US bishops’ new child protection program aims to create culture of mindfulness

Washington D.C., Nov 7, 2017 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After years of research, the U.S. bishops are rolling out a new training program that takes some of the best risk-management practices from other industries and applies them to child protection in the Church. The new program, entitled “Creating a Culture of Protection and Healing,” is being piloted in several dioceses and will eventually be available to any diocese by request. The principles of the program, which will add to the existing trainings and protections already in place, borrows tools and techniques of HROs (highly reliable organizations) from industries in the secular world that also frequently deal with high-risk situations, such as hospitals or airlines. These HROs are in industries in which, when accidents do occur “it’s rather volatile, it costs lives,” Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNA. “For example in the airline industry when a plane crashes or something like that,” it can be very costly in terms of loss of life, he said. “So the industry is looking at ways to make sure that even the lowest person on the chain of command – if they see something that’s untoward, they speak up, they say something, they report it. They know how and what to do when they come across a situation that could cause a problem in the future.” That’s the same attitude and level of awareness that the bishops are hoping to create in dioceses who implement this new program, he said. “We’re trying to create this mindfulness, a change in culture, so safe environments can be not only established but indeed maintained, because that’s the key. We have to constantly be on our toes, on our guard, with no room for complacency.” This kind of training has been in the works for several years, said Nojadera, who has a military background and therefore prior experiences with HRO practices. Since most of the information about HRO practices are tailored to specific industries, the bishops decided to partner with Ascension Health, the largest group of Catholic hospitals in the U.S., which uses HRO principles with a theological perspective. “So we’re taking something that the hospitals have been using for 20 some years or so and making it applicable to us,” Nojadera said. For example, if an incident or a near-miss occurs, the Church can ask the same questions that hospitals ask, albeit in a different context: “What went right? What went wrong? What do we do to improve and make sure it doesn’t happen again?” The new program isn’t meant to replace the current practices, but to add an extra layer of awareness and thoroughness, Nojadera said. Since the clergy sex scandal of the early 2000s, the Church has put into place numerous policies and practices to protect children from sexual abuse, including the USCCB’s Charter for Child and Youth Protection. The charter, implemented in 2002, obligates all compliant dioceses and eparchies to provide resources both for victims of abuse and resources for abuse prevention. Each year, the USCCB releases an extensive annual report on the dioceses and eparchies, including an audit of all abuse cases and allegations, and recommended policy guidelines for dioceses. Kelly Venegas is the bishop’s delegate for sexual misconduct in the Diocese of Gary, which is one of the pilot dioceses for the new HRO training program. She said that the new training was divided into two sections, with the first focused on anticipating and diagnosing near-misses. “We’re making sure that near-misses don’t indicate a symptom of a worse problem,” Venegas told CNA. “So rather than just looking and saying, wow, that really could have been a big issue, good thing it didn’t cause any harm – instead we say wait a minute, this was a near-miss, could there be worse problems? Let’s dive into this deeper.” The second section of the training focused on containment of harm in the case that an incident does occur, Venegas said. “That means we’re making sure that we learn from our mistakes, that we focus on how we can make things stronger, and making sure that we have decisions with input from multiple people involved in the process,” she said. While some of the concrete details of the application of the new program are still being worked out, Venegas said she was excited that the Church was learning from the best practices of other successful industries. “I think that in the business world there’s been quality assurance programs (in existence) for years, and this is really a way of taking some of the expertise that’s been learned in the secular world and applying it to something that’s very important and close to our hearts,” she said. Read more

Venezuela’s hate crime law seeks to silence political opposition, bishops warn

Caracas, Venezuela, Nov 7, 2017 / 12:01 am (ACI Prensa).- The president of the Venezuelan bishops’ justice and peace commission has criticized a hate crimes law passed on Thursday, charging that its aim is to silence those opposed to the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro. The Law Against Hatred and Fascism, the Nov. 2 legislation passed by the Constituent Assembly, will be used by Maduro’s government against the opposition “so we can’t even speak or protest,” Emeritus Archbishop of Coro Roberto Lückert Leon told ACI Prensa. The Constituent Assembly’s president, Delcy Rodriguez, has said the law targets media that “promote hatred and racism.” Lückert stated that news media critical of the government have been undercut by Maduro’s government. “Right now they’ve hamstrung  the news media. They’re using the supply of newsprint to undermine us. The oldest newspaper in Coro is called La Mañana. The can’t print it because they’re not giving them any newsprint; on the other hand, they gave to the paper that they founded a building, machinery, and newsprint, and it comes out every day. That’s freedom of the speech? No.” According to the Maduro government “it’s the opposition that’s violent. But when you go to  a peaceful march to hand over documents to the prosecutor’s office, you’re met with the Bolivarian National Guard, the militias and pro-government thugs on motorcycles, so you can’t fulfill a civic duty with a state agency. They’re the violent ones,” he charged. Archbishop Lückert stated that “as a Venezuelan, the only solution for the country that I have is elections; but elections that are transparent and fair.” However, he said that at this time the Venezuelan people are profoundly upset by the National Electoral  Council, which “is completely sold out to the government” and which manipulated recent elections so Maduro’s party would win. “I’m really afraid that if people abstained from voting in the Oct. 15 election of governors, it’s going to be worse for the election of mayors this coming Dec. 10,” Lückert said. The prelate also said the Constituent Assembly “is an invention Maduro brought in from Cuba,” where there are no political parties or independent news media. The Constituent Assembly is the product of contested elections, which took place in July. The body has superseded the authority of the National Assembly, Venezuela’s opposition-controlled legislature. The vice president of the National Assembly, Freddy Guevara, has been accused of encouraging violence during protests. Guevara has taken refuge at the Chilean ambassador’s residence in Caracas. Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savnio of Caracas called the Constituent Assembly “fraudulent and illegitimate”  in a recent interview with El Nacional. “It’s made up of political activists at the service of the government and it’s not going to resolve the problems with the economy. What’s needed here is to change the Marxist, totalitarian, and statist ideology that has brought the country to ruin,” he charged. Cardinal Urosa told El Nacional that Maduro wants to “decapitate the opposition so there’s  just one political party.” He lamented that “the situation in the country is worse than a month ago: disregard for human rights continues, there are still political prisoners and opposition leaders that won in the elections are being persecuted; childhood malnutrition has increased and diseases eradicated in the 1950s are coming back, such as  malaria, tuberculosis and diphtheria. But we’ve got to keep up the fight as did Bolivar, despite the defeats.” Frustration in Venezuela has been building for years due to poor economic policies, including strict price controls coupled with high inflation rates, which have resulted in a severe lack of basic necessities such as toilet paper, milk, flour, diapers, and medicines. Venezuela’s socialist government is widely blamed for the crisis. Since 2003, price controls on some 160 products, including cooking oil, soap and flour, have meant that while they are affordable, they fly off store shelves only to be resold on the black market at much higher rates. The International Monetary Fund has forecasted an inflation rate of 2,300 percent in Venezuela in 2018.  This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA. Read more

Filipino Bishops begin rosary campaign against violent drug war

Manila, Philippines, Nov 6, 2017 / 08:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has called for a prayer campaign to address violence in an escalating conflict between police and drug traffickers. Since President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on drug trafficking began last year, nearly 4,000 Filipinos are reported to have been killed by the police. While police say the killings have been acts of self-defense against armed gangs, critics allege that police forces are conducting unauthorized, extrajudicial executions. Vigilante groups are also said to have conducted murder in the midst of the drug war. The bishops’ prayer campaign challenges Filipinos to pursue healing and repentance, instead of escalating the violence. “Repent so healing can begin. Stopping the killing is only one big step. The journey of healing for the values of our nation turned upside down will be a long journey still,” said Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Filipino bishops conference. “God’s people, let’s go back to the Lord … we choose darkness over light … We choose violence rather than peace,” he added. On November 5, an estimated 3,000 Filipinos gathered for Mass and a procession along the Abenida Epidanio de los Santos, a historic Manila highway where a non-violent protest helped end the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. The prayer campaign involves praying the rosary for 33 days, until the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, on December 8th. In August, the deaths of three teenagers prompted a 40 day prayer campaign, in which churches rang their bells nightly, and parishioners gathered to honor the dead with candles. In his homily on Sunday, Archbishop Villegas urged Filipinos to work for justice while resisting the temptation to violence. “Peace to you the murdered brethren and victims of extrajudicial killings. May the Lord give you peace in His kingdom, that peace that the world failed to give you!” “May your blood speak to us, disturb us and move us to act to resist violence,” he said, noting that curses will be cast on a nation which spills the blood of its own citizens. Healing begins with asking for repentance, the archbishop said, and he challenged clergy and government officials to be the first to turn away from sin and commit to the service of their roles. May leaders ask forgiveness, he said, “for falling for the lure of comfort and the attraction of convenience, for giving in to the temptation to be powerful and popular rather than be humble and faithful, for our tendency to judge rather than seek unity, for keeping quiet when we should speak and blabbering when what is needed is silence, God forgive us leaders of your Church.” He called for greater respect of the country’s democratic institutions and laws, noting that civil servants are servants to the people and not in power because of weapons. He encouraged the government to pursue justice not revenge, and to rule by respect rather than fear.   The war on drugs was a major part of Duterte’s 2016 presidential campaign. Reportedly, over 7,000 people have died from police officers and vigilantes from July 2016 to January 2017. In recent months, groups like the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism have accused the government of providing unclear statistics. Harry Rogue, a presidential spokesperson, denied any extrajudicial killings, and said the government was looking into more than 2,000 suspicious deaths. He also encouraged the bishops to work more closely with drug rehabilitation and anti-drug forces.   Read more

Wealthy foundation aims to redefine religious freedom—and Christianity, too

New York City, N.Y., Nov 6, 2017 / 04:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- One wealthy activist is continuing to fund coordinated efforts to limit religious freedom and to foster dissent on abortion and LGBT issues within American Christianity and other religious groups.   The New York-based Arcus Foundation was founded by billionaire heir Jon Stryker in 2000. Arcus is a partner of the U.S. State Department’s Global Equality Fund, which engages in LGBT advocacy around the world. One of its board members is Darren Walker, the president of the deeply influential Ford Foundation, which gives out about $500 million in grants each year.   Since CNA’s February 2015 report on a multi-million dollar campaign against religious freedom protections, the Arcus Foundation has given an additional $2.8 million in grants earmarked for projects aimed at restricting legal protections for religious freedom, especially religious and conscience exemptions in state and federal law.   Among its recent donations is an ACLU grant designed to “beat back” laws protecting freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. In fact, a CNA examination of grant listings and other documents has shown that the Arcus Foundation has funded a variety of coordinated projects, focused on limiting religious freedom, redefining religious liberty, and perhaps even shaping religious doctrine itself. Redefining Religious Liberty On June 30, 2016, the Arcus Foundation said that “countering religious exemptions to anti-discrimination law in the United States is the aim of grants to the American Civil Liberties Union, Catholics for Choice, and the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law at Columbia University, all of which are working to reframe religious liberty in inclusive terms, whether through the courts, religious bodies, or policy-making bodies.” Since 2016, $450,000 in Arcus grants went to the Center for American Progress, which was founded by John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s last presidential campaign manager. The grants funded projects like promoting religious liberty “as a core progressive American value that includes LGBT equality and women’s reproductive health and rights.” The Center for American Progress sponsors a self-described “Religious Exemptions Public Literacy Project” that will oppose “religious exemptions policies that have a negative impact on women, LGBT, and POC (person of color) communities.” Funding Dissent Since June 2016, the Arcus Foundation appears to be focusing on controversies at Catholic institutions and schools where staff who publicly support or contract a “gay marriage” have been fired for contradicting Catholic doctrine. Some Catholic institutions have faced lawsuits over such employment decisions and invoke religious freedom protections as a defense. In an apparent complement to its work on religious freedom limits, the foundation has also been funding some self-described Catholic groups that reject Church teaching on marriage and sexual morality, among them Dignity USA, the Equally Blessed Coalition, New Ways Ministry, and Catholics for Choice. The Arcus Foundation outlines its strategy in a section on its website. It aims to mobilize “moderate and progressive faith leaders” and to leverage “strategic opportunities in historically resistant faith communities,” including Roman Catholic churches. It said that some resistant communities “still afford opportunities for making limited but significant progress.”   “In keeping with the focus on religious exemptions, Dignity USA and the Equally Blessed Coalition are working to combat the firing of LGBT staff and allies, who support marriage equality, at Catholic Institutions,” the foundation’s June 2016 announcement continues. The Arcus Foundation gave a $250,000, two-year grant to Dignity USA to fund the Equally Blessed Coalition, in order to “ support and give voice to the growing majority of Roman Catholics who support full acceptance and equality for LGBT people.” A 2017 grant gave $35,000 to New Ways Ministry to help develop the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics and its work “to connect the work of pro-LGBT Catholic organizations in every region of the world.” The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics had engaged in advocacy related to the Church’s Synod on the Family. In February 2010 Cardinal Francis George, then-president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, released a statement on New Ways Ministry, which is also part of the Equally Blessed Coalition. Cardinal George rejected the claim that the group presents an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and Catholic practice. “Their claim to be Catholic only confuses the faithful regarding the authentic teaching and ministry of the Church with respect to persons with a homosexual inclination,” he said. In October 2016 New Ways Ministries gave its Bridge Building Award to Father James Martin, S.J., editor-at-large of the Society of Jesus’ America Magazine. The priest’s lecture at the award ceremony was the basis for his book “Building a Bridge,” on Catholic-LGBT relations In 2016, the Arcus Foundation gave a one-year grant of $125,000 to Catholics for Choice, to fund a coalition of religious leaders to oppose “discriminatory religious exemptions,” as well as a different coalition to oppose “religious intolerance” in southern and eastern Africa. The U.S. bishops have frequently criticized Catholics for Choice, saying it is not affiliated with the Catholic Church. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, speaking as the bishops’ pro-life chairman in September 2016, charged that it is “funded by powerful private foundations to promote abortion as a method of population control.” Beyond Catholics Arcus Foundation grantees have been linked to doctrinal changes within mainline Protestantism as well, including groups that helped split the Anglican Communion. In 2011 and 2012, the Arcus Foundation provided financial support to raise the national profile of Center for American Progress’ expert V. Gene Robinson, whose controversial election as the Episcopalian Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003 helped split the Episcopal Church and the global Anglican Communion. Non-Christian religions are also a focus. A June 2015 grant of $100,000 to Muslims for Progressive Values suggests religious exemptions sought by some Muslims are also unacceptable to the foundation. The grant listing voiced hope that the group’s advocacy at the United Nations would assist “in asserting that ‘religious exemptions,’ such as reservations on the basis of Sharia law, are unacceptable on matters of human rights.” CNA took a screenshot of the Arcus Foundation’s grant listing to Muslims for Progressive Values  in mid-2016.  Since that time, the grant listing on the foundation website appears to have been changed to read simply “general operating support,” rather than directly listing advocacy against religious exemptions.  The grant is one of several six-figure Arcus grants to the group, including one given to cultivate LGBT activists among imams and other Muslims Kevin Jennings, a co-chair of Muslims for Progressive Values, is a former Arcus executive director and Obama Administration official. Reza Aslan, the controversial Iranian-American author of the book “Zealot: the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth,” is a consultant for the group, according to its website. Fighting Religious Exemptions In 2016, the Arcus Foundation gave the ACLU a $150,000 grant to implement “a national coordinated media and public-education campaign to beat back religious exemptions at federal and state levels.” This year, the foundation gave a $300,000 grant to the Proteus Fund’s Rights, Faith and Democracy Collaborative. The collaborative brings together wealthy activists who aim to restrict legal protections for religious freedom, in order to advance its vision of reproductive health and LGBT causes. According to CNA’s examination of grant listings and tax forms, the collaborative’s donors and others have spent at least $8.5 million in projects to advance a similar, narrow vision of religious liberty. The Proteus Fund’s Civil Marriage Collaborative, which worked to recognize same-sex unions as marriages, closed in 2015 after spending more than $153 million over 11 years on various U.S. projects. The Arcus Fund has given grants totaling $300,000 to Faith in Public Life: one to rally faith leaders to advocate “fair and balanced” religious exemptions, especially in the states Georgia, Florida and North Carolina; and the other for “pro-LGBT public education campaigns” and to organize “moderate clergy to inform state and national policymakers about the negative impact of using religion to deny the civil rights of LGBT people.” A $125,000 grant from the Arcus Foundation to Columbia University’s gender and sexuality law center backs the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project “to promote progressive and nondiscriminatory views on religious exemptions.” This builds on Arcus’ previous support for the project, whose co-sponsors have included the deeply influential Ford Foundation. Another $200,000 has gone to the ACLU, including support for its “religious refusals” communications hub and for ongoing research to gauge what it considers to be “the harm of anti-LGBT religious refusals.” Arcus has also given $200,000 in grants to the D.C.-based Civitas Public Affairs group’s Religious Liberty and Equality Project aim “to advance equality protections and respect for personal autonomy, while dissolving public support for religious carve-outs that go beyond what is already protected in the First Amendment”;  and to “reframe the current debates over religious exemptions by bringing together some of the most experienced thinkers and advocates within the reproductive justice and LGBT movements.” Another $100,000 2016 grant to NEO Philanthropy appears linked to this project, “to counter religious exemptions.” The Arcus Foundation backs several news media projects, including National Public Radio, The Atlantic LGBT summit in 2015, and a series on LGBT issues for the public radio show Faith Matters. Many of those grants did not list religious freedom specifically, but the foundation did give $200,000 for the University of Southern California-based news site Religious Dispatches’ reporting on religious liberty and LGBTQ issues. About $450,000 spread across four grants went to the Public Religion Research Institute to create “comprehensive state maps” of public attitudes on religious exemptions and non-discrimination policies. Other funding aims to track public opinion on “religious refusal legislation,” among other topics; and to help develop strategies “to stop the expansion of religious exemptions.” The Interfaith Alliance was also funded in the amount of $75,000 to explore mapping state laws related to religious exemptions, for policy development, and for training of “skilled messengers to educate state and federal policy makers.” The Pride Foundation received $150,000 in 2016 to strengthen coordination “among groups opposed to discriminatory interpretations of religious freedom,” and for “emergency-response grants to key public-education initiatives.” Soulforce, which became prominent for busing LGBT activists to demonstrate at various colleges, received $100,000 to organize students of color in the U.S. South to challenge both “anti-trans policies at conservative Christian schools” and religious exemption statutes. Read more

How do we help trafficking victims re-enter society? Vatican conference takes a look

Vatican City, Nov 6, 2017 / 03:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Vatican workshop this past weekend drew attention to the vast challenges faced by victims of human trafficking when reintegrating into society, suggesting concrete steps for helping victims. One of the first challenges faced by trafficking victims upon being freed is recourse to legal aid and restitution, attorney Jami Solli told CNA Nov. 6. Founder of the Global Alliance for Legal Aid, an association of jurists who provide legal aid in developing countries, Solli participated in the Vatican workshop. She said that when it comes to legal aid, the challenges are complex. “If they’re coming from overseas, they don’t speak the language, they don’t know the law,” she said. In addition to this, many countries do not offer any financial compensation to trafficking victims, and it can be hard to find quality lawyers who are willing to help them. Unfortunately, Solli said, prosecution rates for human trafficking crimes are very low. According to U.S. reports, there are about 10,000 prosecutions of trafficking perpetrators globally each year, while the number of trafficked people is estimated to be around 40 million. What does prosecution of perpetrators actually achieve for victims? It can bring significant peace of mind, Solli said, allowing victims to know that the person who trafficked them is in jail. However, victims are still left with a “slew of problems,” including mental suffering, a lack of skills, education and a job. “How is this person going to restart their life?” Solli reflected, noting that restitution money is one way to recognize the immense harm that victims have suffered, and while it will not solve all of their problems, it can help them get a fresh start. The Nov. 4-6 workshop, “Assisting Victims in Human Trafficking – Best Practices in Resettlement, Legal Aid and Compensation,” addressed these challenges and others. The workshop’s focus was on how to better provide legal aid and restitution for trafficking victims, not only to try to achieve justice for the crimes committed against them, but to support their reintegration into society and help with necessities such as food, housing and education. Critical to this reintegration is the broad cooperation of different entities, including the Church’s vast network of parishes, said Dr. Margaret Archer, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, in a press conference Monday. “If we can turn passive parishes into active parishes for this cause, we’ll have made a giant step forward,” she said. Dr. John F. McEldowney, a law professor at the University of Warwick and a newly appointed member of the Academy of Social Sciences, agreed with Archer. He told journalists that he thinks the next step is “very much a collaborative effort throughout the world.” The hope is to bring together not just government entities and NGOs, but also the “smallest communities, in the smallest parts of the world,” such as parishes and small villages. One of the big projects to come out of the weekend, still a work in progress, is a document to define the rights of victims and the resources available to them. McEldowney told CNA that this “victims’ charter” would work as a sort of map to help people get from point A to point B to point C. The document would connect information and resources from all the different areas in which victims likely need assistance – including legal aid, housing assistance, education, and mental and spiritual guidance. Together, these resources would help trafficking victims answer the question, “Where do I go from here?” It is also hoped that the act of compiling the charter will draw attention to those areas which are lacking adequate, or perhaps any, resources. For example, it can be difficult for trafficking victims to know how to apply to a university if they are not a citizen of the country or don’t have the correct documentation. “It’s an ambitious project,” McEldowney noted in his comments to journalists. “It requires patience and dedication. And education, knowledge, information is at the heart of this, so that people know that slavery has not been abolished.”     Read more

Victims of Islamic State in focus at UN forum

New York City, N.Y., Nov 6, 2017 / 03:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Persecuted religious minorities in Syria and Iraq deserve a better future after suffering at the hands of the Islamic State group. That was the message of Archbishop Bernadito Auza, the apo… Read more

Catholic University of America offers free tuition to Puerto Rican students

Washington D.C., Nov 6, 2017 / 11:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After Hurricanes Irma and Maria swept through Puerto Rico leaving a trail of disaster, the Catholic University of America announced this week that it will welcome Puerto Rican students who want … Read more

More than just giving – World Day of the Poor highlights change of attitude

Vatican City, Nov 6, 2017 / 11:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the Church prepares to celebrate the first World Day of the Poor, an event announced by Pope Francis last year, one Vatican official said it will be an opportunity to grow in mercy and charity, shaping attitudes toward the poor and needy. The World Day of the Poor, which was announced in Pope Francis’ closing letter for the Jubilee of Mercy, is founded on “this whole notion of reciprocity, of sharing with each other of what each other has,” Msgr. Geno Sylva told CNA in an interview. It’s also based on “our understanding that each of us is poor in some way, and that we need to empty ourselves of certain things so that God’s grace can fill us, God’s mercy can fill us,” he said, adding that “there’s so much we can learn from those who are poor as we try to provide.” An English-language official of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, Msgr. Sylva spoke ahead of the first-ever World Day of the Poor, which is titled “Love not in word, but in deed,” and is set to take place exactly one year after the close of the Jubilee of Mercy. The event, Sylva said, is “so beautiful and so powerful as a perpetual fruit of the jubilee of mercy.” World Day for the Poor “ties perfectly in with the New Evangelization,” he said, “because the New  Evangelization is able to engage people by presenting the mercy of God and seeing people in that mercy.” Pope Francis has announced the World Day for the Poor as an annual observance on the Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, a week before the Solemnity of Christ the King. “This would be the worthiest way to prepare for the celebration of the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, who identified with the little ones and the poor and who will judge us on our works of mercy,” he said, adding that the event would also “represent a genuine form of new evangelization which can renew the face of the Church as She perseveres in her perennial activity of pastoral conversion and witness to mercy.” In Rome, the event will begin with a Nov. 18 prayer vigil and solemn vespers for all those who volunteer in organizations or associations that care for the poor. The vigil, which will be presided over by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Council for the New Evangelization, will be held at the Roman Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls, a venue symbolically chosen in honor of the saint who once said that “the treasure of the Church are the poor.” The following morning, local poor and needy people will be bused to the Vatican for Mass with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica, and will be offered a celebratory lunch afterward in different locations around Rome, including the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall. In addition, the council has arranged for Italian doctors, nurses and specialists from varying practices to provide free medical care to the poor and needy attending the World Day of the Poor. They will set up tents and offer free services to attendees the week prior. The council is expecting around 3,000 people to participate in the event. Since not everyone will be able to fit in the Vatican’s hall, other organizations and institutions have offered to host groups of the poor for lunch, such as the Pontifical North American College, which will serve around 200 people. The meal, Syvla said, is meant to show attendees “that they are really special, and that we’re honored to be with them.” Flowers will be placed on all the tables, multiple courses will be served, and a group of children will come into the Paul VI Hall to sing, while a band plays outside. Those serving lunch will include a group of deacons from the Diocese of Rome, which Sylva said is a “very symbolic” gesture. The World Day of the Poor will also be celebrated in dioceses and parishes “around the world,” Sylva said. To this end, he said the council has developed a pastoral aid for parishes and schools, available on the council’s website, which has already been given to bishops’ conferences and nunciatures around the world. Available in seven languages, the aid includes, among other things, prayer vigils, lectio divina prayers and the stories of Saints associated with the poor, “so it really will give priests and laypeople involved with leadership a concrete pastoral resource they can use with the people to whom they minister.” Pointing to the logo for World Day of the Poor, Msgr. Sylva said the essence of the event can be summed up in the design, which portrays two people reaching toward each other – one from a doorway and the other from the outside – with a road in between.   If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the logo for the World Day of the Poor (Nov. 19) #Catholic pic.twitter.com/ma1fWx99jo — Michelle Bauman (@Michelle_Bauman) November 6, 2017   “It’s so beautiful because you almost don’t know who’s the one asking for assistance and who’s the one giving assistance, but what we see is that this reciprocity, this shared essence in being in that the one on the outside realizes that to get in he’s got to hold that hand out, and the one on the inside realizes that he or she has to go out in order to encounter one another,” he said. The image, he said, is a reminder that “everybody has something to share, everybody has something to give, and everybody is poor in some way.” “So how do we hand-in-hand, heart-in-heart reach out to one another, and again to not only welcome each other into the doorway of the Church, into the heart of each believer, but also along that road in which we also accompany each other closer toward heaven?” Pointing to Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of the Poor, published in June, Sylva noted that the Pope had said care for the poor shouldn’t be limited to occasional offerings that appease our consciences, but that charity must be a true encounter that shapes our daily lives. As Christians, we are called to love everyone simply because “he or she has a need,” he said, explaining that the World Day of the Poor event “expands the notion of what ‘neighbor’ means.” Christian charity, Sylva explained, is “not just for one day to put a coin in, but it’s an attitude towards the other that needs to change in each one of us, that we need to see each other as brothers and sisters, and that’s the real profundity of what our experience can be.”   Read more

New book reveals details of John Paul I’s death

Rome, Italy, Nov 6, 2017 / 04:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A new book discloses details and evidence of the death of Pope John Paul I – who died in 1978 after just 33 days in office – showing his death was the result of a heart attack, as previously held. In the book, called “Papa Luciani: Chronicle of a Death,” Vatican journalist Stefania Falasca presents thoroughly-researched evidence, including previously undisclosed medical reports, witness testimonies and Vatican documents, confirming original reports that the late pontiff died of a heart attack. Albino Luciani, who was born on Oct. 17, 1912 in Italy’s northern Veneto region, was elected Bishop of Rome at the age of 65. He took the name Pope John Paul to honor both of his immediate predecessors, St. John XXIII and Bl. Paul VI. His term as pope was short-lived, however, as he died suddenly on Sept. 28, 1978, after only 33 days in office. It has been presumed his death was caused by a heart attack, but a lack of published evidence has allowed conspiracy theories to surface, including insinuations of murder. The book will be released Nov. 7, which is said to coincide with the announcement that John Paul I’s cause for sainthood is moving forward. According to Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli, Nov. 7 or 8 the Vatican may announce Pope Francis’ approval of the “heroic virtue” of Albino Luciani, declaring him “venerable.” This then opens the path for his beatification, which requires the approval of a miracle attributed to his intercession. Currently, the Vatican is examining two alleged miracles from the late Pope’s intercession. In her book, Falasca, who also serves as vice-postulator of Luciani’s cause for sainthood, outlines evidence of John Paul I’s death, including how the evening before his death he suffered a severe pain in his chest for about five minutes, a symptom of a heart problem. It occurred while sitting and praying vespers in the chapel with his Irish secretary, Msgr. John Magee, before dinner. The pope rejected the suggestion to call for a doctor and the pain went away without treatment. His doctor, Renato Buzzonetti, was only informed of the event after his death. Contrary to what was first announced by the Vatican, however, it wasn’t the pope’s secretaries who first found him the next morning, but a young nun. When the elderly Sr. Vicenza, who helped care for the pope, noticed that he had not come out of his room to take his morning coffee, she knocked on his door, opening it when he didn’t answer. She immediately came back out in a state of shock, however, and called for the younger Sr. Margherita Marin. In her sworn testimony, Sr. Margherita relates that entering the room she “touched his hands, they were cold, and I saw, and was struck by the fact that his nails were a little dark.” Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who is from the same region as Luciani, contributed a preface to the book. In it he explains that while serving as Patriarch of Venice in 1975, Cardinal Luciani also suffered from a heart problem and was treated with anti-coagulants appearing to resolve it. Sr. Margherita, now 76 years old, said in her testimony that John Paul I did not seem tired or weighed down by his new responsibilities, but that she always saw him “calm, serene, full of trust, confident.” Though his papacy was very short, requests to begin John Paul I’s beatification process followed shortly after his death and came from many parts of the world. These requests were formalized in 1990, with a document signed by 226 Brazilian bishops. On Nov. 23, 2003 he was declared a Servant of God by his immediate successor, Pope John Paul II. Read more

How social workers can advance Catholic social teaching

Washington D.C., Nov 6, 2017 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- How social workers can live their faith in the workplace was the focus of the latest annual conference of the Catholic Social Workers National Association. “The association’s member… Read more




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