Browsing News Entries
Posted on 05/23/2017 23:38 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., May 23, 2017 / 04:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Trump administration’s decision to allow 50,000 Haitian earthquake victims to remain in the United States prompted gratitude from the U.S. bishops’ conference, which stressed the need for continued work to aid Haitians here and in their home country.
“While this extension is helpful, it still leaves many Haitian families in the United States in an insecure and vulnerable position, particularly with respect to ensuring legal work authorization,” Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, said May 23.
The Department of Homeland Security’s decision extended the Obama administration’s protections for Haitians who had arrived in the U.S. within a year of the massive 2010 earthquake. They may remain with work authorizations until January 2018.
Sources in the department told Reuters that Secretary John Kelly of the Department of Homeland Security believes that conditions in Haiti are improving, but Haitians in the U.S. still need protections.
At the same time, there is no commitment to extending protections past January. Officials recommended that Haitians with temporary protective status begin seeking travel documents to return to Haiti.
In a May 23 letter to Secretary Kelly, Bishop Vasquez said that extending temporary protective status serves an important humanitarian role by promoting the safety and stability of Haitian families in the U.S.
“We encourage our government to work proactively with the Haitian government to provide life-saving aid and recovery assistance,” he said. “Haiti will continue to struggle to receive back those who are temporarily protected, even those who may be returned in the near future.”
The bishop said that Catholic service networks in the U.S. will continue to aid Haitian families and the rebuilding process in Haiti. These networks will also look for opportunities to collaborate with the Church in Haiti and with the U.S. and Haitian governments.
The earthquake killed an estimated 220,000 people and affected over 3.5 million more.
Temporary protected status may be provided to citizens of countries that are suffering from severe violence, disease and natural disasters. At present countries designated for that status include Sudan, Somalia, Syria, El Salvador, Nepal, and Yemen, Reuters reports.
Posted on 05/23/2017 22:18 PM (CNA Daily News)
Rome, Italy, May 23, 2017 / 03:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When U.S. President Donald Trump stops in Rome for a meeting with Pope Francis Wednesday, both his wife Melania and daughter Ivanka will have their own schedules, which include stops at a Vatican hospital and a round-table on human trafficking.
Ivanka serves in her father's administration in an unpaid position as an assistant to the president.
Pope Francis and Donald Trump will meet at the Vatican May 24 at 8:30 a.m., before the Pope’s General Audience. Melania and Ivanka will both be present for the public portion of the visit, but will each follow their own itinerary after.
Once the meeting is finished, the First Lady will a visit the Vatican-owned pediatric hospital Bambino Gesu. During her tour of the facility, Melania is expected to greet patients and visit one of their playrooms as well as the chapel.
While Melania visits Bambino Gesu, Ivanka, a high-profile adviser to her father, will make her way to the Roman neighborhood of Trastevere to meet with the Community of Sant’Egidio to discuss efforts to oppose human trafficking.
The Sant’Egidio Community is often praised by Pope Francis for their work, in particular for the projects they lead aimed at helping the poor and refugees.
During her meeting with Sant’Egidio, Ivanka is expected to meet with several women who are victims of trafficking, and discuss various ways in which the Church and the U.S. government can collaborate on the problem.
Before leaving with her father on his first international tour, Ivanka hosted an anti-human trafficking round-table at the White House May 17 that hosted a swath of bipartisan lawmakers and representatives of numerous organizations that deal with human trafficking.
According to reports, during the discussion Ivanka spoke about the Trump administration’s efforts to combat trafficking not only in the U.S., but throughout the world, telling attendees that “combatting human trafficking and modern slavery is both a moral and strategic interest domestically and abroad.”
That particular round-table was a follow-up to a February discussion on the same topic, which was also organized by Ivanka. At the time, according to reports, President Trump said he would use the “full force and weight” of the U.S. government to fight human trafficking.
Both stops highlight key priorities for Pope Francis, who after his election in 2013 personally requested that the Pontifical Academy of Sciences study the issue of human trafficking. As a result, the institution has held at least two symposiums or conferences on the topic each year.
Francis has also mentioned several times that he is bothered by the suffering of children, saying it is one of life’s mysteries that he still fails to comprehend.
Posted on 05/23/2017 18:19 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, May 23, 2017 / 11:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Women who are consecrated to God live “the prophecy of joy,” and this authentic joy is their most credible witness, Pope Francis told leaders of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master on Monday.
“The world today is in need of this: that joy that arises from the encounter with Christ in a life of personal and community prayer, in daily listening to the Word, in the encounter with brothers and sisters, in a happy fraternal life in the community, including fragility, and in the embrace of the flesh of Christ in the poor. Prophets of a joy that is born of feeling loved and therefore forgiven,” he said May 22.
“Joy is a beautiful reality in the life of many consecrated persons, but it is also a great challenge for all of us,” he said, adding “authentic joy, not self-referential or complacent, is the most credible witness of a full life.”
The Pope addressed an audience of sisters gathered in Rome in recent weeks for the 9th General Chapter of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master. The general chapter has elected its new superior general and other leaders.
He emphasized his point about joy, saying “this joy that fills your hearts and manifests itself on your faces will lead you to go out to the peripheries, participating in the joy of the Church, that is evangelization.”
“But to do this there must be a true joy, not counterfeit joy. Do not falsify joy. Evangelization, when you are convinced that Jesus is the Good News, is joy and gladness for all. This joy drives away the cancer of resignation, fruit of the lethargy that withers the soul,” he added.
He voiced hope that the sisters’ lives shall bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit, the master of diversity and unity. He encouraged them “to tirelessly weave unity in legitimate differences, taking account also of the fact that you are present in different countries and cultures.”
Pope Francis advocated a cultivation of care and reciprocal acceptance; practicing fraternal correction and respect for weaker sisters, and “banishing from the community all divisions, envy, gossip; saying this with frankness and charity.”
The Sister Disciples of the Divine Master were founded in Italy 1924 by Blessed Fr. Giacomo Alberione and Mother Scholastica.
The Pope noted the sisters’ mission of “bringing to the men and women of our time the Gospel,” particularly through liturgical service and caring for priests.
He encouraged them to cultivate dialogue and communion with other charisms and “to combat any form of self-centeredness.”
“It is ugly when a consecrated man or woman is self-centered, always looking at him or herself in the mirror. It is ugly,” he said.
He also encouraged them to show the fruits of communion with “the men and women of our time.”
“Our God is the God of history and our faith is a faith that works in history. In the questions and expectations of the men and women of today, we find important indications for our discipleship of Christ,” the Pope said.
He encouraged the general chapter to listen to the sisters of the congregation and to contemporary men and women.
“Never tire of exercising continually the art of listening and sharing,” he said. “In this time of great challenges, which demand of consecrated people creative fidelity, impassioned research, listening and sharing are more important than ever before, if we want our life to be fully meaningful for ourselves and for the people we meet.”
Pope Francis said this practice requires “a climate of discernment, to recognize what belongs to the Spirit and what is contrary to Him.”
“Before us there opens up a world of possibilities,” he said. “The culture in which we are immersed presents all of them as valid, all of them as good, but if we do not want to fall victim to the culture of ‘zapping’ and, at times, a culture of death, we must increase our habit of discernment.”
He encouraged the sisters to ask two questions at both the personal and community level: “Lord, what do you want me to do? What do you want us to do?”
The Pope warned against the dangers of a spirit of resignation, suggesting that the devil might tempt them by citing their small numbers or their few vocations and otherwise do what he can to make them have long faces.
“I encourage you also to be prophets of hope, with eyes turned to the future, where the Spirit pushes you, to continue to do great things with you,” he said. “The hope that does not disappoint is not based on numbers or works, but on Him, for Whom nothing is impossible”
“With this trust and this strength I repeat to you: do not join the prophets of misfortune, who do great damage to the Church and to consecrated life; do not give in to the temptation of torpor – like the Apostles in Gethsemane – and desperation,” he said.
“Awaken the world, illuminate the future! Always with a smile, with joy, with hope,” the Pope concluded. “May Mary our Mother protect you with her gaze, and the Lord bless you, show you His Face, and grant you peace and mercy.”
Posted on 05/23/2017 12:46 PM (CNA Daily News)
Los Angeles, Calif., May 23, 2017 / 05:46 am (CNA).- To a pitcher, a little situation like bases loaded, full count and trying to protect a one-run lead in the late innings is no big deal — not if you’ve been doing this since you were 8 years old.
And not if, like St. Bonaventure High School pitching star Jessica Gomez, you’re aiming for a career in pediatric nursing, where matters of life and death will mean something a lot different than they did on a softball field.
And certainly not if, like this senior scholar-athlete, you are a lifelong Catholic who believes Christ is present in every part of your life, which is why she chooses to serve others, willingly and joyfully.
“As someone who’s been raised Catholic, I’ve always been involved in service activities,” said Gomez, who tutors kids with learning disabilities and helps serve the hungry through the Many Meals feeding program at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Ventura. “It just really touches me when I encounter the love of Christ through service.”
That’s one reason Gomez was named an archdiocesan Christian Service Award recipient for 2017, and why she’s headed for the nursing program at Villanova University.
“Nursing is a healing occupation, and it’s the kind of ministry I really feel drawn to,” said Gomez. “I’ve always felt a call to help and serve wherever I can, plus I’m interested in science, and the nursing program at Villanova seems like a wonderful opportunity.”
This week, Gomez - who has posted a 27-14 won-lost mark, 2.27 earned run average, and .302 batting average - will lead her St. Bonaventure team into the CIF-Southern Section softball playoffs. The Seraphs finished 16-8 and shared the Tri-Valley League title with Fillmore, made possible when Gomez tossed a three-hit, 11-strikeout, 5-0 win over Fillmore in the regular season finale.
“I respond well under pressure,” she said with a smile. “I have a very competitive nature, and my drive to win influences me when I get into tough situations. I enjoy the challenge of coming through in tight spots - which I’m hoping will serve me well in nursing.”
Those “tight spots,” she adds, are eased through prayer. In fact, the Seraphs as a team take a quiet moment before each game “to ask God for freedom from injury, the strength to play well and, if it’s in God’s will, for victory. And we really try to play the game the right way, to practice good sportsmanship and to be charitable and respectful, on and off the field.”
That attitude carries into off-the-field service projects. Gomez, her coaches and her teammates have visited a nearby youth correctional facility, meeting and talking with the female inmates “on how we have tried to deal with and adapt to challenges and struggles in our lives. Mainly, we want them to know that someone cares about them.”
As student body vice president, Gomez takes seriously her role as a leader, in class and on the softball diamond, and tries to impart “positive messages” to younger students and teammates, just as others did for her.
At Our Lady of the Assumption - which she, parents Bill and Candace and older brother Joseph (a sophomore at Georgetown) have attended since she was in sixth grade - Gomez enjoys another form of service, through singing in the Life Teen band that leads music at Sunday evening liturgies, “which is really fun and a wonderful way to connect with God and the community.”
Soon, Gomez will head back east to begin her next adventure at Villanova, a journey she anticipates with typical open-mindedness and determination.
“It’s a little scary,” she admitted, “but I’m excited by the opportunities in front of me. And I know that God is going to be with me every step of the way.”
This article originally appeared at AngelusNews.com, the news website for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Posted on 05/23/2017 11:16 AM (CNA Daily News)
Manchester, United Kingdom, May 23, 2017 / 04:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After what has been deemed a terrorist attack killed 22 people – mostly youth – at a theater in Manchester Monday night, local Bishop John Arnold condemned the act, saying there is no justification for such violence.
“The citizens of Manchester and members of the Catholic community are united in condemning the attack on the crowds at the Arena. Such an attack can have no justification,” Bishop Arnold said in a May 23 statement via the diocese’s Twitter account.
In a series of tweets, he thanked the emergency services “for their prompt and speedy response which saved lives. We join in prayer for all those who have died and for the injured and their families and all affected by this tragedy.”
The bishop stressed that “we must all commit to working together, to help the victims and their families and to build and strengthen our community solidarity.”
Bishop Arnold, who oversees the Salford diocese that includes Manchester, made his statement in response to an attack which took place at Manchester Arena Monday night at the end of a concert by American pop artist Ariana Grande, who is popular among teens.
A bomb exploded in the foyer of the arena May 22 around 10:30 p.m. local time, as concertgoers were beginning to leave. At least 22 are dead, including children, and almost 60 are injured, according to reports.
The lone attacker was also killed in the blast, police say. He is believed to have been carrying an improvised explosive device, which he detonated to cause the explosion, according to Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, although authorities have not yet confirmed any concrete link between the attacker and the terror group.
In a May 23 telegram addressed to victims and signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the injury and tragic loss of life caused by the barbaric attack in Manchester.”
The Pope voiced his “heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this senseless act of violence,” and praised the “tremendous efforts” of the emergency responders and security, offering his prayers for the wounded and those who died.
“Mindful in a particular way of those children and young people who have lost their lives, and of their grieving families,” the Pope invoked God’s blessings “of peace, healing and strength upon the nation.”
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, head of the Archdiocese of Westminster in London, sent a letter to Bishop Arnold May 23 expressing his condolences for the attack.
“It was with great sorrow that I heard the media reports of last night's atrocity, in Manchester,” he said. “May God welcome into His merciful presence all who have died. May God turn the hearts of all who commit evil to a true understanding of His desire and intention for humanity.”
“I assure you, and all those you serve, of the prayers and condolences of your brother bishops in England and Wales,” he said, adding that “We, too, mourn this loss of life. We pray for the eternal repose of all who have died.”
The Diocese of Salford announced that Bishop Arnold would say a special Mass for the victims May 23 at 12:30 p.m. at St. Mary’s Church, which is the Catholic Mother Church of Greater Manchester. Another Mass will be held at the Salford cathedral at 7 p.m. local time.
In a May 23 statement immediately following a meeting of the government's emergency committee, Cobra, UK Prime Minister Theresa May called the bombing “a callous terrorist attack” that targeted “some of the youngest people in our society with cold calculation.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the families and friends of all those affected,” she said, noting that the attack is “among the worst terrorist incidents we have ever experienced in the United Kingdom.”
“All acts of terrorism are cowardly attacks on innocent people,” May continued, but said the arena attack stands out “for its appalling, sickening cowardice, deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives.”
Although he’s traveling abroad, U.S. President Donald Trump said during a joint appearance with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Tuesday, that the “wicked ideology” of terrorism “must be obliterated.”
“I extend my deepest condolences to those so terribly injured in this terrorist attack, and to the many killed and the families, so many families, of the victims.”
“So many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their lives, murdered by evil losers in life,” he added. “I won't call them monsters, because they would like that term, they would think that's a great name. I will call them, from now on, losers, because that's what they are.”
The attack is the worst Britain has seen since a bombing on the London transport network on July 7, 2005 killed 52 people.
This article was updated at 2:00 p.m. local time in Rome with comments from a telegram sent by Pope Francis.
Posted on 05/23/2017 10:13 AM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., May 23, 2017 / 03:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Leading U.S. bishops have expressed serious concerns with President Donald Trump’s reported budget proposals for the 2018 fiscal year, noting among other fears that the proposals would decrease funding for diplomacy efforts while increasing military spending.
“The human consequences of budget choices are clear to us as pastors,” leaders of various committees of the U.S. bishops’ conference wrote to members of Congress in a May 19 letter.
“The moral measure of the federal budget is how well it promotes the common good of all, especially the most vulnerable whose voices are too often missing in these debates,” the bishops continued.
President Trump’s budget proposal for FY 2018 – to be released on Tuesday – will reportedly make deep cuts to Medicaid and other programs, and would eliminate entirely some programs that are tailored toward low-income persons, while increasing military spending and immigration enforcement funding.
Food stamps could see $193 billion in cuts over a decade, according to the AP. Farm subsidies could also be cut.
Leading bishops wrote members of Congress on May 19 saying that proposals in the budget would be “profoundly troubling.”
The signatories included Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, head of the committee on pro-life activities; Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, chair of the committee on international justice and peace; Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, chair of the domestic justice and human development committee; and Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the migration committee.
Especially troubling, the bishops said, are the increases to military spending, when the U.S. already outspends all other countries in this area, and cuts to foreign assistance and diplomacy at a time when conflicts around the world threaten to destabilize whole regions.
The Syrian civil war, for instance, has displaced more than 11 million and created almost six million registered refugees.
“Our nation should elevate diplomacy and international development as primary tools for promoting peace, regional stability and human rights, not adopt deep cuts to these budgets,” the bishops wrote.
The U.S. already spends more on its military than at least the next seven countries combined, according to estimates from the fact-checking website PolitiFact.
When considering hikes to defense spending, the U.S. should remember that just wars can only be waged as a “last resort” and “within strict moral limits of proportionality, discrimination and probability of success,” the bishops emphasized.
Also, they added, the U.S. must exercise gratitude toward the members of the military and remember “the stress of repeated deployments over the years.” The bishops reminded Congress that they have “repeatedly called for robust diplomatic efforts to end longstanding conflicts in a range of countries, including Syria and Iraq.”
“It is hard to reconcile the need for diplomacy and political solutions with significant cuts to the State Department budget,” the bishops wrote.
And cuts to foreign international aid programs might not only hurt the poor, but could pose threats to the security of areas afflicted by war, drought, and famine, as well as to U.S. national security, they added. Famine has already been declared in South Sudan, and famines could be breaking out soon in three other countries.
The bishops maintained the legitimacy “of reducing future unsustainable deficits that would harm all citizens,” yet insisted upon “a comprehensive approach” to reduce deficits and not one that cuts only in certain areas while increasing spending in others.
“A just framework for sound fiscal policy cannot rely almost exclusively on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons,” they wrote.
“The Catholic Bishops of the United States stand ready to work with leaders of both parties for a federal budget that reduces future deficits, protects poor and vulnerable people, and advances peace and the common good,” the letter concluded.
Posted on 05/23/2017 10:04 AM (CNA Daily News)
Denver, Colo., May 23, 2017 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With plans for the first human head transplant surgery looming in the next year, a lead doctor on the formidable project has high hopes for the procedure.
Along with the aim of finding a new body for a yet-to-be-selected patient, the physician says that the surgery – as a first step toward immortality – will effectively disprove religion.
But Catholic critics have called into question not only the ethics of such a risky procedure, but the dubious claim that such a development would render belief in God irrelevant.
“The actual trying of the surgery at this point I think would be unethical because of the tremendous risk involved, and it is an unproven surgery,” Dr. Paul Scherz, assistant professor of moral theology and ethics at The Catholic University of America, told CNA.
Sherz made his remarks following the news that Italian doctor Sergio Canavero is aiming to carry out the first human head transplant surgery within the next 10 months. It's a process Canavero hopes will pave the way for the process of transplanting cryogenically frozen brains – and ultimately, in his view, to the eradication of death.
Canavero serves as director of Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group and has teamed up with Harbin Medical Centre and Doctor Xiaoping Ren, an orthopedic surgeon who was involved with the first successful hand transplant in the U.S. The first surgical attempt for the head transplant is expected to take place in China, where the group says they're more likely to find a donor body.
Cryonics involves the freezing of the brain or even the whole body of patients, with expectations that future science will have the means to restore the frozen tissue and extend life.
Because conscious minds will have experienced “life” outside of death, Canavero said the surgery would then remove the fear of death and the people's need for religion. He said if the process succeeds, “religions will be swept away forever.”
However, Sherz responded that even if the surgery was a success, it would not disprove the Catholic faith.
“There is nothing in the Catholic tradition of how we understand the soul that would think that if you moved a head or moved the brain that that wouldn’t allow the person to come back to life,” he said.
Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group has already claimed that a successful head transplant has been carried out on a monkey, but not all scientists agree that the operation can be recorded as a success.
Before the monkey's head was stitched back together, it was removed, cooled, and the blood of the transplant body was cross circulated with an outside source. Canavero and his group claimed the supply of blood was then connected to prove the surgery succeeded without brain damage, but the spinal cord was left unattached.
How the connected blood supply proves the surgery is possible without brain damage was not described, and many bioethicists are skeptical of the publication of the surgery's success without proper peer review and of the issues around the severed spine.
Because the technology has not yet been developed, the bioethicists worry that the severed spine may never be reconstructed, leaving the patient worse off than before.
Despite the pervasive belief in the surgery's failure, Canavero claims there's a 90 percent chance that the human head transplant will succeed. And not only that, its success would allow humans to “no longer need to be afraid of death.”
Father Tad Pacholczyk, who serves as a bioethicist for the National Catholic Bioethics Center, disagreed with Canavero's definition of being “brought back to life.”
He said to assume death as a necessary product of either the head surgery or brain surgery is gullible and mistaken, as there is potential for the patient to be merely unconscious.
“The patient undergoing the head transplant is not dead, only unconscious,” he told CNA. “There is not any 'bringing back to life'…There is merely a restoration of consciousness, briefly lost during the movement of the head from one human body to the other.”
Scherz also said that the Church accepts an intimate and mysterious relationship between soul and body, and that the procedure's success wouldn't necessary disprove the soul or religion.
“Our neurological tissue has important part to play in our soul…The soul is always intimately related to the body. We are not just souls that are disembodied, right? We are embodied spirits or spirited bodies.”
Most physicians agree that the proposed surgery's success rate is infinitesimal, and they've questioned the morality of a procedure that's doomed to fail – and the unrealistic hope life extension projects could give to people.
“I am concerned that the rights of vulnerable patients undergoing cryonics cannot be protected indefinitely,” Dr. Channa Jayasena, a lecturer in Reproductive Endocrinology at Imperial College in London, told the Telegraph.
Cryonics, she said, “has risks for the patient, poses ethical issues for society, is highly expensive, but has no proven benefit.”
And the hope for immortal life, Scherz weighed in, isn't a realistic desire in a fallen world. “Living forever in bodily form is not going to satisfy anyone,” he said.
“If the goal is not to help someone to get back bodily movement or things like that, but to try to live forever on this earth, then I think if you really want to get over the fear of death then you will have to come to terms with the fact that we are mortal.”
“That what's going to help you to live a better life because you are going to be willing to give your life to things like service.”
In fact, he said that people in transhumanist movements have admitted they would most likely avoid risky behavior in order to preserve their lives.
“If life extension projects come into being there is so much more to lose – and you committed yourself to trying to live on this earth for as long as possible, which stands in contrast to the Catholic tradition and a lot of the philosophical traditions,” Scherz noted.
Posted on 05/23/2017 07:32 AM (CNA Daily News)
Bridgeport, Conn., May 23, 2017 / 12:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The leader of the nearly 2 million-member Knights of Columbus recently spoke about the importance of his group's fidelity to Pope Francis, as well as his hopes for a successful upcoming meeting between the Roman Pontiff and U.S. president Donald Trump.
In a new interview, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson touched on these topics as well as his organization's commitment to persecuted Christians, problems with how some media treats issues within the Church, and what the Knights make a priority in their charitable giving.
The organization recently celebrated its 135th anniversary at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn., the church where Fr. McGivney founded the Catholic fraternity that now has 1.9 million members worldwide.
Please read below for CNA's full interview with Carl Anderson:
The Pope will be meeting the United States president this week; what should people expect from that meeting?
The pope has made clear that he is seeking common ground with the president, and I would assume the president will do the same. Some in the media focus only on the differences between the thinking of these two men, but, there is also much common ground on issues like abortion, religious liberty, persecuted Christians and human trafficking.
In what ways have the Knights worked with Pope Francis over the past few years?
From our earliest days, the Knights of Columbus has always been loyal to the Holy Father. We have a wonderful relationship with Pope Francis and have helped sponsor a number of conferences and projects with the Vatican during his tenure on topics including relief work in Haiti, the Church in America, and the continental Jubilee of Mercy. I’ve had the privilege to meet with Pope Francis privately each year and to review with him our priorities and new initiatives. Each time, I’ve come away deeply inspired by his love for the poor and those on the margins of society.
We see supporting the pope, his ministry and his charitable endeavors as central to who we are as an organization. I have repeatedly told our K of C leaders to take his words to us as our agenda, and I’ve personally assured him he can count on our support.
What are the main causes the Knights support?
We support causes large and small, but our primary focus over the past two years has been helping Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East who were targeted by ISIS. Because these communities are so small, they are too often overlooked by U.S. Government or UN aid programs and risk disappearing. We also have been supporting clean water projects in Africa, inspired by Laudato Si, and we just finished a project to improve the energy efficiency of our headquarters.
Two of the projects I’m very proud of are our work in Africa to educate and support AIDS orphans, many of whom are themselves HIV positive, and our efforts in Haiti to provide artificial limbs to children who lost their legs because of the earthquake there.
Also, at the local level, our members accompany their fellow parishioners and the members of their communities, supporting their needs in ways large and small. From food programs, to housing and clothing programs, to disaster relief, when people need us, we are there.
We also strongly support the right to life. Laudato Si section 120 states that without opposition to abortion, defending the rest of the vulnerable is increasingly difficult: “Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.”
In our country today, abortion takes more lives each year than any other cause of death. But we certainly don’t focus all our charity efforts on beginning-of-life issues. For example, we continued to give away more than 80,000 new winter coats and more than 8,000 wheelchairs in 2015, and we are constantly engaged in tens of thousands of projects around the world to help clothe, feed, shelter and meet other pressing needs of our neighbors. Last year we gave away $175 million and 73.5 million hours to charitable causes. We also support the Vatican and national bishops’ conferences in numerous ways, including in the defense of religious liberty, especially – but not only – when assaults on religious liberty also implicate the lives of the most vulnerable among us.
How dire are things for the Christians in the Middle East and why did you choose that issue?
For the first time in nearly 2,000 years, we are reaching a point where Christians could literally cease to exist in a country like Iraq. The situation is incredibly dire, and in the next few days, we will be announcing a new initiative to help stabilize these communities because there is a real concern that they will not survive. We have been providing assistance with food for thousands of families, we have provided funding for medical clinics, for apartment buildings, rental assistance, clothing, education, etc. But even more is needed. We simply cannot allow Christianity and pluralism to be eliminated from this region by those using terrorism and genocide to achieve their ends.
I am among the many who hope that the meeting between the pope and the president this week in Rome may include breakthrough solutions and closer cooperation between the American government and its aid programs and the Church to help ensure that these people survive, and that ISIS’ goal of eliminating religious minorities is not realized. As at least one commentator has also pointed out, no two organizations are more critical to surivival of these people than the U.S. government and the Vatican.
In terms of how we chose this issue, it came naturally to us, since the Knights of Columbus has been concerned about religious persecution throughout our history. We spoke up for Catholics being persecuted in Mexico in the 1920s, for Jews being persecuted in Germany in the 1930s, for people of faith being persecuted in the Cold War, and now, for these victims of ISIS.
You also mentioned your pro-life work. There have been some real advances in that area recently - what trends do you see?
We have seen some great strides in this area over the past months including moves to stop the taxpayer funding of abortion including via the Mexico City Policy. Appointments to the court and several cabinet positions are also very pro-life and this is very heartening as well.
As our polling shows, support for abortion restrictions is bi-partisan. For example, 70 percent of Democrats and 94 percent of Republicans support banning taxpayer funding of abortion abroad. In addition, about 6 in 10 Democrats, 7 in 10 Independents and 9 in 10 Republicans support substantial restrictions on abortion, and would limit it – at most – to the first three months of pregnancy.
Practicing Catholics are united in support for abortion restrictions in overwhelming numbers as well.
Some may see abortion as a political or divisive issue, but that does not mean that it is. And we do not see or intend our opposition to it as political. For us it is a matter of morality and values.
In fact, it is my fondest hope that both of our country’s major parties would embrace a pro-life platform. If that were to happen, the issue could cease to be seen as partisan, and voters could move on to other issues. We’ve been working on this for more than four decades, with nearly 60 million abortions since Roe v Wade. The scandal is that too many Catholics in public office have refused to take action to protect unborn children. As Catholics we are called to build a culture of life and that certainly includes more than abortion. But I do not see how it is possible to build a culture of life with public officials who insist on maintaining a legal regime that results in a million abortions a year.
I have personally voted for pro-life candidates of both parties. Those who criticize our pro-life work as partisan miss the fact that far from being partisan, it is consistent with our help of the defenseless and marginalized. It exactly fits with Pope Francis’ statements in Laudato Si and also in Evangelii Gaudium, where he stated in section 213: “Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative. Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development.”
How can we help poor individuals and families, the intellectually disabled, and refugees from ISIS and ignore the unborn? It's not possible. We are talking about a million lives each year that are lost, and that demands our attention.
The same outlook applies to our work in defense of religious freedom – in which we have been supported by Pope Francis. This isn’t a new – or political – endeavor for us. It is the defense of a fundamental right that we have engaged in for more than a century.
What is your opinion of how the news media covers the Church today?
Pope Francis, in his book, On Heaven and Earth, was very hard on the media. He pointed out that too often the media tries to generate conflict and misinforms. He said: “Today, there is misinformation because only part of the truth is said, only what interests them is taken for their convenience, and that does a lot of damage because it is a way of favoring conflict.”
We see this with some reports leading up to his meeting with the president. Some push what they see as points of conflict, ignoring the points of common ground.
Unfortunately, in this country too, we frequently see reporting focused on advancing a political agenda instead of getting the facts right.
We ourselves have even sometimes had partisan reporters or commentators complain about a donation or two that we made that they don’t agree with. In such cases, they typically ignore the majority, totality and context of what we do – in other words, the literally hundreds of donations we make that they probably would support as well.
As Pope Francis said, those in the media can tell a half truth and do damage by generating conflict, and let me give you one example that really illustrates the point. A commentator recently intimated that a $1.5 million dollar donation we gave to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia a couple of years ago somehow showed sympathy to opposition to Pope Francis. Leaving aside the many ways in which that assertion is problematic on its face, in fact, exactly the opposite of what was asserted was true.
The money donated was actually in support of Pope Francis’ trip to the United States as part of the Vatican’s World Meeting of Families in that city. At best what can be said about this kind of thing is that it reflects what lawyers might call a reckless disregard of the truth.
What makes such episodes of misleading or untruthful reporting particularly sad is that it seems that often what drives this reporting is dissent or disagreement with Church teaching, not just disagreement with us. But the media should not stoop to politicizing the pope or trying to drive wedges between him and faithful Catholics who love him.
The pope is pro-life, he is in favor of religious liberty. He visited the Little Sisters of the Poor and has spoken about “polite persecution” in Western countries to underscore the importance of religious freedom. These aren’t political positions for him – or for us. They are values positions based on our Catholic faith.
It is worth noting that we support a number of Catholic media outlets – large and small – because we see the importance of quality Catholic journalism.
The Knights of Columbus is unique as a business entity. Can you talk a little about that?
Unlike non-profits that are charities with fundraising operations, the Knights of Columbus is also one of the nation’s largest – and best rated – life insurers. We have an arm that takes donations, but many of the dollars we donate come from the business side.
We were founded by the Venerable Father Michael McGivney to help provide Catholic families with support for their faith and in their financial future. The faith side is obvious, and the financial future side has grown into a Fortune 1000 insurance operation exclusively focused on our members and their families. Many people are surprised by the size of the Knights of Columbus insurance program. We sell more than $8 billion of insurance each year. We have over $106 billion of insurance in force and we have over $23 billion of assets under management. Our members have entrusted us with their hard earned cash, and they count on us to be there to provide for the future of their families.
We have a responsibility to their future, and we take this responsibility seriously on both fronts. One way that we do this is to seek to invest in ways that are sustainable, and to use Catholic screens on our investments so that we are not putting our members’ money into enterprises that run counter to our faith.
To do that, we hire top professionals to manage our business and our investments. We have about 900 employees at our headquarters in New Haven and we are one of the city’s largest private employers. Given that we are operating at such a high level in the financial services industry, while we pay our executives less than the market average, we also understand that we have to pay competitively enough to attract the caliber of talent needed to run a Fortune 1000 company and to successfully manage the financial futures of our members and their families. People’s livelihoods depend on us hiring and retaining the highly competent people able to deliver at the highest level, and our members deserve nothing less than the best professionals we can hire.
This has been our approach to the business side of the Knights of Columbus for decades. And it has worked. We have consistently received top ratings for our financial strength.
Posted on 05/23/2017 07:05 AM (CNA Daily News)
Karamlesh, Iraq, May 23, 2017 / 12:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Martin Baani was just 24 years old when he risked his life as a seminarian to rescue the Blessed Sacrament from the imminent invasion of Islamic State terrorists in his hometown.
Now, he is returning to his native village as a priest, ready to serve the people through the Eucharist.
On August 6, 2014, Baani received a call from a friend who warned that a nearby village had fallen into the hands of ISIS, and that his hometown of Karamlesh would be next.
Baani promptly headed to the San Addai church and took the Blessed Sacrament, to prevent the jihadists from desecrating it. That day, he fled in a car along with his pastor, Fr. Thabet and three other priests.
“I was the last one to leave Karamlesh, with the Blessed Sacrament in my hands,” he told the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need.
Despite threats from ISIS, Baani chose to stay in Iraq instead of fleeing with his family to the United States. He continued his studies at Saint Peter's Seminary in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
In September 2016, Baani was ordained a priest along with six other men.
Around 500 people attended the ordination, which was presided over by the Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Louis Raphael Sako.
A few months before his ordination, Baani told Aid to the Church in Need: “Every day I go to the refugee camps to accompany the families. We are Christian refugees. ISIS wants to eliminate Christianity from Iraq but I have decided to stay. I love Jesus and I don't want our history to disappear.”
Almost a year later, following the liberation of the villages of the Plain of Nineveh from ISIS control, Fr. Banni confirmed his decision to stay in Iraq in order to “serve my people and our Church.”
“Now I am happy to celebrate Holy Mass in Iraq,” he said.
Aid to the Church in Need has currently planned the reconstruction of about 13,000 Christian homes that were destroyed by ISIS.
Several weeks ago, the foundation held an “olive tree ceremony” where they delivered an olive plant to the homeowners of 105 Christian homes in the villages of Bartella, Karmalesh and Qaraqosh as a symbol of peace and reconciliation.
Posted on 05/22/2017 22:22 PM (CNA Daily News)
Mexico City, Mexico, May 22, 2017 / 03:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Mexican Bishops' Conference offered prayers for journalists as they face increased violence in their efforts to uncover truth.
“The Mexican Bishop's Conference expresses its support and solidarity with journalists throughout Mexico, facing violence attacks in the exercise of their profession,” the bishops said in a May 21 statement.
According to the international journalist advocacy group Reporters without Borders, an estimated 105 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since the year 2000. This makes Mexico the third most deadly country in the world for journalists, after Syria and Afghanistan, and ahead of Iraq.
So far in 2017 alone, six journalists have been murdered in Mexico.
The most recent was Javier Valdez, shot dead May 15 in Culiacan, Sinoloa. The journalist, a correspondent for “La Jornada” in Sinaloa, had done in-depth reporting on drug trafficking and organized crime in Mexico.
In their statement, the Mexican bishops recalled Pope Francis' words that the journalist “has a very important role and at the same time a very great responsibility.”
“Freedom, in the form of expression, is a gift bequeathed by God, so no one has the right to take it away from anyone…there is nothing to justify an attack on that freedom,” they stated.
“We join in prayer that the Lord Jesus may console and alleviate the suffering and the worries that overwhelm the entire profession that today is afraid to do its work, since we are aware that the aggression is being directed at people who are members of the media in general: reporters, cameramen, editors, bureau chiefs, managers, among others.”
The Bishops of Mexico stressed that “hatred and resentment must not be the protagonists in the history of salvation, which is why we speak out in readiness to continue working strenuously to establish peace in our nation.”
“We are aware that only through actions of solidarity is it possible to heal society,” they said.
The Mexican Bishops' Conference reiterated the commitment of the Church in the country to spiritually accompany “the families of the victims of those who have suffered attacks, extortion, kidnappings, murders, because of their reporting work, as a consequence of the social deterioration that prevails in our country.”
“Before God, no one's work is unimportant, especially when it comes to the search for and dissemination of the truth which clearly allows the Kingdom of God to be built up.”
The bishops also called on the civil authorities to ensure “that everyone can exercise their profession in freedom and security, to fight the impunity and corruption which is striking and wounding our country so much.”
“Holy Mary of Guadalupe, Queen of Mexico, save our homeland an preserve our faith,” they concluded.