Washington D.C., Nov 1, 2017 / 11:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic and pro-life groups are welcoming the Senate’s confirmation on Tuesday of Amy Coney Barrett to the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. Barrett had faced hostile questions about her Catholic faith during her confirmation hearing. “Amy Coney Barrett will make an excellent judge and we welcome her confirmation despite unprecedented and unconstitutional attacks on her faith,” Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association, said Oct. 31. “Catholics were alarmed by the anti-Catholic bigotry on display from Democrats during her hearings, but her confirmation is a testament to the enduring constitutional principle that there can be no religious test for office.” President Trump’s nominee was confirmed by a 55-43 vote, largely along party lines. Barrett, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, was pointedly questioned by Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee in September on how her Catholic faith would influence her decisions as a judge on cases of abortion and same-sex marriage. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), ranking member of the committee, told Barrett outright that her Catholic beliefs were concerning, as they may influence her decisions as a judge on abortion rights. “I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern,” Feinstein stated. Reacting to Barrett’s confirmation, Americans United for Life said it is “especially encouraged,” and added that her scholarship has “demonstrated her dedication to preserving the originalist legacy of her former boss, the late Justice Antonin Scalia.” Pro-life group the Susan B. Anthony List also welcomed the confirmation, calling it “a victory for the pro-life movement as well as for the fundamental freedom of all Americans to live out their faith in the public square.” SBA List’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, added that “We thank President Trump for keeping his promise to nominate judges who will respect the Constitution and not impose a pro-abortion agenda from the bench. We also thank Leader McConnell and Senator Grassley for their commitment to getting these excellent judges confirmed.” During her confirmation hearings Barrett repeatedly said that as a judge, she would uphold the law of the land and would not let her religious beliefs inappropriately alter her judicial decisions. She told Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that “it’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they derive from faith or anywhere else, on the law.” In 1998, Barrett co-authored an article in the Marquette Law Review with then-Notre Dame law professor John Garvey, now president of The Catholic University of America. The article focused on Catholic judges in death penalty cases. Catholic judges, if their consciences oppose the administering of the death penalty, should, in accordance with federal law, recuse themselves from capital cases where a jury recommends a death sentence, Garvey and Barrett wrote. They should also recuse themselves from cases without a jury where they have the option of granting a death sentence, they wrote. During her confirmation hearing Barrett said she continues to uphold “that if there is ever a conflict between a judge’s personal conviction and that judge’s duty under the rule of law, that it is never, ever permissible for that judge to follow their personal convictions in the decision of a case rather than what the law requires.” Barrett has twice been honored as “Distinguished Professor of the Year” at Notre Dame, and had clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The Senate also confirmed, on Nov. 1, the confirmation of Joan Larsen to the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, by a 60-38 vote. Larsen is also a former clerk for Scalia, and her confirmation was also welcomed by SBA List. Read more

Vatican City, Nov 1, 2017 / 06:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After nearly 40 people were killed in terrorist attacks this week in Somalia, New York and Afghanistan, Pope Francis voiced his sorrow for loss of innocent life, and prayed for an end to the “murderous” hatred that spurs violence. During his Nov. 1 Angelus address on All Saints Day, Pope Francis voiced his sorrow for the various attacks, saying he is “deeply saddened” by the loss of life. “In deploring these acts of violence, I pray for the deceased, for the wounded and for their families,” he said, and prayed for the Lord to “convert the hearts of terrorists and free the world from hatred and the murderous folly that abuses the name of God so as to spread death.” On Oct. 29, five Islamic extremists stormed a hotel after a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle filled with explosives at the entrance gate, killing some 23 people. The attack, which was claimed by Africa’s most deadly Islamic extremist group, Al-Shabab, took place just two weeks after another deadly blast in Somalia killed 350 people, marking the country’s worst-ever terrorist attack. Three days later, on Oct. 31, a suicide bomber blew himself up near the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul, killing at least 5 and wounding around 20 others. In a video posted to social media, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, but did not specify what its target had been. Also on Oct. 31, eight people were killed and at least 12 injured in New York City after a man in Home Depot truck plowed through a crowd on a pedestrian and bike path on West Street in lower Manhattan, before striking a school bus. In a statement after the incident, New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan said the city and the nation “are stunned and horrified by another act of senseless violence.” “While details continue to emerge, one thing is clear: once again, no matter our religion, racial or ethnic background, or political beliefs, we must put our differences aside and come together in faith and love,” he said, and encouraged New Yorkers of all faiths “to support those who are injured, pray for those who have died as well as their families and loved ones, and work towards greater respect and understanding among all people so that heinous and evil acts like this become a thing of the past.” Read more

Vatican City, Nov 1, 2017 / 05:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis marked the feast of All Saints Day saying the saints are honored not because they were perfect or did everything right, but because they allowed God to touch their lives and fought hard against sin. “The Solemnity of All Saints is ‘our’ feast: not because we are good, but because the holiness of God has touched our lives,” the Pope said Nov. 1. Saints, he said, “are not perfect models, but are people whose lives God has crossed,” and can be compared with the stained glass windows of a church, “which allow light to enter in different shades of color.” The Saints above all are our brothers and sisters “who have welcomed the light of God into their hears and have passed it on to the world, each one according to their own ‘tone’,” he said, but stressed that no matter the “color” they give, “all of them are transparent.” “They have fought to take away the stains and darkness of sin, so as to let the gentle light of God pass through,” he said, adding that “this is the purpose of life, even for us.” Pope Francis offered his reflection in an Angelus address marking the feast of All Saints Day, which the Church celebrates each year on Nov. 1. Since the solemnity is a national holiday in Italy and the Vatican, the Pope offered the special Angelus address, rather than giving his typical Wednesday general audience. Pointing to the day’s Gospel reading from Matthew, in which Jesus outlines the Beatitudes, Francis said the world “blessed” with which Jesus begins his preaching is in itself an announcement of the “good news,” because it points to the path of happiness. “Whoever is with Jesus is blessed, is happy,” he said, explaining that happiness “is not having something or becoming someone,” but rather, “true happiness is being with the Lord and living for love.” The “ingredients” for a happy life, then, are what Jesus calls the beatitudes, he said, explaining that the blessed ones “are the simple, the humble who make room for God, who know how to weep for others and for their own errors, those who stay meek, who fight for justice, who are merciful toward all, who guard purity of heart, who always work for peace and remain in joy, not in hate, and, even when suffering, respond to evil with good.” The beatitudes, then, are not “sensational acts” reserved only for “supermen,” but are attitudes for those who live through the trials and fatigues of everyday life. Even the Saints are like this, he said, explaining that like everyone, “they breath the air polluted by the evil that’s in the world, but along the way they never lose sight of Jesus’ path, the one indicated in the beatitudes, which are like the map of Christian life.” And the feast of All Saints, then, is not celebrated only in honor of those who have reached the “goal” this map leads to, but it is also for the many “simple and hidden people” who we may know, and who, through everyday holiness, help God to “carry the world forward.” Francis highlighted the importance of the beatitude “blessed are the poor in spirit,” which he said does not mean living for success, power or money, since “whoever accumulates treasures for themselves is not rich before God.” Rather, those who are poor in spirit believe that “the Lord is the treasure of life, and that love of neighbor is the only true source of income.” “At times we are unhappy about something we lack or are worried whether or not we are though of as we would like (to be),” he said, and urged pilgrims to remember that true beatitude is not found in these things, but only “in the Lord and in love.” Pope Francis closed his address pointing to a final “beatitude” that is not found in the Gospel, but in Chapter 14 of the Book of Revelation, which reads “blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth.” Looking toward tomorrow’s celebration of All Souls Day, Francis said Christians pray for their departed loved ones, “so that they enjoy the Lord forever.” After leading pilgrims in the traditional Angelus prayer, Pope Francis voiced his sorrow for the terrorist attacks that have taken place over the past week in Somalia, Afghanistan and New York, saying he is “deeply saddened” by the attacks. “In deploring these acts of violence, I pray for the deceased, for the wounded and for their families,” he said, and prayed for the Lord to “convert the hearts of terrorists and free the world from hatred and the murderous folly that abuses the name of God so as to spread death.” He noted how for tomorrow’s Nov. 2 feast of All Souls Day, he will visit the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Nettuno, where he will celebrate Mass to remember the faithfully departed, and how afterward he will stop at the Fosse Ardeantine Museum and memorial commemorating the site of a Nazi massacre during World War II. Pope Francis asked that pilgrims and faithful accompany him in prayer as he remembers the victims of war and violence honored in the two locations. “Wars do not produce anything other than cemeteries and death. This is why I wanted to offer this sign at a time when humanity seems to have not learned it’s lesson, or does not want to learn it,” he said, and asked for prayer. Read more

Albano Laziale, Italy, Nov 1, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis will visit on Thursday an Italian cemetery for American personnel killed in World War II, where he will say Mass for All Souls’ Day. The Pope’s Nov. 2 Mass will be held at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Nettuno, a little more than 20 miles south of Albano Laziale. Cemetery Superintendent Melanie Resto said that for Francis to choose to commemorate the fallen soldiers at the cemetery is “the biggest honor I can imagine.” “We didn’t expect the Pope, but it is a great honor,” she added. Pope Francis “will be here to pray for the service members, not only the service members here, but all those who have died in wars.” According to Resto, the cemetery is visited every week by family members of the soldiers whose bodies are buried there. It is open every day, except Christmas and New Years Day. Staff are available to answer questions and to escort relatives to grave sites. Rasto said many of the cemetery staff have been employeed at the memorial for more than 25 years; there are already three employees whose fathers worked on the grounds before them. They feel that “it’s an honor to work here,” she said, “and we’re proud to have them.” The Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, dedicated in 1956, covers 77 acres, and 7,860 servicemen are buried there. In a chapel on the grounds are the names of 3,095 who were missing in action. Most of those who are buried in the Nettuno cemetery died in the liberation of Sicily, the landings at Salerno and Anzio, and in air and naval support of these operations in 1943 and 1944. In recent tradition, the Popes have said an All Souls’ Day Mass at Rome’s Campo Verano cemetery, founded in the 19th century. Pope Francis did this the first three years of his pontificate, and in 2016 said an All Souls’ Day Mass at Rome’s Prima Porta Cemetery.  Material from EWTN News Nightly was used in this report. Read more

Washington D.C., Oct 31, 2017 / 07:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- With House lawmakers set to release their tax reform bill on November 1, one U.S. bishop has laid out moral principles encouraging Congress to care for the poor, families, and the common good. “You are urged to recognize the critical obligation of creating a just framework aimed at the economic security of all people, especially the least of these,” wrote Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida in a letter addressed to Congress. The letter outlines moral principles to be considered alongside the “Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code,” the Trump administration’s template for rewriting and simplifying federal taxes. “Care for the poor” is first among the bishop’s principles, which also include avoiding cuts to poverty programs to finance the tax reform. Bishop Dewane, who serves as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, cited the U.S. bishops’ commitment to evaluating the tax system in terms of its impact on the poor. He emphasised that the burden of tax reform should not fall upon those struggling to meet their daily needs. One possible impact of the proposed tax changes could be a reduction in charitable giving, Dewane warned. Although the simplification of the tax code in the “Unified Framework” retains tax incentives for charitable contributions, the elimination of the estate tax and increase in the overall standard deduction could reduce incentives to give, leaving the poor vulnerable, he said. While particularly concerned about the reform’s potential impact on the poor, Dewane’s letter affirmed that some proposed tax changes in the “Unified Framework” could be instrumental in strengthening and encouraging families. An increase in the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit could be of particular benefit to families, especially if the “marriage penalty” in the existing tax credit is removed, he said. The pending overhaul of the current tax system, if passed, is likely to leave a lasting impact on U.S. tax revenues and public spending for years to come. The U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development seeks to ensure that these changes secure a positive future for the poor and for families, DeWane said. Quoting the “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church,” Bishop Dewane’s letter reminded lawmakers that “the goal to be sought is public financing that is itself capable of becoming an instrument of development and solidarity.”   Read more

Rapid City, S.D., Oct 31, 2017 / 06:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Lakota medicine man turned Catholic catechist Nicholas Black Elk has begun the path to potential canonization with a Mass in South Dakota opening his cause for sainthood. “From a very young age, there was an openness to the Spirit of God in his life,” Bishop Robert Gruss of Rapid City, S.D. said at an Oct. 21 Mass. “God used a personal invitation from a Jesuit priest to lead this child of God, Black Elk, down a new path to becoming this great disciple in the Catholic faith for the Lakota people.” The Mass, which opened Black Elk’s cause for canonization, was celebrated at Holy Rosary Church near Pine Ridge, S.D. Family members of Black Elk were in attendance. “For 50 years, Black Elk lived this mission in leading others to Christ,” said the bishop, crediting his love for God and Sacred Scripture for motivating him to become a catechist. In that role, he brought hundreds of people to the Catholic faith. The bishop cited Black Elk’s own words from his missionary letter: “I spoke mainly on Jesus – when he was on earth, the teachings and his sufferings. I myself, do a lot of these things. I suffer, and I try to teach my people the things that I wanted them to learn.” If Black Elk is canonized, he will be the first official saint from the Diocese of Rapid City, according to his biography on the diocese website. He was born sometime between 1858 and 1866. Like many of his ancestors, he served as a medicine man, which combined the roles of medical doctor, spiritual adviser and counselor. Despite the promises of the Great Sioux Treaty of 1868, gold-seeking settlers and prospectors began moving into Dakota Territory in 1874. This led to the Great Sioux War of 1876-77. Black Elk was at the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876. The following year, he joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, which toured Europe, including a performance before Queen Victoria. Black Elk continued to tour the continent with another Wild West show, encountering the cultures of England, France, Germany and Italy. He learned to speak some English and returned to the U.S. in 1889. In 1890, he was injured at the Wounded Knee Massacre, where a bullet grazed his thigh. Two years later, he married Katie War Bonnet. They had three children. After she converted to Catholicism, all three children were baptized. The year after she died, Black Elk converted to Catholicism and was baptized on Dec. 6, 1904, the Feast of St. Nicholas. He took Nicholas as his baptismal name because he admired the saint’s generosity. He married again in 1905. His second wife, Anna Brings White, was a widow with two children. They had three children together and she passed away in 1941. The practice in the Diocese of Rapid City was for Jesuit priests to select Lakota Catholic men to teach the faith as catechists. They taught the faith, prayed and prepared converts in the Lakota language, traveling by foot or by horseback until automobiles became available. Black Elk became a catechist in 1907, chosen for his enthusiasm and his excellent memory for learning Scripture and Church teaching. His work brought more than 400 people into the Catholic Church. The medicine man became prominent through “Black Elk Speaks,” John G. Neihart’s biographical work. The work covers his Lakota upbringing, though not his adulthood as a Christian. Black Elk passed away Aug. 19, 1950 at Pine Ridge. Bishop Gruss reflected on the possible saint’s life. “He embraced the mission to which he had been called – to help others live in the balance of the Lakota and Catholic culture leading to a deeper life in Jesus,” the bishop continued. “He melded whatever he could from his Lakota culture into his Christian life. This enculturation can always reveal something of the true nature and holiness of God.” “He challenged people to renew themselves, to seek this life that Christ offers them,” he said. “Of course, Christ’s work is never done,” said the bishop, adding that all Christians have been called into the missionary field. “Our baptism leads us there. Like Black Elk, if we are docile to the Lord’s will, devoting our lives to Him, we will be out working for His Kingdom of mercy, love, and peace.” Bishop Gruss stressed the need to continue to gather more information and testimony about the life of Black Elk and to pray that his cause merits advancement. Bill White of Porcupine, S.D., is the diocesan postulator for the cause. He is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation. White is being assisted by Fr. Joe Daoust, S.J., of Pine Ridge. Deacon Ben Black Bear from St. Francis Mission is translating some of Black Elk’s writings from the Lakota language to English, the diocese said.   Read more

Ploërmel, France, Oct 31, 2017 / 06:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- France’s top administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat has ordered a cross to be removed from a statue of Pope Saint John Paul II in Ploërmel, a small city in France’s Brittany region. The statue, nearly 25 feet tall, portrays Pope Saint John Paul II praying beneath an arch adorned with a cross. The memorial was erected in Ploërmel in 2006.  #MayDay Please help french people who are facing to the John-Paul II cross dismantling at #Ploermel village Large RT and forward to media pic.twitter.com/JM9V3FSZNi — co??tehe?se (@CourteheuseR) October 29, 2017   The court order decision provoked a strong response from the late pontiff’s native Poland. Poland’ prime minister, Beata Szydlo, offered to have the statue relocated to Poland, to save the statue from “the dictates of political correctness” and “secularization of the state.” “Our great Pole, a great European, is a symbol of a Christian, united Europe,” she said, according to the Telegraph. Since its arrival, the statue has been a source of controversy, drawing some criticism from locals and the secularist National Federation of Free Thought, which campaigned for the statue’s removal. The court stated that the cross’ “presence in a public location is contrary to the law”, Le Point reported.   Prime Minister Szydlo responded that religious censorship is undermining the values of Europe and is a nuisance to Europeans. Secularization and the dictatorship of political correctness is “alien to our culture, which leads to terrorizing Europeans in their everyday life,” she said. The ruling has also received backlash on Twitter, where people have been protesting the court’s decision by using the hashtag #montretacroix (show your cross). France’s conservative parties have decried the decision, labeling the ruling as “madness” and “destructive to the country’s history.” Patrick Le Diffon, the mayor of Ploërmel, called the statue a work of art and opposed its dismantling. However, the mayor said he would not like to start a religious battle and mentioned the possibility of bypassing the problem by selling the public land to a private investor.   Read more

Caracas, Venezuela, Oct 31, 2017 / 05:00 pm (ACI Prensa).- Caritas Venezuela has warned that some 280,000 children could die of malnutrition due to food shortages amidst the country’s grave economic crisis. Susanna Rafalli, a Caritas representat… Read more

Brussels, Belgium, Oct 31, 2017 / 04:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A group of Catholics who were reciting the rosary were removed Saturday from the Brussels cathedral  on the grounds that they were disturbing a service celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The United Protestant Church in Belgium was hosting the event with the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting the 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg Castle – a gesture which led to Luther’s eventual schism from the Catholic Church. Steven Fuit, president of the UPCB, spoke at the event, saying it was an ecumenical service and noting that “our unity essentially derives from respecting differences.” “Our individuality and our unity consist not in the passive acceptance of diversity,” Fuit said, according to the Catholic Herald. “Without the other who is different, who thinks otherwise, who does otherwise, I do not exist, I am nothing. Differences are an inherent part of unity,” he continued. However, approximately a dozen young Catholics made an appearance during the commemoration and began to recite the rosary with linked arms during the ceremony. Police ultimately removed the group from the cathedral, as shown on a YouTube video. The group of Catholics allegedly handed out a leaflet calling the ceremony a “profanation,” according to Media-Presse-Info, a French news website. “Our Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula is a Catholic building built by our fathers to be a House of God, for the celebration of holy Mass, for the praise of God and the saints,” read the leaflet. “Indeed, the so-called Reformation was really a revolt: under the pretext of combatting abuses, Luther rebelled against the divine authority of the Catholic Church, denied numerous Truths of the Faith, abolished the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacraments, rejected the necessity of good works and the practice of Christian virtues. Finally, he attacked the veneration of the Virgin Mary and the saints, the religious life and monastic vows,” the leaflet continued. “This terrible revolution was a great tragedy for Christian society and for the salvation of souls. And the Lutheran errors are still heresies today because the Truth is eternal.” Read more

New York City, N.Y., Oct 31, 2017 / 04:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, has called New Yorkers to unity, prayer, and mutual respect after at least eight people were killed and 12 were injured in an act of terroris… Read more

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