or bad, true or false.” He prayed that communications, in every form, would be “constructive, at the service of the truth by refusing prejudices, and spread hope and trust in our time.”

Denver to provide lockers for city's homeless

Denver, Colo., May 27, 2017 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In response to Denver's large homeless population, the city is providing lockers for the homeless to place their belongings so they can take better advantage of local outreach programs.

If the homeless are worried about where to place their belongings and “don't have access to safe, secure storage and those are all your possessions in the world,” then they aren't going to utilize available resources said Julie Smith, a spokesperson from Denver Human Services, to the Denverite May 23.

Ten storage units were added to a street downtown, where many homeless shelters are located. Smith explained the containers will hold about as much stuff as will fit into a shopping cart, and can be reserved for 30 days with the option of an additional 30 day renewal. The sidewalk lockers cost about $3,000 for each installment.

Teaming up with the Saint Francis Center, Denver is also planning on adding 200 more storage spaces at the organizations employment service center, located near the city's capital building. The contract between the city of Denver and the Saint Francis Center will start on June 1 and with $130,000 for the first year of storage space. After that, the center will then be given $100,000 a year if the contract continues.

Smith said the pilot program will measure the use and frequency of the storage systems, and will reassess in year. However, she said in order to access these lockers the person must be actively involved in one of Denver's many homeless services.

Denver's Road Home has over 20 community based organizations aiding thousands of homeless people to find a job, skill train, long term and short term shelters as well as providing food and clothing. According to their website, nearly a thousand people were provided with housing last year.

Part of Denver's many programs is the Saint Francis Center, an Episcopal ministry serving homeless and ex-offenders. It was established in 1983 and has since developed career services and a housing program. An additional program providing permanent lower income housing will be made available in 2017 or 2018.

In 2015, the center served an average of 811 people per day, distributed nearly 90,000 units of clothing, and facilitated jobs for just under 400 people.

Colorado has a large homeless population, and it has increased by over six percent between 2015 and 2016, according to an annual report by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Over 10,000 people were considered homeless in 2016, and less than one third of that do not have a shelter.

Pope Francis: Jesus intercedes for us – every day, every moment

Genoa, Italy, May 27, 2017 / 09:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the feast of the Ascension in Genoa Saturday, telling faithful that Jesus never leaves us alone and is constantly praying and interceding for us to the Father.

“Jesus is truly with us and for us: in heaven, he always shows the Father his humanity, our humanity,” the Pope said during his May 27 day trip to Genoa.

He noted in the day’s Gospel from Matthew, before he ascends into heaven, tells his disciples, “all power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

This power and strength “connect heaven and earth,” Francis said, explaining that when Jesus ascended into heaven “our human flesh crossed the threshold of heaven: our humanity is there, in God, forever.”

A keyword that can be used to describe Jesus’ strength and power, he said, is “intercession,” because “Jesus intercedes for us with the Father every day, every moment. In every prayer, in every request of ours for forgiveness, above all in every Mass, Jesus intervenes.

Pope Francis offered Mass to conclude his trip to the Italian diocese of Genoa, which is guided by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, who just finished his term as president of the Italian Bishops Conference, and has been replaced by Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, archbishop of Perugia.

After arriving to the city, Francis immediately had back-to-back meetings with members of the working force in Genoa, with the diocese’s bishops, priests and religious, and with youth, giving off-the-cuff responses to questions asked in each encounter.

He then had lunch with some 100 poor, refugees and prisoners before stopping by the city’s pediatric hospital and making his way to Kennedy Square to offer Mass before heading back to Rome.

In his homily, the Pope said the ability to intercede isn’t just a task Jesus carries out, but is also one that he has entrusted to the entire Church. Each of us has the power to pray for others, he said, asking: “Do I pray? Do we, as a Church, as Christians, exercise this power bringing people and situations to God?”

“The world needs it. We ourselves need it,” Francis said, noting that for many people, their days are spent running between work and various commitments. The risk with this, he said, is that “we can get lost, close in on ourselves and become restless about nothing.”

In order to avoid this, he said we have to “throw the anchor to God,” entrusting to him the burdens, people and situations we deal with on a daily basis.

“This is the strength of prayer, which connects heaven and earth, which allows God to enter into our time,” he said, noting that prayer isn’t something we do to find peace or internal harmony for ourselves, but is an active intercession to God.

“It’s not tranquility, it’s charity...It’s to put yourself into play to intercede, insisting assiduously to God for each other,” he said, adding that prayerful intercession is “our first responsibility,” because it gives us the strength to go forward.

“This is our power: not to prevail or to cry out louder, according to the logic of the world, but to exercise with strength the meekness of prayer, with which wars can be stopped and peace obtained.”

A second keyword from the Gospel that shows the nature of Jesus’ strength and power is “announcement,” Pope Francis said, pointing to the moment when Jesus invites his disciples to “go forth and make disciples of all nations.

This is “an extreme act of trust in us,” the Pope said, noting that Jesus believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. He sends us out despite our shortcomings, knowing that “we will never be perfect and that, if we wait to become better to evangelize, we will never start.”

However, one thing that is important to overcome right away is “closure,” he said, insisting that “the Gospel cannot be locked up and sealed, because the love of God is dynamic and wants to reach everyone.”

“To announce, then, means moving, going out of ourselves,” Francis said, adding that with the Lord, “we cannot be quiet, accommodated in your own world or nostalgic for memories of the past; with him it is forbidden to lay down in the securities acquired.”

For Jesus, security is moving forward with trust and confidence. Because of this, he prefers “discomfort and constant revivals” to ease and comfort.

“(Jesus) wants us going out, free from the temptations of contenting ourselves when we are doing well and when we have control,” the Pope continued.

Pointing to Jesus command to “go,” Francis said this going out “into the world” is something the Lord still asks of us today, and which “belongs to the Christian identity.”

A Christian is never stationary, but constantly moving with the Lord and with others, Francis said, but cautioned that this doesn’t mean a Christian is a runner that tries to beat others to the finish line.

Instead, a Christian is a pilgrim and a “hopeful marathonist,” who is meek, faithful, creative and enterprising, while also being decisive, active, respectful and open, he said.

Pope Francis closed his homily telling faithful to imitate the disciples, and bring the announcement of the Good News to “the streets of the world.”

Jesus, he said, “wants the announcement to be carried with his strength: not with the strength of the world, but with the clear and gentle strength of joyful testimony. This is urgent.”

He urged faithful to pray for the grace “to not fossilize ourselves” by getting caught up on things that don’t matter, but to work concretely for peace and the common good.

“Let us put ourselves into play with courage, convinced that there is more joy in giving than in receiving,” he said, adding that “the Lord is alive and risen, who always intercedes for us, whether in the strength of our going, or the courage our path.”

In Genoa, Pope challenges workers, religious and youth

Vatican City, May 27, 2017 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis paid a visit to the Italian diocese of Genoa, where he had lengthy Q&A sessions with youth, the city’s working class, and their bishops, priests and religious, challenging them and offering anecdotes to modern problems.  

After landing just around 8a.m. local time May 27, the Pope was greeted by Genoa’s archbishop, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, who just finished his term as president of the Italian Bishops Conference. He was replaced by Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, archbishop of Perugia.
 
Once he left the airport, Francis immediately went to a warehouse where he met with the city’s workers. Afterward, he met the diocese’s bishops, priests and religious at the city’s cathedral before heading to a special shrine where he spoke with youth.

In each of the meetings Pope Francis responded to questions, taking his time to respond well to each of their concerns.  

After the meetings, he is slated to eat lunch with the poor, refugees and prisoners before greeting sick children at the Pediatric Gianna Gaslini Hospital. The Pope made a phone call to the hospital earlier this week to tell the children that he was coming to see them, and assured them that Jesus is always with us difficult moments.

Established in 1931, the hospital is linked to the University of Genoa and is considered as one of the most prestigious children’s hospitals in Europe. It has formally recognized as a scientific institute for research, hospitalization and healthcare.

After greeting the children, Pope Francis will head to the city’s Kennedy Square to celebrate Mass before returning to Rome.

Workers

In his audience with the workforce, Francis responded to four questions: one from an entrepreneur, the head of a company, who asked for a word of encouragement in his responsibilities; two questions from workers on how to recover from the economic crisis and how to avoid careerism and foster fraternity, and one question from an unemployed woman who asked how to stay strong despite challenges of not having consistent work.

In his responses, Francis said that in the world today, work today is “at risk,” because “it’s a world where work isn’t considered with the dignity it has and gives.” Work, he said, “is a human priority,” and because of this, “it’s a Christian priority, and also a priority of the Pope!”

Speaking inside a warehouse, the Pope said he wanted to meet with them there because the Church is where the people are, “in your places of work, in the places where you are.”

In his response to the first question, the Pope said, “there is no good economy without good businessmen,” adding that they are “the figure of a good economy,” since society functions well when there are honest and caring people in charge.

He cautioned against the temptation to do one’s work well just because they get paid to do it, saying this mentality is an injustice to the working system, “because it negates the dignity of work, which begins with working for dignity, for honor.”

On the other hand, a good boss “knows his workers, because he works beside them, with them,” the Pope said. “Let’s not forget that a businessman above all must be a worker. If he doesn’t have this sense of the dignity of work, he won’t be a good businessman.”

The Pope then warned against the temptation to solve problems in a company by firing people, explaining that a person who does this “is not a businessman, he is a commercialist. Today he sells his employees, tomorrow he sells his own dignity.”

“A sickness of the economy is the progressive transformation of workers into speculators, profiteers,” he said, adding that “workers must absolutely not be confused with profiteers,” because they are different things.

Profiteers, he said, “eat” people, leaving the economy abstract and “without a face.” In addition, laws intended to help the honest then end up penalizing the honest and profiting the corrupt.

He also warned the workers against competition in the workplace, calling it “an anthropological and Christian error,” as well as an “economic error,” since it forces people to work against each other.

Too much competition destroys the “fabric of trust” that binds every organization, he said, noting that when a crisis arrives, “the company implodes” because there is no longer a sense of collegiality uniting it.

Francis then issued a stern warning against the “non-virtue” of meritocracy, referring to the political philosophy that power ought to be invested in individuals solely based on their abilities and talents.

This attitude “denatures” the human being and creates inequality, he said, explaining that under this mentality the poor are faulted for their disadvantage and the rich are “exonerated.”

On the economic crisis, Francis noted that with unemployment, there often come illegal contracts and inhumane working conditions.

He noted that he's heard of people who are forced into working 11 hours a day for just 800 euro a month, or they who are paid illegally under the table with no contract or benefits.

In these cases, work becomes about survival, he said, noting that while this is part of it, work is about “much, much more,” because by working, “we become more human,” since we participate in God’s act of creation.

“Work is man’s friend, and man is work’s friend,” he said, explaining that there are few joys greater than what one experiences in a good and healthy workplace, and there are fewer sorrows greater than when work harms, exploits or even “kills” people.

He pointed to the societal paradox that there is an increasing number of people who are unemployed but want to work, and fewer and fewer people who work too much and want time off.

This is based on the logic of consumption, Francis said, calling it “an idol of our time” that eventually leads us to worship “pure pleasure,” rather than appreciating the value of “fatigue and sweat,” which are the backbone of work.

Bishops, Priests and Religious

Pope Francis opened his nearly 2-hour conversation with bishops, priests, religious and seminarians by leading them in a moment of silent prayer for the victims of yesterday’s attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt, that killed 28.

After then reciting a Hail Mary for the deceased, the wounded and their families, the Pope took four questions on how to maintain a good spiritual life daily, how to keep the charism of an order fresh as time passes, how to foster priestly brotherhood and what to do about the current vocational crisis.

When it comes to having a good spiritual life, the Pope said two things are essential: a constant encounter with God through prayer, and being close to the people.

He noted that the world today is constantly “in a hurry,” and that it’s often difficult to take time to be with people and listen to their problems and concerns. But this doesn’t mean being inactive, he said, adding that “I am afraid of static priests.”

Priests who are obsessed with structure and organization are better “businessman” than pastors, he said, noting that they might pray and celebrate Mass, Jesus himself was “always a man on the street,” in the midst of his people and “open to the surprises of God.”

There’s a certain tension between these two extremes, he said, but urged consecrated people to “not be afraid of this tension,” because it’s a sign of “vitality” and movement.

He told priests to be flexible in their prayer, always seeking a true encounter with God, and urged them to allow themselves to “get worn out be the people,” and not to “defend your own tranquility,” since Jesus himself prioritized relationships with the people, yet always set aside time to be with his Father.

When it comes to fostering a stronger sense of brotherhood among priests, the Pope said that first of all this means letting go of “that image of the priest who knows everything,” and who doesn’t need the input of others.

Self-sufficiency does a lot of harm to a consecrated person, he said, and asked the priests and religious how many times during a meeting they stop paying attention to what a fellow brother or sister is saying, and let their minds go “into orbit” with other things.

Even if what the other person says isn’t necessarily of immediate interest, it’s important to pay attention, he said, explaining that each person “is a richness.” He told them to look for moments to pray together, go for lunch or play sports together, which all help to form stronger ties.

He also warned against “murmuring” and “jealousy,” noting that at times when he reviews information collected on possible candidates for bishops, “you find true calumny or opinions (that) devalue the priest.”

To speak poorly of a brother is to “betray” him, Francis said, and warned, as he often does, about the dangers of gossip and the importance of forgiveness.

When it comes to keeping charisms fresh, the Pope emphasized the importance of staying attached to the concrete realities of a diocese or project.

While a congregation might be “universal” in the sense that it has houses throughout the world, the “concreteness” of involvement in the diocese helps give the order “roots,” allowing it to remain and also to grow as they see different needs come up.

On the vocational crisis, Francis immediately pointed out the low birthrate in Europe, particularly Italy, saying the lack of vocations is also tied to the “demographic problem” that people don’t want to get married or have children.

“If there are no young men and women, there are no vocations,” he said, explaining that while this is not the only reason for the crisis, it’s something that must be kept in mind.  

He also stressed the importance of looking critically at what is happening in the world and posing the question: “what is the Lord asking right now?”

“The vocational crisis is affecting the entire Church,” including the priesthood, religious life and even marriage, he said, noting that many young couples don’t want to commit themselves to the vocation of marriage, but instead prefer to cohabitate.

Given the widespread nature of the crisis, “it’s a time to ask ourselves, to ask the Lord, what must we do? What must we change?” he said, adding that “to face problems is necessary, (but) to learn from problems is obligatory.”

His words have a special resonance given that the next Synod of Bishops, set to take place in October 2018, will address the topic: “Young People, Faith and the Discernment of Vocation.”

Francis cautioned against the temptation of “conquest” when it comes to filling empty convents and seminaries, stressing that true vocational work “is hard, but we must do it.”

“It’s a challenge, but we must be creative,” he said, and emphasized the importance of bearing personal witness through the living of one’s own vocation, which “is key” to showing youth how rewarding a life offered for Christ and others can be.

Youth

In a meeting with youth at Genoa’s Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Guard, he also took questions from four youth, two boys and two girls, telling them he wouldn’t give them “pre-made answers,” but personal answers.  

In their questions, the youth asked how to be a missionary in the face modern challenges; how to go beyond modern distractions and love those in difficulty and crisis around us; how to have a strong spiritual life, and how to have sincere relationships in a culture of indifference.

Francis said that being a missionary above all “means letting yourself be transformed by the Lord.”

“Normally when we live these activities, we are joyful when things go well, and this is good, but there is another transformation that you don’t see, it’s hidden and is born in the lives of all of us,” he said, adding that to be a missionary “allows us to learn how to look, how to see with new eyes.”

He told the youth to stop being “tourists,” many of whom come to the city and take pictures of everything, but “don’t look at anything.”

“To look at life with the eyes of tourists is superficial...it means I don’t touch reality, I don’t see things as they are,” he said, noting that going out on mission helps us to go beyond the superficial and “draw near to the heart of another."

It also destroys hypocrisy, he said, explaining that for adults, but especially for youth to have this attitude, “is suicide. Understand? It’s suicide.”

Accepting Jesus’ invitation to me a missionary, he said, helps us to look at each other in the eye and purifies us from seeing the Church divided into the “good” and the “bad.”

He said that to respond to the needs of people in difficulty – the poor, migrants, homeless and unemployed – we must first of all “love them. We can’t do anything without love.”

No matter how many projects we set up or are involved in, it’s useless without love, he said. The Pope explained that whenever he can he likes to ask people, when they give to the poor, if they “touch the hand of the person” they give to, or if they pull back immediately.

Love, he said, is the ability to take hold of the “dirty hand” and to look at people in situations of drugs, poverty and hardship, and to say that “for me, you are Jesus.”

Pope Francis said focusing on the person who has been wounded and excluded, rather than their situation, is part of “the madness of the faith,” and of the announcement of Jesus.

He told the youth to never ignore people or “make the person into an adjective,” calling them a “drunk,” because they are a person with a name. “Never make people into adjectives!” he said, adding that “God is the only one who can judge, and he will do it in the Final Judgement for each one of us.”

Giving advice for how to have a strong spiritual life, the Pope tied his answer to the city’s link with boaters and sailors, telling them that if they want to be a good disciple, “you need the same heart as a navigator: a horizon and courage.”

“If you don’t have a horizon...you will never be a good missionary,” he said, and warned against the distractions new media technologies can bring.

“You have the opportunity to know everything with new technologies, but these information technologies make you fall into a canal many times, because instead of informing us, the saturate us,” he said. And when you are saturated, the horizon “gets closer and closer” and soon “you have a wall in front of you.”

When this happens, the horizon is lost as is the ability to contemplate, he said, and told the youth to take time to contemplate and make good decisions, instead of “eating” whatever is put in front of them.

He also urged the youth to question what has become almost routine in today’s “normal culture.” He asked if it was normal that “so many migrants come from far away, bloodied by a selfishness that leads to death” end up living in difficulty in foreign countries. “Is it normal that the Mediterranean has become a cemetary?”  

Instead of just accepting that this is the norm, he told them to ask themselves: “is this normal, or is this not normal?” and to always “have courage to seek the truth.”

At the close of his meeting with youth, Francis offered a special greeting to prisoners of watching the meeting via television before heading to lunch with poor, refugees, homeless and prisoners from Genoa.

In Iraq, necessity makes priests become engineers

Rome, Italy, May 27, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Priests in Iraq are helping reconstruct around 13,000 homes in the Plain of Nineveh which have been damaged or destroyed by ISIS so that Christians will have a place to come back to.

To accomplish this, the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has created a Commission for the Reconstruction of Nineveh.  

Besides celebrating Mass, the priests also serve as surveyors and obtain electric service and materials for the reconstruction of homes. The first work is being done in places that ISIS occupied for a short time and where there is not a lot of material damage.

One of the members of this project is Fr. Georges Jahola, a Syrian Catholic priest from Qaraqosh.

The priest told ACN that “here in Iraq if the Church doesn't do these things, who's going to do them? We have the capacity to act and do the talking, and also the contacts.”
 
The reconstruction of the Plain of Nineveh includes five Chaldean Christian villages: Badnaya, Karamlesh, Telleskof, Bakofa and Telkef, located in the eastern part.

Fr. Salar Boudagh, another member of this initiative, said that $7,000 is needed to renovate a lightly damaged home. To restore a burned home costs $25,000 and to reconstruct a totally destroyed home runs $65,000.

“We have begun the reconstruction of Telleskof and Bakofa, because there damage to the homes is not too serious, as opposed to what is happening in Badnaya where 80 percent of the homes are destroyed,” the priest said.

“Before the arrival of the Islamic State 1,450 families lived in Telleskof, 110 in Bakofa, 950 in Badnaya, another 700 in Telkef and 875 in Karamlesh,” said Fr. Boudagh, who is also the Vicar General of the Chaldean Diocese of Alqosh.

“For these families, the first condition to return to their villages is security.”

The priest emphasized that “our area, the eastern part of the Nineveh Plain, is controlled by a Christian security force, the Zeravani, who are guaranteeing us 100 percent security. It's an official militia which is paid by Kurdistan.”

In Qaraqosh, 6,327 houses  of Syrian Catholics and 400 homes of Syrian Orthodox Christians must be rebuilt.

Fr. Jahola explained that after the liberation of Qaraqosh from the control of the jihadists, an operation which took place in November and December of 2016, 6,000 houses in the city were photographed. These were divided into sectors and classified according to the level of damage.

“There are very damaged or totally destroyed homes that would would need to be rebuilt from the ground up, burned homes or hit by a missile that can be restored, and finally, there are homes partially damaged the we can renovate with little means,” he said.   

“When we began we had a team of 20 volunteer engineers; now we have 40 and some 2,000 workers ready to begin work. We're optimists, since electric service is slowly being restored throughout the city,” Fr. Jahola said.

US bishop says Trump budget at odds with Catholic, American ideals

Louisville, Ky., May 26, 2017 / 05:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The former head of the US bishops decried President Trump's budget plan, claiming its cuts to social services conflict with both the Catholic faith and American principles.

“Whether through Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps or foreign aid, our nation has recognized that our worth is judged by how we treat the most vulnerable among us,” Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky said in a May 24 article published by Courier-Journal.

“The concept is shared by many religions and has become part of the ethos of the United States.”

President Trump issued 2018’s budget proposal, “The New Foundation for American Greatness,” on Tuesday. The proposal would defund many aid programs benefiting the poor, the environment, and the foreign aid, drawing outcry from organizations like Catholic Charities and Catholic relief services.

The budget proposes 4.1 trillion dollars for 2018, with budget cuts expected to affect nearly $19 billion in global aid according to Reuters.

Catholic leaders have applauded that federal funding will be redirected from Planned Parenthood to women's health centers that do not perform abortions. But they lament the decrease in funding to US charitable programs.

“Our church has always said that we fulfill our responsibility to the poor not only through personal charity, but also through our support for just governmental policies,” Archbishop Kurtz said.

“The work of these agencies to serve the most vulnerable people depends on both private contributions and public support.”

Archbishop Kurtz, who served as president of the U.S. Bishops' Conference from 2013-2016, discussed the benefits of foreign aid, especially to schools which provide both food and education.

“Right now in many developing countries, hundreds of thousands of kids get a nutritional meal every day at school … Sometimes that’s the reason they go to school. It’s a win-win situation: They get fed, and they get educated. They benefit. Their country benefits.”

He continued to give the example of Thomas Awiapo, who went to school solely because he was hungry. Receiving an education, he now works at Catholic Relief Services providing similar relief to other children.

After his father died, Awiapo was forced to live with his extended family. The family was already struggling with food, including family members who died from malnutrition. He then saw his friend returning from school with sorghum, a grain often used to feed US cattle. Attending school, he worked was able to receive food and education, and eventually he received his master’s in public administration.

The programs not only work, said the archbishop, but are part of U.S. history and serve to affirm the inherit dignity of the person. He expressed hopes that Congress would consider this and reject the proposal.

The budget cut would affect both Catholic Relief Services, an international aid program established in 1943, and Catholic Charities, a national relief program established in 1910. The programs rely on funding from private and public donations.

A budget cut for the next 10 years will decrease funding to national welfare programs by over $270 billion and $72 billion to disability programs in order to prepare for the increase in national defense.

Included in the proposal is an additional $54 billion to US military funding and $2.7 billion to immigration control. Military funding will have a total of $639 billion. Over $44 billion will go towards the Department of Homeland Security and nearly $28 billion to the Department of Justice.