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November 23, 2017
Archive of July 14, 2017

Florist takes religious liberty case to US Supreme Court

Yakima, Wash., Jul 14, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - Flower shop owner Barronelle Stutzman is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to protect her from a Washington state court ruling that could destroy her financially because her religious beliefs prevented her from serving a same-sex wedding ceremony.

“If the government can ruin Barronelle for peacefully living and working according to her faith, it can punish anyone else for expressing their belief,” said Stutzman’s attorney Kristen Waggoner, a senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom legal group.

“The government shouldn’t have the power to force a 72-year-old grandmother to surrender her freedom in order to run her family business. Anyone who supports the First Amendment rights that the U.S. Constitution guarantees to all of us should stand with Barronelle.”

“Our nation has a long history of protecting the right to dissent, but simply because Barronelle disagrees with the state about marriage, the government and ACLU have put at risk everything she owns,” Waggoner charged.

The attorney said the court decision not only endangered Stutzman’s business. It also endangered her family’s savings, her retirement fund, and her home.

Waggoner said her client, who is Southern Baptist, faced “burdensome penalties” simply for exercising a right of free expression.

The legal petition was filed July 14 with the U.S. Supreme Court. The complaint contends that the Washington courts’ reasoning is so broad that it “extends to nearly all speech created for profit” and is “particularly hazardous.” Also dangerous is the “extreme nature” of the punishment for the store owner, which threatens to bankrupt her personally.

The state courts ruled that she must pay penalties and attorneys’ fees for declining to make floral arrangements for a customer who wanted her to create designs for a same-sex ceremony. Her fines and fees could surpass $2 million.

“This Court’s review is needed to prevent the state from silencing professional speech creators with dissenting religious views,” the petition asks the Supreme Court.

In 2013, Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Wash., declined to serve the same-sex wedding of a long-time customer who had requested her service. She cited her Christian religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman. She recommended her customer to another nearby floral shop.

Stutzman said she and her client have been friends for years.

“There was never an issue with his being gay, just as there hasn’t been with any of my other customers or employees,” she said July 14. “He just enjoyed my custom floral designs, and I loved creating them for him.”

“But now the state is trying to use this case to force me to create artistic expression that violates my deepest beliefs and take away my life’s work and savings, which will also harm those who I employ. I’m not asking for anything that our Constitution hasn’t promised me and every other American: the right to create freely, and to live out my faith without fear of government punishment or interference.”

After hearing of the incident, the office of the state attorney general wrote her that she was violating the state law against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and asked her to stop declining such weddings. Stutzman refused out of conscience.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the state of Washington eventually sued her. A lower court ruled against her, ordering her to pay a fine and legal costs.

She took her case to the Washington State Supreme Court, which unanimously upheld the lower court’s decision in February. It said that as a business owner Stutzman had to abide by the state’s anti-discrimination law despite her religious beliefs.

Waggoner said the case was similar to a Colorado cake shop owner Jack Phillips, who declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple and also faces “burdensome penalties.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is asking the high court to consolidate Stutzman’s case with Phillips’ case.

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Mosul needs help to rebuild, Iraqi official cautions

Rome, Italy, Jul 14, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - Just days after Iraqi forces completed their recapture of Mosul from the Islamic State, the nation's ambassador to the Holy See has said that they are eager to rebuild the city and have people return home, but it will require help to do so.

“We reiterate our need for greater cooperation and greater help for the reconstruction and stability of the freed areas, including Mosul, because there is no complete victory until the displaced are returned to their homes and guaranteed essential services,” Omer Ahmed Karim Berzinji said July 13.

“The most important challenge now is the effort for the reconstruction and the stability of the city through the construction of infrastructures in order for the displaced to return. We have need of international support to bring back stability and to prevent the return of the terrorists.”

Berzinji spoke to journalists at a press conference in Rome July 13.

The presser was held in response to the July 9 declaration that Mosul had been recaptured. The government operation to free Mosul, one of the Islamic State’s remaining key strongholds, had been underway for nine months. The group still controls areas around the Iraqi cities of Tal Afar, Hawija, and Al-Qa'im, as well as portions of Syria.

During this time, thousands were killed and nearly 1 million residents fled the city, the major part of it destroyed.

Fr. Ghazwan Baho, a parish priest in Alqosh – the last major Christian city on the Plain of Nineveh not taken by the Islamic State – told CNA they are thankful Mosul has been freed, but the future of the city is still uncertain.

“We thank God that the evil was overcome, but Mosul is a city almost 80 percent destroyed. The future is dark. There isn't much hope of reconstruction.”

“It's not enough to win the war, but we need to rebuild,” he said. “We are afraid of the future, of revenge; our area is a land of conflict. Let's hope for the best.”

The Islamic State had controlled Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, since June 2014. It has imposed a rigid version of sharia in territory it controls, but its rule also features arbitrary violence, including killing and enslavement.

A 2016 U.N. report said that 800 to 900 children in Mosul have been abducted and put through Islamic State religious and military training. There have been accounts of child soldiers who were killed for fleeing fighting on the front lines of Iraq’s Anbar province.

The U.N. also estimates that as of Jan. 2016 the group held about 3,500 slaves, mainly women and children of the Yazidi religion. Some of the women are killed for trying to escape or for refusing sexual relations with Islamic State fighters.

The Iraq ambassador couldn’t give specifics on the government’s plan for how to free the women, but told CNA that it will certainly be one of their top objectives. Regarding the Islamic State, he said he considers the victory in Mosul the “beginning of their end.”

“I am very enthusiastic to take all of that (remaining) occupied territory,” he continued.

Another result of the battle, he told journalists, has been the unification of the various “factions” of the Iraqi army who “joined together for the liberation of Mosul.”

The ambassador emphasized that Iraqis worldwide are celebrating the victory, saying that “the first thing after the liberation of Mosul, the most important thing, was that all Iraqis were united.”

Berzinji also noted the help from outside forces, saying “friends and allies have played a distinct role in supporting the efforts of the Iraqi government in this battle through the intervention of the international coalition or outside it.”

“That is why victory in Mosul is a victory for all those who have helped and have collaborated with us in the fight against this criminal organization.”

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New research: Shroud of Turin bears blood of a torture victim

Turin, Italy, Jul 14, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - New research indicates that the Shroud of Turin shows signs of blood from a torture victim, and undermines arguments that the reputed burial shroud of Jesus Christ was painted.

Very small particles attached to the linen fibers of the shroud “have recorded a scenario of great suffering, whose victim was wrapped up in the funeral cloth,” said Elvio Carlino, a researcher at the Institute of Crystallography.

These particles, called “nanoparticles,” had a “peculiar structure, size and distribution,” said University of Padua professor Giulio Fanti.

And the nanoparticles are not typical of the blood of a healthy person. Rather, they show high levels of substances called creatinine and ferritin, found in patients who suffer forceful multiple traumas like torture.

“Hence, the presence of these biological nanoparticles found during our experiments point to a violent death for the man wrapped in the Turin Shroud,” Fanti said.

The shroud’s latest researchers published their findings and measurements in the U.S. open-access peer-reviewed journal PlosOne, in an article titled “New Biological Evidence from Atomic Resolution Studies on the Turin Shroud,” the Turin-based newspaper La Stampa’s Vatican Insider reports.

The findings contradict claims that the shroud is a painted object – claims which are common among those who suggest it is a medieval forgery. The characteristics of these particles “cannot be artifacts made over the centuries on the fabric of the Shroud,” Fanti said.

Among the most well-known relics believed to be connected with Jesus Christ’s Passion, the Shroud of Turin has been venerated for centuries by Christians as the burial shroud of Jesus. It has been subject to intense scientific study to ascertain its authenticity, and the origins of the image.

Appearing on the 14-foot long, three-and-a-half foot wide cloth a faintly stained postmortem image of a man – front and back – who has been brutally tortured and crucified. The image becomes clear in a haunting photo negative.

The study of particles took place on the nanoscale – ranging from one to 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one billionth the length of a meter.

“These findings could only be revealed by the methods recently developed in the field of electron microscopy,” said Carlino. He said the research marked the first study of “the nanoscale properties of a pristine fiber taken from the Turin Shroud.”

Researchers drew on experimental evidence of atomic resolution studies and recent medical studies on patients who suffered multiple acts of trauma and torture.

The research was carried out by the Instituo Officia dei Materiali in Trieste and the Institute of Crystallography in Bari, both under Italy’s National Research Council, as well as the University of Padua’s Department of Industrial Engineering.

Vatican Insider said the research confirms the hypotheses of previous investigations, like that of biochemist Alan Adler in the 1990s.

The Catholic Church has not taken an official position on the relic’s authenticity. The shroud is presently housed at Turin’s St. John the Baptist Cathedral. During his June 21, 2015 visit to the cathedral, Pope Francis prayed before it.

“The Shroud attracts (us) toward the martyred face and body of Jesus,” he said in a noontime Angelus address at a Turin plaza. “At the same time, it pushes (us) toward the face of every suffering and unjustly persecuted person. It pushes us in the same direction as the gift of Jesus’ love.”


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Mexican prison massacre may have 'Saint Death' ties

Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 14, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - The recent massacre of over two dozen prisoners in a central penitentiary in the state of Guerrero, Mexico may have been part of a ritual of the Santa Muerte cult.

On July 6, in what was thought to be a quarrel between inmates or an attempted riot, 28 prisoners were murdered inside the Las Cruces jail in Acapulco. Some of the dead were beheaded.

Citing documents from state and federal officials, the Mexican newspaper Reforma alleged that “the prisoners were executed in the middle of a ritual to Santa Muerte,” lead by drug traffickers of the Independent Cartel of Acapulco.

While other federal sources, such as Roberto Alvarez Heredia, security spokesman for Guerrero state, have refused to comment on the cultic ritual aspect of the massacre, state authorities confirm that the killings began because of “constant dispute between rival groups inside the prison,” Alvarez said in a statement. Officials have also confirmed the presence of explosives and firearms inside the prison.

So far, 22 bodies have been returned to families. The prison houses over 2,000 prisoners. Following the killings, state police will still retain control of security in the prison, with addition support coming from National Police and Mexican Army forces.

The Santa Muerte, or “Holy Death,” is a rapidly growing folk devotion in Mexico and Latin America, marked by a skull adorned with various forms of decoration – including imagery traditionally associated with Catholic saints such as veils or hearts.

Beginning in the 1960s, the cult has found great acceptance among drug trafficking cartels and other sub-cultures outside of mainstream Mexican society. The Santa Muerte is also associated with practices of witchcraft and prayers for specific favors, including retribution.

According to the FBI, some variants of the Santa Muerte devotion surrounding the drug culture, cartels and trafficking promotes “extreme” behaviors and criminality, including ritualistic killings.

In 2013, the Vatican condemned devotion to Santa Muerte, equating it to “the celebration of devastation and of hell.”

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Pope: Caring for creation means caring for your brother and sister

Vatican City, Jul 14, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis on Friday sent a message to an international congress on care for our common home in the context of large cities, reminding participants that caring for the environment ultimately means having responsibility for our fellow man.

“We see an indifference to our common home and, unfortunately, to so many tragedies and needs that hit our brothers and sisters. This passivity demonstrates the ‘loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow-men on which all civil society is founded’ (‘Laudato Si’ 25).”

“Each territory and government should encourage responsible ways of acting in its citizens so that, with inventiveness, they can interact and favor the creation of a more habitable and healthier house,” the Pope said.

“Placing on each one the little that corresponds to him in his responsibility, much will be achieved.”

Pope Francis sent his letter, dated June 12, to participants in an international congress about his 2015 environmental encyclical “Laudato Si” and the challenges of those dwelling in large cities.

The July 13-15 congress, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was organized by the foundation "Antoni Gaudi for Great Cities" of Barcelona in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro.

In the message, Pope Francis pointed to references made in “Laudato Si” about the particular needs of people who live in large cities. These needs, he explained, need to be met with “three Rs:” respect, responsibility and relationship.

“Respect is the fundamental attitude that man must have with creation. We have received it as a precious gift and we must strive for future generations to continue to admire and enjoy it,” he said.

Moreover, we must teach the next generation to have this care and respect for creation as well.

In St. Francis of Assisi's “ Canticle of the Creatures” the saint wrote: “Praised be my Lord, for the sister of water, which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.”

“These adjectives,” the Pope explained, “express the beauty and importance of this element, which is indispensable for life.”

Just like other elements of our earth, clean and drinkable water points to God’s love of his creatures, he continued, and societies have an obligation to guarantee safe water for everyone, because when water is not given the respect and attention it requires, it becomes a source of disease and a danger to society.

“It is a duty of all to create in society an awareness of respect for our environment; this benefits us and future generations,” Francis said.

“We cannot sit idly by when we notice a serious decrease in air quality or an increase in the production of waste that is not properly treated. These realities are the result of an irresponsible way of manipulating creation and call us to exercise an active responsibility for the good of all.”

The Pope noted that in both rural areas and large cities there is a growing lack of relationship. You see this in cities especially, he said, where you have a busy flow of people in and out.

Regardless of the causes, this can help to create a more multicultural society, fostering wealth and social and personal growth. But it can also make the society more closed and suspicious of each other.

“The lack of roots and the isolation of some people are forms of poverty, which can degenerate into ghettos and lead to violence and injustice. Instead, man is called to love and to be loved, establishing bonds of belonging and bonds of unity among all his fellow men,” he urged.

A practical way to do this is through the formation of groups in schools or parishes – communities that help build communion, a sense of belonging, and a network of support.

“It is important for society to work together in a political, educational and religious context to create warmer human relationships, to break the walls that isolate and marginalize,” he concluded.

“Please, I ask you to pray for me; and I beg the Lord to bless you.”

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US neurology expert will visit UK to examine Charlie Gard

London, England, Jul 14, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - The American doctor whose experimental treatment has been sought by the parents of Charlie Gard will travel to London on Monday, after a judge ruled that he could examine the baby and confer with the UK doctors.

On Friday, the specialist in mitochondrial diseases and genetic myopathies agreed to travel to examine Charlie in-person at the Great Ormand Street Hospital in London.

The neurologist testified via video July 13 that he believes the 11-month-old has at least a 10 percent chance of improving under his treatment, and possibly as high as a 56 percent chance.

The doctor, Michio Hirano, whose name was revealed after a court order was lifted Friday, is a professor of neurology at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York. He is the doctor overseeing the therapy trial Charlie's parents had sought to join before being denied by the hospital and courts.

Friday’s development comes one week after Great Ormond Street Hospital applied for a new hearing with the high court, citing new evidence suggesting the critically ill baby could benefit from an experimental treatment.  

A team of seven international medical experts had alerted the hospital that fresh, unpublished data suggested that an experimental drug could improve Charlie’s brain condition.

“Two international hospitals and their researchers have communicated to us as late as the last 24 hours that they have fresh evidence about their proposed experimental treatment,” a hospital spokesman said, according to the BBC.

“We believe, in common with Charlie's parents, it is right to explore this evidence,” they continued.

“Great Ormond Street Hospital is giving the High Court the opportunity to objectively assess the claims of fresh evidence...It will be for the High Court to make its judgment on the facts.”

Charlie has been diagnosed with mitochondrial depletion syndrome, a rare genetic disease believed to affect just 16 children in the world. The disease causes progressive muscle weakness and can cause death in the first year of life.

In recent weeks, Charlie’s case has drawn international attention due to the various legal battles that his parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, have fought in an attempt to save their son’s life.

Charlie’s parents had initially sought to take their son to the United States for the experimental treatment. They had raised more than $1 million to cover the costs of travel and medical expenses.

However, the hospital sought to block their request, citing his poor quality of life. Britain’s High Court agreed, saying that the experimental therapy could cause suffering and would only prolong the process of dying. It would be in Charlie’s best interest to be removed from life support, the court said.

His parents responded that even a small chance of success was worth pursuing, and said that even if their son could not live, they hoped that taking part in the experimental trial could provide the research that would help other children with his condition live in the future.

The European Court of Human Rights rejected an appeal from Charlie’s parents, who were also denied their request to take their son home from the hospital to die.

Both the Vatican pediatric hospital and Pope Francis have expressed their support for Charlie.

“The Holy Father follows with affection and emotion the story of Charlie Gard and expresses his own closeness to his parents,” read a July 2 statement issued by Vatican spokesman Greg Burke.

“He prays for them, wishing that their desire to accompany and care for their own child to the end will be respected.”

On June 30, the day the Charlie’s life support was initially scheduled to be disconnected, the Pope also used his Twitter account to send a clear pro-life message in the infant's favor:

“To defend human life, above all when it is wounded by illness, is a duty of love that God entrusts to all.”

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Have you heard of Venerable 'Mama Bosco'?

Turin, Italy, Jul 14, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - While St. John Bosco is a beloved saint among Catholics, many do not know that his mother, Margaret Bosco, was declared Venerable in 2006 and has an advancing cause towards beatification.

Margaret Occhiena was born in a small town in Italy in 1788 to a large family of faithful Christians. At the age of 24, Margaret married a young widower and father, Francis Bosco, who was a farmer and had a son named Anthony.

The couple would go on to have two more sons before Francis died of pneumonia in 1817. Left with three children, Margaret devoted her life to her family and fostered the teachings of Catholicism within her children over the coming years. She also cared for her mother-in-law.

Although Margaret was illiterate, she was known for her wisdom in the Catholic faith and did her best to instill virtue and knowledge within her children. When her son John told her that he wanted to be a Catholic priest and work with youth, she encouraged him in his vocational desire.

John was ordained a priest June 5, 1841 and would become known as Don Bosco. Over the coming years, Margaret would co-found the Salesian Apostolate with her son John in Turin.

The Salesians primarily serve the poor and youth through ministry and education. After their founding, the Salesians built an oratory in Turin, which they used as a school and orphanage for boys.

Margaret spent her remaining days caretaking the orphaned boys at the oratory, which is whence her nickname “Mama Bosco” or “Mama Margaret” comes.

Margaret died in 1856 at the age of 68 from pneumonia after she received last rites. But she reminded her children that “Our Blessed Lady will always be in charge.”

Margaret’s cause for beatification was opened March 7, 1995, as St. John Paul II declared her to be a “Servant of God.” On October 23, 2006, Benedict XVI named her Venerable, recognizing her for heroic virtue.

The cause for the beatification of Margaret Bosco has one more step in the Catholic Church. In order for her cause to advance, a verified miracle needs to be attributed to her intercession, in which there is no scientific or natural explanation for the proposed miracle. After this, the Pope would then declare the beatification.  

After the declaration of blessed, the final step to sainthood includes one more verified miracle, and then the official Rite of Canonization which is usually performed during a Mass by the Pope.

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Black Catholic congress emphasizes unity, action

Orlando, Fla., Jul 14, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - More than 2,000 participants from across the country gathered in Orlando, Fla. last week for the 12th National Black Catholic Congress, exploring themes of racism and reconciliation, and hearing speakers who stressed the importance of being active to work for change.

Held July 6-9, the congress drew its theme from the prophet Micah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: act justly, love goodness, and walk humbly with your God.”

A preamble with principles for a pastoral plan of action, unveiled at the gathering, elaborated on this theme.

“We believe the Holy Spirit, who is Lord and Giver of Life, is upon us,” the document said. “Because of this, we recommit ourselves to live our Baptism as Catholics, be ‘authentically Black and truly Catholic’ and seek leadership in our Church on all levels.”

“We commit ourselves to act justly by living in proximity with those who are suffering and neglected,” it continued. “Specifically, we seek to promote the dignity and life of everyone person from the unborn to natural death. We commit ourselves to dismantle racism in all forms, which is an obstacle to justice and evangelization. We also commit ourselves to address the challenges of mental illness, mass incarceration, domestic violence and others.”

The document voiced a commitment to finding creative ways to share the faith, supporting local Catholic schools, and promoting the canonization causes of the five black men and women being considered for sainthood.

It reaffirmed the universal call to holiness through all vocations in the Church, and recognized a need to listen and respond to young adults in the community.

The National Black Catholic Congress, which is held every five years, stems from an 1889 meeting between President Grover Cleveland and a group of nearly 100 black Catholic men. The gathering was organized by journalist Daniel Rudd.

The 12th congress comes at a time of continuing unrest and racial tension in many parts of the country, ignited in 2014 with the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

In his keynote address, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana addressed themes of unity and reconciliation.

“When Pope Francis speaks, he doesn’t speak to nations, races and tribes. He speaks to humanity, invited to be disciples of Jesus,” the cardinal said. “There is no Gospel for Africans. There is no Gospel for Americans. There is no Gospel for Italians or Europeans. There is one Gospel for all of us, created in the image and likeness of God.”

None of God’s children should be marginalized or excluded, said Cardinal Turkson, who is the prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Other speakers at the gathering included Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Illinois; Dr. Tricia Bent-Goodley, director of the Ph.D. Program at Howard University School of Social Work; Public interest lawyer Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama; and Father Maurice Emelu of Nigeria, founder of Gratia Vobis Ministries, Inc.

Topics ranged from family life, young adults and vocations to Catholic social teaching, mental health and theology of the body. Unity, reconciliation and responses to violence were prominent themes throughout the conference.

Rather than simply a 5-day conference, the event was intended “to generate ideas that encourage creativity, freedom and innovation,” which can then be put into practice locally and regionally in the coming months.

In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, a Day of Reflection will be held Aug. 5 at the Basilica of St. Mary to discuss ways to implement the ideas that came out of the congress.


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Bishops stress hospitality for Camino de Santiago hosts

Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Jul 14, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - The bishops of Spain and France have published a new letter emphasizing the importance of hospitality for people who host pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, offering guidelines for how they can welcome and care for the spiritual needs of those making the long trek.

In the letter the bishops noted that hospitality is a tradition that has been practiced in all ages and civilizations, and “is not to question or to prosecute, but only to welcome, to give food and drink, a bed and money for the trip, words of esteem and direction.”

It is the same kindness that Abraham showed to the strangers who came to his door in Mambre, and is “the mercy that the Samaritan showed to the wounded man, carrying him to an inn and leaving money so that he could be healed and recovered during the necessary time,” they said.

Published July 12, the letter is titled “Welcome and Hospitality on the Camino,” and is directed at those who host pilgrims that walk the historic “Camino de Santiago,” or “the Way of St. James.”

Often referred to simply as “the Camino,” it is an ancient pilgrimage consisting of a network of trails across Europe all leading to the tomb of the saint in Santiago, Spain.

Pilgrims have been making the journey for well over a thousand years to commemorate the life and sacrifice of the apostle. Although it is traditionally a religious pilgrimage, many non-believers also make the trek for a variety of motivating reasons.

The requirement to be a certified pilgrim of the Camino states that walkers must complete at least 100 kilometers, or about 62 miles.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, individual or in groups, make the Camino each year, staying at hostels, low-cost hotels, with families or in religious communities along the way.

In the 20-page long letter, published in Spanish, the bishops of Spain and France pointed to the fact that hospitality “has a long tradition along the Camino de Santiago.”

This history, they noted, “was not always the most desirable,” and at times was marked by greed, deceit and a lack of compassion for the poor and sick. However, in recent decades the Camino has again taken up and multiplied hospitable initiatives and gestures.

“The presence of Christians on the Camino is essential to maintain the religious tradition of the great pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela and to be active witnesses of faith in Christ,” they said, insisting that there be “visible signs” of the faith in places where pilgrims stay, but “without being exaggerated.”

As part of showing specifically “Christian” hospitality, the bishops asked that there be a crucifix at the entrance of the house or institution as well as one in each room. They also asked that there be an image of St. James, and accompanying brochures that explain his life.

They requested that an image of Mary also be hung somewhere in the building, and if possible, that it be a representation of a local Madonna. They also encouraged hosts to provide bibles in different languages and recent writings of the Popes.

Pamphlets and fliers with guides to nearby monuments and announcements of feasts and activities in Santiago, the final destination of the pilgrimage also ought to be provided, as well as information on prayers and different novenas, and papers with information on liturgies, hostels, museums and office hours for the Pilgrim Office in Santiago.

If there is a church near to the location of where the pilgrim is staying, the host, with the help of local parishioners, is encouraged to speak with the priest to arrange the opening hours so their guests can have the opportunity to “contemplate and meditate” about their experience.

The bishops also urged these parishes to offer Vespers, Mass and a special blessing for pilgrims before they start their journey again. If there is a priest among the group of pilgrims, they are asked to officiate the celebrations and announce them so that others may also participate.

Christian hosts are also asked by the bishops to advise other, non-Christian hosts of the church and office opening hours in case pilgrims staying with them are interested.

For religious houses and monasteries that host pilgrims, the bishops noted that many pilgrims “look for them and appreciate” staying with them. As such, the institutions “must be expanded” and offered “targeted support” to help them provide for pilgrims' needs.

They are asked by the bishops to invite guests to respect the rules of the order and to keep silence, and to pray with members of the order when possible.

Members of the order, depending on their specific rule, may also eat with pilgrims at meal times. When opportunities arise, they are encouraged to speak with pilgrims, to listen to them and to explain their vocation.

In order to ensure that there is always someone available for this specific task, the bishops asked that all monasteries designate a specific monk or sister fill the role, “so that at whatever time of the day they reach the monastery they can be welcomed as Christ himself.”

As in regular hostels and hotels, the bishops requested that monasteries and convents also provide information on the Santiago pilgrimage and what they will find at the end, as well as on the history of their order, their specific monastery and those who inhabit it. In the case of parishes, they are requested to have information available on the priesthood.

For individuals who decide to host pilgrims, the bishops stressed the importance of being well-formed in the faith, saying “the mere act of being baptized and a practicing Catholic is not enough to be a Christian host.”

“A formation is needed which allows one to deepen in their own faith,” they said, noting that hosts will inevitably have to respond to a variety of different questions on the faith, including deeply reflective questions on the Nicene Creed, the Our Father prayer, religion, morals and the Church itself – her history, administration, role and how it differs from other denominations.

The bishops emphasized the importance of listening to pilgrims without asking jarring or probing questions, saying “the Christian host is not a journalist nor a psychologist.”

“Journalists need immediate answers, opinions on progress; that the interviewee provides, without reflection, their feelings about the event that has just occurred,” they said.

“Neither is the Christian host a psychologist or social assistant who, eager to put maieutics into practice, will try to get the other to speak about themselves and so formulate notions that the interlocutor doesn't know or had never expressed.”

“Maieutics” refers to the method used by Socrates when he attempted to elicit knowledge from a person through interrogation and an insistence on close and logical reasoning.

“Not everyone is Socrates,” the bishops said, stressing that to impose dialogue on someone that begins with questions such as “what is your impression?” or “is the Camino giving you what you hoped for at the beginning?” will only prompt immediate and superficial answers, such as “there are too many people,” or “I met a nice couple.”

Rather, a Christian host, they said, “must give testimony of their faith in at least two ways. In first place, by example.”

This example doesn't lie in the mere fact of being a “Christian” hotel or hostel, but the welcome pilgrims receive “must be open, fraternal and joyful for all and whoever arrives, without distinction, even if the pilgrim is in a bad mood, has a bad temper, smells bad or is even aggressive.”

“In every pilgrim that appears, the host will see Christ, will see the work of the Creator, and will welcome him into their home,” the bishops said, urging hosts to receive pilgrims “with joy, because the faith should not be sad, sulky or depressed.”

The bishops also stressed the importance of conveying the pilgrimage as a journey toward hope in which each step brings the pilgrim closer to their goal.

“Each host is a testimony of this hope, of the love of God, of the forgiveness of sin, of redeemed humanity,” the bishops said, adding that “their way of being, their method of welcome, the deep joy that they must radiate, are testimonies of the faith.”

“The host will also give testimony to their faith by listening to the pilgrim if they want to talk,” however, “they will not at any time force that desire to express oneself.”

In order to help pilgrims on along their journey, the bishops requested that specifically Christian hostels operate on donations, or at “a very affordable price.” They also encouraged those who have completed the Camino to volunteer, so they can “give back what they have received during their pilgrimage.”

The bishops closed the letter noting that, according to Pope Francis, to be a pilgrim means primarily “to be in movement, to be uninstalled, to go out from stillness, which becomes a comfort that paralyzes and waits – inactive, routine, formalistic – and to advance free of conditions, to read with realism the events of existence.”

“The experience of the pilgrimage is seen by the Pope as a great symbol of human and Christian life,” they said, and entrusted all who give hospitality to the protection of Mary.

Because it is through Mary, they said, that the Son of God “entered and began his pilgrimage in the world and, as a consequence, the truth of the incarnation and of redemption is linked to the truth of Mary.”

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Court sides with NY archdiocese in major religious liberty decision

New York City, N.Y., Jul 14, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - A federal court ruled Friday that the Archdiocese of New York had the right not to hire a diocesan school principal in a First Amendment religious freedom decision.

“The court saw right through this blatantly anti-Catholic lawsuit, agreeing with the Supreme Court that the church, not the state, should pick religious leaders,” Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at Becket, which represented the archdiocese in court, stated July 14 in reaction to the decision.

The case before the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals involved St. Anthony’s school in Nanuet, N.Y., 35 miles north of New York City.

The school had decided in 2011 not to renew the contract of its then-principal Joanne Fratello because of her alleged “insubordination” shown to the pastor of St. Anthony’s parish.

Fratello later alleged that the contract decision was a case of sex-based discrimination, and she filed a lawsuit against the school and the archdiocese. She said that she had been hired in a lay capacity, and thus the archdiocese would not be exempt from a discrimination lawsuit under the “ministerial exception.”

The “ministerial exception” forbids the government from intervening in the employment of a minister by a church, as part of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The exception was upheld in 2012 in the Supreme Court’s Hosanna-Tabor decision, which clarified that the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School’s decision to fire a teacher who had the title of “minister” and who worked in a ministerial capacity could not merit an employment discrimination claim.

Regarding Fratello’s claim, the archdiocese argued in court that she had indeed been hired on a ministerial basis and that their decision not to renew her contract was protected under the ministerial exemption.

Becket clarified that Fratello was given a “lay” contract for her job as a principal not because her job was a secular position, but because she was not a religious who had taken a vow of poverty. A diocesan priest would have received a similar contract for the job, Rassbach explained.

On Friday, two judges for the Second Circuit and one district court judge upheld a district court decision that favored the archdiocese.

“We conclude that the plaintiff?s claims are barred because she is a minister within the meaning of the exception,” the opinion said.

“Although her formal title was not inherently religious, the record reflects that, as part of her job responsibilities, she held herself out as a spiritual leader of the school and performed many religious functions to advance its religious mission.”

Judges cannot ultimately determine whether ministerial cases constitute true discrimination, the opinion stated.

“Judges are not well positioned to determine whether ministerial employment decisions rest on practical and secular considerations or fundamentally different ones that may lead to results that, though perhaps difficult for a person not intimately familiar with the religion to understand, are perfectly sensible – and perhaps even necessary – in the eyes of the faithful,” the opinion said.

“In the Abrahamic religious traditions, for instance, a stammering Moses was chosen to lead the people, and a scrawny David to slay a giant.”

The Hosanna-Tabor case presented several standards to determine one’s ministerial capacity, the judges said, including the “formal title” of their job, the use of that title by both the subject and employer, and the “religious functions” of the job.

Fratello met these conditions as a minister, they wrote, as she performed a myriad of religious duties as a principal and had even touted her own “strong Catholic faith” when she applied for the position.

Her religious duties included organizing and leading public prayer over the school loudspeaker, helping plan school Masses and religious assemblies, and encouraging students to attend Mass and grow in their spiritual lives.

In her evaluation by the parish pastor at the end of her first term as principal, Fratello was reviewed on her ability to establish a “Christian atmosphere” at the school, how well she had fostered a “comprehensive religious education program,” and whether she had promoted “a strong program of evangelization.”

According to the archdiocese’s administrative manual for the archdiocesan schools, a cover letter written by the late Cardinal Edward Egan of New York stated that the school principals had “accepted the vocation and challenge of leadership in Catholic education.”

In conclusion, the judges stated that “although Fratello?s formal title was not inherently religious, the record makes clear that she held herself out as a spiritual leader of the School and performed many important religious functions to advance its Roman Catholic mission.”

“The ministerial exception thus bars her employment?discrimination claims because she was a minister within the meaning of the exception,” they said.

Fratello’s lawyer had drawn controversy for a scathing reply he had authored in response to an amicus brief filed on behalf of the archdiocese by the Orthodox Church of America.

He wrote that “organized religion” is a threat to “enlightened rationality,” and called the Roman Catholic Church “the most powerful church on earth.”

The American founders, he said, were “people of the Age of Enlightenment” and believed that “that organized religion and religious dogma are dangerous to a society, and what a society needs is enlightened rationality.”

He said that “our American democracy” could be “undermined if religious groups religious groups can propagandize and indoctrinate school children without the constraint of a loyal American citizen and educator (e.g., a lay school teacher or principal) insisting that secular curriculum be properly taught.”

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