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Defining our values: What Catholics can take from Bush's speech

New York City, N.Y., Oct 20, 2017 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- In a rare political speech on Thursday, former president George W. Bush had blunt words for America: Remember your identity or lose your freedom.

Bush spoke Oct. 19 at the “Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In The World” event at the Lincoln Center in New York.

Almost nine years removed from the nation’s highest political office, Bush offered a reflection on the current state of the country. At the heart of his reflection was a diagnosis – and a powerful wake up call:

“We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.”

Bush’s words ring true in a country still deeply divided one year after a contentious presidential election that polarized families, friends, and neighbors. In a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey, 80 percent of respondents categorized the U.S. as “mainly divided” or “totally divided.”

From birth control to gun control, from questions of undocumented immigrants to NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, America is fractured. And that division has become vitriolic, manifesting itself in insults spewed across comment boxes and hostile clashes in the media.

After exploring a litany of symptoms – from bigotry and nativism to fake news and gang violence – Bush offered his remedy for the polarization plaguing America: “we need to recall and recover our own identity. Americans have a great advantage: To renew our country, we only need to remember our values.”

But in a country so divided, what are our values?

In his address to the United States Congress in September 2015, Pope Francis laid out a set of values that he thinks define America at its best.

“A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as (Abraham) Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to ‘dream’ of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton,” the Pope said.

Catholics have an important role to play in shaping the values that define society. Deus Caritas Est, the first encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, teaches, “The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society is proper to the lay faithful.”

The U.S. bishops, in their document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, note, “This duty is more critical than ever in today's political environment.” While there may be a temptation for retreat or discouragement, the bishops say, this is actually “a time for renewed engagement.”

In the early Church, Christians stood out from the rest of the Roman Empire. They took care of orphans and widows. They founded hospitals and schools. They cared for the poor. They didn’t work on Sundays. They loved their enemies.

Today, the U.S. Church is called to stand out, too. In a nation torn apart and confused about its own identity, people are exhausted from fighting and weary from talking past one another without ever being heard. People are looking for a better way.

Amid the political and social turmoil, Catholics can offer that better way. They can offer what the bishops describe as “a different kind of political engagement: one shaped by the moral convictions of well-formed consciences and focused on the dignity of every human being, the pursuit of the common good, and the protection of the weak and the vulnerable.”

And they can do it by engaging with others civilly, by creating the “culture of encounter” that Pope Francis refers to so often.

This lesson is critical for America’s future. Will the next generation be raised in a culture of encounter, or in what Bush describes as a culture of “casual cruelty,” marked with animosity and dehumanization? The former president notes with urgency that “our young people need positive role models” because “bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children.”

George W. Bush is right. America does need to return to her values. But first she needs to figure out what they are. And Catholics can help lay the groundwork for that, by working to create a society where people can dialogue without fear, where they discuss their different views without being attacked or demonized, ultimately a society where people can encounter truth.

As we approach the one-year mark after the most contentious election in recent history, Catholics have an opportunity to show Christian charity in their interactions with others. It’s a small gesture. But it could be the first step in helping people recognize, as the former president put it, “the image of God we should see in each other.”

 

Don't sacrifice justice and family for efficiency, Pope tells business leaders

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2017 / 02:43 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis met Friday with leaders in business and civil society, telling them not to get carried away by wealth and the demands of the global market, but rather to promote justice by eliminating the root causes of inequality.

“We must ask the market not only to be efficient in the production of wealth and in the assurance of sustainable growth, but also to be at the service of integral human development,” the Pope said Oct. 20.

“We cannot sacrifice on the altar of efficiency – the 'golden calf' of our times – fundamental values such as democracy, justice, freedom, the family, and creation,” he said, explaining that instead, “we must seek to 'civilize the market' with a view to an ethic friendly to man and his environment.”

Pope Francis spoke to members of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, who are gathered in Rome for an Oct. 19-21 conference on “Changing Relations Among Market, State and Civil Society.”

In his speech, the Pope spoke on the need to develop “new models of cooperation” among the market, the state, and civil society that more accurately respond to the challenges of our time.

Pointing to two primary causes which he said “nourish the exclusion of the existential peripheries,” Francis said the sharp levels of inequality today are caused in large part by the exploitation of the planet and the lack of opportunity for dignified work.

The first cause, he said, “is the endemic and systemic increase of inequalities and of the exploitation of the planet, which is greater than the increase in income and wealth.”

Both inequality and exploitation depend, aside from individual behaviors, on the economic rules “that a society decides to give themselves,” he said, and pointed to energy production, the labor market, the banking system, the welfare system, the tax system, and the school sector as examples.

The more these are projected, the more they have consequences “on the way in which income and wealth are divided among those who have competed to produce them,” he said. “If the aim of profit prevails, democracy tends to become a plutocracy in which inequalities and the exploitation of the planet grow.”

Neither of these phenomena are inevitable or a historic constant, he said, asserting that “there are periods in which, in some countries, inequalities diminish and the environment is better protected.”

Turning to what he said is another key cause of exclusion, the Pope focused on work “unworthy of the human person.”

“Yesteryear, in the age of Rerum novarum, 'just wages for workers' were demanded. Today, beyond this sacrosanct exigency, we also ask ourselves why it has not yet been possible to translate into practice what is written in the Constitution Gaudium et spes: 'The entire process of productive work, therefore, must be adapted to the needs of the person and to his way of life'.”

To this can be added, he said, respect for creation, referring to his 2015 encyclical Laudato si'.

In creating new opportunities for work “open and enterprising people, people of fraternal relations, of research and investment in the development of clean energy to resolve the challenges of climate change” are needed, he said, adding that this is concretely possible today.

He said it's also necessary “to get rid of the pressures of public and private lobbyists that defend sectoral interests,” and stressed the need to “overcome forms of spiritual laziness.”

“It is necessary for political action to be placed truly at the service of the human person, of the common good and of respect for nature.”

The explained that the challenge to meet “is to strive with courage to go beyond the prevailing model of social order prevalent today, transforming it from within,” such that the market will serve integral human development, as well as the production of wealth.

He also addressed “the rethinking of the figure and the role of the nation-state in a new context which is that of globalization, which has profoundly modified the previous international order,” the Pope said, explaining that the state “cannot understand itself as the sole and exclusive holder of the common good by not allowing intermediate bodies of society to express, in freedom, their full potential.”

To do this, he added, “would be a violation of the principle of subsidiarity which, combined with solidarity, is a cornerstone of the Church’s social doctrine.”

The role of society, then, can be summed up with an image used by French poet Charles Peguy, who described the virtue of hope as the “younger sister” in the middle of the other theological virtues: faith and charity.

“Hope then moves, taking them by the hand and pulling them forward. This is how the position of civil society seems to me: 'pulling' the state and the market forward so that they can rethink their reason for being and how they operate.”

Georgetown pro-marriage group faces sanctions after students complain

Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2017 / 09:53 am (CNA).- A pro-marriage student group at Georgetown University is in danger of being defunded and barred from campus facilities, after fellow students have petitioned that it be recognized as a “hate group.”

The Hoya, Georgetown’s student newspaper, reported on Oct. 20 that Love Saxa, a student organization promoting Catholic doctrine regarding marriage, will undergo a Student Activities Commission hearing on Oct. 23, to defend itself against charges that the group fosters hatred and intolerance. The hearing is a response to a petition filed by a student-senator in the Georgetown University Student Association, and supported by leaders of gay pride student organizations at Georgetown.

Love Saxa intends to petition for a delay before the hearing takes place. The group told CNA they were only officially informed of the hearing’s date on the evening of Oct. 19, giving them an insufficient amount of time to prepare. The group also says they haven’t been given a copy of the petition, or an exact rendering of the charges against them.

Lova Saxa’s student-president Amelia Irvine told CNA, “I believe that Love Saxa has the right to exist, especially at a Catholic school. We exist to promote healthy, loving relationships at Georgetown.”

In a Sept. 6 column in The Hoya, Irvine wrote that “we believe that marriage is a conjugal union on every level – emotional, spiritual, physical and mental – directed toward caring for biological children. To us, marriage is much more than commitment of love between two consenting adults.”

Leaders of gay pride student organizations at Georgetown denounced this language as “homophobic,” and claimed it violated university standards.  

The university’s Student Organization Standards state that: “Groups will not be eligible for access to benefits if their purpose or activities … foster hatred or intolerance of others because of their race, nationality, gender, religion, or sexual preferences.” Love Saxa is accused of fostering hatred and intolerance, because of its support for Catholic teaching regarding marriage.

Love Saxa receives $250 of funding from the university, and is permitted to use university facilities for its activities, according to The Hoya. Results of the hearing could lead to loss of funding and facility access, among other sanctions, the newspaper reported.

Irvine told CNA that Love Saxa is hopeful about the results of the hearing. “We're optimistic that the university will uphold our right to exist, given that we share the Catholic view on marriage,” she added.

In an Oct. 20 editorial, The Hoya’s editorial board advocated for Love Saxa’s defunding. The editorial board wrote that Love Saxa fosters intolerance by “actively advocating a limited definition of marriage that would concretely take rights away from the LGBTQ community.”

Georgetown is a Catholic university in Washington, D.C., founded by the Society of Jesus in 1789.

 

Commentary: Redefining gender while California burns

Sacramento, Calif., Oct 20, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA).- California is still burning.

At this point, 42 people are dead. Some 217,000 acres are devastated. Thousands of homes are destroyed. Entire towns are now charred wreckage. As the fires burned their hottest, trees glowed a seething orange behind their bark, before exploding. Families took shelter wherever they could find it; one couple spent a long, cold night submerged to their necks in a neighbor’s pool, seeking refuge from falling embers.  

The fires are now mostly contained. But the cleanup will be massive. It will take political cooperation at the local, state, and federal levels to allocate funds, organize rebuilding, and provide relief to the tens of thousands of people who are now displaced – homeless – with no certainty about their future. It will take leadership, compromise, and statesmanship. It will take selflessness.

Even in ordinary times, the political cooperation and organizational infrastructure required after a disaster of this magnitude are a challenge. The political infighting after Hurricane Katrina is the stuff of legend. And these are not ordinary times. After a particularly brutal hurricane season, federal recovery dollars will be hard to come by. And Washington has never been more polarized, or less stable. California is beginning a gubernatorial primary season, which brings with it the kind of posturing and grandstanding that make it difficult to get real work done. At the same time, finger-pointing has begun, as Californians try to explain the causes of the massive wildfires that consumed so much of the Napa Valley. Governor Jerry Brown is already being blamed for the fires, after vetoing a bipartisan 2016 bill intended to make power lines less likely to contribute to the spread of wildfire in residential areas.

In such extraordinary times, facing such a monumental task, it’s natural to hope for a singularly focused, consensus-building political leader, who would cut through partisanship and pettiness to help rebuild lives, homes, and communities across California. Governor Brown, who has a very long record of public service in California, and has few political limitations in the year before his final term expires, should be the man for the job. That is why it is so disappointing that on Sunday night, while the wildfires were still spreading, the governor took time to sign California’s Gender Recognition Act, which allows Californians to choose a “non-binary” gender identity on drivers’ licenses, and to change name and gender on state identification documents with ease.

Signing the bill will cement Brown’s legacy among libertines and elites, who already revere him because of his support for gay marriage and assisted suicide. But while the Gender Recognition Act will win him adulation from progressive pundits, it won’t make it easier for Brown to solve the real and immediate problems his state is facing. In fact, he’s made that job harder.

In the face of a crisis requiring broad cooperation, especially from churches and religious social service agencies, Brown chose to remind Californians of faith that their views don’t matter, and that they have no place in his vision for California. Instead of building the consensus that would help real Californians, Brown chose to secure his place in the pantheon of progressive demagogues, consequences be damned. Instead of facing the reality of California’s needs, Brown spent his time trying redefine what’s real, to usher in a new world in which reason is supplanted by confusion, masquerading as freedom.
 
In the classic 1951 film Quo Vadis, based upon Henryk Sienkiewicz’ novel, the emperor Nero is a mad narcissist: licentious, insecure, and cruel. Nero is far more concerned with securing his place in history – with being remembered as a genius, and an artist – than he is with leading his people. They suffer for his madness, and for his neglect.  

Eventually, Nero’s Rome burns to the ground, in a fire which the emperor himself began. But he is impervious to the suffering of his citizens. He stands overlooking his burning city, plucking a harp, and obsessing about his place in history, and a new world he’ll create in his own image – Neropolis.

“That is my epic,” Nero tells his courtiers. “To change the face of the world. To demolish and create anew.”

California is burning. Brown is not the cause of the fire. But he should be singularly focused on helping his people. Instead, he seems more concerned with plucking a harp for his place in history, redefining reality with his pen. “To change the face of the world. To demolish, and create anew.”

 

How Los Angeles Catholics help the homeless

Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 20, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With growing numbers of people suffering homelessness in the expensive megalopolis of Los Angeles, Catholics and people of other religions are working together to provide a serious response.

“The faith community is really a giant part of the services provided to the folks in need,” Kathleen Domingo, Director of the Los Angeles archdiocese’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace, told CNA.

There’s a reason Catholics help the homeless.

“We’ve been told that our salvation depends on how we treat those in need,” said Domingo. “Our faith isn’t just in praying and personal spirituality, it’s actually in what we put into action.”

She said the homeless are “the face of Christ, especially in Los Angeles.” Many residents live in such prosperity that “to turn our backs on the homeless is really to turn our backs on Christ.”

“We really need to ask ourselves: are we willing to sacrifice our salvation, literally, for our own convenience or our own comfort at not getting involved?” Domingo said.

Leaders of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities gathered at the University of Southern California campus Oct. 18 for a roundtable discussion that aimed to find new ideas and a united approach to responding to homelessness.

Among the scheduled speakers was Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles. He joined other religious leaders, homeless experts, and representatives from Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti’s office.

In a June 6 column, Gomez warned that an increase in homelessness shows a failure to foster a strong “human ecology.” It reflects a widening gap “between those who have what they need for a dignified life and those who do not.”

“I worry that we are getting accustomed to these sights in our city,” he said. “We cannot allow ourselves to accept a Los Angeles where sidewalks become permanent residences for our neighbors.”

A May 2017 report from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority found a 23 percent increase in homelessness in Los Angeles County since the previous year. According to the Associated Press, about 7,700 volunteers counted about 58,800 homeless people, an increase of 11,000.

The number of homeless veterans had increased 57 percent. The number of homeless aged 18 to 24 increased 64 percent, while the number of those under 18 increased 41 percent.

The report did find improvements in the number of homeless families who have shelter. The number of families without shelter decreased 21 percent.

Officials said there is increasing financial stress on renters in the Los Angeles area. Over 2 million households spend half their income or more on housing costs.

The roundtable is sponsored by four USC organizations, including the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies. Father James L. Heft, founder and president of the institute, said there are many different religions in Los Angeles working to ameliorate the homelessness crisis.

“People in these different religions are doing good things to address this crisis. But they often work by themselves,” he said. “I thought it would be good for the leaders of the different religions to talk with each other, learn from each other, and through these conversations find even better ways to work at solving the crisis of homelessness.”

According to Heft, the roundtable aims to help advance understanding of the “complex issue of homelessness” and learn the most effective ways to address it.

“We want to promote greater cooperation among religions in addressing a serious challenge that our whole community faces,” the priest said.

For Domingo, Catholic action for the homeless in Los Angeles already has a record of success.

In 2016, Catholic Charities of Los Angeles and the St. Vincent de Paul Society worked together to place about 300 people in permanent housing. Though the numbers seem small compared to the problem, the beneficiaries are given a sustainable place to live and the means to stay there for the long-term. They also receive help with job placement and other support resources.

The work of individual parishes is significant, but sometimes difficult to report, Domingo said. “Much of it is done just in a manner of course as the parishes operate.”

Domingo noted a five-parish cluster in the archdiocese’s eastern San Gabriel region which collectively offers cold weather shelter to the homeless. The parishes also offer food, including some meals homemade by parishioners.

In addition, parish outreach seeks barbers, stylists and manicurists for these beneficiaries to “make them feel good and look good while they’re here,” she said.

The parishes involve homeless guests in Christmas activities, including Las Posadas, the traditional Mexican Advent season commemoration of the journey of the Holy Family, in which they found no room at the inn of Bethlehem.

Local schoolchildren make prayer cards, placemats, and table settings to help welcome the hosted families. A jazz band from the local Catholic high school also comes to play.

“You could just see this exhaustion melt away as people listen to music that maybe they haven’t been exposed to for years,” said Domingo, who added: “These are really amazing moments. It doesn’t get a lot of press, but it’s really the parish coming together to do something impactful.”

Some parishes collaborate with the nationwide Family Promise program to house families that have just become homeless. When they secure permanent housing quickly, they have a better chance of not becoming homeless again.

Domingo praised the “housing-first” approach to homelessness. This approach, developed in recent decades, aims to provide permanent housing immediately for those in need, rather than put them through transitional programs whose conditions are sometimes counterproductive and harder to fulfill for someone without permanent housing. She suggested the archdiocese would be happy to pursue such an approach.

“That’s also an approach that’s very much in keeping with Catholic social teaching, with the dignity of the person,” she said. Getting someone a house is something basic that does not need many restrictions.

“Just get people housed. That’s a very good step in the right direction,” said Domingo.

Many Catholic charities, St. Vincent de Paul organizations, and parishes in Los Angeles are taking part in a process called the Coordinated Entry System. It helps to ensure some knowledge about who is getting services and to ensure that some people are not “falling through the cracks.”

Domingo attributed the shortfall in housing for those at risk of homelessness to the “not in my backyard” mindset. Many projects have been halted due to local opposition.

“As Catholics we could help to shift the conversation on that,” she suggested. Catholics could help rally their neighbors to welcome homeless families to their neighborhood just as they’d welcome any family.

She also stressed the need for people to educate themselves about the options specifically available for homeless minors and the elderly so that they could help those the encounter find temporary assistance.

“It seems small in a sense, but they’re realistic steps, and I think that they can be incredibly effective,” she said.

Government must allow abortion for undocumented teenager, judge rules

Washington D.C., Oct 19, 2017 / 12:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a controversial decision, a U.S. district judge ruled that the government must facilitate an abortion for an undocumented teenager under federal custody in Texas. The federal government has appealed the ruling, asking for a stay on the judge’s order.

On Oct. 18, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that a 17-year-old from Central America, known only as “Jane Doe,” must be allowed to get an abortion. The girl has been in federal custody since early September, and is living in a south Texas shelter operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement – an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Currently 15 weeks pregnant, the girl has secured outside funding for the abortion, and has obtained state permission to get the abortion – a requirement for any minor in Texas who does not have parental permission for an abortion procedure.

The ACLU has alleged that the government is utilizing an “unconstitutional veto power” by not allowing Doe to obtain an abortion, and has filed a suit against HHS. The administration has countered that the government has “exercised a legitimate choice to refuse to facilitate an abortion,” and argues that the girl could leave the country voluntarily to obtain the procedure. It also argues that since the girl is in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, it has the right to determine what is in the best interest of the teenager.

The government also says that the United States has an interest in “not providing incentives for pregnant minors to illegally cross the border to obtain elective abortions while in federal custody.”

Under the judge’s ruling, the administration must allow the minor to attend an abortion counseling appointment on Oct. 20, and have the abortion the following day or over the weekend. If the administration does not comply, it will be held in contempt of court, the ruling states. A decision on the appeal is expected Thursday evening.

Pro-life organizations criticized the judge’s decision, warning of the precedent it sets.

“Today’s ruling is outrageous and sets a dangerous precedent,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services took a simple position that it would protect the life and dignity of the teenage girl and her unborn child while in their care,” she said in a statement. “Shame on this judge for overruling compassionate care and instead mandating that the U.S. government help facilitate an abortion for a teenage girl.”

“This ruling plays into the broader agenda of the ACLU, which is recklessly exploiting a teenage girl in order to make the United States a sanctuary state for abortion,” she added.

Catherine Glenn Foster, President and CEO of Americans United for Life, also objected to the ruling, saying that because the government would have to expend resources to provide access to the abortion clinic, the decision “mandates that taxpayer funds be expended to facilitate the destruction of an innocent human life, in violation of the Hyde Amendment and the consciences of millions of American citizens.”

English nuns offer free meals – but there's a catch

London, England, Oct 19, 2017 / 12:08 pm (CNA).- A group of religious sisters are offering free meals in a trendy neighborhood of London, but on one condition: the customers must forfeit the use of their phones and converse with fellow diners.

“We give you a little food for soul. We don’t just mean the food that you eat, but something for you to take away and reflect in your life,” said Sister Anna, according to Business Insider.

As part of the new reality TV series “Bad Habits: Holy Orders,” the Daughters of Divine Charity have left their homes in rural Norfolk to serve food at “Nundos” in Shoreditch from Oct. 17-19.

The pop-up restaurant is a play on words for the peri-peri chicken chain Nando’s, but rather than serving African cuisine the holy restaurant offers chicken broth, lentil soup, breads, and homemade pies.  

If the costumer’s phone is put aside, the wholesome meals are offered free of charge as a means to deter people from the distractions of social media.

The Channel 5 series takes five millennial women and follows their transition from a party lifestyle to the simple life of the convent. The girls' beliefs are then challenged by the religious community as they participate in the nun’s activities, like early morning prayers and works of charity.

Founded in 1868, the Daughters of Divine Charity seek to make God visible through acts of charity, like attending to the sick and elderly and aiding children in preparation for the sacraments.

Pursue the common good, not allure of money, Pope tells finance students

Vatican City, Oct 19, 2017 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis told a group of students studying finance Thursday not to let themselves get taken in by the charm of money, but to instead work toward building a better future based on justice and the common good.

“It is essential that, until now and in your future professional life, you will learn to be free from the allure of money, from the slavery in which money closes those who worship it,” the Pope said Oct. 19.

It's also essential that students “acquire the strength and the courage not to blindly obey the invisible hand of the market,” he said, and encouraged them to take advantage of their study time, learning “to become promoters and defenders of a growth in equity, to become craftsman of a just and adequate administration of our common home, which is the world.”

Pope Francis spoke to students enrolled in the Chartreux Institute of Lyon. Established in 1825, the school is a private Carthusian educational institution linked to the French state school system.

The institute takes students from grade school all the way through high school, and also offers courses in higher education, with a specialization in the fields of finance, business, and accounting.

In his speech, Pope Francis said he was glad to learn that alongside their education in finances, students also receive a solid foundation in “human, philosophical and spiritual” studies.

To take courses in Rome, he said, allows the students to be immersed in the history “which has so strongly marked European nations.”

“Admiring what the genius of men and the hopes they cultivated were able to accomplish, also you must have it at heart to leave your mark in history,” he said, stressing in off-the-cuff comments that “you have the ability to decide your future.”

Francis told the students to take responsibility not only for the world, but “for the life of every man,” and urged them remember that “every injustice against a poor man is an open wound, and belittles your own dignity.”

Even though the world will expect them to strive for success above all else, the Pope told them to put the time and the means into going forward on “the path of brotherhood,” so that they will be able “to build bridges between men rather than walls, to add your stones to the building of a more just and human society.”

Noting how his audience was composed of both Christians and non-Christians, Pope Francis urged the Christians to stay united with the Lord in prayer, and to learn “to entrust everything to God, and so not give in to the temptation of discouragement and desperation.”

For those who are not Christians, the Pope greeted them with “respect and affection,” telling them to keep they eyes focused on others.

He closed his speech by encouraging all of the students “to work for the good, to become humble seeds of a new world,” and prayed that they would be able to “cultivate the culture of encounter and sharing within the single human family.

Pope to Methodists: Reconciliation is more than talk – it needs action

Vatican City, Oct 19, 2017 / 07:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Marking 50 years of Catholic-Methodist dialogue, Pope Francis on Thursday told members of both traditions that when it comes to future relations, simply speaking about reconciliation is not enough – we must actually pray and work for it.

“This is the journey that awaits us in the new phase of the dialogue, devoted to reconciliation: we cannot speak of prayer and charity unless together we pray and work for reconciliation and full communion,” the Pope said Oct. 19.

Pope Francis met with a delegation of around 50 members of the World Methodist Council on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the beginning of theological dialogue between Catholics and Methodists.

In his address, Francis said that looking toward the future, as well as back over the last 50 years, it is clear that to grow in holiness we must also grow in communion with God and with our brothers and sisters.

“As a call to life in communion with God, the call to holiness is necessarily a call to communion with others too,” he said. “Faith becomes tangible above all when it takes concrete form in love, particularly in service to the poor and the marginalized.”

And this service to others, he pointed out, can be a source of communion between Catholics and Methodists.

“When, as Catholics and Methodists, we join in assisting and comforting the weak and the marginalized – those who in the midst of our societies feel distant, foreign and alienated – we are responding to the Lord’s summons,” he said.

Discussions between the two churches can be a gift not just for their members, but also for our communities and our world, he noted, pointing out that the discussion could be an incentive to Christians everywhere to be “ministers of reconciliation.”

He explained how it is the Holy Spirit that brings about unity, and this is always done in his own way and his own time, just like at Pentecost, where the Spirit awakened “a variety of charisms,” creating unity without uniformity.

“We need then, to remain together,” he said, “like the disciples awaiting the Spirit, as brothers and sisters on a shared journey.”

Francis said that after a long separation, we are like brothers and sisters who are happy to once more meet and learn about one another, moving forward “with open hearts.”

“So let us advance together, knowing that our journey is blessed by the Lord. It began from him, and it leads to him.”

As encouraged by the Second Vatican Council, dialogue enables Christians of different creeds to continue growing in knowledge and esteem, the Pope continued, saying that “true dialogue gives us the courage to encounter one another in humility and sincerity, in an effort to learn from one another, and in a spirit of honesty and integrity.”

Francis expressed his gratitude to the Catholic-Methodist Dialogue Commission and to the World Methodist Council for their work, both past and present.

A lot has been learned over the past 50 years, but the work is not finished, he said, saying we must look forward to that day when we can finally unite in the “breaking of the bread.”

Concluding the audience by praying the ‘Our Father,’ the Pope invited those present to pray for reconciliation as well as the daily bread that sustains us “along the way.”

Central Americans fleeing violence can't return home yet, bishops warn

Washington D.C., Oct 18, 2017 / 05:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As a temporary immigration permit program for families fleeing violence in Honduras and El Salvador is set to expire, the U.S. bishops warn that requiring immigrants to return to unsafe countries is unjust.

“There is ample evidence to suggest that current TPS recipients from Honduras and El Salvador cannot return safely to their home country at this time,” said Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops Committee on Migration.

He urged the faithful to keep the people of El Salvador and Honduras, including those with Temporary Protective Status “in your thoughts and prayers,” while introducing a report on the issue, released by the USCCB this week.

The bishop and the report expressed support for an extension of TPS – a kind of temporary immigration status– for people from Honduras and El Salvador, and called for a long-term legislative solution to the situation.

Temporary Protective Status allows people who are unable to safely return to their home nations because of armed conflict, other violence, natural disasters or other extraordinary and temporary circumstances to remain in the United States while the situation in their home country resolves.

In August, a group of researchers from the USCCB’s Office of Migration and Refugee Services traveled to Honduras and El Salvador to assess the circumstances TPS recipients returning to their home countries would face.

The trip was inspired by the upcoming expiration of TPS status for Salvadoran and Honduran nationals. The TPS designation for Honduras is set to expire on January 5, 2018, and El Salvador’s will end on March 9, 2018, unless the Department of Homeland Security authorizes an extension. If the designations expire, more than 200,000 people from El Salvador and 57,000 people from Honduras will need to return to their home countries. These temporary immigrants are parents to more than 270,000 children who are United States citizens.

In El Salvador, gang-related violence has led to widespread crime and extortion, the bishops’ report said. In addition, children and their families are targeted for gang recruitment. This has also led to the displacement of between 200,000 and 400,000 persons in El Salvador.

In Honduras, the bishops’ report said, high homicide rates and internal displacement of families has led to the designation of TPS status for some Honduran refugees. Currently, there are at least 174,000 people who are internally displaced within the country.

Many of the affected families sought TPS as part of the Central American Minors refugee program in order to protect their children from violence and gang recruitment.

The bishops observed that the security situations in both countries has not been fully resolved, and their report warned that the end of TPS might “negatively impact regional security, and have negative economic and humanitarian consequences” in El Salvador and Honduras, as well as in the United States. They also observed that neither country is prepared to receive and reintegrate the full population of citizens that would need to return.

The bishops warn that forcing families to return, including those families whose children are US citizens, would leave returned people at grave risk of violence and targeted gang action.

On top of the policy ramifications of the political situation in Honduras and El Salvador, the destabilization and insecurity in these two countries has made it more difficult for the Church to operate and adequately minister to those in need, the bishops’ conference reported.

The report quoted Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador: “It is truly unfortunate and painful that the Church cannot work because of this atmosphere of insecurity and anxiety that shakes our beloved country.”

The bishops offered a number of policy recommendations for the United States, as well as to the impacted countries and Church leaders. To the US government, they encouraged the extension of the TPS program for 18 months, and also backed efforts to ensure permanent lawful status for some, namely those who are parents of U.S. citizens or who have found employment in U.S. businesses.

The bishops also urged the U.S. to work with both Honduras and El Salvador to help the countries end the violence – particularly violence that targets youth – and form a solid plan to reintegrate families who will need to return. The U.S. government, they said, should “support anti-gang, anti-corruption and systematic integration efforts to ensure greater regional stability and human security.” They encouraged the Central American countries to improve job access and help ensure that Internally Displaced Persons can also return to their homes.

The bishops encouraged the Church and charitable organizations to help with humanitarian aid and supporting a solution to displacement – an issue which will be essential for “possible future TPS returnees.” They also encouraged Church-government partnerships to help people returning to their home countries, as well as any who might seek legal status in the United States and Canada.

“We look forward to working with Congress, the Administration and others in pursuing humane and just solutions for the long-term TPS beneficiaries currently residing in the United States,” the bishops concluded.