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Renowned journalist Cokie Roberts, lifelong Catholic, dies at age 75

IMAGE: CNS photo/Randy Sager, ABC photo archives

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Cokie Roberts, a broadcast journalist and political commentator who spoke publicly about her Catholic faith and her admiration for the Sacred Heart sisters who taught her, died Sept. 17 due to complications from breast cancer. She was 75.

Roberts, who died at her home in Bethesda, Maryland, was an Emmy award-winning reporter, author and frequent keynote speaker at Catholic college graduations. She was described as "a true pioneer for women in journalism," by James Goldston, president of ABC News, her longtime employer. He said her "kindness, generosity, sharp intellect and thoughtful take on the big issues of the day made ABC a better place and all of us better journalists."

She was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame and was listed one of the 50 greatest women in the history of broadcasting by the American Women in Radio and Television. She also was named a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress in 2008.

Roberts started her radio career at CBS and in 1978 began working for NPR covering Capitol Hill, where she continued to work as a political commentator until her death. Roberts joined ABC News in 1988 and during her three decades there, she was a political commentator, chief congressional analyst and co-anchor with Sam Donaldson of the news program "This Week" from 1996 to 2002.

She was born in New Orleans in 1943 with the full name Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs and was nicknamed "Cokie" by her brother.

Roberts attended Catholic schools in New Orleans and Bethesda, run by the sisters of the Society of the Sacred Heart. During her career, she also wrote eight books, including a book with her husband, Steve Roberts, also a journalist, called "From This Day Forward'' about their interfaith marriage. Steve is Jewish.

Cokie Roberts' roots are both political and Catholic. She is the daughter of Hale Boggs, the former Democratic House majority leader and representative from New Orleans, who died in a plane crash in 1972. Her mother, Lindy, was elected to fill his seat and served nine terms. Lindy Boggs, who died in 2013, was appointed U.S. ambassador to the Vatican in 1997, a post she held until 2001.

Over the years, Roberts addressed big Catholic gatherings including those of the National Catholic Educational Association, Catholic Charities USA and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

In a 2014 interview with America magazine by Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh, who died the following year, Roberts said: "There is no way to talk about my faith absent the Society of the Sacred Heart. The women who were my teachers and remain my dear friends mean the world to me. They took girls seriously in the 1950s -- a radical notion, so there was never any 'grown-up' need to reject them, only to thank them -- and they keep the faith."

When asked about her family's Catholic and Democratic background, Roberts said it's "an interesting balancing act in all kinds of ways to try to convince people that I am a fair-minded journalistic observer while coming from a family that has been strongly identified for many decades both politically and religiously."

She said she also had made clear her "continuing commitment to Catholicism -- as opposed to many who say, 'I was raised Catholic.'" She said she didn't think she had been "discriminated against officially" as a Catholic woman, but she also answered the question about this with her own question: "Are there people in this society still who think that to be a believer is to be a little bit simpleminded? Sure. And to be a Catholic, still a little simpler still? Yes," she said.

That didn't stop her though from being public about the role of faith in her life and in others' lives.

During a 2009 LCWR meeting in New Orleans, she told the sisters that their vitality extends beyond their numbers and can best be seen in the lasting effects they have had on students and others they are serving.

"You wonderful, holy, awe-inspiring women -- you women of spirit -- have taught us well. Your teaching will go on, constantly creating a better world for the people of God, corralling the chaos to create a better quality of life for others that you can be proud of."

She also praised the church's efforts to help the poor at a 2006 Catholic Charities USA convention in Minneapolis where she said: "It seems to me that your issues are actually the ones that Jesus talked about." She also challenged the conference participants to educate parishioners about the "option for the poor," a Catholic social teaching that puts the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

Roberts is survived by her husband, her children, Lee and Rebecca, and her six grandchildren.

A statement released by her family said she will be missed "beyond measure, both for her contributions and for her love and kindness."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Jurors deadlock in trial of priest accused of molestation

A Kansas jury was unable to reach a verdict in the trial of a Kansas priest who was suspended from the ministry after he was accused of inappropriately touching a young girl on two occasions.

Massachusetts bishops say action is urgently needed on climate change

Boston, Mass., Sep 17, 2019 / 12:25 pm (CNA).- The bishops of Massachusetts warned in a new pastoral letter that climate change has reached a crisis level and requires decisive action. They encouraged Catholics to embrace the message of stewardship in Pope Francis 2015 encyclical, Laudato si’.

“In our home state of Massachusetts, we are blessed with inspiring natural beauty from the seashore on the east coast to the majestic mountain vistas in the west - with rolling hills, vibrant communities and rich farmlands throughout the state,” the bishops said.

They encouraged the faithful to reflect on this created beauty as a gift from God.

“To protect and sustain this gift we must act now within our faith institutions and throughout the state to take substantial, meaningful steps to protect our environmental [sic] and provide relief from the impact of toxic pollution and climate change to protect the health and safety of all citizens, particularly the most vulnerable in our society,” they said.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Bishop Edgar da Cunha of Fall River, and Bishop Mitchell Rozanski of Springfield released a pastoral letter this week. They cited reports indicating that climate change has reached a point of unprecedented urgency.

This past July was the hottest month ever recorded, according to the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, which found that worsening wildfires, hurricanes and heat waves could continue affecting the United States, leading to a more than $400 billion impact on the U.S. economy each year, if climate change is not addressed.

The bishops also noted that world food security is at risk, due to changes in climate, according the United Nations, which estimates that there may be as little as 12 years to significantly cut global emissions in order to limit the rising temperature of the earth and prevent more catastrophic consequences.

The Massachusetts bishops pointed to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’: On Care for Our Common Home as a model to follow in working to fight climate change.

In that encyclical, Pope Francis warns of increasing global temperatures and rising sea levels, saying, “Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.”

With an eye to the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, the Massachusetts bishops called on individuals, schools, parishes and businesses to examine what they can do to be better stewards of the created world around them.

“Every person’s actions will depend on their life circumstance and their commitment to protect our natural resources,” they said.

“Families should discuss their concerns about the environment and how their lifestyle and consumption is contributing to the climate changes and other environmental degradation. Parishes should integrate Catholic social teaching on the environment in their liturgy and in their religious education program,” they continued.

“Action is needed at all levels of government to encourage replacement of fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy while ensuring that the most vulnerable in society are protected from harm during this transition.”

The bishops echoed Pope Francis’ call for an “integral ecology,” saying that such an ecology “respects the dignity of each person, identifies a moral obligation to protect the environment, and promotes social justice by supporting responsible economic development with respect for all people and the earth.”

Synod for the Amazon about more than married priests

For Pope Francis, the Amazon is important because it touches on so many themes of his papacy: concern for the marginalized, evangelization and protection of the environment. 

Vatican City prosecutor asks that Italian priest be charged with sexual abuse during seminary

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2019 / 11:55 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Tuesday that the Vatican City State’s Promoter of Justice has requested the indictment two Italian priests -- Fr. Gabriele Martinelli on charges of sexual abuse and Fr. Enrico Radice for “aiding and abetting.”

In 2012, Martinelli was accused of having, over a period of five years, sexually molested his roommate at the Vatican’s St. Pius X minor seminary, in which, in addition to seminarians, also live boys who altar serve for papal liturgical celebrations in St. Peter’s Basilica.

That allegation was reported by the Associated Press in 2018, and by Italian journalists in 2017. The initial handling of the case by the Vatican was severely criticized -- Kamil Jarzembowski, the former student who had made the allegation, was dismissed from the seminary while the alleged abuser, Martinelli, was ordained a priest in 2017.

Charges are also being brought against Fr. Enrico Radice, who was rector of the minor seminary at the time of the alleged abuse, for alleged “aiding and abetting.”

According to the Vatican statement, an investigation into the accusations was begun in November 2017, following media reports, but, according to the statement, the Vatican City State’s operative law at the time prevented a trial from taking place without a complaint from the alleged victim within one year of the alleged abuse.

The statement says the charges may now be brought forward because on June 29, Pope Francis made a special provision that would allow the case to proceed.

Martinelli, 26, is a priest in the Diocese of Como, in northern Italy and a member of the “Opera don Folci,” a religious association centered on the formation of priests. He is still listed on the diocesan website, but a parish is not indicated.

Italian media reported in early August that the prosecutor’s office in Rome is also close to indicting Martinelli on charges of abuse with the aggravating circumstance of abuse of power.

In comments published in early July, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano criticized the Vatican's handling of two cases of alleged sexual abuse, including the case of Martinelli.

Vigano claimed the case was “immediately covered up by the then-bishop of Como, Diego Coletti, together with Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Vicar General of Pope Francis for Vatican City.  In addition, Cardinal Coccopalmerio, then president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, who was consulted by Don Stabellini, strongly admonished him to stop the investigation.”

The former nuncio did not mention that the Church had since launched a new canonical investigation into the allegations. That investigation was triggered when the alleged victim came forward to make a complaint himself, according to a July 2018 AP report.

 

Ed. note: This story has been updated to clarify that the promoter of justice has requested the indictment of the two priests.

 

Archbishop Gomez to present conclusions of V Encuentro to Pope Francis

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2019 / 11:19 am (CNA).- A delegation from the U.S., including Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, will present the conclusions and proceedings of the National V Encuentro of Hispanic and Latino Ministry to Pope Francis Wednesday.

The Encuentro was a September 2018 meeting of around 3,000 Hispanic and Latino Catholics on issues such as the accompaniment of immigrants, access to higher education, lay leadership formation, community outreach, and evangelization.

The four-day meeting was a culmination of four years of consultation and workshops at the parish, diocesan, and regional levels of the Church in the U.S. The theme was “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of the love of God”.

Archbishop Gomez told CNA that the Encuentro helped “Latinos to understand that they really belong in the United States and they are bringing their gifts to our society.”

“I think it was beautiful to see their participation and the reality that we need them to be leaders in our community,” he said. “They are totally committed to the life, society in the United States and making a contribution to every single aspect of life in the United States and especially the values of the Gospel.”

He added that the Latino community bring with them a commitment to Christian values that are at the foundation of their own countries.

Gomez also urged U.S. Catholics to pray more for the government to reach a solution on comprehensive immigration reform.

The archbishop comes with a delegation of 12 people, including Bishops Nelson Pérez of Cleveland and Arturo Cepeda, an auxiliary bishop of Detroit, who will meet Pope Francis after the Sept. 18 General Audience.

The group has also had meetings with Vatican offices and dicasteries during their visit Sept. 13-18.

Pope Francis sent a video message at the start of the Encuentro last year, and Gomez said, “the first thing” he would like to do is thank the pope “for the assistance he sent and also for his support during this time.”

Gomez, who is vice president of the U.S. bishops’ conference and a Mexico native, said the group will present to Francis a document summarizing what different people experienced at the meeting and practical ways to follow-up the process.

“The Encuentro has been a beautiful process, that’s what we want to share with [Pope Francis] and everybody else,” Gomez said.

“It’s been a beautiful exercise of how to especially get the Latino community involved in the life of the Church. So that’s what we want to share with him.”

Bishop Perez is chairman of the USCCB Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church. He told CNA that some of the fruit of Encuentro has been the “emerging leadership, in so many ways, of the next generation of leaders and pastoral lay leaders in the church in the United States.”

On the parish level, he said, 3,000 parishes and 350,000 Catholics participated in the Encuentro process over the last several years.

He said the emergence of new leadership, especially young adults, was immediately apparent. “That was really promising and very hopeful.”

Junuee Castro, the director of youth and young adult ministry in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, seconded this. She told CNA the diocesan Encuentro meetings were very meaningful for her and that “young people have raised their hands and said yes, I am willing to go forward, I am willing to commit; I definitely want to see them in leadership roles.”

Bishop Perez also noted that 250 U.S. parishes started Spanish pastoral outreach and began holding Spanish Masses as a result of the V Encuentro. He added that they have also seen several dioceses establish and staff offices with new lay leaders.

“The V Encuentro is really in so many ways the implementation of the joy of the Gospel. So the whole process, the spirit, the mysticism of the spirituality revolves all around the joy of the Gospel,” Perez said.

He pointed to Pope Francis’ description, in Evangelii gaudium, of the Church “as a community of missionary disciples that takes initiative, that accompanies, that is engaged, that is fruitful, that is joyful.”

“This is the spirit of the V Encuentro,” he said.

Noting that deportations have taken place in his diocese, Perez said one of the blessings of the V Encuentro was that “it comes at a time of that uncertainty and fear and became, in so many ways, a soothing balm where people would come together and support each other, accompany each other and strengthen each other in a very tumultuous time.”

The delegation meeting with Pope Francis includes lay USCCB staff, members of the National V Encuentro Team, and other delegates with experience in diocesan and parish ministry.

Castro said, “what the Church can do is what the Encuentro process has done for us. They have paused and listened to us.”

“They have listened to us, which is key to anything we want to do as a Church; the mode of listening and accompaniment definitely. Being accompanied and being mentored by those who have been in ministerial roles we need their advice and we are willing to walk with them and them with us.”

Delegates and married couple Mario and Paola Martinez are co-directors of the marriage and family life ministry in the Diocese of San Bernardino. They said they serve a range of people in their work, and it has been critical for them to see way in which mothers and fathers seek help for themselves and their families.

“They have this desire for their families to be healthy, for their families to find this peace and they just want the best for their families. That’s what we see, that passion for family life among our Hispanic community. They have a love for their families and for their traditions and their cultures and you can just feel that in the communities that we serve,” Paola said.

Vatican prosecutors request indictment of Italian priest on charges of sexual abuse

Vatican prosecutors have requested the indictment of an Italian priest on charges of sexual abuse that occurred at least seven years ago at a minor seminary located within the Vatican walls.

Louisville's Archbishop Kurtz will return to Kentucky before cancer surgery

Denver, Colo., Sep 17, 2019 / 10:03 am (CNA).- Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, who announced in July a diagnosis of the most common form of bladder cancer, said Sept. 16 that his surgeon will allow him to return to his diocese around Oct. 20 for three weeks.

Kurtz, who served as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2013 to 2016, has been staying in North Carolina for the duration of his treatment at the Duke University Cancer Institute.

“This date will mark the completion of the chemotherapy and immunotherapy and will allow me to be strengthened for the radical surgery that will occur at the Duke Cancer Institute on November 11,” Kurtz wrote on his blog.

“After the surgery, I hope to be released by my surgeon at Thanksgiving.”

Kurtz stepped down from leading the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ religious liberty committee a few weeks after announcing his diagnosis. Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Massachusetts, has been appointed as his replacement and will serve as acting chair of the committee until the November 2019 General Assembly meeting.

Kurtz said he has been sad to miss the many visits he would typically take throughout the summer to the various parishes in the archdiocese. He asked for continued prayers.

“While urothelial carcinoma is somewhat common, the form I have and its location is not,” he continued.

“Because of the aggressive nature of the cancer, I will be required to have this radical surgery on November 11 and should find out by Thanksgiving what ongoing treatment or limitations will be present.”

Kurtz said in July that Archbishop Christoph Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, was aware of his illness and imminent absence from his archdiocese, and was “supportive of the plan I have developed.”

He said his vicar general, Father Martin Linebach, traveled to North Carolina recently to “continue to develop pastoral directions on the horizons before us,” and next week diocesan Chancellor Dr. Brian Reynolds, Chancellor, and Vicar for Priests Father Jeff Shooner will visit North Carolina for additional discussions about pastoral issues for the fall.

He said his stamina remains good but he must still avoid crowds because of the risk of infection.

According to the American Cancer Society, urothelial carcinoma is the most common form of bladder cancer. The five-year relative survival rates for all stages of bladder cancer is 77 percent.

 

Leaders hope compensation plan brings some healing, hope to survivors

A new private independent program set up to compensate victim-survivors of child sexual abuse by priests was rolled out Sept. 16 in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and five other participating Catholic dioceses in California.

U.S. delegation brings V Encuentro results to pope, Vatican

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A delegation of U.S. bishops and laypeople came to Rome to share with Pope Francis and Vatican officials the joyful experiences and valuable recommendations that came out of last year's Fifth National Encuentro.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Catholic News Service that he was looking forward to announcing "the good news" about what they've learned and how the process has been unfolding.

"When we talked to the Holy Father" as they were still preparing for the September 2018 event, the archbishop said forming and inspiring missionary disciples across the nation "was our dream, and now we can share with him that it is happening."

Archbishop Gomez along with Bishop Nelson J. Perez of Cleveland, chairman of the USCCB committee on cultural diversity in the church, and Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Cepeda of Detroit, chairman of the subcommittee on Hispanic affairs, led a delegation to the Vatican Sept. 13-18. They were presenting the "Proceedings and Conclusions of the Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry," and they spoke with CNS Sept. 16.

The materials they have been sharing offer a summary of the challenges, opportunities, recommendations and successful practices when it comes to pastoral care and accompaniment of Hispanic and Latino communities in the United States and their call to be missionary disciples.

The national gathering of V Encuentro in Grapevine, Texas, was a historic gathering of Hispanic/Latino leaders in ministry, delegates from dioceses, church movements, schools and Catholic organizations from across the United States. The bishops estimated more than 1 million Catholics had participated in parish, diocesan and regional encuentros in the two years prior to the Grapevine meeting.

One of the things they are telling the Vatican, Archbishop Gomez said, is that "Latinos in the United States are excited about their faith."

"The church in the United States is alive, it's a young church" with an estimated 50 percent of Catholics who are 18 or younger being of Hispanic or Latino origin, Bishop Cepeda told CNS.

"It is wonderful," he said. "They are bringing in the future of the church, but at the same time, they are the 'now' of the church," which brings "a lot of joy and hope."  

Bishop Perez told CNS he's telling Vatican officials how excited people are to "actually be missionary disciples" going to places Pope Francis has called "the peripheries." People have been going "to places where the church isn't always present," he said, like prisons and street corners, and to those who may feel disenfranchised, like young people and undocumented workers.

"The political climate in the United States with immigration and our undocumented brothers and sisters has been very challenging, in fact, very painful," Bishop Perez said.

But the encuentro process, which began at the grassroots level in 1972, "providentially created the space, the forum, for people to come together and share their uncertainty, their fear and feel the support, the warmth of a Christian community," he said.

Bishop Cepeda said this moment has prompted the church to be "the voice of the voiceless. It's a moment for us to bring them out of the shadows, to be able to work for a reform, an immigration reform that is integral and that does not separate families."

"We want to be the voice of a nation that welcomes immigrants and we will be the ones transforming our church and our nation if we do so," he said.

Archbishop Gomez said the increasing presence of Hispanic and Latino Catholics and the work and visibility of the encuentros is "helping Latinos to understand they are an integral part of the life of the church and the life of society in the United States and it's calling them for leadership."

"I hope that helps everybody in the United States see that Latinos really want to participate in the life of society and that brings real immigration reform in our country," the archbishop said.

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Editors: "Proceedings and Conclusions of the Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry" was to be available for sale in October at the USCCB online store store.usccb.org/default.asp.
Other related tools and resources will be posted on the V Encuentro website: vencuentro.org/

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]