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When storms come, have faith in Jesus, Pope tells Catholics in Peru

Huanchaco, Peru, Jan 20, 2018 / 07:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a homily Saturday, Pope Francis spoke about the natural disasters Peru experienced over the last year, praising the way in which Peruvians joined together to help one another during these difficult moments.

“I know that, in the time of darkness, when you felt the brunt of the [storm], these lands kept moving forward,” the Pope said during Mass near Trujillo, Peru Jan. 20.

Like the five wise virgins in the parable in the day's Gospel, the people of Peru were prepared with “the oil needed to go out to help one another like true brothers and sisters,” he continued. “You had the oil of solidarity and generosity that stirred you to action, and you went out to meet the Lord with countless concrete gestures of support.”

The Mass, which took place in Huanchaco, a beach town outside the city of Trujillo, was part of Pope Francis’ Jan. 18-21 visit to Peru.

In his homily he referred to the “Niño,” or “Coastal El Niño,” the name given to a weather phenomenon off the coast of Peru and Ecuador, which began in December 2016.

The pattern caused warmer-than-usual water temperatures off the coasts of the two countries, which in turn triggered heavy rainfalls in the mountains.

The excess run-off from the rains caused severe flooding and mudslides, devastating parts of Peru, particularly in the north. Trujillo, Peru’s third most populated city, was one of the worst hit after a period of heavy rains last March caused mudslides and flooding directly affecting around 800,000 people and killing almost 100.

Francis encouraged Peruvians not to lose heart during these times of trials, but to use this Eucharistic celebration as an opportunity to unite their suffering to Christ’s suffering on the cross.

“These times of being ‘buffeted,’” he said, “call into question and challenge our strength of spirit and our deepest convictions. They make us realize how important it is to stand united, not alone, and to be filled with that unity which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.”

Many people are still suffering from the damage caused by “Coastal El Niño,” the Pope noted. And it’s possible these difficulties have caused their faith to waver.

If this is the case, “we want to unite ourselves to Jesus,” he said, because “[Jesus] knows our pain and our trials; he endured the greatest of sufferings in order to accompany us in our own trials. The crucified Jesus wants to be close to us in every painful situation, to give us a hand and to help lift us up.”

Like the story of the ten virgins in the Gospel reading, who were surprised by the bridegroom’s arrival in the middle of the night, the storms of life – both the physical storms as well as other difficulties – can catch us off-guard.

In the passage, we learn that five of the virgins were prepared with oil for their lamps and five were not. “At the appointed time, each of them showed what they had filled their life with,” Francis noted, and “the same thing happens to us.”

“There are times when we realize what we have filled our lives with. How important it is to fill our lives with the oil that lets us light our lamps in situations of darkness and to find the paths to move forward!”

He commended the Peruvians for being well-prepared with the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that “in the midst of darkness, you, together with so many others, were like living candles that lighted up the path with open hands, ready to help soothe the pain and share what you had, from your poverty, with others.”

“Fill your lives always with the Gospel,” he concluded. “I want to encourage you to be a community that lets itself be anointed by the Lord with the oil of the Spirit. He transforms, renews and strengthens everything.”
 

Catholic Bishops’ Pro-Life Chairman Praises House for Passing Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act

WASHINGTON–Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, thanked and praised the House of Representatives for passing the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act today with a bi-partisan vote of 241-183.

"As Chairman of the United States Bishops' Committee, I offer gratitude and praise to the House of Representatives for passing the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (H.R. 4712). This common-sense legislation offers a simple and widely supported proposition: a child born alive following an abortion should receive the same degree of care to preserve her life and health as would be given to any other child born alive at the same gestational age. I call on the Senate to pass this bill as well and ensure that the lethal mentality of Roe does not claim new victims – vulnerable human beings struggling for their lives outside the womb."

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protections Act, House of Representatives, abortion, preservation of life and health, vulnerable human beings

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Embracing life

In January, we pray with special urgency for the end of the culture of death. We beseech God for the rediscovery within our nation of the great value of life and a renewal of family values. With this in mind, I want to offer a vision of hope that is emerging in a place of […]

Warm weather greets marchers at the 45th annual March for Life

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2018 / 04:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- They came from across the country and the globe to Washington, DC. for one purpose: to stand in solidarity with unborn children.

With a quite a few groups donned in matching hats and scarves – quickly rendered unnecessary due to the unseasonably warm January day – and clutching some innovative signs, the 45th annual March for Life went off without a hitch Jan. 19.

While the rally made history as President Donald Trump became the first sitting president to address the march via livestream video, the individual marchers to whom Catholic News Agency spoke over the course of the day were more concerned with the need to protect the unborn and to promote the dignity of life.

And they were big fans of the nice weather, of course.

The crowd was overwhelmingly young, and large groups from all over the country were spotted on the National Mall. A group of around 400 from Baton Rouge, La., made an impressive entrance, and the wave of white hats continued as far as the eye could see.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">From earlier—here’s a small bit of the 400-strong contingent from Baton Rouge, LA at the <a href="https://twitter.com/March_for_Life?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@March_for_Life</a> <a href="https://t.co/XJN3oKe7ha">pic.twitter.com/XJN3oKe7ha</a></p>&mdash; Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) <a href="https://twitter.com/cnalive/status/954493345660919808?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 19, 2018</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

The University of Mary had a three-bus contingent of about 150 students, faculty, and staff, who made the 30-hour car ride to Washington, D.C from Bismarck. The prospect of a long bus ride didn’t sway UMary junior Mary Kampa, who was returning to DC for her second March for Life in a row.

“Knowing that it’s not about the bus ride, and it’s not about me, and it’s for something much greater – standing up for the dignity of life,” Kampa told CNA. “I want to be a voice for the voiceless,” she continued.

Last year, the University of Mary contingent led the march. Kampa said that was an honor. This year, 20 students were present in the Rose Garden for Trump’s address.

And true to form, some UMary students were clad in short-sleeved shirts prior to the start of the pre-march rally. Kampa wasn’t surprised by this, considering the weather her and her classmates had left behind in North Dakota.

<blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/BeJeT5blJxh/" data-instgrm-version="8" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"><div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAABGdBTUEAALGPC/xhBQAAAAFzUkdCAK7OHOkAAAAMUExURczMzPf399fX1+bm5mzY9AMAAADiSURBVDjLvZXbEsMgCES5/P8/t9FuRVCRmU73JWlzosgSIIZURCjo/ad+EQJJB4Hv8BFt+IDpQoCx1wjOSBFhh2XssxEIYn3ulI/6MNReE07UIWJEv8UEOWDS88LY97kqyTliJKKtuYBbruAyVh5wOHiXmpi5we58Ek028czwyuQdLKPG1Bkb4NnM+VeAnfHqn1k4+GPT6uGQcvu2h2OVuIf/gWUFyy8OWEpdyZSa3aVCqpVoVvzZZ2VTnn2wU8qzVjDDetO90GSy9mVLqtgYSy231MxrY6I2gGqjrTY0L8fxCxfCBbhWrsYYAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;"></div></div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BeJeT5blJxh/" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_blank">We are the Pro-Life Generation! #marchforlife2018 #whywemarch #lovesaveslives #lifeatmary</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A post shared by <a href="https://www.instagram.com/universityofmary/" style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px;" target="_blank"> University of Mary</a> (@universityofmary) on <time style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;" datetime="2018-01-19T22:36:06+00:00">Jan 19, 2018 at 2:36pm PST</time></p></div></blockquote> <script async defer src="//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js"></script>

“It was negative 20 [degrees] last Sunday, so this is awesome,” she said, laughing.

Another big fan of the weather was Ave Maria University student John-Paul Arias. Arias was at his first March for Life, and unlike many of his classmates who were in DC, he flew up.

Arias said he thought it was important for men to “defend the life that we helped create,” and that they too had an important role in the pro-life movement. He said he was thrilled to be in Washington, and very excited to be at the march.

And despite AMU’s location in southwest Florida, it was somehow warmer in DC on Friday.

 

Pope Francis warns Peruvian leaders against 'virus' of corruption

Lima, Peru, Jan 19, 2018 / 03:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking to Peruvian authorities Friday, Pope Francis issued a stern warning against corruption, which he said has done significant harm, and snuffs out the hope offered by the country's rich cultural and natural diversity.

“Peru is a land of hope that invites and challenges its people to unity,” the Pope said Jan. 19. However, he warned that despite the promise of the country's many saints and the rich cultural and environmental diversity, “over this hope a shadow is growing, a threat looms.”

He warned against the destruction of natural resources and urged authorities to be “very attentive to that other, often subtle form of environmental degradation that increasingly contaminates the whole system of life: corruption.”

“How much evil is done to our Latin American people and the democracies of this continent by this social 'virus', a phenomenon that infects everything, with the greatest harm being done to the poor and mother earth.”

Pope Francis spoke to Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski Godard and the country's diplomatic corps. He spent the morning in Peru's Amazonian region, visiting Puerto Maldonado before heading back to Lima for his meeting with civil authorities.

He will be in Peru until Jan. 21, following a three-day visit to Chile, marking his fourth tour of South America since his election.

The Pope's visit comes after Kuczynski narrowly escaped an impeachment vote in December following revelations that a company he owned had businesses ties with the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht, which is at the center of of one of Latin America's biggest corruption scandals.

Odebrecht admitted in a 2016 plea bargain with the U.S. Department of Justice to paying around $800 million in bribes in 12 Latin American countries, the Guardian reports. Peru received some $29 million between 2009 and 2015.

Kuczynski is the latest Peruvian politician to get caught up in a scandal of this kind, with some former presidents currently sitting behind bars. The latest ex-president to be jailed was Ollanta Humala, who went to prison in July 2017 due to alleged money laundering in connection with Odebrecht.

In his speech, Pope Francis said efforts to fight the “social scourge” of corruption must be both recognized and supported, which is a task that involves everyone.

Hope must be defended, he said, which “requires a greater culture of transparency among public entities, the private sector and civil society. No one can be excluded from this process. Corruption is preventable and calls for commitment on the part of all.”

“I encourage and urge all those in positions of authority, in whatever sphere, to insist on this path in order to bring your people and your land the security born of feeling that Peru is a place of hope and opportunity for all, and not just for a few,” he said.

Francis praised the natural beauty and the vast biodiversity found in the country's Amazonian region, which contains the largest tropical forest and the most extensive river system on the planet. He also drew attention to the many cultures present in Peru, which he said are the “soul of this people.”

He also noted that the country has a lot of young people, who are “the most vital gift that this society possesses,” and many saints, who have “blazed paths of faith for the entire American continent.”

Pointing to the theme of his trip, “United in Hope,” the Pope said Peru is a land of hope that invites its inhabitants to a unique unity, which he said is threatened not only by corruption, but also by environmental destruction.

Quoting his 2015 encyclical on care for our common home, Laudato si', he said “never has humanity had such power over itself, yet nothing ensures that it will be used wisely, particularly when we consider how it is currently being used.”

“This is evident in the way that we are stripping the earth of its natural resources, without which no forms of life are possible,” he said, adding that the loss of jungles and forests means not only a loss of species and resources for the future, but also a loss of “vital relationships that could end up altering the entire ecosystem.”

To be united in hope, then, means both developing and promoting an integral ecology and listening to local populations and recognizing and respecting them as true partners in dialogue, since they know the land and the “the catastrophic effects produced, in the name of development, by many projects.”

Francis said environmental degradation is also linked to the moral degradation of communities, and pointed to black market mining as a practice which is “is destroying people’s lives.”

“This whole process of degradation brings with it and encourages organizations operating outside of legal structures; these debase so many of our brothers and sisters by subjecting them to human trafficking (a new form of slavery), irregular employment and crime … and to other evils that gravely affect their dignity and, at the same time, the dignity of the nation.”

Pope Francis closed his speech urging all those in positions of authority in every sphere “to bring your people and your land the security born of feeling that Peru is a place of hope and opportunity for all, and not just for a few.”

By doing this, a new Peru will be forged which “makes room for people of 'all bloods', a land in which 'the promise of Peruvian life' can be achieved,” he said, quoting from the Peruvian novelist José Maria Arguedas and the historian Jorge Basadre.

“I wish to renew in your presence the commitment of the Catholic Church, which has accompanied the life of this nation, in this joint effort to continue working so that Peru will continue to be a land of hope,” he concluded.

The Pope met privately with Kuczynski following his address.

Commentary: Aziz Ansari's hookup was a game of Russian roulette

New York City, N.Y., Jan 19, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- There are better models of fraternal correction than telling the story of the horrible night you spent with comedian Aziz Ansari to a reporter from a casually crude website. But that was where “Grace” (a pseudonym) went to express what she didn’t have a way to say to Ansari—that he had hounded her physically; pressured her to go farther, faster than she wanted; and left her feeling wretched after their night together.

Grace spoke up, she said, because she saw Ansari wearing a “Times Up” pin and supporting the #MeToo movement, and she couldn’t see how he reconciled his support of women generally with the way he treated her particularly.

Grace’s story sparked many reactions. But if Aziz Ansari is reading all the thinkpieces about him, he must feel most ill-served by his allies. “Aziz Ansari Is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader” wrote Bari Weiss for the New York Times, exonerating Ansari in a singularly insulting way.

It’s unreasonable, Weiss and others write, to expect Ansari and other men to be able to know if they’re scaring or upsetting their one-night-stands. The solution isn’t for men to pay attention to women’s non-verbal cues, she writes, but for women to be much more aggressive in fending off men who make them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

For all the worry about women defining themselves as snowflakes or victims, the defense offered to Ansari sounds much more cossetting than comforting.

What virtuous man would feel relieved to be told he is powerless to avoid harming the women he takes to bed? Who would be put at ease, after seeing a woman in tears, to be told that it’s not his fault, he couldn’t help it, there’s no way for him to know—he’s not a mind-reader.

If sex is always such a blind leap, with no way to take care of your partner, what good man could have an assignation and respect himself in the morning. The sexual culture Ansari’s supporters describe is a game of Russian roulette: eventually, every man will wind up deeply wounding a woman he’s taken to bed, but he may never even find out which lovers were the collateral damage of our hookup culture. (And, of course, he also may be coerced, objectified, or abused himself).

Ansari’s critics agree, in part, with his supporters. Those non-verbal cues are hard to read, so men (and women) should stick to a “Yes means yes” model of consent, waiting to hear explicit, enthusiastic consent before pushing things with a partner, they say.

The “affirmative consent” model, viewed simply as harm reduction, is an improvement over the “Not a Mind Reader” defense, but it still sells men and women short. It’s a way of camouflaging the fundamental problem: you can’t have generically respectful and ethical sex.

As long as men and women go to bed as strangers, it will be very difficult for them to take care of each other. The most egregious behavior can be minimized with affirmative consent, but who is aiming for a sex life that is simply “not assault?"

Sex that is a gift of self is intimate and particularized. You make a gift of your particular self to one other particular person. No one makes love to “a woman” or “a man” generically—those who try are engaged in something much more like mutual masturbation than intercourse.

Before couples get intimate—which starts, physically, well before sex—they must know and love each other. There must be trust, in each other, and trust that they share an understanding of what the good is, if each person is relying on the other to will his or her good correctly. (They must also be right about what that good consists of, but the other pitfalls are more obvious).

That means ethical sex starts long before clothes come off. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes chastity as “the successful integration of sexuality within the person” (CCC 2337) and purity as that which “frees one from wide-spread eroticism and avoids those things which foster morbid curiosity” (CCC 530).

Both must become a habit, before it is possible to offer the gift of one’s sexuality to another. These virtues are a prerequisite to the other step Ansari and Grace skipped, getting to know the other person, to the point where you do know their non-verbal signals, because you see and know them in all their particularity.

One school for these virtues (and corrective to the culture) is the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, a fellowship of men and women pursuing chastity through prayer. Even someone not enrolled in the Confraternity can join (from time to time, or even every day) in the 15 Hail Marys that Confraternity member pray daily for chastity and purity. Joining in the Confraternity’s daily prayer is a particularly good redoubt to flee to in the case of temptation.

 

Leah Libresco Sargeant is the author of Arriving at Amen: Seven Catholic Prayers Even I Can Offer. Her writing has appeared at First Things, FiveThirtyEight, and The Washington Post.  Her opinions do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of Catholic News Agency.

 

Pro-life strength lies in love, speakers tell March for Life

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2018 / 02:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The pro-life movement’s most powerful tool lies in its ability to love, speakers said Friday at the March for Life in Washington, D.C.

This year’s annual March, the theme of which was ‘Love Saves Lives’, was an historic event for numerous reasons - it marked the 45th anniversary of the March, it was an uncharacteristically balmy 50 degree day in January, and it was the first time the event was addressed live by the sitting President of the United States.  

“I want to thank every person here today who works with such big hearts to make sure parents have the care and support they need to choose life,” President Donald Trump told the crowds from the White House via a satellite feed.

“Because of you, tens of thousands of Americans have been born and reached their full God-given potential...you are the living witnesses of the theme ‘Love saves lives,’” he said.

Some speakers shared personal stories of love in difficult moments and pregnancies to emphasize this year’s theme during the March for LIfe rally.

One such story was told by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), who was joined on stage by her family, including her 4 year-old “miracle” daughter Abigail, who punctuated her mother’s remarks with questions and exclamations.

Beutler told the audience that while she was pregnant with Abigail, an ultrasound revealed devastating news - their daughter was not developing vital organs properly within the womb, and she would likely suffocate to death as soon as she was born.

Beutler said that she and her husband were told the baby had a “zero percent chance” of survival, and that most parents in their situation opt to get an abortion.

“We prayed, we cried...and in that devastation, we saw God,” Beutler said. Unwilling to abort, the couple sought doctors and experimental treatments that could give their daughter a chance at life. She said their love of their daughter and unwillingness to give up would save her life.

“Through divine intervention, and some very courageous doctors who were willing to take a risk, we now get to experience our daughter Abigail, who is a healthy, happy 4 year-old big sister,” Beutler said. “She says that someday she’s going to be the boss of mommy’s work - look out Speaker Ryan.”  

Sr. Bethany Madonna of the Sisters of Life told the crowd the story of Raquel, a scared pregnant woman who came to the sisters for help and told them that while she believed abortion was wrong, she could never tell another woman what to do.

That all changed one day when Raquel met a fellow scared pregnant woman in an elevator. She took the mother’s hand and had her feel the kicks of her own unborn baby.

“Yeah, my baby’s gonna be a linebacker. He’s gonna be strong and he’s gonna be blessed,” Raquel told the woman. “Why is he gonna be blessed? Because he’s here.”

Raquel then told the woman that she would have a girl, and could name her Raquel Jasmine, after the “fabulous lady you met on the elevator.”

Two years later, Raquel met the woman again at the doctor’s office. She was pushing a stroller with twin girls - named Raquel and Jasmine.

“It was such a small thing, this loving exchange, and the impact reaches in to eternity,” Sr. Bethany Madonna said. “You may not see the impact of your love, but God sees it. The love in your hearts is totally unique to you...and your love saves lives.”

Other speakers addressing the March included Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Pam Tebow, the mother of former pro-football player Tim Tebow, U.S. Representatives Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Chris Smith (R-NJ) and well as Metropolitan Tikhon, Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada, Orthodox Church of America, and Bishop Vincent Matthews Jr., President of the International Missions Department of the Church of God in Christ.

Ryan encouraged the crowd - mostly made up of young people, he noted - that love is the reason the pro-life movement is on the rise in the United States.

“The pro-life movement is on the rise because we have love on our side,” Ryan said. “We believe every person is worthy of love and dignity.”

“That’s one thing that gets lost [in the political debate about abortion] - just how compassionate the pro-life movement really is,” he said. “I’m proud of what this movement has done for women who have gone through the pain of abortion, how it supports single mothers who are struggling to support their children...this is the face of the pro-life movement,” Ryan added.

He also noted several pro-life bills that have been passed by the House in the past year, including the just-passed Born Alive Survivors Protection Act, which protects the lives of babies who survive failed abortions.

“Most importantly, we are striving to do all of this without judgement in our hearts, but with compassion and love for all of the victims [of abortion],” he said.  

“Thank you for being here...this is one that we will win this day. Thank you. God bless you, tell everybody come back next year and bring three friends.”

Reverend Joseph Alfred Grassl

Father Joseph Grassl, at the age of 95 and a priest for 67 years, died Thursday January 19, 2018 in La Crosse. Joseph Alfred Grassl was born on March 16, 1922 in Milladore, Wisconsin to Ignatius and Theresa (nee Hoffman) Grassl. He attended high school at Salvatorian Seminary in Saint Nazianz, Wisconsin. He was sent […]

Bishops’ Conferences Look to Youth to Bring Hope for a Better Future in the Holy Land

WASHINGTON—Noting the deteriorating prospects for peace in the Holy Land, representatives of bishops' conferences from several countries, including the United States, acknowledged the struggle of the young people they met but called them the "hope for a better future."

The bishops made their annual solidarity visit to the Holy Land January 13 – 18, 2018. They visited Gaza, met with school children there and in the West Bank and in Israel as well as with students at Hebrew University and Bethlehem University. They also visited l'Arche in Bethlehem and a home of the elderly in Beit Emmaus.

In a communique issued at the end of their visit, the bishops cited the many challenges (unemployment, discrimination, and lack of opportunity) faced by youth, particularly those living in the West Bank and Gaza. But in their discussions with Israeli youth, the bishops found that many shared with their Palestinian counterparts the "same aspirations for peaceful coexistence."  

For the bishops, it was clear that it is the youth from West Bank, Gaza and Israel who are resilient and courageous in keeping alive the hope for a peaceful resolution to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops along with bishops from other nations on this solidarity visit have long decried violence as a way to resolve conflict but instead strongly supported a two-state solution in which a secure Israel coexists with a viable and independent Palestinian state.

The bishops called on communities in their respective countries to act in solidarity with youth who have an essential role in promoting peace through actions such as prayer, and supporting programs that create jobs, provide housing and foster dialogue.

The Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church of the Holy Land has met every January since 1998 to pray and act in solidarity with the Christian community in the Holy Land. Bishops representing Europe, North America, and South Africa participated in this visit.

The bishops' statement is available at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/israel-palestine/holy-land-coordination-communique-january-2018.cfm

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Holy Land, Gaza, West Bank, Israel, Bethlehem, L'Arche, Beit Emmaus, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, youth, violence, independent Palestinian state, dialogue

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane 
202-541-3200


Chairmen Applaud New HHS Initiatives on Conscience and Religious Freedom

WASHINGTON–Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the USCCB's Committee for Religious Liberty, offered the following joint statement in response to the creation of a new Division on Conscience and Religious Freedom within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights and other related administrative actions:

"We applaud HHS for its significant actions to protect conscience rights and religious freedom. For more than forty years—dating back to the Church amendment of 1973—Congress has enacted federal laws protecting rights of conscience in health care. We are grateful that HHS is taking seriously its charge to protect these fundamental civil rights through formation of a new division dedicated to protecting conscience rights and religious freedom. For too long, we have seen medical professionals, including pro-life nurses like Cathy DeCarlo, who have been coerced by their employers into participating in abortion. And we have seen states like California, New York, and Oregon demand that even religious organizations cover elective abortions in their health plans. These violations of federal law require a remedy from HHS. 

We are pleased to see HHS's proposed regulation to enforce civil rights laws to protect Americans involved in HHS-funded programs, and we look forward to filing more detailed public comments on this proposal.  We also appreciate the Administration's action to rescind a 2016 guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that required states to provide Medicaid funding to family planning providers like Planned Parenthood that perform abortions.

Conscience protection should not be subject to political whims, however. Permanent legislative relief is essential. We urge Congress to pass the Conscience Protection Act in order to give victims of discrimination the ability to defend their rights in court. No one should be forced to violate their deeply held convictions about the sanctity of human life."

A list of current federal laws protecting conscience rights can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/Federal-Conscience-Laws.pdf

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Keywords: Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HHS, conscience, religious freedom, religious liberty

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200