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Don’t cut vital services to immigrants with new DHS rule, bishops plead

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Immigrants and their families will suffer great harm if long-standing policies are changed by the Department of Homeland Security to further limit access to public benefits, the U.S. bishops have said.
 
The rule would consider whether applicants for legal permanent resident status are likely to become a burden to public services.
 
For the U.S. bishops, the rule is “likely to prevent families from accessing important medical and social services vital to public health and welfare.”
 
“This further compounds strict eligibility guidelines already in place preventing many immigrants from receiving federal aid,” the bishops added.
 
The bishops’ Sept. 23 statement came from Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, the respective chairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration and the Committee on Domestic and Social Development.
 
The initial analysis by the bishops’ conference suggests the rule will be “very harmful to families” and cause fear among immigrant families who are “already struggling to fulfill the American Dream,” they said.
 
On Sept. 22 the Department of Homeland Security announced a proposed rule it said would “clearly define long-standing law” to ensure that those who seek to enter and remain in the U.S. “can support themselves financially and will not be reliant on public benefits.”
 
“The Department takes seriously its responsibility to be transparent in its rulemaking and is welcoming public comment on the proposed rule,” said Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

“This proposed rule will implement a law passed by Congress intended to promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers.”
 
The changes will not affect immigrants who already have green cards, but they could force millions of other immigrants to choose between accepting public assistance and seeking a green card to live and work legally in the U.S., the New York Times reports. It could also force older immigrants to stop participating in low-cost prescription drug programs lest they be considered ineligible for resident status.
 
Some immigrants who do not understand the new rule may avoid seeking legal status for fear of losing benefits, Charles Wheeler, a legal expert at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, told the New York Times.
 
The Department of Homeland Security cited a historic standard that considers whether an alien seeking admission to the U.S. would become a “public charge.” Such a person is defined by whether he or she will receive certain public benefits above a defined threshold or for longer than a defined period of time. This was the most common reason for refusing admission at ports of entry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the announcement said.
 
The U.S. bishops, however, said the notice “undercuts decades of administrative policies and guidelines on how immigrants are treated by the United States government.”
 
While federal law has always required people seeking green cards to prove they will not be a burden, the government has never previously considered food assistance and some other public benefits to be such a burden, the New York Times reported.
 
Potential permanent immigrants to the U.S. will be affected by the law, as will students, workers and others with temporary visas who seek to stay permanently. Some immigrants could be asked to post cash bonds of at least $10,000 to secure their green cards under the new rule.
 
The Trump administration said the rule could affect 382,000 people per year.
 
The Department of Homeland Security stressed that the determination of whether someone would be a public charge is “prospective” based on the totality of a person’s circumstances. These legal factors include age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education and skills.
 
The public benefits to be considered include federal, state, local or tribal cash assistance; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; Supplemental Security Income; Medicaid, with limited exceptions for emergency benefits and some education-related disability services; Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy; food stamps; government-funded institutionalization for long-term care; public housing; and Section 8 housing choice vouchers and rental assistance.

Asylees, refugees, and other recognized vulnerable individuals are not impacted by the rule. In considering eligibility for admission, the Department of Homeland Security will not consider public benefits received by immigrants serving in active duty or reserve U.S. armed forces, or by their spouse or children.
 
Other categories excluded from consideration include disaster relief, emergency medical assistance, benefits received by an immigrant’s U.S. citizen children, and Medicaid benefits for children or potential adopted children of U.S. citizens. Families earning under 15 percent of the federal poverty line will also be exempt.
 
Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, there will be a public comment period of 60 days.

 

China criticized for repression of Muslim ethnic group

Urumqi, China, Sep 25, 2018 / 06:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sept. 21 joined voices from Pakistan and around the world in denouncing Chinese repression against a Muslim minority, as China continues to put pressure on almost all religions within its borders.

Uyghurs are a Turkic-speaking ethnic minority that mainly inhabit the vast Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The advocacy group Uyghur Human Rights Project estimates that approximately ten percent of the Uyghur population, or some 1 million individuals, are being extrajudicially detained in a system of internment camps.

While also mentioning his concern for Christians in China amid a recent intensifying of governmental repression, Pompeo decried the treatment of the Uyghurs by Chinese authorities.

“Their religious beliefs are decimated,” Pompeo said.

An Aug. 13 report from the United Nations detailed the violent crackdowns on members of the minority in Xinjiang, which China claims is not based upon religion but rather in response to terrorism threats in general. According to the BBC, violence in the region escalated in the 1990s and again in 2008.

“In the name of combating 'religious extremism' and maintaining 'social stability'...China had turned the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region into something that resembled a massive internment camp shrouded in secrecy, a 'no rights zone',” the report states.

“[M]embers of the Xinjiang Uyghur minority, along with others who were identified as Muslim, were being treated as enemies of the State based on nothing more than their ethno-religious identity.”

Authorities in Pakistan, China’s closest ally in the Muslim world, also warned against escalating persecution of the Uyghurs.

Noorul Haq Qadri, Pakistan's Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Inter-faith Harmony, advised Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing that Beijing’s crackdowns on Uyghur activity would only fuel extremism rather than mitigate it.

The Chinese ambassador reportedly promised that his government would allow a Pakistani delegation of religious scholars to visit Xinjiang, according to Pakistani media.

The Chinese government, led by President Xi Jinping, has made numerous moves recently to curb religious freedom in the country, including the demolishing of Christian churches and sending Muslims to so-called “reeducation camps” for offenses as minor as wearing beards, veils and other distinctive markers of Islam. In September, the government made it illegal for any religious prayers, catechesis, or preaching to be published online.

The US Commission on International Religion wrote in its 2018 report that last year China “advanced its so-called 'sinicization' of religion, a far-reaching strategy to control, govern, and manipulate all aspects of faith into a socialist mold infused with 'Chinese characteristics.'”

Christians, Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners have all been affected.

The Holy See signed a deal with Beijing Sept. 22 to give the Chinese government some power over episcopal appointments in exchange for bringing the underground Church above ground, ending the split with the state-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

Cardinal Marx apologizes for sex abuse by clerics in Germany

Fulda, Germany, Sep 25, 2018 / 04:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, chairman of the German bishops' conference, personally apologized Tuesday for “failure and pain” following an extensive report that German clergy had abused thousands of children between 1946 and 2014.

“For too long in the church we have looked away, denied, covered up and didn’t want it to be true,” said Cardinal Marx at a news conference in Fulda, as reported by Reuters. “For all the failure, pain and suffering, I must apologize as the chairman of the Bishops’ Conference as well as personally.”

“Those who are guilty must be punished,” he added.

The report detailing the abuse in Germany was leaked to the German press Sept. 12.

The report, commissioned by the German bishops in 2014 and officially released Sept. 25, found allegations against 1,670 German clerics, or “4.4 percent of all clerics from 1946 to 2014 whose personnel records and other documents were reviewed in the dioceses.” Nearly 63 percent of the 3,677 alleged victims were male.

According to the German bishops' conference, the aim of the study, in which all 27 dioceses of Germany took part, was “to obtain more clarity and transparency about this dark side in our church, not only for the sake of those affected, but also in order to be able to see the misdemeanours for ourselves and do everything possible to ensure that they do not repeat themselves.”

'Made for Happiness' Eucharistic assembly draws 14k in Michigan

Lansing, Mich., Sep 25, 2018 / 04:49 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Lansing hosted a gathering of thousands Saturday, hoping to spark a fire for evangelization among Catholics in central Michigan. Nearly 25 percent of regular Mass-goers in the diocese attended the event.

Diocesan officials estimated that 14,000 people turned out Sept. 22 for “Made for Happiness,” a Eucharistic assembly held at the Breslin Center, on the campus of Michigan State University.

The diocese said its goal was to reinvigorate the joy of proclaiming the Christian message.

“We hope that it fires people up to go out and do that discipleship, to do that evangelization, to live out their faith in the daily life – in their work environment, in their social environment,” said Michael Diebold, Lansing’s diocesan spokesman.

“[We hope] that they can go out in their everyday life and spread that notion of being made for happiness, and bring people to the Church,” he told CNA.

Speakers included nationally-known Father Mike Schmitz, chaplain of the Newman Center at University of Minnesota-Duluth; Jennifer Fulwiler, Catholic author, speaker, and radio host; and Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing.

The assembly was preceded by a Eucharistic procession from St. Mary’s Cathedral to the Breslin Center, a few blocks from the state’s capitol building. More than 4,000 Catholics marched 3.5 miles, and some carried banners representing their parish or Catholic organization.

Diebold said the procession was a practical example of evangelization.  

The procession was “this outward sign of all these thousands walking up what is essentially main street Lansing, Michigan. We wanted to be a public witness,” he said.

The bishop “thought it would be a great idea to provide a good witness to both the city of Lansing, capital of Michigan, and the surrounding area.”

Bishop Boyea asked diocesan parishes to cancel all Saturday evening Masses, to encourage parishioners to attend the Mass at the assembly. At the end of the Mass, the bishop called for a year of prayer directed at the proclamation of the Gospel.  

This is the third assembly the diocese has hosted to focus on the new evangelization in the last six years. The first two only involved church officials or volunteers. This year’s gathering, Diebold said, was directed at encouraging all Catholics.

“Each of the speakers…were encouraging those that were in attendance to try and be more than just folks in the pews, to be more than just Church-going Catholics, but to become disciples, to become missionary disciples,” he said.

“The theme of the assembly was made for happiness, and that’s what we are hoping people will take away from there. That they can share with others who may not have heard of it or maybe have forgotten about it – the happiness that we can get from Jesus Christ by being a member of the Church.”

 

Pope Francis: On sexual abuse, Church and society have a ‘new conscience’

Vatican City, Sep 25, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis said Tuesday that renewed procedures and priorities in handling sex abuse cases have yielded results in the Church, and have developed alongside a greater moral awareness of the dangers of child abuse. Francis spoke during a press conference Sept. 25 on the return flight from a four-day papal visit to the Baltic region.

Citing the Pennsylvania grand jury report released July 14, Francis said the difference between the number of historical and recent abuse cases is clear, and indicates true progress in the way the Church addresses the problem of clerical sexual abuse.

“We see that in the first 70 years there were so many priests that fell into this corruption, then in more recent times it has diminished, because the Church noticed that it needed to fight it in another way,” the pope said. “Watch the [number of cases] and watch when the Church became conscious of this.”

Francis stressed that while meaningful progress should be recognized, there is no such thing as a tolerable level of abuse: “Even if it was just one priest who abused a boy or a girl, this is atrocious, because that man was chosen by God.”

While the pope noted that sexual abuse was not confined to the Church alone, it was in the Church that it was “the most scandalous, because [the Church] should bring children to God and not destroy them.”

Francis also said that in the past, a mentality had existed in the Church and the wider culture which contributed to a pattern of abuse and cover-ups. The pope said that previous approaches to handling sexual abuse allegations were often informed by consciences more concerned with scandal and taboo than with protecting victims. 

“In the old times these things were covered up, they even covered them up at home, when the uncle was molesting the niece, when the dad was molesting his sons, they covered it up because it was a very big disgrace… it was the way of thinking in previous times.”

The pope explained that there was now a greater moral awareness of the seriousness of child sexual abuse, but that to understand the mistakes of the past it was necessary to consider the historical and cultural context.

“It is a principle that helps me to interpret history a lot,” he said. “A historic event is interpreted with the hermeneutic of the time period in which it took place, not with a hermeneutic of today.”

Offering the example of the history of different “indigenous people,” the pope noted that to modern eyes there were “so many injustices, so much brutality, but it cannot be interpreted through the hermeneutic of today [now] that we have another conscience.”

Francis also compared the Church’s shifting attitude towards covering up sexual abuse with changed perceptions of the death penalty, noting that the Church went from having its own civil executioner to eventually progress beyond recognizing a need for capital punishment at all. 

The pope also stressed that the renewed seriousness with which the Church was prosecuting cases of abuse had yielded results, and he underscored his personal commitment to zero-tolerance, saying that he had never - and would never - extend pardons to convicted abusers.

“I have received so, so many completed convictions from [the Congregation for] the Doctrine of the Faith and I have said [go] forward, forward, never have I signed a request for grace after a conviction. On this I do not negotiate, there is no negotiation.”

Francis has been criticized for his 2014 "pardon" of Fr. Mauro Inzoli, an Italian who had been accused of sexually abusing multiple children in the course of a decade. Inzoli was removed from ministry by Benedict XVI in 2012, and restored by Francis in 2014. Following a 2016 civil conviction for eight counts of sexual abuse of minors, Izoli was then dismissed from the clerical state by Francis in 2017.

Francis blamed his initial reversal on being new to his office, and not understanding the case fully. Some clerics close to the pope say that Francis was persuaded to restore Inzoli to ministry after pontifical advisers made a personal plea to the pope.

The pope has recently indicated that he has taken an active role in the handling of some high-profile cases. During a previous in-flight press conference he said that he will personally judge some cases, having first received legal advice from officials at the CDF.

Speaking about a meeting with young people he had held earlier that day in Tallin, Estonia, Francis spoke of the damage which had been done to the faith of young people.

“They [young people] are scandalized by incoherence, they are scandalized by corruption, and into this [scandal] of corruption enters that which you were under-lining: sexual abuse.”

Instead, the pope said young people were “asking to be heard,” saying the did not want “fixed formulas” of engagement or versions of “accompaniment where they are ordered what to do.”

Next month the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will convene in Rome to address the topic of young people, the faith, and vocational discernment.

Full text of Pope Francis' in-flight press conference from Estonia

Vatican City, Sep 25, 2018 / 03:49 pm (CNA).- The following is an unofficial transcript of the in-flight press conference on the papal plane returning from Tallinn, Estonia to Rome on Sept. 25, 2018.

Greg Burke: Good evening, Holy Father, and thanks especially. Three countries in four days isn’t so easy. It’s tiring. But, perhaps it’s better than four countries in three days. It seemed a bit like four countries in four days because the first day there was this surprise from China. So, we did a little of this also, we came close to China. Let’s try to remain on the theme and speak about the trip and certainly, we’ll begin with the local journalists from each nation and we’ll try during the press conference to speak about the trip to the Baltics. I don’t know if you want to say something first, or…

Pope Francis: First of all, I’d like to thank you for the work that you’ve done because also for you three countries in four days isn’t easy, especially moving from one place to another is tiring. I thank you so much for the service you offer to the people, the people on this trip because communication is important. What happened there, they are many important things that happened on this trip and I await your questions.

Greg Burke: First is Saulena Ziugzdaite from Lithuania.

Saulena Ziugzdaite (Bernardinai.lt): Holy Father, thank you for this moment and for all of this trip. When you spoke in Vilnius about the Lithuanian soul, you said that we must be a bridge between East and West. But, it’s not easy to be a bridge. You’re always crossed by others. Some say our tragedy is that we are a bridge. Perhaps, one says, it’s decidedly better to go to the part of the West, with its values. But for you, what did you mean, what does it mean to be a bridge?

Pope Francis: Evidently, you are part today politically of the West, of the European Union. You have done much to enter into the European Union, after independence, you immediately did all of your homework, which isn’t easy, and you were able to enter into the European Union, that is, a belonging to the West. But, you also have relations with NATO. You belong to NATO, which speaks of the West. If you look to the East, there is your history- a tough history.

Also, a part of the tragic history came from the West, no? From the Germans, from the Poles, but especially from Nazism, no? It was that which came from the West. From the East, from the Russian Empire. Making bridges means- demands- strength. Strength not only of belonging - that gives you strength - but of one’s own identity. I am aware that the situation of the three Baltic countries is always in danger, always. The fear of invasion, because history itself reminds you of that. You are right when you say it’s not easy, but this is a game that is played every day, step after step, with culture, with dialogue. But, it’s not easy and I believe that the obligation of all of us is to help you in this… not to help you but to be close to you with our hearts.


Greg Burke: The next question comes from Gints Amolins from the radio of Latvia.
Gints Amolins (Latvijas Radio): Good day, Holiness! In the Baltic countries, you spoke often of the importance of roots and identity. From Latvia and also Lithuania and Estonia, there were so many people who left for more prosperous nations, so many already are putting their roots elsewhere and then there is also (inaudible) general demographic problems, of birthrate. So in this situation, what can and must our nations, the leaders of our nations and also everyone personally do? How must we evaluate this problem? Thanks.

Pope Francis: I, in my homeland I didn’t know people from Estonia and from Latvia,, but yes it is very strong, but relatively strong the Lithuanian migration. In Argentina, there are so many of them. And they bring their culture and history there. And they are proud in the double effort of inserting themselves in the new nation and also conserving their identity, in their festivals. There are traditional costumes, traditional songs, and they can always return to their homeland to visit.

I think that the fight for maintaining identity is very strong, and you have that, you have a very strong identity, an identity that was made in suffering, in defense, in work, and in culture. What can be done to defend identity? The recourse to the roots. This is important. It’s an ancient thing, but it is a thing that must be transmitted. Identity is inserted in the belonging to a people. And the belonging to a people must be transmitted. Roots must be transmitted to the new generations and this with education and with dialogue, especially between the old and the young. And, you can transmit this and you must do it because your identity is a treasure. So, every identity is a treasure, but conceived as a belonging to a people. This is what comes to me. I don’t know if you wanted to pose that question.

Greg Burke: And, now Evelyn Kaldoja from Estonia

Evelyn Kaldoja (Postimees): I would like to ask in English so I have to wait for the question. At today’s homily, you mentioned that there is some who shout and hurl threats about using weapons and deploying troops and so on and so on. And, considering where we were, on that very square, there were some NATO soldiers who were deployed to Estonia just to offer assurance and many people there thought probably on the situation on the Eastern border of Europe. How concerned are you about the tensions there and also the Catholics who live there across the border from Europe?

Pope Francis: Violence from weapons and, today, the world costs of weapons are scandalous. I was told that with what is spent on weapons in a month, you could feed the hungry of the world for a year. I don’t know if it’s true. It’s terrible. The industry, the commerce of weapons, also contraband sales of weapons is one of the greatest corruptions. And in the face of this, there is the logic of defense. David was able to defeat with a sling and 5 rocks. But today there are no Davids. And I think that to organize a nation, it must have a reasonable and non-aggressive army of defense. Reasonable and non-aggressive. In this way defense is licit. It’s also an honor to defend the homeland. The problem comes when it becomes aggressive, not reasonable and border wars are waged. On borders wars we have so many examples, not only in Europe. Towards the East, but also in other continents. They fight for power, to colonize a nation. This is my perspective and the answer to your question. The weapons industry is scandalous today before a hungry world. Second, it is licit, reasonable to have an army to defend borders. And this is honorable as it is licit to have the keys to the doors of your home… the defense from attack.

Greg Burke: Thanks, Holy Father. Stefanie Stahlhofen from the Austrian Radio station CIC

Stefanie Stahlhofen (CIC): Holy Father, at the ecumenical encounter in Tallinn, you said that the young people before the sexual scandals don’t see a net condemnation by the Catholic Church. In Germany, precisely today a new investigation came out on the sex abuses and about how the Church treated so many cases.

Pope Francis: About this, I’ll speak after [I speak about] the trip. I will respond, but first questions about the trip. This is the rule. But, it will be the first question after the trip.

(Editor’s note: Discussion ensues about whether or not there are further questions about the trip. Pope Francis insists that the trip receive more attention.)

Pope Francis: People expect information about this trip. After, other questions.

Greg Burke: A Lithuanian is arriving to ask about the trip. Pugagiauskas from Lithuanian television.

Vykintas Pugagiauskas (Lithuanian Radio Television): I would like to speak in English... In all Baltic countries, you professed openness. Openness towards migrants, openness toward the others, but for example, in Lithuania already there was a discussion about a girl that greeted you at the plane and she did not look exactly Lithuanian. She was partly Italian, a bit more black skinned. So, my question is, do the peoples in the Baltic countries only hear what they want to hear from you rather than what you are trying to tell them? Do they hear your message about the openness?

Pope Francis: The message on openness to migrants is rather advanced in your nation. There are no strongly populist views, no... in Estonia and Lithuania are open people that they have the desire to integrate migrants, but not massively because they cannot. To integrate them with prudence of the government. We have spoken with two of the three heads of state on this and they made this argument, not me. And, in the presidents' speeches you will see that the word welcome, openness is frequent... This shows a desire for universality in the measure that they can take... the measure that they are integrated, this is very important, and the measure that is not a threat against their own identity. There are three things that I understood about the migration of the people, and this has touched me a lot: prudent and well-thought openness. I do not know if you were thinking of another thing.

Pugagiauskas: My question is about the reception of your message.

Pope Francis: I think so. In this gift that I say, because today the problem of migrants in all the world, and not only the external migration, but also internal in the continents is a grave problem. It is not easy to study it. In every place, it has different connotations.

Greg Burke: Holy Father, the questions about the trip are finished...

Pope Francis: I would like to tell you some things on some points of the trip that I have experienced with a special strength. The fact of your history, the history of the Baltic countries. It is a story of invasion, of dictatorships, of crimes, of deportations. When I visited the Museum in Vilnius -- “museum” is a word that makes you think of the Louvre, that museum was a prison, it was the prison where political or religious detainees were taken. I saw the cells, the size of this seat, where they could only stay standing, cells of torture. I saw places of torture where with the cold that they have in Lithuania they took naked prisoners and hit them with water and left them there for hours, for hours... to break their endurance. And then I was in the hall, a great room of the executions and they took the prisoners there by force and [killed them] simply with a blow to the nape of the neck, then they brought out [the bodies] with a mechanical stair toward a truck that threw them in the forest, in a spot... they killed around 40 a day. At the end there were around 15 thousand of them they killed there. This makes up a part of the history of Lithuania and also of the other countries, but that which I saw was in Lithuania.   

Then I went to the place of the large ghetto, where they killed thousands of Jews, then in the same afternoon I went to the monument to the Memory of the convicted, killed, tortured, deported. That day, I tell you the truth, I was destroyed. It made me think of the cruelty. But I tell you, with information that we have today, cruelty isn’t over. The same cruelty is found today in many detention centers. Today, it is found in many prisons. Even overpopulation of a prison is a form of torture, to not live with dignity. A prison today that has a system which does not give the detained the hope of leaving is already a torture. Then we saw on the television the cruelties of the ISIS terrorists, that burned alive that pilot from Jordan, slit the throats of those Coptic Christians on the beaches of Libya, and many others. Today, cruelty is not finished. In all the world it is happening. And this message I would like to give to you, as journalists. This is a scandal, a grave scandal of our culture, of our society.

Another thing that I saw in these three countries is the hate of religion, whatever it is. The hate. I saw a Jesuit bishop in Lithuania or Latvia, I do not remember well, that was deported to Siberia for ten years, then arrived to the concentration camp, by then he was old... so many men and women defending their identity were tortured, deported to Siberia, they did not return, they were killed. The faith of these three countries is great. It is a faith that is born from martyrdom and this is a thing that maybe you have seen, speaking with the people, as you journalists do to have news of the country.

Then, this experience of faith, so important, made a unique phenomenon in these countries: an ecumenical life as there is not in other countries generally. It is a true ecumenism, ecumenism between Lutherans, Baptists, Anglicans, even Orthodox. In the cathedral yesterday in the ecumenical service in Latvia, in Riga, we saw it. So great, brothers, very very near, only one Church, close... the ecumenism has its own roots.

Then there is another phenomenon in these countries and it is important to study it: maybe you can make many good things in your jobs studying this: the phenomenon of the transmission of the culture, of identity, and of faith. Usually, the faith was transmitted by the grandparents, why? Because the dads were working, the dads and moms had to work and they had to be radicalized in the party, in the case of the Soviets, or under the line of the Nazism and even atheist educated. But the grandparents knew to transmit the faith and the culture in a time that in Lithuania it was forbidden to use the Lithuanian language and it was removed from the schools, when they went to a religious service, either protestant or Catholic, they took there the prayer books to see if they were in the Lithuanian language or in Russian language or German. So many, a generation, in that period learned the mother tongue from their grandparents, the grandparents that taught them to write or to read the mother tongue. This makes us think: it would be beautiful some articles, some television services on the transmission of the culture, of the language, of the art, of the faith, in moments of dictatorship, of persecution. They could not think themselves as other because all the means of communication in that time were few, the radio, it was grabbed hold of by the state.

When a government becomes or wants to become dictatorial, the first thing that it does is take control of the means of communication. I want to underline this.

And now today I had the meeting with youth. Young people are scandalized, I introduce in this way the first question that was outside the theme of the trip. The young people are scandalized by the hypocrisy of adults. They are scandalized of… They are scandalized by incoherence, they are scandalized by corruption, and into this [scandal] of corruption enters that which you were under-lining: sexual abuse. It is true that it is an accusation against the Church, and we all know, we are all aware of the statistics, I will not say them. But even if it was just one priest who abused a boy or a girl, this is atrocious, because that man was chosen by God to bring… I know that young people are scandalized by such great corruption. They know that it is everywhere, but in the Church it is the most scandalous because it should bring children to God and not destroy them. Young people search to make a way for themselves with experience. The meeting of young people today was very clear: they are asking to be heard. They are asking to be heard. They do not want fixed formulas. They do not want accompaniment, where they are ordered what to do.

The second part of this question that was first after the [questions about the] trip was that the Church does not do the things as it should in this [area], in punishing this corruption.

I take the Pennsylvania report, for example, and we see that the first 70 years there were so many priests that fell into this corruption, then in more recent times it has diminished, because the Church noticed that it needed to fight it in another way. In the old times these things were covered up, they even covered them up at home, when the uncle was molesting the niece, when the dad was molesting his sons, they covered it up because it was a very big disgrace… it was the way of thinking in previous times or of the past time. It is a principle that helps me to interpret history a lot.

A historic event is interpreted with the hermeneutic of the time period in which it took place, not as a hermeneutic of today passed on. For example, the example of indigenous people, that there were so many injustices, so much brutality, but it cannot be interpreted with the hermeneutic of today [now] that we have another conscience. A last example, the death penalty. The Vatican, when it was a State, a pontifical State, had the death penalty. In the end the state decapitations were 1870 more or less, a guy, but then the moral conscience grew, it is true that always there were loopholes and there were hidden death sentences. You are old, you are an inconvenience, I do not give you the medicine, it went so… it is a condemnation to social death. And about today… I believe with this I have responded.

The Church… I take the example of Pennsylvania, watch the correlations and watch when the Church became conscious of this. It dedicated all and recently, I have received so, so many completed convictions from the Doctrine of the Faith and I have said forward, forward, never have I signed a request for grace after a conviction. On this I do not negotiate, there is no negotiation.

Another question? On the trip, it’s over. Pelayo I think wanted to say another thing?

Greg Burke: Antonio Pelayo of Vida Nueva.

Antonio Pelayo (Vida Nueva): Holy Father, three days ago agreement was signed between the Holy See and the government of the Chinese Republic. Can you give us some additional information about its contents, because some Chinese Catholics, in particular Cardinal Zen, are accusing you of having sold the Church to the government of Beijing after so many years of suffering. How do you respond to these accusations?

Pope Francis: This is a process of years, a dialogue between the Vatican commission and the Chinese commission to put the appointment of bishops in order. The Vatican team worked a lot. I would like to say some names: Monsignor Celli (Ed. note: Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli), who with patience went into dialogue. Years. Years! Then, Fr. Rota Graziosi, a humble Curia official of 72 years of age who wants to be a priest, to go in a parish, but he stayed in the Curia to help in this process. And then, the Secretary of State, who is a very devoted man, Cardinal Parolin, but he has a special devotion to the lens, he studies all of the documents down to the period, comma, notes, and this gives me a great assurance. Also, this team with these qualities went ahead. You know that when you make a peace agreement or a negotiation, both sides lose something. This is the law. Both sides. And you move ahead.

This went ahead two steps and back one, two ahead and back one. Then, months passed without speaking to each other and then the time of God, which appears to be [the time of the] Chinese. Slowly. This is wisdom, the wisdom of the Chinese. And the bishops who were in difficulty were studied case by case and in the case of the bishops, in the end dossiers came on to my desk about each one. And, I was responsible for signing the case of the bishops. Then, the case of the agreement returned, the drafts on my desk. They were spoken about. I gave my ideas. The other discussed and went ahead. I think of the resistance, the catholics who have suffered. It’s true. And, they will suffer. Always, in an agreement, there is suffering. They have a great faith. And they write. They make messages arrive that what the Holy See, what Peter says is that which Jesus says. The martyrial faith of these people today goes ahead. They are the greats!

I signed the agreement. At least, the plenipotentiary letters for signing that agreement that I had signed. I am responsible. The others that I appointed in all have worked for more than 10 years. It’s not an improvisation. It’s a path, a true path.

Then, a simple anecdote and a historical datum, two things to finish. When there was that famous communique of an ex-Apostolic Nuncio, the episcopates of the world wrote me, saying clearly that they felt close, that they were praying for me. The Chinese faithful wrote and the signature of this writ was from a bishop, let’s say it this way, of the traditional Catholic Church and from a bishop of the Patriotic Church, together and faithful, both of them. For me, it was a sign from God.

An anecdote as well: we forget that in Latin America - thanks to God that this is over - we forget that for 350 years it was the king of Portugal and of Spain to appoint the bishops and the Pope only gave jurisdiction. We forget the case of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Maria Teresa was tired of signing the appointments of bishops and gave jurisdiction to the Vatican Other times, and thanks to God that they aren’t repeated. But, this isn’t that they appoint. No, this is a dialogue about eventual candidates but Rome appoints, the Pope appoints. And, let us pray for the suffering of some who don’t understand and who have at their backs so many years of being clandestine.

Thank you very much. They tell us that dinner is ready and the flight isn’t any longer. Thanks so much, thanks so much for your work and pray for me.

Greg Burke: Thanks to you, Holy Father. Have a good dinner and a good rest.

 

 

 

Pope Francis takes responsibility for China deal

Aboard the papal plane, Sep 25, 2018 / 03:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis took responsibility Tuesday for the agreement between the Holy See and the People's Republic of China, noting that in any such negotiation, “both sides lose something.”

He was asked about the agreement Sept. 25 during the flight from Tallinn to Rome by Antonio Pelayo of Vida Nueva.

The agreement on the appointment of bishops in mainland China was signed Sept. 22 in Beijing. It will allow for bishops who are in communion with the Holy Father and at the same time are recognized by the Chinese government.

Francis said the agreement was the fruit of a dialogue that has taken several years.

“The Vatican team worked a lot,” he said. He noted the efforts of Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for social Communications; Fr. Rota Graziosi, an official of the Roman curia; and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State.

Cardinal Parolin, he said, “has a special devotion to the lens; he studies all of the documents down to the period, comma, notes, and this gives me a great assurance.”

“You know that when you make a peace agreement or a negotiation, both sides lose something,” Pope Francis reflected. “This is the law. Both sides. And you move ahead.”

The Bishop of Rome said that the dialogue which led to the agreement was a process of going two steps forward and one step back. “Then, months passed without speaking to each other and then the time of God, which appears to be [the time of the] Chinese. Slowly. This is wisdom, the wisdom of the Chinese.”

He said that “the bishops who were in difficulty were studied case-by-case,” and that “dossiers came on to my desk about each one. And I was responsible for signing the case of the bishops.”

Following this, drafts of the agreement were put on his desk, Pope Francis said. They were discussed and “I gave my ideas.”

“I think of the resistance, the Catholics who have suffered. It’s true. And they will suffer. Always, in an agreement, there is suffering. They have a great faith.”

He said they have written him, saying that “what the Holy See, what Peter says, is that which Jesus says. The martyrial faith of these people today goes ahead. They are the great ones!”

“I signed the agreement,” Pope Francis stated. “I am responsible.”

“The others, whom I appointed, in all have worked for more than 10 years. It’s not an improvisation. It’s a path, a true path.”

He noted that after a “famous communique of an ex-apostolic nuncio, the episcopates of the world wrote me, saying clearly that they felt close, that they were praying for me.”

“The Chinese faithful wrote and the signature of this writ was from a bishop, let’s say it this way, of the traditional Catholic Church and from a bishop of the patriotic Church, together and faithful, both of them. For me, it was a sign from God,” Pope Francis stated.

The pope also recalled, saying “thanks be to God that this is over”, that in Latin America “for 350 years it was for the king of Portugal and of Spain to appoint the bishops, and the Pope only gave jurisdiction.”

“We forget the case of the Austro-Hungarian Empire: Maria Teresa was tired of signing the appointments of bishops and gave jurisdiction to the Vatican. These were other times, and thanks be to God that they aren’t repeated.”

He stated that under the agreement with China, the Chinese government will not appoint the bishops: “No, this is a dialogue about eventual candidates but Rome appoints, the Pope appoints.”

“And let us pray for the suffering of some who don’t understand, and who have behind them so many years of being clandestine.”

Announcing the deal on Saturday, the Holy See had said that “the shared hope is that this agreement may favor a fruitful and forward-looking process of institutional dialogue and may contribute positively to the life of the Catholic Church in China, to the common good of the Chinese people and to peace in the world.”

Beijing established the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association in 1957 to regulate Catholics living in China, and Catholics in the country have been divided between members of the patriotic Church and the “underground Church”.

The agreement between the Holy See and the People's Republic is meant to end the split between the patriotic and underground Churches.

The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association is under the day-to-day direct supervision of the Chinese Communist Party since a March 2018 decision by which the Chinese government shifted direct control of religious affairs to the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department.

In recent years, Chinese authorities have cracked down on underground Christian churches, as well as on Muslims throughout western provinces.

Government cancels controversial FDA contract for aborted remains

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2018 / 02:45 pm (CNA).- The Department of Health and Human Services has announced the termination of a contract between the Food and Drug Administration and Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. The news comes after members of Congress and pro-life advocates expressed concern about the research goals of the experiment.

The announcement was made Sept. 24 in a statement posted on the HHS departmental website.

“After a recent review of a contract between Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. and the Food and Drug Administration to provide human fetal tissue to develop testing protocols, HHS was not sufficiently assured that the contract included the appropriate protections applicable to fetal tissue research or met all other procurement requirements,” the statement read.

“As a result, that contract has been terminated, and HHS is now conducting an audit of all acquisitions involving human fetal tissue to ensure conformity with procurement and human fetal tissue research laws and regulations.”

The department also announced a “comprehensive review” of any research involving fetal tissue, and that it will be seeking “adequate alternatives” to avoid the use of human fetal tissue altogether.

HHS will, the statement said, “ensure that efforts to develop such alternatives are funded and accelerated.”

In July, the Food and Drug Administration signed a $15,900 contract with Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. (ABR) to procure fetal tissues obtained from elective abortions. The tissue was to be used in the creation of “humanized mice.” The mice would be injected with the tissues, causing them to develop an immune system similar to that of a human for the purposes of clinical testing. This is called a “chimeric animal.”

After news of the deal was reported, several members of Congress spoke out in a letter requesting that the FDA terminate the contract. The letter raised concerns that ABR may have violated federal law concerning the sale of fetal remains.

In 2016, the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Senate Judiciary Committee both investigated ABR as part of a larger inquiery into the fetal tissue industry.

ABR admitted to “upselling” certain fetal parts for a larger fee.

“In light of the serious unresolved questions uncovered by the investigative work of both the House and Senate panels, we are alarmed that the FDA has continued to award contracts to ABR for the procurement of human fetal tissue,” the legislators wrote.

The letter also called for an end to the use of fetal remains in scientific research.

"The practice of conducting research using the body parts of children whose lives have been violently ended by abortion is abhorrent.”

March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said in a statement Tuesday that, while she is thankful that HHS had ended the “horrific” contract with ABR, the move was “just a first step” and that the federal government continued to use fetal remains in experiments.

Speaking to CNA, Mancini said she was “grateful to Secretary Azar and HHS for terminating this unconscionable government contract," but stressed that there was more to be done.

"The majority of the controversy and taxpayer money is focused on National Institutes of Health, where the director, Frances Collins, has voiced support for this inhumane experimentation," she told CNA.

"Despite videos from Center for Medical Progress unmasking the illicit baby parts trade, this grisly industry continues to be propped up by massive amounts of federal money. All of it should be redirected toward successful and life-affirming alternatives.”

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser was grateful that this particular contract had been canceled, but said it was a “completely inadequate” response to the larger scandal of aborted remains being purchased with public money.

"Secretary Azar must put an immediate moratorium on funding for research using aborted baby organs and tissue purchased from the abortion industry,” said Dannenfelser, who called for tax dollars to be diverted to “ethical alternatives” that have produced successful results in patients.

Pro-life leaders welcome UK decision to reject abortion clinic buffer zones

London, England, Sep 25, 2018 / 01:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic leaders and pro-life advocates in England and Wales are praising the government’s decision not to impose buffer zones around abortion clinics throughout the territory, allowing peaceful protests to continue.

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid rejected proposals for buffer zones around abortion clinics throughout England and Wales as disproportionate in a Sept. 13 decision, after finding that most abortion protests are peaceful and passive. He added that there were “relatively few” reports of “aggressive activities”, and noted that in 2017, only 36 of the 363 hospitals and clinics in England and Wales that offer abortions have experienced pro-life demonstrations near their facilities.

Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster praised the Home Office’s “proportionate” decision in a Sept. 17 statement.

“It should not be necessary to limit the freedom of individuals or groups to express opinions except when they could cause grave harm to others or a threat to public order,” Bishop Sherrington said.

“The freedom to assemble and express concern for both the good of the mother and the unborn person is an aspect of the furthering of the common good which involves the care for the unborn, whom we believe must be protected from harm.”

Bishop Sherrington also acknowledged Javid’s point that while “peaceful, dignified” protest is to be commended and makes up the great majority of what takes place, the forceful harassment of women outside clinics must end.

“It is an unacceptable situation if any people harass or intimidate women visiting clinics, even if such situations are rare,” the bishop said. “It is clearly not the case that all action is of this nature, and the distinctions between persons and groups should be examined further.”

Dr. John Edwards of Nottingham 40 Days for Life, a pro-life group in the East Midlands, echoed Bishop Sherrington’s sentiments. Edwards was issued a court injunction by the Nottingham City Council ahead of a planned protest in March, which was subsequently thrown out by a judge.

"As Sajid Javed pointed out, the police already have powers to prevent any abusive behaviour,” Edwards told the Nottingham Post Sept. 23. “Nottingham police have consistently confirmed that our prayer vigil has always been completely peaceful and respectful.”

The decision to reject nationwide buffer zones comes after the High Court of England and Wales upheld a buffer zone imposed by Ealing Council, in west London, around a Marie Stopes abortion clinic. The zone prevents any pro-life gathering or speech, including prayer, within about 330 feet of the clinic. The Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) governing the zone is temporary and must be renewed in three year’s time, with a review to be held after six months.

Two pro-life London women are working to have the decision appealed, including Alina Dulgheriu, who chose to forgo an abortion at the Ealing clinic in question after being offered pro-life support.

Catholics in DR Congo continue to press for credible elections

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sep 25, 2018 / 12:44 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As the Democratic Republic of the Congo prepares to hold a general election in December, after a two-year delay, Catholics in the capital continue to be activists to encourage a peaceful transition of power.

Last month president Joseph Kabila announced he would step down after 17 years in power. The announcement follows years of protests, supported by Catholics bishops, against the delaying of elections.

Kabila has been ruling in defiance of term limits, remaining president two years after he was required to leave office in 2016.

General elections have been scheduled for Dec. 23.

A Mass was held in Kinshasa's Our Lady of the Congo Cathedral Sept. 19 to commemorate those who died in protests against Kabila in 2016.

The Catholic Lay Committee, a group of lay Catholic activists, organized three protests calling for Kabila to step down after an earlier cancellation of general elections.

Isidor Ndaywel, a member of the group, told La Croix earlier this month that “Kabila’s decision not to stand for a third term was, without doubt, influenced by the church.”

Hesitations about the legitimacy of the scheduled elections remain. The Congolese bishops wrote to the UN Security Council last month with concerns, including the electoral commission's decision not to allow some opposition parties' candidates to stand; irregularities of electoral rolls; and the reliability of electronic voting machines.

In early August, security forces fired on opposition protesters with live ammunition and teargas during candidate registration.

The bishops have also appealed to the South African Development Community to help ensure free elections.

Jonas Tshiombela, a spokesman for the Catholic Lay Committee, said that “we want the pre-electoral environment to be safe enough before going to the December vote,” Voice of America reported Sept. 23.

“For now, it is not the case. The contest is filled with uncertainties and irregularities and under such conditions a credible and fair election can’t be held. This the main point of our fight

The Congolese government has accused both the bishops and western governments for interfering in domestic politics.

Both the bishops and lay people alike have been very outspoken critics of Congolese political corruption. The Catholic leadership previously negotiated agreements between Kabila and the opposition, and then actively supported the protests against Kabila when he broke the agreement’s terms.

The Catholic Church is well-respected in the DRC and Catholics make up about 40 percent of the country’s population. Catholic clergy in the Congo are known for courageously standing up to corrupt leaders, such as Mobutu Sese Seko, the DRC’s military dictator from 1965 to 1997.

An estimated five million people were killed between 1997 and 2003 in ethnic violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo under Joseph Kabila’s father, Laurent Kabila, who violently overthrew Mobutu. Joseph Kabila took power in 2001 at age of 29 after the assassination of his father.