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November 19, 2017
Archive of November 14, 2017

How Christians are continuing to help hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Nov 14, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - Seven weeks after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, the majority of the island is still without power, and many residents are without clean water as well.

While the rebuilding process is slow, Catholic aid groups are working to provide supplies to those who desperately need them.

On Nov. 10, Catholic Charities USA presented $2 million in additional aid to Caritas de Puerto Rico, the Catholic Charities agency on the island. 

This money follows the $1.5 million in funds given by Catholic Charities USA shortly after the hurricane struck the island.

Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20 as a Category 4 storm. Up to 155 mile per hour winds and heavy rains destroyed buildings, caused massive flooding, and wiped out electricity to the entire island of 3.5 million people.  

The storm has killed at least 51 people, and Puerto Rican authorities have estimated the cost of damages at up to $95 billion.

Many residents are still in need of food and clean drinking water. The lack of communication has also been a serious issue, said one Catholic Charities worker.

“We have been trying to get ahold of the folks here in Utuado for almost a week and have been unable to do so…just packing up the jeep and bringing the supplies here is the only way we are able to communicate,” Kim Burgo told NBC.

More than half the population of Puerto Rico is Catholic, and about a third are Protestant. The island has a strong Christian presence that relies on the support of Christian churches.

While some churches were destroyed by the hurricane, many of those that survived have become safe havens for the Puerto Rican people. Caritas de Puerto Rico has set up locations in Catholic churches across the country to hand out food, water, and hygiene supplies.

Other Christian groups are also working to serve those in need. The Wall Street Journal reported on a Christian church housing more than 500 homeless people and a Southern Baptist group planning to send 200-300 volunteers to open kitchens serving food.

Looking forward, Caritas de Puerto Rico has identified four main objectives as initial steps to long-term restoration: improve distribution of supplies, develop disaster case management teams, provide mental health counselors, and establish a new health clinic on the island.

 

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Pope Francis pens letter to disabled soldier he met in Colombia

Bogotá, Colombia, Nov 14, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis sent a handwritten letter to a disabled soldier he met in Colombia this fall, thanking him for a special gesture at the Bogota airport, when the soldier gave him his military cap.

The pope told the soldier that their encounter touched him so much that he placed a photo of it in his study.

The pontiff's letter was addressed to the special ops Marine Edwin Restrepo. Restrepo, who has been in a wheelchair for 13 years, after he stepped on an anti-personnel blast mine during a search and secure operation near the town of Zambrano.

Restrepo lost part of an arm and a leg, and he also went blind. Nevertheless, he learned to read Braille and after finishing school, began a law career. He also learned how to walk with his new prosthesis.

Restrepo briefly met Pope Francis at the Catam airport in Bogota on Sept. 10 before the pontiff left for Villavicencio during his apostolic trip to Colombia. He handed the Pope his soldier’s cap and asked the Holy Father to pray for the soldiers and police in Colombia.

The pope's letter is dated Oct. 16 and was read and delivered to the soldier Nov. 9 by Bishop Suescún Mutis of the Colombian military diocese.

The Holy Father wrote in his letter, “Dear Brother, I don't know your name but I haven't forgotten the spontaneous gesture you made this past September 10 at the Catam airport before my departure for Villavicencio.”

Referring to the military cap Restrepo handed him, Francis wrote, “That gesture touched my heart, and I didn't give your soldier's cap to my aide (as I normally do with the things people give me). Instead I wanted to take it with me, a memento and symbol of your devotion and love for your country, as captured in the photo.”

The pope told Restrepo that “that soldier's cap accompanied me during the trip. I thought of you often, and of so many of your companions injured fighting for your people.”

After returning to Rome,  “I couldn't let go of it, and I placed it next to the photo and the news article that came out in L’Osservatore Romano next to the picture of the Blessed Virgin above the little altar that I have in my study that I often pray in front of. So every time I pray there, I pray for You, your fallen and injured comrades and for Colombia.”

 “And once again I say ‘Thanks!’ to you. Thanks for your gesture, thanks for your love for your country. And, please, I ask you to not forget to pray for me. May Jesus bless you and the Blessed Virgin care for you. Fraternally, Francisco,” the text concludes.

 

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Archbishop Naumann elected US bishops' pro-life committee chair

Baltimore, Md., Nov 14, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a move seen as an endorsement of St. John Paul II's “culture of life” approach, the U.S. bishops on Tuesday elected Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas as chairman of the conference's committee on pro-life activities.

The bishops also elected a conference secretary and the chairs of five additional committees Nov. 14 during their plenary assembly in Baltimore, Md. Board members for Catholic Relief Services were elected as well.

Archbishop Naumann won the pro-life committee with 96 votes, or 54 percent. The other candidate, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, garnered 82 votes, or 46 percent. The committee has customarily been overseen by a cardinal.

Archbishop Naumann who was already a member of the pro-life committee, has challenged pro-choice Catholic politicians, spearheaded efforts to restrict abortion in Kansas, and prioritized abortion in his teaching ministry.

As a young priest, Naumann oversaw the pro-life office of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Under his leadership, the archdiocese began the Project Rachel ministry, a post-abortion healing ministry of the kind O’Connor championed. Naumann worked to support pregnancy centers and homes for mothers and children.

Cardinal Cupich has also spoken directly about the moral issue of abortion, and strongly criticized politicians whom he believes take pro-choice advocacy too far. But Cupich has contextualized these efforts in the memory of “seamless garment” approach of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.

In the vote for conference secretary, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit won with 52 percent, to Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City's 48 percent.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville was elected chair of the religious liberty committee with 57 percent of the vote to Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee's 43 percent.

The chairman-elect of the communications committee is Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, who garnered 116 votes to Bishop John Barres of Rockville Centre's 70 votes.

Bishop Nelson Perez of Cleveland was elected chair of the committee on cultural diversity in the Church with 57 percent to Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux' 43 percent.

For the committee on doctrine, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend was elected as chair with 54 percent to Bishop Daniel Thomas of Toledo's 46 percent.

Bishop Joseph Cistone of Saginaw was elected chair of the collections committee by 66 percent to Archbishop Michael Jackels of Dubuque's 34 percent.

The bishops also elected six members of the board of directors for Catholic Relief Services: Bishop Felipe Estevez of Saint Augustine; Bishop Fabre; Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis; Bishop Rhoades; Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas; and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami.

 

 

Correction, 16:33 EST, Nov. 14, 2017: A previous version of this article stated, based on an earlier, null vote, that Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City had been elected to the board of directors of Catholic Relief Services. In fact, Bishop Edward Burns has been elected.

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Pakistani bishops declare Year of the Eucharist

Lahore, Pakistan, Nov 14, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - Amid national challenges, the Pakistani Catholic Bishops’ Conference has announced a “Year of the Eucharist,” to focus on renewal and service.

The year will begin on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Nov. 26, 2017. It will end on the same feast day next year, Nov. 25, 2018.

“The 'Year of the Eucharist' is meant to be a time of spiritual growth and inner renewal and to share the love of Christ with all humanity by our dedicated service to our country,” the bishops said in a statement published by the Pakistan Christian Post.

“As our country is going through difficult times we urge all people in Pakistan to pray more fervently for peace, harmony, progress and prosperity of our beloved country.”

The statement was issued during the bishops’ second annual plenary meeting, which took place in Lahore, Pakistan on Nov. 9-10.
In the statement, the bishops lamented the social problems that have arisen from corrupt politics. They expressed hope that the next election would be free and fair, and would “strengthen the democratic process.”

“We have to be honest in our dealings and be free from all stains of corruption,” the bishops said. “There must be an honest interim government that will bring in fair practices and not interfere with the election campaigns and the voting process.”

The bishops called on the Election Commission of Pakistan to be completely impartial, and encouraged the political parties to be attentive to the struggles of the country’s minorities.

“We feel that the current electoral system for minority candidates being appointed by political parties on reserved seats does not represent the community and so we urge the government to create a just and fair system,” they said.

The bishops also warned that “the educational system in Pakistan is suffering.” The weaknesses in the system must be addressed, they said, noting that the local Church has worked hard to offer high-quality, affordable education.

“Education is the basic right of every human being. It has power to drag a human from darkness of illiteracy into the light of knowingness. A country can never progress without appropriate educational system,” they stressed, calling on the government to work for a system that promotes peace and religious harmony.

Looking at the situation of the Church in the country, the Pakistani bishops thanked the government for showing respect for Sister Ruth Pfau, a beloved sister who spent more than 50 years working to eradicate leprosy in Pakistan.

Pfau died Aug. 10 at age 87 and was given a state funeral, the first Christian woman in the country to receive one, according to CNN.

The bishops thanked government leaders “for making the funeral of Dr Ruth Pfau a national event,” but said that Pfau’s legacy must continue.

“This must further inspire the clergy, religious, lay faithful and all people to a renewed commitment of serving our neighbor, especially in the poor and the marginalized,” they said.

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Abortion info required at pro-life centers? Supreme Court takes up case

Washington D.C., Nov 14, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. Supreme Court has announced that it will consider a California law that requires pro-life pregnancy centers to display information about how to obtain an abortion.

Opponents of the law welcomed the high court’s Nov. 13 decision to hear the case.

“Forcing anyone to provide free advertising for the abortion industry is unthinkable – especially when it’s the government doing the forcing,” said Kevin Theriot, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom.

“This is even more true when it comes to pregnancy care centers, which exist specifically to care for women who want to have their babies.”

Given that information about abortion is already widely available, “the government doesn’t need to punish pro-life centers for declining to advertise for the very act they can’t promote,” Theriot said.

“The state should protect freedom of speech and freedom from coerced speech.”

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a legal complaint filed by Alliance Defending Freedom against the law. The complaint was filed on behalf of a pro-life pregnancy care network, and two pregnancy care centers.

California’s Assembly Bill 775, called the Reproductive FACT Act, requires licensed medical centers that offer free pro-life help to pregnant women to post a notice saying that California provides free or low-cost abortion and contraceptive services. The notice must include a phone number for a county office that would refer women to Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers.

Under the law, unlicensed pregnancy centers must also add large disclosures about their status as a non-medical provider, even if they do not provide medical services.

The petition, filed in March, charges that the legislation was enacted with the aim of targeting pro-life pregnancy centers based on their viewpoint that discourages abortion.

Alliance Defending Freedom said that courts have invalidated similar laws or parts of similar laws in Austin, Texas; Baltimore and Montgomery County, Maryland; and New York City.

The California legislature said that 200 pregnancy centers used “intentionally deceptive advertising and counseling practices” that confuse and misinform women and intimidate them “from making fully-informed, time-sensitive decisions about critical health care.”

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law. Judge Dorothy W. Nelson, writing for the unanimous three-judge panel, said the state of California has “a substantial interest in the health of its citizens, including ensuring that its citizens have access to and adequate information about constitutionally protected medical services like abortion,” according to the New York Times.

Judge Nelson said the notice “informs the reader only of the existence of publicly funded family-planning services” and “does not contain any more speech than necessary, nor does it encourage, suggest or imply that women should use those state-funded services.”

But Elissa Graves, legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, contended that the law enables the abortion industry.

“Planned Parenthood, which makes millions from abortion, deceives women into believing that abortion is their only choice,” Graves said.

“Pregnancy care centers, which provide their care for free, were established specifically to help women understand that they have the choice of life for their children, and that they will be there to help them through their pregnancies.”

 

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Sacramento bishop leads prayer after northern California shooting

Baltimore, Md., Nov 14, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - Notifying his fellow bishops of “a terrible shooting” in his diocese, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento led them in prayer for the victims during the U.S. bishops' general assembly in Baltimore on Tuesday.

“I would ask if we could take a moment to ask God's mercy not only on those affected by this [incident], but on all affected by gun violence in these times. Let us ask for Mary's intercession for these people,” he said Nov. 14, leading those gathered in the Hail Mary.

“Mary, mother of Mercy and Queen of Peace, pray for us,” he added.

Minutes after learning about the shooting in Northern California, Sacramento's @bishopsoto led his brother bishops in a prayer for all victims of gun violence. #USCCB17 pic.twitter.com/5YiFaIN5X3

— US Catholic Bishops (@USCCB) November 14, 2017

The New York Times reports that at least four people were killed at several sites in and around Ranch Tehema Reserve, a small community located about 130 miles northwest of Sacramento. Several more people were wounded, including at an elementary school. No children were killed, according to police. The gunman has been shot and killed by police, authorities said.

A sheriff's office official told reporters the shooter was armed with a semiautomatic rifle and two handguns, and neighbors had reported his involvement in a domestic violence incident.

 

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Black Elk sainthood cause advances with US bishops' vote

Baltimore, Md., Nov 14, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - The sainthood cause for Lakota medicine man and Catholic catechist Nicholas Black Elk took another step forward today, as the U.S. bishops unanimously approved his canonical consultation.

The Nov. 14 voice vote of the bishops took place at their annual fall assembly in Baltimore, and is the latest in a series of steps on the path to sainthood.

The motion to vote on the cause was brought forward by Bishop Robert D. Gruss of Rapid City, South Dakota, the home diocese of Black Elk where his cause was officially opened earlier this year.

Even before his conversion to Catholicism, Black Elk was a prominent medicine man “widely known as a holy man and a mystic,” Bishop Gruss told the assembly of bishops.

After his conversion, Black Elk “fully embraced a Catholic life” and became an “ardent Catechist” who would go on to convert more than 400 Native Americans to the faith, Gruss noted.

Black Elk became “an icon who reveals what God calls all of us to be - people of faith and hope, and a source of hope for others,” he added.

Black Elk was born sometime between 1858 and 1866 and, like many of his ancestors, served as a medicine man, which combined the roles of medical doctor, spiritual adviser and counselor.

He was present for the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, and the following year, he joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, which toured Europe, including a performance before Queen Victoria.

In 1892, after touring with the show for several years, he married Katie War Bonnet. They had three children. After she converted to Catholicism, all three children were baptized.

The year after she died, Black Elk converted to Catholicism and was baptized on Dec. 6, 1904, the Feast of St. Nicholas. He took Nicholas as his baptismal name because he admired the saint's generosity.

In 1905, he married again to Anna Brings White, a widow with two children. They had three children together and she passed away in 1941.

During Black Elk’s lifetime, the practice in the Diocese of Rapid City was for Jesuit priests to select Lakota Catholic men to teach the faith to other members of their tribe as catechists. They evangelized, prayed and prepared converts in the Lakota language, traveling by foot or by horseback until automobiles became available.

Black Elk became a catechist in 1907, chosen for his enthusiasm and his excellent memory for learning Scripture and Church teaching. He was also one of the signatories of the cause of canonization for St. Kateri Tekakwitha, another Native American saint. He passed away Aug. 19, 1950 at Pine Ridge.

Last year, a petition with over 1,600 signatures to open his cause for canonization was presented to Bishop Gruss by the Nicholas Black Elk family. An October Mass officially opened his cause in the diocese this year.

Gruss said that Black Elk’s witness is an inspiration for both Native and non-native Americans, because he “lived the Gospel in everyday life.”

The next step in Black Elk’s cause will be for a tribunal to investigate and document examples of heroic virtue in his life.

 

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