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Despicable Me 3

Taking 'vital coverage' from those in need 'unacceptable,' says bishop

IMAGE: CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuter

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Senate must reject any health care reform bill that will "fundamentally alter the social safety net for millions of people," said the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

"Removing vital coverage for those most in need is not the answer to our nation's health care problems, and doing so will not help us build toward the common good," Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, said in a letter to U.S. senators released late June 27.

He urged senators to reject such changes "for the sake of persons living on the margins of our health care system."

A day earlier, Bishop Dewane issued a statement saying that the loss of affordable health care under the Republicans' proposal was "simply unacceptable."

The Senate released its Better Care Reconciliation Act in "discussion draft" form June 22. In an analysis of the proposal aimed at replacing the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the measure would leave 22 million more people without insurance.

In response to that report, Bishop Dewane said June 26 that "this moment cannot pass without comment. ... As the USCCB has consistently said, the loss of affordable access for millions of people is simply unacceptable. These are real families who need and deserve health care."

On the afternoon of June 27, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, announced senators will not act on the bill until much later in July. News reports said McConnell and others determined they did not even have enough votes to begin debate on the measure. Senate leaders had hoped to vote on it before the July 4 recess.

In his letter to senators, Bishop Dewane reiterated initial concerns outlined by the USCCB when the draft was first released, namely that any health care reform bill must uphold several moral principles: affordability; access for all; respect for life; and protection of conscience rights. The bishops also have stressed the need for U.S. health care policy "to improve real access" to health care for immigrants.

Loss of coverage "will be devastating" to the people who can least afford it at a time "when tax cuts would seem to benefit the wealthy" and when increases in defense spending are being contemplated, he said in the June 27 letter.

The U.S. bishops do "value the language" in the Senate bill that recognizes "abortion is not health care," he continued, and it at least partially succeeds on conscience rights. But he said it needs to be strengthened to fully apply "the long-standing and widely supported Hyde Amendment protections. Full Hyde protections are essential and must be included in the final bill."

Bishop Dewane said the Senate's Better Care Reconciliation Act "is a slight improvement in limited ways" over the House version passed in May, called the American Health Care Act. "Overall, however, those enhancements do not overcome the BCRA's failure to address the needs of the poor," he said.

One part of the bill cuts the federal government's share of funding for Medicaid to 57 percent of its cost over the next seven years. States have picked up the balance of the funding to date.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the government had guaranteed that its funding for adults newly eligible for Medicaid would fall to no lower than 90 percent of their costs. Many states expanded Medicaid coverage for all adults ages 18-65 with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

The bill also would defund Planned Parenthood for one year under the bill.

In his earlier statement, Bishop Dewane criticized the "per-capita cap" on Medicaid funding, which would no longer be an entitlement but have its own budget line item under the Better Care Reconciliation Act. The effect, he said, "would provide even less to those in need than the House bill. These changes will wreak havoc on low-income families and struggling communities, and must not be supported."

In other reaction to the Senate measure, 300 Sisters of Mercy voiced their strong opposition to the Senate proposal in a statement issued June 27 from Buffalo, New York, where they gathered for the religious congregation's chapter meeting.

"Health care for all, especially the most vulnerable is one of our enduring concerns," said Sister Patricia McDermott, president of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. "The Sisters of Mercy have a legacy of advocacy for health care as a right, as well as providing care to generations of people. If the proposed legislation passes, health care ministries, social service agencies, and services for the elderly and family members will be impacted and suffer."

The Senate measure also drew opposition from the president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA. In a letter to senators June 26, Dominican Sister Donna Markham urged senators to reject the bill and "craft a health care bill which truly expands coverage, reduces costs and respect human life and dignity."

The bill in its current form "will have a devastating impact on the poor, marginalized and vulnerable in our country," Sister Markham wrote.

While welcoming provisions in the bill to protect human life and increase flexibility to states in paying for health care, "a bill that rolls back gains in health care for the poor and vulnerable is deeply regretful," her letter said.

"It is deeply shameful that instead of improving our health care system, the bill provides tax cuts for people making over $200,000 per year while at the same time demanding dramatic cuts or eliminating programs which help those most in need and most unlikely to afford health care," it added.


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Pope tells new cardinals to serve people, tackle sins

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinals are not called to be "princes" of the church, but to serve the people of God and tackle the sins of the world, Pope Francis told five new cardinals.

Jesus "calls you to serve like him and with him, to serve the father and your brothers and sisters," the pope said as he created five new cardinals from five nations June 28.

The new cardinals created during the prayer service in St. Peter's Basilica were: Cardinals Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali, 73; Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona, Spain, 71; Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, 67; Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos, 73; and Gregorio Rosa Chavez, 74, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, El Salvador.

After reciting the Creed and taking an oath of fidelity to Pope Francis and his successors, each cardinal -- in his new red robes -- went up to Pope Francis and knelt before him. The pope gave them each a cardinal's ring, a red skullcap and a red three-cornered red hat. The crimson hue the cardinals wear is a reminder that they must be courageous and faithful to Christ, his church and the pope to the point of shedding blood, if necessary.

They also received a scroll attesting to their appointment as cardinals and containing the name of 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 visited retired Pope Benedict XVI in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, his residence in the Vatican gardens.

The Gospel reading at the consistory was St. Mark's account of James' and John's pride and ambition to have a position of power and be honored, and how the other disciples reacted with angry jealousy (Mk 10:32-45).

Jesus corrects his disciples, explaining that pagan leaders are the ones who lord their authority over their people, and "it shall not be so among you." The pope said the cardinals, as leaders like Christ, are there to be slaves and serve others.

The Gospel reading, he said, shows how Jesus asked his disciples to "look at reality, not let yourselves be distracted by other interests or prospects."

The reality is always the cross, he said, and the sins the cardinals must face today include: "the innocent who suffer and die as victims of war and terrorism; the forms of enslavement that continue to violate human dignity even in the age of human rights; the refugee camps, which at times seem more like a hell than a purgatory; the systematic discarding of all that is no longer useful, people included."

Jesus "has not called you to become 'princes' of the church, to 'sit at his right or at his left,'" the pope told the new cardinals. "He calls you to serve like him and with him."

The evening before he was to enter the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Arborelius had just picked up his new red vestments, but had not had a chance to try them on. "I hope they will fit," he said.

The Swedish cardinal told Catholic News Service that about 450 people from Sweden had planned to travel to Rome for the consistory, including the leaders of the Lutheran, Syrian Orthodox and Baptist churches in Sweden. The Catholic contingent included a large group of Chaldean Catholics who emigrated from Iraq to Sweden. But, he said, there also was a big group of Salvadorans living in Sweden who were traveling to Rome to celebrate the red hat of Cardinal Rosa Chavez.

The Salvadoran auxiliary bishop was a friend of and mentored by Blessed Oscar Romero, who was assassinated in 1980. The new cardinal's loyalty to the memory of the Blessed Romero and to the memory of his country's sufferings is reflected in his coat of arms, which features a sprig of rosemary because in Spanish "Romero" also means rosemary, a palm frond as a symbol of the Salvadoran church's persecution and martyrdom, and a hand grabbing another hand, a symbol of the church's option for the poor.

When Cardinal Omella was asked how his life would change as a cardinal, he told reporters, "I think the tree is already fully grown. I will hardly change, I will be the same person."

"I don't see the cardinalate as major upgrade, of importance or climbing up to some honorable position," he said. "What is asked of me now is a greater service to the church, but in the way taught by Pope Francis, who goes to wash the feet of prisoners."

Serving the people of God and society, Spain's new cardinal said, "demands dying to one's self; it is difficult to be available every day, but it must be done with generosity."

Cardinal Ling experienced persecution first hand. After Laos became a communist nation, he set off -- without government permission -- to preach the Gospel in small villages and in prisons, according to his Vatican biography. He was arrested in 1984 and accused of "making propaganda for Jesus."

The new cardinal was imprisoned for three years, "with chains on my arms and my legs," he said.

But being a prisoner was "an apostolate," he said. "My presence (in prison) was necessary for my conversion and purification and also for that of others."

At the end of the consistory, the College of Cardinals had 225 members, 121 of whom are under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a pope.

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Contributing to this story were Cindy Wooden and Junno Arocho Esteves in Rome, and Rhina Guidos in Washington.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope: Christians fight evil with love, sacrifice, never with violence

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians are called to detach themselves from power, reject violence and sacrifice themselves for God and others out of love, Pope Francis said.

Christians must live the way Christ chose to: not as "persecutors, but persecuted; not arrogant, but meek; not as snake-oil salesmen, but subservient to the truth; not impostors, but honest," he said June 28 during his weekly general audience.

In fact, "Christians find repugnant the idea that suicide attackers might be called 'martyrs' because there is nothing in their purpose that can come close to the behavior of children of God," who are called always to act out of love, he told the estimated 12,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square.

High temperatures and scattered sprinkles prompted the pope to tell guests in the Vatican audience hall that he was about to head outside to a "Turkish bath."

In his weekly catechesis, the pope continued his series on Christian hope by focusing on what gives Christians strength and perseverance in the face of opposition, hatred and persecution.

Jesus dispelled all "mirages of easy success," the pope said, and he warned his disciples that proclaiming the kingdom of God would come at a high price as "you will be hated by all because of my name."

"Christians love, but they are not always loved," the pope said.

Because the world is marked by sin, selfishness, injustice and hostility, he said, it is "normal" that Christians are expected to go against the current and live the way Christ lived and taught.

The Christian lifestyle must be marked by "poverty," he said, noting how Jesus talks to his disciples more about "stripping" themselves than about "getting dressed."

"Indeed, a Christian who is not humble and poor, detached from wealth and power and, above all, detached from him- or herself, does not resemble Jesus," he said.

Christians journey forth into the world with the bare essentials, except their heart, which should be overflowing with love, he added.

In the Gospel of Matthew (10:16-22), Jesus warned his disciples that he was sending them "like sheep in the midst of wolves." They could be shrewd and prudent, the pope said, but never violent because evil can never be defeated with evil.

That is why Jesus sent his people into the world like himself, as sheep -- without sharp teeth, without claws, without weapons -- Pope Francis said. In fact, "true defeat" for a Christian is to succumb to the temptation of responding to the world's resistance and hatred with violence, revenge and evil.

The only weapons Christians possess are the Gospel and the hopeful assurance that God is always by their side, especially in the worst of times.

Persecution, then, doesn't contradict the Gospel, it is part of its very nature, because if the Lord was hated and persecuted, the pope said, "how can we ever hope that we should be spared this battle?"

Yet, "in the great midst of the maelstrom, Christians must not lose hope, believing they have been abandoned," he said.

Christians know that in their midst, there is always a divine power greater than all evil, "stronger than the Mafia, murky conspiracies, (stronger) than those who profit off the lives of the desperate, those who crush others with arrogance," he said.

On the eve of the feast of the martyred Sts. Peter and Paul and just a few hours before he was to create new cardinals whose red robes symbolize martyrdom, Pope Francis underlined the real meaning of martyrdom in his catechesis.

"Martyrs do not live for themselves, they do not fight to assert their own ideas, and they accept having to die only out of fidelity to the Gospel" and with love, which is the highest ideal in Christian life, he said.

This, the pope said, is the strength that animates and sustains people facing so much hardship: knowing that "nothing and no one can separate them from God's love given to us in Jesus Christ."

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

In Washington, Salvadoran diaspora in awe of first Salvadoran cardinal

IMAGE: CNS photo/Octavio Duran

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As El Salvador's first cardinal receives his red hat June 28 at the Vatican, he will have the eyes of his flock at home but also of the Washington area, home to approximately 260,000 Salvadorans -- one of the largest communities of Salvadorans outside of the Central American nation.

Cardinal-designate Gregorio Rosa Chavez has been a pastor, not just inside El Salvador, said Capuchin Franciscan Father Moises Villalta.

For years, he has frequently visited Salvadorans abroad, including many who were forced to flee their native country during its civil conflict from the late 1970s until the early 1990s, said Father Villalta, a native of El Salvador and pastor at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Washington. He has tried to learn about the diaspora and even spent time teaching some expats and their children El Salvador's national popular spiritual hymn, which is an ode to Christ as "savior of the world."

"He has come (to the United States) to listen, to strengthen our faith ' to be a pastor and representative of the Salvadoran church for those of us who live abroad. ' He has known how to guide us," said Father Villalta, who, like many of his Salvadoran parishioners, fled El Salvador during the war..

The priest is serving as the cardinal-designate's personal secretary during the consistory at the Vatican, or formal meeting of the College of Cardinals meeting, that will yield El Salvador's first cardinal and four other new cardinals for the church.

Salvadorans in Washington's Catholic circles were happy and in awe when they heard in the early morning May 21 the news via social media that the man who has often visited them would be named a cardinal, said Father Villalta.

"You could feel the joy of the Salvadoran community in the exterior," he told Catholic News Service. "It was such a great honor. At Mass, you could tell in people's faces ' the pride."

And El Salvador needs good news. In 2016, it was named the world's most deadly country outside a war zone because of its homicide rate, with rampant gangs terrorizing the citizenry, driving many to seek refuge abroad. Even before gangs were a problem, the country's citizens suffered during a 12-year civil conflict that included the 1980 assassination of the country's Archbishop Oscar Romero, a friend and mentor of the cardinal-designate.

Trinitarian Father Juan J. Molina, director of the U.S. bishops' Office for the Church in Latin America, said in naming as a cardinal the man who for many years has served as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Salvador, the church recognizes his fidelity to the Gospel but also singles out an example of justice and solidarity that Cardinal-designate Rosa Chavez expressed in his loyalty to the memory of Blessed Oscar Romero.

"He did so in a time when that was not appreciated ' and did it at a personal cost. For the Salvadoran diaspora, that's very important," said Father Molina, who is originally from El Salvador. "We cannot leave behind the ideals of the Gospel wherever we are just because we want to be accepted and recognized."

Sonia Marlene Aquino, a Catholic Salvadoran living in Washington, said the cardinal-designate has set an example, not just for Salvadorans but for the rest of the church. However, there is a certain degree of pride that such a "testimony of love" comes from her native country, she said.

"His humility is like the fertile land in our beloved El Salvador," she said. "Good fruit has been obtained through his prayers, perseverance and love for the people. His works, especially toward those who are most in need and marginalized, are testimony to what Jesus asks of each of us."

During the country's sufferings, including the war, natural disasters, and now the gang problems, he has known how to stay calm and close to the suffering of his flock, said Aquino.

Some of that suffering is reflected in the new cardinal's coat of arms, which features a palm frond as a symbol of the Salvadoran church's persecution and martyrdom, a hand grabbing another hand, a symbol of the church's option for the poor, and a sprig of rosemary because in Spanish "Romero," the last name of the slain archbishop, means rosemary.

His motto is "Christ is our peace," and peace is something the new cardinal stands for at a critical time in El Salvador, said Father Villalta.

"The Salvadoran society very much needs a conciliatory person who helps the different factions to reconcile and to forgive, " he said. "It's not just a slogan, but he really is a person who has peace and can bring forth peace. ... There is a lot of talk about peace in El Salvador, but in reality, we do not have it."

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Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Bishops, Catholic groups worry about consequences of partial travel ban

IMAGE: CNS photo/Yuri Gripas, Reuters

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration said the country's Catholic bishops are "deeply concerned" about the consequences of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to allow a partial ban on foreign nationals as it reviews the constitutionality of a wider ban.

"Today's decision will have human consequences," said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez, of Austin, Texas, following the U.S. Supreme Court's announcement that in October it will hear a case involving President Donald Trump's travel ban, which seeks to delay entry into the country by immigrants, including refugees, from six majority-Muslim countries. It also seeks to suspend, for a time, the entry of all refugees.

The court announced June 26 that until its hears the case in the fall and weighs a decision, it would allow part of the ban to be implemented and some "foreign nationals" will be barred from entering the country, but that determination will be made depending on the applicant's previous relationships with a person or institution in the U.S. The administration says it needs to implement the ban while it reviews the refugee resettlement program and its vetting procedures.

Bishop Vasquez said the bishops are "deeply concerned about the welfare of the many other vulnerable populations who will now not be allowed to arrive and seek protection during the proscribed pause, most notably certain individuals fleeing religious persecution and unaccompanied refugee children."

He urged the Trump administration to include refugee service providers as well as national security and immigration experts in a timely, transparent and efficient review of the existing refugee resettlement program.

"We believe it is vital to utilize the full expertise of the existing resettlement program when conducting such an important evaluation," he said in a statement issued late June 26.

The court said the partial ban it has allowed to go forward allows "foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States" to apply for entry, but "all other foreign nationals are subject to the provisions of (the executive order)."

That means a person with family or a nexus with an organization, such as a university or employer, is not affected by the ban.

The court seemed to be taking into consideration the hardships the ban would create for an "American party," such as a family member, whose relatives are denied entry, or for a university or employer, while also trying to consider the administration's arguments that it's necessary to do so in the interest of national security.

Denying entry to immigrants with no connection to the country "does not burden any American party," the court said. And though the order is seeking to cap the number of refugees allowed into the country at 50,000, the court said that if a person with one of the previously mentioned connections to the U.S. is seeking refuge, "such as a person may not be excluded ' even if the 50,000 has been reached or exceeded."

Groups such as Catholic Relief Services, the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States, expressed disappointment with the ruling.

"This ruling will devastate some of the most vulnerable people in the world, innocent people who are fleeing the exact kind of violence that this executive order seeks to protect against," said Bill O'Keefe, CRS' vice president for government relations and advocacy. "The facts tell us that that these refugees already undergo significant vetting - more than anyone who enters the United States -- and none has gone on to commit acts of violence."

It also reinforces the false idea that refugees are dangerous, O'Keefe said.

"We outright reject the idea that refugees are implicitly dangerous," he said. "At a time of such unprecedented need around the world, we should be doing more to help and resettle those who are in danger and need, not less."

Christopher G. Kerr, executive director of Ignatian Solidarity Network, a national social justice education and advocacy organization based in Ohio, said the high court's decision "does not reflect our country's spirit of compassion and welcome."

"When we create uncertainty for those seeking safety from conflict and persecution, we compromise their dignity as fellow people of God," said Kerr. "We continue to stand with those seeking refuge and safety here in the United States."

The troubled executive order went into litigation almost as soon as it was issued Jan. 27, just a week into the new president's term. It was revised in March, but those revisions, too, have faced legal challenges.

In a statement after the court's announcement, Trump said the high court's decision was a "clear victory" for national security.

"It allows the travel suspension for the six terror-prone countries and the refugee suspension to become largely effective," he said.

In a partial dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas said he worried that "the court's remedy will prove unworkable" and that the "compromise will burden executive officials with the task of deciding -- on peril of contempt -- whether individuals from the six affected nations who wish to enter the United States have a sufficient connection to a person or entity in this country."

It also may "invite a flood of litigation until this case is finally resolved," he said.

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision came a day before it ended its current term. The new court term begins in October.

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Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

No church for old men: Cardinals called to be grandfathers, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN LETTER (CNS) -- The Catholic Church is not a "gerontocracy" ruled by old men, 80-year-old Pope Francis said; "we aren't old men, we are grandfathers."

"We are grandfathers called to dream and to give our dreams to the young people of today. They need it so that from our dreams, they can draw the strength to prophesy and carry out their task," the pope told about 50 members of the College of Cardinals.

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of his ordination as a bishop June 27, Pope Francis concelebrated Mass in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace.

Most of the cardinals present were officials of the Roman Curia or retired curial officials living in Rome. Many of them needed assistance up and down the small steps to the altar at Communion time.

The Mass was celebrated the day before Pope Francis was to create five new cardinals: Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali, 73; Archbishop Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona, Spain, 71; Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Sweden, 67; Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos, 73; and Auxiliary Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez of San Salvador, El Salvador, 74.

With an average age of 71.6 years, the new cardinals would lower by two months the average age of the entire College of Cardinals. However, the new members would increase slightly the average age of the cardinal electors, the group of those under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope.

On the day of the pope's anniversary Mass, the average age of the 116 cardinal electors was 71 years, four months and 15 days; the five new members would raise the average by 11 days.

Before the new members were added, the entire College of Cardinals had 220 members and an average age of 78 years, five months and 23 days. The five new members would lower the average to 78 years, three months and one day.

None of the new cardinals, though, are as old as the patriarch Abraham was when God called him to leave his home and set out for a new land.

The Bible says Abraham was 75 years old when he got the call, the pope noted at his anniversary Mass. "He was more or less our age. He was about to retire."

At 75, "with the weight of old age, that old age that brings aches, illness," Abraham heard God call him "as if he were a scout," the pope said. God tells him, "Go. Look. And hope."

God says the same thing to the pope and the cardinals, he said. "He tells us that now is not the time to shut down our lives or to end our stories."

Instead, the pope told the cardinals, God continues to call each of them to keep moving forward and continues to give each of them a mission.

And every mission, he said, involves the three imperatives God gave Abraham: "Get up. Look. Hope."

God tells Abraham, "Get up. Walk. Don't stay still. You have a task, a mission, and you must carry it out walking. Don't stay seated," the pope said.

Abraham's tent is a key symbol in the story, he said. The only thing Abraham built solidly was an altar "to adore the one who ordered him to get up and to set out." His tent was his mobile shelter.

"Someone who does not like us would say that we are the gerontocracy of the church," the pope told the cardinals. "He doesn't understand what he is saying."

The cardinals are not just old men, but are grandfathers in the church, the pope said. "If we don't feel like we are, we must ask for that grace."

As grandfathers, the cardinals should know that their grandchildren are watching them and looking to them, he continued. They must help young people find meaning in their lives by sharing their experiences.

For that to happen, the pope said, the cardinals cannot be focused on "the melancholy of our story," but must be dreamers who continue to look to the future with hope, knowing that God continues to act in human history.

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.


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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

U.S. Bishops Chairman Calls Senate to “Reject Changes” to Social Safety Net

WASHINGTON—Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, has provided a more detailed critique of the Senate "discussion draft" health care bill, dubbed the "Better Care Reconciliation Act" (BCRA).

"Removing vital coverage for those most in need is not the answer to our nation's health care problems, and doing so will not help us build toward the common good," said Bishop Dewane. "For the sake of persons living on the margins of our health care system, we call on the Senate to reject changes intended to fundamentally alter the social safety net for millions of people."

The BCRA was introduced in discussion draft format on June 22, 2017, and is the Senate's working heath care proposal. Bishop Dewane again highlighted the need for lawmakers to withhold support for provisions that would harm poor and vulnerable people, including changes to Medicaid, in the June 27 letter. He also stressed the need for protections for the unborn in the bill, indicating that "[s]afeguards pertaining to the use of tax credits for plans that include abortion face steep challenges," and that the BCRA "needs to be strengthened to fully apply the longstanding and widely-supported Hyde amendment protections."  Bishop Dewane also noted that coverage for immigrants and conscience protections were lacking in the BCRA.

"The BCRA's restructuring of Medicaid will adversely impact those already in deep health poverty," warned Bishop Dewane. "At a time when tax cuts that would seem to benefit the wealthy and increases in other areas of federal spending, such as defense, are being contemplated, placing a 'per capita cap' on medical coverage for the poor is unconscionable."

The full letter can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/health-care/upload/senate-discussion-letter-health-care-reform-2017-06-27.pdf

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Better Care Reconciliation Act, BCRA, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Affordable Care Act, respect for life, human dignity, health care, affordability, abortion, poverty, immigration, conscience.

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Pope Francis Names Monsignor Schlert as New Bishop of Allentown

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has named Monsignor Alfred A. Schlert as Bishop of Allentown, Pennsylvania. Monsignor Schlert is currently the diocesan administrator of the diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania.

The appointment was publicized in Washington, June 27, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop-elect Schlert was born in Easton, Pennsylvania July 24, 1961. He prepared for the priesthood at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary near Philadelphia and the Pontifical Roman Seminary and St. John Lateran University in Rome. He received a Licentiate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Lateran University in 1992.  He was ordained a priest on September 19, 1987. 

Assignments after ordination included: assistant pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Allentown; professor at his alma mater Notre Dame High School; and Catholic chaplain at Lehigh University. He was named Vice Chancellor and Secretary to the bishop in 1997; and was named vicar general of the diocese of Allentown in 1998. 

Pope St. John Paul II named him Chaplain to His Holiness with the title of Monsignor in 1999. Pope Benedict named him a Prelate of Honor, the second highest rank of Monsignor, in 2005.

While still serving as Vicar General, he was still pastor of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Church in Hellertown, 2008-2010, when he resumed full time service as vicar general. 

In addition, Bishop-elect Schlert is Vice President of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and a member of its Administrative Board.  He also served on the diocesan Council of Priests, the diocesan Financial Council, and the diocesan College of Consultors. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees for DeSales University.  

The Diocese of Allentown has been a vacant see since December, 2016 when it was announced Pope Francis had transferred Allentown Bishop John O. Barres to serve as Bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Center in Long Island, New York.

The Diocese comprises 2,773 square miles and it has total population of approximately 1,161,932 people of which 272,300, or 23 percent, are Catholic.

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Keywords: bishop appointment, Pope Francis, Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Monsignor Alfred A. Schlert , Diocese of Allentown, Bishop John O. Barres, vacant see.

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Court says church school can't be barred from state funds for playground

IMAGE: CNS photo/Yuri Gripas, Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court June 26 said a Lutheran preschool should not be excluded from a state grant program to refurbish its playground surface just because it is a religious entity.

"The exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the court's opinion.

The court's decision reverses a ruling by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that had sided with the state's 2015 decision to exclude the school from obtaining grant funds.

Roberts said the appeals court decision made it clear that the Trinity Lutheran preschool was "put to the choice between being a church and receiving a government benefit," and the answer they were given was: "No churches need apply."

At issue in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer was the school's denial of grant reimbursement to nonprofit groups for the cost of purchasing and installing playground surfaces using recycled tires through a state program.

Missouri's Department of Natural Resources, which administers the playground resurfacing program, ranked Trinity Lutheran's grant application fifth out of the 44 it received. The department, which funds 14 grants, said it denied the school's application because the state constitution prohibits state funds from going "directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion."

For Trinity Lutheran, the bigger issue was the school's constitutional right to the free exercise of religion, which was a key point in oral arguments presented to the court in April.

The court's opinion noted that the school was not claiming "any entitlement to a subsidy" but was asserting its "right to participate in a government benefit program without having to disavow its religious character."

It also said the case indicated discrimination against religious exercise not just in "the denial of a grant, but rather the refusal to allow the church -- solely because it is a church -- to compete with secular organizations for a grant."

The court stressed that this case was unlike Locke v. Davey, a 2004 court ruling which said federally funded scholarships were not required to go to college students who were receiving divinity degrees. In the preschool case, the playground grant was not related to religion.

Roberts, writing the court's 19-page opinion, said the student in question in the Davey case was not denied a scholarship because of who he was but "because of what he proposed to do -- using taxpayer funds in a clergy training program." In the playground resurfacing case, Roberts wrote: "There is no question that Trinity Lutheran was denied a grant simply because of what it is -- a church."

Roberts' opinion states from the outset that he did not concur with footnote No. 3. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch made similar distinctions. Justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan concurred in full with the opinion. Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a 27-page dissenting opinion joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The footnote in question says: "This case involves express discrimination based on religious identity with respect to playground resurfacing. We do not address religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination," which may limit the scope of the ruling.

Sotomayor said the court described the Lutheran school decision as "a simple case about recycling tires to resurface a playground," but she warned that the "stakes are higher."

She said the court's ruling "profoundly changes" the relationship between church and state "by holding, for the first time, that the Constitution requires the government to provide public funds directly to a church."

"Today's decision is a landmark victory for religious freedom," said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee for Religious Liberty. "The Supreme Court rightly recognized that people of faith should not be discriminated against when it comes to government programs that should be made available to all."

He also said the high court's ruling "marks a step in the right direction toward limiting the effects of the pernicious Blaine amendments that are in place in many states around the country."

The amendments to state constitutions, dating back to the 19th century for the most part, "stem from a time of intense anti-Catholic bigotry in many parts of the country," he said in a statement. These "harmful provisions," he added, have "restricted the freedom of faith-based organizations and people of faith to serve their communities."

Hannah Smith, senior counsel at Becket, a nonprofit religious liberty law firm, called the court's decision "good for kids and good for religious liberty."

Becket filed a filed a friend-of-the-court brief on the school's behalf as did the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Missouri Catholic Conference, the National Catholic Educational Association, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America and the Salvation Army.

"This decision is significant because seven of the justices agreed that churches can't be treated as second-class citizens when it comes to widely available public safety benefits," said Smith.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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