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Statement from Bishop on Racism

Racism and bigotry are among the great evils of our age, and the resurgence of neo-Nazi and white-supremacist movements is profoundly troubling.  The follower of Jesus Christ can see something of God’s image in every human being. For this reason, people of faith must unite and speak truth to this evil in our midst.  Let us renew our firm commitment to truth, equality, and universal human dignity.

– Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger

Catholic Charties’ Annual FUN-draiser

The Register 

Salina — While the annual Catholic Charities of Northern Kansas fundraiser had many lighthearted moments, the heart of the evening was the 6,500 services provided to individuals in 39 counties.  “I am always amazed by the overwhelming generosity of our supporters,” Catholic Charities Executive Director Michelle Martin said. “We are just so blessed to be surrounded by such genuinely caring donors who want to help others.”  More than 200 supporters gathered at the Salina Country Club on July 23 to help Catholic Charities raise more than $300,000, which Martin said is the best fundraiser to date.  “We are so grateful to the wonderful people of this diocese for their compassion towards helping others,” she said.  This year’s donation match was $100,000. Martin said donors hit the $100,000 mark, so their dollars were doubled.  The fundraiser supports 25 percent of Catholic Charities’ annual budget. Another 25 percent of the $1.2 million budget is supported by the Catholic Charities Annual Appeal, which is Aug. 12-13.  With 19 staff members in three offices, Martin said Catholic Charities offers 15 core programs. Yet even with a broad range of programs, the heart of them is to assist with financial stabilization and family strengthening.

With a new headquarters open in Salina, hours have expanded.  “As we found a place that was more visible here, we felt like it would benefit the individuals we serve if we had hours beyond just 8 to 5,” Martin said in her speech at the fundraiser. “We needed to be more flexible, so staff stepped up.”  The Salina office is now open on Tuesday and Thursday nights, as well as Saturday mornings. 

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Three new seminarians enter formation for diocese

Salina — Three new men will enter into formation as seminarians for the Diocese of Salina this fall.  Gavin Sedlacek of Manhattan, Jesse Ochs of Park and Aaron Dlabal of Wilson all will enter Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo. 

Sedlacek, 21, grew up at Seven Dolors Parish in Manhattan. The son of Kent and Lisa Sedlacek, he is the fourth of five children. His siblings are Kelsie, Brennan, Elly and Corbin.  He attended two years at Kansas State University in Manhattan, studying history.  Entering the seminary was a fleeting thought during his younger years.  “I didn’t give it much serious thought until I was a senior in high school,” Sedlacek said. “This last semester, I was praying in adoration one day, and I thought God was calling me to (the seminary). I’m trying to answer God’s call.”  He was involved in Prayer and Action, the summer service project sponsored by the Diocesan Office of Youth Ministry, as well as attended NCYC, attended the annual CYO convention, was on the Diocesan Youth Council for one year and attended Junior CYO as a camper, then went back as a counselor for four years.  

“I would probably say the reason I stayed Catholic is because I was involved with the youth ministry,” Sedlacek said. “Through my involvement in the diocese, it gave me a deeper appreciation and understanding of my faith. It helped me fall in love with the sacraments and open me up to the possibility of priesthood.”  Prayer and Action heavily influenced his prayer life. He served on the team in 2015.  “It gave me the desire to serve others,” he said. “It showed me what it means to be a Christian, a Catholic in this world by helping out your neighbors. Being on the team was a great opportunity to give back what I had received in my five years (as a participant). I loved being able to connect with the youth and being able to serve.”

Ochs, 23, grew up at Sacred Heart Parish in Park. The son of Richard and Judy Ochs, he has one older brother, Luke.  He attended K-State, and graduated in 2016 with a degree in social work. He worked for St. Francis Community Services in Colby upon college graduation.  College was a fruitful time for spiritual growth.  “I was highly involved with St. Isidore,” he said. “I was an active participant in the choir. I was in the choir almost every Sunday when I was there. I was involved in quite a few different Bible studies with Father Jarett (Konrade).”  Prior to college, he was involved in Prayer and Action.  “Prayer and Action had a very big impact on my decision (to enter the seminary),” Ochs said. “That’s really where my faith grew significantly. The knowledge of the faith and my love of Christ and for others grew through that mission trip. Serving others and finding a better prayer life helped me pray enough to make the decision to go to the seminary.”  Ochs spent the summer teaching Totus Tuus. He also taught in 2015.

Committing to praying about the decision and embracing more structure in his prayer life assisted Ochs with finding clarity.  “Participating in adoration has helped quite a bit (in discernment),” he said. “Becoming more strong in my prayer life, becoming more consistent helped.”  As he worked through the process of discernment, Ochs said he discussed the possibility of the seminary with his parents.  “They support it fully,” he said.”That certainly helped my decision.”  At his home parish and in college, Ochs participated in the choir and as a cantor.  “Music is what really brings me closer to Christ,” he said. “Especially being a cantor and in the choir has been a huge impact on my faith.”

Dlabal, 18, is a graduate of Wilson High School and member of St. Wenceslaus in Wilson. The son of Jim and the late Rosemary Dlabal, he has three siblings: Joshua, Justine and Ethan.  Prayer and Action, the diocese’s summer program, let Dlabal meet other seminarians and receive advice on discernment.  “The first year, (Deacon) Andy Hammeke said when you find your vocation, you’re at peace with yourself, even if you don’t know what will happen or how to prepare for it, you’ll be at peace,” Dlabal said.  Dlabal, a recent Wilson High School graduate, said he took his question to his quiet, empty hometown church, St. Wenceslaus in Wilson.

Father Gale Hammerschmidt, co-vocation director for the diocese, said it’s been nearly a decade since a seminarian entered immediately after high school graduation.  During high school, Dlabal was involved with CYO at his parish, as well as participated in Prayer and Action and Totus Tuus. He was also on the CYO Diocesan Youth Council.  In the parish, he is a lector, cantor and altar boy. At school, he participated in cross country, track, theater, drama, Scholars Bowl, science club, National Honor Society and Student Council.

For more information about vocational discernment, contact Father Gale Hammerschmidt, co-vocation director at (785) 539-7496 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  For more information about financially supporting seminarian education, contact Beth Shearer­, Director of Stewardship and Development for the Salina Diocese at (785) 827-8746 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Bead by Bead

Story & Photos by Karen Bonar

The Register

Burr Oak — Three friends sit around the large table in the community library. The group, informally called “Our Lady, Untier of Knots,” gathers weekly to talk, laugh and catch up on life while they string rosary beads.  “We all seem to need to have another rosary in front of us as you make one,” said Burr Oak resident Judy Donley, who started the group. “It must take a different part of your brain to build them than pray it.”  “This morning, I made four sets and I forgot all of the Our Father beads,” Pat Windmuller chimed in.  “You never notice at the beginning when you have a mistake. You never notice until the end,” Leah Garman added.  

The group gathers weekly at the Burr Oak Community Library in the northern Kansas town of about 150 people. The town’s Catholic church, St. James, closed in 1915.  Making rosaries was something Donley sort of fell into. She bought supplies in the winter of 2015 and began making twine rosaries as she watched TV in the evening.  “I started making them because I like praying the rosary and doing crafty stuff,” she said. “I’m also a recent convert, so I’m on fire.”  She joined the Church in 2012.

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Serving in the summer

Story & Photos by Karen Bonar

The Register

Burr Oak — Three friends sit around the large table in the community library. The group, informally called “Our Lady, Untier of Knots,” gathers weekly to talk, laugh and catch up on life while they string rosary beads.  “We all seem to need to have another rosary in front of us as you make one,” said Burr Oak resident Judy Donley, who started the group. “It must take a different part of your brain to build them than pray it.”  “This morning, I made four sets and I forgot all of the Our Father beads,” Pat Windmuller chimed in.  “You never notice at the beginning when you have a mistake. You never notice until the end,” Leah Garman added.

The group gathers weekly at the Burr Oak Community Library in the northern Kansas town of about 150 people. The town’s Catholic church, St. James, closed in 1915.  Making rosaries was something Donley sort of fell into. She bought supplies in the winter of 2015 and began making twine rosaries as she watched TV in the evening.  “I started making them because I like praying the rosary and doing crafty stuff,” she said. “I’m also a recent convert, so I’m on fire.”  She joined the Church in 2012.  As she started to expand the rosary-making operation, she began exploring beyond rope rosaries. It was then she encountered Our Lady of Rosary Makers online and shifted into producing rosaries with plastic beads.

She invited friends and members of all three area parishes to participate and set up shop once a week in the local library. Anywhere from three to four people gather weekly.  “The rosary is so powerful that I really wanted to do it,” Windmuller said. “It’s nice, it’s fellowship. I feel like we’re doing something good for somebody.”  It’s not only about creating an mechanism for prayer for others, though.  “We say the “Our Lady Untier of Knots” prayer we pray before we start,” Garman said. “If something is on our hearts, we’ll pray a decade while we’re here. Or sometimes we’ll pray a decade as we make them.”  “You can’t not pray when you’re making them,” Donley chimed in.  The group meets for about two hours every week. Garman said she can make about eight rosaries in one sitting.  “I think I can make about four (rosaries) an hour … if I don’t stop and talk,” she said. 

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Popular EWTN host to speak at annual banquet

Hays – Brian Patrick, a popular host of the Eternal Word Television and Radio Network will be the featured speaker at Divine Mercy Radio’s annual banquet from 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 9 in the Little Theatre of Holy Family Elementary, 1800 Milner in Hays. His talk is titled “Mercy in Motion.”
 
Patrick will talk about his personal experience of God’s mercy, a gift that has led to his becoming the most noted personalities at EWTN. Patrick will tell his story and also talk about some of the interesting people he has interviewed over the years.
“It will be a different talk than we’ve had in the past,” said Donetta Robben, Executive Director of Divine Mercy Radio. “Brian Patrick will be entertaining, humorous and spiritually motivating. When we hear these personal stories, it makes us realize how God is working in our own lives.”
 
Currently Patrick is co-host of EWTN’s “Morning Glory,” which airs at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday on Divine Mercy Radio, KVDM in Hays and KRTT in Great Bend, both at 88.1 FM. He’s the former news anchor of EWTN’s News Nightly, and the former host of the “Sonrise Morning Show.” He also anchored “Crossing the Goal” with Danny Abramowicz, a former star player in the National Football League, Curtis Martin, founder of FOCUS Missionaries and Peter Herbeck, Vice President of Renewal Ministries. Patrick has been in the radio-TV field for nearly 45 years.
 
Tickets for the banquet are $45 if purchased before Aug. 15. After Aug. 15, the ticket price goes up to $50. The banquet includes hors d’oeuvres with wine or beer as well a full meal, including salad, choice of chicken cordon bleu or a beef fillet, roasted potatoes, summer vegetable medley, dinner rolls as well as carrot or chocolate cake for dessert. Tickets are available online at dvmercy.com, by calling the studio at (785) 621-4110 or coming to Divine Mercy Radio at 108 E. 12th St. in Hays during office hours, which are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Event allows families to gather, pray together

The Register

Salina — Families gathered to listen and pray in Colby July 28 and in Salina July 29 as part of the Night of Prayer and Praise for Children and Families.  In Colby, Jennifer Bentzinger reflected on how family life can be a springboard for spiritual life.  “Family life is a powerhouse for sanctification,” she said. “Family life provides us with a wealth of opportunities to be sanctified — to be made holy — and to seek sainthood.”  She said having children and starting a family drastically altered her spiritual life.  “I look back at my pre-children days and miss my old prayer life,” Bentzinger said. “Daily holy hours and spiritual reading. Daily Mass. The rosary. With the birth of my first child, all of that seemed to slip away and I found myself barely able to make it to Mass on Sundays and lucky to remember to bless my food before meals. After mourning the loss of my former spiritual life, I have come to realize that having a family and having a spiritual life are not, of course, mutually exclusive.”  She said family life sanctifies us by making us die to ourselves and live for others, provides us with the opportunity to be contemplatives in the midst of chaos, sanctifies us by calling us to true, authentic, life-giving love and offers more than enough suffering to lead us all to sainthood.  Bentzinger said while monastic life and family life seem like polar opposites, they are similar. Religious living in monasteries must be obedient to the monastic bell. When it rings, they must stop what they are doing and immediately report for prayer or the specified duty or activity.  “When your toddler demands a drink of water, when your son requests help with is algebra, when the baby is crying, hear instead the monastic bell,” she said. “We ought to embrace the distractions of family life as a means to grow in holiness. It is precisely in the inconvenient interruptions of our spouses and children that God calls to be obedient in our vocation of married and family life.”  Prayer is essential to family life but not always feasible to do in church. She said she takes the opportunity during daily tasks to pray for her family.  “As I chop vegetables and prep meat, I can raise my heart and mind to God by thanking him for the healthy food he has given our family and asking him to provide for those less fortunate,” she said.  Other opportunities for prayer are praying for the individual whose laundry you are washing, folding or ironing.

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Featured Events

Catholic News Headlines

  • By WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Saying there is an "urgent need" to address "the sin of racism" in the country and find solutions to it, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has established a new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and named one of the country's African-American Catholic bishops to chair it. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, initiated the committee Aug. 23 "to focus on addressing the sin of racism in our society, and even in our church, and the urgent need to come together as a society to find solutions." He appointed Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Catholic Education, to chair the new ad hoc committee. "Recent events have exposed the extent to which the sin of racism continues to inflict our nation," Cardinal DiNardo said in a statement. "The establishment of this new ad hoc committee will be wholly dedicated to engaging the church and our society to work together in unity to challenge the sin of racism, to listen to persons who are suffering under this sin, and to come together in the love of Christ to know one another as brothers and sisters." The naming of members to serve on the new body will be finalized in coming days, the USCCB said in an announcement. It added that the committee's mandate "will be confirmed at the first meeting, expected very shortly." "I look forward to working with my brother bishops as well as communities across the United States to listen to the needs of individuals who have suffered under the sin of racism and together find solutions to this epidemic of hate that has plagued our nation for far too long," Bishop Murry said in a statement. "Through Jesus' example of love and mercy, we are called to be a better people than what we have witnessed over the past weeks and months as a nation. Through listening, prayer and meaningful collaboration, I'm hopeful we can find lasting solutions and common ground where racism will no longer find a place in our hearts or in our society." The new ad hoc committee also will "welcome and support" implementation of the U.S. bishops' new pastoral letter on racism, expected to be released in 2018. In 1979, the bishops issued a pastoral in racism titled "Brothers and Sisters to Us," in which they addressed many themes, but the overall message then as today was "racism is a sin." Creation of a new formal body that is part of the USCCB -- formed on the USCCB Executive Committee's "unanimous recommendation" -- speaks to how serious the U.S. Catholic Church leaders take the problem of racism in America today. It is the first ad hoc committee the bishops have established since instituting the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty in 2011 to address growing concerns over the erosion of freedom of religion in America. The federal governments mandate that all employers, including religious employers provide health care coverage of artificial contraceptives and abortifacients was one of the key issues that prompted formation of the committee. Chaired by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, that body was elevated to full USCCB committee status during the bishops' spring assembly in Indianapolis this past June. In addition to the Executive Committee's recommendation, the USCCB said, the decision to initiate the new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism also was made in consultation with members of the USCCB's Committee on Priorities and Plans. The formation of the ad hoc committee also follows the conclusion of the work of the Peace in Our Communities Task Force. The task force was formed in July 2016 by then-Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, who was then USCCB president. He initiated it in response to racially related shootings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as well as in Minneapolis and Dallas. To head it he named Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, one of the nation's African-American prelates who was the first black Catholic bishop to be president of the USCCB (2001-2004). The task force's mandate was to explore ways of promoting peace and healing around the country. Archbishop Kurtz also wanted the bishops to look for ways they could help the suffering communities, as well as police affected by the incidents. On Nov. 14, 2016, during the USCCB's fall general assembly, Archbishop Gregory told the bishops to issue, sooner rather than later, a document on racism. "A statement from the full body of bishops on racism is increasingly important at this time," said the archbishop in reporting on the work of the task force. He said the president of the bishops' conference and relevant committees need to "identify opportunities for a shorter-term statement on these issues, particularly in the context of the postelection uncertainty and disaffection." He also urged prayer, ecumenical and interfaith collaboration, dialogue, parish-based and diocesan conversations and training, as well as opportunities for encounter.The bishops' 1979 pastoral, now in its 19th printing, declared: "Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father."- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Ed Langlois, Catholic SentinelBy Ed LangloisST. PAUL, Ore. (CNS) -- Hundreds of solar eclipse viewers Aug. 21 watched the sky grow dim and then witnessed the spectacular dancing white corona of the sun's edge from alongside Oregon's oldest Catholic church. Built in 1846, St. Paul Church in the small town of St. Paul was already venerable the last time it was in an eclipse path of totality in 1918. The brick building, restored after a 1993 earthquake, stood silent and strong Aug. 21 as the crowd around it cheered and cried out during the eerie minute that the moon blotted out the sun's light. "God puts on the best shows!" one woman called out. While the heavens were creating awe, Msgr. Gregory Moys was providing for creature comforts of visitors. Some towns in the eclipse zone provided portable bathrooms, but that was a bit much for the city of St. Paul to afford. Msgr. Moys, pastor of St. Paul Parish, opened up the back door of the 171-year house of worship so viewers could find relief in a set of rooms once used by Oregon's pioneer priests. One Vancouver, Washington, family made the trip and sat happily in front of St. Paul Church. "It's a memory they'll have for a long time," James Longfellow said of his wife and children. Longfellow's 8-year-old daughter, Analise, feared she might forget. Her parents assured her she'd remember. Pete Hamlin, a member of St. Matthew Church in Hillsboro, recalled trying to watch a 1979 eclipse as a child, but the Oregon skies were cloudy. "This is a good opportunity," Hamlin told the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland. He came to St. Paul with friends Greg Clemmons and John Hedlund. While the solar event was stunning, the trio spent much of their time before looking over the old brick church and discovering its history. The edifice replaced a log church that had been built in 1836 by settlers who had written Catholic officials in the East repeatedly before two missionaries were sent from Quebec -- Fathers Francis Blanchet and Modeste Demers. Native American workers helped make the bricks that are still in good shape. On April 25, 1846, a month before the cornerstone was laid, a partial solar eclipse was visible in St. Paul. - - - Langlois is managing editor of the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Jonathan LuxmooreWARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- A Polish archbishop who inspected Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine for the pope predicted the Vatican will soon recognize its Marian apparitions. "The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has passed all documentation to the Secretariat of State -- everything suggests the apparitions will be accepted before the year ends," said Archbishop Henryk Hoser. "It's difficult to believe the six visionaries have been lying for 36 years," the archbishop said. "What they say is coherent, and none is mentally disturbed, while the apparitions' faithfulness to church doctrine is also a powerful argument for their authenticity." The archbishop spoke as he completed a report from his spring mission to the hilltop shrine, which has not been officially recognized by the church despite 2.5 million pilgrims annually. He told Poland's Catholic Information Agency, KAI, he had found an "exceptional atmosphere" of "spiritual creativeness" at Medjugorje, characterized by "prayer, silence, meditation, Eucharist, adoration, fasting and reconciliation." He added that the shrine was seeing "huge dynamic growth," in contrast to older sanctuaries in Portugal, France and Poland and had succeeded in remaining "a true place for pilgrims" while "eliminating tourist elements." "Everything is moving in a good direction. My mission wasn't aimed at closing Medjugorje down, but at evaluating whether pastoral work is being properly organized there in line with church teaching," Archbishop Hoser said. "My conclusions are that it is, and my impression is highly positive," he told KAI. Six teenagers claim to have seen the Virgin Mary June 24, 1981, near Medjugorje. Since then, they have reported more than 42,000 apparitions at the site, which was largely untouched by the 1992-95 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In April, the then-prefect of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, told KAI ageny it still could "take a long time" for the Vatican to rule on the apparitions, despite Archbishop Hoser's pastoral visitation. Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno, the local ordinary, has consistently dismissed the Medjugorje apparitions as false, like his predecessor, Bishop Pavao Zanic, and appealed to bishops abroad not to support pilgrimages there. However, in March, Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, defended the shrine as "Europe's largest confessional," and said he counted on the Vatican to appreciate its evangelical potential in generating "conversions and acts of grace."Pope Francis told reporters traveling with him from Fatima, Portugal, in May that the most important fact about Medjugorje is "the spiritual fact, the pastoral fact" that thousands of pilgrims go to Medjugorje and are converted. "For this there is no magic wand; this spiritual-pastoral fact cannot be denied." The spiritual fruits of the pilgrimages, he said, are the reason why in February he appointed Archbishop Hoser to study the best ways to provide pastoral care to townspeople and the pilgrims. Speaking to reporters May 13, Pope Francis gave no indication of when a final pronouncement about the alleged apparitions would be made. However, the said that a commission set up by then-Pope Benedict XVI had spent years investigating the phenomenon and tended to believe the apparitions in that first week of the summer of 1981 may have been real, but the continued reports of apparitions are questionable. Furthermore, Pope Francis told the press, "personally, I am more 'mischievous.' I prefer Our Lady to be a mother, our mother, and not a telegraph operator who sends out a message every day at a certain time -- this is not the mother of Jesus." - - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • By ROME (CNS) -- One of the two women who died when an earthquake struck the Italian island of Ischia was killed by falling debris from a 19th-century church. The other died in her home, which was destroyed by the quake Aug. 21. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake, which struck at 8:57 p.m. local time, measured a magnitude of 4.3. Ischia is located off the coast of Naples. As of late Aug. 22, Italian authorities had not released the names of the two women who died. The Italian bishops' television station, TV2000, said the destroyed church was Santa Maria dei Suffragio, more commonly known as the "Purgatory Church." The church in the village of Casamicciola was built in the 19th century after a quake in 1883 destroyed the previous church on the site. Much of the international news coverage of the quake focused on the rescue of three children, brothers, who were buried under the rubble. The first of the brothers to be rescued, seven hours after the quake, was 7-month-old Pasquale. The next morning, rescuers were able to free 7-year-old Mattias. Ciro, 11, was freed 16 hours after the quake. All of the brothers are expected to make a full recovery. The local hospital originally treated 39 other people for quake-related injuries. One person remained in serious condition, although most of the others were treated and released.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Although he said planning a papal trip to Russia was not on the agenda, the Vatican secretary of state said his visit to Moscow was designed to build on the meeting Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill had in Cuba in 2016. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state, was visiting Moscow Aug. 21-24 and was scheduled to meet with the patriarch and Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as with leaders of Russia's Catholic community. The list of topics for the meetings ranged from ecumenical dialogue and interreligious cooperation to current world affairs and climate change, he said in a series of interviews before leaving Rome. After a long morning meeting Aug. 22, the cardinal and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a brief news conference, telling reporters they had discussed ongoing conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, the Holy Land and Venezuela. Cardinal Parolin said his meetings with government officials were designed to share "Pope Francis' interest in bilateral relations between the Holy See and the Russian Federation as well as his concerns in the sphere of international affairs." "Obviously," the cardinal said, "the meeting offered an occasion to discuss some concrete questions regarding the life of the Catholic Church in the Russian Federation, including the difficulties that remain in obtaining work permits for non-Russian religious personnel and the restitution of some churches, which are needed for the pastoral care of Catholics in the country." Many church buildings were confiscated by the former Soviet government and never returned. Regarding international affairs, Cardinal Parolin said he and Lavrov discussed several ongoing conflicts, including the war in Eastern Ukraine and the war in Syria. In situations of war, he said, the Catholic Church often is directly involved in promoting humanitarian aid for the victims, but it also works on a diplomatic level to promote a negotiated peace with guarantees of "justice, legality, truth" and the safety of civilians. The Russian foreign ministry posted online the first minutes of the working meeting between Cardinal Parolin and Lavrov. The foreign minister told the cardinal, "We see that our positions are close on a number of current issues, including the peaceful settlement of crises, fighting terrorism and extremism, promoting the dialogue among religions and civilizations and strengthening social justice and the role of the family." And, he said, it is important that the strengthening of Vatican-Russian relations is "complemented by the dialogue between religions, which was launched during the historical meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis in Cuba." Cardinal Parolin began his visit to Russia with a meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church. After the meeting, he told reporters their time together was very constructive, and that even though there are "thorny issues," there also is a great desire to overcome them. As an example of an ongoing difficulty, Cardinal Parolin said the existence of the Ukrainian Catholic Church "remains for the Russian Orthodox Church an obstacle." In the evening Aug. 21, Cardinal Parolin presided over a Mass for Moscow's Catholics in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Before Mass, he had met with the country's Catholic bishops.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.