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After Amazonians migrate to cities, they struggle to survive

Mention of the Amazon is likely to conjure images of snaking rivers, seemingly endless forests, indigenous villagers and exotic animals. But poor harvests or a desire for jobs and an education drive people from rural areas to fast-growing cities, which generally are poorly planned and ill-equipped to deal with the influx of newcomers.

UK government considering sanctions for religious freedom violators

London, England, Jul 18, 2019 / 10:03 am (CNA).- UK Ambassador to the Holy See Sally Axworthy said this week that the UK government will consider a recommendation to impose sanctions on foreign governments that violate religious freedom.

“The Foreign Secretary …  has said that we will look at imposing sanctions on people who commit violations of freedom of religion and belief, as we do impose sanctions on people who commit other kinds of crimes,” Axworthy told EWTN News Nightly July 15.

The ambassador’s comments came after the publication of an independent review to assess the response of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to the global problem of Christian persecution.

The report concluded that the UK government’s opportunities for independent action on the global stage have been under-utilized, and that the UK’s changing relationship with the European Union provides an opportunity for the Foreign Office to do more to preserve the rights of persecuted Christians, who make up 80 percent of those affected by global religious persecution.

Among the report’s recommendations to the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the Anglican Bishop of Truro Philip Mounstephen, who oversaw the report, recommended that the UK government be prepared to impose sanctions against perpetrators of “freedom of religion or belief” abuses.

“The Foreign Secretary has said that we are going to accept all of the recommendations in the report, and of course now we study how we do that,” Ambassador Axworthy said.

The results of the report were shared at an event at Rome’s Basilica of St. Bartholomew on Tiber Island July 15.

“The plight of Christians suffering torture and death is particularly distressing for those of us who also share with them a deep spiritual bond,” Mons. Antoine Camilleri, the Vatican Under-Secretary for Relations with States, said at the report launch in Rome.

“Governments must ask themselves to what extent are they really committed to defending religious freedom and to combating persecution based on religion and belief,” Camillieri said.

“How many refrain from condoning such acts, or even condemn them, yet still ‘collaborate’ politically, economically, commercially, militarily or otherwise, or simply by turning a blind eye, with some of the most egregious violators of this fundamental freedom?”

The Vatican Under-Secretary for Relations with States underlined that the “growing tendency, even in established democracies, to criminalize or penalize religious leaders for presenting the basic tenets of their faith, especially regarding the areas of life, marriage and the family” is also a concern.

“The right to religious freedom is rooted in the very dignity of the human person, and it is not only an achievement of a sound political and juridical culture but also a condition for the pursuit of truth that does not impose itself by force,” Camilleri said.

 

'After all, they are our brothers and sisters'

The Peace Pulpit: With the timely parable of the good Samaritan, this is God speaking to us, trying to show us how we build the reign of God in our world.

Editorial: The politics of division stripped of any disguise

We say: That so many conservative Republican loyalists — despite the silence today from members of Congress — are among the most relentless critics is an indication of how distorted the political arena has become.

Pope names British-Italian staffer as new director of Vatican press office

Pope Francis has named a new director of the Vatican press office, tasking a British-Italian staffer of the office to take over leadership in a permanent capacity seven months after the surprise resignations of its former director and vice director.

University spiritual life dean appointed Des Moines bishop

Vatican City, Jul 18, 2019 / 04:10 am (CNA).- Pope Francis appointed Fr. William Joensen, a priest of the Archdiocese of Dubuque and philosophy professor at a local college, as Bishop of Des Moines Thursday.

Joensen, 59, was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Dubuque in 1989, and received a Ph.D. in philosophy from the Catholic University of America in 2001.

Fr. Joensen has served as dean of campus spiritual life at Loras College, a Catholic liberal arts institution in Dubuque, since 2010. As such, he promotes the college's Catholic mission and identity, and serves as a spiritual director on the campus and at St. Pius X Seminary.

As an associate professor of philosophy at Loras, Joensen has taught courses in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophical anthropology, and history of philosophy. He also teaches the college’s Catholic Identity mission courses.

Fr. Joensen is a faculty member at the Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society, a seminar on Catholic social teaching held annually in Krakow, Poland. He also serves on the medical-moral commission of the Dubuque archdiocese and is a regular contributor of spiritual reflections to Magnificat.

He will succeed Bishop Richard Pates, who retired Thursday at the age of 76.

“The Holy Father, Pope Francis, is sending a bishop with a pastoral heart to the Diocese of Des Moines,” Bishop Pates said.

“Through Bishop-elect Joensen’s stellar personal gifts, the diocese will be well served in the years ahead. Heartfelt thanks are extended to Pope Francis for his solicitous care," he said.

Pope Francis names new director of Holy See press office

Vatican City, Jul 18, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Thursday appointed Matteo Bruni director of the Holy See Press Office, effective July 22. No vice director was named.

Bruni replaces Alessandro Gisotti, who has been serving as director ad interim after the resignations of Greg Burke and Paloma Garcia Ovejero at the end of 2018.

Bruni, 43, an Italian born in Great Britain, has worked for the Holy See press office since 2009, including as chief press handler, and most recently, as the lead on organization of papal trips.

In 2016, he became coordinator of the Media Operations section; in which he handled the accreditation of journalists for events during the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Though not a journalist, Bruni's background includes time working with the Sant'Egidio Community, a lay Catholic movement, for which he traveled around the world coordinating charity initiatives.

Bruni speaks fluent English and has an academic background in foreign languages. He also speaks Italian, Spanish, and French.

Gisotti, who has taken part in five papal trips during his six and a half months as interim director, has been given the role of vice editorial director of the Dicastery for Communication, serving under editorial director Andrea Tornielli (named to the position in early December 2018) and Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication since July 2018.

Sergio Centofanti, a journalist for Vatican News, was also named a vice director of editorial direction for Vatican communications.

The editorial director and his new deputies will direct all of the content of the Vatican Media platform, coordinate the editorial line of Vatican communications, and oversee the integration of traditional media and digital media with attention to the universal dimension of the Holy See’s communications.

Gisotti and Centofanti’s appointment to the editorial office of Vatican Media strengthens that department and likely marks a shift toward putting Vatican Media at the center of Vatican communications, rather than the press office.

The appointment of a permanent director fills the Holy See press office roster (minus a vice director) and completes the restructuring announced in January, which created the positions of senior advisor, two assistants to the director, and office manager.

These positions, which will remain stable, are currently filled by Romilda Ferrauto as senior advisor; Sr. Bernadette Reis and Raul Cabrera Perez as assistants to the director; and Thaddeus M. Jones as office manager.

Gisotti said July 18 it had been a privilege to be the pope's spokesman "during such an intense period of his Pontificate" and that he is grateful for Francis' "fatherly support."

"I am sure that Matteo Bruni will know how to manage the extraordinary team here at the Press Office in the best way possible," he said. "I offer him my best wishes for success, as well as my availability to collaborate."

In an interview with Vatican News July 18 Bruni said the nomination is an honor, adding that his professional relationship with the media "has always been rather intense."

"Even though behind the scenes, I tried to make my work contribute to correct information, trying to convey some of the main themes of the pontificate," he said. "I am aware that now a different kind of commitment is beginning and I hope that mutual trust remains unchanged."

Reform of Vatican communications was launched in June 2015 with Pope Francis' creation of the Secretariat for Communications, which consolidated nine communications offices under one authority and prioritized an increase in the use of digital media.

In March 2018 Msgr. Dario Edoardo Vigano stepped down as the secretariat's first prefect, in the wake of a fake news scandal concerning a letter from Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. Vigano continues to work in the department as a consultor.

Three months later, in June 2018, the Secretariat was renamed to "dicastery," the general word used for the Vatican's various offices and departments, which was seen by some as a downgrade.

New appointments rounded out 2018, which ended with the surprise double resignation of Burke and Ovejero as the papal spokespersons.


CNA's Andrea Gagliarducci contributed to this report. The report was updated at 6 am MDT.

A 'wealth' of resources available to St Louis women with unexpected pregnancies

St. Louis, Mo., Jul 18, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- With a law banning abortions after roughly eight weeks of pregnancy and one remaining abortion clinic whose licensure is being debated in court, Missouri has been described as a state “hostile” to abortion.

“The state makes it extremely hostile for an abortion facility to remain open,” Ushma Upadhyay, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California San Francisco, told Vox for a story on the last abortion clinic in the state.

While the state may be increasingly restricting abortions, it has numerous programs that provide a wealth of resources and support to thousands of women in need each year who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant, pro-life advocates told CNA.

“Our aim is for those moms who want to give life to their baby, we provide them with all sorts of alternatives (to abortion),” Michael Meehan, Executive Director of Good Shepherd Children and Family Services in St. Louis, told CNA.

Good Shepherd is one of eight agencies operated through Catholic Charities in St. Louis that are available to pregnant women in need, and provide them with a variety of resources and support, including housing, education classes and scholarships, counseling, and substance abuse recovery.

Good Shepherd itself has a maternity shelter and transitional living program for teen and young adult moms, who may otherwise be homeless, that can accommodate 14 mom and 20 babies, for just a few days or up to a year or longer, depending on the needs of the moms and children, Meehan said.

Besides group and individual counseling, on-staff nurses, and classes on life skills, parenting, and child development, completing a high school education is a requirement for moms in the program, Meehan told CNA.

“That’s a mandatory part of being here is re-engaging in your education. It opens and closes the single biggest bunch of doors for independence,” Meehan said. Thus, Good Shepherd has a full-time education advocate who is a certified teacher, and helps any mom who has not yet completed high school or gotten her GED.

There is also a home visitation program for women who have housing but need other kinds of support throughout their pregnancy, Meehan said. Good Shepherd provides those women with case management, crisis management for problems such as domestic violence, connection to good health care, and referrals to additional needed resources.

And because abuse and neglect prevention is a core part of Good Shepherd’s program, they can continue providing support through home visits until the youngest child in the home is three years old, he added.

“We want to ensure that moms and babies get the best possible start in life,” Meehan said.

They also have foster care and adoption services for women who feel that they are unable to parent their child but still want to provide a better life for them, Meehan said.

“We’re hopeful that we can get the word out that adoption is an option for women who might otherwise consider abortion,” he said.

When asked if he had noticed an increase in women seeking services from Good Shepherd in light of there being one remaining abortion clinic in the state, Meehan said that they have noticed an increase, but that they are unsure whether it is directly connected to the closing abortion clinics.

According to data from 2005 from the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice organization, the top three reasons that women seek abortions are: having a child would interfere with education, work or ability to care for dependents (74%); that she could not afford a baby now (73%); and that she did not want to be a single mother or was having relationship problems (48%).

Knowing these statistics, Meehand said that it is Good Shepherd’s goal to help women remove as many of these obstacles as possible so that they can keep their babies.

“We are about removing perceived obstacles,” he said, “which typically isn’t a baby. It’s a violent relationship, it’s pending homelessness, it’s deep and desperate poverty, it’s a perception that this is impossible, I’m just not going to be able to do it, the baby would be better off not being brought into the world.”

In recent years, Meehan said, Good Shepherd has done even more work to “get the word out” about their services so that women know what resources are available to them.

“The message is that the Church wants to control women, the Church doesn’t care about women, the Church only cares about women until they’re born and then couldn’t care less,” Meehan said. Those messages are easily proved false, he said, “if anybody bothered to look a smidge more deeply.”

And it’s not just the Catholic Church, or even religious organizations, that are providing life-affirming help to women and children in the St. Louis area.

Birthright of St. Louis is a secular non-profit that does not accept state or federal government funding. The goal of the agency is to provide women with the care and support that they need to be able to handle unexpected pregnancies, and to offer life-affirming alternatives to abortion.

“We just focus on the woman one-on-one,” Maureen Zink, the executive director of Birthright in St. Louis, told CNA.

“Our focus is that you have to be a quiet place where women can come where they don't feel like you have an agenda and just talk about why this pregnancy is so hard for them,” she said.

Birthright provides a variety of services to women free of charge, Zink said, including professional counseling, pregnancy testing, and financial aid and scholarships for women who are still in school.

They also have a program called Melissa Smiles, which supports mothers whose children are disabled and connects them to the resources that they need, she said.

“Pretty much anything a woman needs, we'll work with her,” Zink said. “We love to be able to take care of the women, so that they can take care of their babies. The goal is that they'll be able to provide a loving, safe, and nurturing healthy home for their babies.”

Every service provided by Birthright is free, Zink said, but women do not necessarily have to demonstrate a financial need to seek out help from the agency.

“There's college women that find out that they're pregnant and they're overwhelmed and they need help sorting it out,” Zink said.

Zink said that she has not noticed an uptick in women seeking services from Birthright in light of the closure of all but one abortion clinic; things have remained “pretty steady.”

“I think our services will always be needed no matter what the laws are,” she added.

Mary Varni, program manager with the Respect Life Apostolate of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, sent CNA a list of resources, both Catholic and secular, that they use to help connect women facing unexpected pregnancies with the resources that they need.

Varni noted that while many women in crisis pregnancies are poor, financial stability is often not the only thing they need.

“Based on our experience, if a woman is pregnant and concerned about her financial situation, she may also be concerned about the safety of the residence or neighborhood in which the child will grow up, the education the child will be able to receive, the child’s health care, or even basic needs like food and shelter,” she said.

“There is help to address all of these concerns, and by sharing the resources we know can help with the women we serve, we hope they will see that life is the right choice.”

Besides Good Shepherd, Catholic Charities in St. Louis also operates three additional shelters, Varni said: the Queen of Peace Center, which offers family-centered behavioral health care for women (and their children) who are overcoming substance use disorders; the St. Patrick Center, which helps people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless; and Marygrove, which offers an independent housing program that provides shelter and services to pregnant teens and young adults.

Furthermore, the Respect Life Apostolate offers the Blessed Theresa of Calcutta fund, which offers financial aid to expectant or recent parents within the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

There is also Our Lady’s Inn, which shelters and supports homeless women and their babies, and Thrive St. Louis, a women’s clinic that provides pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, parenting and life-skills classes, and referrals for housing, medical care, counseling, utility assistance, food and more.

The Society of St Vincent DePaul in St. Louis also provides food and financial resources, such as assistance with housing and transportation, to those in need, Varni said. They are also currently considering a closer partnership with Good Shepherd to more directly assist pregnant women and families in need.

Varni said that when a woman comes to the apostolate or the archdiocese for help, their first job is to listen to what those women are struggling with.

“We let them know they are not alone in their struggles, which is why there are so many resources available to assist with their needs, and alternatives to abortion that can help support a healthy life for their baby,” she said.

“We remind them that their pregnancy is a gift from God, and that He chose them to carry their baby for a reason He knows better than all of us—and that because He loves them, there is always hope. They will be able to overcome the challenges they are facing.”

The licensure of Missouri’s last operating abortion clinic, a Planned Parenthood in St. Louis, is still being debated in court. The next hearing over the clinic’s license is not until October, and a judge has ruled that the clinic can still offer abortions through that hearing.

But despite some of the hand-wringing over what could be the closure of the last abortion clinic in the state, Meehan said it would be a good thing - and that women will still get the help that they need, through the many services available in the state.

“People lose track of the fact that...we’re talking about well over 600,000 babies dying every year (from abortion),” he said. “That’s a lot.”

“If Planned Parenthood disappeared today, the need of our population could be met, that’s not an issue. They’re not nearly as indispensable as they would have us believe.”

Peruvian cardinal defends Amazon synod agenda after attacks by Müller, Brandmüller

Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno says the agenda, which raises the possibility of ordaining older married men as priests in rural areas, "largely expresses the feelings and desires of many representatives of the Amazon people."

Francis, the comic strip

Francis, the comic strip: Brother Leo and Gabby discuss the many facets of St. Peter.