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Migration situation requires a humane, Christian response, official says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Mohsin Raza, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican recognizes how difficult it is for nations to manage the flow of migrants and refugees, but one thing is certain: "We must respond in a humane manner, a Christian manner, and we must try to help people, not harm them," said the Vatican foreign minister.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, whose formal title is Vatican secretary for relations with states, spoke with Vatican News June 19, the eve of the U.N.'s World Refugee Day.

While the Vatican obviously respects the sovereignty of individual nations to determine how best to respond to the needs of migrants and refugees, the archbishop said, "the numbers are what they are, and we must face that and we must help."

In connection with World Refugee Day, the U.N. Refugee Agency released its annual report on "forced displacement" around the world.

At the end of 2018, it said, there were 70.8 million people forcibly displaced worldwide, and 25.9 million of those people were officially recognized as refugees, which means they were found to have fled their homelands because of persecution, war or violence and they have a "well-founded fear of persecution" if they return home. At year's end, another 3.5 million people were asylum seekers in the process of applying for protected status.

Children under the age of 18 make up one half of the world's refugee population, the report said. And, in what the U.N. said was surely an "underestimate," it counted 27,600 unaccompanied and separated children, who sought asylum on their own, and another 111,000 unaccompanied and separated children, who had refugee status.

More than two-thirds (67%) of all refugees were from five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.

The five countries hosting the most refugees, the U.N. said, were: Turkey with 3.7 million refugees; Pakistan with 1.4 million; Uganda with 1.2 million; Sudan with 1.1 million and Germany with 1.1 million.

Archbishop Gallagher told Vatican News, "It's obvious that conflicts in the world, difficulties with the environment and extreme poverty are elements that will not change from one day to the next, so we must continue -- probably for many years -- to act in solidarity and with fraternal love for these people."

While the situation is dire for the migrants and refugees, the archbishop said that people in wealthier nations must acknowledge the contributions of newcomers, and not just in terms of cultural enrichment, but also in offsetting the declining birthrate in many European countries and the need in many nations for factory and farmworkers.

"So, it is necessary to have a balanced approach, but also try to humanize ourselves," he said. "In fact, if one treats others badly, we are the ones who are diminished."

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Regarding Reverend Joseph (Jack) Baker

The Archdiocese of Detroit recently received an allegation against Rev. Joseph (Jack) H. Baker involving sexual abuse of a minor. The allegation dates back to the earlier years of his ministry.

RevJosephJackBakerThis allegation immediately was reported to the Office of the Michigan Attorney General. The Archdiocese of Detroit now has been informed by the Attorney General’s Office that it should proceed with the appropriate actions prescribed by Canon (or Church) Law. Effective June 19, in accord with the norms of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, also known as the Dallas Charter, Father Baker, 57, has been restricted from all public ministry pending the outcome of the canonical process.

While restricted from ministry, Father Baker is prohibited from representing himself as a priest, wearing clerical attire or exercising any form of Church ministry. Like any cleric restricted from ministry in the Archdiocese of Detroit, he is monitored to ensure compliance with Church restrictions.

Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit Gerard Battersby has been named temporary administrator of St. Perpetua Parish in Waterford Township, where Father Baker was assigned as pastor.

Individuals with knowledge of sexual abuse by clergy or other Church representatives are urged to contact local law enforcement and/or the Michigan Attorney General’s Office at (844) 324-3374 or aginvestigations@michigan.gov. Individuals also may contact the Archdiocese of Detroit by visiting protect.aod.org calling the toll-free, 24/7 victim assistance line at (866) 343-8055 or by emailing vac@aod.org. There are no time limits or restrictions on individuals wishing to report abuse.

Biographical Information:

  • Education: Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI; Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI
  • Ordained: 1993

Assignment History:

  • 1993-1996: Associate Pastor, St. Hugo of the Hills Parish, Bloomfield Hills
  • 1996-1997: Associate Pastor, Sacred Heart Parish, Dearborn
  • 1996-1997: Campus Minister, Wayne State Medical School Campus Ministry, Detroit
  • 1997-2008: Pastor, St. Mary Parish, Wayne
  • 2003-2004: Administrators, SS. Kevin and Norbert Parish, Inkster
  • 2003-2008: Administrator, Holy Family Parish, Inkster
  • 2011: Administrator: St. Benedict Parish, Waterford
  • 2008-present: Pastor, St. Perpetua Parish, Waterford

Update: U.S. bishops take action to respond to church abuse crisis

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Carol Zimmermann

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- During the June 11-13 spring assembly of the U.S. bishops in Baltimore, it was clear the bishops had to respond to the sexual abuse crisis in the church -- and on the last day of their gathering they approved a series of procedures to begin this process.

On June 13, they voted to implement the document "Vos Estis Lux Mundi" ("You are the light of the world"), issued by Pope Francis in May to help the Catholic Church safeguard its members from abuse and hold its leaders accountable.

The bishops also approved the document "Affirming Our Episcopal Commitments" and promised to hold themselves accountable to the commitments of the charter, including a zero-tolerance policy for abuse. The document says any codes of conduct in their respective dioceses regarding clergy apply to bishop as well.

They voted in favor of the item "protocol regarding available nonpenal restrictions on bishops," which outlines what canonical options are available to bishops when a retired bishop resigns or is removed "due to sexual misconduct with adults or grave negligence of office, or where subsequent to his resignation he was found to have so acted or failed to act."

Their first action was a vote June 12 to authorize the implementation of a third-party system that would allow people to make confidential reports of abuse complaints against bishops through a toll-free telephone number and online. The system, which would be operated by an outside vendor contracted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, should be in place no later than May 31, 2020.

During the first day of the assembly, several speakers discussed the challenge ahead and the need for the bishops to be both transparent and reliant upon lay leadership. The bishops also examined their plans to vote on procedures and policies in response to the abuse crisis, including some they had put aside during their fall general assembly in November at the Vatican's request.

The bishops' postponement of voting on these procedures was addressed from the meeting's onset June 11 in a message from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican's nuncio to the United States.

He noted that there were "some expressions of 'dissent'" by some U.S. bishops at the previous assembly about postponing votes on items related to the reemergent clergy sexual abuse crisis, but he also stressed that "unity prevails over conflict."

"Working together provides us with the opportunity to speak and to listen," said the message from Archbishop Pierre, read by Msgr. Walter Erbi, charge d'affaires at the Vatican's nunciature in Washington. Archbishop Pierre was at the Vatican for a nuncio meeting.

Archbishop Pierre's message said that despite the desire among U.S. bishops in November to act quickly to address new crises on clergy sex abuse, the postponement of the votes on the issue allowed the U.S. church to participate more fully at the Vatican's February summit on the protection of minors.

"One of the reasons the Holy Father asked for a delay was that the whole church needed to walk together, to work in a synodal way," Archbishop Pierre said, "with the guidance of the Holy Spirit to make the path forward clearer."

Moving forward was certainly a theme of the assembly, echoed by National Review Board chairman Francesco Cesareo June 11, who called for a greater role for laity in investigating allegations of abuse or reaction to reports of abuse against bishops.

Cesareo also said National Review Board members recommend a thorough review of the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" and a revision in the audit process regarding diocesan implementation of the charter, which governs the church's response to clergy abuse allegations.

"A strengthened audit would provide a means for improving your dioceses' existing methods to protect and heal," Cesareo said. "Virtually all your dioceses, including those where problems came to light under the microscope of the media and attorney generals, have easily passed the audit for years, since the bar currently is so low. Now is the time to raise the bar on compliance to ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated."

Cesareo also recommended that the charter "should be revised immediately to explicitly include bishops and demand for greater accountability."

"You have a great opportunity," he said, "to lead by example and help show dioceses and episcopal conferences around the world not only how important it is for lay involvement to ensure greater accountability and transparency, but also how laity and the episcopacy can be co-responsible for the church's well-being."

Both the National Review Board and the National Advisory Council pressed the bishops to encourage Vatican officials to release documents regarding the investigation of misconduct by Theodore E. McCarrick, the former cardinal who was laicized earlier this year. The allegations against him were made public nearly a year ago on June 20, 2018.

The bishops also discussed the upcoming election, the crisis at the border and the issue of young adults leaving the church.

They were urged to do more to support the suffering of immigrant families, to be with them spiritually as pastors and to voice support for legal measures to help them.

"It's so important that our works match our words on this issue," said Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, June 11 after a presentation by the working group on immigration issues for the USCCB.

Two bishop members of the group, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, gave an update of what the U.S. church is doing at the national level and in certain regions of the country on immigration issues.

Bishop Vasquez urged the group to "redouble efforts to offer spiritual support and access to legal and social services to affected families," saying it is "vital that they feel supported by the church during this time of uncertainty."

Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, spoke about an upcoming presentation at the fall meeting on how to respond to the growing number of young people leaving the church.

He said getting the religiously unaffiliated, or "nones," particularly young people, back to the Catholic Church, should be a top priority for the church, noting that 50% of Catholics age 30 and younger have left the church.

"Half the kids that we baptized and confirmed in the last 30 years are now ex-Catholics or unaffiliated," he said, and "one out of six millennials in the U.S. is now a former Catholic."

In anticipation of the 2020 presidential election, the U.S. bishops' quadrennial document that provides guidance to voters on Catholic social teaching won't change, but it will be supplemented by a brief letter and four 90-second videos that reflect the teaching of Pope Francis, the bishops were told.

A small group of no more than 10 protesters stood in largely silent protest June 11 outside the hotel where the meeting was taking place. One of the group's demands was that the bishops report abuse claims first to law enforcement.

"We don't think the church can police themselves," said Becky Ianni, director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests for the Washington area.

At the bishops' Mass at the end of the first day of the spring assembly, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and president of the USCCB, spoke about the challenges faced by early Christians and urged the bishops to follow the example of Barnabas in the Acts of the Apostles who was respected and trusted.

"Today we honor Barnabas in our desire to do God's will and to do it carefully and with discretion but also with what the Holy Father calls boldness -- apostolic boldness," he said.

On the meeting's final day, the bishops also approved wording to keep treatment of the death penalty in the U.S. Catechism for Adults in line with the revised universal catechism.

During the second day of their meeting, the bishops met by regions and provinces in the morning. In the afternoon, they not only voted on the national hotline, but they also approved by electronic vote:

-- Strategic priorities for the 2021-24 USCCB Strategic Plan, in a provisional vote.

-- The second edition of the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States for use in U.S. dioceses.

-- An update to texts last changed in 2003 for the ordination of clergy. The action still requires confirmation by the Vatican.

The bishops also gave their assent by voice vote for the Diocese of Marquette, Michigan, to continue to pursue the sainthood cause of Irving "Francis" C. Houle, a man from Michigan who was said to have received the stigmata 16 years before he died in 2009, but who well before that had "many extraordinary physical and spiritual healings" attributed to him, according to a biography.

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Contributing to this report were Dennis Sadowski, Mark Pattison, Rhina Guidos and Christopher Gunty.

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Bishop Blaire dies; recalled for living by a simple code -- 'to serve'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By

MODESTO, Calif. (CNS) -- Retired Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton died June 18 after a prolonged illness. He died at his retirement residence at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Modesto. He was 77.

The much beloved bishop was recalled by many both in California and across the country as a churchman who lived by a simple code: "We are here to serve, and to do it with a touch of class.

When he was installed as Stockton's fifth bishop Jan. 19, 1999, he told the standing-room-only congregation, "Jesus said, 'Remain in my love.' These words, which were spoken by Jesus to his disciples, are spoken to each and every one of us.''

He said Jesus' words express "the most central and profound truth of our faith. That we are loved by God, and we are called to love one another as God has loved us.''

He linked the sharing of that love to service. "We are committed to service in the world, to serve the kingdom of God in the world,'' he said.

A native of Los Angeles and ordained a priest in 1967, Bishop Blaire retired in January 2018. Before being named to head the six-county Stockton Diocese, he had been an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles for nine years. He was succeeded by Bishop Myron J. Cotta, who at the time of his appointment to Stockton was an auxiliary bishop of Sacramento.

On the national level, Bishop Blaire served as the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pastoral Practices and has been a member of the Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. In 2009, he was elected to a term as chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice, Peace and Human Development.

In 2009, Bishop Blaire one of the first bishops to sign the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation, sponsored by the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change. The pledge offers a series of steps that people can follow to reduce their impact on the environment.

Bishop Blaire also was a former president of the California Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's Catholic bishops.

In 2007 in an address about the work of the conference, he said the state's Catholic bishops "as pastors" meet with the conference staff "as experts" twice a year to "discern prudential ways to bring the Gospel to bear on legislative, judicial or executive matters."

"We are careful to select only those issues which have a significant moral component or affect the life of the church and her ability to freely minister to our people and in the community," he said.

High on the California Catholic Conference radar were a host of issues, he said, including efforts to have conscience clauses removed from reproductive health legislation which would force Catholic hospitals or individuals to take part in abortions or other procedures in opposition to church teaching.

The address he delivered was during a conference on St. Paul VI's 1967 encyclical "Populorum Progressio." The work of the conference, he said, resonated with the pope's well-known document.

"Listen to the opening words of the encyclical," Bishop Blaire said, then quoted them: "The development of peoples has the church's close attention, particularly the development of those peoples who are striving to escape from hunger, misery, endemic diseases and ignorance; of those ... looking for a wider share in the benefits of civilization and a more active improvement of their human qualities."

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Archbishop joins pope in calling for talks to resolve U.S.-Iran tensions

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Amid rising tensions between the United States and Iran, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services called on President Donald Trump's administration to seek "sustained dialogue ... to de-escalate the current situation that is a danger to both the region and the world."

The archbishop's call for diplomacy rather than military action came in a June 18 letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. His letter was made public June 19.

The correspondence from the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee for International Justice and Peace outlines the Catholic Church's long-held stance that has preferred dialogue and engagement as the best actions to resolve political stalemates.

Archbishop Broglio called on the U.S. to avoid a military confrontation.

"There is little probability that another war in the most volatile region in the world, where the recent and current experiences of conflict in Syria, Iraq and Yemen are vivid, will succeed in bringing peace to the region," Archbishop Broglio wrote.

"A different approach is needed," he added. "The president's recent statement that the United States does not seek war with Iran is encouraging."

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have heightened since early May as several seagoing oil tankers have been the subject of sabotage and attacks. In the most recent incidents June 13, two tankers were targeted with land mines in the Gulf of Oman. One of the tankers was set ablaze.

Trump has accused Iran of being behind the attacks and British officials said they are "almost certain" that Tehran was behind the attacks.

Pompeo told reporters June 18 after a meeting with U.S. military leaders at U.S. Central Command in Florida that Trump "does not want war." However, he said, the U.S. presence in the region was meant as a deterrent to Iran's threats.

Iran has denied any involvement with the ships and has said it will defend its interests.

Pope Francis June 16 called for diplomacy to head off any confrontation.

"I invite everyone to use the instruments of diplomacy to resolve the complex problems of the conflicts in the Middle East," he said after celebrating Mass in Camerino, Italy, which was devastated by an earthquake in 2016. "I renew a heartfelt appeal to the international community to make every possible effort to favor dialogue and peace."

Threats of military action by both countries will do little to resolve the disagreement, two observers of Middle East events told Catholic News Service.

They said Iran's economy has taken a deep hit because of new sanctions put in place since the unilateral U.S. withdrawal from a multilateral agreement that limits the ability of Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

Trump has said since that the withdrawal from the so-called P5+1 pact has made the world a safer place.

Despite the U.S. withdrawal, France, the United Kingdom, Russia and China plus Germany remain parties to the deal, which international monitoring agencies have confirmed that Iran continues to follow. However, Iran announced June 17 that it could soon start enriching uranium to just beneath weapons-grade level.

In response, the Pentagon ordered 1,000 more troops to the Middle East. The step is seen as an effort to deter Iran and ease concerns among allies about the security of vital shipping lanes.

George Lopez, retired professor of peace studies at the Kroc Institute for Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, said he doubted that threatening statements from Trump and other administration officials and boosting the military presence in the Middle East will bring Iran to the negotiating table "or get them to heel."

"The Iranians don't look at it that way. They look at it as intimidation or a cavalier announcement," Lopez said. "The Iranian framework is that they have been under attack economically since last year."

He expressed concern that the Trump administration has failed to undertake any diplomatic overtures to Iran since withdrawing from the nuclear accord negotiated in 2015.

Should the U.S. initiate a surgical strike on one of Iran's nuclear facilities to block uranium enrichment -- as some in the administration and in Congress have suggested -- Lopez predicted Iranian leaders would see it "as an act of war."

"We didn't see the towers when they were attacked on 9/11 as a surgical strike. We saw it as an act of war. Why wouldn't any other state do that as such?" he said.

Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association and an occasional collaborator with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Department of International Justice and Peace, said Iran's announcement on uranium enrichment is not surprising given the toll that U.S.-imposed sanctions have taken on the country.

"Slightly exceeding the (uranium) stockpile limit is not a near-term proliferation risk. But once Iran conducts the first violation it becomes easier to breach the deal in more serious ways," she told CNS.

Of more immediate concern, according to Davenport, is the potential for a U.S. attack on an Iranian nuclear facility. "The most likely outcome is Iran deciding to pursue nuclear weapons," she said. "Tehran may decide that developing a nuclear deterrent outweighs the cost that they'll pay in sanctions and diplomatic isolation."

Despite Trump's rhetoric, Davenport said she does not believe he wants to see a war erupt with Iran.

She called on the remaining parties to the nuclear deal to "deliver on sanctions relief," as Iran has sought since the U.S. withdrawal.

"So there is a space (to maintain peace), but it requires more courage from Europe to step and risk international sanctions and to send a strong message to Iran that it's not just Iran that is willing to take some risks to preserve the deal," Davenport explained.

"The deal is not dead yet, and conflict with Iran is not inevitable yet. But Europe in particular has to be much more proactive in the coming weeks to signal that they'll risk U.S. penalties to deliver on sanctions relief."

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Editor's Note: The full text of Archbishop Broglio's letter is online at https://bit.ly/2Rqy9JJ.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: Listening, mentoring key to keeping young adults, say church workers

IMAGE: CNS photo/Terry Wyatt, courtesy FOCUS

By Elizabeth Bachmann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Professors, youth ministers and lay theologians across the country give different reasons for why young people are leaving the church, but they all agree that listening and mentoring are key to developing and maintaining faith.

Curtis Martin, president and founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, identified two groups of young people within the church: those who call themselves Catholics, but are slowly drifting away from the church, and those who are actively moving toward the heart of Catholicism.

Martin told Catholic News Service the reason so many young people are drifting away is because the church has "lost its voice." The church is not talking enough about its first love, Jesus, he explained, but it is focusing on secondary and tertiary things.

Natalia Imperatori-Lee, professor of religious studies at Manhattan College, agrees that young people want to focus on Jesus and the missionary work they can do in his name.

"What excites them is hearing the message of Jesus, seeing (Pope) Francis' concern for the poor, seeing different groups in the church reach out to people on the margins," Imperatori-Lee said. "Generally they are excited to be part of communities that are acting out the Gospels. I just don't know that they connect the institutional church with those that are acting out the Gospels."

She also said the church's moral and social stances are opposed to many millennial stances. For example, she said the church should stop focusing on "pelvic issues" and help students reconcile their LGBTQ identities with their Catholic identity.

Gregory Hillis, a professor of theology at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, countered Imperatori-Lee's theory, suggesting that the sociological discrepancies between millennial morals and the church really stem from a deficiency in spiritual, theological and, especially, mystagogical education.

He explained that, without enlightening young people to the beauty, faith and theological reasoning behind Catholic moral teaching, dogma can feel oppressive and legalistic.

"When I ask my students to tell me, 'When I say Catholic Church, what do you think of,' they say 'law and sex,'" Hillis told CNS. "That is their impression of the Catholic Church, that it is dogmatic and not beautiful."

Hillis said he combats this phenomenon by teaching students about the church's contemplative tradition, immersing them in Trappist Father Thomas Merton, St. Gregory the Great, St. Therese of Lisieux and other writers.

Most of Hillis' students attended Catholic schools, growing up with daily or weekly religious education classes. Yet, he said, they have no idea that the church possesses this wealth of writing and thought, and often they ask him why they were never taught this in high school.

On a fundamental level, Hillis said young Catholics are overwhelmingly disconnected from mystagogical tradition. He said he takes his three sons to the nearby Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani "to hang out with the monks." This kind of spiritual immersion is more effective than the typical catechesis young people receive today, Hillis said.

Jonathan Lewis, assistant secretary for pastoral ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington, shared Hillis' concerns, but added that young people leaving the church are simply mirroring their parents' gradual disaffiliation.

Lewis referenced "Sticky Faith," a book by Kara Powell and Chap Clark, which says young people need at least five mentors who support them in their faith and life journeys in order for their faith to stick. Typically, this should include a priest, parish staff, small groups and parents.

However, Lewis said the church often fails to provide lifelong accompaniment to its members. In a survey of young Catholics in the District of Columbia area, less than half said they had either a mentor or a friend at their church.

"Young people are looking for the church to be home," Lewis said. "You should belong there, people should know your name, you should feel welcome, you have the key, you have some authority, there is a table, you are provided for. The church should have all these elements of a home."

Martin suggested a more aggressive approach that does not rely on waiting for the church to change. Instead, he said lay groups such as FOCUS must raise up spiritual young people who know how to survive when ripped from the comfortable spiritual luxury of college ministry, where they are surrounded by friends and mentors on fire for Christ, and dropped into spiritual wildernesses.

He said young people who find themselves in inhospitable faith environments first need to seek the "water and shelter of faith," like daily prayer and frequenting the sacraments. However, once they have secured their own spiritual campground, they must gather a group of people and start a fire.

"Jesus changed the world with 12," he said. "You don't need a lot of people, but they need to be radically faithful and committed to being fruitful."

Martin said although social media, videos, synods and councils are helpful, he believes the greatest hope and the greatest weapons for the Catholic Church are personal relationships.

"This is how Jesus Christ did it. His social media was the Ten Commandments, which people started breaking before they even left the mountain," Martin said. "So Jesus became man and led a scandalously relational life. The amount of intentionality of relation that he demonstrated is our example."

Martin said if each person who believes reached out to five other people, and each of them reached out to another five people, there would be real hope for the future of the church.

"It is very hard, must be the hardest thing they have done, but it is possible and it is occurring across the U.S.," Martin said. "We are battling an exponential battle; either we are going to lose and it's going to be terrible, or we are going to win and it is going to be magnificent."

However, Hillis said he worries that if the church continues to make decisions without consulting young people, it will never connect with them.

Lewis, who audited the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment, said it was a positive example of church leaders truly listening to and engaging with young people.

"Pope Francis as pastor and teacher was trying to model for the universal church and bishops worldwide the right kind of process to engage young people in," he said.

This included listening, friendship and leadership opportunities for young people at local levels. Lewis said he has not seen any widespread examples of implementation yet, but he is optimistic that communities will begin to change in the next year "because Christ is alive. He is always new, ever young, ever attractive, and ever alive."

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Young adult leaders gather for post-synod discussion

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholic young adults felt the hierarchy started listening to them in preparation for the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people, and they will do whatever they can to make sure their voices continue to be heard, said a youth minister from New Zealand.

"May we be bold," was the wish expressed by Isabella McCafferty from the Archdiocese of Wellington at a Vatican news conference June 18.

McCafferty was one of more than 280 young people from 109 countries set to take part in a post-synod Youth Forum June 19-22.

The Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life asked bishops' conferences around the world to identify two young adult leaders to participate in the forum, being held at a retreat center just south of Rome.

Schonstatt Father Alexandre Awi Mello, secretary of the dicastery, told reporters, "There is always a risk that after a big event people lose enthusiasm, move on to the next thing," but Pope Francis and the dicastery are serious about not letting that happen.

"The synod on young people is in its realization phase," he said. "There is still much to be done," and the forum was designed to continue that conversation with young adults who are experienced in reaching out to their peers.

McCafferty told Catholic News Service: "Young people want the church to give them room to be involved. So, yes, they want their voice heard, but they also want to be part of the things that happen after that," actually implementing changes.

Involving young people in sharing the Gospel message in ways that are relevant and makes sense to them and to their peers, for example, through the use of social media, is especially important, she said.

Young people also are deeply committed to protecting the environment, she said, and they want to be involved in the efforts of the church to reduce its impact on the environment and to promote respect for God's creation.

Most of all, she said, young people are looking for "an authentic church."

"Authenticity is about transparency, it's about vulnerability at times, but it's also about ground level, about being community," McCafferty said. "Rather than always thinking of the church as this thing that happens in Rome, it's about what it means to be church in our local area," and it always involves "person-to-person contact."

When a young adult goes to a parish church regularly for months and only one person talks to him or her -- it happens, she said -- it tells that young adult that an authentic, caring community does not exist there.

"Young people don't feel particularly welcome" in many church communities, she said. "Young people are looking for an encounter with each other, with the church and with the sacraments, but it needs to happen in relevant ways for them," which involves a willingness to "interlink with each other more and holding each other up."

The U.S. bishops chose as their delegates to the meeting Brian Rhude, project coordinator for the Catholic Apostolate Center in Washington, D.C., and Brenda Noriega, coordinator of young adult ministry for the Diocese of San Bernardino, California, and member of the U.S. bishops' National Advisory Team on Young Adult Ministry.

Paul Jarzembowski, assistant director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries and Lay Ecclesial Ministry for the U.S. bishops, was one of 15 national youth ministry staff members invited to attend the forum and make a presentation on how "Christus Vivit," the pope's document on young people, is impacting parishes, dioceses and national organizations in the United States.

 

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What's in a name: Vatican questions use of term 'viri probati'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paulo Santos, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Amazon aims to highlight the damage wrought by climate change and exploitation, the possibility of ordaining married men to minister in remote areas of the rainforest continues to garner more attention.

Among the suggestions proposed in the 45-page working document for the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, published by the Vatican June 17, was the request "to study the possibility of priestly ordination for elders -- preferably indigenous, respected and accepted by the community -- even if they have an established and stable family."

However, when asked why the document did not use the standard church term "viri probati" ("men of proven virtue") to describe married candidates for the priesthood, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, told journalists June 17 that he was perplexed at the media's continued use of the phrase.

"It's a different thing," the cardinal said regarding the document's proposal. "For me, I think (the term 'viri probati') is a bit abused."

In drafting the working document, he said, the secretariat of the Synod of Bishops wanted to emphasize that while the subject of ordaining married men would be studied, the church continues to affirm the importance of celibacy for priests.

Responding to a journalist's question about ordaining married men, Bishop Fabio Fabene, undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, said the call for a study on the matter was a direct response "to the suffering of the people, above all those in the most remote areas, due to the lack of the Eucharist."

"The working document responds to this suffering by recalling, first of all, the principle that the Eucharist makes the church and the church makes the Eucharist," Bishop Fabene said.

He also reminded journalists of what Pope Francis said about ordaining married men of proven virtue during his news conference in January with journalists flying back to Rome from Panama with him.

Pope Francis told reporters that celibacy "is a gift to the church" and that he did not agree with allowing "optional celibacy."

"My personal opinion" is that optional celibacy is not the way forward, the pope told reporters Jan. 27. "Am I someone who is closed? Maybe, but I don't feel like I could stand before God with this decision."

However, on the flight as well as in a previous interview, Pope Francis also said he was open to studying the possibility of ordaining married men for very remote locations, such as the Amazon and the Pacific islands where Catholic communities seldom have Mass because there are no priests.

Pope Francis made headlines in 2017 when he raised the possibility of studying the ordination of married "viri probati," even though his response fell clearly in line with the thinking of his predecessors.

In an interview with German newspaper Die Zeit, published in early March 2017, the pope was asked if allowing candidates for the priesthood to fall in love and marry could be "an incentive" for combatting the shortage of priestly vocations.

"We have to study whether 'viri probati' are a possibility. We then also need to determine which tasks they could take on, such as in remote communities, for example," the pope told Die Zeit.

Expressing a willingness to discuss the possibility of allowing married men to become priests was hardly groundbreaking; the topic has come up repeatedly at meetings of the Synod of Bishops -- especially those held in 1971 and 2005 -- and has been discussed by both Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II.

In addition, the Catholic Church already has married priests -- thousands of them.

Most of the Eastern Catholic churches always have ordained married men in their traditional homelands and, in 2014, the Vatican granted permission for such ordinations to be celebrated anywhere the Eastern Catholic communities were present.

In the Latin-rite Catholic Church in 1981, St. John Paul issued a "pastoral provision" allowing former Anglican priests who were married to be ordained as Catholic priests. Pope Benedict expanded that provision with his 2009 apostolic constitution, "Anglicanorum coetibus," establishing personal ordinariates for former Anglicans, including married priests.

While married Eastern-rite priests are part of the church's tradition, when the popes allowed for the ordination of married former Anglican ministers, they did so affirming that the general rule for priestly celibacy in the Latin rite continues.

In the same way, Vatican officials said studying the possibility of ordaining married elders in the Amazon does not call into question the importance of celibacy, but is a call for the church to take a closer look at a possible solution for a specific need.

Bishop Fabene said the call for a study was a direct response to the suffering of indigenous Catholics living in remote areas of the Amazon and, along with promoting indigenous vocations to the priesthood and religious life, is meant "to bring an encounter of the sacramental presence in those communities."

"It seems pretty clear that this is what the working document intends: to present to the synod fathers this emergency that came from the consultation with the people of God in the Amazon," he said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Don't let quake shake your hope, pope tells earthquake survivors

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By

CAMERINO, Italy (CNS) -- Wearing a firefighter's helmet painted white and gold for the occasion, Pope Francis entered the earthquake-damaged cathedral in Camerino and prayed before a statue of Mary missing the top of its head.

The pope began his visit June 16 outside the historic city by visiting the temporary modular homes of dozens of families who lost everything when an earthquake struck the region in October 2016.

Pope Francis arrived in the town early in the morning, and the first couple he visited insisted he try a pastry.

"I had breakfast before I left," he explained. But the woman said she would be offended if he didn't try just one, so he did.

A few doors down, a young woman holding a small, squirming dog told him, "I can't believe you are really here."

The centerpiece of the pope's visit was the celebration of Mass in the small square outside the still-closed cathedral.

In his homily, Pope Francis focused on the question from Psalm 8: "What is man that you are mindful of him?"

"With what you have seen and suffered, with houses collapsed and buildings reduced to rubble," the pope said, it is a legitimate question for people to ask.

Faith and experience, though, make it clear that God always is mindful of his human creatures, "each one is of infinite value to him," the pope said. "We are small under the heavens and powerless when the earth trembles, but for God we are more precious than anything."

Visiting the families in temporary housing, Pope Francis kept urging them to keep hold of hope, and he did the same in his homily.

"Earthly hopes are fleeting, they have an expiration date," the pope said. But the Christian virtue of hope, a gift of the Holy Spirit "does not expire because it is based on God's faithfulness."

Such hope, he said, gives birth to "peace and joy inside, independently of what happens outside. It is a hope that has strong roots, one that no storm can uproot."

Pope Francis told the people he wanted to visit just to show his closeness.

At the same time, he said he knew that, after three years, media attention and the solidarity of other Italians has waned, promises of a speedy reconstruction seem to have been forgotten and frustration increases as residents watch more and more people move away permanently.

He prayed that the Lord would prompt people "to remember, repair and rebuild and to do so together, without ever forgetting those who suffer."

 

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Synod document raises possibility of married priests, roles for women

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church must find ways to reach indigenous Catholics deprived of the sacraments in the most remote areas of the Amazon rainforest, and that may include ordaining married elders, said the working document for the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon.

"Affirming that celibacy is a gift for the church, in order to ensure the sacraments for the most remote areas of the region, we are asked to study the possibility of priestly ordination for elders -- preferably indigenous, respected and accepted by the community -- even though they have an established and stable family," said the document.

Published by the Vatican June 17, the document also said the church should consider "an official ministry that can be conferred upon women, taking into account the central role they play in the Amazonian church."

The document, drafted after input from bishops' conferences and local communities, acknowledged that in the church "the feminine presence in communities isn't always valued."

Those responding to a synod questionnaire asked that women's "gifts and talents" be recognized and that the church "guarantee women leadership as well as increasingly broad and relevant space in the field of formation: theology, catechesis, liturgy and schools of faith and politics," the 45-page document said.

The synod gathering in October 2019 will reflect on the theme "Amazonia: New paths for the church and for an integral ecology."

When he announced the synod in 2017, Pope Francis said it would seek to identify new paths of evangelization, especially for indigenous people who are "often forgotten and left without the prospect of a peaceful future, including because of the crisis of the Amazon forest," which plays a vital role in the environmental health of the entire planet.

The Amazon rainforest includes territory spread across Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Suriname, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Guyana and French Guiana and is the largest rainforest in the world, covering more than 2.1 million square miles in South America.

While rich in biodiversity, natural resources and cultures, the Amazon rainforest has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity.

"This synod revolves around life: the life of the Amazonian territory and its people, the life of the church (and) the life of the planet," the document said.

Divided into three main parts, the synod document first laid out the importance of the Amazonian region as well as the environmental threats facing it and its indigenous populations.

"Currently, climate change and the increase in human intervention -- deforestation, fires and changes in the use of land -- are driving the Amazon to a point of no return with high rates of deforestation, forced population displacement and pollution, putting its ecosystems at risk and exerting pressure on local cultures," it said.

To respond to the needs and challenges facing the Amazon and its indigenous populations, it added, the church must have a "new sense of mission" that "opens new spaces" for finding ways to minister with and to the region's people.

"This is the moment to listen to the voice of the Amazon and to respond as a prophetic and Samaritan church," the working document said.

The document's second part highlighted the dangers facing the region and its people who are threatened by those "guided by an economic model linked to production, commercialization and consumption, where the maximizing of profit is prioritized over human and environmental needs."

Drug and arms trafficking, corruption, violence against women, forced migration and the exploitation of indigenous people and their territories, particularly those in "voluntary isolation," are among the other challenges that the church must confront.

Among the suggestions proposed in the working document's third part was the formation of indigenous laity so they can take on a greater role, especially in remote areas lacking the presence of priests and religious men and women.

However, those who are preparing for ordained ministry in the region must also receive adequate formation in the church's "philosophical-theological culture," although in a way adapted to Amazonian cultures.

The document also proposed "the reform of the structures of the seminaries to encourage the integration of candidates to the priesthood in the communities."

Liturgy also plays an important role in expressing the church's closeness to indigenous people in the Amazon, the document said.

Citing the Second Vatican Council document on the sacred liturgy and Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium," the document highlighted "the enculturation of the liturgy among the indigenous peoples," adding that cultural diversity poses no threat "to the unity of the church but rather expresses its genuine Catholicity by showing the 'the beauty of her varied face.'"

"The sacraments must be a source of life and healing that is accessible to all, especially to the poor," the document said. "We are asked to overcome the rigidity of a discipline that excludes and alienates" and instead offer "a pastoral sensitivity that accompanies and integrates."

In order to help communities that find it difficult to celebrate the Eucharist due to lack of priests, it added, the church is asked to "change the criteria for selecting and preparing authorized ministers to celebrate it" and to work toward a "ministry of presence" and not simply the itinerant visits of a priest passing through.

The synod working document said that the church is called to play "a prophetic role" in the Amazon, and its evangelizing mission in the region implies "a commitment to promote the rights of the indigenous people."

"The Spirit is in the voice of the poor; that is why the church must listen to them, they are a theological place," it said. "In listening to their pain, silence is necessary in order to hear the voice of the Spirit of God. The prophetic voice implies a new contemplative look capable of mercy and commitment."

The commitment to caring for the earth and defending the human rights of its inhabitants can be dangerous, the document said. "The number of martyrs in the Amazon is alarming."

The church must support those who risk their lives for others "and remember its martyrs, among whom are women leaders like Sister Dorothy Stang," a U.S.-born Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, who defended the land rights of the poor and was assassinated in Brazil in 2005.

 

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