• Bishop reflects on the pope's encyclical

    It is rare that a much-anticipated document lives up to its expectation, but having studied the encyclical of his holiness Pope Francis, Laudato Sí, I conclude that the document exceeds my expectations and actually gives the human community truths to ponder well into the future.

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  • Pope's encyclical detailed

    The earth, which was created to support life and give praise to God, is crying out with pain because human activity is destroying it, Pope Francis says in his long-awaited encyclical. La Tierra, que fue creada para apoyar la vida y alabar a Dios, está gritando de dolor porque la actividad humana está destruyéndo, dice el papa Francisco dice en su largamente esperada encíclica.

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  • Annual Appeal for 2015 continues

    Just over $900,000 has been donated or pledged toward the goal of $1.125 million for the Catholic Community Annual Appeal.

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TEENS AND CHASTITY: Catholic Program

Length45 min.
Age GroupJS - Jr-Sr High School
PublisherCenter for Learning
TopicsHuman Sexuality
Communication
Relationships
Values

In an honest presentation to teens, Molly Kelly explains that chastity solves many of today's problems, such as teen pregnancy, sexually-transmitted diseases including AIDS, abortion, and the harmful side effects of contraception. Molly reflects on how th

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  • IMAGE: REUTERSBy 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.

  • 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.