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Bishops reflect on abuse crisis on anniversary of Pa. grand jury report

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By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- On the anniversary of the Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing alleged abuse by clergy and other church workers over several decades in six dioceses, bishops in those dioceses reflected on what the past year has wrought and described how their dioceses have acted to help past victims and prevent future victims.

The grand jury report, released Aug. 14, 2018, was based on a monthslong investigation into alleged abuse in the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Allentown, Scranton, Erie, Harrisburg and Greensburg, Pennsylvania. It covered a 70-year period starting in 1947.

"It was devastating for me, as the pastor of this diocese, to see the ugly details of what had happened within the church," said a statement by Bishop Lawrence T. Persico of Erie on his diocese's website. "I knew that survivor/victims, as well as all Catholics and the entire community, would need time to grapple with the report. Their deep pain, anger and grief was understandable."

He added, "My apology is only one step in the long and complex process of healing. I know words mean very little without action. The Diocese of Erie has taken many important steps in the last year, and will continue on this path."

Bishop Persico said, "It is clear that bringing about healing and rebuilding trust is the work we are being called to do as church. It will take time, patience and fidelity, but the Lord will provide the grace we need. With every confidence in that grace, I look forward to the work that needs to be accomplished."

"In many instances, the wounds of 50, 60 or even 70 years ago have still not healed. The ripple effect continues to cause pain for survivors, their families and Catholics across the world," said a statement by Bishop Edward C. Malesic of Greensburg on his diocesan website.

"I cannot change the past. I cannot rewrite this awful chapter of our church's history. But I can try to help survivors, their families and our parishioners get through this time of suffering. I have spent nearly every day of my time as bishop solidifying our commitment to higher standards of accountability in the Diocese of Greensburg," he said.

"What I heard from our independent lay council and from countless individuals at the listening sessions, in dozens of letters and phone calls, emails and Facebook messages was this: Be accountable. Be transparent. Tell the truth," Bishop Malesic said.

"This year has been a time of grieving, of repentance for the harm done to people at the hands of priests who were expected to be trusted spiritual leaders. It has also been a time for the heart of the church to deepen its understanding of what victims/survivors have endured, and to reach out in news ways to help them heal spiritually," said an Aug. 14 statement from Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh.

"Pittsburgh is a resilient region, with a unique spirit and sense of community. People draw together to see each other through hard times and come out stronger," he added. "Today, we look to the church of the future, the faith community we want today's children and their children experience.

"My faith is in God. But I also have faith in the church of Pittsburgh: faith that our community can move forward in unity and with hope, learning from the past, protecting the weakest among us, holding each other accountable and continuing to fulfill the mission that Jesus gave to us."

"While this past year was painful, it had moments of great strength and hope for the future," said a statement from Bishop Alfred A. Schlert of Allentown on the diocese's website. "I am very grateful to victim-survivors and to our dedicated laity, clergy, and religious order sisters and brothers, who have through their honest dialogue and constructive suggestions assisted me in my responsibilities to heal and fortify our Roman Catholic family of faith."

The diocese's first priority, he added, "is to keep children safe."

"In my own name, and in the name of the diocesan church of Harrisburg, I express our profound sorrow and apologize to the survivors of child sex abuse, the Catholic faithful and the general public for the abuses that took place and for those church officials who failed to protect children," said an Aug. 14 statement from Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg.

"We have and continue to take steps forward to support survivors and ensure these abuses never occur again," Bishop Gainer said.

"Nearly one year after the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, we understand that shock, anger and disappointment are still seared in the minds of many people in northeastern and north central Pennsylvania," said an unattributed statement on the Diocese of Scranton's website.

"We continue to apologize to all survivors of sexual abuse for the sorrow and pain that they and their families have suffered. There is simply no place in civilized society for the abuse of children -- and certainly not within the church," the statement said.

"Since the release of the grand jury report in August 2018, the Diocese of Scranton has continued to build upon past efforts and has taken new steps to help restore trust in the church," it added. "We know that regaining that trust will take time and it will happen only when the faithful encounter behavior on the part of our clergy -- bishops, priests and deacons alike -- that warrants such trust."

 

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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 [email protected]

Update: Opinion on abortion's legality unchanged; some shifting within groups

IMAGE: CNS photo/Toya Sarno Jordan, Reuters

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- While a survey of more than 54,000 Americans showed little change in their attitudes between 2014 and 2018 on the legality of abortion, researchers detected movement in many demographic groups, Catholics included.

Natalie Jackson, director of research for the Public Religion Research Institute, said the changes in attitude reflect the nation's political divisions.

According to the survey, which was released Aug. 13, 54% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 40% believe it should be illegal in most or all cases. "These numbers are essentially unchanged since 2014," the survey said; then 55% of Americans said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 41% said it should be illegal in most or all cases.

In an Aug. 12 phone interview with Catholic News Service, the 1% change in the overall numbers is not statistically significant, but "everything that we are calling out as differences (from the 2014 survey) are statistically significant," Jackson said.

Catholics "mirror the rest of the country pretty closely, particularly white Catholics," she added. Fifty-three percent of white Catholics believe most or all abortions should be legal compared to 40% who say most or all should be illegal, Jackson noted, "so they're right in line" with the majority of Americans.

However, "when you look at Hispanic Catholics, you're looking at a different picture," she told CNS. "We pull out the Hispanic and Latino population, because they're a distinct group. They're divided heavily by religion and by place of birth. A healthy minority of Hispanics are evangelical, and the PRRI study looked at the attitudes of Hispanics born in the United States, Puerto Rico and Latin America separately.

"The Hispanic Catholics are a good bit different from white and other nonwhite Catholics that look like the rest of the population as whole," Jackson said.

Other nonwhite Catholics support abortion's legality by a 55% to 37% margin, approximating the views of their white co-religionists. But a majority of Hispanics, 52%, believe abortion should be illegal in most or all instances, while 41% hold the opposite view.

"White evangelical Protestants and Hispanic Catholics also report becoming more opposed than supportive" of abortion over time, the study said.

Sixteen percent of Hispanic Catholics said they've become less supportive of abortion over time, while 11% said they'd become more supportive. Among white Catholics, 8% said they're now more supportive, but 9% report growing less supportive.

Among other nonwhite Catholics, 13% say they've grown more supportive of abortion, as opposed to 9% who say they're now less supportive.

The survey, according to Jackson, did not ask the time frame in which they had changed their views, or the circumstances behind the change. The interview subjects from 2014 are not the same from 2018.

Survey respondents were also asked whether they would vote only for candidates who share their views on abortion. Among those for whom it made a difference, the percentages favored Catholic demographic groups who believe more or all abortions should be illegal.

For white Catholics, the split was 27%-15%. For Hispanic Catholics, the difference was 30%-17%. For other nonwhite Catholics, the margin was 15%-14%.

The Catholic Church teaches abortion is morally wrong, upholding the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.

"Solid majorities of all major religious groups in the U.S. support government-backed health insurance programs covering contraceptives," the survey results said. "Those numbers decline among all religious groups on support for covering abortion, with the considerable variance between only 22% support from white evangelical Protestants and 80% support among Unitarian Universalists."

Support for legal abortion was particularly strong in the northeastern United States -- New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and the six New England states -- each registering at least 61% support for legal abortion in most or all cases. White Catholics, meanwhile, have their strongest representation in the Northeast, with 20% of its white residents professing to be Catholic, according to PRRI.

"Although a few states such as Alabama and Missouri have recently passed laws that -- should they survive court challenges -- would make abortion illegal with virtually no exceptions," the survey said, "there is no state in which more than one-quarter of residents say abortion should be illegal in all cases."

The survey was conducted by phone between Jan. 3 and Dec. 30, 2018, among 54,357 respondents, 60% of them contacted via cellphone. At least 1,000 interviews were conducted each week. Interviewers asked to speak to the youngest adult living in the household. The margin of error for the total survey is 0.4 percentage points.

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Editor's Note: The full PRRI survey on abortion attitudes can be found at https://bit.ly/31tLOUa.

 

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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 [email protected]

Update: Mexican Cardinal Sergio Obeso Rivera dead at age 87

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Sergio Obeso Rivera, retired archbishop of Xalapa, Mexico, who was created a cardinal by Pope Francis a little over a year ago, died at the age of 87.

According to Vatican News, Cardinal Obeso died Aug. 11 in Xalapa.

The pope expressed his condolences in an Aug. 12 telegram to Archbishop Hipolito Reyes Larios of Xalapa and prayed that Jesus may grant the deceased cardinal "the crown of glory that never withers."

"Remembering this selfless shepherd who, throughout many years and with faithfulness, gave his life to the service of God and the church, I pray for the eternal rest of his soul," Pope Francis said.

In 1931, he was born into a prominent family, which founded and operates one of Mexico's main supermarket chains. Despite his upbringing, colleagues described the cardinal as austere and unassuming.

He entered the seminary in 1944, studied philosophy and theology in Rome and was ordained a priest there in 1954. After his ordination, then-Father Obeso held various positions at the seminary in Xalapa and eventually was appointed rector.

He was appointed bishop of Papantla in 1971 but returned to Xalapa, the Veracruz state capital, in 1974 as coadjutor archbishop. He became archbishop in 1979.

Among his accomplishments before retiring in 2007, then-Archbishop Obeso led the Mexican bishops' conference for nine years and worked closely on ending the official estrangement between Mexico and the Vatican.

In May 2018, Pope Francis announced that the retired archbishop would be among the 14 prelates created as cardinal.

Cardinal Obeso and two other prelates over the age of 80 were chosen for having "distinguished themselves for their service to the church," the pope said.

Church observers said Cardinal Obeso's inclusion into the College of Cardinals was an overdue recognition for the prelate, whose pastoral approach and personal austerity were seen as similar to those of Pope Francis.

After the announcement of his elevation, the Mexican bishops' conference praised Cardinal Obeso as a "simple and austere man, extremely helpful and attentive to the social realities of Mexico."

While in Xalapa, he promoted the canonization of St. Rafael Guizar Valencia, patron of the Archdiocese of Xalapa, and as a retired archbishop, "continued celebrating worship and announcing the Gospel," the bishops' statement said.

According to Vatican News, Cardinal Obeso will be buried in the city's cathedral after a funeral Mass Aug. 13.

His death leaves the College of Cardinals with 216 members, 119 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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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 [email protected]

Bishops of four Mississippi churches condemn ICE raid, roundup of workers

IMAGE: CNS photo/ICE handout via Reuters

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JACKSON, Miss. (CNS) -- Mississippi's Catholic bishops joined with the state's Episcopal, Methodist and Lutheran bishops in condemning the Trump administration's Aug. 7 raid on seven food processing plants in the state to round up workers in the country illegally.

Such raids "only serve to ... cause the unacceptable suffering of thousands of children and their parents, and create widespread panic in our communities," the religious leaders said in an Aug. 9 statement quoting Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, from a July letter he sent to President Donald Trump.

"We, the undersigned, condemn such an approach, which, as he (Cardinal DiNardo) rightly states, 'has created a climate of fear in our parishes and communities across the United States,'" they said.

Signing the statement were Catholic Bishops Joseph R. Kopacz of Jackson and Louis F. Kihneman III of Biloxi; Episcopal Bishop Brian R. Seage of Mississippi; Bishop James E. Swanson Sr. of the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church; and Bishop H. Julian Gordy, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's Southeastern Synod.

In what is the biggest sweep in a decade, ICE arrested and detained nearly 680 people. About 300 were released that evening; another 380 people remained in custody.

"These are not new laws, nor is the enforcement of them new," ICE's acting director, Matt Albence, said in a statement Aug. 7. "The arrests today were the result of a yearlong criminal investigation. And the arrests and warrants that were executed today are just another step in that investigation."

He said the employers could be charged with knowingly hiring workers who are in the county illegally and will be probed for tax, document and wage fraud, Albence said.

Investigators told The New York Post daily newspaper that six of the seven processing plants were "willfully and unlawfully employing illegal aliens"; many of the workers used false names and had fake Social Security numbers, according to the newspaper.

On NBC's "Meet the Press" Aug. 11, Albence acknowledged the timing of the sweep "was unfortunate," coming just days after the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, where the alleged shooter said he was targeting Hispanics.

In their joint statement, the Mississippi bishops wrote: "To say that immigration reform is a contentious and complex topic would be an understatement."

"As Christians, within any disagreement we should all be held together by our baptismal promises. Our baptism, regardless of denomination calls us to unity in Jesus Christ," they said. "We are his body and, therefore, called to act in love as a unified community for our churches and for the common good of our local communities and nation."

They also said their churches stand ready to assist immigrants with their immediate needs following the ICE raid.

"We can stand in solidarity to provide solace, material assistance, and strength for the separated and traumatized children, parents and families," the bishops said. "Of course, we are committed to a just and compassionate reform to our nation's immigration system, but there is an urgent and critical need at this time to avoid a worsening crisis."

Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Jackson was directly assisting families and also was accepting donations for its outreach at https://catholiccharitiesjackson.org.

In other reaction to the ICE sweep in Mississippi, Lawrence E. Couch, director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, called the enforcement actions "outrageous" and "out of order in this land of freedom and welcome."

He called on the Trump administration to release all the workers.

"The United States government is becoming increasingly heavy-handed in its tactics and is becoming increasingly less recognizable to its citizens and all peoples around the world," Couch said. "Why has the current administration declared war on our neighbors who are helping to put food on our tables?"

He called the ICE raid "part of a malicious campaign to paint immigrants as criminals and rapists who have 'invaded' our country."

The workers who were arrest "had no criminal record," he said. "Many have lived and worked in the United States for several years. This action has created a catastrophe for the families and is spreading fear throughout the immigrant community. Children were left homeless and traumatized by having their parents torn from them. It is unknown if some children remain alone."

Instead of arresting "these hardworking people (who) have lived and worked in our country for many years, raised their families, and contributed their talents and resources to our communities," Couch added, they should be given a path to citizenship.

Other Catholic agencies offering help to the families in need in Mississippi after the arrest of their breadwinner include Chicago-based Catholic Extension, which announced Aug. 8 it would send help immediately but also would begin fundraising through its "Holy Family Fund," https://bit.ly/2ZEO7mK.

Catholic Extension is the leading national supporter of missionary work in poor and remote parts of the United States. The Jackson Diocese, one of the poorest in the country, has long been supported by the organization, including some of it parishes in towns where the raids took place.

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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 [email protected]

Guatemala's new president faces U.S. challenges on migration

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jose Cabezas, Reuters

By David Agren

GUATEMALA CITY (CNS) -- Sunday Mass Aug. 11 at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Guatemala City included prayers for the two candidates running in that day's runoff election and the country's outgoing president.

A woman at the Mass said, "We pray for the next president, lawmakers and public officials so they act honestly and effectively over the next few years and they are guided by the righteousness of reason and their intentions are illuminated by the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ."

The next president of Guatemala will be Alejandro Giammattei, a former prison system director, who captured 58% of the vote after multiple failed attempts at winning public office. He decisively beat former first lady Sandra Torres. She polled well in rural areas rife with outward migration, but was polemic for her political past, which included divorcing her husband, then-President Alvaro Colom, so she could try to succeed him in 2011.

The election came as Guatemala grapples with a proposed "safe third country" agreement, which would mean migrants wanting to apply for asylum in the United States, but having first stepped foot in Guatemala, would be returned to the impoverished Central American country to apply for asylum there.

The largest number of migrants and asylum-seekers apprehended at the U.S. southern border come from Guatemala.

The country's Catholic bishops have blasted the agreement as secretive and said the country is in no condition to receive so many migrants.

The runoff also occurred as the country backslides on anti-corruption initiatives -- such as support for the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, which has had successes such as imprisoning a former president and putting previously untouchable elites under investigation for the first time. The commission concludes its work in September, despite polls showing public support for its continuation.

"It's been very successful. It's made the powerful classes of Guatemala tremble, those who were used to privileges and impunity," said Nery Rodenas, director of the Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of Guatemala City. "That's why they're attacking it."

Voters responded to the runoff election with a lack enthusiasm, with turnout of 42% of the country's 8.2 million voters. Both candidates brought checkered political pasts to the contests and accusations of being backed by sections of the army and powerful economic elites.

Two candidates with strong support -- Zury Rios, daughter of a former dictator from the 1980s convicted of genocide against indigenous peoples, and Thelma Aldana, a former attorney general pushing an anti-corruption agenda -- were disqualified by the courts.

"Both of the candidates are somehow stained. ... You're picking the least-worst one," said Marvin Martinez, a police officer.

"This Sunday is more of the same," said Ludvin Urrutia, an administrator at a Jesuit-run Faith and Joy school in a tough Guatemala City suburb. "There's no call for structural change," he added, explaining the perceptions that "dark interests" are backing the candidates, be it sections of the military, economic elites or organized crime.

Giammattei has promised to combat crime and slow migration in Guatemala, where residents of poorer and indigenous rural regions have increasingly fled poverty, drought and violence. He also pledged to seek better terms for the proposed safe third country agreement -- which is unpopular in Guatemala and details of which are still uncertain. President Donald Trump has threatened to impose sanctions and other coercive measures on Guatemala if the agreement is not implemented.

"There are no national interests in doing this," Jesuit Father Miquel Cortes Bofill, director of Faith and Joy school network in Guatemala, said of the agreement.

"This government doesn't have the capacity to attend to Guatemalans," he added. "Trump is taking advantage of (outgoing President) Jimmy Morales," he said.

Morales, a former TV comedian, won office in 2015 on the slogan "not corrupt and not a thief," capitalizing on the public disgust with politicians engulfed in scandals and preferring someone without political experience.

But as controversy and corruption scandals encroached on Morales' administration and his family, he moved to oust the anti-impunity commission, which had enjoyed support from the U.S. government. That backing vanished in recent years, however, as Guatemalan elites lobbied members of the U.S. Congress and Morales took decisions such as following the United States and moving the Guatemalan Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

"Morales' administration will be remembered for weakening the government's institutions," said Mike Allison, professor of political science and an expert on Central America at the Jesuit-run University of Scranton. "As a result, further instability is possible."

Runoff runner-up Torres won the first round of voting, but past accusations such as illegal campaign financing proved impossible to overcome.

Father Cortes, the school director, said Torres had previously overseen anti-poverty programs, which, he posits, had some positive results such as increased school enrollment, but also brought vices such as constructing political patronage groups.

"The title of this movie is 'absence of the state,'" Father Cortes said. "There's been a reduction of the state due to ideology ... and corruption."

 

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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 [email protected]

Smell, taste of sauerkraut marks successful Wisconsin parish festival

IMAGE: CNS photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass

By Sam Lucero

BEAR CREEK, Wis. (CNS) -- Food, music and games are all essentials for a successful parish festival but at St. Mary Parish, another key ingredient is the smell and taste of sauerkraut.

Since 1965, this farming community has been home to St. Mary's Sauerkraut Festival, which is more than a parish fundraiser, say organizers and volunteers who describe the event as a gathering of lifelong friends.

"I just like the hometown feeling. Everybody from my childhood comes home," said Barb Havnen, chairperson of the 55th annual sauerkraut festival, which took place Aug. 3 and 4. "Our little community comes together, whether they are part of our parish or not. We've got a lot of nonparish members up here helping. The community all pitches in and makes it a good day."

Bear Creek is home to GLK Foods, the world's largest producer of sauerkraut. According to GLK, it processes around 130,000 tons of cabbage a year. Sauerkraut (German for "sour cabbage") is made by pickling finely shredded cabbage.

Norbertine Father Tim Shillcox, who was appointed pastor of St. Mary (along with St. Rose in Clintonville) in July, said the festival is "unlike anything I've ever been at" in previous parish assignments.

"They are tapping into their local heritage and they are so proud" of being home to the largest sauerkraut producer, he told The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay. "The church is 150 years old. The village is only 450 people, and this is their big fundraiser. I think last year they cleared $20,000 and they just seem to have a lot of fun doing it."

Green Bay Auxiliary Bishop John B. Grellinger (1899-1984) seemingly had a lot of fun founding the festival just 10 weeks after being named pastor on June 18, 1965. According to "In His Vineyard 1968 to 1983: A Series of Life Sketches of the Bishops, Priests and Permanent Deacons of the Green Bay Diocese," Bishop Grellinger started the festival as a way to pay for construction of a new school that was built in 1960 and renovation of a convent.

"Capitalizing on an area resource ('cabbage is king'), he initiated the annual Bear Creek 'Kraut festival' and saw the debt disappear," it said.

Parishioner Bill Klegin was 20 when the first festival was held. He's volunteered at all 55 festivals and is one of its historians. "At one time, they claimed we had 3,000 people who came to our festival," said Lorraine Bricco, who also has attended all 55 festivals and served as co-chair of the 1968 festival with her late husband, Loy.

GLK continues to support the parish festival. This year the company donated $5,000 to help pay for expenses such as a band that performed Saturday night and prizes for children's games.

The sauerkraut festival has evolved over the years. It began as a one-day event, expanded to three days, and this year was held on a Saturday and Sunday.

Over the years, raffles, auctions, car shows, cabbage bowling, a parade and live music were added to the festival. The "famous sauerkraut festival dinner," served Aug. 4 in the church hall, is still the main draw. Among the items served this year were hot dogs topped with seasoned or regular kraut, sauerkraut hot dish, kraut salad and kraut cupcakes.

"We served 300-plus people," said Sue Mares, who co-chairs the festival finance committee. "We took in approximately $25,000 but the expenses have to come out of that."

St. Mary's Sauerkraut Festival isn't the only such event in the country, but it is the oldest.

Many of the veteran volunteers look to the next generation to continue the event. As longtime parishioner Klegin, who is 75, said: "We're trying to pass it on to the younger kids, because we are not getting any younger."

He said he and fellow volunteers have been taking on festival work where they can sit more.

"We can't run with the young folks anymore," he added.

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Lucero is news and information manager for The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay.

 

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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 [email protected]

In new interview, pope explains aim of synod, warns against nationalism

IMAGE: CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Amazon is an "urgent" gathering, not of scientists and politicians, but for the church whose main focus in discussions will be evangelization, Pope Francis said in a new interview.

However, the importance of the Amazon region's biodiversity and current threats it faces also will be addressed because "together with the oceans, (the Amazon) contributes decisively to the survival of the planet. Much of the oxygen we breathe comes from there. That's why deforestation means killing humanity," he said.

The pope also talked about the dangers of surging nationalism and isolationist sentiments, saying, "I am worried because you hear speeches that resemble those by Hitler in 1934. 'Us first, We... We ....'"

Such thinking, he said, "is frightening."

The pope's comments came in an interview posted Aug. 9 by "Vatican Insider," the online news supplement to the Italian newspaper La Stampa.

Asked about the dangers of "sovereignism" or nationalism, the pope said it represented an attitude of "isolation" and closure.

"A country must be sovereign, but not closed" inside itself, he said.

National sovereignty, he said, "must be defended, but relations with other countries, with the European community, must also be protected and promoted."

"Sovereignism," on the other hand, he continued, is something that goes "too far" and "always ends badly -- it leads to war."

When asked about populism, the pope said it was one thing for people to be able to express their concerns, but quite another "to impose a populist attitude on the people."

"The people are sovereign," with their own way of thinking, feeling, judging and expressing themselves, he said, "while populism leads to forms of sovereignism. That suffix, '--ism,' is never good."

Asked about "the right path to take when it comes to migrants," the pope said, "First and foremost, never neglect the most important right of all: the right to life."

"Immigrants come above all to escape from war or hunger, from the Middle East and Africa," he said.

When it comes to war, "we must make an effort and fight for peace" as well as invest in Africa in ways that help the people there "resolve their problems and thus stop the migration flows."

Concerning immigrants already in one's home country, certain "criteria must be followed," he said.

"First, to receive, which is also a Christian, Gospel duty. Doors should be opened, not closed. Second, to accompany. Third, to promote. Fourth, to integrate" the newcomers in the host communities, he said.

"At the same time, governments must think and act prudently, which is a virtue of government. Those in charge are called to think about how many migrants can be taken in."

If that threshold is reached, "the situation can be resolved through dialogue with other countries" because some countries need people, especially for working in agriculture or for reviving their economy and breathing new life into "half-empty towns" because of low birthrates, he said.

When asked why he convened a synod on the Amazon, Pope Francis said, "It is the 'child' of 'Laudato si'.' Those who have not read it will never understand the Synod on the Amazon. 'Laudato si'' is not a green encyclical, it is a social encyclical, which is based on a 'green' reality, the safeguarding of creation."

Among the environmental issues the pope is concerned about, the one that "has shocked me the most," he said, is the way resources are increasingly being consumed faster than they can be regenerated.

"It's very serious. It's a global emergency," he said, highlighting that "Earth Overshoot Day" fell this year on July 29 -- the day when resource consumption goes into "debt" because the annual demand on nature exceeds what the earth can regenerate in that year.

The seriousness of the problem means "ours will be an urgent synod. But beware: a synod is not a meeting of scientists or politicians. It is not a parliament; it is something else," he said.

The synod "is born" from the church "and will have an evangelizing mission and dimension. It will be a work of communion guided by the Holy Spirit," the pope said.

Pope Francis was asked whether the possibility of ordaining older, married men to minister in remote areas would be one of the main topics of discussion. The pope replied, "Absolutely not. It is simply one number" in the working document.

The 45-page working document, which serves as a guide for discussions, contains 146 numbered items, outlining various topics.

One sub-item in a list of suggestions for ways to create appropriate and needed ministries said, "Affirming that celibacy is a gift for the church, it is requested that, for the most remote areas of the region, the possibility of priestly ordination be studied for older people, preferably indigenous, respected and accepted by their community, even if they have an existing and stable family, in order to ensure availability of the Sacraments that accompany and sustain the Christian life."

When it comes to the main purpose and aim of the synod, Pope Francis said, "the important thing will be the ministries of evangelization and the different ways of evangelizing."

In a question regarding ecological concerns and what stands in the way of safeguarding the Amazon, the pope said, "The threat to the lives of the people and the land derives from the economic and political interests of society's dominant sectors."

When asked what policymakers should do, the pope said they should rid themselves of all complicit and corrupt practices.

"They must take concrete responsibility, for example on the issue of open-cast mines, which are poisoning water and causing so many diseases. Then there is the issue of fertilizers," he added.

When asked what he feared most concerning the planet, he said, "The disappearance of biodiversity, new deadly diseases" and the kind of loss and "devastation of nature that can lead to the death of humanity."

He praised the increased awareness and movements among young people, such as Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager whose #FridaysForFuture campaign asks students to hold a strike to demand swift action on climate change. Pope Francis had met the 16-year-old environmental activist at a weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square in April.

The pope said the big and small things people can do each day "does have an impact" because change relies on real, concrete action. Also, people engaging in more environmentally responsible behavior "creates and spreads the culture of not polluting creation."

 

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Catholic Extension announces aid for families of deported breadwinners

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rich Kalonick, courtesy Catholic Extension

By

CHICAGO (CNS) -- Catholic Extension will be helping families left without their main financial supporter in Mississippi, where families lost their breadwinner after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement carried out massive raids Aug. 7.

Federal authorities said they arrested 680 people at various food processing plants in the Southern state, in what may be one of the largest, if not the largest, immigration dragnets carried out in the U.S.

The Chicago-based Catholic organization said it would send help immediately but also would begin fundraising to benefit those in need through its "Holy Family Fund," a program it launched earlier this year to financially help husbands and wives and children left without their main breadwinner because of detention or deportation. It will be managed by the Diocese of Jackson.

"The program seeks to help bring some stability to what is a terribly destabilizing moment for families," the organization said in an Aug. 8 news release.

Catholic Extension is the leading national supporter of missionary work in poor and remote parts of the United States. The Jackson Diocese, one of the poorest in the country, has long been supported by the organization, including some of it parishes in towns where the raids took place.

Father Jack Wall, president of Catholic Extension, said ICE enforcement raids show the "human toll of our broken immigration system; suffering amid our nation's inability to find a commonsense legislative solution to this pressing issue."

It's important to keep a family strong, he said, and that includes immigrant families.

Joe Boland, vice president of mission at Catholic Extension, said that even though some of the nation's leaders say laws must be enforced to prevent "chaos in this country," the raids themselves cause "massive chaos" as parents are forcibly removed from their children.

"This is not only bad for these families and bad for the church, to which many of the detainees belong, but it is especially bad for the future of our society," he said. "When we break up families, no one wins."

Catholic Extension is asking for donations for its Holy Family Fund at https://bit.ly/2ZEO7mK. More information about the organization is available at www.catholicextension.org.

 

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Bishop: Shootings show 'all communities are affected by racism'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Three mass shooting incidents in the United States in the span of a week are now showing that "their emotional impact is resonating, understandably, across the nation," said Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. "The effects of the evil and sin, we are all impacted by it."

Bishop Fabre said many people think of racism of being a matter for blacks and whites, "but I think there are many, many faces to racism, so I think it resonates with the pastoral letter," assembled by his committee and approved by the bishops last year, "when we say that this evil affects everyone, and all communities are affected by racism."

The deadliest of the three shootings took place Aug. 3 in El Paso, Texas, where accused gunman Patrick Crusius opened fire at a Walmart store in the city, with 22 dead and dozens more wounded. Many of the victims were Hispanic. Crusius had posted a manifesto -- some called it a screed -- online against an "invasion" of the United States by Hispanics.

Less than 24 hours after the El Paso shooting, a gunman shot nine people dead, including his own sister, at a nightclub in Dayton, Ohio, Aug. 4 before police gunned him down. On July 28, a gunman killed three people at a garlic festival in Gilroy, California, before taking his own life. At least 15 others were injured.

The pastoral letter, "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love -- A Pastoral Letter Against Racism," included separate sections detailing racist treatment directed at African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.

"Many groups are still experiencing prejudice," Hispanics among them, the pastoral says. "Hispanics have been referred to by countless derogatory names, have encountered negative assumptions made about them because of their ethnicity, have suffered discrimination in applying for college, for housing, and in registering to vote."

It adds, "Many people of Hispanic heritage come from families that were in this land long before the borders changed."

The pastoral notes, "Participating in or fostering organizations that are built on racist ideology -- for instance, neo-Nazi movements and the Ku Klux Klan -- is also sinful; they corrupt individuals and corrode communities. None of these organizations have a place in a just society."

In addressing racism, "to press forward without fear means 'to walk humbly with God' in rebuilding our relationships, healing our communities, and working to shape our policies and institutions toward the good of all, as missionary disciples," the pastoral says.

Asked about the prevalence of guns in American society, Bishop Fabre said, "I am a bishop in Louisiana," adding with a chuckle, "where hunting is a sportsman's paradise," but "I don't understand assault weapons. The (U.S.) bishops have stood against assault weapons, banning all assault weapons. They don't have any hunting purpose. They just have one purpose. That is to kill."

"I know people who hunt," Bishop Fabre said, "but I don't know anyone who uses an assault weapon."

Two days before the El Paso shooting, Bishop Fabre and two other U.S. bishops issued a joint statement chiding the "divisive and disrespectful" language of President Donald Trump's denigration of Baltimore -- where Bishop Fabre had conducted a listening session in May on racism in the church -- in a series of tweets that others had condemned as racist.

"Social media is used to fire things off without reflection or without conversation. I don't necessarily like that, and I think most people would say they don't like that," Bishop Fabre said in an Aug. 7 telephone interview with Catholic News Service.

"I don't think Twitter is the best way to fire off things, 134 characters or whatever it is, that deserve substantive ongoing discussions and conversation," Bishop Fabre said. "I would hate to limit interaction on very important conversations. It has its place, but I am a believer in conversation and dialogue, and that takes time."

Referring again to the Baltimore listening session -- one in an ongoing series of listening sessions that started before the pastoral letter was approved -- Bishop Fabre said those who have shared their experiences of racism and listened to those stories are "building bridges" to counteract racism. "We have many, many challenges and many, many struggles, but I don't think that hope is lifted up enough," he added.

"I think that healing can continue from the encounter that has begun in the listening session. That is where I see hope myself," he added. "I have seen it, I have experienced it, and I just know that there are people who are doing wonderful things out there who aren't getting recognition for what they've accomplished."

"If we have the kind of substantive discussions and encounters that we need to have," Bishop Fabre said, "headlines that we see today will be a thing of the past."

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Editor's Note: The full text of the U.S. bishops' pastoral on racism can be found online at https://bit.ly/2YUCbjE or on the website of CNS Origins documentary service, https://bit.ly/2yO0L7i.

 

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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 [email protected]

On anniversary, Japan's bishops renew hope for nuclear-free world

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, the bishops of Japan are renewing calls and prayers to build peace by abolishing nuclear weapons worldwide and promoting integral human development.

They also expressed hope that Pope Francis' visit in November and his expected calls for peace will strengthen people's desire and boost efforts to bring about a nuclear weapon-free world.

The first atomic bomb used in warfare was dropped by the United States on Hiroshima Aug. 6, 1945, killing more than 100,000 people. On Aug. 9 another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing about 74,000 people. Japan surrendered Aug. 15.

St. John Paul II visited both cities during a February 1981 trip and appealed for peace, calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons around the world.

"Let us work hard for peace through justice; let us make a solemn decision now that war no longer be tolerated and seen as a means to resolve disagreements; let us promise with our counterparts that we will tirelessly strive for disarmament and the abolition of all nuclear arms, let us replace violence and hatred with trust and care," he said, addressing world leaders.

Throughout that speech at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, St. John Paul repeated that "to remember the past is to work for the future," which inspired Japan's bishops to observe Ten Days of Prayer for Peace from August 6 to 15 every year.

Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan, said in a message for the days of prayer that guaranteeing peace and security in the world required "not only to eliminate the nuclear threat by abolishing nuclear weapons, but at the same time to make all people richer in all aspects" through integral human development.

He said the bishops were looking forward to Pope Francis bringing "a new peace message to the world" during his expected visit, the second ever to Japan by a pope and nearly 39 years after St. John Paul stepped foot there.
 
Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue said he hoped the pope would convey Japanese dreams that "Nagasaki be the last atomic bombing site" in history, according to an interview in mid-July with japan-forward.com, the online English site of the Sankei Shimbun daily newspaper.

Taue also said he hoped the visit would draw greater attention to the Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2018.
 
The sites were where Christians secretly lived out their faith during the fierce prohibition of Christianity between the 17th and 19th centuries. When Japan was reopened to the West in 1853, Christian missionaries were astonished to find about 30,000 Christians, mainly in Nagasaki, who had kept the faith and passed it on in their families from generation to generation.

When the second atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, the "cradle of Christianity" in Japan, some 8,000 Catholics died. The Nagasaki Diocese at the time had about 60,000 Catholics, nearly one-fourth of all the Catholics in the wartime Japanese Empire.

"The pilot of the U.S. plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki was actually a Catholic," Archbishop Takami said in an interview with japan-forward.com.

The city's cathedral was located about 540 yards from ground zero. A number of worshipers were inside praying the morning of Aug. 9, 1945; they were all killed and the cathedral was destroyed.

U.S. Cardinal John F. O'Hara, then the bishop of Buffalo, New York, and Bishop Michael J. Ready of Columbus, Ohio, officiated at the cornerstone laying ceremony in 1946 of a temporary church, which was completed and dedicated by Cardinal Norman Gilroy of Sydney later that year. The Urakami Cathedral was rebuilt in 1959 and it is one of the largest Catholic churches in Japan.

A gilded wooden cross that survived the bombing of the cathedral was recently returned to the city.

Tanya Maus, director of the Peace Resource Center at Wilmington College in Ohio, gave Archbishop Takami the cross during a special ceremony Aug. 7.

The three-foot-tall cross had been given to 2nd Lt. Walter Hooke, a U.S. Marine from Yonkers, New York, who had been stationed in Nagasaki from October 1945 to February 1946, according to the Japanese daily, the Asahi Shimbun.

A devout Catholic, he befriended the late-Archbishop Paul Aijiro Yamaguchi of Nagasaki, who gave him the cross that had been salvaged from the rubble.

Hooke, who died in 2010 at the age of 97, kept the cross in his family's living room, but later donated it to the Peace Resource Center at the Quaker college in 1982. The center then decided to return the cross to the cathedral.

"I am delighted the cross is alive," said the 73-year-old Archbishop Takami, who was growing in his mother's womb when the bomb fell.

"Atomic bomb victims will die, but the cross will remain as a living witness to what happened in Nagasaki," he told the newspaper.

"The cross tells how brutal humans can be, and at the same time, it gives us hope," he said.

 

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