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In final presidential address, Cardinal DiNardo urges new beginning

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Carol Zimmermann

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- In his final address as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston told his fellow bishops that it has been "an honor to serve you, even in the difficult times."

The 70-year-old prelate thanked the bishops, whom he called brothers, for the last three years and was thanked by them in return when the group gave him a standing ovation at the end of his nine-minute presentation Nov. 11 at the start of the bishops' annual fall meeting in Baltimore.

"Let's begin anew," he said, at the close of his address, veering away from prepared remarks, and quoting St. Augustine.

The cardinal, who suffered a mild stroke earlier this year, did not elaborate on specifics of the abuse crisis in the church, particularly highlighted this past year, but spoke of the bishops' continued work of transparency related to dealing with the crisis. He said the abuse measures adopted by U.S. bishops at their meeting last June are "only a beginning. More needs to be done."

He also pointed out that Pope Francis has "ushered in a new era for bishop accountability" with worldwide measures of accountability.

"My service as president has been a continual reminder that, indeed, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it," he said, possibly alluding to challenges beyond the walls of the church. At the end of his talk, he spoke about how today's culture has been overtaken by various ideologies, political divisions and coarse rhetoric.

"As the followers of Christ, let us take a different path. Follow a simple truth: God is always courteous. Let us be courteous," he urged the bishops.

The cardinal highlighted key aspects of the work of the U.S. church that he witnessed firsthand in visits during the past few years with Catholic volunteers and migrants at the border, pro-life efforts to protect the unborn and his own conversations with those who had been abused by church leaders.

He said he went to the border with fellow bishops because "Jesus was already there."

Speaking to broader audience, he invited "everyone who may hear this to share our journey of solidarity with migrants and refugees."

He praised the work of volunteers at the border and also for those working at pregnancy centers around the country and those working in public policy arena promoting health care that is comprehensive enough to "nurture every child's right to life."

Again, speaking to those who might be watching the meeting, the cardinal urged women considering an abortion to call a Catholic parish where they would be provided with potential resources to help.

"The continued fight to defend unborn children" is a significant challenge and the church will continue in this work, he said, as long as "long as the most innocent lives are left unprotected."

On the issue of clergy sexual abuse, he said his life had been "forever changed" by meeting with abuse survivors, saying even though some in the church didn't listen to them, they refused to be "relegated to the shadows."

Their witness, he said, not only brought help to other survivors but it also "fueled the resolve" of fellow bishops to respond with pastoral support and prevention programs, background checks and zero tolerance policies. Survivors have "empowered us with the knowledge needed to respond," he said.

"We must never stop striving for this justice" for those abused within the church, and to work to be sure it never happens in the future, he stressed.

The cardinal also said the U.S. church must continue to correct clericalism, saying church leaders must be servants of all and said the church must continue its efforts of evangelism, particularly the work begun through the process of Encuentro gatherings across the country.

At his closing address at last year's fall meeting, Cardinal DiNardo said he opened the meeting expressing some disappointment but said he ended it with hope, referring to his announcement at the start of that meeting that the Vatican wanted the bishops to delay any vote on their response to the abuse crisis until after a global meeting focusing on the issue took place.

During a Nov. 11 news conference during the first day of the 2019 fall meeting, the cardinal said that he was 85% recovered from his stroke this spring.

He also reiterated that he still has the hope he had a year ago and that he had expressed at the beginning of his term as president, but he also acknowledged he had no idea three years ago the "rough ride" he would face.

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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]

Rural-urban convenings suggested to address plague of gun violence

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, said Catholic clergy and lay leaders can play a role in bringing together people along the rural-urban divide to build understanding of the need for sensible policies that can end the scourge of gun violence.

His call came during a 20-minute presentation Nov. 11, the first day of the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Bishop Dewane, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, outlined the USCCB's long-held stance of the need for "common sense" legislation that governs the availability of guns. But he also said it was time for people to come together so that there is greater understanding of how gun violence affects urban communities in particular.

The bishop afterward told Catholic News Service that the USCCB's work on the legislative front was important, but that a pastoral response to gun violence was needed.

"It's time for a different approach," he said.

He pointed to the need to address gun violence, which has ravaged many urban centers, while acknowledging the legitimate concerns among responsible gun owners of losing access to firearms for hunting or, in some cases, protection.

Since 1975, the USCCB has issued a series of statements and pastoral letters addressing gun violence. Individual bishops, in their capacity as chairmen of USCCB committees, have sent letters to Congress outlining the conference's concern that lives are being needless lost because of the widening availability of guns, including military-style weapons.

However, Dewane's call goes beyond legislative efforts and appears to open the door for church leaders to seek a common ground in addressing gun violence.

"Human life is sacred ... and we need to approach this with the full strength of our teaching," he told the assembly.

Bishop Dewane also said the USCCB is not seeking a total limit to handguns, but would welcome broader background checks and some limits on gun ownership.

Over the years, he said, the bishops have supported "common sense" actions such as an assault weapon ban, limits on large capacity magazines, a federal law to criminalize gun trafficking, mandatory gun lock and safe storage requirements, improved access to mental health services and assessment of the impact of the portrayal of violence in various media on society.

Such common sense restrictions on guns would be no different than those already in place on prescription drugs and drivers. But they also are not the full solution, he suggested.

"Such regulations are helpful, but they will not ban gun violence completely. For that to happen, we need new ways of thinking. At the heart of the epidemic is a shooter. That shooter some how in some way turns inward on pain or isolation or illusions that it becomes possible to become desensitized to others, that he loses all empathy," he said.

The bishop urged society to look at the "danger signs in others that can lead to the loss of empathy (and see) early signs of self-inwardness."

"As a society we have become less and less empathetic ourselves, a clear sign that we all are, to a degree, becoming dangerous."

Bishop Dewane noted that some bipartisan support has emerged for a so-called "red flag" law, which would keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous people. He also said that there has been some support for mandatory background checks of new gun purchases.

In the country's current political environment efforts to implement a federal handgun licensing program will go nowhere, he said, because of concerns by millions of gun owners that their Second Amendment rights would be violated. The bishop suggested that individual state Catholic conferences undertake efforts to support gun-related safety legislation as the opportunities arise.

Bishop Dewane cited evidence in states where gun control measures were enacted, such as Connecticut, of fewer gun deaths and less violence, as opposed to increased gun violence where gun control measures were rescinded, such as Missouri.

The bishop also raised the possibility of utilizing the USCCB socially responsible invest guidelines to encompass the gun industry. Divestment from gun manufacturers "would send a strong signal," he said.


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Ministry, mission, communion key points in nuncio's talk to U.S. bishops

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Mark Pattison

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The bishop's ministry and mission, and how he forges communion, was the message in Archbishop Christophe Pierre's address to the U.S. bishops Nov. 11 in Baltimore.

The "ad limina" reports submitted to the Vatican in advance of U.S. bishops' meetings with Pope Francis and curial officials -- indeed, a handful of bishops were already in Rome for these visits -- "provide a clear picture of how the church in the United States is carrying out its mission," said Archbishop Pierre, the Vatican's nuncio to the United States.

He mentioned "but a few" -- in his words -- of the challenges bishops face as they gathered in Baltimore for their fall general meeting: "demographic changes; growing numbers of religiously unaffiliated people; the need to engage young people and to build a culture of vocations; welcoming and integration of migrants, especially Hispanics; continuing the fight against all forms of racism; and defending and accompanying the human family."

Archbishop Pierre said, "Each of us exercises his own specific episcopal ministry, but we also try to work together in a spirit of collegiality as an episcopal body. What are the strengths of this episcopal body, and how is the body serving the needs of the people entrusted to our pastoral care?"

He suggest collegiality and collaboration as an approach.

"Do you find that you share experiences with brother bishops?" Archbishop Pierre asked. "It is always edifying to find younger bishops discovering a 'mentor' among the more senior bishops, or to hear of how 'more experienced bishops' have taken the opportunity to share some of their wisdom and experience with younger bishops in a fraternal way."

Such "collective wisdom," he added, leads to the notion of communion. "As the 'ad limina' visits are upon us, it is good to reflect on the ways in which we exercise our communion with the Holy Father and with the wider church," Archbishop Pierre said.

The U.S. bishops' visits "ad limina apostolorum" -- to the threshold of the apostles -- began Nov. 4 with a group from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. As the U.S. bishops met in Baltimore Nov. 11-13, the bishops of the New York region were in Rome for their "ad limina" visits.

Throughout the rest of November and in December, January and February, another 13 groups of U.S. bishops were traveling to Rome. The visits should conclude Feb. 22 with the bishops of the Eastern Catholic churches in the United States.

"The pope has emphasized certain themes: mercy, closeness to the people, discernment accompaniment, a spirit of hospitality toward migrants, and dialogue with those of other cultures and religions," the papal nuncio told the bishops gathered in Baltimore. "Do you believe that these are gradually becoming part of the mindset of your clergy and people?"

Archbishop Pierre said the question is particularly apt as, while Pope Francis has been emphasizing mercy, "paradoxically, people are becoming more and more judgmental and less willing to forgive, as witnessed by the polarization gripping this nation."

Bishops can reflect on communion with the pope in a theological way, he added, but "we ought to examine it practically, namely by measuring to what extent we as individual and our local churches have received the magisterium of Pope Francis," he added.

"By now, 'Evangelii Gaudium' ('The Joy of the Gospel') should be the framework for efforts at evangelization," he continued. "Adopting its missionary impulse and being in a permanent state of mission might represent tangible signs of communion with the Holy Father, for it would show the reception and implementation of his teaching as the key to missionary evangelization."

Communion also is key between bishop and priest, he said. With more priests from other nations serving in dioceses, "we must investigate how this has affected or is affecting the presbyterate within or respective dioceses," Archbishop Pierre said.

"Many priests are saying they no longer know one another; others, due to the priest shortage, are forced to live in isolation managing multiple parishes," he said. "Our episcopal ministry demands that we act as bridges for our priests, attentive to their life and health, spiritual well-being and their sense of priestly identity and fraternity."

He asked the U.S. bishops: "Are we still zealous for the things of the Lord? While energy levels may diminish with age, hopefully our love for God and his people has increased, along with our gratitude for the grace of the call."

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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]

Pope Francis: Inclusive capitalism leaves no one behind

Vatican City, Nov 11, 2019 / 07:01 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Monday called for the renewal and purification of existing economic models to be fair, trustworthy, and capable of extending opportunities to all, not only a few.

“An inclusive capitalism that leaves no one behind, that discards none of our brothers or sisters, is a noble aspiration,” Pope Francis said Nov. 11 in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

“A glance at recent history, in particular the financial crisis of 2008, shows us that a healthy economic system cannot be based on short-term profit at the expense of long-term productive, sustainable and socially responsible development and investment,” he said.

The pope met with members of the Council for Inclusive Capitalism, whose vision he said involves “overcoming an economy of exclusion and reducing the gap separating the majority of people from the prosperity enjoyed by the few.”

“You have set before yourselves the goal of extending the opportunities and benefits of our economic system to all people,” he said. “An economic system that is fair, trustworthy and capable of addressing the most profound challenges facing humanity and our planet is urgently needed.”

Pope Francis said that those who engage in business and economic life have “a noble vocation” to serve the common good by creating jobs, increasing prosperity, and working to make the goods of this world more accessible to all.

“When we recognize the moral dimension of economic life, which is one of the many aspects of Catholic social doctrine that must be integrally respected, we are able to act with fraternal charity, desiring, seeking and protecting the good of others and their integral development,” he explained.

The pope warned that “an economic system detached from ethical concerns” leads to a “throw away” culture of consumption and waste.

Pope Francis recalled his meeting in 2016 with participants in the Fortune-Time Global Forum in which he called for “more inclusive and equitable economic models that would permit each person to share in the resources of this world and have opportunities to realize his or her potential.” The pope said that the Council for Inclusive Capitalism was born out of that forum.

“Rising levels of poverty on a global scale bear witness to the prevalence of inequality rather than a harmonious integration of persons and nations … I encourage you to persevere along the path of generous solidarity and to work for the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings,” the pope said.

“As my predecessor St. Paul VI reminded us, authentic development cannot be restricted to economic growth alone, but must foster the growth of each person and of the whole person,” he said. “This means more than balancing budgets, improving infrastructures or offering a wider variety of consumer goods."

“What is needed is a fundamental renewal of hearts and minds so that the human person may always be placed at the centre of social, cultural and economic life,” Pope Francis said.

Everyday Heroes: For Catholic vet, 'doing right thing' outweighed risks

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Knights of Columbus

By Andrew Fowler

Sgt. Gary Rose looked out and saw a wounded soldier 50 meters outside his company's perimeter, stranded in the middle of North Vietnamese Army machine gun fire during a Vietnam War Special Forces mission in Laos.

It was day two of Operation Tailwind -- a Special Forces mission to disrupt the enemy army's operations in southeastern Laos during the Vietnam War. Sixteen American and nearly 120 Montagnard soldiers dropped deep into enemy-controlled territory from Sept. 11-14, 1970. Rose was their medic.

He had to act quickly. He scrambled, avoiding enemy fire to reach the wounded man and then, shielding him with his own body, provided medical treatment. With one hand, he dragged the wounded Montagnard, using the other to fire his weapon at the attacking North Vietnamese Army, or NVA.

As he entered the perimeter, a rocket-propelled grenade exploded, shredding Rose's foot.

"A hole in your foot, a hole in your arm, as long as you could function was not considered serious," Rose said.

He spent the rest of the operation using a stick as a crutch. Over the course of four days, Rose treated and saved 60 wounded soldiers. His heroics that day went largely unremembered for 47 years -- until he received the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony Oct. 23, 2017.

Rose shared his battlefield experiences in "Everyday Heroes," a video series produced by the Knights of Columbus showcasing ordinary men acting in extraordinary ways, who are strengthened by their Catholic faith and membership in the Knights of Columbus.

Rose said he hardly remembers the actions witnesses attribute to him during Operation Tailwind. But he remembers the times death nearly took him.

By day four of the operation, in what Rose described as a 96-hour day, the Special Forces depleted their ammunition as NVA troops continued their onslaught. Evacuation helicopters were called in to extract the company. Rose helped the wounded board the helicopters, then returned to the outer defensive perimeter to help repel the assault. He boarded the last helicopter out.

"I said to the first sergeant, 'You know, Top, if this thing goes down, I'm walking back,'" Rose remembers saying as he hobbled aboard.

As they lifted off, the helicopter was under sustained enemy fire. A Marine door gunner was shot through the neck. Rose stopped the bleeding, saving his life. But then, Rose was thrown from the helicopter just before it crashed.

The helicopter was smoking and leaking fuel. Rose's comrades were trapped, wounded and some unconscious. Rose crawled in and out of the wreckage, pulling his brothers away from the danger while administrating life-saving aid until another chopper came to bring them back to base.

Upon returning to base, Rose refused treatment before others. Three men lost their lives.

"I've been told by everybody that's analyzed this from one end to the other that none of us should have made it out of there," Rose said. "When I think about those four days, I don't see how you could survive something like that without somebody deciding it was not your time to go."

Rose is one of several members of the Knights of Columbus to receive the Medal of Honor, following Sgt. Maj. Daniel Daly; Father Charles J. Watters, a chaplain with the rank of major; Maj. General Patrick Brady; and Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward C. Byers Jr.

"There are more important things in life than being possibly being killed or injured - those are the risks you take in doing the right things," Rose said. "You're doing the right thing because it's the right thing to do."

Rose continued his career in the Army before retiring as a captain in 1987. He later worked as a technical consultant in the defense and automobile industries.

Rose now spends his time working with multiple charitable organizations, including the Knights of Columbus. He joined the Knights while serving in Panama in 1973. He currently lives in Huntsville, Alabama, volunteering with Good Shepherd Council 11672 in their fundraisers for people with physical and intellectual disabilities as well as the council's initiatives sponsoring education.

"You can't fix the country, you can't fix the state, you can't even fix your city, but you can do something about your neighborhood, the block in which you live in, and the little local community. And the Knights of Columbus provide the means to do that," he said.

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Editor's Note: A video accompanying this story can be found on YouTube at https://bit.ly/2O0HTch. To share your story of an everyday hero with the Knights of Columbus contact [email protected]

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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]

Music, art are a gateway to discover God's greatness, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Liturgical musicians have the unique calling to interpret God's will and love through song and praise, Pope Francis said.

"Every Christian, in fact, is an interpreter of the will of God in his or her own life, and by his or her life sings a joyful hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God," the pope said Nov. 9 during a meeting with participants at a Vatican conference on interpreting sacred music.

The conference, titled "Church, Music, Interpreters: A Necessary Dialogue," was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music and the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm.

Reflecting on the conference theme, the pope said most people think of interpreters as a kind of translator who conveys what "he or she has received in such a way that another person can understand it."

Although good interpreters in the field of music essentially "translate" what a composer has written, they also should feel "great humility before a work of art that is not their property," and to "bring out the beauty of the music."

Within the context of the liturgy, he added, music is a way for Christians "to serve others through the works they perform."

"Every interpreter is called to develop a distinctive sensibility and genius in the service of art which refreshes the human spirit and in service to the community," the pope said. "This is especially the case if the interpreter carries out a liturgical ministry."

Pope Francis thanked the participants for their commitment and -- citing the words of his predecessor St. Paul VI -- said that music ministers have the great task of "grasping treasures from the heavenly realm of the spirit and clothing them in words, colors and forms, thus making them accessible."

"The artist, the interpreter and -- in the case of music -- the listener, all have the same desire," the pope said: "To understand what beauty, music and art allow us to know of God's grandeur. Now perhaps more than ever, men and women have need of this. Interpreting that reality is essential for today's world."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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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]

Gospel is God's gift, not a means to wage war, bishop says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bishops should not give in to calls to be more combative cultural warriors in the world, said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn.

"The Gospel has an internal strength that doesn't need to be waged as war but needs to be presented as God's great gift," Bishop DiMarzio said in his homily Nov. 11 during Mass at the Rome Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Bishop DiMarzio was the principal celebrant and homilist at the first Mass the bishops of New York celebrated during their visits "ad limina apostolorum" -- to the threshold of the apostles -- to report on the status of their dioceses.

The U.S. bishops' last "ad limina" visits were eight years ago -- in 2011-2012.

At St. Mary Major, the New York bishops celebrated Mass in the chapel that houses the Marian icon "Salus Populi Romani" (health of the Roman people).

After the Mass, the bishops walked down the stairs under the basilica's main altar to pray before the silver reliquary that houses what traditional holds is a relic of the manger where Christ was born.

In his homily, Bishop DiMarzio reflected on the day's memorial of St. Martin of Tours, the fourth-century bishop who served as a Roman soldier stationed in Gaul, now present-day France.

According to the early Christian historian Sulpicius Severus, while patrolling on a winter night, St. Martin cut his cloak in half and gave it to a poorly clothed beggar along a road.

The following night, Severus wrote, the saint "had a vision of Christ arrayed in that part of his cloak with which he had clothed the poor man" and "hastened to receive baptism."

Like St. Martin, Bishop DiMarzio said, Christians are called to "turn to Christ and recognize him in other people."

He also noted that while the saintly prelate was known as a "warrior bishop" who fought against the Aryan heresy, St. Martin was also "careful" and made "sure that there was no error in his diocese."

Scandal, the bishop said, can come easily "to the people of God, the 'little ones,' and we've been living with that scandal now for years."

"We've come to understand that our people are scandalized when they think we should be combatting the modern-day heresy more as warrior bishops, more as cultural warriors," he said.

"But we're not called to that," he said. "We're called to preach the Gospel," which has its own power and is a gift.

Bishop DiMarzio called on his fellow bishops to follow St. Martin's example and "return to our dioceses renewed and refreshed with greater strength to make sure that our faith increases."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju


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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]

Pope prays for eventual visit to South Sudan, peace in Bolivia

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rodrigo Urzagasti, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Expressing his hope to visit South Sudan next year, Pope Francis appealed to the leaders there to continue to follow the path of dialogue and the common good.

"I wish to renew my invitation to all stakeholders in the national political process to seek that which unites and to overcome that which divides in a spirit of true fraternity," he said after praying the Angelus with visitors in St. Peter's Square Nov. 10.

He extended a special greeting to "the dear people of South Sudan, where I should visit" next year, he said.

"The South Sudanese people have suffered too much these past years and are awaiting -- with great hope -- a better future, especially the permanent end of conflicts and a long-lasting peace," he said.

The pope strongly urged all leaders to tirelessly commit themselves to "an inclusive dialogue" that seeks consensus for the good of the whole nation.

"I also express hope that the international community does not neglect accompanying South Sudan on the journey of national reconciliation, he said, before leading everyone in prayer.

The pope also recalled the spiritual retreat held at the Vatican in April for the political leaders of the country's warring factions. At the end of the retreat, Pope Francis had knelt at their feet, begging them to give peace a chance and to be worthy "fathers of the nation."

"As a brother, I ask you to remain in peace. I ask you from my heart, let's go forward. There will be many problems, but do not be afraid," he had told the leaders, at the end of the meeting.

The retreat included South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and four of the nation's five designated vice presidents: Riek Machar, James Wani Igga, Taban Deng Gai and Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior. Under the terms of a peace agreement signed in September 2018, the vice presidents were to take office together in the spring, sharing power and ending the armed conflict between clans and among communities. The formation of the government was delayed until Nov. 12, but just five days before the deadline, Kiir and Machar announced a further delay until February.

The retreat at the Vatican had been the idea of Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, who attended the final part of the gathering. He and Pope Francis have been supporting the peace efforts of the South Sudan Council of Churches, and they hope to visit South Sudan together when there is peace.

After the Angelus, Pope Francis also asked for prayers for Bolivia.

Speaking before the situation there had deteriorated to the point of President Evo Morales announcing his resignation, the pope had invited all citizens, especially leaders in politics and society, to await "with a constructive spirit" and "in a climate of peace and serenity" the results of a then-underway audit of elections held Oct. 20.

At the end of its audit, the Organization of American States called for fresh elections after determining there had been irregularities in a vote that appeared to give Morales a fourth consecutive term.

The country's opposition parties did not recognize the result, and thousands of Bolivians had taken to the streets each day to protest what they saw as a fraudulent election. At least three people died and hundreds of people were injured in clashes between protesters and government supporters.

Even though later in the day Nov. 10 Morales announced new elections would be held, he eventually stepped down after opposition groups, including the police and military, called for him to resign.

The 60-year-old leader was the nation's first indigenous president. He won election in 2006 and easily won two more elections after leading the continent's poorest nation through an economic boom, paving roads and curbing inflation.

However, he refused to accept the results of referendum reaffirming presidential term limit,s and he sought a fourth term; the country's constitutional court later ruled that term limits violated his rights.


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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]

Catholic couple brings the love of family to young people with mental illness

Vatican City, Nov 10, 2019 / 04:10 pm (CNA).- For Catholic couple Austin and Catherine Mardon, mental illness is personal.

Austin has schizophrenia, Catherine has PTSD, and together they foster children and young adults with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Austin and Catherine have been married since 2003. Both are writers, and their experiences have led them to devote themselves to working on behalf of people with mental illnesses, many of whom, they said, end up without a family and living on the street.

The Mardons met Pope Francis after the general audience Nov. 6. They were inducted, in 2017, into the Pontifical Order of Pope Saint Sylvester, a papal Order of Knighthood, for their work on behalf of the disabled.

A native of Oklahoma, Catherine told CNA she has always remembered what one of her childhood teachers, a Carmelite nun, once said: “We don’t help people because they’re Catholic, we help people because we’re Catholic and we're called to do it.”

“Look around,” she said. There are people in need of love and support all around, but “don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid” to reach out.

Austin, a Canadian, is an assistant adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of Alberta.

A scientist by education, Austin was part of a NASA meteorite recovery expedition to the Antarctic in the 1980s at the age of 24. Unfortunately, the extreme difficulties of the expedition affected him mentally and physically.

Despite these challenges, he earned master’s degrees in science and education and published more articles and books, before being diagnosed at age 30 with schizophrenia, which he manages with medication.

He has since also obtained a PhD in geography and continued to publish and speak extensively in the fields of science, mental illness and disability.

Catherine was previously a lawyer focused on social justice issues, including death row appeals. She also helped the homeless and people with AIDs, and her work brought her into contact with many people struggling with mental illness.

“I have helped people that most other ordinary people didn’t want to be in the same room with,” she said.

After testifying in a case, Catherine was brutally attacked, leaving her with physical injuries, a traumatic brain injury, and PTSD. She was no longer able to practice law.

But Austin and Catherine have taken their sufferings and transformed into an opportunity to help others.

“When I got hurt and couldn’t practice law anymore, I didn’t just sit on a beach or curl up in a corner somewhere. I started taking care of people. Because that was something I could do, including [helping] a couple of kids who had Fetal Alcohol [Syndrome],” Catherine said.

The difference between Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and other severe mental illnesses, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, they said, is that there is no treatment, because it is caused by permanent brain damage before birth.

The best thing for someone in this situation is early identification and intervention, Austin said, “to give them coping mechanisms to manage it, teach them techniques.”

“It’s almost like teaching someone who is blind or deaf how to maneuver around a world that they can’t quite perceive,” he said.

Catherine and Austin discovered, however, that many children and young adults with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome do not get early intervention. In many cases, due to poor family situations or a loss of their parents, they end up in foster care, and then, when they age out of the system, on the streets.

So, the Mardons started taking some of these teenagers and young adults into their home. They also reach out to other young adults suffering from mental illness. They throw parties for them and invite them over for the holidays.

“The most important thing when it comes to dealing with the disenfranchised is first you have to recognize their equal human dignity. And secondly, you have to take them where they are,” Catherine said.

People automatically expect the mentally ill to be scary, she said. “They’re humans.”

“They want to be invited to Sunday dinner... They want somebody to remember their birthday. They want somebody to invite them to Christmas.”

The Mardons encourage others to find ways to support young people with mental illness, especially, they said, older adults who either do not have children or whose children are grown.

Young adults leaving the foster care system are in need of the kind of support a family would offer, they said. While there are charities to provide financial support and resources, these individuals often miss out on the practical advice of a loved one and the chance to form healthy relationships with others.

“Somebody’s got to take care of them,” Catherine said.

Austin said what he would like Catholics - both priests and laity - to understand about mental illness is “that today there are effective treatments,” through both medication and therapy.

He added that some Catholics think mental illness is a character flaw that can be solved by prayer. This is a dangerous misconception, he warned.

“We don’t say that you should pray instead of take medication for your heart, but many Christians and Catholics believe that [mental illness] is a character flaw…It’s not a character flaw,” he emphasized.

Austin often speaks on the topic, and he said his faith always informs his advice for people with mental illness or for their family members.

“I think that faith without action can be very hollow,” he added, “but then action without faith can sometimes be misguided.

Francis prays for reconciliation as South Sudan struggles to form coalition government

Vatican City, Nov 10, 2019 / 05:08 am (CNA).- During the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis led Catholics in praying a ‘Hail Mary’ for peace and reconciliation for South Sudan, whose leaders are locked in disagreement as they try to form a government after a peace deal was struck last year.

“I address a special thought to the dear people of South Sudan, whom I will have to visit this year,” he said Nov. 10. “The South Sudanese people have suffered too much in recent years and await with great hope a better future, especially the definitive end of conflicts and lasting peace.”

“I invite you all to pray together for this country, for which I have a special affection,” he added, leading Catholics in praying a ‘Hail Mary’ for the intention.

Formerly warring South Sudanese leaders, President Salva Kiir Mayardit and opposition leader Riek Machar, are in the midst of trying to form a power-sharing government in the country after signing a peace deal in September 2018.

The coalition government was supposed to be formed by Nov. 12, but a 100-day extension was granted Nov. 8, because of ongoing disagreement on key issues.

The country’s Catholic bishops have called the tenuous peace accord in South Sudan “fatally flawed,” because it does not address the root causes of the conflict. The deal was signed following a five-year civil war which took the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

South Sudan’s civil war also left 2.1 million people internally displaced, and caused another 2.5 million refugees, according to the United Nations.

In his Angelus address, Pope Francis recalled a spiritual retreat he held at the Vatican in April for the South Sudan political leaders, including Mayardit and Machar.

During the retreat, the pope made headlines when he performed the unprecedented gesture of kneeling down and kissing the feet of several of the South Sudanese leaders.

The pope said Nov. 10 he wishes to renew his “invitation to all the actors of the national political process to seek what unites and to overcome what divides, in a spirit of true brotherhood.”

“I therefore urge those responsible to continue, without tiring, their commitment to an inclusive dialogue in the search for consensus for the good of the nation,” he continued, adding that he hopes the international community will also help South Sudan on the path to national reconciliation.

Pope Francis also asked for prayers for Bolivia, whose national election, held last month, is being reviewed for irregularities.

“I urge all Bolivians, especially political and social actors, to await the results of the election review process, which is currently underway, with a constructive spirit of peace and serenity,” he stated.

In his message before the Angelus, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading. In the passage from Luke, a group of Sadducees question Jesus about whose wife a woman will be after death if she was married, consecutively, to seven brothers, bearing no children by them.

But “Jesus does not fall into the trap,” Francis said. Jesus explains to the Sadducees that “those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.”

With this answer, Jesus invites us to think about how the earthly dimension we live in now is not the only dimension, the pope said. “There is another, no longer subject to death, in which it will be fully manifested that we are children of God.”

“It gives great consolation and hope to hear this simple and clear word of Jesus about life beyond death; we need it so much especially in our time, so rich in knowledge of the universe but so poor in wisdom about eternal life,” he added. “Life belongs to God, who loves us and cares so much about us.”

“May the Virgin Mary help us to live every day in the perspective of what we affirm in the final part of the Creed: ‘I await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come,’” he concluded.

After the Angelus, Pope Francis noted the Nov. 9 beatification of Maria Emilia Riquelme y Zayas in Granada, Spain.

She was the founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and of Mary Immaculate, he said, adding that she “was exemplary in the fervor of Eucharistic adoration and generous in service to the most needy.”

He asked for a round of applause for the new blessed and for St. Bartholomew Fernandes of Braga, who was canonized in July through an “equivalent canonization,” also sometimes called “equipollent” or “confirmation of cultus,” which is when a pope chooses to waive the usual requirement of a miracle for canonization, because of the holy person’s established life of virtue and their long-standing veneration as a saint.