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Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service has a rich history of journalistic professionalism and is a leader in the world of Catholic and religious media. With headquarters in Washington, offices in New York and Rome, and correspondents around the world, CNS provides the most comprehensive coverage of the church today. Website URL: http://www.catholicnews.com/

Pope calls new cardinals to be agents of unity in divided world

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Catholic Church’s 17 new cardinals must dedicate their lives to being ministers of forgiveness and reconciliation in a world — and sometimes a Church — often marked by hostility and division, Pope Francis said.

Even Catholics are not immune from “the virus of polarization and animosity,” the pope told the new cardinals, and “we need to take care lest such attitudes find a place in our hearts.”

Creating 17 new cardinals from 14 nations Nov. 19, the pope said the College of Cardinals — and the Catholic Church itself — must be a sign for the world that differences of nationality, skin color, language and social class do not make people enemies, but brothers and sisters with different gifts to offer.

Three of the new cardinals created during the prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica were from the United States: Cardinals Blase J. Cupich of Chicago; Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the new Vatican office for laity, family and life; and Joseph W. Tobin, whom the pope asked to move from being archbishop of Indianapolis to archbishop of Newark, New Jersey.

Only 16 of the new cardinals were present for the ceremony. The Vatican said 87-year-old Cardinal Sebastian Koto Khoarai, the retired bishop of Mohale’s Hoek, Lesotho, was created a cardinal although he was unable to travel to Rome.

After reciting the Creed and taking an oath of fidelity to Pope Francis and his successors, each cardinal went up to Pope Francis and knelt before him. The pope gave them each a cardinal’s ring, a three-cornered red hat and a scroll attesting to their appointment as cardinals and containing their “titular church” in Rome. The assignment of a church is a sign they now are members of the clergy of the pope’s diocese.

After the consistory, Pope Francis and the new cardinals hopped in vans for a short ride to visit retired Pope Benedict XVI in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, his residence in the Vatican gardens. The retired pope greeted the cardinals, thanked them for stopping by and assured them, “My prayers will accompany you always.”

Cardinal Mario Zenari, the pope’s ambassador to Syria, spoke on behalf of the new cardinals, promising Pope Francis that they and the entire Church would continue to be envoys of God’s mercy, bending down to help those “left half dead on the side of the road, wounded in body and spirit.”

The Gospel reading at the consistory was St. Luke’s version of Jesus’ discourse to his disciples: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

“They are four things we can easily do for our friends and for those more or less close to us, people we like, people whose tastes and habits are similar to our own,” Pope Francis said. But Jesus, not mincing his words, calls his followers to more.

“With people we consider our opponents or enemies,” the pope said, “our first instinctive reaction … is to dismiss, discredit or curse them. Often we try to ‘demonize’ them, so as to have a ‘sacred’ justification for dismissing them.”

In God, he said, there are no enemies. There are only brothers and sisters to love.
  • Published in Nation

Archbishop calls for bishops' racism statement given election tension

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Earlier this year, as communities faced tensions, protests and violence, following a spate of shootings and killings of black men by police, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, asked dioceses across the country to observe a day of prayer for peace.
He also wanted the bishops to look for ways they could help the suffering communities, as well as police affected by the incidents.
To that end, he appointed a special task force to explore ways of promoting peace and healing around the country and named Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta to head it.
On Nov. 14, Archbishop Gregory urged bishops gathered in Baltimore at the USCCB's fall general assembly to issue, sooner rather than later, a document on racism.
"A statement from the full body of bishops on racism is increasingly important at this time," said Archbishop Gregory.
He urged that the Administrative Committee of the country's bishops, "in collaboration with relevant standing committees, do all it can to expedite the drafting and approval of the statement on racism currently contemplated in the 2017-2020 strategic plan, given the urgency of the present moment."
He said the president of the bishops' conference and relevant committees need to "identify opportunities for a shorter-term statement on these issues, particularly in the context of the postelection uncertainty and disaffection."
He also urged prayer, ecumenical and interfaith collaboration, dialogue, parish-based and diocesan conversations and training, as well as opportunities for encounter.
In a news conference that followed his afternoon presentation and ended the first day of the bishops' assembly, Archbishop Gregory said he was concerned about the communities that were disrupted by violence and riots after the police shootings earlier this summer. Some of these communities are experiencing reactions and tensions brought about by the election results, he said.
"It's the hope of the task force, of people of goodwill, that the demonstrations, don't turn violent," he said.
American society has the ability to give opinions on social matters through various forms of expression, including protests, but "what we pray for is that those expressions of frustrations don't provide another vehicle for violence."
Tensions had been high enough in July, when Archbishop Kurtz had said the Catholic Church needed to "walk with and help these suffering communities" that had been affected by the shootings and the riots protesting them that followed. "I have stressed the need to look toward additional ways of nurturing an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity, and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence," Archbishop Kurtz said at the time.
He said he wanted the work of the task force to help embrace the suffering of the communities, to nurture peace and build bridges of communication and mutual aid in local communities.
The recommendations, said Archbishop Gregory, were examined before the recent elections and all the tensions and protests that have followed. The recommendations were related to race and violence issues that resulted from the summer shootings and riots.
Archbishop Gregory expressed hope that the Church could help foster dialogue and bring healing by working with communities for a lasting peace.
"The disruptions (to the) communities that sparked the establishment of the task force have been going on for at least two years," he said. "Violence against people of color is a lot longer than two years. … The reaction to the election, it's added to that tension."
He said he was praying and hoping that "expressions of frustration, of anger, of disapproval" don't continue to disrupt the social fabric of those communities.


The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington observed the national Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities proposed byArchbishop Joseph E. Kurtz on Sept. 9, 2016. For more information on the day of prayer: vermontcatholic.org/prayerforpeace
  • Published in Nation

Report commissioned by bishops finds diversity abounds in U.S. church

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The Catholic Church is one of the most culturally diverse institutions in the United States and Catholic institutions and ministries need to adapt and prepare for growing diversity, said a report presented to the country's bishops Nov. 15.

The report, by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, was commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church in 2013 to help identify the size and distribution of ethnic communities in the country. 

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, chairman of the committee, called the study "groundbreaking" because he said it combined, for the first time all available data from Catholic and non-Catholic sources and mapped the multicultural and ethnic diversity of the church nationwide.

Of the world's estimated 1.3 billion Catholics, the study found, less than 6 percent live in the United States.

Of the U.S. Catholic population: 42,512,591, are white (non-Hispanic); 29,731,302 are Hispanic or Latino; 2,905,935 are Asian, Native Hawaiian; 2,091,925 are black, African-American, African, Afro-Caribbean; and 536,601 are American Indian or Alaskan Native. 

"The Catholic Church in the United States has always been a very diverse entity, but it is the first time that all available data was brought together to map this diversity nationwide in remarkable detail," said Archbishop Garcia-Siller. "It is also the first time that parish life was looked at from the point of view of the experience of diversity. Multicultural parishes are a growing phenomenon in the United States. This is what makes this study so fascinating and groundbreaking."

To arrive at the numbers, Archbishop Garcia-Siller said, it identified 6,332 parishes with "particular racial, ethnic, cultural and or linguistic" communities, about 36 percent of U.S. parishes. In 2014, CARA says it began conducting "in-pew surveys" at those parishes and by May 2016, surveys had been completed at most of those parishes

Of those who responded to the survey, the median age was 52 and considerably higher, 62, for non-Hispanic white Catholics. Latino Catholics conversely had a median age of 39.

Another distinction in the report: Catholics born before and after the Second Vatican Council.

The report said three-quarters of those U.S. Catholics born before the Vatican II are non-Hispanic white Catholics. And more than half, 54 percent, of what it calls the millennial-generation Catholics (born 1982 or later) are Hispanic or Latino.

"The thought and behavior of today's millennial Catholics will likely have a profound effect on the future of the church in the United States," said CARA in a statement., given that millennials are "removed from pre-Vatican II Catholicism." 

Many of those have Catholics parents with "little or no experience with the traditional Catholic practices and catechesis," the CARA statement said, adding that this doesn't mean they are "anti-religious" yet.

Archbishop Garcia-Siller asked the bishops to look at the data, see how it speaks to their regions, and said it could help dioceses plan, set priorities and allocate resources.
  • Published in Nation

Service dogs help some veterans cope with life after war

CABOT, Ark. (CNS) -- U.S. Navy veteran Dave King's whole world changed when Zack came into his life.

The young Catahoula mix plucked from a shelter already has all the love in the world for his new companion. But when Zack is wearing his vest he has a higher purpose -- he is a service dog in training to help King cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

Before King got Zack three months ago, he almost became a statistic -- about 20 American vets a day commit suicide, according to 2014 data from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"I tried to commit suicide. I stepped out in front of a speeding vehicle and he just happened to stop short and it was a sheriff," he said, adding he was taken to the hospital for help.

King, who was homeless, found A Veteran's Best Friend, a volunteer nonprofit organization and Christian ministry that helps veterans by training service dogs for free through community and church donations and sponsorships of veterans. Volunteers keep the cost down to about $6,000 to $7,000 per dog.

Individuals or groups can pledge $25 a month to sponsor 12- to 18-months of training for a service dog and veteran. For many veterans like King, purchasing a service dog to help him cope with his PTSD and his brain injury, which can cost $20,000 or more, was out of the question.

"Somehow they found the absolute perfect dog for me," said King, who has found housing through the VA Homeless Veterans program. "I have bad nightmares; I'll talk and make noises. From the first night I had him, he'll wake me up from a nightmare. He'll stand there and poke me with his paw."

The organization, based in Cabot, was founded in 2012 and has about 25 volunteers who assist with training and serve on the board of directors. There are currently nine veterans enrolled in the classes that meet once or twice a week depending on the stage in training to prepare the dogs with the necessary skills to serve their owners

All veterans accepted into the class must have doctor-diagnosed PTSD and go through an application and orientation process and home check. While most veterans are hands-on in the training sessions, some dogs are trained solely by volunteers.

Instead of buying from breeders, the volunteers search out shelter dogs or rescues from the Paws in Prison program, primarily Labrador and Retriever mixes, and put them through a series of preliminary tests to see if they have the demeanor and skills to make a good service dog. If a dog is adopted and does not work out as a service dog, the volunteers work to adopt them to a loving family.

At its core, the nonprofit exists to help veterans. But Frances Kirk, a U.S. Army veteran and parishioner at St. Jude Church in Jacksonville, will be the first to say that these dogs, including her lab mix Domino, are more than just working dogs. They are lifesavers and almost every volunteer within the organization has a story to tell about their four-legged companions.

"What the dogs do is give us hope," Kirk told the Arkansas Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock. "They just give us hope and a chance at life again."

Before the afternoon training session Oct. 28, veterans Kirk, Tyler Naramore, director of operations, Carrie Riley, director of logistics, and David Grimm, dog trainer and past principal at the former St. Patrick School in North Little Rock, shared their after-war stories about struggles with PTSD, everything from not wanting to leave the house for years to always finding the "PTSD seat" wherever they go -- a seat with their back to the wall that has a full view of the exits.

Frances explained PTSD as a traumatic event or a series of events that have happened to a person and "their body and mind is stuck in that trauma. ... They're hyper-vigilant, scanning rooftops, hands" and are often forgetful, Kirk said.

Grimm, who served in Vietnam and Iraq for the U.S. Marines and Air Force, had stopped leaving the house and isolated himself so he wouldn't have to hear "I understand" from those who couldn't possibly understand.

"I've had people ask, 'Why don't you talk about your experiences?' And my statement to them is I don't want to put them through what I went through," he said. "But since I have had Ringo, I get out. A year ago, you wouldn't see me in a class like this, the room would be too confining. I've gone to some of my grandkids' games, plays at school. I'm getting out more."

Ringo, a 2-year-old Goldendoodle who was surrendered by his owner, is crucial to calming his fears out in public.

"I'd get really emotionally upset if somebody was behind me," something he and other veterans in the program often struggle with, Grimm said. "So he's trained to, if I'm standing some place, he's looking behind me. I can be talking to you, but I still see him and he will move or alert and then I can see what is behind me."

The dogs are trained to detect stress and will nuzzle, paw, cuddle or actually lead a person out of a place or situation if an anxiety attack is happening. Following Assistance Dogs International standards, the dogs must pass the Canine Good Citizens test, Public Access Test and specific training for PTSD tasks before certification.

"We admit pheromones when we're stressed. They pick up on our stress pheromones and are like, 'Hey, quit stressing,'" said Army veteran Chris Wilson, who does not yet have a dog.

Volunteers like Mardy and Audrey Jones, members of Christ the King Church in Little Rock, help foster and train dogs while they wait to be placed with a veteran. Much of the training revolves around putting the dogs in a variety of situations, locations and with various people and animals to get them accustomed to proper behavior. Although the Joneses are not veterans, they view this volunteer work as a service to God.

"The Bible can be confusing. But I can understand that I am to love. I am to love others and to love is to serve. And to be a service dog trainer, is to serve my fellow man and my dogs too," Audrey Jones said. "One morning I was on my knees saying my prayer and I had one dog cuddled up over here and one dog cuddled up over here and it's like, this is God telling me 'good job.' And then it's like these dogs are God's love with skin on."

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Editors: More information about A Veteran's Best Friend can be found online at servicedog4ptsd.org.
  • Published in Nation
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