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Life without parole is not a solution to crime, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Sentencing someone to life in prison without the possibility of parole is "not the solution to problems, but a problem to solve," Pope Francis told Italian prison guards, prison chaplains and officials from the Ministry of Justice.

"If you close hope in a cell, there is no future for society," the pope told thousands of guards, chaplains, volunteers and their family members Sept. 14 during an audience in St. Peter's Square.

Among those present were two detainees who are serving life sentences, but are engaged in a formal process of recognizing the gravity of their crimes, making amends as far as possible and preparing to apply for parole.

While protecting its citizens, the pope said, every society also must seek ways to rehabilitate those who have committed crimes and find ways to help them make positive contributions to society.

Making someone pay for the "errors of the past" cannot mean "canceling their hope for a future," he said. In fact, everyone has "the right to hope."

Saying he wanted to address all inmates, Pope Francis said he had one word for them: "courage."

Have courage "because you are in God's heart, you are precious in his eyes and, even if you feel lost and unworthy, don't lose heart," the pope said. "You who are detainees are important to God who wants to accomplish marvels in you."

Even behind bars, he said, "never let yourselves be imprisoned in the dark cell of a heart without hope; don't give in to resignation. God is bigger than every problem and he is waiting for you in order to love you."

"Put yourselves before the crucifix, under the gaze of Jesus, before him with simplicity and sincerity," the pope told prisoners. "There, with the humble courage of one who doesn't lie to him- or herself, peace will be reborn, and trust in being loved and the strength to go on will flourish."

Pope Francis was not speaking only figuratively. During the audience, he blessed the "cross of mercy" made by detainees in the Paliano prison, which the pope visited in 2017. The tall crucifix is decorated with "biblical scenes of liberation, ransom and redemption" and will be taken on pilgrimage to prisons throughout Italy.

Speaking to prison police, prison guards and prison staff, Pope Francis publicly thanked them for their work, which is often hidden and poorly paid.

"I know that it isn't easy," the pope said, "but when, in addition to watching over security, you are a presence close to those who have fallen into the web of evil, you become builders of the future, you lay the foundations for a coexistence that is more respectful and, therefore, for a society that is safer."

If a prison sentence has the ultimate aim of preparing detainees to return to society and contribute to their community as upstanding citizens, Pope Francis said, then the guards who spend the most time with them must be models of treating others with dignity and respect.

"I thank you for not only being vigilant, but especially for safeguarding the people entrusted to you so that in recognizing the wrong they did, they will accept avenues of rebirth for the good of all," the pope told the guards.

"You are called to be bridges between the prison and civil society," he told the guards. By "exercising a correct compassion, you can overcome the mutual fears and the drama of indifference" that separate the inmates and wider society.

 

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

Pope urges Eastern Catholic bishops to promote ecumenism

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Praising the fidelity of Eastern Catholics, Pope Francis also urged them to be more active in the search for Christian unity, especially unity with their Orthodox counterparts.

In heaven, he said, "the Lord will not seek an account of which or how many territories remained under our jurisdiction. He will not ask how we contributed to the development of our national identities. Instead, he will ask how much we loved our neighbor, every neighbor, and how well we were able to proclaim the Gospel of salvation to those we met along the road of life."

The pope met Sept. 14 with about 40 bishops in Europe from Eastern Catholic churches; they included bishops from the Eastern-rite Ukrainian, Romanian, Greek and Slovak churches, but also those who minister to migrant communities from outside of Europe, including the Coptic, Chaldean and Syriac Catholic Churches from the Middle East and the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic churches of India.

The multiple expressions of Catholic liturgy, spirituality and governance are a sign of the Catholic Church's true unity, Pope Francis said. "Uniformity is the destruction of unity; Christian truth is not monotonous, but 'symphonic,' otherwise it would not come from the Holy Spirit."

Preserving their Eastern identity while holding fast to their unity with Rome came at the price of martyrdom for many of the Eastern Catholic churches, the pope acknowledged. "This fidelity is a precious gem in your treasury of faith, a distinctive and indelible sign."

Unity with the wider Catholic Church, he said, does not detract from the identity of the Eastern churches but "contributes to its full realization, for example, by protecting it from the temptation of closing in on itself and falling into national or ethnic particularisms that exclude others."

While the Eastern churches have national roots and cultures, and in many cases have contributed to preserving local languages and identity, the churches are called to proclaim the Gospel, not a national identity, he said.

"This is a danger of the present time in our civilization," the pope said, because one can see "particularisms that become populisms and seek to dictate and make everything uniform."

At the same time, he said, the witness of the saints and martyrs of the Eastern Catholic churches calls Eastern Catholics today to purify their "ecclesial memory" -- for example, the memory of knowing the Orthodox did not experience the same level of persecution under communism -- "and to aspire to ever greater unity with all who believe in Christ."

In a world where so many people sow division, he said, Catholics are "called to be artisans of dialogue, promoters of reconciliation and patient builders of a civilization of encounter that can preserve our times from the incivility of conflict."

"The way shown to us from on high is made up of prayer, humility and love, not of regional or even traditionalist claims; no. The way is prayer, humility and love," the pope said.

As churches that share a spirituality, liturgy and theology with the Orthodox churches, he said, the Eastern Catholic churches have a special role to play in promoting Christian unity.

Pope Francis encouraged shared academic programs, especially for priests "so that they can be trained to have an open mind."

But it is especially in concrete service to others that Catholics and Orthodox should join together, he said. "Love knows no canonical or jurisdictional boundaries. It pains me to see, even among Catholics, squabbles about jurisdictions."

 

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Irish abuse survivor disappointed with global reforms, accountability

IMAGE: CNS/Carol Glatz

By Christopher Gunty

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Clergy sexual abuse survivor Marie Collins kicked off a five-city U.S. speaking tour on "The Catholic Tipping Point" in Baltimore Sept. 10, noting that she is disappointed with the results of the Vatican summit on child protection and efforts toward accountability and transparency.

Collins, who was one of the original members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, resigned from that group in 2017 because she was concerned that promised reforms were not being implemented and Vatican leaders were impeding the commission's work.

Speaking to a crowd of about 100 people at the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore, she said the abuse crisis has brought the church to a tipping point. "The church has come to a crossroads," she said. "It's got to decide where it's going to go next because if it doesn't change, it's going to lose everything."

And this change, she said, needs to come from the laity.

Collins told the group she had been molested by a hospital chaplain in Ireland when she was 12.

She said when she finally reported the abuse to a local priest many years later, she was told that she must have tempted the priest who abused her. The priest later lied about that meeting, she added.

Ten years later, she reported the incident to the Dublin Archdiocese and the hospital where the abuse occurred. The hospital offered counseling and reported the allegation to the police; the archdiocese said at the time that the priest had never had any such allegations against him, which was later was found to be false.

"I was lied to in the worst way," she said. When the archdiocese made a statement that it had followed church guidelines in reporting and dealing with the abuse, Collins said she later met with the archbishop, who told her that the archdiocese was allowed to ignore the guidelines because they had no bearing in canon or civil law.

She said that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the next archbishop of Dublin, set up a strong child protection office -- a "gold standard" that other bishops should follow. At the archdiocese's invitation, she joined a committee drafting child protection guidelines. "You can't criticize if you're not willing to help if asked," she said. The committee later voted to disband when the committee was encouraged to weaken the document.

"The document released was very weak," Collins said, and it noted that a complaint against a layperson would be reported to civil authorities, but a complaint against a priest would be handled internally.

In 2014, she was invited to be part of a new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and she agreed to participate in the group, which was half laypeople and half clergy. Collins was the only member who was a survivor of clergy sexual abuse.

"Sadly, the promises were not kept," she said. The commission could not get adequate staffing and resources or access to other Vatican departments. She resigned in 2017 when she said it was clear the commission wouldn't be able to do what it had intended.

"We put forward a lot of good recommendations to the pope," she said. "They were sent to the Curia. None of the recommendations from 2014 to 2018 were implemented."

She praised Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, who chaired the commission, for doing what he could. "I don't believe he's a liar," but she thinks Pope Francis has people "whispering in his ear" who don't have the best interests of children as a priority.

"I believe the pope is doing his best," she added, "but I believe he's not being told the truth."

She said she met with Pope Francis when he visited Dublin in August 2018 for the World Meeting of Families and on his flight back to Rome, she said the pope said: "Marie Collins is fixated about accountability."

"I am," she said, to applause. "I take pride in that."

She also told the Baltimore audience that the church "cannot continue to be an institution where clerical secrecy and total dysfunction can continue."

The church needs to remove anyone who would abuse children, she said. "They should all be cleaned out and any colleagues who protected them."

The laity have power in the church, she said. "It's our church. It's our children. We must act."

After Baltimore, Collins' "Catholic Tipping Point" tour was to visit Philadelphia (Sept. 12), Chicago (Sept. 14), New Orleans (Sept. 17) and Los Angeles (Sept. 20).

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Gunty is associate publisher/editor of Catholic Review Media, the media arm of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

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Central Americans want to stay home; development programs help that happen

IMAGE: CNS photo/Julian Spath, Catholic Relief Services

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Vanessa Urbina understands how young people in Central America, not seeing an opportunity for work or a good education, could be attracted to make the dangerous trip north in the hope of a better future in the United States.

"Some live in neighborhoods dominated with guns, violence and drug trafficking," she said. "It discourages them from wanting to go to school. It closes the door for them."

As coordinator of Fe y Alegria (Faith and Joy), a training and support program for teenagers and young adults in El Progreso, Honduras, Urbina is working to overcome such negative influences and engender a belief that emigration is not the only option.

The operation partners with Catholic Relief Service's YouthBuild program, which helps unemployed and out-of-school young people, ages 16 to 24, return to school, find work or start their own business.

Fe y Alegria enrolls 400 to 600 young people in each session, said Urbina, 37, who has been coordinator for more than six years after completing her master's degree in Taiwan.

The program's goal is to keep people in local communities so that they can help build a stronger economy in one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere. Students learn various skills in automotive and motorcycle repair, graphic arts, website development, baking and agriculture.

About 20 similar YouthBuild programs exist in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, said Rick Jones, senior technical adviser in Latin American and the Caribbean for CRS, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency.

The program is adapted from a model of the same name developed in the United States in the 1970s. Coursework is based on demands of the local labor markets.

Beyond skill development, the programs help students develop interpersonal and life skills, including self-esteem, conflict resolution and teamwork.

Despite Fe y Alegria's efforts, some students are enticed to leave because their families decide to head north, Urbina told Catholic News Service. Last winter about 20 students -- of 467 enrollees -- joined caravans headed to the U.S., their fate unknown, she said.

The training lasts up to two years and focuses on developing the skills most in need locally. After completion, Urbina and her staff connect students with local companies seeking to hire people at reasonable wages. Some students even open their own business.

"There are many possibilities because they get a job. They don't have to leave. They have income," Urbina said.

"You can notice the difference in the young people from when they start and then when they finish," she continued. "They are more mature about their future. They want to be a different person. Some of them only know the violence in the towns and when they're in the program, they change their mind. They think they have a better future. If they have the right attitude, that can be possible."

Jones said about 80% of YouthBuild graduates find work. He credited the high success rate to not just skill development but also to providing the emotional support young people need to cope in the challenging environment in which they live.

Most young people want to stay in Honduras with their families, he explained.

"They'd much rather stay here because they're home," he told CNS. "There's a saying: 'Nobody leaves home unless home is in the mouth of a shark.' When you're threatened, people don't have any other choice (but to leave)."

YouthBuild also has been developing an agricultural program for young people. Trainers have encouraged young people to develop new products beyond the traditional crops.

Jones identified beekeeping as an area of growing interest. There's also an emerging specialty dairy market in which graduates are producing yogurt, cheeses and other in-demand products.

"A lot of young people are willing to do agriculture," Jones said. "This idea that they don't want to do agriculture is a myth. What they don't want to do is be tied to corn and beans. So what we're trying to do is find the crops that are in demand and finding more markets for what's being grown."

YouthBuild also is training young people to monitor the environment, a need that is growing in a region that is seeing changing weather patterns that has disrupted traditional planting and harvesting cycles.

"We just reactivated a rural high school degree in agriculture," he explained. "Right now education doesn't train people to stay on the land in the rural areas. We've got to get people reconnected and give young people exciting options where they use technology to create new opportunities and not feel the only action they have is to leave."

Elsewhere in Central America, largely in the region's so-called dry corridor that stretches across 10 of Guatemala's 22 departments and much of Central America, efforts are underway to help farmers better respond to a changing climate so they are not forced to migrate.

Dan McQuillan, technical adviser for agriculture for CRS in Latin America, said the U.S. bishops' relief and development agency is implementing Water-Smart Agriculture, or Agua y Suelo para law Agricultura, known in Spanish as ASA.

He said the program has moved from watershed management for household consumption to managing limited water resources, especially among subsistence farmers. The evolution emerged because of less predictable rain patterns caused by climate change.

The program also is working on a broader scale, educating urban and rural dwellers about water management.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program warned in an April report that prolonged droughts and brief heavy rains destroyed more than half the corn and bean crops of subsistence farmers, leading to declining production and more food insecurity. About 1.4 million people are facing food shortages, the agencies said.

In years past, farmers could anticipate when rain would come and prepare their fields appropriately. When necessary, they would borrow money for planting and then pay off the loan when they sold part of their crop beyond what they needed to feed their family.

With erratic rain patterns, however, farmers can misjudge when to plant and lose a substantial portion of their crop if they plant too early or too late. With reduced yields a family could face a greater risk of hunger or a loss of income. Further, common illnesses such as infectious disease, diarrhea and pneumonia compound hunger. Such a situation can fuel emigration to the U.S.

Under ASA, McQuillan said, farmers are learning about crop rotation, cover crops and other practices that hold water in the soil and limit the impact of inconsistent rainfall.

McQuillan said the practices farmers are implementing seem to encourage farmers to "stick it out." "One coffee farmer told us that he was thinking about leaving, and the last three years the yield has increased so he's working at it," McQuillan said.

ASA also has begun discussing how to more effectively use satellite data and other technology to the benefit of farmers. For now, McQuillan said, local efforts will concentrate on tracking rain and weather patterns to aid in the hope finding the optimal time for planting.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

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Pope wanted apostles' relics united to encourage Christian unity

IMAGE: CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said giving fragments of St. Peter's bones to the head of the church founded by Peter's brother, St. Andrew, was meant to be a reminder and encouragement of the journey toward Christian unity.

In a letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, Pope Francis explained in detail the reasons he sent him a bronze reliquary containing nine bone fragments in late June. The unexpected gift had been presented to Archbishop Job of Telmessos, the patriarch's representative, at the Vatican June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Addressing the patriarch as "Your holiness, dear brother," the pope wrote that he wanted to give the bones, believed to be St. Peter's, to the patriarch and "the beloved church of Constantinople over which you preside with such devotion."

"This gesture is intended to be a confirmation of the journey that our churches have made in drawing closer to one another: a journey at times demanding and difficult, yet one accompanied by evident signs of God's grace," he wrote. The letter, dated Aug. 30, was released by the Vatican Sept. 13.

During a moment of prayer and reflection about "our mutual determination to advance together toward full communion," the pope said he thought about their predecessors' historic meeting in Jerusalem more than 50 years ago and the gift Patriarch Athenagoras gave to St. Paul VI -- an icon depicting the brothers Peter and Andrew "embracing, united in faith and in love of their common Lord."

The apostles Peter and Andrew are the respective patron saints of the churches of Rome and Constantinople, and Pope Francis said he felt "it would be highly significant" for some fragments of the relics of the Apostle Peter to be placed beside the relics of the Apostle Andrew.

The fragments came from a funerary niche discovered in 1952 under the high altar in St. Peter's Basilica. While bones remain in the niche, St. Paul VI had nine fragments removed and placed in a special reliquary that was kept in his private chapel in the papal apartments.

The only time the bronze reliquary had been displayed publicly was in November 2013, when Pope Francis presented it for public veneration as he celebrated the closing Mass for the Year of Faith, opened by Pope Benedict XVI.

After Mass June 29 this year, Pope Francis brought Archbishop Job to the chapel of the old papal apartment and offered the reliquary to his guest as a gift for his "brother" Patriarch Bartholomew.

It was "another gigantic step toward concrete unity," Archbishop Job said.

The patriarch said he was "deeply moved" and described this "brave and bold initiative of Pope Francis" as a "grand, fraternal and historic gesture."

Pope Francis wrote in his letter, "The joining of the relics of the two brother apostles can also serve as a constant reminder and encouragement that, on this continuing journey, our divergences will no longer stand in the way of our common witness and our evangelizing mission in the service of a human family that today is tempted to build a purely secular future, a future without God."

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Vatican officials offer guidance for German church gathering

IMAGE: CNS photo/Harald Oppitz, KNA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The German bishops' plans for a two-year process of consultation and deliberation on key issues facing the Catholic Church must conform to universal church law and must be approved by the pope, said the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect, sent a letter dated Sept. 4 to Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising and attached an analysis by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts of proposed statutes for the German "synodal way."

The pontifical council said that, in proposing a process that would include "binding deliberations" on new rules for the church in Germany, the bishops were, in effect, planning a "plenary council," which would require prior approval by Pope Francis.

Matthias Kopp, spokesman for the German bishops' conference, said Sept. 13, "The assessment of the pontifical council deals with the draft version of the statutes as of June 2019 and does not yet take into account the version updated in July and after the meeting of the permanent council (of the bishops' conference) in August."

The most recent draft, he said, "no longer contains some passages to which the assessment refers." Kopp added that Cardinal Marx has been in touch with Cardinal Ouellet and would meet with him "in Rome next week to clear up any misunderstandings."

In his letter, which the German bishops posted on their website, Cardinal Ouellet referred to the letter Pope Francis wrote to German Catholics in June "to repeat some basic principles for an effective 'synodal journey' lived in harmony with the universal church."

Cardinal Ouellet said he hoped the pontifical council's assessment of the earlier statutes -- an assessment the German bishops also posted -- "could contribute to the regulation of the work of the 'synodal journey' so that such an important event for the people of God in Germany, celebrated in communion with the entire church, would reinforce the ecclesial roots and relaunch the evangelizing mission of the church in that country."

The German bishops began discussing plans for the gathering in September 2018 after they published a study that revealed an estimated 3,700 cases of sexual abuse had been reported in the German church from 1946 to 2014.

In response to the study and to a widespread sense that something needed to change, the bishops and Catholic lay leaders began discussing holding a national gathering of Catholics in a "synodal" style where the experience and voice of everyone would be welcome and where bishops wouldn't be the only ones making decisions.

The preparations focused on four key areas: the exercise of power and authority in the church; sexual morality; the priesthood, including the issue of mandatory celibacy; and the role of women in the church, including the possibility of opening more areas of ministry to them.

In response, the pontifical council asked, "How can a particular church deliberate in a binding way if the themes dealt with touch the entire church?"

The pontifical council also objected that the initial draft of the statutes seemed to imply that the bishops' conference and the lay Central Committee of German Catholics "are equal" and would send an equal number of participants, would share the duties of presiding over the assemblies and would have an equal vote.

"This equality between bishops and laypeople cannot exist ecclesiologically," the pontifical council said. While all Catholics are called to active participation in the church, "that does not mean that the church is structured democratically and that decisions are made by a majority of the faithful."

In a diocesan synod, a plenary council or the German "synodal way," the council said, study, consultation and decision-making are separate tasks belonging to different members of the church based on their role.

And, while the bishops are the only ones who can make binding decisions on most matters, if the question impacts the wider church, only the pope can decide, the pontifical council explained.

In his letter to German Catholics in June, Pope Francis insisted the process the German church is embarking upon must focus on strengthening people's faith and the church's witness.

In trying to resolve problems and shortcomings, the pope warned, there is the temptation to think that "the best response would be to reorganize things, to make changes and 'fixes' that would allow the life of the church to be put in order and in tune."

Instead, he said, the church must adopt an attitude that "seeks to live and make the Gospel transparent and breaks with the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the church in which everything proceeds normally but, in reality, faith wears out and degenerates into pettiness."

In early September, meeting with the bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Pope Francis said consultation with laypeople is an essential part of the deliberation of bishops, not so they can change church teaching, but so they can preach the Gospel more effectively.

"There is a danger," the pope said, which is "thinking today that making a synodal journey or having an attitude of 'synodality' means investigating opinions -- what does this one and that one think -- and then having a meeting to make an agreement. No! The synod is not a parliament!"

 

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Dorian recovery work shows 'we are your brother's keeper,' says volunteer

IMAGE: CNS photo/Loren Elliott, Reuters

By Tom Tracy

MIAMI (CNS) -- As catastrophic as Hurricane Dorian was, the characteristic optimism of Bahamians will help soften the painful recovery to come, according to a hurricane-preparedness volunteer in Nassau.

"There was nothing we could have done to prepare (for Hurricane Dorian), but when you talk to me again five years from now, I will be happy to tell you we will be back on our feet again because we are very resilient people," said Basil Christie, a former religious education director for the Archdiocese of Nassau in the Bahamas.

Now a retired insurance executive, he said he regularly assists the Catholic Church with hurricane preparedness and recovery. He spoke by phone Sept. 10 with the Florida Catholic, Miami's archdiocesan newspaper.

Christie is a native of the Bahamas and for the past 15 years in his retirement, he has traveled to the country's many islands to coordinate and promote volunteer hurricane preparedness programs and follow-up recovery efforts after many lesser hurricanes touched parts of the nation.

He estimates that each year at least some part of the Bahamas has suffered hurricane damage and that although the country has high building code standards, Dorian's 200-mph wind gusts and considerable storm surge means those building codes will have to be revisited.

"Normally the maximum wind is 110 mph and restricted to the southern islands," he said.

Also, in previous years, hurricane winds blew off roofs, but Dorian blew homes off their foundations on the Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, "so it is a different situation," he added.

"There are lessons to be learned from this: Our building code needs to be augmented, and we will need better shelters," Christie said, adding that so many families have stories of watching family members get washed out to sea in the storm.

In the days since Hurricane Dorian, he has been helping coordinate volunteer efforts from Nassau, where cellphone communications are working, and he planned to travel soon to Grand Bahama Island.

He said evacuated families arriving in Nassau are being placed in ad hoc housing situations including gymnasiums, orphanages, convents, hostels and hotel rooms with sometimes four and five people to a room.

"We are having to create as we go," he said, noting that many evacuees have families in Nassau, but those who don't are staying in local Catholic and public schools.

Christie echoed concerns that the official death toll, at least 50 as of Sept. 12, is likely to soar, particularly from shantytown communities of undocumented people reportedly living in the Abaco Islands.

"There are a lot of dead bodies and it is the first time in our history that we had to initiate mass graves whereas others were simply taken out to sea by the (storm surge)," he added.

Christie praised the local generosity of business and organizations in the Bahamas, the international cruise lines as well as other Caribbean nations and agencies in Florida and the United States for sending material and financial support following the hurricane.

"This has brought out the good in people and the notion that we are your brother's keeper," Christie said.

"Naturally, the politicians are lashing out at the government, but an astonishing and overwhelming thing is that all these people are coming to Nassau and they are finding them a place to stay, " he said.

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Editor's Note: Donations for recovery efforts in the Bahamas can be sent to Catholic Relief Services here: https://support.crs.org/donate/hurricane-dorian and to Catholic Charities USA here: https://app.mobilecause.com/form/RTKRvQ?vid=1snqm.

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Tracy writes for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.

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Church must seek new paths in Amazon, synod secretaries say

IMAGE: CNS photo/Robert Duncan

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops for the Amazon will help the Catholic Church make its presence felt and voice heard in a region that is dangerously approaching "a point of no return," said the special secretaries of the synod.

"It is a great and continuing challenge for the Catholic Church to make the original Amazonian peoples feel part of it and contribute to it with the light of Christ and the spiritual richness that shines in their cultures," Cardinal-designate Michael Czerny and Bishop David Martinez De Aguirre Guinea wrote in an article published Sept. 12 in La Civilta Cattolica, the Jesuit journal.

Cardinal-designate Czerny, undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugee Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and Bishop Martinez, apostolic vicar of Puerto Maldonado, Peru, said the synod will take place at a time when "both human and natural life are suffering serious and perhaps irreversible destruction."

The synod, scheduled for Oct. 6-27, will focus on "Amazonia: New paths for the church and for an integral ecology."

The Amazon rainforest includes territory belonging to nine countries in South America and has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity.

As special secretaries, Cardinal-designate Czerny and Bishop Martinez will assist Brazil's Cardinal Claudio Hummes, synod relator general, in providing a comprehensive outline of the synod's theme at the beginning of the meeting and summarizing the speeches of synod members before work begins on concrete proposals for the pope.

In the article, titled "Why the Amazon merits a synod," the prelates said that the synod for the Amazon is an effort to implement "'Laudato Si' in this fundamental human and natural environment."

Much like Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical "Rerum Novarum" recognized the exploitation of workers in the early days of the industrial revolution, Pope Francis' observations on the "gross inequality and cruel marginalization" caused by financial and consumerist greed call "for a new attitude toward nature and the social environment."

"This new synthesis is a wake-up call to the entire world, to all of humanity," they wrote. "But it also suggests a new socio-pastoral orientation and dynamic for the church, which must understand the challenges faced by individuals and families and groups within these various dimensions."

However, Cardinal-designate Czerny and Bishop Martinez wrote that the church "cannot give spiritual guidance and pastoral care if people are understood in isolation from -- i.e. not integrated with -- how they live and function within the actual natural, economic and social conditions that they face."

They also noted that the crisis facing the region is not limited only to environmental problems such as pollution, privatization of natural goods and trafficking.

"Mercantilism, secularization, the throwaway culture and the idolatry of money" coupled with decreasing numbers of priests and religious "is endangering the presence of the Catholic Church among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon."

Such challenges, they added, require a response that moves from a "ministry of visits to a ministry of presence."

"This is why, during the October Synod, the entire world should walk with the people of the Amazon; not to expand or divert the agenda, but to help the synod to make a difference," the prelates wrote. "The Amazon region is huge, and its challenges are immense. If destroyed, the impacts will be felt worldwide."

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Update: Cardinal's 2011 comments on 9/11 attacks still resonate today

IMAGE: CNS photo/Brendan Mcdermid, Reuters

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NEW YORK (CNS) -- In preparing to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said part of his message came from the pastor of St. Peter's Church in Lower Manhattan.

The church became a staging ground for first responders after two hijacked planes crashed in to the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 2001.

"(That priest) said something that really sticks with me," the cardinal remarked in a Sept. 9, 2011, interview. "He said, 'Here in New York, we just don't remember 9/11 -- we celebrate 9/12,' and what he meant is that the nation was not locked into a paralysis of fear, depression, discouragement, somberness."

"This community did not become frantic in (an) unhealthy way," Cardinal Dolan said. "This community did not dwell on revenge and anger. This community immediately began to rescue and rebuild and renew and that's what Sept. 12 stands for."

Each Sept. 11, in New York City, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, Catholic and other religious leaders join with the faithful and community members for moments of silence and special prayers.

The deadliest terrorist attacks ever seen on American soil -- and perpetrated by four hijacked planes -- claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people.

In an early morning tweet Sept. 11, 2019, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington said: "On the anniversary of this tragic day in our nation's history, we pray for all those who died and for ongoing strength and consolation for their loved ones. Pray that God will protect us and our country and fill all the world with the peace that only he can give."

In the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, a midday solemn march and Mass paid tribute to members of the Fire Department of New York and all those who lost their lives in the terror attacks.

Cardinal Dolan's comments on the 10th anniversary of the attacks still resonate today. In 2011, he was asked to reflect on 9/11 in an interview with a television station in Milwaukee, where he was archbishop before being named to head the New York Archdiocese in 2009.

When the 2001 attacks occurred, Cardinal Dolan was an auxiliary bishop of St. Louis. That morning, he recalled, he had just begun celebrating Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows Church for a group of schoolchildren when he got word of what had happened.

"I began to see that that parish had a lot of firemen and policemen, and all of a sudden I kind of saw them come in (to the church) kind of frantic," he told Milwaukee's WISN-TV. "In retrospect it was because of the panic" about the nation being under attack.

"One of them came up to me on the altar while one of the little kids was doing the reading to tell me what was happening ... that there was some tragedy in New York, that the twin towers had been struck by airplanes," the cardinal said, so he called the children to prayer.

"There is nothing more powerful than the prayers of children," he added.

He admitted that when he first heard the news, he felt "some fear," wondering like many Americans if the nation was in for a more "extended attack." There was "some anger" and "an immediate spontaneous desire for revenge," he added, but there also was "obviously solicitude for those who were hurt and their families and how the nation was going to recover."

"Those were all sentiments that I can remember being there at the surface," Cardinal Dolan said, "but I wanted to turn those into prayer and take those to the Lord, and I was inspired by the people around me who were doing that."

He added that when there's time of crisis -- when there's time of famine, depression, war, plague, whatever it might be, there (are) two ways you can go" in response.

You can go away from God and "curse him," he said. "You can give in to depression, feeling sorry for yourself, responding with whining, cynicism, sarcasm."

Or "you can go closer to God, trusting in him and serving his people," Cardinal Dolan said, and in response to 9/11, "the great majority chose" this option.

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