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Deacon Andy ordained

The Register

Salina — While the April 22 ordination of Andrew Hammeke was to the transitional diaconate, Bishop Edward Weisenburger cautioned against thinking of it as a small step.  “Ordaining men to the transitional diaconate is no mere humble stepping stone to what that matters,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “For you, Andy, it’s more a step on the way to something we pray and we hope will be your fuller calling — ordained priesthood. But it by no means lessens its significance for you or for our Church. ”  

In front of a crowd of friends and family at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Bishop Weisenburger ordained Hammeke, 27, to the transitional diaconate. The ordination to the transitional diaconate is the final step before being ordained a priest.   “As you enter holy orders today, recognize this diakonia as the permanent foundation of your ministry,” Bishop Weisenburger said during the homily.  

In attendance were priests of the Diocese of Salina, along with Father Tobias Colgan, OSB. Father Colgan is the vice rector of St. Meinrad School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Ind., where Deacon Hammeke will complete his final year of studies.  The rite of ordination consisted of five parts: the promise of the elect, the litany of saints, laying on of hands and prayer of ordination, investiture with the stole and dalmatic and receiving the book of Gospels.

Deacon Hammeke said the litany of saints was a powerful moment for him.  “While I was on the ground, hearing everyone invoke so many great saints who have gone before us, I felt like I was entering into something huge,” he said. “I had a broad picture of the universal Church.”


St. Isidore Day Celebration is May 15

Special to The Register

Washington — On May 15, the annual St. Isidore Day will be celebrated with Mass, blessing of fields and flock and a tour of the Kansas Service Dog School.

The day will begin at 10 a.m. with Mass at St. Augustine Church. Father Brian Lager, Father Joseph Kieffer and Father Richard Daise will concelebrate the Mass with Bishop Edward Weisenburger. The Mass will include the blessing of seeds, including seed such as wheat, corn, milo and garden and flower seeds. Visitors are welcome to bring soil samples, which will also be blessed at the Mass. 

Immediately following Mass, there will be a blessing of fields and flocks. Last year, Father Daise said one of the altar servers brought her 4-H steer to be blessed after the Mass. Participants are invited to bring soil from their fields or gardens to be blessed. Following the blessing of fields and flock, lunch will be served by the ladies of the parish.

The Rural Life Commission will hold a brief meeting as part of the day’s activities. Following the meeting, participants will enjoy a tour of the Kansas Service Dog School, which is located in Washington. 

The annual celebration is celebrated near the feast of St. Isidore, the patron saint of farmers and rural communities and also one of the patron saints of the Diocese of Salina. Since the feast day is on a Sunday, the observance is scheduled for Monday.

Please RSVP by May 8 to (785) 462-2179 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Goodland youth to participate MobilePack operation

Special to The Register

Goodland — Seventeen miles from the Colorado border, youth in Goodland hope to raise $22,000, making them able to pack meals to feed 100,000 people.  It might seem like a lofty goal, but Kinsey Volk, a senior at Goodland High School, knows they can do it. In 2015, residents in Goodland raised nearly $30,000 allowing them to pack 114,000 meals.  “We hope it turns out similar this year,” Volk said. 

Volk, who is a member of Our Lady Perpetual Help’s CYO, said the project is independent of the church, however many CYO members are still involved, helping to raise money.  “I want it to be a community event and not just a Catholic event,” Volk said.  Volk is assisting adult sponsor Dusti Chadwick in leading the Goodland Youth Feed My Starving Children Core Team. The Core Team plans to raise money until the event in July. The Feed My Starving Children MobilePack of Goodland will take place July 14-15. 

Feed My Starving Children is a non-profit Christian organization committed to feeding God’s starving children hungry in­ body and spirit. Youth and adults will be packing meals formulated for malnourished chil­dren, which will be shipped across the world.  This is the third time Goodland has participated in the MobilePack operation. They previously took part in 2013 and 2015. 

This year, the goal of raising $22,000 is the minimum. Volk said the Core Team set this because the “team is older this year and mainly (high school) seniors.” Being seniors, they are more involved with school and other activities, making it a little harder to go above and beyond. 

The Core Team however does not sell themselves short. Although their goal is to raise the minimum $22,000 they “hope to raise more,” Volk said. In preparation for this year they have already starting raising money.  In order to raise money this year the MobilePack gives presentations to churches and various organizations such as 4-H Club and Rotary Club. Through these presentations, donations are received. 

Fundraisers are also held.  “Krispy Kreme is among one of the more popular fundraisers,” Volk said. “The closest Krispy Kreme is three hours away.”Over $1,000 was made from the Krispy Kreme fundraiser. Other fundraisers include pancake feeds, cookies and many more. 

So far this year the MobilePack has raised $10,000.  “I think the event is going to go great this year and I am very excited,” Chadwick said. “ I have all the faith that it is going to turn out great.”  Volk is looking forward to the event in July as she reflects on previous years.  “It's a great feeling to see your hard work paid off,” Volk said. 

For more information or to sign up to volunteer: https://give.fmsc.org/goodland/events/1707-019ea-goodland-ks-youth-mp/e104118

CSJ Associates renew commitment to Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia

Concordia — As part of the annual CSJ Associates Retreat, a new Associate made her first commitment March 25, while 11 other Associates renewed their commitment to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. The spring weekend retreat took place March 24-26 at Manna House of Prayer in Concordia.

The 7 p.m. commitment ceremony was the highlight of a weekend filled with prayer and fellowship. The retreat concluded with Mass on Sunday morning at the Nazareth Motherhouse and dinner with the Sisters.

A CSJ Associate is a Christian adult who is committed to Gospel values, feels drawn by the charism, spirituality and mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph, desires to deepen one’s spiritual life, is willing to give oneself in service to the “dear neighbor” and is committed to building community. CSJ Associates are men and women from all ages and all walks of life. They meet regularly for prayer and sharing either in groups or one-on-one.

CSJ Associates renewing their commitment at the retreat were:

  • Susan LeDuc, Concordia-area group
  • Bill Riordan, Concordia-area group
  • Susan Riordan, Concordia-area group
  • Gerry Parker, Abilene-area group
  • Vicki Appelhans, Manhattan-area group
  • Mary Ray, Manhattan-area group
  • Catherine Seitz, Manhattan-area group
  • Nancy Welsh, Manhattan-area group
  • Stephanie Hudson, Kansas City-area group
  • Jennifer Spangler, Kansas City-area group
  • Rosalita Flax, Western Kansas-area group

Joelyn Foy Ph.D., Manhattan-area group, made her first commitment. Other Associates have or will be renewing at area group meetings.  Also taking part in the weekend retreat were several Sisters of St. Joseph and two women who wanted to learn more about the CSJ Associates program. For more information about CSJ Associates, contact CSJ Associate Catherine Seitz at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Sister Janet Lander, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (785) 243-2149 or visit www.cshkansas.org/about/associates/

Currently, there are Associate members in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas and Missouri.

Manhattan perpetual adoration chapel celebrates 22nd anniversary

Manhattan — On  March 19, the 22nd anniversary of the St Joseph Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapel was celebrated by 87 permanent adorers, substitutes and guests. The evening began with Father Kerry Ninemire leading in a prayer service that included Adoration and Benediction. After a  potluck dinner, 19 adorers received lapel pins to commemorate their combined 110 years praying one hour weekly before the Blessed Sacrament. 

Eight retired adorers and charter members were honored with St. Joseph statues. In addition, Mary Wataha was presented a St. Joseph statue in memory of her husband John, who was a faithful adorer, captain and substitute for 21 years. 

Father Luke Thielen, who was ordained in June of 2016 and is currently parochial vicar at St. Mary, Queen of the Universe Parish in Salina, was the guest speaker. Father Thielen discussed the inner struggles that can accompany the call to serve God as a priest. He encouraged the ministry of adorers, urging them to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. 

“We are doing God’s will through prayer and adoration by being with him 24 fours a day,” he said. “Now more than ever, we need to storm heaven with our prayers for peace.”

The chapel is a combined effort of Adorers from all three parishes in Manhattan: Seven Dolors, St. Robert Bellarmine Parish -  St. Isidore Catholic Student Center and St. Thomas More parishes.

For more information, contact Linda Lake at (785) 341-2574.

Father Zimmerman will retire after 44 years

The Register

Salina —  Throughout his 44 years as a priest, Father Don Zimmerman said he’s learned “You never know what to expect.”  “I’ve grown to expect the unexpected,” he said.  When he retires in July, he expects more of the same: the unexpected.  “I’ve told people here that I have the ability to put my toothbrush and my comb and my alb and chasuble in my tour pack in the Harley Davidson and go out and help,” Father Zimmerman said. “That’s basically what I want to do: Get on the Harley and go and help throughout the diocese.”

Even though he won’t formally be assigned to a parish, Father Zimmerman said he looks forward to working with people throughout the diocese.  He said the people of the Diocese of Salina have been the most enriching part of his priesthood.  “It’s the people, the people I’ve been able to serve,” he said about what stands out during his years of service. “Every community is a little bit different. In Belleville you had the Bohemian and Polish community. In Kanopolis, it was the Hispanic community. Hays was German, and Manhattan had an eclectic mix because of the university and Fort Riley.”  “I’ve always felt blessed in working with the staffs and respective parish councils,” he added.  Father Zimmerman said one thing that impressed him, regardless of his location, was the impact of the church.  “I see how a church and its community can truly make a difference,” he said.  One example is the Go Make a Difference Day in Manhattan.  “People are involved out tin the community to do what Prayer and Action does, but to do it as a parish,” Father Zimmerman said. “There’s always been a great mission-minded spirit at St. Thomas More Parish.”  In Hays, he said, the local churches were involved with First Call for Help. 

Throughout his seven assignments, Father Zimmerman was involved with several construction projects.  At St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in Kanopolis, he remodeled the parish rectory. At St. Joseph Parish in Brookville, a new rectory/office was built.  At St. Thomas More Parish in Manhattan, Father Zimmerman said the parish built a new parish hall:  Utopia Hall. Additionally, the old parish hall was remodeled into new offices, and a new rectory was built.  At Immaculate Heart of Mary in Hays, where he spent 12 years, the parish took the first steps toward building a new church.  “During my time, we ended up razing seven houses across the street, which is where the existing church now sits,” he said. “There was a lot of ground work — literally — that was established.”  The parish also undertook a five-year capital campaign. Two years into the fundraising, Father Kevin Weber was assigned to the parish and completed the project.


Seminarian recognition dinner is June 1 in Salina

Salina — The fourth annual “An Evening with Our Seminarians” will take place June 1 at St. Mary Queen of the Universe Parish. 

All of the diocese’s seminarians, several priests and Bishop Edward Weisenburger will be on hand to meet with guests.

The evening begins with Vespers (evening prayer) at 6:30 p.m., followed by a catered meal and a short program. The event is open to the public, but reservations are required. The cost is $50 per person, with reservations required by May 22.

“This event was started in 2014 as a way for me and those in the diocese to recognize and share the stories of the men studying for the priesthood in our diocese,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “Many parishioners across the diocese have been supporting and praying for these men as they continue their formation. This event is a way for these people to meet and visit with each seminarian and find out how called has called them to their discernment. The funds raised from the event are used exclusively for seminarian education. ” 

On April 22, seminarian Andrew Hammeke was ordained as a transitional deacon. On June 3, three transitional deacons will be ordained to the priesthood: Deacon Leo Blasi, Deacon Ryan McCandless and Deacon Justin Palmer. 

Katie Platten, the volunteer event coordinator, said that supporters many buy a table and fill it with family and friends. However, individual tickets are also available. It is a great way to meet not just the seminarians but also others from throughout the diocese. 

“The diocese is blessed to have so many men who are faithfully inspired to heed and follow their calling,” Platten said. “We also celebrate the many people who support our seminarians, and to see them coming together to honor each other is amazing. This event is an opportunity to meet our seminarians and offer our support and recognition of their gift of stewardship to our diocese.”

The Diocese of Salina currently has 12 seminarians in formation, with continued inquiries about the seminary from others, Weisenburger said.

“We have a great group of men, each with their unique story to share,” he said. 

Cost is $50 per person. For more information, contact Beth Shearer or Lois Yost at (785)827-8746 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


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Catholic News Headlines

  • IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Carol GlatzCAIRO (CNS) -- The only kind of fanaticism that is acceptable to God is being fanatical about loving and helping others, Pope Francis said on his final day in Egypt. "True faith," he told Catholics, "makes us more charitable, more merciful, more honest and more humane. It moves our hearts to love everyone without counting the cost." The pope celebrated an open-air Mass April 29 in Cairo's Air Defense Stadium, built by the anti-aircraft branch of the Egyptian armed forces. The pope concelebrated with Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak of Alexandria and leaders of the other Catholic rites in Egypt. After spending the first day of his visit in meetings with Muslim leaders, government officials, diplomats and members of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the pope dedicated the second day of his trip to Egypt's minority Catholic community. Arriving at the stadium in a blue Fiat, the pope was slowly driven around the stadium's red running track in a small and low golf cart, far from the thousands seated in the stands high above. Yellow balloons and a long chain of blue balloons tied together like a rosary were released into the sky as a military helicopter circled high above the venue. Surrounded by security, the pope managed to personally greet only one small group of children who were dressed as pharaohs and other traditional figures. They hugged the pope affectionately as security tightly closed in on the group. In his homily, the pope used the day's Gospel reading of the two disciples' journey to Emmaus to highlight how easy it is to feel disappointment, despair and defeat when one is trapped by a false notion of who God really is. The disciples could not believe that the one who could raise others from the dead and heal the sick could "end up on hanging on the cross of shame," the pope said. Believing Jesus was dead, all their dreams died with him on the cross and were buried in the tomb. "How often do we paralyze ourselves by refusing to transcend our own ideas about God, a god created in the image and likeness of man," he said. "How often do we despair by refusing to believe that God's omnipotence is not one of power and authority, but rather of love, forgiveness and life." Like the disciples, he said, Christians will never recognize the true face of God until they let their mistaken ideas die on the cross, rise up from the tomb of their limited understanding and shatter their hardened hearts like the "breaking of the bread" in the Eucharist. "We cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power," the pope said. True faith "makes us see the other not as an enemy to be overcome, but a brother or sister to be loved, served and helped," he said, and it leads to dialogue and respect and the courage to defend the rights and dignity of everyone, not just oneself. "God is pleased only by a faith that is proclaimed by our lives, for the only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity. Any other fanaticism does not come from God and is not pleasing to him," he said. - - - Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz- - -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 Carol ZimmermannWASHINGTON (CNS) -- After Arkansas executed its fourth death-row inmate in eight days April 27, Sister Helen Prejean, a longtime opponent of capital punishment, said "future generations will look back upon the events unfolding in Arkansas tonight with horror. The barbarity is overwhelming." Sister Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille, tweeted that message 30 minutes after Kenneth Williams was pronounced dead. His lawyers unsuccessfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay, saying the inmate should not be executed because three health care professionals had determined he was "intellectually disabled." Relatives of a man killed by Williams in a crash during his 1999 escape from prison also pleaded with the governor to call off his execution. "There is nothing pro-life about the state-sanctioned killing of an intellectually disabled man," was just one of the many messages Sister Prejean tweeted during Williams' final hours. Catholic Mobilizing Network in Washington, an advocacy group seeking to end the death penalty, similarly sent Twitter updates the night of the execution and each of the eight days when other inmates were executed, including two executions April 24. The social media messages urged people to pray for those facing execution, their families, the victim's families and even the prison guards. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the multiple executions months ago, saying they had to be carried out in quick succession in order to use the state's final batch of midazolam, a sedative used in lethal injections, before the state's supply expired at the end of April. Of the eight men scheduled to be executed, four were granted court-issued stays of execution. The quick succession of the executions prompted many to oppose them, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In an April 13 statement, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, urged Hutchinson to reconsider reducing the sentences to life imprisonment. The bishop said the timing for the executions "was not set by the demands of justice, but by the arbitrary politics of punishment," referring to the state's supply of midazolam. "And so, in a dark irony, a safeguard that was intended to protect people is now being used as a reason to hasten their deaths," he said. Sister Prejean said opposition to these executions did not go unnoticed. She tweeted April 27 that the protests "put a spotlight" on the governor and the state and "awakened the world to what's happening." She also urged opponents to keep up the fight, telling them to "move from horror and outrage and sorrow into renewed passion for justice and compassion." "It is vital that now, more than ever, we recommit ourselves to working tirelessly for life," she added. In an April 28 statement, Sister Prejean said Williams' execution "did not go according to plan" because media witnesses reported that the inmate "coughed, convulsed, lurched and jerked during the lethal injection process." She said Hutchinson, who described the execution as "flawless," should launch a full investigation into what went wrong. One of Williams' attorneys, Shawn Nolan, requested a full investigation into the "problematic execution," saying the accounts of it were "horrifying." "This is very disturbing, but not at all surprising, given the history of the risky sedative midazolam, which has been used in many botched executions," he said in an April 27 statement. Williams was sentenced to death in 2000 for fatally shooting a former deputy warden during his 1999 escape from prison, where he was serving a life sentence for killing a college cheerleader the previous year. Media reports on his final words before he was executed included an apology to the victims' families saying his crimes were "senseless, extremely hurtful and inexcusable. I humbly beg your forgiveness and pray you find the peace, healing and closure you all deserve." "I am not the same person I was. I have been transformed," he added. "Some things can't be undone. I seek forgiveness." - - - Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.- - -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 Carol GlatzCAIRO (CNS) -- Placing flowers, lighting a candle and praying at the site where dozens of Coptic Orthodox Christians were killed by an Islamic State militant last year, Pope Francis and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II paid homage to those who were killed for their faith. Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros walked in a short procession to the Church of St. Peter, where 29 people died and 31 were wounded Dec. 11. The faithful chanted a song of martyrs, and some clashed cymbals under the darkened evening sky. Inside the small church, the leaders of several other Christian communities in Egypt as well as Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople sat before the congregation, which included family members of the victims. A portion of one wall of the complex was splattered with blood, and pictures of those killed -- many with bright smiles to the camera -- were hung above. Some of the church's stone columns were pock-marked from the debris or shrapnel sent flying from the explosion. Each of the eight Christian leaders seated before the congregation, beginning with Pope Francis, read a verse from the beatitudes in the Gospel of St. Matthew. Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros then each said a few words in prayer, and everyone shared a sign of peace. Led by Pope Francis, the eight leaders went to the back of the church, where each lit a small candle and placed white flowers beneath the photos of the martyrs. Pope Francis leaned low to touch the blood-stained wall and made the sign of the cross. Earlier, in a historic and significant move toward greater Christian unity, Pope Tawadros and Pope Francis signed an agreement to end a longtime disagreement between the two churches over the sacrament of baptism. The Coptic Orthodox Church had required new members joining from most non-Coptic churches -- including those who had previously been baptized as Catholic -- to be baptized again. The Catholic Church recognizes all Christian baptisms performed with water and in "the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit." Orthodox who enter the Catholic Church are received as full members, but not baptized again. In the joint declaration, the two leaders "mutually declare that we, with one mind and heart, will seek sincerely not to repeat the baptism that has been administered in either of our churches for any person who wishes to join the other." The document was signed during a courtesy visit with Pope Tawadros at the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral April 28. In his speech to Pope Tawadros and other Coptic Orthodox leaders, Pope Francis said, "The innocent blood of defenseless Christians was cruelly shed." He told them it was that innocent blood "that united us." "Your sufferings are also our sufferings," he said, the first day of a two-day visit to Egypt's capital. "How many martyrs in this land, from the first centuries of Christianity, have lived their faith heroically to the end, shedding their blood rather than denying the Lord and yielding to the enticements of evil or merely to the temptation of repaying evil with evil?" "How many martyrs in this land, from the first centuries of Christianity, have lived their faith heroically to the end, shedding their blood rather than denying the Lord and yielding to the enticements of evil or merely to the temptation of repaying evil with evil," he said. He encouraged Catholic and Orthodox to work hard to "oppose violence by preaching and sowing goodness, fostering concord and preserving unity, praying that all these sacrifices may open the way to a future of full communion between us and peace for all." Pope Tawadros, in his speech, said Pope Francis was following in the footsteps of his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, who came to Egypt nearly 1,000 years ago to meet Sultan al-Kamel and engage in "one of the most important experiences of intercultural dialogue in history -- a dialogue that is renewed today with your visit." Calling Pope Francis one of the symbols of peace "in a world tormented by conflicts and wars," the Orthodox leader underlined that the world was thirsting for sincere efforts of spreading peace and love, and stopping violence and extremism. Pope Tawadros said Pope Francis' visit "is a message for the rest of the world," showing Egypt as a model of mutual respect and understanding. Despite Christianity's deep roots in Egypt, which was evangelized by St. Mark, Christians have lived through some difficult and turbulent periods, he said. But that only made people's desire to love even greater, showing that "love and tolerance are stronger than hatred and revenge and that the light of hope is stronger than the darkness of desperation." "The criminal minds" behind all the violence and threats hurting Egypt will never be able to break or weaken the hearts of its citizens who are united and showing an example for future generations. Later in the evening, Pope Francis was scheduled to go to the apostolic nunciature, where he was staying, and greet a group of children who attend a Comboni-run school in Cairo. After dinner, he was expected to greet some 300 young people who came from outside Cairo to see him. The majority of the 82.5 million Egyptians are Sunni Muslims. Most estimates say 10-15 percent of the Egyptian population are Christians, most of them Coptic Orthodox, but there are Catholics, Protestants and other various Christian communities in the country as well.  - - -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 Carol GlatzCAIRO (CNS) -- Calling his visit to Egypt a journey of "unity and fraternity," Pope Francis launched a powerful call to the nation's religious leaders to expose violence masquerading as holy and condemn religiously inspired hatred as an idolatrous caricature of God. "Peace alone, therefore, is holy, and no act of violence can be perpetrated in the name of God, for it would profane his name," the pope told Muslim and Christian leaders at an international peace conference April 28. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople was in attendance. Pope Francis also warned of attempts to fight violence with violence, saying "every unilateral action that does not promote constructive and shared processes is, in reality, a gift to the proponents of radicalism and violence." The pope began a two-day visit to Cairo by speaking at a gathering organized by Egypt's al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam's highest institute of learning. He told reporters on the papal flight from Rome that the trip was significant for the fact that he was invited by the grand imam of al-Azhar, Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb; Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi; Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II; and Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak of Alexandria. Having these four leaders invite him for the trip shows it is "a trip of unity and fraternity" that will be "quite, quite intense" over the next two days, he said. Greeted with a standing ovation and a few scattered shouts of "viva il papa" (long live the pope), the pope later greeted conference participants saying, "Peace be with you" in Arabic. He gave a 23-minute talk highlighting Egypt's great and "glorious history" as a land of civilization, wisdom and faith in God. Small olive branches symbolizing peace were among the greenery adorning the podium. Religious leaders have a duty to respect everyone's religious identity and have "the courage to accept differences," he said in the talk that was interrupted by applause several times. Those who belong to a different culture or religion "should not be seen or treated as enemies, but rather welcomed as fellow-travelers," he said. Religion needs to take its sacred and essential place in the world as a reminder of the "great questions about the meaning of life" and humanity's ultimate calling. "We are not meant to spend all of our energies on the uncertain and shifting affairs of this world, but to journey toward the absolute," he said. He emphasized that religion "is not a problem, but a part of the solution" because it helps people lift their hearts toward God "in order to learn how to build the city of man." Egypt is the land where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, which include "Thou shalt not kill," the pope said. God "exhorts us to reject the way of violence as the necessary condition for every earthly covenant." "Violence is the negation of every authentic religious expression," he said. "As religious leaders, we are called, therefore, to unmask the violence that masquerades as purported sanctity and is based more on the 'absolutizing' of selfishness than on authentic openness to the absolute." "We have an obligation to denounce violations of human dignity and human rights, to expose attempts to justify every form of hatred in the name of religion and to condemn these attempts as idolatrous caricatures of God." God is holy, the pope said, and "he is the God of peace." He asked everyone at the al-Azhar conference to say "once more, a firm and clear 'No!' to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out in the name of religion or in the name of God." Not only are faith and violence, belief and hatred incompatible, he said, faith that is not "born of sincere heart and authentic love toward the merciful God" is nothing more than a social construct "that does not liberate man, but crushes him." Christians, too, must treat everyone as brother and sister if they are to truly pray to God, the father of all humanity, the pope said. "It is of little or no use to raise our voices and run about to find weapons for our protection," he said. "What is needed today are peacemakers, not fomenters of conflict; firefighters, not arsonists; preachers of reconciliation and not instigators of destruction." The pope again appealed for people to address the root causes of terrorism, like poverty and exploitation, and stopping the flow of weapons and money to those who provoke violence. "Only by bringing into the light of day the murky maneuverings that feed the cancer of war can its real causes be prevented," he said. Education and a wisdom that is open, curious and humble are key, he said, saying properly formed young people can grow tall like strong trees turning "the polluted air of hatred into the oxygen of fraternity." He called on all of Egypt to continue its legacy of being a land of civilization and covenant so it can contribute to peace for its own people and the whole Middle East. The challenge of turning today's "incivility of conflict" into a "civility of encounter" demands that "we, Christians, Muslims and all believers, are called to offer our specific contribution" as brothers and sisters living all under the one and same sun of a merciful God. The pope and Sheik el-Tayeb embraced after the sheik gave his introductory address, which emphasized that only false notions of religion, including Islam, lead to violence. The grand imam expressed gratitude for the pope's remarks in which he rejected the association of Islam with terror. The sheik began his speech by requesting the audience stand for a minute's silence to commemorate the victims of terrorism in Egypt and globally, regardless of their religions. "We should not hold religion accountable for the crimes of any small group of followers," he said. "For example, Islam is not a religion of terrorism" just because a small group of fanatics "ignorantly" misinterpret texts of the Quran to support their hatred. The security surrounding the pope's arrival seemed typical of many papal trips even though the country was also in the midst of a government-declared three-month state of emergency following the bombing of two Coptic Orthodox churches on Palm Sunday. The attacks, for which Islamic State claimed responsibility, left 44 people dead and 70 more injured. Egypt Prime Minister Sherif Ismail and other Egyptian officials warmly greeted Pope Francis on the airport red carpet after the pope disembarked from the plane. They walked together, chatting animatedly, to the VIP hall of Cairo International Airport, then the pontiff was whisked off to the presidential palace to meet el-Sissi at the start of his brief 27-hour visit. Pope Francis repeated his calls for strengthening peace in his speech to hundreds of officials representing government, the diplomatic corps, civil society and culture. "No civilized society can be built without repudiating every ideology of evil, violence and extremism that presumes to suppress others and to annihilate diversity by manipulating and profaning the sacred name of God," he said. History does not forgive those who talk about justice and equality, and then practice the opposite, he said. It is a duty to "unmask the peddlers of illusions about the afterlife" and who rob people of their lives and take away their ability to "choose freely and believe responsibly." - - - Contributing to this story was Dale Gavlak in Amman, Jordan. - - -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 WASHINGTON (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan described the recent pledge from the Democratic National Committee's chair to support only pro-abortion candidates "disturbing" and "intolerant." The cardinal, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged members of the Democratic party to "challenge their leadership to recant this intolerant position." The cardinal's April 26 statement was in reaction to recent comments by DNC chair Tom Perez who said: "Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman's right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state." Perez went on to say in an April 21 statement: "At a time when women's rights are under assault from the White House, the Republican Congress, and in states across the country, we must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice." Perez's statement came after a DNC "unity tour" rally in Nebraska, where another DNC leader and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, appeared April 20 with a former state senator, Heath Mello, the Democratic mayoral candidate in Omaha. The DNC tour was sharply criticized by pro-abortion groups for joining forces with Mello, who sponsored a 2009 state Senate bill requiring that women be informed of their right to request a fetal ultrasound before having an abortion. "The actions today by the DNC to embrace and support a candidate for office who will strip women -- one of the most critical constituencies for the party -- of our basic rights and freedom is not only disappointing, it is politically stupid," NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said in an April 20 statement. Sanders responded to the criticism by saying different views on abortion within the party were natural. Perez took this a step further saying he fundamentally disagreed with "Mello's personal beliefs about women's reproductive health." On NBC's "Meet the Press," April 23, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, was asked if a Democratic politician could be pro-life. "Of course," she said, adding that she has "served many years in Congress with members who have not shared my very positive -- my family would say aggressive -- position on promoting a woman's right to choose." Dolan, who offered prayers at the Democratic and Republican national conventions in 2012, had strong words for the Democratic party in his April 26 statement saying the party's "platform already endorses abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy, even forcing taxpayers to fund it; and now the DNC says that to be a Democrat -- indeed to be an American -- requires supporting that extreme agenda."- - -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.