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In New York, public school officials to evaluate private schools

Albany, N.Y., Dec 12, 2018 / 01:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Leaders of New York state’s more than 500 Catholic schools are planning to boycott a new state review system, whereby public school officials would evaluate religious schools to determine whether they offer a “substantially equivalent” education to public schools.

“The parents who choose our schools can have great confidence in the academic rigor of our schools,” James Cultrara, executive secretary of the New York Council of Catholic School Superintendents, was quoted as saying in Times Union.

“We simply cannot accept a competing school having authority over whether our schools can operate.”

The rebuke to the state comes after New York’s education commissioner released guidelines Nov. 20 “to ensure that all students receive the education to which they are entitled under law,” i.e. exposure to the same basic courses such as English, civics, and mathematics that public school students take.

The state’s action follows a New York City investigation into some Orthodox Jewish schools that a group of graduates say have been deficient in terms of teaching students “secular” topics other than the Jewish religion.

Under the new guidelines, local public school superintendents or their designees would be required to visit all nonpublic schools by the end of the 2020-2021, and every five years after that, to evaluate the schools. The local school board would approve the findings with a vote.

The Catholic superintendents body said in a letter to the State Education Department that they do not oppose school inspections from state officials, but conflicts of interest could arise if public school officials, who are essentially “competing” for the same body of students, are given the power to evaluate private schools.

“A review by local public school officials and a vote at a public meeting of a locally elected public school board, as is called for in the guidance, practically guarantees inconsistency and subjectivity,” reads part of the letter, which was obtained by Times Union.

“The Council of Catholic School Superintendents is committed to maintaining high-quality Catholic schools and working with you on designing an objective review and determination process to support the education of children in our schools.”

The superintendents have rejected the state’s guidelines and directed all of the state’s Catholic schools not to participate in “any review carried out by local public school officials.”

As of Dec. 12 the State Education Department has not commented on the issue.

The new guidelines mainly impact Catholic elementary schools, as nonpublic high schools in the state generally fall under the purview of the Board of Regents.

Jewish schools, which have a significant presence in New York City, could feel strong effects from the new guidelines as well.

New York City is home to 1.1 million Jews, around 32% percent of whom identify as Orthodox, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Strongly Orthodox Jewish private schools, known as yeshivot, educate an estimated 57,000 students in New York City alone, The New York Times reports. A group of graduates say that it has been “commonplace for decades” that students who graduate from yeshivot receive little instruction beyond studying Jewish texts, and “can barely read and write in English and have not been taught that dinosaurs once roamed Earth or that the Civil War occurred.”

The administration of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio opened an investigation into the lack of secular education at yeshivot in 2015. Prominent rabbis and other Jewish leaders have resisted critics of yeshivot, citing religious freedom concerns.

The US archdiocese with a relic of the original Guadalupe image

Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 12, 2018 / 12:14 pm (ACI Prensa).- Millions of pilgrims travel each year to see the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. In one U.S. diocese, however, pilgrims can see a relic of the original image that has been outside Mexico for nearly 80 years.

The relic, a small half-inch cutting taken from the tilma, is kept in a chapel in the Los Angeles cathedral which was dedicated by Archbishop José Gomez in 2012. The fragment of the tilma is preserved in a gold reliquary embedded into the midsection of a sculpture of Saint Juan Diego, giving the effect of the tilma the saint wore.

The relic was given in 1941 by then-Archbishop of Mexico, Luis María Martínez y Rodríguez, to his counterpart in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, John Joseph Cantwell, after he led a large pilgrimage to the Guadalupe Basilica in the Mexican capital.

Archbishop Cantwell provided significant help to Mexican Catholics during the Cristero War and the religious persecution by the Mexican government during the first decades of 20th century. The priest welcomed to his archdiocese priests fleeing from Mexico to survive.

Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Saint Juan Diego in 1531, and requested that he ask the first bishop of Mexico, Franciscan Friar Juan de Zumárraga, to have him build a church at the foot of Tepeyec Hill.

As proof of the authenticity of the apparition, the Virgin Mary asked the saint to bring flowers from a rosebush that miraculously appeared on arid Tepeyec Hill as a sign to the bishop.  When he presented the flowers to the bishop, his tilma, the garment in which he was carrying them, was imprinted with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The image of the Virgin, full of symbolism which could be read by the indigenous Mexicans, gave rise to the evangelization of Mexico, leading to millions of conversions in the following years.

Saint Juan Diego was canonized in July 2002 by Saint John Paul II.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

After abortion litmus test controversy, Canada job grant program makes some changes

Toronto, Canada, Dec 12, 2018 / 11:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic organizations and others welcomed the Canadian government’s changes to rules for job grants that had required them to affirm abortion rights and other political causes - but they are still concerned that the rules could block some pro-life groups from participating.

“I think they recognized there was a problem there and they needed to change the language. We are pleased that they did,” Neil McCarthy, director of public relations for the Archdiocese of Toronto, told CNA. “We had 5,000 letters from people within the Archdiocese of Toronto, lots of conversations, and a coalition of many different faith communities that were concerned with this.”

The Canada Summer Job Grants program has funded an estimated 70,000 summer jobs for secondary school or college students, granting small businesses, non-profit organizations, and religious employers the money to fill positions such as camp counselors or landscapers.

Federal funding requirements for the program were added Dec. 19, 2017 stipulating that “both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada,” including “reproductive rights,” or the right to abortion access.

Organizations had to check a box attesting to their alignment with Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, case law, and other government commitments, such as “the rights of gender-diverse and transgender Canadians.”

Many groups denied funding in 2018 had to rely on fundraising campaigns and programming changes, or they eliminated student jobs entirely.

The rules drew objections and legal challenges that cited prospective grantees’ right to advocate against abortion, as well as principles protecting religious freedom and free speech.

The rules for 2019 remove a lengthy attestation added last year, but now require applicants to attest that the grants “will not be used to undermine or restrict the exercise of rights legally protected in Canada.” Projects and activities ineligible for funding include those that “actively work to undermine or restrict a woman’s access to sexual and reproductive health services,” Canadian Catholic News reports.

McCarthy anticipated most groups in the Archdiocese of Toronto will be able to move ahead with job grant applications. About 90 percent of these groups were summer camps run through parishes.

“At least, at bare minimum, there are charities and organizations that are going to be able to apply for the funds,” McCarthy said. “That’s important because there were groups like Archdiocese of Toronto charities and parishes last year where we advised to apply with an amended attestation. Those applications were rejected at one point.”

A record number of application shad been rejected in 2018.

McCarthy said Canadians can still disagree with the affected groups “and still recognize that we are not denying someone’s rights or undermining their rights or restricting their rights.”

“We may disagree on particular issues. That’s what a democratic society should be about. It doesn’t mean that we’re marginalized or cast aside because of those views,” he said.

Ray Pennings, co-founder and executive vice president of the think tank Cardus, thought the changes meant the government had realized that the rules violated fundamental rights of freedom of religion, conscience and speech, Canadian Catholic News reports. He said the rules had caused “real harm” to about 1,500 organizations and many more young people.

“There is still the potential for problems, however, with the new eligibility criteria,” Pennings continued. “They apply an internal values test on applicants using opaque wording subject to interpretation by the government of the day behind closed doors.”

After the 2018 rules were first announced, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explicitly rejected participation by pro-life groups. He said Jan. 10, “An organization that has the explicit purpose of restricting women’s rights by removing rights to abortion and the rights of women to control their own bodies is not in line with where we are as a government, and quite frankly, where we are as a society.”

Many observers are still waiting to comment until the full official application and other documents are released, expected next week.

The Catholic Civil Rights League said the new application process is still “sadly deficient” and will continue to suppress “viewpoints not shared by the government” by denying funding to groups that disagree. Organizations can still be denied funding if they take pro-life positions.

It accused the ruling Liberal Party of “effectively establishing a ‘bubble zone’ to prevent funding to organizations who do not share its unfettered pro-abortion position,” the group charged. The group has characterized the new rules as “a means of compelling ideological conformity from law abiding charities.”

For instance, in the hypothetical case of an organization raising awareness about the effects of abortion on women, the Catholic Civil Rights League argued, it “will likely be denied funding, even though it is engaged in assisting women’s reproductive health, because it treads into a challenge to the unfettered abortion license, at any and all stages of a pregnancy, promoted by this government.”

The group said that peaceful protest and assembly are legally protected rights and the government is wrong to claim there is a “right to safe and legal abortion” in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or in case law.

Small businesses and groups like Toronto Right to Life have filed lawsuits challenging the 2018 rules.

Carol Crosson, who represents Toronto Right to Life, characterized the changes as “a victory for all those who stood against the government’s unconstitutional incursion into the beliefs and opinions of Canadians.”

“When the freedom of speech of one Canadian is infringed, all Canadians lose. Government has no place punishing Canadians for their viewpoints,” Crosson said.

McCarthy said that, while groups that everyone with reservations or concerns about the new requirements should be applying for the grants.

When someone is accepted or rejected, they may ask for more information or clarity about the criteria.

“The government has in the past produced resources that have provided clarity regarding how particular requirements may be interpreted,” he said. “We may see that again.

Canadians should also ensure they are in contact with their local politicians to ensure they are aware of the situation and closely monitoring it, McCarthy said.

 

Reports of Pell guilty verdict emerge, despite gag order

Sydney, Australia, Dec 12, 2018 / 10:48 am (CNA).- Cardinal George Pell has been convicted by an Australian court on charges of sexual abuse of minors, according to media reports and CNA sources close to the cardinal.

A judicial gag order has restricted Australian media coverage of the trial since June.

Despite the gag order, a story published Dec. 11 on the Daily Beast website first reported that a unanimous verdict of guilty had been returned by a jury on charges that Pell sexually abused two altar servers in the late 1990s, while he was Archbishop of Melbourne.

The verdict reportedly followed three days of deliberations by the jury - the second to hear the case. An earlier hearing of the case is reported to have ended in early autumn with a mistrial, after jurors were unable to reach a verdict.

In October, two sources close to Cardinal Pell, members of neither his legal team nor the Catholic hierarchy in Australia, told CNA that the first hearing of the case had ended in a mistrial due to a jury stalemate. One source said that jury was deadlocked 10-2 in favor of Pell.

In remarks to CNA Dec. 12, the same sources independently confirmed this week's report that a guilty verdict had been reached.

The conviction has not yet been confirmed by the Australian judiciary, and the gag order on Australian media could remain in place for several months.

Pell will reportedly be sentenced in early 2019. He will not be incarcerated prior to his sentencing.

Citing deference to the gag order, the Vatican has declined to comment on reports of the guilty verdict.

"The Holy See has the utmost respect for the Australian courts. We are aware there is a suppression order in place and we respect that order," Vatican spokesman Greg Burke told reporters Dec 12.

Pell has been accused of multiple instances of sexual abuse of minors. In May, lawyers for the cardinal petitioned the County Court of Victoria to split the allegations into two trials, one dealing with the accusations from Melbourne, and another dealing with accusations related to his time as a priest in Ballarat in the 1970s.

As the trial for the Melbourne allegations began in June, the judge imposed a sweeping injunction preventing media from reporting on the progress of the case. The gag order reportedly remains in force, over concerns that the verdict could influence the outcome of the second trial, which is expected to be heard early in 2019.

Pell has been on leave from his position as prefect of the Holy See’s Secretariat for the Economy since 2017. Pell asked Pope Francis to allow him to step back from his duties to travel home to Australia to defend himself against the charges, which he has consistently denied.

Prior to his appointment to the Secretariat for the Economy in 2014, Pell served as the Archbishop of Sydney.

In October, Pope Francis removed Pell, along with Cardinal Javier Errazuriz and Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo, from the C9 Council of Cardinals charged with helping the pope draft a new constitution for the Holy See’s governing structure.

In April 2018, Robert Richter, the lead attorney on Pell’s legal team, refuted the allegations made against Pell.

“The allegations are a product of fantasy, the product of some mental problems that the complainant may or may not have, or just pure invention in order to punish the representative of the Catholic Church in this country,” Richter said.

Richter further said that the accusations were “not to be believed,” and were “improbable, if not impossible.”

Until the imposition of the gag order in June, Pell had been the subject of sustained media attention in Australia, prompting the order. The extent of hostile attention directed at Pell by several Australian outlets, even prior to the accusations being made, led to a public debate in some sections of the Australian media about whether it would be possible to find an impartial jury for the cardinal.

Although the gag order was issued, one source called the integrity of the proceeding into question. In remarks to CNA, he called the trial a “farce” and a “witch hunt.” He said that Australian prosecutors were determined to secure a conviction, despite the earlier mistrial.

“They kept going until they got the jury who’d give them what they want,” the source told CNA.

Last week, another Australian court overturned the recent conviction of the former Archbishop of Melbourne, Philip Wilson, on charges he failed to report complaints of sexual abuse.

Newcastle District Court Judge Roy Ellis said Dec. 6 that the Crown had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Archbishop Wilson did not report abuse committed by Fr. James Fletcher, when Fletcher was charged in 2004 with child abuse which occurred between 1989 and 1991.

The judge also noted the possibility of undue media influence on the case.

“This is not a criticism of media, but intended or not, the mere presence of large amounts of media from all around Australia and the world carries with it a certain amount of pressure on the court,” Ellis stated.

The heavy media presence “may amount to perceived pressure for a court to reach a conclusion which seems to be consistent with the direction of public opinion, rather than being consistent with the rule of law that requires a court to hand down individual justice in its decision-making processes.”

“The potential for media pressure to impact judicial independence may be subtle or indeed subversive in the sense that it is the elephant in the room that no one sees or acknowledges or wants to see or acknowledge,” Ellis said.

He added that  Wilson could not be convicted merely because the “Catholic Church has a lot to answer for in terms of its historical self-protective approach” to clerical sex abuse. “Philip Wilson when he appears before this court is simply an individual who has the same legal rights as every other person in our community.”

“It is not for me to punish the Catholic Church for its institutional moral deficits, or to punish Philip Wilson for the sins of the now deceased James Fletcher by finding Philip Wilson guilty, simply on the basis that he is a Catholic priest.”

If the decision is confirmed, Pell can appeal to the Supreme Court in Victoria, and from there to the Australian High Court.

 

This story is developing and has been updated.

Our Lady of Guadalupe remains a 'teacher of the Gospel' through her image

Vatican City, Dec 12, 2018 / 10:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis celebrated the Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe Wednesday, reflecting on how Mary continues to evangelize Latin America through her ubiquitous image.

As Our Lady of Guadalupe accompanied Saint Juan Diego on Tepeyac, she continues to encounter people through “an image or stamp, a candle or a medal, a rosary or a Hail Mary,” Pope Francis said in his homily Dec. 12 in St. Peter's Basilica.

Through her image, Mary “enters in a home, in a prison cell, in the ward of a hospital, in a nursing home, in a school, in a rehabilitation clinic to say: ‘Am I not here, that I am your mother?’” he continued in Spanish.

The pope’s homily centered on Mary as a “teacher of the Gospel” through her Magnificat.

“Mary teaches us that, in the art of mission and hope, so many words and programs are not necessary. Her method is very simple: she walked and sang,” Francis said.

In the school of Mary, he said, we “nourish our hearts” with the “multicultural wealth of Latin America, where we can “listen to that humble heart that beats in our villages” with “the sacredness of life.”

Here, the “sense of God and his transcendence,” as well as “respect for creation, the bonds of solidarity, and the joy of the art of living well” are preserved, he continued.

As her image traveled the continent, Our Lady of Guadalupe is “not only remembered as indigenous, Spanish, Hispanic or African-American. She is simply Latin American,” Francis said.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas and the unborn, appeared to St. Juan Diego on the Hill of Tepeyac in Mexico City in 1531, during a time of conflict between the Spanish and the indigenous peoples.

Mary took the appearance of a pregnant native woman, wore clothing in the style of the indigenous community, and spoke to Juan Diego in a native language, Nahuatl.

She asked Juan Diego to appeal to the bishop to build a church on the site of the apparition, stating she wanted a place where she could reveal to the people the compassion of her son. Initially turned away by the bishop, Diego returned to site asking Our Lady for a sign to prove the authenticity of her message.

She instructed him to gather the Castilian roses that he found blooming on the hillside, despite the fact that it was winter, and present them to the Spanish bishop. Juan Diego filled his cloak – known as a tilma – with the flowers. When he presented them to the bishop, he found that an image of Our Lady was miraculously imprinted upon his tilma.

Nearly 500 years later, Diego’s tilma with the miraculous image is preserved in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and visited by millions of pilgrims each year.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is a “mother of a fertile and generous land in which all, in one way or another, can find ourselves playing a leading role in the construction of the Holy Temple of the family of God,” Francis said.

Three cardinals dropped from C9 as reform process nears end

Vatican City, Dec 12, 2018 / 08:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican said Wednesday that while there are no immediate plans to add new members to the C9, Pope Francis has released the three eldest cardinals from the duties of the advisory group.

Papal spokesman Greg Burke told journalists in a briefing Dec. 12 that the pope sent letters to Cardinal George Pell, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, and Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo at the end of October to thank them for their service to the Council of Cardinals over the last five years.

Francis sent the letters following a request in October from the council – which advises the pope on matters of Church governance and reform – for a review of the work, structure, and composition of the advisory group, especially in light of the advanced age of some members.

However, the Vatican stated that, “considering the phase of the Council’s work, the appointment of new members is not expected at the moment.”

Over the course of the meetings, Bishop Marco Mellino, who last October was made adjunct secretary of the Council of Cardinals, presented the most recent draft of the new apostolic constitution of the Roman Curia.

Burke said that canon lawyers are still examining the constitution, which is provisionally titled Predicate evangelium.

The other main topics of discussion during the Dec. 10-12 meetings were the February 2019 meeting of bishops on child protection and how to reduce the Holy See’s operating costs.

Asked if, for transparency, the Holy See would be releasing any budgetary information and numbers, Burke said, “yes,” though he does not know when that will take place.

Toward lowering costs, the Vatican will take several actions, including more strongly enforcing a hiring freeze that has been in place since 2014. There are currently no plans to reduce personnel, though a reshuffle and re-outlining of job responsibilities is expected, as well as the possibility of offering early retirement.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, coordinator of the Council for the Economy, addressed the importance of making long-term plans for the reduction of costs, and proposed the development of multi-year budgets for the Council of the Economy to use in five- and 10-year projections.

Prefect of the Dicastery for Communications, Dr. Paolo Ruffini, presented the progress of the reforms of the communications department, and the next steps for implementing Pope Francis’ 2015 motu proprio, which established the then-Secretariat, now Dicastery for Communication.

Ruffini emphasized the importance of the different media outlets (TV, radio, web, and social media) of Vatican Media and their cooperation.

He also explained the value of Vatican Media being present in many different languages.

The cardinals also heard from Professor Vincenzo Bonomo, rector of the Pontifical Lateran University and an advisor to Vatican City State, on the new laws governing Vatican City, which were published Dec. 6.

Present at the latest round of meetings were council members Cardinals Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Reinhard Marx, Sean O’Malley, Giuseppe Bertello, and Oswald Gracias.

Only Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, was not in attendance, since he was in Morocco, representing the Holy See at the UN Global Compact for Migration.

As usual, Pope Francis was present for all sessions apart from Wednesday morning, when he held the weekly general audience.

Established by Pope Francis shortly after his pontificate began in 2013, the Council of Cardinals – also known as the “C9” – serves as an advisory body on Church governance and reform, with special emphasis on the reform of Pastor bonus, the apostolic constitution which governs the Roman Curia.

The next gathering of the council will take place Feb. 18-20, 2019.

Faith is not ‘decorative,’ Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Dec 12, 2018 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis gave an Advent reminder Wednesday that faith should not be just a “decorative” addition to daily life by pointing to how the ‘Our Father’ prayer embodies the essence of life itself.

“Prayer - Jesus teaches us - does not begin in human existence after the stomach is full: rather it lurks wherever there is a man, any man, who is hungry, who cries, who struggles, who suffers and wonders ‘why,’” Pope Francis said in the Paul VI hall Dec. 12.

The ‘Our Father’ prayer’s request for “daily bread,” the pope explained, exemplifies God’s desire to meet man in his concrete reality, in his basic needs.

“Our first prayer, in a sense, was the wail that accompanied the first breath. In that newborn cry, the destiny of our whole life was announced: our continual hunger, our continual thirst, our search for happiness,” he continued.

Pope Francis pointed to the Biblical example of Bartimaeus in Mark’s Gospel - a blind man who begged at the gates of Jericho - whose loud cries for mercy were met by Jesus’ healing.

“Around him he had so many good people who told him to keep quiet, not to disturb the Master with his annoying shouts. But he, demanded with holy insistence, that his miserable condition could finally meet Jesus,” Francis said.

Prayer “frees us from the desperation of those who do not believe in a way out of so many unbearable situations,” he added.

The pope’s teaching on the ‘Our Father’ is a continuation of catechesis he began in the first week of Advent on “the seven questions” found in the “short but bold prayer” full of “filial trust.”

“The Lord Jesus gives us the grace of total trust in God as a compassionate Father who loves us and always remains at our side,” Pope Francis said in Spanish as he greeted pilgrims from Spain and Latin America.

The Paul VI Hall was filled with cheers and waves as the pope mentioned the day’s Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“May Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast we celebrate today, help us to surrender ourselves to the providential love of God and to place all our hope in Him,” Francis prayed.

Indian sister: Rape claims against bishop went unheard by Church leaders

Jalandhar, India, Dec 11, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The religious sister who says she was serially raped by an Indian bishop claims she made a police report only after written complaints to Church authorities went unheeded.

“I was scrambling for support and initially I found almost none,” the 44-year-old sister based in Kerala, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, told Scroll.in, in reference to the two-year period in which she claims to have been repeatedly sexually assaulted by Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar.

The sister was not named in the Scroll.in interview.

The sister claims that Mulakkal sexually assaulted her 13 times between 2014 and 2016. She said that after telling members of her religious community about the assaults in early 2017, she wrote to several Indian Catholic leaders, including Cardinal George Alencherry.

Eventually, the sister claims, she sent letters to India’s Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro, to Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, and to Pope Francis.

She claims those letters went unacknowledged. In June 2018, she filed a police report in Kerala. After several public demonstrations in support of the sister’s claim, Mulakkal was arrested on Sept. 21. He has since been released on bail, although he is temporarily removed from his responsibilities as Bishop of Jalandhar.

The bishop has claimed that the sister made false reports against him because he censured her for engaging in a romantic affair. A police investigation is ongoing.

The sister told Scroll.in that she had wanted to enter religious life since childhood. She became a novice in the Missionaries of Jesus at age 20.

She said that since she initially reported the sexual assault, she has faced serious difficulties. In November 2017, Mulakkal reportedly pressured her to recant her allegation, holding her in a room for nearly eight hours while trying to convince her to retract the claim.

“I had several moments when I asked God, why me?” the sister told Scroll.in.

“But, after a while, I realized God had chosen me as an instrument to ensure that nuns do not suffer this way in future.”

The sister, along with five other sisters who have publicly supported her, have been the subject of criticism and threats, Scroll.in reported.

On Oct. 22, Fr. Kuriakose Kattuthara, who testified in support of the sister’s claims, was found dead under mysterious circumstances. Foul play has been alleged by members of the priest’s family, but a final autopsy report has not yet been reported.

Nevertheless, the sister and her supporters say that making public the claim of sexual assault is an important part of their vocation.

“Even now, I maintain there should be an internal mechanism within the Church where we can complain,” the sister said. “That will ensure the Church does not face public humiliation.”

“If your husband is ill, would you leave him to die?” a sister asked Scroll.in.

“We are married to the Church that way, we know it has major illnesses and we are hoping to help it cure itself.”

 

Trump signs law to aid Christians in Iraq, Syria

Washington D.C., Dec 11, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- President Donald Trump signed into law Tuesday the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act, which seeks to ensure US aid reaches Christian and Yazidi genocide victims.

The bill was passed unanimously in the House Nov. 27, and in the Senate Oct. 11.

This bill was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), and the lead Democratic sponsor was Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA). This was Smith’s second attempt at getting the bill signed into law, and altogether it took 17 months for this bill to be passed.  

Trump was joined at the Dec. 11 signing by Vice President Mike Pence, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, Ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus Carl Anderson, Smith, Eshoo, Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, and many others.

Trump said it was a “great honor” to sign H.R. 390 into law, and remarked that his administration has had great success in fighting Islamic State. The group has lost nearly all of its territory since its peak in 2015.

“This bill continues my administration's efforts to direct US assistance for persecuted communities including through faith-based programs,” he said.

The signing of the legislation is a symbol of the US speaking “with bold moral clarity and political unanimity,” Anderson said in a statement provided by the Knights of Columbus, which were heavily involved with the process of writing the bill and assisting the situation of Christians in the Middle East.

Since 2014, the Knights of Columbus have donated more than $20 million to help Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria with food, housing, and other needs. The Knights also spent $2 million to rebuild an Iraqi town that had been destroyed by Islamic State.

H.R. 390 provides funding to various entities, including faith-based and religious organizations, that are helping with recovery and stabilization efforts in Iraq and Syria in religious and ethnic minority communities, including Christians and Yazidis.

The bill also instructs the Trump administration to “assess and address the humanitarian vulnerabilities, needs, and triggers that might force these survivors to flee” the region and for the administration to identify signs of potential violent action against minority groups in the country.

Another part of the law encourages foreign governments to identify those who belong to Islamic State in security databases and security screenings to aid with their prosecution. The bill provides support for groups that are investigating members of Islamic State who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the region.

Since Islamic State took control of the region, the country’s Christian population has dwindled to only a few thousand families. Many of these people fled to nearby Turkey and Lebanon out of concern for their safety. Although the situation has drastically improved since nearly all of Islamic State's territory has been regained, Christians are reluctant to return to the region due to a lack of economic opportunities and continued concerns for safety.

Our Lady of Guadalupe: Empress of the Americas

Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 11, 2018 / 03:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- It would be virtually impossible to travel to Mexico without seeing the colorful, star-cloaked, evil-crushing image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on street corners, in private homes, on restaurant walls, and certainly in church chapels.

Four hundred and eighty seven years ago, the Virgin Mary appeared multiple times to St. Juan Diego, an Aztec convert to Catholicism, in his native Mexico. The Mestiza Mary, who became known as Our Lady of Guadalupe, spoke to Juan Diego gently as a mother, and in his native language.

On December 12, in her last appearance to Juan Diego, she ordered him to gather the unseasonable roses from the top of a mountain in December, and bring them to the bishop as proof of her request to have a church built there. When Juan Diego let the roses fall out of his tilma, the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared imprinted on his tilma, and the bishop was convinced.

Since then, the tilma has been venerated by millions of people every year, and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe has become ubiquitous with Mexican culture.

“Pretty much if you’re Mexican you are Marian, devoted to Our Lady,” Deacon Jesus Valenzuela, F.S.S.P., a seminarian from Mexico at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Nebraska, told CNA.

But while she is originally from Mexico, her patronage and devotion has spread throughout the Americas, and beyond.

Mother of Mexico and of ‘all the rest who love me’

Monsignor Eduardo Chavez, postulator of the cause of St. Juan Diego and a Guadalupe apparition expert, is not surprised that devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe has grown strong in the United States and throughout the world.

In fact, the Virgin Mary told Juan Diego herself that she desired to be the mother of more than Mexico alone, he said.

In introducing herself to Juan Diego, Mary says: "I am your merciful mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love me.”

“In 1531, there were no borders in the Americas. But, just in case we need clarification, the Virgin herself says to Juan Diego ‘and of all the other people of different ancestries who love me.’ Then from the Virgin of Guadalupe herself it is declared that she is not only for Mexicans but for the whole world,” Chavez told CNA.

The Virgin of Guadalupe transcends cultures and countries because she comes bearing Christ, Chavez added.

“(Our Lady) puts Jesus in the heart of every human being, beyond language, traditions, customs, politics, beyond divisions, beyond all - she put Jesus Christ our Lord in the human heart, making us brothers.”

Her devotion gained significant followings outside of Mexico starting in the 20th century, when she was granted numerous titles by the Vatican.

In 1910, St. Pius X named her Patroness of Latin America, and in 1945, at the urging of bishops from the U.S. and Canada, Ven. Pius XII bestowed on her the title Empress of the Americas.

“Empress is perhaps the most impressive title as it is limited to a small number of the leading Marin advocations across the globe, none of whom lay spiritual claim over two continents as is the case with the Virgin of Guadalupe,” Andrew Chesnut, Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and specialist in Catholicism in Latin America, told CNA.

Later, St. John Paul II formalized the invocation of Our Lady of Guadalupe as Patroness of the Americas and Star of the New Evangelization. In 1999, he declared that her feast day of Dec. 12 be celebrated in churches throughout the Americas, and in 2002 he canonized St. Juan Diego.

“She used to be called Empress of the Americas, because by then the Americas were considered divided into the southern part and its Hispanic and Portuguese culture and the northern part with its English and French culture,” Chavez said. “But St. John Paul II named her in 1999 Patroness of all America, singularily, because for the love of God there are no divisions.”

How Guadalupe came to the U.S.

One of the strongest places of devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe, outside of Mexico, can be found in the United States, where shrines, seminaries, and parishes bear her name.

While Chesnut has seen images of the Virgin of Guadalupe in churches throughout Latin America, “there is no doubt that devotion to the Mestiza Mary is strongest in Mexico and the U.S.”

“Over the past few decades devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe in the U.S. has spread beyond parishioners of Mexican and Latino heritage to Americans of African, European, and Asian descent,” he said.

The simplistic version of the story of how the devotion spread north is Mexican migration, Julia Young, an associate professor of history at Catholic University of America, told CNA.

“Mexicans, whenever they came to the United States, brought their faith with them and their own religious identity and their own religious practices, and where they could, they found places of worship or they opened new places of worship. And often...they named them for the Virgin to whom they were most devoted - Our Lady of Guadalupe,” she said.

The Cristero War, which took place in the late 1920s, was a rebellion of Catholic clergy and laity against the anti-Catholic and anti-clerical Mexican government. The conflict made political and religious refugees out of a proportionally high number of Catholic clergy and religious, Young said, who came to the United States seeking safety and brought their devotions with them.

Mexican migration to the United States continued after the Cristero war until Mexico became the top country for immigration to the U.S., Young said.

While they may not be building as many new churches as they were in the earlier years of immigration, Mexican immigrants to the United States today still bring their religious devotion with them wherever they go.

“They’re not opening their own churches, they’re participating in existing churches,” Young said of Mexican emigrants.

“That’s why you go to, say, Southbend, Indiana and you see a church built by Polish immigrants that now has an altar or a side altar to the Virgin of Guadalupe. The newer Mexican immigrants are coming into the older Italian and Polish immigrant churches and they’re bringing the Virgin of Guadalupe when they come to worship.”

Her many patronages

As she’s gained popularity in the Church in the United States, numerous Catholic organizations and causes that transcend cultures and even countries have chosen Our Lady of Guadalupe as their official patron saint.

When Carl Anderson was named Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus Catholic fraternity in 2001, he brought the Board of Directors and the officers of the order to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, in order to place the Knights under the protection and intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“I wanted to emphasize the international character of her message, and the international character of the Knights of Columbus,” Anderson told CNA.

He was also inspired by St. John Paul II, who called Guadalupe “an example of perfect inculturation and placed the entire hemisphere under her protection, so it seemed to me that this was the right thing for the Knights of Columbus to do,” he said.

The Virgin Mary has often been invoked as a special protectress and patroness of priests. In Nebraska, at an international seminary for the Fraternity of St. Peter, the priests-to-be are under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe, for whom the seminary is named.

Valenzuela said that this patronage speaks to the “international character” of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, which is a worldwide congregation of priests specifically formed and trained to celebrate the extraordinary form of the Mass.

Our Lady of Guadalupe has a special place in the hearts of seminarians, Valenzuela said, because “the work of Mary is pretty much the work of priests.”

“Our Lady of Guadalupe from what I know is the only apparition of Mary where she’s pregnant, so what she does, what her full mission is, is to bring Christ into the hearts of man, and that’s what priests do, we bring Christ to other people,” he said.

Her feast day at the seminary, which includes seminarians from South, Central and North America, is a full day of celebrations beginning with the liturgy and complete with pinatas, a Mexican feast, fireworks, and a mariachi band.

“It’s a pretty big feast day,” Valenzuela said.

Our Lady of Guadalupe has also been popularized as the patroness of the pro-life movement, particularly in the United States and Canada, “because she is a pregnant woman and she carries Jesus Christ our Lord in her immaculate womb, she is the patroness of life from the moment of conception,” Chavez said.

Human Life International (HLI), a group of pro-life missionaries founded in the United States, is one pro-life organization that specifically claims her as their patroness.

“We live in a world in which child sacrifice, i.e. abortion, is embedded deeply in the substructures of our culture,” HLI President, Fr. Shenan J. Boquet, said in e-mail comments to CNA.

“The modern-day gods of wealth, power, pleasure, convenience, and independence demand so much blood – sacrifice – in exchange for their poisonous gifts,” he said. “In this spiritual and temporal battle, we may be tempted out of fear and discouragement as to wonder what we can possibly do against such determination of will and evil as experienced today in the advancement of the Culture of Death.”

Fr. Paul Marx, O.S.B., who choose Our Lady of Guadalupe as patroness of Human Life International, did so because he saw devotion to Mary as “the solution” to moral decay, Boquet said.

“In contemplating her simplicity we find the strength to emulate her faith, and proceed with confidence in the knowledge that God will overcome the seemingly insurmountable barriers looming over the world today,” Boquet said, quoting Marx.

Valenzuela said he also looks to Guadalupe for encouragement against the “culture of death.”

“Pope John Paul II called the culture in this present time the culture of death. And Our Lady of Guadalupe, she is the symbol of life. Why? Because she bears life, Christ himself, in her womb.”

The message of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the Church today

Chavez said the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe continues to grow and spread, and is evident in the variety of international pilgrims at her shrine in Mexico City.

Her message, he noted, is one of unity and love.

“That is why she is making a new civilization - of God's love - where there are no borders or divisions, where we are all the one family of God. Her dark skin, her mestizo skin, also signals she is the mother of all people,” he said.

Anderson, who co-authored a book on Guadalupe with Chavez entitled “Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love”, said that amid divisions and tensions in the U.S. and the world, the Virgin is ever urging peace and reconciliation.

“She came at a time when there was a tremendous conflict between the Europeans that had arrived in the New World and the indigenous people, and her message was one of hope, reconciliation, unity, and healing,” he said.

“That message has carried through centuries, and I believe that it’s just as relevant today, when we look at what is going on around the world, but also right on our own border, we need her message as much today as ever before.”

Valenzuela said the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe for Catholics today is also one of total confidence in the love and protection of Mary.

“I think she has a universal message...and this is very important for all Catholics, of this confidence in Mary,” he said, “because she tells Juan Diego: ‘nothing should frighten you. Let your heart not be disturbed.’”



Editor's note 12/11: A previous version of this story said the Virgin of Guadalupe was crushing a Satanic snake. She is in fact crushing a dark moon, an Aztec symbol of evil. It has been corrected.