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Chicago workshop seeks to expand immigrant-led ministry nationwide

Chicago, Ill., Jul 18, 2018 / 03:21 am (CNA).- A five-day training session in the Archdiocese of Chicago last week gathered leaders from across the country to learn about starting an immigrant-led service ministry in their dioceses.

The goal of the gathering, according to the archdiocesan website, was to “train diocesan, pastoral and lay leaders from across the United States on how to start this immigrant-led ministry for service, justice and accompaniment in parish communities to serve the needs of immigrants.”

Delegates from 11 dioceses attended the July 11-15 Instituto Pastoral Migratoria at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

Created in 2007 by the Chicago archdiocesan Office of Human Dignity and Solidarity, Pastoral Migratoria seeks to respond to needs created by the lack of comprehensive immigration reform.

The parish-based ministry develops lay leaders who are able to identify and serve immigrants’ social and pastoral needs at a local level. In Chicago, more than 200 Hispanic lay leaders at 40 parishes are involved in the ministry.

The work they do is broad – from workers’ rights issues to financial literacy education to substance abuse awareness and prevention – “anything related to the immigrant community,” said Elena Segura, senior coordinator for immigration in the archdiocese.

“These are leaders who work in cooperation with professional organizations, who come to the parishes and provide the information and critical resources for people to learn and also to become positive members of society, to be integrated in this country,” she said.

Segura stressed that the program empowers immigrants to be leaders in their own parishes, “actors of their own development,” responding to the needs around them and transforming their communities.

“Immigrants have gifts and…they are people who are responding to their baptismal call to engage in bringing the resources needed in their parish communities,” she told CNA.

Often times, the immigrant leaders who are working to serve and accompany their brothers and sisters have themselves experienced a need for accompaniment in making the transition to life in the United States.

“It’s a journey of empowerment, it’s a journey of hope, it’s journey of compassion,” Segura said.

The July 11-15 training session is part of an effort to expand Pastoral Migratoria across the country. In the last year, the Dioceses of Kansas City–Saint Joseph and Stockton launched the program, and organizers hope to begin in three additional dioceses within the coming year.

“The ministry’s goal is to create a nationwide network of Catholic parish-based immigration ministries,” the Archdiocese of Chicago said in a press release.

Participants in the training session received formation and resources rooted in Catholic social teaching to help them implement Pastoral Migratoria in their home dioceses and form collaborative relationships with community partners. They visited Chicago parishes where this ministry is in place, and took part in a prayer vigil at a detention center. All sessions were conducted in Spanish.

Among the dioceses represented at the event were Atlanta, Des Moines, Kansas City–Saint Joseph, Little Rock, Los Angeles, New York, San Bernardino, St. Louis, and Stockton.

The modern miracle of Fatima

Fatima, Portugal, Jul 18, 2018 / 03:00 am (CNA).- While men in the trenches of World War I faced chemical gasses and industrialized weaponry that wrought unprecedented human carnage, an Angel of Peace appeared with a message.

“Do not be afraid. I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me: My God I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You,” the angel told three children in rural Portugal in that first of several supernatural encounters that would take place over the course of 1916 and 1917.

When the Virgin Mary appeared to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco on May 13, 1917, she requested, “Say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war.”

The Great War did come to an end in 1918, but the story and secrets of Fatima continued to unfold after the first world war until the fall of Communism in 1989. The Virgin Mary entered into the bloodiest century in human history with a message of peace and prayer.

In many ways the events at Fatima encapsulate the history 20th century, and in the long history of the Church, they will be remembered for their deep connections to the most important milestones of the last century.

Today a piece of the Berlin Wall stands in the Fatima square as a permanent monument to the apparition’s connection to 1989. The Bolsheviks’ October Revolution took place the same year as Fatima’s “Miracle of the Sun,” and the Virgin Mary specifically requested that the pope consecrate Russia to Mary, in union with the bishops of the world.

In Fatima’s museum, there is a rosary made from pieces of the Berlin Wall, a gift made by a Portuguese emigrant on May 13, 1991. There is also the ring that Pope John Paul II donated to Our Lady of Fatima in gratitude for her protection during the attempt on his life on May 13, 1981, a date that coincided with the anniversary of the Fatima apparitions. The ring had a special meaning to the pope; Cardinal Stephen Wszynski had given it to him at the beginning of his papacy in 1978. The pope also offered the bullet from the assassination attempt, which fit perfectly into Our Lady of Fatima’s crown.
World War II was also predicted by Our Lady of Fatima. “God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pius XI,” recorded Lucia in her third memoir.

“Fatima is undoubtedly the most prophetic of modern apparitions. The first and second parts of the ‘secret’ . . . refer especially to the frightening vision of hell, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Second World War, and finally the prediction of the immense damage that Russia would do to humanity by abandoning the Christian faith and embracing Communist totalitarianism,” wrote the former Secretary of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith Tarcisio Bertone.

Lucia dos Santos, the principal Fatima visionary died in 2005. Her niece, Maria dos Anjos, is still living across the street from Lucia’s little house in Fatima. Now 98 years old, Anjos’ life has spanned all but three years of Fatima’s modern history.

“When she visited us Lucia always said ‘Pray the rosary every day. That is what Our Lady asked,” Anjos told CNA.

Anjos also told CNA how much the city of Fatima has changed in her lifetime. Life across Europe has changed completely since 1917, she said. For one thing, children no longer work as shepherds.

Saints Jacinta and Francisco Marto did not travel far within their short lifetimes. They lived simple, austere, and faithful lives. Both died of the Spanish flu pandemic that killed between 50 and 100 million people in the early 20th century.

In perhaps the most poignant symbol of a changing world, what was once the pasture of poor shepherds is now an international pilgrimage destination where people from South Korea, India, Australia, and all over the world come together seeking the sacred.

 

 

 

India to investigate Missionaries of Charity childcare homes after scandal

New Delhi, India, Jul 17, 2018 / 03:28 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- India's Ministry of Women and Child Development announced Monday that it has instructed states to inspect all childcare homes run by the Missionaries of Charity.

The move comes after several children were allegedly sold by an employee of Nirmal Hriday, a Missionaries of Charity home for unwed mothers in Jharkhand state.

Maneka Ghandi, women and child development minister, added July 16 that all childcare and adoption institutions must register with the Central Adoption Resource Authority within the month.

Earlier this month two women affiliated with the Missionaries of Charity, one a religious sister and one an employee, were arrested after a couple complained that they were sold a baby boy, who was then taken back by the shelter.

Anima Indwar, who had worked at the shelter as a sweeper since 2002, and Sister Konsalia, were arrested July 4 and 5 in Jharkhand. Another shelter employee is also under investigation.

Indwar admitted that she sold the children. In one deal, a couple from Uttar Pradesh adopted the child and the deal was finalized through the guard. She denied that Sister Konsalia was present during the transaction. She said the baby’s biological mother was involved in the exchange.

Police appear to have been alerted July 3 when a couple from Uttar Pradhesh complained to the Child Welfare Committee in Ranchi, capital of Jharkhand, that a baby boy they received after payment had been taken back.

Police say that a couple reportedly paid 120,000 Indian rupees ($1,760) to Indwar. The couple complained that Indwar took their money in exchange for a child, and that she later took the child back from them without returning the money.

The baby in question was born May 1 to a shelter resident, and was apparently given to the couple two weeks later. On July 1, Indwar reportedly asked the couple to return to the shelter with the baby for some “formalities.” She then took the child from his adoptive parents and did not give him back. The baby is now in state custody.

Sister Konsalia described her experience in a video.

“I came to know that a baby, delivered in May, was missing when the Child Welfare Committee came to check,” she said in a video. “We found out that the baby had been sold off by a staffer.”

Sister Konsalia has recounted her conversation with Indwar.

“When I initially asked the staffer about the baby, she did not want to tell me anything. It was only when I kept pressing for details that they told me the baby had been sold,” she said.

A small portion of the money had been given to the guard, while nine times that amount was given to “a sister.”

Sister Konsalia said that Indwar told her she did not take any money.

The nun said she informed authorities about the matter and said the baby should be brought back.

A police source said that Indwar provided to police a handwritten note from Sister Konsalia asking Indwar to take the blame on herself, Matters India reports.

Sister Konsalia's defenders, including the bishops of India, are asking whether she was an accomplice, or the victim of a coerced confession.

Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Auxiliary Bishop of Ranchi, speaking to NDTV, charged that police are “treating the whole of Mother Teresa’s organization as a criminal gang.”

Bishop Mascarenhas, speaking in his role as the Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, condemned the shelter staffer accused of selling the babies, but said the rule of law was not being followed in Sister Konsalia’s case.

“Nobody was allowed to meet Sister Konsalia in custody,” he said. “Her advocate could meet her on Wednesday, eight days after her arrest, only after we approached the court,” he said July 12, according to the Hindustan Times. “During the 10 minutes interaction that the advocate could have with her, she said she was forced by the police to give her statement.”

Mascarenhas had objected that the nun was being treated as a criminal. He said she is diabetic with varicose veins, and wasn’t aware of her statement.

Mascarenhas condemned the sale.

“It shouldn’t have happened. But, accusing the entire congregation of Mother Teresa is wrong,” he said July 12.

Babulal Marandi, former chief minister of Jharkhand, visited the shelter July 14 and interacted with the sisters, the news site Matters India reports. He alleged that the case had become a “media trial.” He said the Missionaries of Charity have served society for many years.

“The government should conduct a direct probe instead of issuing statements to the media,” he said.

However, police have said the accusations were filed on the basis of evidence, including confessions by the accused.

All four babies have been recovered by authorities. At the time of the arrests, there were a dozen pregnant women living at the shelter. They have now been transferred to a government-run home.

A spokesperson for the Kolkata-based Missionaries of Charity said that the order stopped dealing with child adoption in India in 2015, and did not take money for adoptions when it did assist in them. The order is conducting their own investigation about the case.

Members of opposition parties have accused India's ruling party, the Hindu-nationalist group the Bharatiya Janata Party, of harassing and persecuting the missionaries on the basis of unbelievable allegations.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has backed the Missionaries of Charity. She accused the BJP government of making “malicious attempts to malign” the charity and the name of Mother Theresa.

Rameshwar Oraon, the leader of Jharkhand Congress and a former police officer, said some police appeared to be taking part in the political controversy over the police action against the Missionaries of Charity.

The Jharkhand police have also called for a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into foreign funds received by Missionaries of Charity institutions. R.K. Mallick, the senior police officer, told NDTV that the recommendation was motivated by irregularities investigators detected.

The Albanian-born Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata in 1950. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, and canonized in 2016. There are now about 3,000 Missionaries of Charity sisters around the world.

In addition to the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, members of the Missionaries of Charity take a fourth vow pledging “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.”

Kavanaugh’s friends describe man of humility, service, faith

Washington D.C., Jul 17, 2018 / 03:04 pm (CNA).- Long-time friends and associates of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh say he is a sincere Catholic, committed to living the tenets of his faith.

Last week, President Trump nominated Kavanaugh to serve as Associate United States Supreme Court. In a short speech following the announcement, Kavanaugh highlighted his commitment to his faith and his family.

“I've known Brett - Judge Kavanaugh - for 20 years,” Shannen Coffin, an attorney in Washington, D.C., told CNA. “He's a very smart person, but he's a regular guy, too. He's a devoted father, and spouse.”

Judge Kavanaugh has spent the last 12 years on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals but despite that formidable judicial record, Coffin says that there are “no airs about” him and he has a “humility in his approach to judging.”

“He's also the guy who after a day of long meetings with senators, you know, and without fanfare, was serving food to the homeless.”

Coffin said that Kavanaugh “views the role of a judge in the constitutional system not as a political job, but as a job of interpreting statutes and interpreting the Constitution.”

On the topic of religious liberty, Coffin was quick to dismiss anyone who had doubts that Kavanaugh would be a staunch protector of religious freedoms.

“I think they’re fools,” he said bluntly. “I don't have any hesitations in thinking that this is a great appointment for those concerned about religious liberty.”

Kavanaugh is a “vigilant defender of religious liberty,” Coffin said, as evidenced by his line of questioning in the recent court case brought against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, (WMATA) by the Archdiocese of Washington. While that case has yet to be decided, Kavanaugh’s questions and reasoning made it clear that he thought WMATA had acted illegally by prohibiting religious-themed advertisements.

“What really should impress Catholics is that this is a guy who is committed to the fundamental text of the Constitution and protecting those liberties preserved in the Constitution.”

Msgr. John Enzler, CEO and president of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., is another longtime friend of Kavanaugh. Enzler told CNA they first met when Kavanaugh was just 10 years old. At the time, Kavanaugh was a member of Little Flower Parish in Bethesda, where Enzler was serving as a priest.

“He was always a wonderful young guy,” Enzler told CNA.

Kavanaugh attended an all-boys Catholic elementary school before moving on to Georgetown Prep. At Georgetown Prep, Kavanaugh played sports, captaining the basketball team in his senior year.

“They weren’t that talented that particular year, but he was still the captain,” said Enzler.

Like Coffin, Enzler was quick to note that Kavanaugh is “really just a regular guy,” who loves sports, and loves being with friends.

Enzler said he did not know that Kavanaugh would be the president’s Supreme Court nominee until about three hours before the official announcement, but it was Enzler’s presence at the announcement that tipped off some people that Kavanaugh was Trump’s pick.

“When they saw me, they knew Brett was the guy, because they knew I was a friend of Brett's," said Enzler. "I kind of blew the cover, by being there for my friend."

Enzler said that when they first discussed Kavanaugh’s possible nomination, the judge was concerned about breaking his volunteering commitments. Kavanaugh asked if he could still come to serve the homeless later that week, saying he said wanted to do so regardless of the nomination result.

Kavanaugh called Enzler on Sunday, and said there was a “50-50” chance he would be the nominee, and that he would like for him to attend the announcement were he picked.

“By the way, if I'm chosen or not, I'd still want to come on Wednesday night to serve food, is that okay with you?”

Kavanaugh has been a consistent volunteer at Catholic Charities, coming to serve the homeless about “15, 16 times” over the last few years, Enzler said.

“He’s been here a bunch of times and serving, and nobody knew who he was,” said Enzler. “Not just a one-time thing.”

After the announcement was made last Monday, Enzler said he received another call from Kavanaugh two days later, checking if it would still be okay for him to volunteer that evening. On this occasion the media came too, and Kavanaugh definitely wasn’t the unknown volunteer he had been before.

"This is the guy next door, this is what he's like,” said Enzler. “He's not like some intellectual powerhouse you'd never talk to. This is a guy who's very friendly, very outgoing, very nice, lot of laughter, big smile, wonderful father, wonderful husband, man of faith, lives his faith, goes to church every week."

While Enzler said he was “very happy” for his long-time friend, he is concerned about what his family will face during the nomination proceedings.

“The process is very difficult,” explained Enzler. “Your family and you personally take a lot of heat from people who don’t agree with you.”

Most of all, Enzler believes that Kavanaugh is a “man of complete integrity, and a man of complete honesty” who will make his decisions in court based upon what is best for the nation and what is in-line with the Constitution.

"I'm very proud of him," said Enzler. "He will be a superb justice of the Supreme Court."

 

'Weeping' statue of Mary investigated by N.M. diocese

Las Cruces, N.M., Jul 17, 2018 / 01:15 pm (CNA).- A New Mexican diocese is investigating a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary that some Catholics say has been “weeping” for more than a month.

Bishop Oscar Cantú of the Diocese of Las Cruces gave a public update July 15 about the diocesan investigation into an allegedly “weeping” statue of the Virgin Mary. The cast bronze image of Our Lady of Guadalupe has been drawing crowds to the church named in her honor in Hobbs, N.M. 


A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Hobbs, N.M., appears to be weeping. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Las Cruces.

Parishioners first reported seeing tears appearing to stream down the hollow statue in May.

Giving an update on the investigation launched that same month, Bishop Cantú said on Sunday that some had also reported a pleasant smell around the statue.

“Some of the witnesses claimed it smelled of roses, so something similar to the oil I bless and consecrate each year that we use for baptism, for confirmations and for ordination of the priests.” So far, the investigation seems to support these reports. As part of the efforts to determine the origin and nature of the tears, samples were sent for chemical analysis. The results determined that the tears were made of a scented olive oil.

The statue itself is also being examined.  "We examined the interior of the hollow statue," Cantú told reporters. "There's nothing on the interior that's not supposed to be there, except for cobwebs. So we took pictures; we examined it."

It was thought by investigators that the tears might have been the result of residual wax from the casting process, but this appears to have been ruled out. Cantú said that the manufacturers had assured them that the heat of the casting process made it impossible for there to be any moisture left in the statue. Addressing the possibility that the weeping statue could be an hoax, he noted that if it was he could not see how it was being accomplished.

On July 11, it was announced that Bishop Cantú was being transferred to  take up the post of bishop coadjutor in the diocese of San José, California. He is scheduled to take up that post at the end of September. Before he leaves, Cantú said he intends to visit the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe to see the statue for himself.

Before making any final decision on the miraculous nature of the weeping statue, the bishop said he would be seeking advice from a higher authority. “I'm checking best practices," he told reporters. "Certainly, I have a final say, but I would defer to the wisdom of Pope Francis."

In the meantime, the Hobbs church continues to see a steady stream of visitors. Even without formal recognition by church authorities, many are finding it a moving experience.

“I've read most of those written testimonies, and they are stories of tremendous faith, people who have been dealing with terrible suffering in their lives and have felt a tremendous spiritual consolation that Mary walks with us in our tears” Cantú said.

He noted that for many Catholics in the border diocese of Las Cruces, the image of Our Lady crying with them was deeply powerful. “I can't help but think of my own shedding of tears for the poor people who come to our border, fleeing life-threatening situations. The tears of those children who are separated from their parents. There are many reasons we would shed tears, and God stands with us in those moments.”

The diocesan investigation continues.

 

 

 

The Church is without a camerlengo

Vatican City, Jul 17, 2018 / 12:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- With the July 5 death of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the office of camerlengo is now vacant. A sensitive position, above all in the period between the death of a pope and the election of his successor, the Church awaits Pope Francis’ nomination of a new camerlengo.

The camerlengo is one of two head officials of the Roman Curia who do not lose their office while the papacy is vacant. The camerlengo administers Church finances and property during the interregnum.

However, Francis could choose to do as did Ven. Pius XII in 1941 and not nominate a new camerlengo. At the death of Cardinal Lorenzo Lauri, Ven. Pius XII did not nominate a successor, and at his death in 1958, the cardinals elected, at the beginning of the sede vacante, Cardinal Benedetto Aloisi Masella.

The position of the camerlengo is regulated by the apostolic constitutions Pastor bonus and Universi dominici gregis.

Paragraph 17 of Universi dominici gregis establishes that “the Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church must officially ascertain the Pope’s death and “must also place seals on the Pope’s study and bedroom”, and later “the entire papal apartment.”

The camerlengo is also responsible for notifying the cardinal vicar for Rome of the pope’s death, who then notifies the people of Rome by special announcement. He takes possession of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican and Palaces of the Lateran and of Castel Gandolfo and manages their administration.

“During the vacancy of the Apostolic See, the Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church has the duty of safeguarding and administering the goods and temporal rights of the Holy See, with the help of the three Cardinal Assistants, having sought the views of the College of Cardinals, once only for less important matters, and on each occasion when more serious matters arise,” the constitution states.

After being appointed, the new camerlengo will swear before the pope, who will give him a scepter, a symbol of the authority of the camerlengo. The current scepter, covered in red velvet, dates to the papacy of Benedict XV.

Vatican's former legal chief says canon law should include care of creation

Rome, Italy, Jul 17, 2018 / 12:14 pm (CNA).- The Vatican's former top advisor on canon law has made a public call to insert legal obligations for the care of creation into the Church’s universal canon law -  making it a legal duty for Catholics not only “not to harm” the environment, but to improve it.

According to veteran Vatican watcher Andrea Tornielli, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, former head of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, made the proposal during a July 12 event in Rome titled “Dialogue on Catholic Investments for the Energy Transition.”

During the closed-door discussion, representatives from the Vatican and Catholic organizations spoke about how to invest responsibly towards a transition to renewable energies.

In an interview with Vatican Insider, Coccopalmerio discussed canons 208-221 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law, which enumerate “Obligations and rights of all the faithful.”

This section “outlines an ‘identikit’ of the faithful and of their life as a Christian,” the cardinal said, but noted that nothing is mentioned “about one of the most serious duties: that of protecting and promoting the natural environment in which the faithful live.”

The proposal he outlined, which he suggested could be submitted to the pope but considered by his former department, would be to ask for a new canon to be added to the obligations of the all faithful, specifically treating environmental responsibility. 

Coccopalmerio, whose resignation was accepted by Pope Francis in April this year, went on to give his own ideas of how it might be worded: “Every faithful Christian, mindful that creation is the common house, has the grave duty not only not to damage, but also to improve, both through everyday behavior, and through specific initiatives, the natural environment in which each person is called to live.”

The canons Coccopalmerio referenced address general obligations for Catholics relating to the practice of the faith and maintaining communion with the Church. They do not address specific moral obligations or particular doctrinal teachings. Those canons do not, for example, include the Church’s prohibition of artificial contraception or the obligation to observe just labor practices. 

Drawing inspiration from Laudato si', Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical on the environment, participants at the event agreed on the Catholic Program of Disinvestment, sponsored by the Catholic Climate Movement, which urges ecclesial institutions to make a public commitment to move away from financial investments in fossil fuels.

Participants also highlighted the importance of pursuing ethical investment strategies in line with the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, according to Tornielli.

Pope Francis has often expressed his environmental concerns and, in his message on the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in 2016, he said maintaining our common home ought to be considered a work of mercy.

“We usually think of the works of mercy individually and in relation to a specific initiative: hospitals for the sick, soup kitchens for the hungry, shelters for the homeless, schools for those to be educated, the confessional and spiritual direction for those needing counsel and forgiveness,” the pope said in that message.

Looking at the concept of works of mercy, “we see that the object of mercy is human life itself and everything it embraces,” he said. Francis proposed caring for creation as “a complement” to the two traditional sets of seven corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

“May the works of mercy also include care for our common home,” he said, explaining that as a spiritual work, care for creation “calls for a grateful contemplation of God’s world which allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us.”

In a conference held earlier this month to mark the third anniversary of the publication of Laudato si', Pope Francis said a change of heart is needed when it comes to issues related to the environment.

Future actions which promote the care of creation, “presuppose a transformation on a deeper level, namely a change of hearts and minds,” he said, adding that while this obligation binds all religious  communities, Christians have a special role to play.

Central African bishops call for peace amid renewed violence

Bangui, Central African Republic, Jul 17, 2018 / 11:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops of the Central African Republic have urged Catholics not to give in to calls for revenge attacks on Muslims, following a surge in violence and the murder of a priest.

The CAR has suffered violence since December 2012, when several bands of mainly Muslim rebel groups formed an alliance, taking the name Seleka, and seized power.

In reaction to the Seleka's attacks, some Central Africans formed self-defense groups called anti-balaka. Some of these groups, mainly composed of Christians, began attacking Muslims out of revenge, and the conflict took on a sectarian character.

A group calling itself the League of Defense of the Church issued a statement earlier this month saying it would defend the Church and avenge killed priests, charging that both the government and the Church hierarchy have failed to protect Christians.

The Central African Bishops' Conference responded, saying, “The bishops of Central Africa were outraged by this communiqué from an organization called 'The League of Defense of the Church' in the Central African Republic of which they know nothing about.”

“The projects that this league claims to achieve are at odds with the gospel, the aspirations of the church and its mission in the Central African Republic,” continued Fr. Joseph Tanga Koti, general secretary of the bishops' conference.

“The Bishops of the Central African Republic want Central Africans to be vigilant. There are always enemies of peace who want to create a conflict between Christians and Muslims to show that Christians and Muslims cannot live together in Central Africa,” the conference has said.

The CAR held a general election in 2015-16 which installed a new government, but militant groups continue to terrorize local populations. Thousands of people have been killed in the violence, and at least a million have been displaced. At least half of Central Africans depend on humanitarian aid, the U.N. reports.

Pope Francis visited the CAR during his trip to Africa in 2015, and urged the country’s leaders to work for peace and reconciliation.

Three priests have keen killed in the CAR this year.

Fr. Firmin Gbagoua, vicar general of the Diocese of Bambari, was shot June 29 while eating dinner by the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic, and ex-Seleka militia dominated by the Fulani ethnic group.

In May, an attack on Our Lady of Fatima parish in Bangui while Mass was being said left 15 dead, including Fr. Albert Toungoumale Baba.

And in April, Fr. Joseph Désiré Angbabata was killed together with some of his parishioners in an attack on his church in Seko, about 40 miles northeast of Bambari.

Holy See hopes UN migration agreement will defend human dignity

New York City, N.Y., Jul 17, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican’s representative at the United Nations expressed hope that a new UN agreement on best practices for international migration will guarantee respect for the human dignity of all migrants.

Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the UN, spoke July 13 at the concluding session of intergovernmental negotiations on migration, the culmination of a nearly two-year process.

“This first-ever comprehensive framework on migration will serve as the international reference point for best practices and international cooperation in the global management of migration, not only for Governments, but also for non-governmental entities among which are the faith-based organizations, who are truly the hands and feet on the ground to assist migrants in difficulty,” said Auza.

The agreement --  the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration -- details 23 international objectives, including the eradication of human trafficking and “use of migration detention only as a measure of last resort.”

Since 2000, more than 60,000 people have died in their attempt to migrate, according to the International Organization of Migration's research on migrant deaths and disappearances.

The Vatican representative told the UN that “Pope Francis encapsulates these shared responsibilities and solidarity in four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.”

“This Global Compact will make it more difficult for anyone — States, civil society or anyone of us — to be unaware of the challenges that people on the move face and to fail to meet our shared responsibilities towards them, in particular toward those most in need of our solidarity,” continued Auza.

Auza quoted Pope Francis’ Mass for Migrants homily on July 6. “Before the challenges of contemporary movements of migration, the only reasonable response is one of solidarity and mercy . . . A just policy is one at the service of the person, of every person involved; a policy that provides for solutions that can ensure security, respect for the rights and dignity of all; a policy concerned for the good of one’s own country, while taking into account that of others in an ever more interconnected world.”

The archbishop added that the Catholic Church “will continue to commit itself fully to the benefit of migrants, always respecting their rights and human dignity.”

The global compact on migration will be formally adopted at a UN meeting in Marrakech, Morocco on Dec. 10-11. Following a decision by the Trump administration, the United States withdrew from the negotiations in December 2017.

“The Holy See nurtures the hope that the Global Compact will not only be a matter of good migration management, but truly be, as is its ultimate purpose, a significant step forward in the service of the person, not only of every migrant, but for all of humanity,” concluded the archbishop.

Overturning ‘Roe’ no ‘magic bullet,’ NY archdiocese lawyer says

New York City, N.Y., Jul 16, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Director of Public Policy for the Archdiocese of New York has said that overturning the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision should not be the seen as the final objective for pro-life advocates in the United States.

In a blog post written before President Donald Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, Mechmann warned that during the confirmation process for any nominee, “the rhetoric will be heated and likely ugly, and may even include a large dose of religious intolerance.”

Mechmann’s post explained that the advance of secularism and moral relativism have detached judicial decisions from the principles of natural law. Without this foundation, Mechmann argued, judicial interpretation lacks a “moral and legal compass” to guide decisions.

The result is that the judicial process and the Supreme Court are increasingly accepted as politically tainted, something the framers of the Constitution never intended, he said.

If confirmed by the Senate, Judge Kavanaugh is expected to join the more conservative wing of the Supreme Court. He is widely considered to be an “originalist,” interpreting the Constitution according to its plain-text reading and the intentions and understanding of the founding fathers themselves.

This standard is then applied when “originalist” judges evaluate whether legislation conforms to the Constitution.

Originalist thinkers are often seen to oppose so-called “living” readings of the Constitution, in which legal rights and principles are inferred to exist in the light of modern values, even if they are not contained in the text itself.

In the context of abortion, the decision Roe v. Wade rested on the Court’s inference of a “right to privacy” for women seeking abortions, something which is explicitly not found in the Bill of Rights. The subsequent decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey, delivered in 1992, affirmed the right to privacy and the legal protection it affords abortion. That decision was co-authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who last month announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, creating the current vacancy. If confirmed, Judge Kavanaugh could create what many have predicted to be a 5-4 majority on the Court in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade.

But Mechmann, a Harvard educated lawyer who previously worked in the United States’ Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, noted that an originalist majority did not necessarily mean Roe would be overturned.

Roe, said Mechmann, did not just “emerge fully formed from the brow of Justice Blackmun” [author of the decision]. Rather, it was “the result of decades of prior decisions, reaching back to the 1920's.” Consequently, overturning Roe would involve repudiating a deeply embedded body of legal argument, he said. Such a dramatic step would “set off a political explosion that would undermine the legitimacy of the Court in the eyes of a large number of Americans.”

Such a “political explosion” might already have begun,  as abortion advocates react to the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh. Terry McAuliffe, the former Governor of Virginia, said July 9 that Kavanaugh’s nomination “will threaten the lives of millions of Americans for decades to come.”

Even if a “pro-life” appointee were confirmed, Roe v. Wade is not certain to be overturned, Mechmann argued. Several of the more conservative Supreme Court Justices often prefer to make decisions on narrowly defined questions relevant to particular cases. Mechmann noted this tendency in past decisions from Chief Justice John G. Roberts, and Justices Alito and Gorsuch, and suggested there could be a succession of such rulings which chip away at legal protections for abortion, but stop short of a single dramatic reversal.

The strength of expectation around a possible reversal of Roe v. Wade has led many to assume it would result in abortion becoming illegal overnight, yet this is not the case, Mechmann said. In the event that the Supreme Court reversed itself and removed the inferred constitutional protection for abortion, the issue would again be subject to state-by-state legislation. This, Mechmann pointed out, would yield very mixed results.

“A number of states already have laws on the books that would essentially permit abortion on demand for some, if not all of pregnancy. New York's statute, for example, permits abortion on demand prior to 24 weeks of pregnancy. According to one expert on abortion law, if Roe and Casey were overruled, only eleven states would have laws that would completely outlaw abortion, and over 80% of Americans would live in states where the situation would be essentially unchanged -- abortion would still be legal for all nine months of pregnancy for virtually any reason and with little effective regulation.”

As many as twelve states already recognize a Constitutional right to abortion.

A Supreme Court majority willing to overturn Roe v. Wade is not, Mechmann warns, “a magic bullet that will make all things new.” While it would be a significant victory for pro-life advocates, their work would need to continue at the state level. This would involve political and legislative efforts to protect the unborn state-by-state, and, just as important, include cultural efforts.

“We have to work harder to create a social infrastructure that would replace the culture of contraception and abortion and promote a vision of women's health that truly respects her fertility and genuine freedom. We still have a lot of work to do.”