Catholic News Service

Top stories selected throughout each day from Catholic News Service. Catholic News Service provides news from the U.S., Rome and around the world in both English and Spanish, in written coverage, images and video reporting.
  1. IMAGE: CNS photo/Michael Brown, Catholic Outlook

    By Michael Brown

    NOGALES, Mexico (CNS) -- Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, grew emotional talking about the harrowing stories she heard from immigrants about the life they left behind to seek refuge in the United States.

    "The suffering they are going through is unimaginable," she said after listening to stories from families waiting to apply for asylum at the international border at Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora.

    Sister Markham, who recently completed a tour of a detention facility for children in McAllen, Texas, said she wanted to visit Nogales to get the whole story behind the current public debate over immigration.

    "Their stories," she said, pausing to compose herself. "They are running for their lives. Literally, they left at gunpoint."

    She was joined July 11 at the Nogales Port of Entry by Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, executive director of the Kino Border Initiative, an organization that assists mostly families who have been sent back to Mexico following deportation proceedings.

    With the large influx of refugees seeking to enter the U.S., Father Carroll, along with other religious-based and nonprofit agencies in Nogales, Arizona, have set up temporary shelters and a check-in system for families seeking to enter the U.S. and to apply for asylum.

    Were it not for those shelters, families would have to wait in line at the port of entry in the humidity and heat of 100-plus degrees for about two weeks, Father Carroll told Catholic Outlook, newspaper of the Diocese of Tucson, Arizona.

    The first family Sister Markham met included 11 members, four of whom were young children. They left the Mexican state of Guerrero, one of the poorest and least safe areas in the country.

    Father Carroll interpreted their story, explaining how their lives had been threatened by a local political party during the recent presidential election. At the border, their biggest fear is that the father and uncle would be detained, the children taken from them, and the women deported. Knowing that risk, they waited anyway because "they were threatened with death" in their hometown, Sister Markham said.

    While such conditions might easily fall into the classic example of political asylum, Peg Harmon, who is executive director of Catholic Community Services in the Diocese of Tucson and has been a Catholic Charities USA board member, acknowledged that under the current vetting system, there were no guarantees.

    Another family -- two women and two young children -- also spoke to Sister Markham. One woman held a young girl close to her who appeared to be no older than 9 and was crying inconsolably. The mother, also from Guerrero, spoke of her husband being taken and her daughter's life being threatened. She was with another woman, with a son about same age. They had tried to cross into the U.S. in January but were stopped and deported in February. Under current U.S. policy, they would not be eligible to enter the country because of the previous attempt, but have no other place to go.

    Sister Maria Engracia Robles Robles, a Missionary Sister of the Eucharist, works at a "comedor" -- a combined soup kitchen and food pantry -- run by Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Sonora. As she listened to the families' stories, she used her cellphone to put their names on the list of applicants waiting to file for asylum.

    Several people passing the families as they entered the U.S. from Mexico offered them candy and money. Local charities also supplied blankets and water bottles, kept in large coolers, at the border station.

    Following her meeting with the families, Sister Markham said there were two things she hoped to accomplish when she returns to her organization's national headquarters outside Washington.

    "We need to call all believers to prayer, and we have to educate people who don't have the opportunity to come here," she said.

    Sister Markham said that visiting Nogales was a completely different experience from her trip to visit the juveniles held in Texas. In McAllen, "they are already going through the process; there the process is very slow."

    "Here, it is very painful to hear the stories, to know how people have suffered to get this far, especially the children," she said. "It's emotionally overwhelming. It's more painful than I imagined."

    The next day in Tucson, Sister Markham was joined by Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger of Tucson at Casa Alitas, a family shelter run by Catholic Community Services. Casa Alitas receives families in transition from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, after being processed from the border and immigration court.

    Early July 12, two families were preparing to leave Casa Alitas and another four were being placed there. When the bishop and Sister Markham arrived, Olga, a Honduran refugee, was preparing to leave with her two children to board a bus for a three-day trip to stay with family in Baltimore.

    A few hours later, Valentia, a Mexican native, was leaving with her two children for her own cross-country trip to a community in New Jersey. Soon the Casa Alitas staff welcomed new families -- three from Brazil and one from Mexico -- brought to the facility by ICE.

    Sister Markham visited the home the night before and had a chance to spend some time with the departing families. During her morning visit, she gave hugs and smiles to the familiar faces, and later, interviews with local media who arrived to document the visit.

    "Our goal is to do everything we can to see that these families are treated with dignity," she told one reporter.

    A glance around the now-crowded living area revealed weary women and children, some of whom looked ready for a nap. Some needed clothing, which was available from a supply room. The smell of a hot breakfast began to waft out of the kitchen where signs and wipe boards and children's drawings created a homey atmosphere.

    Bishop Weisenburger noted that "20 percent of the Gospels is about taking care of the poor and needy." Taking care of immigrants and refugees is important for those who want "to really live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to call ourselves Christian."

    As she began to describe her experience from the day before, Sister Markham again paused to fight back tears after talking about "the babies sitting at the border in the heat."

    "I have a big heart," she explained, smiling again.

    Before leaving to catch her flight back east, Sister Markham showered praise upon the more than half dozen workers and volunteers gathered at Casa Alitas as new families arrived.  "I am just amazed at the staff and the level of attention they give to the families here."

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    Brown is managing editor of Catholic Outlook, newspaper of the Diocese of Tucson.

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  2. IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

    By Cindy Wooden

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- World War I and its aftermath changed the map of Europe, but also dismantled the notion of the "state church" in a way that forced the Catholic Church to discover again the authentic meaning of mission, said Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

    After the war, Pope Benedict XV "was prompt in indicating how the missionary world must change paths, abandoning the colonial ideology in which it had been lulled and promoting autonomy, independence and ecclesial self-governance in all the areas outside Europe," said the Vatican secretary of state.

    Speaking at a conference July 12 anticipating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, Cardinal Parolin looked at the wide-ranging impact of the war and its aftermath on the political map of Europe, and how that affected the fates of peoples in the Middle East and in the countries of what would become the Soviet Union.

    But he also spoke about Pope Benedict's 1919 apostolic letter "Maximum Illud" on the church's missionary activity. In conjunction with document's centenary, Pope Francis has asked all Catholics to celebrate a special "missionary month" in October 2019.

    Announcing the special commemoration, Pope Francis had said, "In 1919, in the wake of a tragic global conflict that he himself called a 'useless slaughter,' the pope recognized the need for a more evangelical approach to missionary work in the world, so that it would be purified of any colonial overtones and kept far away from the nationalistic and expansionistic aims that had proved so disastrous."

    "May the approaching centenary of that letter serve as an incentive to combat the recurring temptation lurking beneath every form of ecclesial introversion, self-referential retreat into comfort zones, pastoral pessimism and sterile nostalgia for the past," Pope Francis said. "Instead, may we be open to the joyful newness of the Gospel."

    World War I marked the end of the "state church," which was particularly strong in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Cardinal Parolin said in his lecture in the northern Italian city of Aquileia. The government had power in the appointment of bishops and controlled the seminaries and a variety of religious institutions, all of which fed into a mentality that emphasized national belonging over the universality of the Catholic faith, the cardinal said.

    "Maximum Illud," he said, was "the manifesto of a missionary and political revolution whose importance still has not been recognized as it deserves."

    "In the encyclical," the cardinal said, "the pope ordered European missionaries to free themselves of nationalism, of the idea of European superiority over the peoples then seen as subordinate, to promote local languages rather than the language of the conquerors, (and) to train and to value indigenous clergy so that 'one day they will be able to take up the spiritual leadership of their people.'"

    Pope Benedict knew it would take some time to change mentalities and ensure the proper training of local clergy in view of their leadership of their communities, Cardinal Parolin said. But he also knew that the church had to act both out of respect for the God-given dignity of all peoples and cultures as well as because "the Catholic Church also would have been shaken by the imminent end of colonial structures."

    Pope Pius XI continued the path dictated by Pope Benedict, he said, and in the 1930s nominated the first local Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and African bishops.

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  3. IMAGE: CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters

    By Rhina Guidos

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Some of migrant children under age 5 separated from their families by the government were reunited with loved ones July 9 with help from Catholic organizations.

    About two dozen families in all were brought back together on that date with help from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Migration and Refugee Services, Catholic Charities USA and a network of other agencies from around the country.

    In all, the Catholic agencies will help reunite 55 families by mid-July and provide short-term care, such as food and shelter, said Bill Canny, executive director of MRS.

    "What we're trying to do is give people who have had a dose of bad, we're trying to give them a dose of good," said Canny in a July 12 interview with Catholic News Service. 

    "Protection of families is a foundational element of Catholic social teaching and this moment calls on all people of goodwill to lend a hand to reunite these children with their parents," said a joint statement issued the same day by MRS and Catholic Charities USA.

    The children and families were earlier separated by a policy implemented by the Trump administration at the U.S.-Mexico border, seeking to deter illegal border crossings. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in May that people risking improper entry would be subject to having their children taken away, if caught.

    The Catholic Church, along with much of the country, condemned the policy and has been advocating for the families' reunification. After much public outcry and widespread condemnation of the family separation policy, President Donald Trump signed an executive order June 20 saying families would no longer be separated but may be detained together during the process of prosecution and deportation at the border.

    The U.S. bishops have expressed concerns with that possibility, asking for alternatives to detention but seemed intent on lessening the damage already done.

    Trump administration officials said that 2,342 children had been separated from 2,206 parents at the U.S.-Mexico border between May 5 and June 9 as part of the previous policy.

    The administration was given until July 10 to reunite children under 5 with their families, but administration officials had said July 9 that they would not be able to meet that deadline. The administration has until July 26 to reunite all of the more than 2,000 children who have been separated from parents.

    Canny said the organizations are trying to raise funds for the effort and anyone wanting to help can donate to Catholic Charities USA,

    The families of children under 5 that the Catholic organizations helped were reunited at government facilities and then transferred into the care of Catholic Charities organizations around the country, as well as the Annunciation House in the El Paso, Texas/Juarez, Mexico, border region.

    They will be assisted with follow-up care for two months as many will leave the facilities and head toward a destination with family or a sponsor somewhere in the U.S.

    Canny said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Office of Refugee Resettlement reached out to the Catholic organizations, as well as the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service in early July to help with the reunifications.

    "They know we are able to tap into a vast Catholic network across the country, which proves valuable for humanitarian and disaster response," he said.

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  4. IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

    By Mark Pattison

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Newspapers of every type, Catholic papers included, are seeking relief from the U.S. government after six months of increased costs due to tariffs on imported Canadian newsprint.

    The Catholic Press Association, which includes English-speaking Canada, is a member of the STOPP Coalition, which has pressed the Commerce Department for relief. STOPP is an acronym for Stop Tariffs on Printers and Publishers.

    Price increases due to the tariffs have socked the Pittsburgh Catholic three times already this year, according to Carmella Weismantle, advertising director and business manager. "And we've been told more are coming," she said.

    The newsprint tariff is different from the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration on goods produced elsewhere, most notably China. In the newsprint situation, a U.S. company, NORPAC, which owns a mill in Washington state, had complained that Canada was unfairly subsidizing its newsprint production. The U.S. Department of Commerce agreed, and tariffs were first slapped onto newsprint imports in January.

    Tim Walter, CPA executive director, said the CPA board had agreed to join STOPP after CPA president Joe Towalski, editor of The Visitor, newspaper of the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota, had recommended it. Walter added that Towalski noted the CPA had joined the alliance during this year's Catholic Media Convention in June, although no questions were raised about the issue afterward.

    "There was no financial commitment involved" in joining STOPP, Walter told Catholic News Service in a July 12 telephone interview. "They didn't ask us to participate in meetings at this point in time. They just asked us to join the alliance."

    Other members of STOPP include a number of regional press organizations as well as national groups like the News Media Alliance, the American Society of News Editors, the Association of Alternative Newsmedia and the Association of American Publishers. Printers, paper makers and even the National Grocers Association, whose members' ads appear in newspapers nationwide, are in the coalition.

    Walter noted that the CPA's monthly newspaper, The Catholic Journalist, has been affected by the tariff. "It's traditional we would have a printer do our work pro bono, but because of the increase in print costs and newsprint costs, they're asking us to pay the costs of newsprint for the first time in many years," he said.

    "We were warned" about future increases, Weismantle said. "We knew that this was coming down the pike. And our printer told us, 'We have no alternative but to pass it on to our customers.' I mean, what are they supposed to do?"

    Mark Cohen, president of the Pennsylvania News Media Association, was part of a group lobbying six Pennsylvania members of Congress in June. "They made it sound like they'd heard of it, but they didn't realize the calamity it would cause newspapers," Cohen told CNS July 11.

    "We said, 'Look, you believe in jobs, obviously. ' You believe in First Amendment rights. You believe in real news vs. fake news. You want good local reporters on the street. If you do, you need to be on our side. You can't have it both ways.... You have to be with us.'"

    Cohen said, "I think we have momentum. We were way behind the starting line on this and we were all caught off guard. Now that we're mobilized, we're getting the message out. We're getting attention. Of course, we can't predict how this goes."

    One potential remedy is a hearing before the International Trade Commission to lift the tariff, which is supposed to last for five years with annual review. The commission conducted a hearing July 7 on the tariff and is slated to vote on it Aug. 28, although its rationale, yea or nay, wouldn't be known until September, according to Paul Boyle, senior vice president of public policy for the news Media Alliance.

    "Many newspapers have taken steps to cut the number of pages that they produce. Some have laid off workers, which is not a good situation," Boyle said. Cohen added some newspapers have reduced the number of days they print; the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will now publish in print just five days a week.

    Another remedy being pushed is the PRINT Act, introduced by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine. It has 24 Senate co-sponsors and 28 House co-sponsors. PRINT is an acronym for Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade. The bill would suspend the tariff on Canadian newsprint and require the Commerce Department to review the economic health of the printing and publishing industries.

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    Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison

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  5. IMAGE: CNS files

    By Cindy Wooden

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Documents in the Vatican Secret Archives and the archives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith prove it was a "myth" that Blessed Paul VI largely set out on his own in writing "Humanae Vitae," the 1968 encyclical on married love and the regulation of births.

    In anticipation of the encyclical's 50th anniversary, Pope Francis gave special access to the archives to Msgr. Gilfredo Marengo, a professor at Rome's Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences.

    The results of his research were published in Italian in early July in the book, "The Birth of an Encyclical: 'Humanae Vitae' in the Light of the Vatican Archives."

    In a note to reporters, Msgr. Marengo said his research revealed four little-known facts: Pope Paul approved an encyclical, "De Nascendae Prolis" ("On a Child's Birth"), in early May 1968, but was convinced by translators in the Vatican Secretariat of State that it still needed work; a new draft was corrected by hand by Pope Paul; on several occasions the future St. John Paul II sent suggestions, including an extensive treatment of the theme, but there is no evidence that they were used heavily in the final document; and Pope Paul asked the 199 bishops at the 1967 world Synod of Bishops to send him reflections on the theme of the regulation of births.

    Msgr. Marengo said the request to the synod members was a surprise. It is not included in any report about the synod itself.

    "The news about the desire of the pope to consult all the members of the synodal assembly is very important," he said, "because one of the accusations repeated most often after the publication of 'Humanae Vitae' was that the pope decided to act alone, in a manner that was not collegial."

    The pope received only 25 responses in the period between Oct. 9, 1967, and May 31, 1968, Msgr. Marengo said. And, perhaps more surprising, of those, only seven bishops asked Pope Paul to repeat the Catholic Church's teaching against the use of contraceptives.

    The other responses -- including a joint U.S. response from Cardinal Lawrence Shehan of Baltimore, Cardinal John Krol of Philadelphia, Archbishop John Dearden of Detroit and Bishop John Wright of Pittsburgh -- exhibited an openness to the use of artificial birth control in some circumstances, however "none of them would say that using the pill is a good thing," Msgr. Marengo told Catholic News Service.

    Bishop Fulton J. Sheen of Rochester, New York, and Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, Poland -- the future Pope John Paul II -- were among the seven bishops urging a reaffirmation of church teaching that using contraceptives was wrong.

    "The pope never thought of proceeding alone, putting the collegial profile of the Petrine ministry in parentheses," Msgr. Marengo wrote.

    But consultation is not the same thing as taking a vote. And bishops were not the only ones asked for their input. Long before the synod, and before Pope Paul was elected to lead the church, St. John XXIII had appointed a small committee to study the issue of the regulation of birth.

    Pope Paul expanded the commission, which included several married couples. The commission's work ended in 1966 with the leaking of a report by the majority of members asserting artificial contraception was not intrinsically evil; minority reports, insisting contraception was morally wrong, were leaked in response.

    After reading the commission reports and the bishops' input, Msgr. Marengo wrote, Pope Paul "found himself in a situation that was not easy. His judgment had matured, and he felt obliged in conscience to express it in virtue of his apostolic ministry, knowing well that going in that direction would place him at a predictable and painful distance from sectors of the church community that were not marginal."

    In fact, less than a week after the encyclical was published, Pope Paul held a general audience and spoke about just how weighty the decision was. "Never before have we felt so heavily, as in this situation, the burden of our office," he said July 31, 1968. "We studied, read and discussed as much as we could; and we also prayed very much about it."

    For Msgr. Marengo, the process of drafting "Humanae Vitae" cannot be understood without recognizing the changes in the church unleased by the Second Vatican Council, including on the theme of marriage and parenthood.

    "Since the council in 'Gaudium et Spes' recognized 'responsible parenthood' as a value -- changing in a fundamental way the vision of marriage -- the idea of many was that it required a change in the church's sexual morality as well," he told CNS.

    "The difficulty for Pope Paul VI was in how to explain that the use of contraceptives was not licit, but to do so in the light of an affirmation of responsible parenthood," he said.

    The encyclical's emphasis on the "inseparable connection" between the "unitive and the procreative" qualities of married love, he said, marked a significant change in church teaching from before Vatican II; previously, the church taught that the primary purpose of marriage was for procreation.

    Blessed Paul's personal work in rewriting the encyclical's "pastoral directives" also reflects the teaching of Vatican II, he said. Previously, "the magisterial task was to explain, and the pastoral task was to tell people to accept."

    "'You must obey' was the classic pastoral approach," Msgr. Marengo said.

    But, he said, "Pope Paul broke this schema, saying, 'I will explain the teaching and if you try to understand it, you will see that it is true and is what is best for you.'"

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    Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

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    Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

  6. IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy National Black Catholic Sisters' Conference

    By Dennis Sadowski

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Fifty years ago, Josephite Father William Norvel thought it was time for black priests to come together.

    The year, 1968, was a tumultuous one in American history. The country was struggling to implement civil rights for blacks, protests of the Vietnam War became common and some were violent, and young people rejected the authority of their parents' generation.

    The black priests wanted to support each other. They also wanted to discuss how to respond to the times and gain the church backing to better evangelize black communities.

    More importantly, they wanted to confront the racism they were experiencing within the church. The priests wanted to feel accepted for who they were: African-American clergy who could share a rich cultural heritage but were feeling suppressed by white-dominated church leadership.

    Father Norvel and dozens of black priests met in Detroit in April in the first meeting of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus. The meeting came soon after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Questions abounded in the minds of the priests.

    "I felt at that time we needed to bring to the attention of the church the racism experienced in our seminaries and in our church," said Father Norvel, now 82 and retired in Atlanta, recalling that first gathering.

    The priests returned to their parishes resolved to "have the church do something about" racism, he said.

    Mercy Sister Martin de Porres Grey was the only woman religious to attend. She has since left religious life. The organization's history records that she was so inspired by the gathering that she organized a similar meeting of black sisters in August later that year in Pittsburgh. About 150 women attended, marking the founding of the National Black Sisters' Conference.

    The sisters, too, wanted to support each other and address racism within the institutional church as well as in their own congregations, recalled Sister Josita Colbert, 80, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in Baltimore who attended the gathering. Today she serves as the congregation's vocation director.

    Sister Colbert said she came away inspired from the first meeting and continues to attend the annual gathering, which includes the priests' caucus, the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association and the National Association of Black Catholic Deacons.

    "It was amazing and overwhelming at the beginning," she told Catholic News Service. "We had speakers who challenged us in terms of what was going on in the world (then) and here in the United States as black people and what we as black religious women were going to do about it."

    The priests' and sisters' organizations have had a vibrant history and will celebrate their 1968 founding July 28-Aug. 2 in New Orleans. The seminarians and deacons will be there, too.

    Father Kenneth Taylor, who pastors two parishes in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and is president of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, told CNS this year's gathering will be a time of celebration for all four organizations.

    The joint meeting also will be one to reflect on the role of African-Americans within the church, "especially during a time when we seem to have lost the interest of the church leaders because of the strong Hispanic immigration into the country," Father Taylor said.

    The organizations do not want to create a rift with Hispanic Catholics, but rather want to make sure diocesan bishops do not shrink African-American outreach while expanding Hispanic ministries, he said.

    "This gives us an opportunity to come together in mutual support and encouragement," Father Taylor explained. "It also gives us a chance to come together to talk about the needs of the black community and what we can do to help black Catholics become more engaged in the church."

    A deep concern for racism underlies the organizations today. Some clergy and women religious were outspoken about the racism they saw in the 1960s. Their strident stances in those early years often alienated diocesan or congregational leadership.

    Although the stridency may have been dialed back a bit today, their views have not faded. Black priests and women religious continue to say they want the church to confront racism so that all the faithful can achieve true equality.

    Father David Benz, 75, who was ordained to the priesthood in 1975 in the Archdiocese of New York and now is retired, said at times he feels African-Americans in the church almost appear "invisible."

    "I belong to the same church. I know what the social teachings of the church are and we as a church see this and ignore that," he told CNS.

    Father Taylor credited the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for creating its Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, which is finalizing a pastoral letter on racism across American society as well as the church. A vote on the document is planned for the bishops' general assembly in November.

    Still, black women religious and priests expressed concern that African-American evangelization is being overlooked again within the church. They voiced concern that diocesan reorganizations and parish and school closings have disproportionately affected African-American communities.

    "It leaves the impression that the Catholic Church is pulling out of the black community," Father Taylor said.

    Just as worrisome is the rise in white supremacy, overt racist comments in the media and in politics, and emerging policies that harm minority communities. The priests and women religious said they believe the church must become more vocal in offering the moral guidance necessary to change people's hearts.

    Sister Roberta Fulton, a member of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur and president of the National Black Sisters' Conference, credited congregations of women religious for addressing racism within their structures. She and others called for stronger efforts to promote religious vocations among African Americans as key to addressing their concerns.

    "People are not entering religious life like they used to, so we're looking at other ways for your people to understand the call," Sister Fulton said. One option is to encourage young people to become associates of a congregation. "Those associates, some have become sisters. They learn some things about the sisters and what we do, where we minister."

    Precious Blood Father Clarence Williams, senior parochial vicar at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, in the Cleveland Diocese, was among the organizers of the black seminarians' organization soon after the priests' caucus formed. He said that the early annual joint gatherings of the associations helped encourage participants to recommit to their ministry.

    "Meeting yearly with the religious women and priests and really reflecting on our reality in our communities, within our diocese, within assignment, we found our wisdom in that community to stay (in ministry)," Father Williams said. "Those without the support didn't make it. It became to discouraging. It became too hostile," he said.

    For women religious, the annual gathering was just as inspiring.

    "The black sisters conference was wonderful because it brought us all together," recalled Sister Juanita Shealey, a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph in Cleveland. "We sang, we danced, we prayed, we talked about how wonderful it was to see other black sisters.

    Members of both organizations also lamented the overall declining number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, especially among African-Americans. With fewer vocations, it also means fewer opportunities for African-Americans to assume leadership positions in the church.

    "Over the years we have made recommendations to get priests named (bishops).... But it seems as if the church is much more concerned about the Hispanic community than they are about the black community," Father Benz said.

    Having more African-Americans in leadership, especially as bishops, would help with evangelization, Father Benz added.

    The New Orleans gathering will give participants a chance to reflect on such questions. Attendees also will honor past and present leaders, those whom Father Taylor called "exemplars."

    He said rather than honor one person with an award, 50 exemplars have been identified and will be identified at the gathering.

    The honor will serve to show not just where the organizations have been, but, Father Taylor said, to but hopefully will inspire members to carry on their legacy to achieve full acceptance in church and society.

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    Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

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    Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

  7. IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

    By Rhina Guidos

    MCALLEN, Texas (CNS) -- The journey for many of the new migrants entering the U.S. near the border town of McAllen involves a mix of hardship and blessings.

    Having made the treacherous trip through the desert landscape and across the border, the lucky ones find themselves welcomed with food, water and human warmth at a Catholic-run humanitarian center in downtown McAllen.

    But having just conquered the life-changing crossing, many of the migrants also find themselves immediately facing an unknown world and future ahead.

    Though many bishops come to know many immigrants in the dioceses where they serve, except for the bishops along the border, few prelates witness that initial phase of the immigration journey that a group of bishops was privy to in early July. 

    They fed and spoke with a group of newly arrived immigrants to the U.S. at a Catholic Charities center and visited the controversial facilities where migrant children and teens have gotten their first taste of the U.S. -- in detention -- while temporarily separated from family. The bishops gave them rosaries and Bibles following a Mass they celebrated at one of the centers.

    With their actions of charity and faith, they inserted themselves into the heart of the radioactive immigration debate the United States is experiencing, and one in which some Catholics remain aligned with political party ideology rather than with what the church is saying on the topic.

    The way the bishops see it, they were simply answering the call of Pope Francis, to "share the journey," a campaign started in September 2017 that called on Catholics and people of goodwill around the world to spend time with migrants, to come face to face with them, perhaps serve them in some fashion and hear their story.

    Caritas Internationalis kicked off the campaign internationally last year and it is being promoted in the U.S. by groups such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Migration and Refugee Services.

    "The journey ahead is still a tough journey, a difficult journey," said Auxiliary Bishop Robert J. Brennan of Rockville Centre, New York, one of the prelates on the trip.

    The migrants have to settle in, find work, learn the language and, in some cases, face "the biases," he said.

    "There's always that fear," Bishop Brennan said in a July 1 interview with Catholic News Service after the visit to the respite center run by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in McAllen. "I know it's not easy, but I think the people I met today are driven by a sense of a hope-filled future. They want to build their lives up, they want to provide for their families. The children are actually looking forward to school."

    Bishop Brennan, along with USCCB president Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania, took part in the visit to the center, along with local Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville and Auxiliary Bishop Mario Aviles, also of the Brownsville Diocese. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles joined the group July 2 and celebrated Mass at one of the facilities with the children and teens.

    To explain the situation to Catholics and others opposed to the presence of the migrants and to how they entered the country, Bishop Brennan said he focuses on the humanity of the situation. But it is important to listen to all sides of the situation, he said.

    "Even people who would want to be tougher on the (immigrants), we all share that sense of humanity," said Bishop Brennan. "I think there is compassion, but we have to acknowledge people's fears and acknowledge them as valid. We have to start meeting everyone where they are and recognizing those fears and concerns."

    There are solutions to bring about security at the border in ways that are humane and that's what Bishop Brennan said he wants to get across. And those who may be voicing their stance against the migrants, "they're not heartless," Bishop Brennan said, but they might be reacting to other factors.

    "You see chaos in the world around you and that worries you and that's why the bishops have been so strong about comprehensive immigration reform, it's not just fancy words," he said. "We have to look at the whole picture and when we look at the whole picture, it's not as complicated as it seems."

    Seeing the whole picture involves talking to some of the immigrants, he said.  

    Bishop Bambera said he heard repeatedly from those he met in Texas about the fear they were facing and the urgency to leave to protect their lives or the lives of their children from imminent danger. It was a story repeated, too, to Cardinal DiNardo, when he spoke with the recent arrivals.

    His hope, Cardinal DiNardo said in July 2 interview with CNS, was to "let all Catholics in our country know that we welcome immigrants.... You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet" the people behind the issue and the church stands with those at the margins.

    For the bishops, whose actions and words are amplified and often publicly scrutinized, "sharing the journey" when it comes to immigration meant sharing a story that some in their flock resist hearing because of the political rhetoric surrounding the issue. But the prelates tried to direct the attention away from the politics of it and directed it toward its human cost and why the church cares about it.

    "It's not just a matter of politics, it's a matter of humanity," said Archbishop Gomez during a July 2 news conference closing the prelates visit.

    The origin of the trip began in early June when Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, called on his fellow bishops at a meeting in Florida to organize the visit to the border "as a sign of our pastoral concern and protest against this hardening of the American heart," a phrase he has used to refer to the anti-immigrant atmosphere and harsh sentiments toward immigrants in the country.

     At that time, the Trump administration had just implemented a policy separating migrant children from parents, if they were caught crossing the border illegally. The Trump administration has since rescinded the policy but some of those who were separated remain apart and authorities were scrambling to reunite those who were separated.

    Regardless of the political implications, some like Kevin Appleby, senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies of New York, maintain that the life and death implications and damage to families by the Trump administration's policies merits the involvement of the church.

    "The visit to the border was an important step, but bishops across the country need to be loud and clear that President Trump and his administration should not prosecute asylum-seekers who are fleeing for their lives, detain them indefinitely, and deny them due process protections," he said. "This is a moment in which the Catholic community should be united in their opposition to the administration's zero-tolerance policy, as it undermines family unity, a core principle of Catholic teaching."

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  8. IMAGE: CNS photo/Jim Bourg, Reuters

    By Carol Zimmermann

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- President Donald Trump announced July 9 that his nominee for the Supreme Court is Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge in Washington and a Catholic who once clerked for retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

    "What matters is not a judge's personal views but whether they can set aside those views to do what the law and the Constitution require," Trump said in his announcement at the White House, adding: "I am pleased to say I have found, without doubt, such a person."

    He said the nominee has "impeccable credentials" and is "considered a judge's judge."

    "I am grateful to you and I am humbled by your confidence in me," said Kavanaugh, who was standing near his wife and two daughters.

    Kavanaugh spoke about his Catholic faith, saying he tries to live by the motto instilled in him by his Jesuit high school: "be men for others." Kavanaugh, like Justice Neil Gorsuch, attended Georgetown Prep, a Jesuit boys school in Maryland. He also pointed out that his former pastor, Msgr. John Enzler, was in the audience. He said he he used to be an altar boy for him and now the two serve the homeless together. The priest is the president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Washington. Kavanaugh also gave a shoutout to the girls basketball team at his parish which he coaches. He said the team has nicknamed him "Coach K," the name given to Duke basketball's head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

    He also told the group gathered the East Room of the White House that he is "part of the vibrant Catholic community in the D.C. area," and added that "members of that community disagree about many things, but we are united in our commitment to serve."

    Kavanaugh said if he is chosen to be on the Supreme Court, he would "keep an open mind in every case" and "always strive to preserve the Constitution of the United States and the American rule of law."

    Immediately after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement June 27, Trump said he would move quickly to nominate a replacement, saying he would review a list of candidates from the list he had to fill the seat now held by Gorsuch after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

    Kennedy is one of five Catholic justices on the Supreme Court along with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor.

    Kavanaugh, 53, is a Yale Law School graduate who currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where he has authored more than 280 opinions. He was part of the Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's Whitewater investigation, which ultimately led to President Bill Clinton's impeachment by the House and acquittal by the Senate.

    His biography on the court website notes that he is a regular lector at his church, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington. He also volunteers for the St. Maria's Meals program at Catholic Charities, has coached CYO, tutors at the Washington Jesuit Academy and belongs to the John Carroll Society, a group of Catholic lawyers and professionals.

    He dissented from a recent ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that a teenager in an immigrant detention center was entitled to seek an abortion. He claimed the decision would give immigrant minors a right to "immediate abortion on demand," but urged the government to transfer her to private custody so she could do "as she wished."

    Kavanaugh also dissented from a majority decision of the D.C. Circuit that rejected a request from the Archdiocese of Washington and Priests for Life to have the full court review their challenge to the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate.

    He said that "the regulations substantially burden the religious organizations' exercise of religion because the regulations require the organizations to take an action contrary to their sincere religious beliefs." But he also wrote that the government "has a compelling interest in facilitating access to contraception for the employees of these religious organizations" and should "achieve it in other ways."

    Two of the other judges reported to be top picks as nominees are also Catholic: Judges Amy Coney Barrett and Thomas Hardiman. Judge Amul Thapar, on a broader top list, is also Catholic.

    The nominee must be confirmed by the Senate in order to have a seat on the Supreme Court. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings questioning the nominee and if the committee approves, a vote for or against the nominee goes to the full Senate floor and must be approved with a simple majority or 51 votes.

    Reaction to Kavanaugh's nomination was pretty much divided along party lines.

    Sarah Pitlyk, Kavanaugh's former law clerk, praised Trump's selection. She is special counsel for the Thomas More Society, a national nonprofit law firm dedicated to causes related to life, the family and religious liberty.

    "Judge Kavanaugh has a clear, consistent and solid record on the issues that matter most to social conservatives. He has repeatedly taken conservative stands and has fearlessly defended his textualist and originalist philosophy," she said in a July 10 statement.

    "He is a good and decent man who will never waver in the face of pressure from any quarters. He is exactly what constitutional conservatives want on the Supreme Court," she added.

    The Catholic Democrats organization was not pleased with Trump's choice, saying that if he is confirmed, he would make the court "significantly more conservative." 

    In a July 10 statement, it said said had "grave concerns" about Kavanaugh, primarily because he was on a list of 25 judges compiled by the Federalist Society, which the Catholic Democrats describe as a group that "advances a conservative ideology that devalues civil rights, labor rights, environmental protection, gun safety, and federalism while advancing business interests."

    "No one can predict precisely how Judge Kavanaugh will vote, but the Federalist Society's stamp of approval and his judicial record tell us that he will likely advance a pro-business agenda at the expense of workers and the most vulnerable in our society," said James Roosevelt Jr., a board member of Catholic Democrats.

    Initial reactions to Kavanaugh's nomination were somewhat muted from some who felt another top nominee, Barrett, would do more to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

    The National Right to Life Committee tweeted a note of thanks to Trump after the nominee was announced, and the Susan B. Anthony List, a nonprofit group that seeks to end abortion by supporting pro-life candidates, described Kavanaugh as an "outstanding choice."

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    Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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  9. IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey

    By Paul Jeffrey

    NUBA MOUNTAINS, Sudan (CNS) -- While tense relations between religious groups contribute to violence in many parts of the world today, Christians and Muslims in the war-ravaged Nuba Mountains of Sudan say they are getting along just fine.

    For outsiders, it takes a while to comprehend.

    "When I first arrived in the Nuba Mountains, I was confused. Everyone dressed the same. Women would wear head coverings, but then I saw them in church receiving the sacraments," said Comboni Sister Angelina Nyakuru, who serves as head nurse at the Catholic Church-sponsored Mother of Mercy Hospital in Gidel.

    "At Christmas, the Muslims come to celebrate with the Christians. And on Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, we go to their celebrations. It's peculiar to this place. There is peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims, as well as with those who practice traditional religions. Muslim parents usually don't object if their children want to become Christian. In fact, when they receive the sacraments, their parents accompany them to the church to support them."

    Sister Nyakuru, who has been in the Nuba Mountains since 2008, compares the situation to her country of Uganda.

    "Back home, people kill each other over religion, and people who convert have to run away for their lives. Here, families are all mixed, and no one has any problems," she said.

    Brother Isaac Kornyando was born in the Nuba Mountains and, for more than two decades, has served as an Apostle of Jesus brother, doing pastoral work in Kauda.

    "You don't know what religion people are if they don't tell you, because we eat together and drink together and walk together," he said. "You have to ask them what religion they profess. Then they tell you."

    Toma Konyono is a reporter for Voice of Peace, the Catholic radio station in Gidel. She and her husband are Christians, but she said all of her in-laws are Muslims.

    "We are a peaceful people, and we love to celebrate Christmas and Eid with each other," she said. "During Ramadan, I go with my recorder to the mosque in Kauda and record their celebration, and we play some of their songs on the radio. They are very happy. On their feast days, we bring their voices to our listeners."

    Konyono said the station's programming is not directed at just Catholics.

    "When we discuss health or women's concerns, those aren't Christian topics or Muslim topics. They are topics that affect everyone in the Nuba Mountains, and we want the station to be a place where everyone has a voice and to which everyone listens," she said.

    Dr. Tom Catena, a U.S. physician at the hospital in Gidel, told Catholic News Service that interfaith tensions are few.

    "Once in a while, some parents will resist their child marrying someone from another religion, but there's no harshness about it. There's no harshness toward each other, no negativity, and you simply don't hear Christians or Muslims talking bad about each other," said Catena, a lay missionary for the U.S.-based Catholic Medical Mission Board.

    "That's strange in some ways, because Islamic fundamentalism so strict in the north (of Sudan). The government here (in the Nuba Mountains) is very strict about being secular. They don't want any of this crap of religious people forcing their laws on others."

    People of the Nuba Mountains have been at war with the central government in Khartoum for decades. The conflict has been marked by frequent bombing of civilian targets by Sudan's military. While a 2-year-old cease-fire has stopped the aerial bombing, sporadic fighting on the ground continues between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North.

    Ugandan Comboni Sister Pollicarp Amiyo, a nurse in Gidel, said years of brutal attacks by the Khartoum government have strengthened a common identity as Nuba people that's more important than religious differences.

    "When the planes come overhead and begin to bomb us, everyone suffers. The bombs don't distinguish between Christians and Muslims. That unites us even more," she said.

    A leader of the mosque in Kauda agrees.

    "We are one family in the Nuba. The land belongs to God, and people practice the religion they want without problems," said Issa Abrahim al-Madiza.

    "What is a problem for us is that a group of people in Khartoum sees us as insects, not as people. That's why they send the Antonovs to bomb us," he said, referring to the Russian-made cargo planes used as bombers by the Sudanese government.

    According to John Ashworth, a former Mill Hill missionary priest who serves as an adviser to the Catholic bishops in Sudan and South Sudan, the healthy interfaith atmosphere in the Nuba Mountains helps explain the brutality of the Khartoum government's military response.

    "That they get along so well is one of the reasons why they're seen as a threat by Khartoum. If there were only Christians in the Nuba Mountains, they would be perceived as less of a threat. But the fact that Muslims and Christians live together happily is just too much for the rulers in Khartoum," he said.

    Retired Bishop Macram Max Gassis, the former bishop of El Obeid who, for years, has supervised from Kenya the church's work in the Nuba Mountains, said religious identity has nothing to do with deciding where to provide education or health care or fresh water.

    "When we dug a well in a Nuba village where there was not even one Christian, and I went for the inauguration, I told the people, 'This water is not Christian water. This is God's water for all of us,'" he said. "That's it. We share the same earth. Why can't we live in peace?"

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  10. IMAGE: CNS photo/Oswaldo Rivas, Reuters

    By David Agren

    COPAN, Honduras (CNS) -- Nicaraguan bishops and clergy were attacked by armed groups aligned with the government July 9 as violence in the Central American country escalated and affected the Catholic Church, which has provided humanitarian assistance in its parishes and has tried to diffuse a worsening political crisis through dialogue.

    Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes Solorzano of Managua and his auxiliary, Bishop Silvio Jose Baez, and Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, the apostolic nuncio, were among clergy from Managua pummeled as they attempted to protect St. Sebastian Basilica in the city of Diriamba from an incursion by a pro-government mob. Bishop Baez and at least one other priest were injured. Journalists also were attacked and had cameras and other equipment stolen.

    The bishops and clergy also tried to free anti-government protesters inside the church as masked individuals and mobs outside chanted "murderers" at the prelates. Pro-government media, meanwhile, accused the church of allowing weapons to be stored inside its properties.

    "I was injured, punched in the stomach, they took my episcopal symbols away from me, and verbally attacked me," Bishop Baez tweeted, along with a picture of a gash on his arm and blood-stained habit. "I'm OK, thank God. The basilica is free and so are those who were inside."

    "We have felt brutal force against our priests. We had gone to (the) parish to console our priests, to accompany them in this suffering and were attacked," he said.

    The attack on the bishops came as Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega sent police and paramilitaries to counter protesters calling for his ouster.

    The protests -- originally triggered over reforms to the social security system in April -- have claimed at least 300 lives. Seventeen people were killed July 7 and 8 during repressions by police and paramilitaries in the cities of Jinotepe, Diriamba and Matagalpa, according to Amnesty International.

    The church delegation traveled to Diriamba to "show solidarity" with priests in the area after a massacre, Father Victor Rivas, executive secretary of the Nicaraguan bishops' conference, told Catholic News Service.

    Churches in Nicaragua are often used to provide medical attention, according to Father Rivas, as people are often afraid to take the injured to hospitals, where they risked being "taken prisoner."

    "They've viewed churches as places where people are plotting against the government," Father Rivas said.

    "For the government, for the paramilitaries, for the Sandinista groups, the church is not viewed well," he added. "The only thing that (the church) wants is for the country to stabilize with a true, authentic peace."

    The bishops' conference had convened a national dialogue in an attempt to find a solution, but talks have broken down. Ortega discarded a proposal for holding early elections in 2019, calling proponents of such plans, "Coup mongerers."

    On July 8, Bishop Baez said the bishops would "seriously assess" their continuation as mediators in a national dialogue.

    "We cannot continue sitting with representatives of a government that lies, doesn't accept responsibility and continues massacring the civil population," Bishop Baez said during Mass, according to the newspaper La Prensa.

    "The height of the shamelessness is presenting themselves as innocent and even as victims. When murder is accompanied by cynicism, by lying, it's doubly grave in the eyes of God."

    On July 9, Francisco Palmieri, U.S. principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, reacted with a tweet: "Outraged by news from #Nicaragua. New violence by gov't-controlled thugs vs. cardinal, nuncio, bishops & independent media in Diriamba is unacceptable. The governments violence & intimidation campaign undermines dialogue & must stop. Critical to find peaceful way forward."

    Pope Francis met June 30 with Cardinal Brenes and Bishop Rolando Jose Alvarez Lagos of Matagalpa to discuss the situation.

    In an interview with Spanish news agency EFE, Cardinal Brenes said the pope was "worried" about the crisis and encouraged the bishops "to continue forward in accompanying the suffering people and continue the work of dialogue."

    "He expressed his closeness with us and asked to always be kept informed. He also said that we can always count on his closeness and especially his prayers," Cardinal Brenes told EFE June 30.

    In his Angelus address the following day, the pope called on the faithful to pray for Nicaragua and expressed his support for the country's bishops and "so many people of goodwill in their role of mediation and witness for the process of national dialogue on the path of democracy."

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    Contributing to this story was Junno Arocho Esteves at the Vatican.

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