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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
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Enduring devotion: the Irish immigrant who never forgot Our Lady of Knock

Sun, 05/07/2017 - 18:09

New York City, N.Y., May 7, 2017 / 04:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- “I remember it as well as I do last night.” Those were the words of an aged Irish immigrant named John Curry in 1940s New York, who had seen the apparitions at Knock, Ireland when just a boy.

Now, his remains will be re-interred at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in New York City.

“Like most of the witnesses, John Curry went on to live out his life in a quiet way, never highlighting what he experienced in Knock, unless asked to speak about it,” Father Richard Gibbons, rector of Ireland’s Our Lady of Knock Shrine, told CNA. “This shows a quiet, humble kind of faith which was characteristic of the Irish people.”
 
“He served Mass everyday right up until before his death and had an unwavering devotion to Our Lady and said that she never refused him anything that he asked for,” the priest said.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York will celebrate an 11 a.m. Mass of Thanksgiving May 13, followed by Curry’s reburial on the church’s grounds in Manhattan.

The apparition took place on the evening of Aug. 21, 1879 in the presence of fifteen men, women, and children, mainly from the village of Knock in County Mayo. They ranged in age from 5 to 74 years old.

Some of the witnesses reported figures that appeared to be the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and St. John at the parish church’s gable wall. Amid luminous lights, they saw the figure of a lamb and a cross on an altar.

Curry’s older cousin, Patrick Hill, was at the vision too. He placed the young boy on his shoulders so he could see.

In the pouring rain, the witnesses stayed, praying the rosary.

When the Church launched an official inquiry in October 1879, young John Curry’s testimony was among the fifteen official witness testimonies. His first account is brief.

“The child says he saw images, beautiful images, the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph,” said the document, posted on the Knock shrine’s website. “He could state no more than that he saw the fine images and the light, and heard the people talk of them, and went upon the wall to see the nice things and the lights.”

Years later, in a 1936 letter to Fr. Dan Corcoran, who was then curate of Knock Parish, Curry said of the event: “I remember it as well as I do last night.”

Curry reaffirmed his testimony before a second Church inquiry held in New York in 1937. He described the figures:

“It appeared to me that they were alive, but they didn’t speak. One of the women there, Bridget Trench, kissed the Blessed Virgin’s feet and tried to put her arms around the feet but there was nothing there but the picture. I saw her do that. The figures were life-size and I will remember them till I go to my grave.”

Fr. Gibbons said the apparition took place at a troubled time for Ireland. Land reform efforts had provoked heated controversy and even violence, while scattered famines recalled the fearful times of Ireland’s Great Hunger.

This is the background of the traditional prayer: “Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland, you gave hope to your people in a time of distress and comforted them in sorrow.”

“Our Lady of Knock was, and continues to be an icon of hope, forgiveness and compassion for all,” Fr. Gibbons said, calling the reburial “a wonderful opportunity” to recognize Curry.

“He, like many others at the time, was forced to emigrate in search of work and was unable to travel home again.”

Curry had emigrated to New York in 1897 at the age of 25, then was in London in 1900 before returning to the U.S. in 1911. He worked as railway laborer near Milwaukee, then moved to New York in the 1920s and worked an attendant at the City Hospital on what is now New York’s Roosevelt Island.

He never married.

When his health began to decline, he moved to live with the Little Sisters of the Poor on Long Island.

Not until shortly before the second inquiry began did he tell the sisters that he was one of the witnesses to the apparition at Knock.

Late in life, Curry would recount the stories of the apparition and of serving Mass for Archdeacon Bartholomew Cavanaugh, the parish priest of Knock. Just before the apparition began, the priest had completed a series one hundred Masses for the souls in Purgatory whom the Virgin Mary wished to be released.

Curry died in the care of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Manhattan in 1943, aged 69. He was buried in an unmarked grave at Pine Lawn Cemetery in Long Island. Curry’s cousin, Patrick Hill, passed away in Boston in 1927 at the age of 60.

The modern-day rector of the shrine, Fr. Gibbons, spoke about Curry’s unmarked grave to Cardinal Dolan when the cardinal led a 2015 pilgrimage to Knock.

Initially, he asked the cardinal to help bless the grave when a gravestone was provided.  The cardinal then offered to bring Curry’s remains to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. When this proved impossible, the grounds of the historic cathedral was chosen.

Fr. Gibbons said Knock is extremely grateful to the cardinal for his support and encouragement. In an unusual reversal, 130 pilgrims will be flying from Knock to New York City. Their numbers include some of Curry’s relatives.

Tom Beirne, a New York resident who is co-chairing the reburial committee, told CNA the reburial means that Curry “will finally get the recognition that he so greatly deserves at this point.”

He suggested that the reburial and focus on Our Lady of Knock would increase Marian devotion, combined with the centenary of the Marian apparition known as Our Lady of Fatima.

Beirne said Our Lady of Knock has continuing significance to Irish-Americans. He pointed to the St. Patrick’s Day Mass with Cardinal Dolan at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, when the singer Cathy Maguire sang “an amazing rendition” of  Dana Rosemary Scallon’s song “Our Lady of Knock”, which went viral on the internet.

Beirne said that St. Patrick's Old Cathedral is “hugely significant” to the Irish community and the Irish-American Catholic fraternity the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which is assisting in the reburial.

“Archbishop John Hughes, ‘Dagger Hughes.’ called on the Ancient Order of Hibernians to physically defend St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral on a couple of occasions against the planned destruction by Nativists and the ‘Know Nothings’,” he said.

The group and its counterpart, the Ladies’ Ancient Order of Hibernians, host an annual pilgrimage to the Our Lady of Knock Shrine in East Durham, New York.

Today, Knock is the National Marian Shrine of Ireland and hosts the largest pilgrimage in the country. The shrine is surrounded by gardens with five churches.

“Pilgrims often comment on the great sense of peace that they experience here,” Fr. Gibbons said.

The National Novena to Our Lady of Knock takes place Aug. 14-22 every year, bringing guest speakers, workshops for pilgrims, and a candlelight rosary procession around the shrine grounds each evening.

Nancy Pelosi suggests more Democratic openness to pro-lifers

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 15:53

Washington D.C., May 5, 2017 / 01:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Debate continues over the Democratic Party's acceptance of pro-life members, voters and politicians, as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made comments signaling that she is open to them.

The San Francisco Democrat cited her own childhood in a “very Catholic family” in an Italian-American sector of Baltimore.

“Most of those people – my family, extended family – are not pro-choice. You think I'm kicking them out of the Democratic Party?” she told the Washington Post May 2.

She said that the Democrats were united by “our values about working families,” suggesting that Democrats' perceived rigidity on issues like gay marriage and abortion helped elect Republican Donald Trump as president. She cited the fact that the passage of the 2010 health care law was possible only after securing assurances it would not fund abortion.

About three in ten Democrats think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, the Pew Research Center has said.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America criticized Rep. Pelosi, telling the Washington Post “encouraging and supporting anti-choice candidates leads to bad policy outcomes that violate women's rights and endanger our economic security.”

Hogue praised the 2016 Democratic Party platform, saying “it didn't just seek to protect abortion access – it sought to expand it.” She said the party “can't back down” if it wants to regain power.

Support for pro-life Democrats became a subject of debate within the party in mid-April, when former Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez publicly supported the Democratic candidate for mayor of Omaha, Neb., Heath Mello.

Pro-abortion rights activists criticized the endorsements, noting Mello's support for abortion restrictions in the Nebraska legislature and his opposition to some taxpayer funding of abortion.

The abortion rights advocacy group NARAL harshly criticized Perez and Sanders, calling their support for Mello “politically stupid.”

Amid the controversy, Mello said that as a Catholic his faith “guides my personal views” but “as mayor I would never do anything to restrict access to reproductive health care.”

In response to the political debate, Perez said there was no place for pro-life advocates in the party.

“Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman's right to make her own choices about her body and her health,” he said, adding “this is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.”

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, told CNA in late April that Perez’s move was “stunning to see.”

“Pro-life Democrats are deeply concerned about this extreme position that the Democratic Party has taken and this non-negotiable position,” she said.  

In her recent interview, Pelosi told the Washington Post she thought abortion is “kind of fading as an issue.”

At the same time, she pointed to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D-Penn.), who ran as a pro-life Democrat.
“Bob Casey – you know Bob Casey – would you like him not to be in our party?” she said.

While Casey has described himself as pro-life, he has also opposed an end to funding abortion provider Planned Parenthood through federal contraception programs.

His father, Bob Casey, Sr., was a governor of Pennsylvania who was denied a speaking spot at the 1992 Democratic National Convention when he sought to present a report critical of the party’s platform on abortion that declared “reproductive choice” to be a fundamental right.

Ahead of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, then-Speaker of the House Pelosi attempted to justify her position in favor of abortion on Catholic grounds. Her attempt was rebuked by then-Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput.

Kansas City archdiocese breaks ties with Girl Scouts

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 08:01

Kansas City, Kan., May 5, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas announced this week a halt to their involvement with Girl Scouts USA, and an eventual transfer of their support to alternative scouting programs.

“With the promotion by Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA) of programs and materials reflective of many of the troubling trends in our secular culture, they are no longer a compatible partner in helping us form young women with the virtues and value of the Gospel,” stated a May 1 announcement from Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas.

“I want to express my appreciation for the many extraordinary Girl Scout leaders of the archdiocese who have served so many so well. We look forward to having as many of them as are willing to join us in leadership roles as we take this new step,” he continued.

In January, Archbishop Naumann asked his parishes to begin transitioning support from Girl Scouts USA to alternate programs. This shift is becoming effective in the 2017-2018 kindergarten class throughout Kansas City archdiocese parishes.

The American Heritage Girls is the preferred alternative, as well as the Little Flower Girls Club.

“Pastors were given the choice of making this transition quickly, or to, over the next several years, ‘graduate’ the Scouts currently in the program,” stated Archbishop Naumann.

“American Heritage Girls, a program based on Christian values, we believe is a much better fit for our parishes.”

Over the past few years, Girl Scouts USA have made some controversial shifts in their program, including contributing to organizations who support Planned Parenthood and integrating questionable material in their books.  

These changes have proved to be challenging for many organizations involved with GSUSA, including the Catholic Church. Other dioceses in the country have also distanced themselves from the Girl Scouts, including the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 2016.  

“The decision to end our relationship with Girl Scouting was not an easy one,” Archbishop Naumann said.

Over the past ten years, the Archdiocese of Kansas City has tapped into their resources to spend “hundreds of hours” researching the Girl Scout organization and spending time with current Scouts and their families.

The archdiocese additionally delved into the many concerns raised by the “disturbing content in materials and resources developed and promulgated by the national organization.”

These concerns included having Margaret Sanger, Betty Friedan, and Gloria Steinem as role models for the Girl Scouts, all of whom are known for their advocacy of both contraception and abortion.

Girl Scouts USA also contributes over a million dollars annually to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), a lobby group which funds International Planned Parenthood.

There was another controversy with some material in the GSUSA Journey manual, in which the Archdiocese of Kansas City requested – and was granted – the removal of the questionable material their books. This included “several offensive and completely age-inappropriate role models.”

“It is disturbing that such an intervention on our part was necessary,” Archbishop Naumann noted.

“We prefer to partner with youth organizations that share our values and vision for youth ministry, not ones that we have to monitor constantly to protect our children from being misled and misinformed,” he continued.

Moving forward, Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese of Kansas City are encouraged to support American Heritage Girls, a group founded in 1995 with about 20,000 members nationwide. Another recommended group is the Little Flowers Girl Club, a Catholic-based group in the US and Canada.

“To follow Jesus and his Gospel will often require us to be counter-cultural,” the Kansas City archbishop said.

“Our greatest responsibility as a church is to the children and young people in our care…It is essential that all youth programs at our parishes affirm virtues and values consistent with the Catholic faith.”

Anthony Esolen accepts post at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 02:05

Merrimack, N.H., May 5, 2017 / 12:05 am (National Catholic Register).- Anthony Esolen, the prolific Catholic scholar and author known for his distinctly Catholic worldview and translation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, has accepted a teaching position at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, severing his ties with Providence College, where he held a tenured professorship and waged a long battle for its Catholic identity.

The move marks the end of an increasingly tempestuous showdown between Esolen and Providence over the Dominican-run institution’s direction and the beginning of a new chapter for the Catholic scholar. Esolen will begin teaching courses at the New Hampshire Catholic liberal arts college starting with the fall semester. He will also begin work on Thomas More’s new Center for the Restoration of Catholic Culture.

William Fahey, president of Thomas More, told the National Catholic Register that Esolen and the college have a long-established relationship. Esolen spoke recently at Thomas More’s President’s Council Dinner, addressed students at commencement, and gave a keynote address at the annual Catholic Literature Conference in Concord, New Hampshire, co-hosted by Thomas More.

Fahey said he also has had a long personal relationship with Esolen and admires his “educational vision, his love of the Church, his engagement in the political and cultural arena.”

“And like Thomas More, he has made tremendous sacrifices and suffered for holding to his convictions,” the college president added.

Esolen’s hiring by Thomas More, Fahey said, demonstrates both the college’s commitment to “excellence in teaching” and that “a small Catholic ‘Great Books’ college can continue to attract world-class faculty.”

Esolen’s additional work on the Center for the Restoration of Catholic Culture, Fahey added, highlights the college’s mission “to wed virtue and scholarship, contemplation with cultural engagement.”

“We are following the lead of our spiritual patron, St. Thomas More,” he said. “We can engage the world, hold firmly to our faith, and retire for learned and merry conversations among friends.”

The Perils of Providence

For more than a year, Esolen had been engaged in an acrimonious and rather public debate about the true nature of diversity at Providence College, which became known as “the Esolen Affair.” Esolen had vocally criticized “diversity” being used by students and some faculty on campus to push a political agenda rooted in current events, as opposed to his support for a “cultural diversity” that also treasures the best of Western civilization.

But the public battle came to a head after Providence’s administration publicly distanced itself from Esolen, who had written an essay for Crisis Magazine entitled, “My College Succumbed to the Totalitarian Diversity Cult” (a title that Esolen said he did not write).

The administration’s public repudiation of Esolen followed upon a protest march by Providence students and a faculty petition that alleged Esolen’s articles contained “racist, xenophobic, misogynist, homophobic and religiously chauvinist statements.”

Esolen told the National Catholic Register that the turning point for him came after Providence’s president, Dominican Father Brian Shanley, allegedly refused to meet with a small group of Catholic professors intent on resolving the conflict and persuaded the Dominican provincial not to meet with them either.

Esolen explained that he could have lived with a “somewhat Catholic school that was really committed to the humanities” or “an unreservedly Catholic school where the humanities needed shoring up.” However, he concluded Providence offered neither of these options: The campus had become “highly politicized,” and the administrative decisions, to him, appeared “basically secular in their inspiration and their aim.”

“That is not to say that Providence College is lost,” he said. “There are still many excellent people there, Catholics and others who are friendly to the faith, even when they do not share it, and friendly to the humanities. But saving the school is no longer my battle.”

The public clash between Esolen’s “strong Catholic convictions” and the direction that Providence was going prompted Thomas More’s president and several trustees to meet with Esolen at a fundraising event and discuss the possibility of him leaving his tenured position to join Thomas More College.

“It was rather remarkable,” Fahey said. “After about an hour of conversation, we were all wondering why it had taken so long to come to the conclusion that Esolen’s scholarship, understanding of an integrated Catholic education, and love of traditional Catholic culture were a magnificent fit with the mission of Thomas More College.”

‘Good Cheer’ at Thomas More

In contrast to the exhaustion and isolation he experienced at Providence College, Esolen said a recent visit to Thomas More left him “full of good cheer and energy.”

“For somebody who isn’t getting younger, those can take you a long way,” he said. “They can add many years to your life as a teacher, whereas discouragement and disappointment lead to exhaustion.”

Having a community “filled with the faith,” Esolen said, strengthens his own faith. He finds it a “considerable advantage” that Thomas More has daily Mass offered outside of the class schedule, followed by lunch, “when you have a chance of sitting with anybody and everybody.”

He felt drawn to Thomas More College because the students are meant to be “surrounded by beauty and sanity,” where young men and women falling in love and getting married is celebrated – not the “rat poison of the sexual revolution, the ‘Lonely Revolution.’” He admires how the education focuses on the “whole human being, not disembodied chunks of him,” making it the kind of environment that can produce “leaders in thought, art, public affairs and the Church.”

Esolen said Thomas More College’s Center for the Restoration of Catholic Culture is a “great opportunity” for him and his family.

“It is as if they had read my mind or I had read their minds when I wrote my book Out of the Ashes: Restoring American Culture,” he said.

The Catholic scholar said he is looking forward to helping introduce freshmen to the ancient world and “how to write like human beings and not machines.”

He said he will also be focusing on producing other poetic works other than translation. One such project is tentatively called “Centuries of Grace.”

But Esolen said he intends to bring to Thomas More what he sought to bring to the students of Providence – “a love for art and poetry and the best of human wisdom, and the trust that such things can bring us into the precincts of the divine.”

He added, “Not into the sanctuary itself, but into the neighborhood. And that is no small thing that they can do.”

 

This article originally apperaed in the National Catholic Register.

 

Science, compassion, adoption – why Mike Pence says 'life is winning' in America

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 20:39

Washington D.C., May 4, 2017 / 06:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- “Life is winning in America,” U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told attendees at a pro-life gala on Wednesday evening in Washington, D.C.

“Life is winning through the steady advance of so many areas of science” that provide a glimpse at the unborn baby in the womb, the vice president said, “through the generosity of millions of adoptive families,” and “through the compassionate caregivers and volunteers at crisis pregnancy centers and faith-based organizations, who minister to women in cities and towns across America.”

“Compassion is overcoming convenience, hope is defeating despair,” he said.  

Pence delivered the keynote address at the 10th annual gala of the Susan B. Anthony List on May 3rd in Washington, D.C.

The pro-life group honored Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) with the Marilyn Musgrave Defender of Life Award, and Leonard Leo, the executive vice president of The Federalist Society, with the 2017 Distinguished Leader Award.

SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser, in a statement, praised Black’s “tireless efforts to investigate and defund Planned Parenthood, the nation’s #1 abortion business, and redirect their taxpayer dollars to real, comprehensive health care for women.”

Black sponsored a joint resolution, ultimately signed by President Trump, that nullified an Obama administration rule which pro-life leaders had called the President’s “parting gift to the abortion industry.” Black’s resolution allowed states to, once again, block clinics from receiving federal Title X grants if they performed abortions.

Vice President Pence had cast the tiebreaking vote in the U.S. Senate to ensure the passage of the resolution.

Leo, meanwhile, was credited for his work to help the Trump administration nominate Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, a pick that pro-life leaders applauded.

SBA List highlighted Pence’s past pro-life record as a U.S. congressman and as governor of Indiana, sponsoring “more than two dozen pro-life bills in the U.S. House of Representatives” as well as signing pro-life legislation into law in his state.

He also became the first sitting vice president to address the March for Life, this past January.

White House senior advisor Kellyanne Conway briefly addressed the gala attendees at the beginning of Wednesday’s event, thanking them for their help in defending human life and promising that more would be done by the administration to protect life.

Pence, in his keynote speech, emphasized that “life is winning” in many ways, including “through the quiet counsel between mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters,” he continued, “friends across kitchen tables.”

He exhorted those in attendance to carry on the work of Susan B. Anthony, known for her activism for the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage and women’s rights, and temperance. “Let us strive with all our might to finish the work that Susan B. Anthony started,” he said.

Susan B. Anthony fought against injustices, too many of which “still survive to this day,” Pence said, “and abortion is the worst of them.”

“I truly believe that we’ve come to a pivotal moment in the life of this movement, the life of our nation,” he said, asking those in attendance to “continue to stand up and speak out.”

“We need every ounce of your energy and enthusiasm,” he said. “We need your prayers.”

The recent passage of Rep. Black’s joint resolution was only “the beginning” of the fight, Pence said, and “we’re going to see that fight all the way through.”

 

Trump's executive order hailed as critical, but just a 'first step'

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 15:00

Washington D.C., May 4, 2017 / 01:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Religious freedom advocates credited President Donald Trump with taking a “first step” toward protecting religious freedom with an executive order he signed on Thursday, but stressed that there is still more work to be done.

“I thought the executive order was a great step forward,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. told CNA. “[Trump] himself says this is the first step. But it’s the beginning, and we’ve waited a long time for it.”

President Donald Trump signed a religious freedom executive order on Thursday in the White House Rose Garden, on the National Day of Prayer, with religious leaders – including Cardinal Wuerl – standing around him.

The executive order instructs government agencies to consider issuing new regulations to address conscience-based objections to federal HHS mandate, which requires employers to offer health insurance plans that fund contraception, sterilizations and some drugs that can cause early abortions.  

It also calls for a loosening of IRS enforcement of the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits religious ministers from making endorsements of political candidates from the pulpit to retain the tax-exempt status of churches.

Congressional action is required to formally repeal the law, but the executive order is an important move in ensuring that religious entities can weigh in on political issues without losing their tax-exempt status.

Attending the signing of the executive order were the Little Sisters of the Poor, plaintiffs in one of the HHS mandates case against the federal government. Trump honored two of the sisters who were present in the Rose Garden, calling them “incredible nuns who care for the sick, the elderly, and the forgotten.”

“I want you to know that your long ordeal will soon be over,” he told the sisters of their years-long HHS mandate case, and saying that his order would protect them and other religious organizations from the mandate.

“We are grateful for the president’s order and look forward to the agencies giving us an exemption so that we can continue caring for the elderly poor and dying as if they were Christ himself without the fear of government punishment,” said Mother Loraine, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

For years, the HHS mandate has been the subject of heated legal debates. It originated in the Affordable Care Act’s rule that health plans include “preventive services,” which was interpreted by President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to include mandatory cost-free coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-causing drugs in health plans.

After a wave of criticism, the government offered an “accommodation” to religious non-profits who conscientiously objected to complying with the mandate – they would have to notify the government of their objection, and the government would directly order their insurer to provide the coverage in question.

However, dozens of religious charities, schools, and dioceses still sued, saying that even with the “accommodation,” they would still be required to cooperate with – and possibly even to pay for, indirectly – the objectionable coverage. EWTN is among the organizations that have filed lawsuits. CNA is part of the EWTN family.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has defended a number of the groups suing the government over the HHS mandate, explained that the order will empower federal agencies to ensure protections for religious organizations in mandate cases.

“The agencies have everything they need to review these rules and make sure groups like the Little Sisters are protected,” Lori Windham, senior counsel with the Becket Fund, told reporters.

“We will engage with the Administration to ensure that adequate relief is provided to those with deeply held religious beliefs about some of the drugs, devices, and surgical procedures that HHS has sought to require people of faith to facilitate over the last several years,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston-Galveston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated on Thursday.

“We welcome a decision to provide a broad religious exemption to the HHS mandate, but will have to review the details of any regulatory proposals,” he added.

The new order also declared that “It shall be the policy of the executive branch to vigorously enforce Federal law's robust protections for religious freedom” and instructed the Attorney General to “issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law.”

Still, many religious freedom advocates felt that the order did not go far enough. For example, it does not offer protections for health care workers and facilities that decline to perform abortions, or adoption agencies that place children only in homes with both a mother and a father.

“Today’s executive order is woefully inadequate,” Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation stated in The Daily Signal, saying it “does not address the major threats to religious liberty in the United States today.”

It is narrower than the previous draft of a religious freedom executive order that had earlier been leaked to The Nation, but was ultimately scrapped in February. That draft had outlined religious freedom exemptions for not only religious organizations, but also closely-held for-profit businesses in many different areas, like education, health care, and employment.

Religious freedom advocates – including over 50 members of Congress, in an April 5 letter to President Trump – had hoped for broader religious protections in a new executive order.

Cardinal DiNardo noted that “in areas as diverse as adoption, education, healthcare, and other social services, widely held moral and religious beliefs, especially regarding the protection of human life as well as preserving marriage and family, have been maligned in recent years as bigotry or hostility – and penalized accordingly.”

“We will continue to advocate for permanent relief from Congress on issues of critical importance to people of faith,” he added.

Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote.org, told CNA that the order was “an important first step” toward protecting religious freedom, but more must be done.

“The substance of the order is certainly a win for groups like EWTN, Notre Dame, the Little Sisters of the Poor, but it is not everything that we hoped for,” he told CNA. “And therefore I describe it as a work in progress, in terms of the fight for religious liberty. We didn’t get into this mess in one fell swoop, and we’re not going to get out of it in one clean solution.”

He stressed the need for “protections for faith-based groups on the issue of marriage, on gender, the right of the Catholic Church to carry out its social services when they receive federal grants.”

Burch also pushed for legislative action, like the First Amendment Defense Act and the Conscience Protection Act.

The administration also needs to be staffed with the right people in federal agencies who will be friendly to religious freedom, Professor Robert Destro of Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law told CNA.

“Personnel is policy,” he said, and Trump still needs to make hundreds of hires in these regulatory agencies that interpret existing law, including the agencies that will be dealing with HHS mandate protections for religious organizations.

Trump signed the executive order on the National Day of Prayer, and after he met with Cardinal Wuerl and Cardinal DiNardo.

“We had an opportunity to thank him first of all, for this executive order on religious liberty which is so important,” Cardinal Wuerl said of the meeting.

He also hoped the conversation was a starting point for further dialogue on many other topics. “One of the things that we need, I think, just to continue to talk about, the whole range of human value issues,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “He is certainly supportive of the life issues, supportive of religious liberty. And so we have to continue now to talk about other areas where we might find a place to work together.”

The White House also announced Thursday that Trump would be traveling to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Vatican. Cardinal Wuerl said that the president “was also very, very, I thought, focused on this trip he’s going to take that will include a visit to the Vatican. So it was a very good meeting.”

 

Grammy-winning producer guides Gregorian chant album

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 08:02

New York City, N.Y., May 4, 2017 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When Christopher Alder, an 11-time Grammy winning music producer, first was asked to help create an album of Gregorian Chant, he was short on details.

“When I was asked to do this recording, I was only told, would you be free to do a recording in Nebraska?” he said in a promo video.

That’s because, tucked away in the low, rolling hills of eastern Nebraska is Our Lady of Guadalupe seminary, the international school for English-speaking seminarians of the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), a Roman Catholic group of priests dedicated to celebrating the traditional Latin Mass.

For their first album, the priests and seminarians chose to record the chants of the Requiem Mass, Latin for ‘rest’ - the funeral Mass in the Latin rite.

"It has been an honor to work with The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, as they are excellent ambassadors for this repertoire - they are intimately familiar with this music - thus its deeper meaning is inescapable throughout the album-and the care and excellence that they brought to recording this Requiem is an inspiration," noted producer Alder and engineer Brad Michel, also a Grammy winner.

"They know this material intimately, as it rolls out of them as if it were poetry that one has recited countless times. They know it by heart, in every sense of the term because the text is being simultaneously believed and sung at the highest level," Alder added.

The album is comprised of 20 tracks, mostly monophonic Gregorian chant, though it includes polyphonic motets by renowned 16th-century Italian composer Palestrina and a less well-remembered 18th-century composer, Giovanni Battista Martini, one of Mozart's teachers.

Although most people know the Requiem via the celebrated version by Mozart, the composer was himself inspired by Gregorian chant, explained Fr. Zachary Akers, music director of The Fraternity and a singer on Requiem, in a press release.

"In this album we are hearing this type of music that was around long before Mozart, approaching the beginning of sacred music," Fr. Akers said.

Fr. Garrick Huang, co-music director of The Fraternity and a singer on Requiem, noted that Gregorian chant is thought to have roots both in the ancient Western and Eastern cultures, creating a sounds that is a cross-section of many cultures.

The texts are sung, he added, “because it has always been part of human nature to express love and joy, despair and sadness – the gamut of emotions – in song. That said, the Requiem chant is not a performance for us. We say that we 'sing' the Requiem, but it's more that we're praying the Requiem."

On their website, the Fraternity explains that they chose the Requiem Mass as their first recording because death “is so vivid to human experience, and the Requiem reflects that reality.”

While the music, and the black vestments of the priests during a Requiem Mass, inspire natural feelings of sadness and mourning, there is also present an element of hope.

“It’s not a morbid sadness because we have hope that God is merciful and that he will bring this soul to heaven,” Fr. Akers said.  

“The calmness of the chant reveals a spirit of rest or repose, which is what the very word requiem means,” the priests note on their site.

The album Requiem, produced in collaboration with De Montfort Music and Sony Classical, will be available May 12 on Amazon. De Monfort Music specializes in chant, polyphony and all areas of sacred music with a concentration on singing orders and communities well trained in this repertoire.

Denver archbishop signs petition to end 4/20 rallies

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 05:09

Washington D.C., May 4, 2017 / 03:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After marijuana-themed rallies celebrating 4/20 left a downtown park trashed and threatened the safety of some civilians, Denver’s Archbishop Samuel Aquila has signed a petition to put an end to the rallies.

“Some of the attendees at the recent 4/20 rally downtown demonstrated that they respect neither Civic Center Park, which is the community's property, nor their fellow citizens of Denver,” said Archbishop Aquila after signing the petition.

“Coloradans should take pride in protecting our land, environment and people. Mayor Hancock has worked hard to promote these values, and I hope he will take them into consideration as he weighs the future of the 4/20 rally.”

April 20th (4/20) has become the unofficial holiday for cannabis enthusiasts, thought to be taken from an old police code that meant “marijuana smoking in progress.”

According to reports from The Denver Post, several thousand people attended a festival in Civic Center Park in downtown Denver for the annual 4/20 rally. The event included vendors, food trucks, the 4:20 p.m. marijuana exhale and a concert.

The event was scheduled to end at 8 p.m., but park cleanup was still underway at 10:30 p.m. when, according to a rally organizer, a man ran through the park slashing open trash bags with a knife and threatening the clean-up crew. In the morning, the park, a national historic landmark, was still littered with trash.

 

Nothing like waking up to seas of trash in the morning pic.twitter.com/Gqb0Fk52UA

— Danika Worthington (@Dani_Worth) April 21, 2017


 

Now, a petition, circulated by the Centennial Institute of Colorado Christian University, argues that Denver’s 4/20 rallies “have become unsafe, flaunting blatant illegal activity” and are “a threat to attendees and the people of Denver.” Besides the report of a knife-wielding man, gunshots were heard nearby at one point during the rally, according to the group.

They also complained that despite warnings, signs and the presence of police, marijuana was widely smoked in public. While possession and consumption of marijuana is legal in Colorado for anyone over the age of 21, it cannot be smoked in public, according to regulations in Amendment 64 to the Colorado constitution.  

“...marijuana was allowed to be consumed openly and publicly by many attendees, even in the presence of children and infants. Marijuana was also consumed on stage by performers with no action by law enforcement,” the petition states.

The petition, released last week, directly asks Mayor Michael Hancock to terminate future 4/20 rallies in the city of Denver, and “concludes that the organizers do not have the safety or well-being of Denver residents in mind.”

The petition can be found at: http://www.ccu.edu/centennial/media/420-rallies-petition/

 

US bishops support petition for religious freedom executive order

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 17:35

Washington D.C., May 3, 2017 / 03:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Wednesday sent out a text message alert urging Catholics to sign a petition calling on President Donald Trump to issue an executive order protecting religious freedom.

The petition, hosted by Human Life Action, encourages the president to sign such an executive order, which is rumored to be in the works for Thursday.

Religious freedom advocates have warned that, due to various mandates and rules issued during the Obama administration, religious institutions that uphold traditional marriage or do not cooperate with abortions and contraceptive use could soon face federal action if no executive order is issued to protect them.

A draft of such an executive order was leaked earlier this year, but was reportedly scuttled due to the efforts of Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner.

An executive order could help mitigate the effects of the HHS birth control mandate, which caused hundreds of religious non-profits and other employers to sue the federal government claiming the mandate forced them to violate their consciences.

The Trump administration has not yet stopped defending the mandate in court, although White House advisor Leonard Leo told Axios recently that the administration was not planning to defend the mandate indefinitely, but was rather still considering the best “litigation proof” route for lifting the mandate’s burden on religious employers.

Another reason for an executive order would be the protection of health care providers and crisis pregnancy centers from mandates that they perform abortions or cover them in employee health plans, according to religious freedom advocates.

Currently, the Weldon Amendments bars federal funding of states that force employers to provide abortion coverage for employees. But after California ruled that health care plans – including those of churches and religious organizations – had to include coverage for elective abortions, the head of the Office of Civil Rights at the federal Department of Health and Human Services decided last summer that the state had not violated the Weldon Amendment.

Also at stake is the tax-exempt status of schools and other religious institutions which teach that marriage is one man and one woman.

In 2015 oral arguments in the same-sex marriage case Obergefell v. Hodges, President Obama’s solicitor general Donald Verrilli said that the ability of these colleges to retain their tax-exempt status if same-sex marriage is the law of the land is “certainly going to be an issue.”

Another way an executive order could protect religious freedom would be to protect federal contractors, and dioceses and churches that provide military chaplains, from having to comply with mandates that they support same-sex marriage.

The Russell Amendment had upheld this freedom and was included in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that passed the House, but was removed by Senate Republicans so the bill could pass the Senate.

“Any Executive Order should make it clear that religious freedom entails more than the freedom to worship but also includes the ability to act on one's beliefs,” the U.S. Bishops’ Conference stated earlier this year on the need for an executive order.

“It should also protect individuals and families who run closely-held businesses in accordance with their faith to the greatest extent possible.”

 

Why a spike in religious hate crimes should worry all of us

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 17:20

Washington D.C., May 3, 2017 / 03:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Civic and religious leaders this week addressed a disturbing rise in religious hate crimes in recent years, especially harassment and violence perpetrated against Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs.

“While it is clear that Sikh Americans are not alone in experiencing a rise in hate crimes, the experience of our community is important to understand how dangerous this current era of inflammatory rhetoric promises to be if action is not taken,” Dr. Prabhjot Singh, a Sikh physician, said in his May 2 written testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from representatives of the Anti-Defamation League, a Sikh doctor, and the civil rights division at the Justice Department on “responses to the increase in religious hate crimes” in the U.S.

“Crimes against Jews are the most common religious hate crimes and they have increased,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chair of the committee, noted, but Islamophobic incidents rose the sharpest amongst all religious groups with a 67 percent spike from 2014 to 2015 according to FBI statistics.

Although overall hate crimes, including crimes based on race, sexual orientation, religion and ethnicity, went down in number from 2000 to 2015, religion-based hate crimes went up 23 percent from 2014 to 2015, Eric Treene, special counsel for religious discrimination at the Justice Department’s civil rights division, pointed to FBI statistics.

Dr. Singh, in his written testimony, told of how Sikhs are only one of many religious groups in the U.S., yet violence against them is representative of a worsening in religious bigotry.

Singh was violently beaten by a mob on the streets of New York City in 2013. As he lay awaiting treatment for his injuries in the hospital, he learned that the Muslim woman lying next to him in the emergency room wearing a hijab, or a religious headscarf, was attacked by the same group of young men.

“They threw a bottle of urine at her face, cutting her nose,” he said. Yet reporters who documented Singh’s attack in a story did not mention the assault on the Muslim woman because, in Singh’s words, “they said it would complicate the story, which was about a professor and doctor who was ‘mistakenly’ attacked in his own neighborhood.”

“We cannot accept this premise,” he insisted in his Tuesday testimony. “There is no such thing as a ‘mistaken’ hate crime. No one should ever be targeted. The only mistake is thinking otherwise.”

The attack, he continued, was only the latest incident in a rash of harassment and violence against Sikhs in the U.S. since the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

“Some of our fellow Americans,” Singh said, “call us 'ragheads and towelheads,' or 'ISIS and Al Qaeda.'”

“Ominously, the Sikh Coalition has consistently found that a majority of Sikh students in our nation's public schools experience bias-based bullying and harassment,” he added. “Some of our children are accused of being 'terrorists.' Others have had their turbans ripped off.”

Sadly, these attacks are part of a larger landscape of “threats, arson, assault, and murder” against Muslims, Jews, Hindus, African-Americans, and LGBTQ persons, he said.

“We seem to be backsliding into a new nativist era. This endangers us all,” he said.

Anti-Semitic and Islamophobic acts rose in 2016 in the presidential election and have continued in 2017, Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, explained in his testimony.

Anti-Semitic incidents rose by over one-third in 2016 with “1,266 acts targeting Jews and Jewish institutions,” according to the ADL 2016 audit of incidents.

The campaign only intensified tensions that had already been aggravated, he added.

“And anti-Semitic abuse has soared on social media,” he noted, as “hateful, anti-Semitic invective” flourished on the mediums during the election season as well as harassment of Jewish journalists by white supremacists including the use of “triple parentheses, to publicly 'tag' Jews online.”

The election “featured harshly anti-Muslim rhetoric and anti-Semitic dog whistles,” he said, “and fostered an atmosphere in which white supremacists and other anti-Semites and bigots feel emboldened and believe that their views are becoming more broadly acceptable.”

President Trump's “initial reluctance to address rising anti-Semitism” has helped normalize this bigotry, Greenblatt said, and some of his supporters played a direct role in it.

“Much of the vandalism and harassment used slogans sourced from the Trump campaign such as 'Make America Great Again,'” he said. Incidents during and after the election – anti-Semitic graffiti and assault – were perpetrated with expressed support for Trump.

In addition, in the election there were “stereotyping of many groups, including women and immigrants, threats to ban Muslims from entering or living in the country, pronouncements that Islam ‘hates’ America, mocking of disabled people, and political candidates attacking one another based on their physical appearance,” he said.

Dr. Singh said he “was horrified to hear our President last weekend telling thousands of people at a rally that immigrants are snakes waiting to bite America,” he referred to Trump’s words at a recent rally in Harrisburg, Pa.

“Words matter, and when political leaders divide and dehumanize us, this lays the groundwork for hate to infect our society,” he stated.

All this has not only continued in 2017, but the number of incidents has spiked sharply, Greenblatt said.

He noted 161 bomb threats against Jewish synagogues or buildings so far and three reported desecrations of Jewish cemeteries.

“The bomb threats against JCCs, schools, ADL offices, and other community institutions in dozens of states across the country attracted very considerable attention,” he said, “causing evacuations, significant service disruptions, program cancellations, and deep community anxiety.”

Some of the threats were graphic in nature, warning of a “bloodbath” or the decapitations of Jews in explosions.

Action must be taken to stem these incidents, witnesses insisted. Preventative measures could include mandatory reporting laws for hate crimes, a federal inter-agency task force on hate crimes, and public officials speaking out against bigotry.

Dr. Singh shared how his son will soon enter Kindergarten, yet according to statistics, will probably be the victim of bigotry.

“These young years are formative, and how children are treated tells us so much about who we are as a nation, and who we aspire to be,” he said.

Archbishop Niederauer remembered for his service to the Church

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 14:32

San Francisco, Calif., May 3, 2017 / 12:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After battling lung disease, Archbishop Emeritus George H. Niederauer of San Francisco died May 2 at the age of 80 from pulmonary fibrosis.

He had been in residence at the Nazareth House in San Rafael, 18 miles north of San Francisco.

Archbishop Niederauer “was known for his spiritual leadership, intelligence and wisdom, compassion and humor, and was always focused on his responsibility to live and teach the faith,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco stated.

Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City echoed these sentiments, saying Archbishop Niederauer “was a great churchman, accepting each position he was given with humility and generosity.”

A California native, Archbishop Niederauer was born in Los Angeles on June 14, 1936 to George and Elaine Niederauer as their only child.

He attended Catholic schools throughout his childhood education, and was accepted to Stanford University, where he attended college for one year before entering seminary at St. John’s in Camarillo.

Archbishop Niederauer remained a scholar throughout his priestly formation and received a B.A. in philosophy and sacred theology, and a Master’s in English Literature from Loyola-Marymount University in L.A. After his priestly ordination, he went on to receive a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Southern California.

He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles April 30, 1962 and served in various positions throughout his priesthood, including in parishes and at the seminary. He was named a Prelate of Honor by St. John Paul II in 1984, receiving the title Monsignor.

He was appointed Bishop of Salt Lake City in 1994, where he served for 11 years.

“During his eleven years he was bishop of Salt Lake City, he was known for his kindness, ecumenical spirit and embrace for the least important of the community,” stated Bishop Solis.

In 2005, Benedict XVI appointed him the eighth Archbishop of San Francisco, where he would actively serve for the following six years. He retired in 2012 and moved to St. Patrick’s Seminary and University in Menlo Park, where he put on retreats for priests and religious.

In January 2017, he was moved to the Nazareth House after being diagnosed with interstitial lung disease.

Archbishop Cordileone included a quote from the late Archbishop Niederauer about his appointment as Archbishop of San Francisco. When he was choosing his coat of arms, Archbishop Niederauer chose the words ‘to serve and to give,’ as his motto.

“I am convinced servant leadership in the Church defines the role of the bishop,” Archbishop Niederauer said during his installation Mass on Feb. 15, 2006.

“Leading by serving: it’s easily misunderstood, but it seems central to me,” he continued.

A viewing service will be held for Archbishop Niederauer at St. Anne of the Sunset Church in San Francisco on May 11 at 3:30 PM, followed by a vigil at 6:30. The Mass of Christian Burial will take place on May 12 at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco at 11 AM.

“It was with deep sadness that I learned of the death of a long-time friend and Ordination classmate, Archbishop George H. Niederauer. May God’s warm embrace encircle him unto eternal life,” stated Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles.

Cardinal William Levada, Archbishop John Quinn, Bishop Bill Justice, Bishop Ignatius Wang, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone together requested prayers for the repose of the soul of Archbishop Niederauer.

Catholics desperate to save 9/11 chapel in New York

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 14:02

New York City, N.Y., May 3, 2017 / 12:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On September 11, 2001, Justine Cuccia was nine months pregnant when she watched in horror as two hijacked planes crash into the World Trade Center buildings in New York City.

Her neighborhood, Battery Park City, was just across the street, including her parish, St. Joseph’s chapel, located in the bottom of an apartment building along with coffee shops and other storefronts.

In the weeks following the disaster, the small chapel became a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) command station. First responders tore out the pews to provide a space for food, shelter and counseling for the next several weeks of clean-up. Even the altar cloths were torn up and used as bandages. Priests of St. Joseph’s celebrated Mass in a nearby gym.
 
Afterwards, the chapel’s interior, severely damaged by the smoke, debris, and the nature of the work in the command center, needed a complete remodeling, which a group of dedicated parishioners saw to completion by the next year.

Today, the chapel itself is in danger. High rent could force the closure of the chapel and the corresponding Catholic memorial to 9/11 unless an agreement is reached or a “miracle” happens.

But Cuccia and a small group of parishioners, most of whom lived through the 9/11 attacks, will not let the chapel and memorial go without a fight.

“We promised never to forget, and we’re forgetting,” Cuccia told CNA.

The group’s first hope is that a sustainable rent can be agreed upon by the Pastor and Archdiocese and LeFrak and its partners (the landlord).

“We have asked for the assistance of the Battery Park City Authority. Through their intervention, the landlord offered to reduce the rent from $80 per square foot to $70 per square foot, retrospective to January 1, 2017 until the lease ends in March, 2019. The Pastor and financial committee maintain that this is still not sustainable and have told us they countered at $17 per square foot,” Cuccia said.

Further frustrating the group of parishioners is that pastor Fr. Jarlath Quinn seems to not want the chapel to stay open, Cuccia said. He has told them that the chapel will close by June, barring miraculous intervention.

New buildings and luxury apartments in the area changed that area of Battery Park City from a middle class neighborhood to an upper-class neighborhood, raising rent beyond what the small parish could afford.

According to a financial statement published on the parish website, the Archdiocese of New York loaned the parish $540,431 during the 2016 fiscal year to pay the bills, bringing the parish net deficit for the year to $91,868 and the parish’s total indebtedness to the Archdiocese to $1,348,000.

“The trustees and the members of the Finance Council believe that this significant operating loss is not sustainable and that parish expenses must be brought in line with operating revenues,” the statement said.

St. Joseph’s chapel is a part of the parish of St. Peter and Our Lady of the Rosary. The parish referred all questions to Joseph Zwilling, director of communications for the Archdiocese of New York.

The decision about what to do with St. Joseph’s chapel “would be a parish decision, as Saint Joseph’s Chapel is a part of Saint Peter’s Parish,” Zwilling said. “The parish is still determining next steps, but at this point it appears as if only some kind of ‘miracle’ would keep the Chapel going.”  
 
“Father Quinn is making plans to properly preserve the 9/11 memorial, should Saint Joseph’s Chapel close,” he added.

But the chapel is the memorial, the parishioners argue, and an effort to preserve it by relocating the art, but vacating the space, would be beside the point.  

During the post-9/11 reconstruction, everything that went into the chapel’s interior spoke of hope and resurrection, Cuccia said.

“From the floor, to the wood on the walls and the altar, the windows - it was specifically designed to be a symbol of rebirth, renewal and growth, to say we’re back, we got knocked down after 9/11 and we’re back,” Cuccia said.

“The church itself is the memorial. They say a church is made up of the people, and we will be a parish and a church wherever we go, but the 9/11 memorial will cease to exist if it’s not (at St. Joseph’s).”

The preservation of the Catholic 9/11 memorial is especially important to people like Cuccia who are unable to pay their respects at the World Trade Center memorial across the street, because they find it too upsetting.

“It’s too painful to me, and I’m not the only one who has that feeling,” Cuccia said.  

“What happened to the people who lost their lives, the sacrifice and the heroism of the first responders, the way that I can respect them and honor them is to go to my chapel and memorial, because that I can manage, and that I can get some solace and comfort from,” she said.

“All I can tell you is that after that horror, I saw the best of humanity that day,” from the first responders to the random acts of kindness of strangers helping each other out on the street, she said. 

“I saw the worst of people and the best of people that day, and when I go into that chapel, I see the best of people, and that’s why it needs to be preserved.”





Across education lines, US Christians share common religiosity

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 13:28

Washington D.C., May 3, 2017 / 11:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- College educated Christians are more likely to be churchgoers than their less educated counterparts, and seem to show about the same level of religious commitment as other American Christians, a survey says.

“The tendency for Christian college graduates to exhibit rates of religious observance that are at least on par with their less highly educated counterparts is evident across a variety of Christian traditions,” the Pew Research Center said April 26.



Christians who are college graduates are more likely to attend religious services weekly, with 52 percent saying they do so. This compares to 45 percent of Christians with some college education, and 46 percent with a high school education or less.

Pew’s survey also created a scale of religious commitment incorporating measurement of practices like reported religious service attendance, reported daily prayer, statements that religion is very important, and belief in God with absolute certainty.

About 70 percent of Christians with college degrees show a high level of religious commitment on this scale. Their levels are about the same as Christians with some college or a high school education or less.

While Catholics show less religious observance than other Christian groups like Evangelicals, Catholics show a similar level of religiosity when compared to other Catholics by education levels. College educated Catholics have a level of religious commitment ranked at 62 percent, according to Pew’s scale.

However, college graduates overall are less likely to identify with Christianity. About 64 percent said they were Christians, compared to 71 percent of those with some college and 75 percent of those with high school education or less.

About 11 percent of college graduates described themselves as atheists or agnostics, compared to 4 percent of those with a high school education or less.

At the same time, only about 24 percent of college graduates overall identified as unaffiliated in religion. College graduates were no less likely than other Americans to say they attend religious services.

Pew said the patterns largely hold if those with postgraduate degrees are examined separately from those with only bachelor’s degrees.

The Pew Research Center used the results of the 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted June 4-Sept. 30, 2014.

Diocese says 'ordination' of woman as Catholic priest not valid

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 08:02

Charlotte, N.C., May 3, 2017 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A breakaway Catholic group is in the news for attempting to ordain a woman as a Catholic priest at a non-denominational church in North Carolina.

Abigail Eltzroth, 64, went through the simulated ordination at the Jubilee! church in Asheville, N.C. under the aegis of the group Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. She has said she intends to start a Catholic community in the area of Asheville.

The local diocese, however, reaffirmed Catholic teaching that such an ordination is null.

“I hope that Catholics in the diocese will understand that it would be sinful to receive a fake sacrament from a woman priest and that includes attending a fake Mass,” said David Hains, spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte.

Eltzroth converted to Catholicism from a Presbyterian background in her 50s, the Charlotte Observer reports. The simulated ordination was carried out by Bridget Mary Meehan, who presents herself as a Catholic bishop.

Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests traces itself back to the attempted ordination of seven women on a ship cruising the Danube River in 2002. Attempted ordination of a woman is automatic excommunication for both the person attempting the ordination and the person attempting to be ordained.

From the beginning of his papacy, Pope Francis has been clear on the issue of women priests, while still emphasizing the unique and important role of women in the Church.

On his return flight from Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families Sept. 28, 2015, the Pope reiterated that women priests “cannot be done,” and called for a more comprehensive theology on women.

In an interview with Vatican Insider in December 2013, Francis responded to a question on whether or not he'd ever consider naming a woman a cardinal. The very question, he indicated, stemmed from an attitude of clericalism.

“I don't know where this idea sprang from. Women in the Church must be valued not 'clericalised,'” the Pope said. “Whoever thinks of women as cardinals suffers a bit from clericalism.”

Throughout the three years since, Francis has consistently called for a more “incisive” feminine presence in the Church, yet has refrained from limiting this presence to a mere position.

'Thank you': DC cardinal to fallen police officers, first responders

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 19:33

Washington D.C., May 2, 2017 / 05:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At a Mass on Tuesday, the archbishop of Washington, D.C. thanked law enforcement officers and first responders for putting themselves in harm’s way for the betterment of society.

“This Mass,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl said, “should call forth from all of us enormous gratitude.” He thanked officials in attendance, their fallen comrades who died in the line of duty, and the families of the deceased.

Cardinal Wuerl was the celebrant and homilist at the 23rd annual Blue Mass at St. Patrick’s Church in downtown Washington, D.C.  The Mass is said for law enforcement and fire safety officials, and for those who have died in the line of duty.

According to the Archdiocese of Washington, the tradition of the Blue Mass dates back to 1934 but it has only been an annual tradition beginning with 1994.

In 2016, there were 144 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in the U.S., according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

In attendance at the Mass were various federal and local law enforcement honor guards and families of slain law enforcement officials. At the end of the liturgy, two trumpeters played Taps after the names of the slain officials from the past year were read.

"Taps" for fallen law enforcement/fire safety at the end of DC's Blue Mass. pic.twitter.com/nZJZvabJ0O

— Matthew Hadro (@matthadro) May 2, 2017 “Recognizing that not every law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency responder or medical personnel returns home at the end of their shift, we pray especially for the fallen and their families,” the cardinal wrote later on his blog.

“Reflecting our faith in the Resurrection, our prayers are directed to our loving and ever-merciful God, whom we ask to receive into his kingdom of new and eternal life those who have paid the last full measure so that others might live, prosper and be free,” he continued.

Those officers fallen in the line of duty show us that “violence” is around us, the cardinal admitted in his homily. “We recognize unfortunately that violence is also a part of life,” he said, yet “we must never let it change us.”

He reflected on the first reading of the martyrdom account of St. Stephen, insisting that there was “more to the story” than an unjust death.

The officers who “stand in harm’s way” in defense of human dignity witness to “the great hope that there is a better way,” he added. “Your lives and your service are a great witness to that hope,” he told the officials in attendance at the Mass.

Ultimately, these officers are motivated by love, the cardinal stressed: “their love of their families to be sure, and also their love for the community, their selfless love for those they do not even know, for those who may not even like or appreciate them, but for whom they are willing to risk their own lives.”

“This love is reflected in all of the routine day in and day out challenges they face all the time.”

More from DC's Blue Mass honoring law enforcement & 1st responders: bagpipers in the preliminary procession playing "Minstrel Boy" pic.twitter.com/NRAdIq0kwA

— Matthew Hadro (@matthadro) May 2, 2017  

Critics of Columbus Day get history wrong, scholar says

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 19:24

Denver, Colo., May 2, 2017 / 05:24 pm (CNA).-

The historical legacy of Christopher Columbus is tarred by bad history in the quest to change Columbus Day, according to a researcher who has focused on Columbus’ religious motives for exploration.

“They’re blaming Columbus for the things he didn’t do. It was mostly the people who came after, the settlers,” Prof. Carol Delaney told CNA April 25. “I just think he’s been terribly maligned.”

“I think a lot of people don’t know anything much, really about Columbus,” said Delaney, an anthropology professor emerita at Stanford University and the author of the 2011 book “Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem.”

She said Columbus initially had a favorable impression of many of the Native Americans he met and instructed the men under his command not to abuse them but to trade with them. At one point Columbus hung some of his own men who had committed crimes against the Indians.

“When I read his own writings and the documents of those who knew him, he seemed to be very much on the side of the Indians,” Delaney said, noting that Columbus adopted the son of a Native American leader he had befriended.

Columbus is again in the news in Colorado, which in 1907 became the first U.S. state to make Columbus Day an official holiday.

Now, one Colorado legislator aims to repeal Columbus Day as a state holiday.

State Rep. Joe Salazar’s 2017 bill charges that Columbus’ voyage “triggered one of history's greatest slave trades” and created “a level of inhumanity towards indigenous peoples that still exists.”

The bill excerpts three paragraphs from the writings of Bartolome de las Casas, a Spanish Dominican friar born in 1484 who became the first Bishop of Chiapas, Mexico and advocated for indigenous Americans. He wrote strong polemics against Spanish abuses.

Bishop De las Casas depicted the Spaniards as “acting like ravening beasts, killing, terrorizing, afflicting, torturing, and destroying the native peoples, doing all this with the strangest and most varied new methods of cruelty, never seen or heard of before.” De las Casas claimed that the native population of Hispaniola was reduced to 200 people from 3 million.

He said the Spanish killed “such an infinite number of souls” due to lust for gold caused by “their insatiable greed and ambition.” He charged that the Spanish attacked towns and did not spare children, the elderly or pregnant women. He said they stabbed and dismembered them “as if dealing with sheep in the slaughter house” and made bets on how efficiently they could kill.

Salazar’s bill describes these as “Columbus’ acts of inhumanity.”

Delaney, however, emphasized that the acts of the colonists need to be distinguished from those of Columbus.

Bishop De las Casas’ own view on Columbus is more complex, she said. Other scholars have noted that Las Casas admired Columbus and said he and Spain had a providential role in “opening the doors of the Ocean Sea.” The bishop thought Columbus was treated unjustly by the Spanish monarchs after he was accused of mismanagement.

De las Casas himself is not above criticism. He owned indigenous people as slaves before changing his mind on their mistreatment. At one point he suggested to the Pope that black Africans be enslaved as an alternative to enslaving Native Americans.

Among the critics of the Colorado bill are the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternity founded in 1882, which takes its name from the explorer who brought Christianity to the New World. Columbus was a widely admired Catholic at a time when American Catholics were marginalized.

“Scholars have long shown that de las Casas was prone to hyperbole and exaggeration, and the bill does not take into account recent scholarship on de las Casas or Columbus,” the Knights said in an email to members.

“The legacy and accomplishments of Christopher Columbus deserve to be celebrated. He was a man ahead of his time and a fearless explorer and brilliant navigator whose daring discovery changed the course of history,” the group continued. “Columbus has frequently been falsely blamed for the actions of those who came after him and is the victim of horrific slanders concerning his conduct.”

Isaac Cuevas, a spokesman for the Knights of Columbus, was even more forceful, connecting the move against Columbus Day to a dark period in Colorado’s past.

“Nearly a century ago, the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado targeted Catholics including Italian-Americans. One of the Klan’s tactics throughout the United States was the denigration of Christopher Columbus and the attempted suppression of the holiday in his honor,” he said.

Cuevas said that a committee hearing on the bill was “tinged with offensive anti-Catholic overtones.” He charged that the bill “takes us back to what the Klan outlined in the 1920s in order to promote ethnic and religious resentment and marginalize and intimidate people with different religious beliefs and ethnic backgrounds.”

Rep. Salazar put forward a bill in previous years against the Christopher Columbus holiday. His 2016 bill to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day was defeated in the state legislature.

“After speaking with the American Indian community and other communities, they were saying, ‘We actually never really wanted a day – this isn’t what this is about. This is about removing a state holiday about a man who engaged in genocide against our people’,” Salazar told the Colorado Statesman newspaper recently.

Columbus Day drew particular controversy in Colorado on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the New World. Organizers of Denver’s 1992 Columbus Day parade canceled it at the last minute due to threats from radical activists with the American Indian Movement.

Columbus has been a major figure for Catholics in America, especially Italian-Americans, who saw his pioneering voyage from Europe as a way of validating their presence in a sometimes hostile majority-Protestant country. The Knights of Columbus, the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the world, took his name, his voyage and his faith as an inspiration.

At one point in the nineteenth century there were even proposals to push for the voyager’s canonization.

In 1892, the quadricennial of Columbus’ first voyage, Leo XIII authored an encyclical that reflected on Columbus’ desire to spread Catholic Christianity. The Pope stressed how Columbus’ Catholic faith motivated his voyage and supported him amid his setbacks.

Under pressure from some Native American activists and their allies, some U.S. localities have dropped observances of Columbus Day, while others have added observances intended to recognize those who lived in the Americas before Columbus sailed.

Delaney acknowledged that some Native Americans were sent to Spain as slaves or conscripted into hard labor at the time Columbus had responsibility for the region, but she attributed this mistreatment to his substitutes acting in his absence.

She thinks Columbus Day should be continued, even if the indigenous peoples of America also deserve recognition.

For her, Columbus’ handling of the killings of his crew showed restraint. After his ship the Santa Maria ran aground on his first voyage, he left 39 men on a Caribbean island with firm orders not to go marauding, not to kidnap or rape women, and always trade for food and gold.

“When they returned on the second voyage, they found all of the settlers had been killed,” she said. The priest on that voyage wanted to attack the locals and kill all of their people in revenge, but Columbus strongly refused to make such a move.

She noted the explorer’s relationship with a Native American leader on Hispaniola, a Taino chief named Guacanagari. Columbus had very good relations with him and adopted one of his sons. That son took the name of Columbus’ natural son, Diego, and accompanied Columbus on his final three voyages.

Columbus on his second return voyage took six Indians back to Spain, but not as slaves.

“He took them because they wanted to go,” Delaney said.

 



What Catholics like and dislike in the new spending bill

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 17:26

Washington D.C., May 2, 2017 / 03:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A massive spending package to be voted on by Congress has drawn applause for continuing foreign aid spending, but also concern at its proposal to keep funding Planned Parenthood.

The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List said the bill’s funding of Planned Parenthood was “incredibly disappointing,” and president Marjorie Dannenfelser insisted that it was “imperative” for the House to pass a “reconciliation bill that redirects the abortion giant’s funding to community health centers.”

The House has voted multiple times to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding because it is the nation’s largest performer of abortions, with more than 300,000 abortions per year according to its own reports. A measure defunding the organization for one year was included in the American Health Care Act, but that bill had failed to reach the House floor for a vote. A revised health care bill is now being considered by Congress.

On Sunday, an agreement was reached between the House and Senate on an Omnibus bill, a funding bill for the rest of the 2017 fiscal year that could be voted on this week.

Regarding foreign assistance, the Omnibus bill includes $990 million for international famine relief when famines are breaking out or are on the verge of occurring in four countries: Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen.

In addition, the bill directs a $1 billion increase in funding of humanitarian aid programs “to assist in responding to the historic levels of refugees and displaced persons.”

Catholic Relief Services, the international aid arm of the U.S. bishops’ conference, praised this funding increase.

“These funds are a lifeline for over 20 million people at risk of starvation because of conflict and a prolonged drought,” said Bill O’Keefe, vice president for government relations and advocacy.

“Members of Congress from both parties recognized that this small part of the budget has a huge impact, not only on those in need, but also on our nation's security. This generosity is America at its best.”

The bill also maintains restrictions on international abortion funding through the Helms Amendment and bars funding of groups deemed to be supportive of forced abortions and sterilizations under the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, the House Appropriations Committee said.

Additionally, Hyde Amendment restrictions on funding of abortions in the U.S. are maintained in the bill, and programs promoting abstinence for teens receive a 50 percent increase in funding, the committee noted. The Hyde Amendment has been policy for over 40 years.

On immigration, the bill reportedly does not fund the building of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. “Sanctuary cities,” or those cities which do not cooperate with federal demands on immigration enforcement, would not be defunded.

Funding for programs fighting the opioid epidemic in the U.S. would also increase by $150 million. In 2015, some 33,000 died from opioid abuse and the number of overdose deaths from heroin or opioids quadrupled between 1999 and 2015, as well as deaths from prescription opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

However, President Trump has already proposed cuts to foreign aid, the Environmental Protection Agency, and increases in defense spending and immigration enforcement funding. When the president released his initial budget proposal in March, Catholic Relief Services came out against the proposed cuts to foreign aid.

The cuts would be detrimental to programs helping those in need at a time when the number of those displaced from their homes is at its highest recorded level, CRS said.

 

St. Padre Pio's relics are touring the US!

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 14:06

Washington D.C., May 2, 2017 / 12:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Relics of St. Padre Pio will soon be touring the United States, with stops at a number of dioceses during a two-part tour later this year.

The relics will be on display for veneration between Masses at cathedrals across America from May 6-21 and again From September 16 – October 1 this year.

The tour is taking place to commemorate the 130th anniversary of Padre Pio’s birth, and the 15th anniversary of his canonization. It is being sponsored by the Saint Pio Foundation, which works to promote awareness of the saintly priest and continue his work. The foundation raises funds for American Catholic healthcare as well as educational, social, religious, and cultural organizations.

Padre Pio was born Francesco Forgione in Pietrelcina, Italy on May 25, 1887.

He voiced a desire for the priesthood at age 10 and entered the Capuchin order at age 15, taking the name Pio. At the age of 23, he was ordained a priest.

The saint was widely known during his lifetime as a mystic. He dedicated much of his priesthood to hearing confessions. People would travel from around the world to have their confessions heard by Padre Pio, as he had the gift of being able to read souls.

He also received the stigmata, or the wounds of Christ, and was known for being able to heal people. He was reported to bi-locate, or appear in two locations at once.

Padre Pio died Sept. 23, 1968 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002.

The schedule for the relic tour is below:

• May 6-8 at Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
• May 9 at Saint Paul Cathedral in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
• May 10-11 at Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in the Archdiocese of Denver.
• May 13 at Cathedral of the Risen Christ in the Diocese of Lincoln.
• May 18-19 at St. Andrew Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
• May 20-21 at Saint Ann Catholic Church in the Diocese of Arlington.
• September 17-18 at St. Patrick Cathedral in the Archdiocese of New York.
• September 20 at Cathedral St. Joseph the Workman in the Diocese of La Crosse.
• September 20 at Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
• September 22-23 at Basilica of St. John the Baptism in the Diocese of Bridgeport.
• September 24 at St. Theresa Catholic Church in the Diocese of Bridgeport.
• September 29 at Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption in the Diocese of Saginaw.

Why it might be too soon to lift the sanctions on Sudan

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 08:02

Washington D.C., May 2, 2017 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Despite Sudan's recent compliance to U.S. guidelines, one expert thinks there's not enough information to warrant a complete removal of sanctions against the country.  

“In the case of Sudan, the same cast of characters, the same power base that promotes a perverted and violent expression of Islam is still in power,” David Dettoni, senior adviser to the Sudan Relief Fund, told a congressional panel April 26.

“Look at Sudan's 'President.' It is still Omar Bashir,” Dettoni said. “He and his power base are still intact and I do not think their fundamental belief system has changed.”

Dettoni recognized that reduced sanctions may have played a part in the “cease fire” in the South Kordofan and the Blue Nile State – areas Bashir had previously used criminal like tactics towards opposing forces.

However, he's concerned that the U.S. Special Envoy currently elected to analyze Sudan's improvements has not been to these areas in which saw the most bloodshed and tribulation. And because of this, he thinks there isn't enough accurate information to determine if the country has met the criteria necessary for the sanctions removal.

Nearly a week before leaving office, President Barak Obama eased Sudan's sanctions, allowing the country the ability to trade with U.S. firms. The sanctions would be further removed after five points of criteria were met. A report established by the Special Envoy in Sudan and South Sudan, will be expected to the given to President Donald Trump in June.

Dettoni suggested that Congress draft legislation to revise the sanctions, allowing for periods of modification thereafter.

During Omar Bashir's rise to power, he issued the executions and imprisonment of many political leaders, journalists, and high ranking military officers. Teaming up with the National Islamic Front, he established Sharia, or Islamic Law, at a national level.

The New York Times cited the country as having “instituted one of the strictest Muslim fundamentalist social orders in the world,” in 1993 after eight terrorists had been detained in Paris with ties to Sudan – describing the country as a sort of breeding ground for Islamic extremists. The men had been suspected of planning and in process of carrying out a terrorist act in New York City. During his testimony, Dettoni also mentioned that Sudan in the 1990s was home to Al-Qaeda – the terrorist group responsible for bombing the Twin Towers on Sept.11, 2001.

The Sudanese civil wars, claiming nearly 2 million lives, were finally ended in 2005 with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and what is now South Sudan was offered the possibility to vote for their secession.

However, other areas of the peace agreement were ignored by Bashir toward the Sudan People’s Liberation Army located in Sudan, and he continued scrimmages in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, areas straddling the border between both countries. The violence was notably significant in Abyei, located within the state of South Kordofan.

“In May 2011, Khartoum invaded Abyei, burning, looting, destroying, killing and forcing the removal of over 100,000 Ngok Dinka,” he said.

In order for the 20 year-long sanctions to be completely removed, the Obama administration issued five areas needed for improvement: “ceasing hostilities in Darfur and the Two Areas (South Kordofan and the Blue Nile), improving humanitarian access, ending negative interference in South Sudan, enhancing cooperation on counter-terrorism, and addressing the threat of the Lord's Resistance Army.”

Dettoni acknowledged the recent improvements in areas regarding refugees, humanitarian access, and decreased violence in the states along the Sudan-South Sudan border.

He said 380,000 South Sudanese and an estimated 200,000 Eritreans have been given refuge in Sudanese camps, which he claimed to be “tough” but that at least Sudan has “allowed these very vulnerable and suffering people to have a form of refuge.”

However, he remains skeptical of the millions of Euros provided by the European Union to curve the inflow of illegal immigrants, known to bottleneck at Sudan. He proposed the money used to beef up Sudan’s border force may also be used to violently suppress the victims of years passed.

Dettoni also suggested the possibility that Bashir's compliance with U.S. guidelines is being used “as leverage for political or other goals that they want to achieve” specifically “to loosen sanctions, gain respect, gain valuable foreign currency.”  

He requested President Donald Trump's immediate action to publicly appoint a Special Envoy that would travel to and analyze South Kordofan and the Blue Nile State, and that the president should meet personally with Bashir and other African leaders.

Dettoni also asked President Trump to amend the previous executive order from the Obama administration or ask Congress to draw up legislation to limit Sudan’s sanctions, which would be reviewable every 180 days or annually. He suggests that the executive branch to draft a review in writing and be submitted to Congress and the president two months before the sanctions can be lifted in July.

Our Lady of Fatima is coming to the United Nations

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 20:29

New York City, N.Y., May 1, 2017 / 06:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- One day before the May 13 celebration marking the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions, a statue of Our Lady of Fatima will be visiting the United Nations.

May 12 will mark the second time this particular statue has been to the United Nations, the first being in 1952.

Among the presenters at the May 12 United Nations event is Johnnette Benkovic, founder and president of EWTN’s Women of Grace.

“As she [Our Lady] came to the world through her apparitions to the shepherd children, the 100th anniversary of which will be celebrated the following day, she ‘comes again’ to remind the people of the world that the message is the same – that peace and hope and solidarity are possible through Heaven’s plan,” Benkovic told CNA.

On May 13, 1917, three shepherd children named Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco saw a vision of Our Lady of Fatima who was dressed in white and holding a rosary. These apparitions lasted through October of the same year, and brought messages of prayer, repentance, and reparation.

The apparitions were declared of “supernatural character” by the Catholic Church in 1930, and a shrine was erected near the original apparition site in Fatima. Since then, thousands of pilgrims have made their prayerful journeys to Fatima, including three popes: Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI.  

During Pope Francis’ upcoming anniversary pilgrimage to Fatima, he will canonize two of the Fatima visionaries, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, on May 13.

The May 12 United Nations event is titled, “The Centenary of Fatima and the Enduring Relevance of Its Message of Peace,” and will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Speakers at the event will include Ambassador Alvaro Mendonca e Moura, permanent representative of Portugal to the UN, and Archbishop Bernardito Auza, apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See to the UN.  

“The event will be focused in a very special way on the enduring relevance of Fatima’s message of peace,” stated Fr. Roger Landry, a priest serving for the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission at the UN, according to a press release.

Benkovic highlighted the significance of the statue traveling to the UN. “Its purpose is to promote a message of peacemaking and peace building in light of Our Lady of Fatima and her messages to the children in 1917,” she said.

“We are in tenuous times and the Blessed Mother’s message to the world through the Fatima shepherd children is more relevant and important than ever. I am both honored and abundantly humbled to participate in this unprecedented moment at the UN.”

Benkovic will be presenting at the UN on the topic of “Mary, the Dignity of Woman and Women’s Role in the Promotion of a Culture of Dialogue, Mediation, Peacemaking, and Peace Building.”

As a presenter, Benkovic noted the cultural and unitive significance of Our Lady of Fatima, particularly among three major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, saying that Our Lady of Fatima “is a Jewish woman, acclaimed and revered by Christians, and acknowledged and respected by Muslims.”

As Our Lady of Fatima is in the spotlight during May 12-13 around the world, Benkovic is hopeful that her messages of peace and repentance will touch individuals around the world in an unprecedented way.

“My prayer is that the hearts of the attendees and those who will watch via social media will be receptive to the message and the name United Nations will attain its full significance in accordance with the will of God through the maternal beatitude of Our Lady of Fatima,” she said.

Benkovic also hopes that the Fatima event at the UN will cultivate peace and an attitude of love across all cultures around the world, inspiring individuals to utilize their time and talents for the good of mankind.

“I believe it is God’s will that every nation in the world, in a way unique to its people and culture, would seek to establish a civilization of love by infusing family life, communities, institutions, organizations and governmental agencies with moral truth according to the commandments of God and the teachings of the Church,” she said.

“If this even, through the grace of God, helps us to focus our energies and hopes and gifts and talents, individually as well as collectively, in this direction, much good will be accomplished.”

 

 

 

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