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Bishops 'cannot, in good faith, endorse' new GOP immigration bill


WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops "cannot, in good faith, endorse" an immigration bill submitted by the House's Republican leadership, said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Migration.

Bishop Vasquez said the bill would bring about "large structural changes to the immigration system that detrimentally impact families and the vulnerable." He said the new bill, still without a name or number, "contains several provisions that run contrary to our Catholic social teaching."

He made the comments in a letter dated June 18 and sent to each member of the House. It was posted June 19 on the U.S. bishops' website

Bishop Vasquez said this unnamed bill would "undermine asylum protections by significantly raising the hurdle applicants face during the 'credible fear' review, lead to increases in child and family detention ' eliminate protection for unaccompanied minors through the proposed changes to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, includes part of the DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals)-eligible population but does not include same population eligible in the USA Act and the DREAM Act, make sweeping cuts to family-based immigration and unilaterally implement a safe third country agreement without a bilateral or multilateral treaty or agreement."

Nor would the bill "end the practice of separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border, he added. "Instead, this bill would increase the number of children and families in detention, which is not acceptable." Bishop Vasquez reminded House members the Trump administration can end its family separation policy, without the need for legislation, at its own discretion.

Bishop Vasquez added, "We believe that any such legislation must be bipartisan, provide Dreamers with a path to citizenship, be pro-family, protect the vulnerable and be respectful of human dignity with regard to border security and enforcement."

The Uniting and Securing America Act (USA) Act, which he referenced in the letter, would protect Dreamers and strengthens border security. The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act, which he also mentioned, primarily would offer a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and other Dreamers.

In the letter, Bishop Vasquez reminded House members the Trump administration can end its family separation policy without the need for legislation through its own discretion, and that an immigration bill could secure the U.S. border and ensure humane treatment to immigrant families through alternative policies.

Given the newness of the bill, "we ask for timely consideration of our concerns," Bishop Vasquez said, "particularly the cuts to family-based immigration, as well as the harmful changes to the asylum system and existing protections for unaccompanied children. Without such changes to these measures, we would be compelled to oppose it."

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, has pledged to bring both the new bill and H.R. 4760, the Securing America's Future Act, to the House floor for votes. Bishop Vasquez, in January, wrote to the House opposing H.R. 4760. In the June 18 letter, he said, "we respectfully urge you to reject" it.

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Editor's Note: The full text of the letter can be found at

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Update: Bishops across U.S. condemn separation, detention of children

IMAGE: CNS photo/Callaghan O'Hare, Reuters

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- From Denver to New York City, the country's Catholic bishops have joined a chorus of organizations, institutions and high-profile individuals urging the Trump administration to stop separating children from their parents as they seek respite in the U.S. from dire conditions in their home countries, largely in Central America.

None have been more outspoken, however, than the bishops with dioceses on or near the border between the U.S. and Mexico, where many migrants, adults as well as children, are being held in detention centers in geographic areas where many of the prelates come into contact with families affected.

"Refugee children belong to their parents, not to the government or other institution. To steal children from their parents is a grave sin, immoral (and) evil," said San Antonio's Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller June 14 via Twitter, the social media platform he has used to daily call attention to the situation.

"Their lives have already been extremely difficult. Why do we (the U.S.) torture them even more, treating them as criminals?" he continued.

In a June 5 interview with CBS News, U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions said: "If people don't want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them," meaning they shouldn't bring them along when trying to cross the border, which many do as they seek asylum. The furor over the separation of children from a parent or parents had already started in late May, before Sessions used a Bible passage to justify the actions.

Bishop Daniel E. Flores of the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, said via Twitter May 31 that "separating immigrant parents and children as a supposed deterrent to immigration is a cruel and reprehensible policy. Children are not instruments of deterrence, they are children. A government that thinks any means is suitable to achieve an end cannot secure justice for anyone."

But the outrage began in earnest after the June 14 speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Indiana, when Sessions said the practice of separating families is consistent with the teachings of the Bible because "persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order."

The following day, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said during CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time with Chris Cuomo" that while he appreciated Sessions quoting the Bible, the quote he used was not the best.

"For one, St. Paul always says we should obey the law of the government if that law is in conformity with the Lord's law, all right? No pun intended but God's law trumps man's law, all right?" he said.

"And St. Paul himself who gave the quote that the attorney general used, he wouldn't obey Roman law when it said it was mandatory to worship the emperor," the cardinal continued. "He wouldn't obey that law. I don't think we should obey a law that goes against what God intends that you would take a baby, a child, from their mom. I mean, that's just unjust. That's unbiblical. That's un-American. There could be no Bible passage that would justify that."

After Sessions' Bible quote, Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, also used the Bible to make a point and compared Christ's time as a refugee in the Holy Land to the migrants.

In a June 15 statement, he compared the distance from his diocese to other localities in Guatemala and Mexico, saying that "if Jesus of Nazareth returned, as at that time, from Galilee to Judea, ... we dare say he would not get as far as Sacred Heart Church downtown (in El Paso) before being detained."

He urged Christians to think about the families fleeing and seeking asylum in the U.S., what they're going through and said that what's at stake "is the fundamental question of being Christian today, of being a person of faith today in our country and on the continent that is suffering an hour of Christ's passion."

Bishop Seitz announced a public prayerful procession "in solidarity with our sisters and brothers who continue to migrate to our border" planned for the evening of July 20 in El Paso but did not release other details. The U.S. bishops also are talking about the possibility of a delegation of prelates going to the detention centers where many children are being held.

In mid-June, The Associated Press said this year "nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their families at the U.S. border over a six-week period during a crackdown on illegal entries," according to documents from the Department of Homeland Security, which operates Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Family separation policies "tear at our core values as a nation," Bishop Oscar A. Solis of Salt Lake City said. "We are, and must continue to be, a beacon of hope for families unable to find basic protections and pathways out of poverty within their home countries."

The U.S. "has a right to protect its borders," but also has "a moral obligation to do so through means that preserve families and the dignity and sanctity of all life," he added. For decades, he noted, "the U.S. bishops have advocated for sensible reforms to our long-broken immigration system."

"Refusing asylum to women escaping from domestic violence and separating children from their parents is an unnecessary and aggressive act against human life, and unfathomable from a country with a heart as strong as ours," Bishop Solis said in a June 18 statement.

Said Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland, Oregon: "Whatever one thinks about the most prudent way to resolve our mounting immigration problems, mercy and charity dictate that we do not potentially cause irreparable harm and trauma when there is another way."

The government has discretion to keep families together in "its implementation of federal immigration law," he said.

"We need to see the real human faces of those affected," Archbishop Sample said. "These are families not unlike our own. In the ongoing debate over immigration issues, the U.S. bishops have always maintained, as a fundamental principle, that families must be kept together."

"St. Thomas Aquinas said that when a human law does not reflect God's law then it becomes an unjust law and even an act of violence," Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez wrote in a June 19 column in Angelus, the archdiocesan news website.

"We need to insist that those who make and enforce our laws guard against this," he said, adding, "That means stop the family separations right now -- and give those 2,000 children back to their moms and dads."

He, too, said the nation's leaders "have a solemn duty to secure our national borders and enforce our immigration laws. No one questions this. But we must find a better way."

Two prelates from Colorado, Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and Denver Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodriguez, repeated what other bishops have said in June 18 statement, saying that while borders must be protected, the policy of separating families is "immoral" and urged that it be terminated immediately, saying those being detained are in need of protection.

"These children and their parents are often fleeing violence and our country should not add to the inhumanity of their situation," they said.

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Iraqi iconographer honors his Syriac roots

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy of Mothana Butres

By Doreen Abi Raad

BEIRUT (CNS) -- When Islamic State fighters overran Qaraqosh, Iraq, in the summer of 2014, Mothana Butres was able to grab only a single volume from his father's collection of thousands of Syriac books and manuscripts.

The handwritten, 600-year-old book of Syriac hymns now inspires much of Butres' work as an iconographer.

From a modest walk-up apartment in Zahle, Lebanon, a city not far from the Syrian border, the Syriac Catholic iconographer and refugee creates his sacred art in a sparsely furnished living room. As he works, he sings the hymns he has committed to memory from the sole book he managed to save.

Butres is the creator of the Our Lady of Aradin icon, a centerpiece of the first Catholic shrine dedicated to persecuted Christians. The shrine is housed in St. Michael's Church in New York City and was dedicated June 12.

"The inspiration when I was working on Our Lady of Aradin was that it was the Virgin Mary who was protecting the Christians," Butres told Catholic News Service.

He chose to present Mary in the traditional wedding dress of the Aradin area of Iraq "to represent that the Virgin Mary will always be a part of the Christians in Iraq and that she is the protector of Christians in Iraq and all the Middle East," Butres said.

He said that when faced with an ultimatum by Islamic State fighters, Iraq's Christians gave up their land but refused to give up their faith.

"The people who were persecuted, their blood is a stronger message than anything I could ever convey," he said. But the recent persecution and the oppression suffered by his ancestors led him "to the way I think and the way I do my work."

Butres said he believes his icons can be an instrument for intercessory prayer. The prayers of the people who visit the shrine in New York and pray before the icon of Our Lady of Aradin are joined with those of the persecuted Christians. 

"Based on what Jesus told us, that 'if two people are gathered in my name, I will be among them,'" he said.

The Syriac book Butres treasures from his father's library collection also awakened him to the lost practice of writing books by hand, especially in the Syriac language, which is spoken by Christians in certain areas of Syria and Iraq, including Qaraqosh. Syriac also is used in the liturgy of some Eastern churches, including the Syriac Catholic, Syriac Orthodox and Maronite Catholic churches. The language is related to Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

"I'm trying to revive the value of the handwritten texts. Books used to be handwritten," Butres said.

As part of an ongoing personal project, Butres intends to write out the entire Bible in Syriac on a long scroll of leather just over a foot wide. In three months of work, the tiny, intricate text he has etched extends 16 feet in length and comprises the first five chapters of the Old Testament.

"I believe that in writing out the Bible, we can discover it in a new, deeper perspective, more than just reading it," he said.

In his icons, Butres often incorporates streams of handwritten text related to the image, which contributes to preserving the Syriac language, heritage and spirituality. The icon of Our Lady of Aradin, for example, includes the Hail Mary in Syriac.

Butres' introduction to iconography began at age 12; a deacon at his church in Qaraqosh taught him the ancient art as well as formulas for producing colors and varnishes from natural products, for example, using eggs and wine for shades of red, using beeswax for varnish and using deer musk to give the icon a scent.

Prayer and religious formation were part of Butres' daily life growing up in a Syriac Catholic family as one of 16 children. 

"We were very close to the church," said. "Every day at dusk, we went to the church to pray," he recalled, adding that for "anyone who didn't participate, there was no dinner." The same went for missing Sunday Mass: no lunch and dinner.

That pious upbringing fostered vocations, he said. One of Butres' sisters became a Dominican nun. His brother, Nimatullah, is a priest serving the Syriac Catholic Diocese of Our Lady of Deliverance, which is based in Bayonne, New Jersey. Father Butres attended the dedication ceremony for the Our Lady of Aradin shrine in New York.

The artistic Butres became a deacon at age 20 and studied theology at Holy Spirit University in Lebanon, earning a bachelor's degree.

Butres intended to complete his master's degree in theology, carrying out his research in Qaraqosh, but had to abandon all he had accomplished there when Islamic State attacked his childhood home.

That home, overtaken, gutted and ruined by Islamic State, is under repair now. From Lebanon, Butres created the Our Lady of Qaraqosh icon as a gift for his family, intending it as "a protector of the house where she was always present."

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Synod working document: Young Catholics need church that listens to them

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Young Catholics are looking for a church that listens to their concerns, accompanies them in discerning their vocations and helps them confront the challenges they face, said a working document for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on young people.

The synod's "instrumentum laboris" (working document), published by the Vatican June 19, stated that young people "want to see a church that shares their situations of life in the light of Gospel rather than by preaching."

Quoting a presynod gathering of young people who met at the Vatican March 19-25, the working document said young Catholics "want an authentic church. With this, we would like to express, particularly to the church hierarchy, our request for a transparent, welcoming, honest, attractive, communicative, accessible, joyful and interactive community."

The working document is based mainly on comments solicited in a questionnaire last June from national bishops' conferences around the world as well as the final document of the presynod gathering.

An estimated 305 young adults participated in the weeklong presynod meeting, which allowed practicing Catholics and others to provide input for Pope Francis and the world's bishops, who will meet at the synod in October to discuss "young people, faith and vocational discernment." Some 15,000 young people also participated in the presynod process through Facebook groups online.

The meeting, the working document said, "highlighted the potential that younger generations represent" as well as their "hopes and desires."

"Young people are great seekers of meaning, and everything that is in harmony with their search to give value to their lives arouses their attention and motivates their commitment," it said.

Presenting the "instrumentum laboris" to journalists at a press briefing June 19, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary-general of the synod, said the synod's goal is that young Catholics may find "the beauty of life, beginning from the happy relationship with the God of the covenant and of love" in a world that often robs them of their "affections, bonds and prospective of life."

"The synod dedicated to young people gives us the opportunity to rediscover the hope of a good life, the dream of a pastoral renewal, the desire for community and passion for education," he said.

Divided into three parts, the working document outlines the church's need to listen to young people, to help guide them in the faith and in discerning their vocational calling, and to identify pastoral and missionary paths to be able to accompany them.

The responses collected by bishops' conferences around the world cited a need for ways to help young men and women confront the challenges of cultural changes that sometimes disregard traditions and spirituality.

The working document also states that while the church highlights the importance of the body, affection and sexuality, many young Catholic men and women "do not follow the directions of the sexual morality of the church."

"Although no bishops' conferences offer solutions or indications, many (conferences) believe the issue of sexuality should be discussed more openly and without judgment," it said.

Young people attending the presynod meeting said issues such as contraception, abortion, homosexuality, cohabitation and marriage are often debated both by young Catholics and non-Catholics.

The working document also highlighted the need to reaffirm church teaching on the body and sexuality at a time when biomedical advancements have pushed a more "technocratic approach to the body," citing examples such as egg donation and surrogacy.

"Moreover, precocious sexuality, sexual promiscuity, digital pornography, the exhibition of one's own body online and sexual tourism risk disfiguring the beauty and depth of emotional and sexual life," the "instrumentum laboris" said.

Church leaders, it said, must "speak in practical terms about controversial subjects such as homosexuality and gender issues, which young people are already freely discussing without taboo."

Also, "LGBT youths, through various contributions received by the secretariat of the synod, want to benefit from a greater closeness and experience greater care from the church," while some bishops' conferences are asking what they can recommend to young people who enter into a homosexual relationship, but want to be closer to the church, the document said.

Regarding the use of the initials "LGBT" in a major church document, Cardinal Baldisseri told journalists that it was a term used in one of the documents given by the bishops' conferences "and we quoted them."

"We are open. We don't want the synod to be closed in itself," Cardinal Baldisseri said. "And in the church, there are many areas, there is freedom for people to express themselves -- on the right, left, center, north and south -- this is all possible. That is why we are willing to listen to people with different opinions."

The working document also said young Catholics would like more initiatives that allow further dialogue with nonbelievers and the secular world to help them integrate their faith in their dealings with others.

Young men and women from primarily secularized areas "ask nothing from the church" and "expressly asked to be left in peace, because they feel its presence as annoying and even irritating." These feelings, the document stated, do not come from contempt but rather due to "serious and respectable reasons."

Among the reasons are the church's sexual and economic scandals, priests who do not know how to engage with young people, and the way the church justifies its doctrinal and ethical positions to modern society.

Young men and women are also hoping the church can help them "find a simple and clear understanding of the meaning of vocation," which is often misinterpreted as referring only to priesthood and consecrated life.

While the church has confirmed that marriage is also a vocation, the document confirms the need for "a youth vocational ministry capable of being meaningful for all young people."

"Called to holiness and anointed by the spirit, the Christian learns to grasp all the choices in existence in a vocational perspective, especially the central one of the state of life as well as those of a professional nature," it said.

"For this reason, some bishops' conferences hope that the synod will find ways to help all Christians rediscover the link between profession and vocation in all its fruitfulness ... and in view of the professional orientation of young people with a vocational perspective," the document said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Dictatorships begin with taking over media to spread lies, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Kith Serey, EPA

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- All dictatorships begin the same way: media outlets are put in the hands of "unscrupulous" people who spread lies and weaken democracy, Pope Francis said.

Typical standards, norms and laws in regard to communications are first eliminated, the pope said in his homily June 18 during morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Then an entire media or communication outlet is handed over "to a firm, a business that slanders, tells lies, weakens democracy, and then the judges come to judge these weakened institutions, these destroyed, condemned people and a dictatorship makes progress this way," he said.

"All dictatorships, all of them, began like this, by adulterating communication, by putting communications in the hands of people without scruples, of governments without scruples," he added.

The pope's homily focused on the day's first reading in which Jezebel succeeds in her a plot to help her husband, King Ahab, take possession of their neighbor's land; the neighbor, Naboth, refused to sell what had belonged to his family for generations. Jezebel arranged for two men to accuse Naboth of cursing God and the king, for which Naboth was stoned to death.

Pope Francis said what happened to Naboth is similar to what happened to Jesus, St. Stephen and all martyrs who were condemned as a result of lies and falsehoods.

Today, many people, "many heads of state or government," forge the same scenario: start with a lie and "after you destroy both a person and a situation with that falsehood," there is a judgment and a conviction, he said.

Many countries, today, he added, "they use this method: destroy free communication."

But individuals, too, are also tempted to destroy others by talking behind their back, telling lies or spreading scandalous news, the pope said.

Talking about scandals is enormously seductive, he said, and "one is seduced by scandals. Good news isn't a seductress."

"The seduction of scandal in communication backs one into a corner," in that it destroys people like Naboth or St. Stephen, who was stoned to death by people who didn't want to hear the truth.

There have been "so many people, so many countries destroyed by evil and calumnious dictatorships," he said, including the ones that persecuted the Jews with "calumnious communication" so they ended up in Auschwitz.

"Oh, it was a horror, but it's a horror that happens today -- in small communities, to people, in many countries. The first step is to seize communications, and later destroy, judgment and death," he said.


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Pope met with brother of Chilean priest found guilty of abuse

IMAGE: CNS photo/Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The brother of Chilean Father Fernando Karadima called on his brother to ask forgiveness for the hurt inflicted on those he sexually abused.

"I would ask him to be humble. Fernando, ask for forgiveness. Not in silence to God or in your prayers. Do it publicly, that people hear that you ask forgiveness for the harm you have done to victims and to everyone," Oscar Karadima said in an interview with Chilean newspaper La Tercera, published June 17.

"Fernando," he continued, "you are a man who is going to die. How can you die in this way, as a proud person who doesn't ask forgiveness? I ask you in the name of God and the most holy virgin who you always said you loved so much. I ask you in the name of my father, my mother, my two dead sisters."

Oscar Karadima also revealed that he was among the group of priests and laypeople who met with Pope Francis June 2 and spoke to him about the suffering his family endured following the revelation that his brother was found guilty of sexual abuse.

"I spoke to him about Fernando; I told him what Fernando was like with his family, with us: He was an arrogant man, authoritarian, a man we were afraid of and that even my mother was afraid of him," Oscar Karadima said.

Recalling his conversation with the pope, Oscar Karadima said his family members "were also victims of abuse of power and of conscience" by his brother. Their family name, he added, was tarnished due to the scandals.

"We are the only Karadima family in Chile. I've read on social media, 'The Karadima family are a family of degenerates, a family guilty of covering up, a family of pedophiles,'" he said.

Known as an influential and charismatic priest, Father Karadima drew hundreds of young men to the priesthood, and four of his proteges went on to become bishops, including retired Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno.

After accusations of sexual abuse came to light in 2010, the Vatican investigated Father Karadima and sentenced him to a life of prayer and penance after he was found guilty of sexual abuse.

Oscar Karadima said he also wanted to inform the pope of the four bishops who formed part of Father Karadima's inner circle and that "they were witnesses and covered up abuses."

"The pope stopped me and said, 'Speak to me about Barros.' I told him, 'Your Holiness, Bishop Barros lied. He was my brother's friend and, in a certain way, you can say he belonged to his 'iron circle,'" Oscar Karadima recalled. The pope had accepted Bishop Barros' resignation June 11. Abuse survivors have alleged that when Bishop Barros was still a priest, he witnessed their abuse by his mentor.

"Everyone knew that they were made bishops because my brother Fernando was able to make it so, through his friendship or closeness with (Cardinal) Angelo Sodano," he added.

Cardinal Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, served as apostolic nuncio to Chile from 1978-1988 and as Vatican secretary of state from 1991-2006.

Karadima recalled tearing up as he recounted his and his family's pain and that Pope Francis touched his hand and encouraged him.

After listening to him, he added, the pope grabbed a piece of paper and wrote a message for the Karadima family.

"To the family of Oscar Karadima, with my blessing and my sorrow for so much suffering that you bear. In the name of Fernando, silent and incapable of realizing (his mistakes), I ask your forgiveness," the pope wrote.

Karadima said he was moved by the pope's gesture and said it was the first time someone from the Catholic Church recognized his family's pain.

"Neither (Cardinal Riccardo) Ezzati, nor (Cardinal Francisco Javier) Errazuriz, nor anyone acknowledged our pain. That is why what I also ask for -- because no one has said it -- is justice for my family. The pope was the only one who had words of affection and consolation toward them," Oscar Karadima said.

Pope Francis has made seeking forgiveness and promoting reconciliation a priority in the fallout of the sexual abuse crisis that has rocked the Chilean church.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, president of a board of review handling abuse cases within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Father Jordi Bertomeu Farnos, an official of the doctrinal congregation, concluded their June 14-17 visit to the diocese of Osorno with a Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew.

During the Mass, Archbishop Scicluna, Father Bertomeu and Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Concha Cayuqueo of Santiago, apostolic administrator for the Diocese of Osorno, kneeled before the congregation and asked forgiveness.

"Pope Francis has entrusted me to ask forgiveness for each one of the faithful of the Diocese of Osorno and all the citizens of this territory for having wounded you and profoundly offending you," Archbishop Scicluna said.

Addressing journalists after the Mass, the archbishop thanked the people of Osorno for welcoming him and said the visit was only the beginning of the journey toward reconciliation.

True reconciliation, he said, isn't achieved with a mission of a few days, but is rather a gift from God that must be accompanied by long process that requires patience, generosity and humility."

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Update: Bishops' pastoral letter on racism on track for November vote

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNS) -- A planned pastoral letter addressing racism is on schedule for a November vote by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Bishop Sheldon J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the bishop's Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, said during the bishops' spring general assembly June 14 that the document would reflect recommendations from the various audiences that have reviewed drafts of the document.

The bishop said the document will focus on contemporary concerns affecting Native Americans and African-Americans and the "targeting" of Hispanics with racist language and actions.

Among its components, he added, the document will:

-- Reflect "grave concerns for the rise in racist expressions" in American society, public discourse and social media.

-- Address ways racism affects institutions and public policy.

-- Condemn racism and raise awareness of its impact "on all of us."

-- Assist pastors, educators, families and individuals in confronting racism.

-- Encourage honest self-reflection.

He added that recommendations that the document be "not too long" will be followed.

The pastoral letter will be rooted in the clear message of Micah 6:8, which calls on the faithful "to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God," the bishop said.

Plans are being developed to implement the document in dioceses and parishes so that people witness "the healing hand of God through it," Bishop Fabre said.

After the report, retired Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer of San Angelo, Texas, suggest that the committee incorporate listening sessions in schools beginning this fall so that young people are "aware of this critical issue."

When it comes to implementation of the pastoral letter, Bishop Pfeifer stressed, "we want people to read it," urging that supporting documents that summarize its content be prepared and distributed for families and individuals.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

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Julie Asher, CNS national editor, wins St. Francis de Sales Award

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth


GREEN BAY, Wis. (CNS) -- Julie Asher is the recipient of the 2018 St. Francis de Sales Award from the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada.

The award recognizes "outstanding contributions to Catholic journalism" and is the highest honor given by CPA. It was presented during a June 15 luncheon at the Catholic Media Conference in Green Bay.

"Wow. It's overwhelming," said Asher after she was handed the award.

"I can confirm there was no Russian collusion on this -- I had to say that coming here from Washington," she added.

Asher thanked her CNS colleagues, led by editor-in-chief Greg Erlandson, and his predecessors.

"I also want to thank all of you, my colleagues in the Catholic press, for what you do every single day and what you contribute to CNS. We are all workers in the vineyard; we do it every single day to tell the story of the Catholic Church," she said.

Asher noted that she didn't come from a journalism family but said she had some ink in her blood because her father was an ink salesman and sold ink to several small newspapers in eastern Colorado and western Nebraska.

"I always wanted to be a journalist and to tell stories," she said, adding that she loves what she does.

"I love what we all do in the Catholic press: We tell stories of people's faith in action, explaining what the church teaches and why, what the church says in response to the issues of the day -- immigration, racism, the environment and all manner of other things."

She pointed out that some stories are difficult to cover, for instance, the sex abuse crisis, telling the stories of the survivors and how the church is addressing it or stories of parish closings and what that means to those who call those parishes home.

But she also said there are plenty of stories that are more positive, such as what Catholics do for the poor, the marginalized, the immigrant and refugees; stories about Catholic agencies, volunteers who are there for those suffering through a natural disaster or other calamity; stories about outreach to people in the inner cities; and about the richness of Catholic life in mission dioceses.

Asher, who has been national editor of Catholic News Service for more than 20 years, coordinates all national coverage and book reviews. To many client editors, she is the first person with whom they come in contact at CNS.

Prior to working at Catholic News Service, where she started as a general assignment reporter, she was a reporter at the Scottsbluff Star-Herald daily in Nebraska and the Denver Catholic in her home state of Colorado.

Asher has been a member of the Society for Professional Journalists for more than 30 years, joining as a college student. She has had many leadership roles in the group and has been an awarded by the group for her achievements. She has presented workshops at Catholic Media Conventions and served on nominating committees for the Catholic Press Association.

She is also the CNS intern coordinator and has mentored dozens of young college students, many of whom now work at Catholic publications.

Asked about her internship for Asher's nomination submission, Colleen Dulle, former CNS intern who now works for America magazine, said Asher's "mentorship was invaluable," noting that not only did she make time for weekly meetings with interns but she also made sure they got what they hoped to experience from their internships.

"For example, I told her I wanted to report in a press pool at a large event, so Julie assigned me to a White House summit. She also pushed me out of my comfort zone, in one instance assigning me a political story that landed me my first byline in America magazine, where I am now an O'Hare Fellow. "

She also said Asher "never turned down any of my requests for letters of recommendation, showing how committed she is to helping me continue to succeed in journalism."

The other two finalists were:

-- Deacon Steve Landregan, who retired in 2016 from the Dallas Diocese, was a longtime editor of the Texas Catholic, diocesan newspaper of Dallas, and served as director of pastoral planning and research as well as diocesan archivist and historian in a career that spanned more than 50 years.

He was a founding member of the Catholic Telecommunications Network of America and in 1979 and directed the Archbishop Sheen Center for Communications, producing Catholic television and radio programming. His wide variety of Catholic communications contributions include: newspaper editor, weekly columnist, books, magazine articles, radio, television, educational television, web content, online blogs, and social media.

-- Ed Wilkinson, who took on the role of editor emeritus of The Tablet, diocesan newspaper of Brooklyn, New York, earlier this year. Wilkinson began as The Tablet's sports reporter in 1970 and was named editor in 1985.

In 1995, his column anticipating the papal visit to New York led to a personal meeting with St. John Paul II. In 2016, the CPA honored Wilkinson with first place for best editorial page or editorial section. Wilkinson also produced the television segment "The Tablet Week in Review" for 18 years. In 2011, he became the news director for the daily news show, "Currents," and four years later spearheaded live coverage of Pope Francis' visit to Cuba and the U.S.

Earlier this year, Wilkinson won the St. Francis de Sales Distinguished Communicator Award at the Brooklyn Diocese's celebration of the World Communications Day, May 9.

Last year's St. Francis de Sales Award winner was Matt Schiller, outgoing CPA president and advertising and business manager of Catholic New York.

Previous St. Francis de Sales winners from Catholic News Service include: Tom Lorsung, editor-in-chief, (1995); Jerry Filteau, reporter (2003); John Thavis, Rome bureau chief, (2007); Tony Spence, editor-in-chief (2010) and Jim Lackey, web editor (2014).

Erlandson, current CNS editor-in-chief, won the award in 2015, a year before joining the news service.

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Contributing to this report were Cindy Wooden in Green Bay and Carol Zimmermann in Washington.

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Yo-Yo Ma holds concert for peace at Chicago Catholic Church

IMAGE: CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Chicago Catholic

By Joyce Duriga

CHICAGO (CNS) -- When world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma brought his Concert for Peace to St. Sabina Church for the second time June 10, there was a special feature -- five original works written with family members who lost loved ones to gun violence as a tribute to the people who died.

They are among 24 original songs created by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Negaunee Music Institute and Purpose Over Pain, a St. Sabina organization of parents who have lost a child to gun violence. All songs are available at

The idea to create the songs came after Ma saw the memorial board outside the parish that features photos of all the people connected to the parish killed by gun violence.

Ma first visited St. Sabina in spring 2017 on a Sunday in between morning Masses. The senior pastor, Father Michael Pfleger, was told a man saying he was Yo-Yo Ma was in the church and wanted to meet him, which he thought was a joke. It wasn't.

Ma had stopped by the church on his way to the airport saying he followed the priest's work against violence and wanted to help.

"A lot of people tell me they want to help and do nothing. I always get my hopes up and wonder what's next. About two weeks later I got a call and they said 'Yo-Yo is serious. He wants to help,'" Father Pfleger said during a pre-concert news conference. "The only thing better than his talent is his spirit. He used his gift to invite people -- not to come downtown, not to the Symphony Center, not to Grant Park - but to 78th Place."

Ma, who is the Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, said he now feels part of St. Sabina and even though he doesn't live in Chicago, when he reads about the gun violence in the city he feels the pain.

So Ma and the Negaunee Music Institute asked people who lost family members to gun violence to share the stories of their loved ones and their grief and pain with songwriters and composers. The families and songwriters wrote the lyrics and composers wrote the songs. It wasn't just mothers who wrote songs but siblings and children too. Families gave some advice on the sound saying they wanted the songs to be slow and jazz-like.

All of the songs are available to hear along with photos of those who died at In some cases, family members sang the lyrics themselves. Desiree Smith recorded a rap song about her dad, Dontee Smith.

In the case of Rolanda Lakesia Marshall, who died in 1993 at 14, her song was the lyrics of a poem she wrote.

Hardly anyone from the musicians and singers to the audience members would be unaffected when hearing the five songs performed, Ma told reporters.

"One of the singers said to me: 'You know I'm going to be a mess today, but every time I sing the 'Song for Terrell,' gradually I realize that my job is to deliver the message and I have to do it in a way that is very clear,'" Ma said. "That's the musician's role. You first empathize with someone but then you actually have to deliver the message clear so someone else gets it."

Working on the songs for their children was another step in the healing process, said Pamela Bosley, founder of Purpose Over Pain. Bosley's son Terrell, who loved to play the bass guitar, was shot and killed in 2006 at age 18.

"For most of the parents, music is a way of healing," Bosley said, whose son Trevon wrote the lyrics for "Song for Terrell," which Ma performed with members of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.

"A lot of times we hold our pain within, but if somebody sits you down and says: 'Tell me about your son and what you feel,' that allows you to express it and let it out," she said. "There were a lot of emotions with this project, a lot of crying but we made it through and with the help of God we were able to get songs."

Terrell always wanted to travel the world as a musician and now he will do that through this song, Bosley said.

"I believe in my heart that Terrell and the rest of the children are looking down on us and are happy that the orchestra and Yo-Yo Ma thought enough to write songs on behalf of our children," she said.

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Duriga is editor of the Chicago Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

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Most fundamental human right is hope, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Abedin Taherkenareh, EPA

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The theory that well-being will automatically flow down to everyone from the riches of the few is "a lie," Pope Francis said.

The beatitudes show the way, he said, because they show that holiness doesn't concern just the soul, "but also the feet -- for going toward our brothers and sisters, and the hands -- for sharing with them."

May the beatitudes "teach us and our world to not be wary of or leave at the mercy of the ocean waves those who leave their land, hungry for bread and justice; may they lead us to not live in excess, devoting ourselves to the advancement of everyone, kneeling with compassion before the weakest," he said June 15.

This approach, he said, comes "without the easy illusion that, from the lavish table of the few, well-being automatically 'rains down' for everyone," he said.

The pope's remarks came in an address to people taking part in a national congress of an Italian federation of expert artisans and craftsmen known in Italian as "maestri."

Pope Francis reaffirmed how important work and making a living are for each person, but he noted how so many are still excluded from today's "economic progress" and are, therefore, deprived of future prospects and hope.

"The first and most fundamental human right, for young people most of all," is hope, he said, "the right to hope."

A community that does not concretely promote jobs and cares little for those who are excluded from employment opportunities "condemns itself to atrophy" and will see increasing inequalities, the pope said.

On the contrary, a society that is guided by a spirit of subsidiarity, that seeks to bring to fruition the potential of every man and woman "of every origin and age, will truly breathe with full lung power and be able to overcome even the biggest obstacles."

To do this, work and life must be lived "like a mission" and love for one's brothers and sisters "must burn inside us with 'spiritual fuel,' which, unlike fossil fuels, never runs out, but increases with use," he said.

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