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DAVEY & GOLIATH SERIES: HAPPY EASTER

Length30 min.
Age GroupP - Primary
PublisherGospel Films
TopicsSocial Justice

An excellent approach to teaching death and eternal life to children in a way they can readily understand.

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  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Diario Marcha, Handout via EPABy David AgrenMEXICO CITY (CNS) -- A priest abducted from his parish residence in the Mexican state of Michoacan has been found dead, the Archdiocese of Morelia confirmed Sept. 25. He was the third priest murdered in Mexico within days. State prosecutors say Father Jose Alfredo Lopez Guillen, pastor in the community of Janamuato, 240 miles west of Mexico City, died of gunshot wounds shortly after being abducted Sept. 19. His body was found wrapped in a blanket alongside a highway. Family members, meanwhile, discovered personal items strewn across the floor of his home, and one of two vehicles stolen from his parish was found flipped over along a highway, Mexican media reported. A motive for the crime is still uncertain, though family say they received no ransom calls as might be expected in a kidnapping case. State Gov. Silvano Aureoles Conejo erroneously told Radio Formula that Father Lopez was last seen on video in a local hotel with a teenage boy. The boy's family subsequently said the governor confused the priest with the boy's father. Cardinal Alberto Suarez Inda of Morelia also called the information false. "We pray for his soul," the Archdiocese of Morelia wrote on its Twitter account, confirming the death of Father Lopez. The abduction and murder in Michoacan continued a disturbing trend of attacks against priests across Mexico, though Catholic leaders are at a loss to explain the motives, which have included robbery, organized crime activity and possible conflicts with drug cartel leaders. The Catholic Multimedia Center has documented the murders of 15 Mexican priests in less than four years. On Sept. 19, two priests were kidnapped and killed in the Mexican state of Veracruz, though the stated motive of the crime has caused controversy. Veracruz state attorney general Luis Angel Bravo Contreras told reporters Sept. 20 that the "victims and the victimizers knew each other" and added that the attack was "not a kidnapping." "They were together, having a few drinks, the gathering broke down due to alcohol and turned violent," he said. Catholic officials in Veracruz rejected the explanation, calling it "an easy out" and saying it ignored the reality of a state notorious for crime and corruption. "We are hoping for more professional and careful inquiry, because this declaration the prosecutor is giving generates more doubts than responses to the issue of the murder of these two priests," said Father Jose Manuel Suazo Reyes, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Xalapa. "It surprises us how quickly they've concluded an investigation that requires more time and care." Father Alejo Nabor Jimenez Juarez and Father Jose Alfredo Juarez de la Cruz were dragged at gunpoint out of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Poza Rica, a Gulf Coast oil city consumed by crime in recent years, the Diocese of Papantla confirmed in a statement. Media reported the men were found Sept. 19, one day after their abduction, along the side of a highway with their hands and feet bound. They were beaten and had gunshot wounds, according to media reports. A driver employed by the parish also was abducted, Mexican media reported, but was found unharmed. Violence has struck Veracruz clergy previously. In 2013, two priests in the Diocese of Tuxpan were murdered in their parish. Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City encouraged prayers for the situation of so many clergy coming under attack. "For those that injure and defame the church or its pastors, may the Lord grant repentance for their actions and with our prayers provide a path to social reconciliation," he said Sept. 25 during Mass. - - -Copyright © 2016 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/Jonathan Ernst, ReutersBy Carol ZimmermannWASHINGTON (CNS) -- The expression "in like a lion out like a lamb" turns on its head when comparing the end of the Supreme Court's last term to the start of its new one Oct. 3. The end of the court's last term ended with a flurry of decisions on high-profile cases on abortion, immigration and contraception that had the rapt attention of Catholics and the general public alike. But as the court readies for its next term -- always on the first Monday in October -- that same sense of urgency is nowhere in sight. The court will take its usual load of about 80 cases, but it is not taking on cases likely to entice massive crowds to the building's white steps with placards and megaphones. "In previous years I've said: 'What a blockbuster year we have ahead.' But this year, not so much," said Caroline Fredrickson, president of the American Constitution Society, during a Supreme Court overview Sept. 21 at the National Press Club in Washington. Fredrickson and other panelists said a key factor to the lackluster cases on tap this term is because the court is still not functioning at full capacity since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia Feb. 13. Sept. 23 marks the 222nd day since Scalia's death and it also is the 191st day since Merrick Garland was nominated by President Barack Obama to fill that vacancy. If the seat remains vacant until a nomination by the next president, the court might go through the entire oral argument session without a ninth justice while the confirmation process occurs. The court is in "unchartered territory," said Kristen Clarke, president of Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, noting the longtime absence of a justice has not happened in more than five decades. "I'm concerned about the integrity of the Supreme Court," she said, noting that it is in a "state of paralysis" without the ninth vote. Paul Smith, a partner at the Washington law firm Jenner & Block, who has argued multiple cases before the Supreme Court, similarly said the prospect of more four-four tie votes from this court makes it "unfunctional." But that view isn't shared by everyone. Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz, law professor at Georgetown University's law school, said Scalia's absence is a notable, particularly since he was "a larger than life figure in the court." He didn't think the court was "dramatically hindered" by having one less justice, but he still said "the court is better with a full complement." Another factor to consider is whoever fills Scalia's seat could likely be on the bench for decades. Still, in its ever steady and slow fashion, the court will not change dramatically no matter who fills the spot. As Smith said, the court doesn't work that way and it doesn't like to override previous decisions. So far, the court has agreed to hear 31 cases and will add more after a late September conference. Nineteen cases are scheduled for oral argument in October and November and more will be added in the coming months. Key upcoming cases for Catholic court watchers are two death penalty cases and a religious liberty case about a church being excluded from a state's grant program. Cases the court might take up but hasn't decided yet include: challenges on voting laws from several states; another issue over the Affordable Care Act; trademark battles involving an Asian-American rock band and the Washington Redskins football team; and a high school transgender bathroom case. The death penalty cases from Texas will be argued in the court's first month. The case of Buck v. Stephens, involves Duane Buck, who was sentenced to death for the murders of his ex-girlfriend and another man in front of her children in Houston in 1995. A psychologist who spoke at the punishment phase of his trial said that because Buck is African-American, there was a stronger likelihood that he could present a danger to society. The court will examine if that part of his trial was ineffective because the witness who made this remark was called forth by the defense. But if the court rules in Buck's favor, he will only get a new sentencing hearing, not a new trial establishing guilt or innocence. The other death penalty case is Moore v. Texas, involving Bobby James Moore, convicted of killing a grocery store clerk during a botched robbery in 1980. Moore says he is intellectually disabled, a claim the state appeals court has rejected. However, his attorneys argue the state used outdated medical standards in their evaluation. Meg Penrose, professor of constitutional law at Texas A&M University's School of Law, said if either case ends with a 4-4 vote, both men will be executed since the lower and appeals courts ruled against them and these decisions will stand. Both cases are decades old and Penrose said they prove "if society is going to inflict the ultimate penalty, it needs to be sure it has done so in a just manner." Clarke, from the civil rights law group, said the stakes are high with these death penalty cases and she feels "unsettled that they will only be heard by eight justices." The religious liberty case before the court, but not given a date yet, is Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley about a religious preschool that was rejected from a Missouri program that provides reimbursement grants for the purchase of tire scraps used at the base of playgrounds. The church says its exclusion violates the Constitution because it discriminates against religious institutions. The state argues that it didn't violate rights saying the church can still worship or run its day care as it wishes, but the state will not pay for the resurfaced playground. Rosenkranz pointed out that both sides are relying on the Supreme Court's 2004 decision in Locke vs. Davey, which said that states do not have to provide tax-funded scholarships to college students who are pursuing careers in ministry. The church in the playground case said the grant they applied for had nothing to do with religion, like the scholarship did, while opponents insist the state simply should not be providing any financial support to religious institutions. At another Supreme Court briefing sponsored by Alliance Defending Freedom, C. Kevin Marshall, a partner with the Washington law firm Jones Day, said how the court responds to the playground case will have a broad effect. He said the case raises religious liberty questions but is "less contentious" than last term's Zubik v. Burwell, which challenged the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive requirement for employers. As he put it: "We can get to basics here." - - - Follow Zimmermann on Twitter @carolmaczim.- - -Copyright © 2016 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 Kelly SeegersWASHINGTON (CNS) -- As Pope Francis boarded the plane after his visit to Washington a year ago, he carried with him a book containing more than 100,000 pledges that people in the Archdiocese of Washington had made to "Walk With Francis" by either praying, serving or acting to improve their community. Leading up to the pope's visit, the Archdiocese of Washington, along with Catholic Charities, launched the Walk With Francis initiative, which encouraged people to prepare for the pope's visit by following in his example of love and mercy. People were asked to make pledges to pray regularly for the pontiff, to serve by caring for those in need and supporting charitable efforts, or to act to promote human life and dignity, justice and peace, family life and religious freedom, care for creation and the common good. In the months that followed, individuals, schools, parishes and other organizations made pledges to help their community in different ways. Many people posted their pledges on social media, using #WalkwithFrancis. The day before the pope arrived in Washington Sept. 22, 2015, the Walk With Francis pledges topped the 100,000 mark. The Archdiocese of Washington then compiled all of the pledges into a 400-page book that they presented to the pope as a parting gift when he left in late afternoon Sept. 24, 2015. At Little Flower School in Great Mills, Maryland, each class decided for itself how they were going to Walk With Francis. Students in the pre-kindergarten class pledged to act like Jesus toward one another, the second grade pledged to do an act of kindness every day, the fifth grade pledged to plant a school garden, the seventh grade pledged to pray the prayer of St. Francis every day, and the eighth grade pledged to do guided meditations on mercy. Patricia Peters, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade religion, saw the pledges that her students made go beyond the time leading up to Pope Francis' visit. Both the seventh and the eighth grade continued their prayers and meditations regularly throughout the year. In addition, two students from her seventh-grade class were inspired by the prayer of St. Francis to start a pet supply drive that now runs annually from the beginning of the year until the blessing of the pets on St. Francis of Assisi's feast day. "It was very affirming for me to be a part of it, to watch my students grow through the experience and to be able to be a part of the larger church in that way," Peters told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Washington Archdiocese. "It definitely strengthened my faith to be a part of that with my students." Several prominent figures in the Washington area also signed the Walk With Francis Pledge. Katie Ledecky, the five-time Olympic swimming gold medalist who attends Little Flower Parish in Bethesda, Maryland, pledged to help Shepherd's Table, Catholic Charities and Bikes for the World. John Carlson, a member of the Washington Capitals, pledged to "continue to work on my faith and become a better father every day." Erik Salmi, director of communications for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, said these pledges "helped bring some great energy to the campaign." At The Catholic University of America, students were encouraged to sign pledges after the opening Mass of the school year. Many of the students, such as James Walsh, still wear their "Walk With Francis" wristbands as a reminder of the pledges they made that day. "I like to keep it on as a good reminder ... to stay humble," Walsh said. Catholic University also had a "Serve With Francis Day," where hundreds of students went out to serve their local community. Salmi said the effects of the Walk With Francis initiative are hard to measure, because it is similar to when "you drop a stone in the middle of a pond and the ripples go pretty far and wide." However, he said he did know that all of the Catholic Charities programs benefited from having volunteers that joined them. The good deeds did not end when the pope left. Since his visit, more than 10,000 additional pledges have been made. Through the Drive with Francis initiative, the Fiat that Pope Francis rode in is being used to help those in need. There is even a new hashtag, #DrivewithFrancis, so that people can share on social media what they are doing with the papal Fiat. Two Fiats were used by Pope Francis during his visit to Washington and later the cars were donated to the archdiocese by Pope Francis and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The proceeds of the auction of one of the cars are being donated to various charities. A private donor who wanted to remain anonymous is letting the archdiocese use the second Fiat via the #DrivewithFrancis initiative to promote good works, activities and social service programs aiding the local community. The car has been parked at various events in the area, collecting food for a community food bank or baby items for a crisis pregnancy center in Washington. It was present at the Washington Nationals' Faith Day, where people could line up to make breakfast bags for the homeless served by Catholic Charities' Cup of Joe program. After the game, 550 Cup of Joe bags were delivered to Adam's Place shelter, which is run by Catholic Charities. "That seems pretty perfect for me in summarizing how His Holiness would want the car to be used," Salmi said. For the first anniversary of the pope's visit to Washington, Catholic Charities and the Archdiocese of Washington launched a "Walk With Francis 2.0" initiative for the Sept. 24-25 weekend, when people could renew the pledge or make a new one if they had not done it before. Parishes in the archdiocese planned to have pledge cards for parishioners to fill out during Mass and bring up to the altar. - - - Seegers is on the staff of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.- - -Copyright © 2016 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/Jason Miczek, ReutersBy Patricia L. GuilfoyleCHARLOTTE, N.C. (CNS) -- After two nights of violence in Charlotte, Bishop Peter J. Jugis called on men, women and children in the Diocese of Charlotte to join him in prayers for "peace and justice" for all victims of violence and for law enforcement personnel who have been victims of "unjust violence." "Let us pray for all men and women of good will to be instruments of harmony and the always-shining light of Christ in our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools and public places," the bishop said in a statement Sept. 22. The protests late Sept. 20 and Sept. 21, with the crowds swelling at one point to 1,000 people, followed the fatal police shooting of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott, an African-American, outside an apartment complex the afternoon of Sept. 20. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said while they were trying to serve a warrant on another person in the area, Scott approached them from his parked car carrying a handgun and ignoring their calls to drop it. In their statement, police said Officer Brentley Vinson, who also is an African-American, perceived an "imminent deadly threat" and shot Scott. Scott later died at a local hospital. Family members insisted that Scott was unarmed and was reading a book while waiting in the parking lot to pick up his son from a nearly school bus stop. Police said they recovered a weapon from the scene, not a book. Vinson has been placed on administrative leave while police conduct an investigation that includes eyewitness interviews and review of police video footage. When Scott family members took to social media to criticize police the evening of Sept. 20, people began to gather at the site of the shooting. By 11 p.m., the protest had swelled to about 1,000 people. When some protesters began throwing rocks and smashing the windows of several police cars, police used tear gas to disperse the crowd, but people continued to protest and block two roadways and, at one point, a nearby segment of Interstate 85, until early morning Sept. 21. Police arrested one person. More than a dozen police officers were slightly injured in the melee. Local television video also showed a few people looting and burning the cargo of a semi-truck that had stopped on the Interstate. Protests turned violent for a second night Sept. 21 in uptown Charlotte, about 10 miles away from the site of the fatal police shooting, with several people injured and several businesses vandalized and looted. One young man was shot in the head reportedly by another civilian. He was taken to the hospital and put on life support; he died Sept. 22. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police again used tear gas to try to clear the crowd, some of whom tried to block a section of Interstate 277 as they departed the protest area. "My heart bleeds for what is going on right now," said Gov. Pat McCrory, who declared a state of emergency late that night after a request from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney. The emergency notice triggered the North Carolina National Guard and the State Highway Patrol to assist local law enforcement in responding to the violence. "Let's pray for our city and let's pray for peace," added McCrory, who was Charlotte's mayor from 1995 to 2009. At a news conference Sept. 22, Putney said he would allow the family to view the footage, but it would not be released to the public. At St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, just a few blocks from the scene of the police shooting and the protests there, about 150 people gathered Sept. 21 to pray for peace. During the evening eucharistic adoration and benediction, Father Patrick Winslow, pastor, offered prayers for police and for people who have suffered injustice, as well as prayers for his neighborhood and the city of Charlotte. "Last evening we were all taken by surprise when two events collided here in Charlotte -- you could even say, in our own backyard," Father Winslow said. "One, the national ongoing concern about racism in law enforcement and, two, the incident of an African-American man who lost his life in an altercation with local police." "In times such as these, it is good to recall that light shines in the darkness, and it must shine through you," Father Winslow urged parishioners. "Knowing the genuine spirit of our parishioners, I am confident that you will embrace a path of peace, prayer and charity." History makes it clear, the priest said, that the light that vanquishes the darkness is not on the battlefield between nations or races, or "in the streets of Charlotte or any U.S. city." "The true battlefield is within the human heart -- within each of us," he said. "Injustice must be defeated" in the heart, the priest said. "This is where prejudice and unjust discrimination live. This is the place from which fear and darkness enter the world. And likewise, it is the place where it can be vanquished." He urged people to "storm and loot your hearts, not the streets, if you want true change for the good. Vanquish the enemy within and then you will truly help your neighbor." - - - Guilfoyle is editor of the Catholic News Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Charlotte.- - -Copyright © 2016 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 Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In an effort to ensure transparency as well as historical and scientific accuracy, Pope Francis has approved revised norms for the Congregation for Saints' Causes regarding medical consultations on healings alleged to be miracles. Among the regulations published by the Vatican Sept. 23 was the requirement that the medical panel have a quorum of six experts and that a two-thirds majority is needed to approve a statement declaring a healing has no natural or scientific explanation. Previously, the declaration -- a key step in a pope's recognition of a miracle attributed to the intercession of a candidate for sainthood -- required the approval of a simple majority of the consultation team members present. "The purpose of the regulation is for the good of the (saints') causes, which can never be separated from the historical and scientific truth of the alleged miracles," Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, secretary of the congregation, said in a Sept. 23 statement. Archbishop Bartolucci presided over a seven-member commission that began revising the regulations in September 2015 to update the norms established by St. John Paul II in 1983. Except in the case of martyrs, in general two miracles are needed for a person to be declared a saint -- one for beatification and the second for canonization. The new regulations, which were approved with the pope's mandate Aug. 24 by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, also state that an alleged miracle "cannot be re-examined more than three times." For each alleged miracle, the Medical Consultation team is comprised of a maximum of seven experts; when the promoter of a cause appeals a negative judgment, a new team of physicians and medical experts must be appointed, the new norms say. The members of each consultation will remain unknown to the postulator, as the promotor of the specific cause called. A presumed miracle is first reviewed by two medical experts within the congregation, and with their recommendation is then sent to the Medical Consultation team. While the medical experts receive compensation for their work, the new regulations state that they will only be paid through wire transfer. Prior to the approval of the new norms, experts were given the option to receive cash payments for their work. Archbishop Bartolucci said the regulations will further ensure that the consultations will be carried out with "serenity, objectivity and complete security" by the medical experts. "This regulation obviously concerns only the proper functioning of the Medical Consultation, whose task is always more delicate, demanding and, thank God, appreciated inside and outside the church," he said. - - - Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.- - -Copyright © 2016 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.