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Area parishioners to take in events

Salina — Seeing Pope John Paul II more than 20 years ago is so etched in his mind that when Deacon Steve Heiman had the opportunity to see Pope Francis next month in Philadelphia, he quickly said yes.

“We were in Denver when Pope John Paul II was there. That was quite an experience, so to have the opportunity to see another pope is really great,” he said.

He and his wife, Diane, had accompanied the youth group from St. Edward Parish in Belleville to see Pope John Paul II during World Youth Day in 1993 in Denver.

So the Heimans and another Belleville couple signed up to go with a Diocese of Wichita contingent traveling to Philadelphia.

The trip was organized primarily to attend the World Meeting of Families, which the Vatican sponsors every three years. When Pope Francis later announced that he would be there, it made the event even more exciting, Deacon Heiman said.

“We’re interested in both events, but the pope is a bigger thing,” he admitted.

Reg and Jan Konrade, the directors of the Salina Diocese’s Office of Family Life, signed up for the Wichita trip right away, too, primarily to represent the diocese at the World Meeting of Families and to glean what information they could to help them do their jobs here.

The Heimans and the Konrades will be among eight people joining the Wichita group. Neighboring dioceses also offered trips.

Bishop Edward Weisenburger will be attending the World Meeting of Families with his fellow U.S. bishops as well as papal events in Philadelphia and Washington.

The Konrades are already poring over the World Meeting of Families schedule to see how many of the internationally known speakers they can hear during the overlapping presentations.

“We won’t get to see everybody,” Reg Konrade said

“Our perspective is we hope we’ll get ideas on how to support families and marriage better in our Church,” added Jan Konrade.

The fact that they might get to see Pope Francis certainly is a plus. But with 1.5 million people or more expected to gather in Philadelphia for an outdoor Mass celebrated by the pope, they don’t anticipate a close encounter.

“We don’t have too high of an expectation to be close to the pope,” Reg Konrade said.

“Maybe we’ll see just a dot,” Jan Konrade added.

For Deacon Heiman, that will be OK, too.

He recalls being quite close to Pope John Paul II. He was on crutches at the time, so he didn’t go with the youth group that attended a gathering at Mile High Stadium. Instead, he staked out a prime place for the outdoor Mass at Cherry Creek State Park.

“We had one of the spots closest to him,” he said.

Parishioners at Belleville had made wooden crucifixes for each of the pilgrims.

“We held them up to have Pope John Paul bless them. It’s still hanging on my mirror in my car,” he said.

Deacon Heiman added he intends to take it with him to Philadelphia.

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  • IMAGE: CNS/ReutersBy LONDON (CNS) -- Images of drowned refugees are causing the British people to cry out for a more generous response to the migrant crisis engulfing Europe, said an English cardinal. Speaking to ITV News Sept. 2, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster said shocking images of bodies washed up on beaches in the Mediterranean -- including one of a drowned Syrian boy lying face down -- are revealing the human face of this suffering. The British government has refused to accept migrants fleeing wars and dire poverty in the Middle East and Africa at a time when hundreds of thousands of them are risking their lives to enter Western Europe. But Cardinal Nichols said images of some of the people who have died trying to reach the European Union are upsetting the British people. He said the British people were not mean-spirited and that, on the whole, he believed they were generous. The spirit of people in this country will respond, said Cardinal Nichols, president of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. The letters I get and the voices I am hearing are all saying this is a disgrace that we were letting people die and seeing dead bodies on the beaches when, together, Europe is such a wealthy place that we should be able to fashion a short-term response as well as long-term tackling of these really intricate problems, he said. If we take 10,000, it's a fraction of the whole problem, he continued. What is coming through, screaming through at this moment, is the human tragedy of this moment to which we can be more generous. It's no longer an abstract problem of people who are on the scrounge, it's not, the cardinal added. It's people who are desperate for the sake of their families, their elderly, their youngsters, their children -- and the more we see that I think the more the opportunity for a political response that's a bit more generous is growing.- - -Copyright © 2015 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/ReutersBy Ezra FieserSANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (CNS) -- Pope Francis' visit to Cuba is a sign of his closeness to the nation's people at a time they "breathe the air of hope" that relations with the U.S. will improve, said Bishop Wilfredo Pino Estevez of Guantanamo-Baracoa. "It's not easy to live at odds with your next door neighbor," Bishop Pino wrote in a Sept. 1 pastoral letter. "That's why it's very important what the pope is coming to do, as the universal pastor of the church, in the search for reconciliation and peace among all peoples of the earth.'' Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in three Cuban cities during a Sept. 19-22 visit to the Caribbean island before flying to Washington. He is credited with helping broker a historic thawing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba by sending letters to Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama last year and hosting delegates from the two countries at the Vatican. Obama and Castro simultaneously announced a diplomatic rapprochement in December. Since then, the historic adversaries have re-opened embassies in Havana and Washington that had been shuttered for more than five decades and have announced they will launch a new round of diplomatic talks. During his visit to Havana to reopen the U.S. Embassy Aug. 14, Secretary of State John Kerry thanked Pope Francis for "supporting the state of a new chapter in relations," while acknowledging that the two countries are far from realizing fully normalized relations -- including lifting the economic embargo against Cuba. "Having normal (diplomatic) relations makes it easier for us to talk, and talk can deepen understanding even when we know full well we will not see eye to eye on everything," Kerry said, according to a transcript of his remarks. Pope Francis is expected to meet with Castro, young people, church leaders, families and religious, in Havana, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba. It will be his first visit to the communist country as pope. "Now we are going to receive Pope Francis as the 'missionary of mercy,'" Bishop Pino wrote, reiterating a term Cubans have used. Many hope the pope's visit will help heal Cubans strongly divided on ideological terms since a 1959 revolution that installed the communist government and led to tensions with the U.S. "At times, it seems we live in a heartless world. Everywhere we find moral, spiritual, social, intellectual, mental and material miseries, and we find people that are desensitized to human suffering," Bishop Pino wrote. "Pope Francis, missionary of mercy, wants to invite us not to tire of practicing mercy." Pope Francis will be the third pope to visit Cuba in the past 17 years, after Pope John Paul II's 1998 trip and Pope Benedict XVI's 2012 visit. - - - An interactive map of Pope Francis' visit to Cuba can be found at http://www.catholicnews.com/specialsections/pope-francis-in-cuba-interactive-map.cfm.- - -Copyright © 2015 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 Nancy O'Brien BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Pope Francis' Sept. 1 announcement that priests worldwide will be able to absolve women for the sin of abortion will have little effect on pastoral practices in the United States and Canada, where most priests already have such authority in the sacrament of reconciliation. It is my understanding that the faculty for the priest to lift the 'latae sententiae' excommunication for abortion is almost universally granted in North America, said Don Clemmer, interim director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Latae sententiae is a Latin term in canon law that means excommunication for certain crimes, including involvement in abortion, is automatic. Clemmer said it is the fiat of the local bishop whether to allow the priests in his diocese to absolve those sins and most bishops granted such permission when giving priests faculties to minister in their local church. Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany, New York, confirmed that in a Sept. 1 statement welcoming what he called the pope's wonderful gesture. The priests of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany and throughout the United States have ... had the faculties to lift the sanction of excommunication for the sin of abortion for more than 30 years, he said. Any woman who has had an abortion, any person who has been involved in an abortion in any way, can always seek God's forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation, if they are truly sorry for their actions. Several prelates, including Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, emphasized that Pope Francis' action in no way diminishes the moral gravity of abortion. What it does do is make access to sacramental forgiveness easier for anyone who seeks it with a truly penitent heart, he said. Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said his hope and prayer is that all those carrying the burden of an experience of abortion would turn to the church and her sacraments and experience the Lord's mercy and love. He directed all those involved with an abortion -- wherever a person might be in their healing journey -- to look into the resources offered by Project Rachel or a similar post-abortion healing ministry in their dioceses. Contact information for most dioceses is available at www.hopeafterabortion.com (in Spanish at www.esperanzaposaborto.com) or through the national toll-free number, 888-456-HOPE. Mary E. McClusky, assistant director of Project Rachel ministry development in the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, said it has been frustrating for her to see reports about Pope Francis' action in the secular media that perpetuate the false notion that the church excommunicates anyone who has an abortion. They are making it sound like something new, she said, but the church has welcomed all sinners since the time of Jesus. ... It is at the heart of what it means to be a priest to extend that forgiveness. In addition to the sacrament of reconciliation, the U.S. church offers through Project Rachel a confidential and safe place for women and men, for anyone who suffers from involvement with abortion, to tell their story, have someone listen and be relieved of all the emotional, spiritual and psychological pain they are experiencing from abortion, McClusky said. Project Rachel, which has existed since 1975 and was taken under the umbrella of the bishops' conference in 2005, provides opportunities for group healing through support groups or retreats as well as referrals to licensed mental health professionals if needed, she said. But confession is at its heart, she added. McClusky said the post-abortion healing programs respond to a need that the bishops have been hearing from people in the pews of their local churches. A lot of people are in pain and in need of assistance to reconcile with God and come back to the church, she said. Catholic commentators and canon lawyers have raised a number of questions about Pope Francis' action, including whether societal pressures and other extenuating circumstances surrounding an abortion would have kept it from rising to the level of an excommunication for the woman in most cases anyway. But further clarification from the Vatican would be needed to resolve that question. Others, such as Catholic moral theologian Charles Camosy, noted that the pope's words about abortion and forgiveness bore a striking resemblance to the words of Pope St. John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae. Addressing women who have had abortions, Pope John Paul wrote, If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the sacrament of reconciliation. New teaching or not, Albany's Bishop Scharfenberger expressed hope that women will take advantage of this opportunity. The real news is that there is no need to wait, he said. God is ready to forgive and heal now!  - - -Copyright © 2015 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/Gregory A. ShemitzBy Maria Pia Negro ChinNEW YORK (CNS) -- New Yorkers and tourists in Midtown Manhattan have been gazing up at a smiling Pope Francis at one of New York's busiest intersections. A 225-foot tall hand-painted billboard welcomes the pope, who will be in New York, Sept. 24-26. The welcoming message is located at the corner of Eighth Avenue and 34th Street, near Madison Square Garden, where the pope will celebrate Mass Sept. 25. The mural was commissioned by DeSales Media Group, the communications and technology arm of the Diocese of Brooklyn and parent company of The Tablet and NET-TV. The mural has been attracting the attention of workers and passersby. "As a tourist, I think it is fantastic. I am Catholic so I am happy to see them doing that mural," Chilean Lorena Quezada told The Tablet, newspaper of the Brooklyn Diocese. "It is impressive ... I think the pope is going to like it." New Yorker Charles Wickliffe said the mural makes people think about religion and God. "It is nice that (Pope Francis) is coming to Madison Square Garden and that people are putting his picture (on the billboard) instead of putting pictures of cars," he said. "I'm looking forward to hearing what he has to say." Designed by Israel Ochoa of DeSales Media, the mural showcases a photo of Pope Francis waving to a crowd taken by photographer Giulio Napolitano. "This is our way to say 'welcome' and evangelize in the heart of this culturally-diverse city," said Msgr. Kieran Harrington, chairman of DeSales Media Group. "I am convinced that Pope Francis' apostolic visit will impact everyone, touching hearts across different backgrounds and beliefs." The upcoming visit is already making an impression. Adina Settles, who works near Madison Square Garden, recognized Pope Francis' face when the painters begun to color the mural. She said she hopes his presence inspires people to move beyond politics. "I've lived long enough to see a pope that is connected with the rest of the world," she said. "I think the mural is positive, is uplifting, is hopeful. It's everything we need right now." For Rosbel Santana, a Catholic who is lives in Newark, New Jersey, and attends to a Catholic charismatic renewal group, the pope's visit could be a chance for people to hear his message and "change their lives for the better." For the four people painting the billboard, working on the likeness of the pope has been a blessing. Van Hecht-Nielsen, a parishioner of St. John the Evangelist Church in Loveland, Colorado, who has more than 10 years of experience painting billboards across the country, said he was happy to create an ad that has a deeper meaning. "My wife (Ashlee) and I were very excited. We are both converts to the faith," the father of seven said. "It is wonderful to see the way the pope is touching the world." "People are getting excited and it is a blessing because I think it sends a message to the community," Hecht-Nielsen said. Raising awareness about the papal visit might still be needed, according to a survey the Public Religion Research Institute released in August. The survey found that only 47 percent of respondents overall knew the pope was visiting the U.S. However, 69 percent of Catholic respondents had heard the pope is coming. The mural helped Francisco Alejandro of Columbus, Ohio, to learn about the papal visit. "I would like to learn more about it, so we can visit (New York) again," he said. The mural includes the public hashtags #PopeInUSA and #PapaEnUSA, inviting people to engage in conversation via social media. The mural is expected to be seen by 700,000 people each week and will remain in place throughout September. - - - Chin writes for The Tablet, newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn.  - - -Copyright © 2015 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/Ettore Ferrari, EPABy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In an extraordinary gesture for the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has extended to priests worldwide the authority to absolve women for the sin of abortion and has decreed the full validity during the year of the sacrament of confession celebrated by priests of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X. "This jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one," the pope wrote in a letter to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelization, the office organizing events for the holy year, which opens Dec. 8. Pope Francis said one of the most serious problems facing people today is a "widespread and insensitive mentality" toward the sacredness of human life. "The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails," while many other women believe that "they have no other option" but to have an abortion, the pope wrote in the letter, released Sept. 1 by the Vatican. The pressures exerted on many women to abort lead to "an existential and moral ordeal," Pope Francis said. "I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision." When such a woman has repented and seeks absolution in the sacrament of confession, he said, "the forgiveness of God cannot be denied." Although church law generally requires a priest to have special permission, called faculties, from his bishop to grant absolution to a person who has procured or helped another to procure an abortion, the pope said he decided "to concede to all priests for the jubilee year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it." Pope Francis urged priests to welcome to the sacrament women who have had an abortion, explain "the gravity of the sin committed" and indicate to them "a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence." Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters the pope's letter "highlights the wideness of God's mercy" and is "not in any way minimizing the gravity of the sin" of abortion. In his letter, Pope Francis also granted another exception to church rules out of concern for "those faithful who for various reasons choose to attend churches officiated by priests" belonging to the traditionalist Society of St Pius X. Although the society is no longer considered to be in schism and the excommunication of its bishops was lifted in 2009, questions remain over whether the sacraments they celebrate are valid and licit. The pope's decision was "taken with the faithful in mind" and is limited to the holy year, which runs through Nov. 20, 2016, Father Lombardi said.The Society of St. Pius X responded with a statement later in the day thanking Pope Francis for "this fatherly gesture," but also saying that its members have been certain that the absolution they grant always has been licit and valid. Father Lombardi confirmed that the Vatican's contacts with leaders of the Society of St. Pius X have continued. Pope Francis wrote in his letter that he hoped "in the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the fraternity." Pope Francis' letter also explained expanded opportunities for obtaining the indulgences that are a normal part of the celebration of a holy year. An indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment a person is due because of his or her sins. In a holy year, it is offered to pilgrims who cross the threshold of the Holy Door at the Vatican or in their local diocese, confess their sins, receive the Eucharist and pray for the pope's intentions. The celebration of God's mercy, he said, is "linked, first and foremost, to the sacrament of reconciliation and to the celebration of the holy Eucharist with a reflection on mercy. It will be necessary to accompany these celebrations with the profession of faith and with prayer for me and for the intentions that I bear in my heart for the good of the church and of the entire world." Those who are confined to their homes can obtain the indulgence by offering up their sickness and suffering, he said. Pope Francis also included special consideration for people who are incarcerated, touching on the Old Testament tradition of a jubilee year as a time for granting prisoners amnesty. Those who, "despite deserving punishment, have become conscious of the injustice they committed," may receive the indulgence with prayers and the reception of the sacraments in their prison chapel, he wrote. "May the gesture of directing their thought and prayer to the Father each time they cross the threshold of their cell signify for them their passage through the Holy Door, because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts, and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom," he wrote.  - - -Copyright © 2015 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.