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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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  • By Mark PattisonWASHINGTON (CNS) -- There is no doubt that Pope Francis' impending visit to the United States is generating a lot of enthusiasm.For some people, the rarity of a papal visit to these shores is reason enough to trek hundreds of miles or more for the opportunity to be with him, or near him, even if only briefly. There are others, though, who hope that the pope's words will provide a shot in the arm for their work on public policy issues. Over the course of five days, the pope will give homilies at Masses in Washington, New York and Philadelphia. He will address the World Meeting of Families, the United Nations General Assembly, and be the first pontiff to address a joint meeting of Congress. Pope Francis will also meet with President Barack Obama. “We're hoping and expecting that he is going to speak on issues of migration, and I'm hoping he'll talk about the dignity of those who are seeking a better life,” said Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network. “I'm hoping he'll speak of compassion toward refugees and asylum seekers.” Atkinson has been tracking Pope Francis' remarks. “He made a statement about the U.S.-Mexican border,” she said. “He's concerned with Syrian refugees, trafficking, all that. He very much speaks to what CLINIC does.” As to whether the pope's visit will move the needle on a long-stymied overhaul of U.S. immigration policy, Atkinson thinks it depends on who's listening. “A person who is virulently anti-immigrant, I don't think so.” However, she clarified, “I think people are eager to hear what he has to say, Catholics, of course, but non-Catholics. I think he clearly speaks from a position of moral authority -- but without an agenda, in a sense. His agenda is the church's agenda. I think people will listen.” And should they listen, “I hope it will cause people to re-examine the church's position on immigration," Atkinson said. “The church has been a strong force for immigration and immigration reform for decades.” Opponents of the death penalty also hope the pope will mention their cause.“We are hopeful he will follow in the footsteps of St. John Paul II and help facilitate the end of the use of the death penalty in this country and point out the need for reform within our criminal justice system,” said Karen Clifton, executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty, in a Sept. 4 statement emailed to Catholic News Service. Clifton recalled St. John Paul's appeal against capital punishment during his January 1999 visit to St. Louis. The day after his appeal, a death row inmate's sentence was commuted to life in prison. “Pope Francis has been very outspoken against the use of the death penalty, stating it is 'inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed. ... It is an offense against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person, ... There is no humane way of killing another person,'” Clifton said. “With the current debate on the use of the death penalty in this country, Pope Francis' strong pastoral words need to be heard." Bob Gronski, a policy analyst for Catholic Rural Life, is curious about what issues the pope will raise that touch on rural interests. “He has many things he can be talking about, of course: care of creation, care of our common home. I hope he does emphasize that to some extent -- and go from there.” Gronski added: “Catholic Rural Life would certainly applaud any mention by Pope Francis of sustainable and diversified agriculture, as he did in his recent encyclical,” “Laudato Si'.” He cited passages “when he spoke about (how) a global consensus is needed to confront the deeper problems we face in our common world home,” and “the development and use of technology.” Gronski told CNS, “We want the pope to outright say to policymakers that our arrogant economic system, when it gets its hands on things, attempts to extract everything possible from the land while frequently blind to the reality in front of us: environmental degradation. So we hope that Pope Francis reminds policymakers that the good earth has limits and we cannot cross these limits without harming ourselves, even as we harm all life within creation.” Clayton Sinyai, director of the Catholic Employer Project for the Catholic Labor Network, linked Pope Francis with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. "The U.S. Congress, which may soon be called upon to consider ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, could greatly benefit from the Holy Father's counsel on globalization and trade,” Sinyai said. “In 'Caritas in Veritate,' Pope Benedict XVI proved an eloquent critic of globalization driven by a desire for profits, neglecting of the needs of workers and the environment,” he added. “Pope Francis picked up this prophetic call to reject the 'globalization of indifference' and choose an international solidarity that protects workers, the poor and our common home." Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby, will have just returned to Washington from her annual “Nuns on the Bus” tour highlighting economic inequality across the country. Sister Simone, a Sister of Social Service, is one of the lucky few to get a gallery seat for Pope Francis' Sept. 24 address to lawmakers in the Capitol. “Just his breathing will enhance” the tone of the debate, she told CNS. “Isn't he amazing? Fantastic!” But in a less breathless moment, Sister Simone said, “We're really excited to have him just be himself, but to just lift up the poor, especially the issues of the economic divide. But I think his analysis in the encyclical is so critical: We don't have an economic crisis or an environmental crisis. We have a single crisis -- of exploitation. ... Making that known to our people is key -- and doing it with love. It's such a different tone than all of the 2016 campaign foolishness that we hear day after day.” Rather than making congressional leaders regret their invitation to Pope Francis because of fears of what he might say to them, Sister Simone saw things through a different prism. “I think his valuing of politicians is important, but his challenge to them to govern is what they need to hear. We know last year it was Speaker (John) Boehner's fear of the Tea Party that defeated immigration reform, because we had the votes," she said. "I hope Pope Francis' affirmation for their role and their course will help improve our democracy," she added. “Because, you know, he's going to be speaking right in the heart of the negotiation for the 2015-16 budget year. And they're stalemated at this once more. The context is really important of what he says and how he says it.” Nearly 100 House Democrats –- many but not all of them Catholics -- chimed in on what they'd like to hear the pope say to them in an Aug. 12 letter to Pope Francis made public Sept. 2. “We find ourselves struggling with a broad range of economic and social issues as a nation,” the letter said. “These policy issues range from health care, the widening gap between the rich and poor, climate change, immigration and increased racial tensions, just to name a few. One key example that troubles us deeply is the failure to eliminate hunger. ... We believe the continued existence of hunger in America is a disgrace and an indictment of our government.” One topic on which they hope to hear from Pope Francis is support to raise the federal minimum wage, stuck at $7.25 an hour. “While we have a rich tradition of valuing work and family, we also seem to have 'irrational confidence' that wealth will 'trickle down,' contrary to past history,” the letter said. “As you so eloquently stated in 'The Joy of the Gospel,' 'Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.'”- - -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: EPABy Jonathan LuxmooreOXFORD, England (CNS) -- Catholic aid agencies have urged Europeans not to turn against migrants seeking refuge from Syria and other countries, in what media reports describe as the continent's greatest refugee movement since World War II. "The crisis in Syria is now in its fifth year, and the neighboring countries where we've been providing assistance are running out of resources," said Kim Pozniak, communications officer for Catholic Relief Services, the Baltimore-based U.S. bishops' international relief and development agency. She said countries such as Lebanon and Turkey are sheltering 3.5 million Syrians and "can no longer carry the burden of sheer numbers." "People have realized they won't be going home and turned to the European Union for longer-term solutions. While they've been shown compassion in some countries, this hasn't been the case everywhere." "These people aren't just migrating to Europe in search of a better life for their children: They're fleeing to protect them and save their lives, and this is something everyone can relate to," she said. European Union foreign ministers met in Brussels to discuss new responses to the crisis Sept. 4, and the government of Hungary attempted to control thousands of migrants camped at a railway station in the capital, Budapest. Pozniak told Catholic News Service Sept. 3 that CRS and other Catholic agencies had been given migrants food and water, as well as medical and legal help, on the main routes through Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia and Serbia. She added that church-backed organizations would aid all refugees without distinction, after some East European bishops called for priority to be given to Christians. "The church doesn't distinguish between faiths and religions -- we assist everyone on the basis of needs, whatever their background," Pozniak told CNS. "The church in the Middle East and the Balkans has been responding to this crisis for years, and to the church no human being is illegal. We're called to preserve their dignity by not letting them sleep in parks and train stations."Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, urged Europe to build facilities to accept the migrants and to admit up to 200,000 refugees, with mandatory participation by all EU member-states.  However, in Hungary Sept. 4, members of parliament debated whether to declare a state of emergency as a tense stand-off continued between police and refugees in and around Budapest, and as work was completed on a 110-mile razor-wire wall closing the country's southern frontier with Serbia. The national deputy director of the Hungarian church's Caritas charity, Richard Zagyva, told CNS Sept. 4 the 12-foot wall was intended to prevent "mass unregulated border crossings," rather than to block out all migrants. He said Caritas hoped to continue providing aid once the refugees had been placed in camps for processing. However, Hungary's Sant'Egidio Community criticized the government actions as counterproductive. In a Sept. 3 statement it said it was concerned at moves to criminalize border crossings and allow police to search private homes in search of migrants. Meanwhile, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the Brussels-based Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community, urged legal entry routes for refugees and warned the building of fences would merely spur "new dramas." "Everything must now be done to ensure no one dies of thirst at our borders, drowns in the Mediterranean or gets starved and suffocated aboard a truck," Cardinal Marx told Germany's ARD broadcast consortium Aug. 31. "Money shouldn't play a role when lives are being saved. Nor will any solution be provided by political disputes over a distinction between war and poverty refugees, all of whom have legitimate aspirations." Caritas Europa said in a statement that migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees were protected by international human rights law, and it called on the European Union to "contribute to such protection." Meanwhile, Jesuit Refugee Service said Aug. 31 "building more fences will only result in more deaths" and urged the EU to consider a "European humanitarian visa scheme" and "legal and safe channels for refugees to reach Europe." However, a Polish archbishop backed plans by the government of Slovakia to admit only non-Muslim refugees and called for priority to be given to "endangered Christians." "We don't have such experience of accepting refugees, or foreigners generally, as the Western countries, especially those which once had colonies," Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Praga told Poland's Catholic information agency, KAI, Sept. 2. "There's no doubt the integration of Christians will be vastly easier than the integration of Muslims, who may later open ghettos that give birth to violence and terrorism -- let's be realists," he said. In the Czech Republic, where human rights groups criticized police Sept. 4 for printing numbers on the hands of refugees, the bishops' conference president, Archbishop Jan Graubner, also demanded in mid-July that his country take in only "Christian refugees." Catholic leaders elsewhere repeatedly have urged a more humane and effective EU policy toward migrants and refugees entering Europe from conflict-hit regions of the Middle East and Africa. In Germany, which accepted 100,000 refugees in August alone, Catholic bishops have condemned 340 separate attacks on migrant shelters so far this year and backed parishes offering accommodation and support. In Austria, where Caritas is helping 17,000 refugees and providing housing for 5,000, Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schonborn said Europeans could no longer "look the other way" when confronted with their continent's "greatest humanitarian challenge" in decades.- - -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 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 initially 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 following an outcry, Prime Minister David Cameron said Sept. 4 that Britain would accept refugees from camps in Syria, but not from among those who had already fled into Europe. He did not specify how many refugees would be admitted. 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.