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Pope says he is 'scandalized' by anti-migrant rhetoric

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis told Jesuits in Thailand he was "scandalized" by some of the anti-migrant rhetoric he hears in Europe, and he is convinced people are being manipulated into thinking the only way they can preserve their lifestyles is by building walls.

"The phenomenon of migration is compounded by war, hunger and a 'defensive mindset,' which makes us think only from a state of fear and that by reinforcing borders we can defend ourselves," Pope Francis said Nov. 22 when he met 33 Jesuits in Thailand.

The Jesuit magazine, La Civilta Cattolica, published a transcript Dec. 5 of the pope's responses to questions the Jesuits asked the pope during the meeting in Tha Kham, Thailand.

Often on trips abroad, Pope Francis spends time with local Jesuit communities and holds a question-and-answer session with them. Weeks later, a transcript of the exchange is published by La Civilta Cattolica.

A Jesuit who works for Jesuit Refugee Service in Thailand raised the question of ministry among migrants and refugees.

"The phenomenon of refugees has always existed, but today it is better known because of social differences, hunger, political tensions and especially war," the pope responded. " For these reasons, migratory movements are intensifying."

Much of the world responds with a "throwaway policy," he said; "refugees are waste material. The Mediterranean has been turned into a cemetery. The notorious cruelty of some detention centers in Libya touches my heart. Here in Asia we all know the problem of the Rohingya."

"I must admit that I am scandalized by some of the narratives I hear in Europe about borders," the pope told his Jesuit confreres. "In other parts (of the world) there are walls even separating children from their parents."

Strangely enough, the pope said, those same governments do not seem to be able to build a wall to keep illegal drugs out.

Pope Francis noted that the Bible and millennia of Christian teaching have encouraged welcoming the stranger. "But there are also many little customs and traditions of hospitality, such as leaving an empty chair on a festive day in case an unexpected guest arrives."

"If the church is a field hospital," he told the Jesuits, "this is one of the camps where most of the injured are found."

But, recalling the visit to Thailand in 1981 of Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe, then superior general of the order, Pope Francis said the work with refugees and any other social apostolate must be supported by prayer.

"We must remember it well: prayer," the pope said. "That is to say, in that physical periphery do not forget this other one, the spiritual one. Only in prayer will we find the strength and inspiration to engage fruitfully with the messy consequences of social injustice."

Another Jesuit asked the pope about balancing the need to denounce unjust social systems and "the prudence that suggests you sometimes keep quiet for the greater good or not to complicate situations further."

Pope Francis said there was no easy answer to that question. The right way can be found only through prayer and the discernment of the concrete situation. "There are no rules that are definitive and always valid."

And, he added, sometimes a broad boulevard of opportunity will not open up and, even if it did, it may not be the right path to take. "Sometimes, more than highways, small paths work better; these are the routes through the peripheries that nonetheless get you to your destination. They're not rigid, big or obvious, but they're effective."

"Sometimes, however, when we want everything to be well-organized, precise, rigid and always defined in the same way, then we become pagans, even if disguised as priests," the pope said. "I think Jesus spoke a lot about pharisaic hypocrisy in this regard."

Another Jesuit asked Pope Francis how they should minister to Catholics who have been divorced and civilly remarried. "I could answer you in two ways: in a casuistic way, which however is not Christian, even if it can be ecclesiastical; or according to the magisterium of the church as in the eighth chapter of 'Amoris Laetitia,'" his 2016 apostolic exhortation on the family.

The document, he said, urges pastors to "journey, accompany and discern to find solutions. And this has nothing to do with situation ethics, but with the great moral tradition of the church."

Asked about the reception of his 2015 encyclical, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," Pope Francis said the Paris Climate Accord was a big step forward in addressing climate change.

"But then the conflicts began, the compromises between what was hoped for and the 'wallet,' the economic interests of certain countries," he said. "And so, some countries withdrew."

Still, he said, people today, especially young people, "have become much more aware than before of the need for the care of our common home and its importance."

Young people understand the encyclical "with their hearts," he said. Their commitment is "is a promise for the future."


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Rise in populism due to lack of listening, dialogue, pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Ignoring the reality lived by men and women today has caused a resurgence of old ideologies, such as populism, that inevitably do more harm than good, Pope Francis said.

Speaking off-the-cuff with staff and members of the Italian Jesuit magazine, "Aggiornamenti Sociali" ("Social Updates") Dec. 6, the pope said that prejudices, certain "schools of thought and positions taken do so much harm" in the world.

"Today for example in Europe, we are experiencing the prejudice of populism, countries who close in on themselves and turn to ideologies," he said. "But not just new ideologies -- there are a few -- but to the old ones, the old ideologies that created the Second World War."

Founded in 1950, "Aggiornamenti Sociali" offers "information but above all formation," as well as "criteria and instruments to confront today's most debated issues and participate in social life in a conscious way," according to the Jesuit magazine's website.

The pope told the staff and writers he had prepared to read an eight-page speech, but he feared that "after the third page, there will be few left who will listen."

In his off-the-cuff remarks, the pope highlighted the importance of listening, saying it is the "fundamental attitude of every person who wants to do something for others."

"Listen to situations, listen to problems, openly, without prejudices," he said. "Because there is a way of listening that is 'Yes, yes, I understand, yes, yes,' and it reduces them, a reductionism to my categories. And this cannot be."

The resurgence of ideologies like populism, he explained, is a product of not listening because "it is a projection of what I want to be done, what I want to be thought, what I think should be."

"It is a complex that makes us substitute God the creator: we take the situations in our own hands and work," he continued. "Reality is what I want it to be; we place filters. But reality is another thing, reality is sovereign. Whether we like it or not, it is sovereign. And I must dialogue with reality."

Dialogue, he added, is an important step in confronting today's societal ills. Christians are not called "to impose paths of development or solutions to problems," but instead, to initiate "a dialogue with that reality starting from the values of the Gospel, from the things Jesus has taught us, without dogmatically imposing but with dialogue and discernment."

"If you start from preconceptions or preestablished positions, from dogmatic pre-decisions, you will never, never be able to give a message. The message must come from the Lord through us. We are Christians and the Lord speaks to us through reality, through prayer and discernment," he said.

In his prepared remarks, which were given to those present, the pope encouraged the magazine's writers to continue "to give space to the perspective of those who are 'discarded'" by today's society.

"Continue to be with them, listen to them, accompany them so that their voices may be the ones who speak," the pope said. "Even those who research and reflect on social questions are called to have the heart of a shepherd with the smell of the sheep."

He also reminded the Jesuit magazine's editorial staff of its responsibility to allow for dialogue and different points of view while avoiding "the temptation of abstraction, of limiting yourselves to the level of ideas while forgetting the concreteness of doing and walking together."

"Serious intellectual research is also a journey made together, especially when dealing with cutting-edge issues," he said. The staff must allow "for different perspectives and disciplines to interact" and should "promote relationships of respect and friendship between those involved so that they may discover how encountering one another enriches everyone."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Religious freedom is a basic human right, says lawyer for Little Sisters

IMAGE: CNS photo/Becket - Religious Liberty for All

By Linda Petersen

SALT LAKE CITY (CNS) -- As an attorney with Becket, a religious liberty law firm, Luke Goodrich is proud to be able to make a difference while earning a livelihood. He sees his work as a calling from God.

It entails representing religious groups or individuals who fall afoul of the federal government simply by trying to follow the dictates of their conscience.

Perhaps the most well-known of his clients are the Little Sisters of the Poor, who operate a number of homes for the elderly poor across the nation. The sisters continue to fight the Obama-era contraceptive mandate in the courts.

"I'm very grateful and very thankful that my life's work lines up with what I see as a fundamental issue of justice in Scripture," he said. "It's a great joy because I do think religious freedom is a basic human right and a basic issue of biblical justice."

Goodrich is a member of Misseo Dei Community, a nondenominational Protestant church in Salt Lake City. Originally from Florida, Goodrich has for the past seven years lived in Utah with his wife, Sarah, who grew up in Utah, and their seven children.

Prior to that, he attended the University of Chicago law school and afterward clerked for Judge Michael McConnell, one of the nation's leading scholars on religious freedom cases. He then worked for the U.S. State Department in the human trafficking division, followed by time at a private law firm in Washington.

When a position opened up at Becket in 2008, "I jumped at the opportunity," Goodrich told the Intermountain Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.

Becket was founded in 1994, by Kevin "Seamus" Hasson, a Catholic. It is "the nation's only law firm dedicated exclusively to protecting religious liberty and to doing so for people of all faiths," said Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel. Becket's main headquarters are in Washington.

With regard to the legal battle being waged by the Little Sisters of the Poor, Goodrich called their case critically important for the defense of religious liberty.

"If the government can reach inside us and force us to violate our conscience, there's very little that the government can't do," he said. "Every human being is born with a religious impulse, a desire for transcendent truth and by its very nature we can't act on that impulse under coercion.

"If the government coerces us in matters of transcendent truth, it's going against our fundamental nature as human beings and therefore violating our human rights," he added.

President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010. The Department of Health and Human Services in 2013 added FDA-approved contraceptives to a list of preventive services, mandating all employer health care plans cover all forms of these methods. It included a very narrowly drawn exemption for churches.

This exemption did not cover religious employers such as the Little Sisters, Catholic dioceses and many other faith-based organizations, all of whom opposed the mandate on moral grounds, because some of the approved contraceptives are considered abortion-inducing.

More than 100 lawsuits have been filed over the Obama-era regulation by religious organizations.

"It's one of the only times in our nation's history where the federal government has attempted, on such a large scale, to force so many religious organizations to violate their conscience, particularly around the issue of abortion," Goodrich said.

When the Little Sisters sued, claiming a religious exemption, their case made it to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected their argument. Becket intervened in the case on their behalf.

In 2016, the Supreme Court granted the Little Sisters of the Poor a religious exemption from the mandate.

Then, one year later, they were given further protection by an executive order issued by President Donald Trump requiring HHS to write a comprehensive exemption from the contraceptive mandate for the Little Sisters and other religious ministries.

HHS provided this exemption in 2018, but several states challenged it, including California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, saying HHS didn't have the power to give this exemption.

In May, HHS introduced the "conscience rule" that protects individuals and health care entities from discrimination on the basis of their exercise of conscience in HHS-funded programs. Several state attorneys general subsequently filed suit against HHS and the administration, arguing that the new rule is unlawful.

The attorneys general cases "exploit essentially a loophole because the Supreme Court's decision did not issue a definitive ruling that the Obama-era regulation was unlawful," Goodrich said. "Instead, it urged the parties to figure out a solution that would respect the religious freedom of the sisters and also accomplish the government's goal of distributing contraception."

So far, the 3rd and 9th circuit courts, based in Philadelphia and San Francisco, respectively, have found against the Little Sisters and other religious organizations. Becket has appealed to the Supreme Court to rehear the Little Sisters case and give a definitive ruling.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide by June 2020 whether it will hear the case, which Goodrich said is likely.

He believes that ultimately the Little Sisters will prevail. Still, there are a number of significant religious freedom challenges on the horizon in the United States that Christians are ill-prepared to deal with, he said.

"Long-standing Christian beliefs about life, marriage and absolute truth, which used to be uncontroversial, are now viewed in many quarters as a threat to the prevailing culture," he said.

Goodrich has published his first book, "Free to Believe," examining the principle of religious freedom, threats to it and how to protect it. He offers three arguments why everyone should care about religious freedom: It benefits society, is the foundation of all of our other rights and is a fundamental human right.

Nevertheless, Goodrich believes all Christians should have hope. "As Christians, our hope doesn't rest primarily in the results of an election or the composition of the Supreme Court. If we are Christians, our hope rests in the person of Jesus Christ," he said.

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Petersen is a reporter for the Intermountain Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.

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Update: Beatification for Archbishop Sheen postponed



PEORIA, Ill. (CNS) -- Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria said Dec. 3 Vatican officials have told him that the upcoming beatification of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen has been postponed.

A news release from the Diocese of Peoria said it was informed Dec. 2 that Vatican had decided to postpone the Dec. 21 ceremony "at the request of a few members" of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The diocese added, "In our current climate it is important for the faithful to know that there has never been, nor is there now, any allegation against (Archbishop) Sheen involving the abuse of a minor."

However, a Dec. 5 statement from the Diocese of Rochester, New York, said it had "expressed concern about advancing the cause for the beatification of Archbishop Sheen at this time without a further review of his role in priests' assignments."

The statement said the Rochester Diocese, prior to Vatican announcement Nov. 18 that Pope Francis approved the beatification, had provided documentation expressing its concern to the Diocese of Peoria and the Congregation for Saints' Causes via the apostolic nunciature in Washington.

Archbishop Sheen was bishop of Rochester from October 1966 until his retirement in October 1969. He received the title of archbishop at retirement.

The statement from the Rochester Diocese said, "Other prelates shared these concerns and expressed them," adding that "there are no complaints against Archbishop Sheen engaging in any personal inappropriate conduct nor were any insinuations made in this regard."

"The Diocese of Rochester did its due diligence in this matter and believed that, while not casting suspicion, it was prudent that Archbishop Sheen's cause receive further study and deliberation, while also acknowledging the competency of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to render its decision. The Holy See ultimately decided to postpone the beatification," the statement continued.

The Rochester Diocese added it would have no other comment.

Calling the delay "unfortunate," the Peoria Diocese's Dec. 3 release outlined some of the activities for which Archbishop Sheen was especially known, including "his personal dedication" a Holy Hour of daily prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and "courage in confronting the challenges in our society."

"Drawing strength from his personal prayer life and deep devotion to Our Lord, Fulton Sheen consistently demonstrated tremendous courage in confronting the challenges in our society," the statement said. "He was well known for his boldness in preaching the Gospel on radio and on television in the face of our secular culture. This same spirit of courage and boldness guided him as a bishop to preach the truth, to defend the faith and to safeguard the church."

The Peoria Diocese also said "there continue to be many miracles reported" through the archbishop's intercession. The diocese said there have been "several" miracles reported since the pope's announcement of the beatification ceremony.

"The Diocese of Peoria remains confident that Archbishop Sheen's virtuous conduct will only be further demonstrated," the statement said. "Bishop Jenky has every confidence that any additional examinations will only further prove Fulton Sheen's worthiness of beatification and canonization.

"The Diocese of Peoria has no doubt that Fulton Sheen, who brought so many souls to Jesus Christ in his lifetime, will be recognized as a model of holiness and virtue," the statement added.

The diocese said Bishop Jenky was "deeply saddened" by the Vatican's decision.

"In particular, Bishop Jenky is even more concerned for the many faithful who are devoted to Sheen and who will be affected by this news," the diocese said. "He is firmly convinced of the great holiness of the venerable servant of God and remains confident that Sheen will be beatified. Bishop Jenky has every intention of continuing the cause, but no further date for beatification has been discussed."

The Diocese of Peoria said it will offer no further comment "at this time."

Fulton J. Sheen, a native of El Paso, Illinois, was ordained Sept. 20, 1919, at St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria. He went on to teach at The Catholic University of America in Washington and lead the Society of the Propagation of the Faith. Perhaps he is best remembered for his popular television show, "Life Is Worth Living."

He died in 1979 at age 84. His sainthood cause was officially opened in 2003. The church declared his heroic virtues and he was given the title "Venerable" in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI.

In July, Bishop Jenky announced Pope Francis had approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Archbishop Sheen, which led the way to the announcement he would be beatified.

The miracle concerns the healing of James Fulton Engstrom of Washington, Illinois, who was considered stillborn when he was delivered during a planned home birth Sept. 16, 2010. His parents, Bonnie and Travis Engstrom, immediately invoked the prayers of Archbishop Sheen and encouraged others to seek his intercession after the baby was taken to OSF HealthCare St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria for emergency treatment.

In general, two miracles must be accepted by the church as having occurred through the intercession of a prospective saint, one before beatification and the other before canonization.

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Vatican unveils Nativity scene, lights Christmas tree

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican unveiled the Nativity scene and lit the Christmas tree with energy-saving lights in St. Peter's Square during a late afternoon ceremony Dec. 5.

The 85-foot-tall spruce tree came from the forests of the Veneto region in northeast Italy and another 20 smaller trees were donated by communities in the region's province of Vicenza.

It was adorned with silver and gold balls and "next generation" lights meant to have a reduced impact on the environment and use less energy.

The large Nativity scene in St. Peter's Square was made entirely out of wood and replicates traditional northern Trentino-style buildings.

Some 23 life-size wooden figures -- all with handcarved heads -- fill the scene, representing life in a small rural village in the northern Province of Trento in the early 1900s. There is a lumberjack pulling wood with a sled and people making cheese and washing clothes. Some of the faces reproduce the faces of real Italian shepherds from the region, including a man who recently died in an accident. Some of the clothes are real outfits handed down through the generations or once worn by local shepherds.

The scene also features broken tree trunks and limbs salvaged from severe storms in the region in late 2018. About 40 trees will be replanted in the area that had been seriously damaged by hurricane-like winds and torrential rains.

A smaller Nativity scene, provided by the northern province of Treviso, was set up in the Vatican's Paul VI audience hall; with its Gothic arches, it imitates an old style of barns and stables in the Lessinia mountains of the Veneto region.

Early in the day, Pope Francis met with delegations from the northern Italian regions responsible for the tree and Nativity scene.

Thanking the delegations for their gifts, the pope said he was happy to hear that new trees will be planted in the region to help reforest areas hit by last year's storms.

"These alarming events are warning signs that creation sends us and that ask us to immediately make effective decisions to safeguard our common home," he said.

The Christmas tree they donated represents "a sign of hope, especially for your forests, that they may be cleared (of debris) as soon as possible in order to begin the work of reforestation," he said.

The pope reminded his audience of his recent letter on the meaning and importance of setting up Christmas cribs.

"It is a genuine way to transmit the Gospel in a world that sometimes seems to be afraid to remember what Christmas really is and erases Christian signs in order to keep only those of a trivial, commercial" nature, he said.

Pope Francis also asked people to pray for help in seeing Jesus in the face of those who suffer and in lending a hand to those in need.


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Update: Bishop Malone resigns; Albany bishop named apostolic administrator

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Diocese of Buffalo


BUFFALO, N.Y. (CNS) -- Buffalo Bishop Richard J. Malone told Catholics Dec. 4 he asked Pope Francis to allow him to retire early so the people of the diocese "will be better served" by a new bishop who is "perhaps better able" to bring about "reconciliation, healing and renewal" in addressing the abuse crisis.

In a three-page letter, he said that "despite the measurable progress we have achieved together," he made his decision "after much prayer and discernment." The "spiritual welfare" of the faithful will be better served by a new bishop.

Bishop Malone released his letter as Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, announced Pope Francis had accepted Bishop Malone's resignation and named Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany, New York, as Buffalo's apostolic administrator.

At 73, Bishop Malone is two years shy of the age at which bishops are required by canon law to turn in their resignation to the pope.

For more than a year, he has faced questions about how he has addressed the clergy sex abuse crisis, particularly a situation involving two priests' relationship with a seminarian that he has called "a very complex, convoluted matter."

Bishop Malone has headed the Diocese of Buffalo since 2012. Pope Benedict XVI named him the 14th bishop of Buffalo May 29, 2012, and he was installed in August of that year. Bishop Scharfenberger, 71, has headed the Albany Diocese since 2014. In his five and a half years in Albany, he has been a national leader in responding to the clergy abuse crisis.

"My family just expanded and we have 600,000 wonderful Catholics (in the Diocese of Buffalo.) It's a very wonderful Catholic diocese," Bishop Scharfenberger said in an interview with The Evangelist, Albany's diocesan newspaper. "I want to do a lot of listening and I want everybody to feel that they do have my ear. I don't want anyone to feel excluded."

"I am very well aware that there has been a lot of hurt and polarization and trust breaches," he added. "We only have one healer and that is Jesus, and we are going to turn everything into his hands and trust that he will guide the way."

Bishop Scharfenberger said he plans to visit the Diocese of Buffalo in western New York weekly. As for how long he could be in the dual role, he said: "I have no idea ... these things can take over a year. I know it will be a high priority to find the right successor."

In his letter, Bishop Malone referred to the apostolic visitation the Vatican had assigned Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York, to conduct in October. When the visitation was announced, Bishop Malone welcomed it.

On Oct. 31, the Brooklyn Diocese announced completion of the visitation and said Bishop DiMarzio had submitted his report to the Congregation for Bishops. It has not been made public.

"Inevitably some will surmise that my decision" is the result of this visitation, Bishop Malone wrote. "While I was made aware of the general conclusions of the report, which were a factor in my discernment, my decision to retire early was made freely and voluntarily" and reached "after honest reflection" and with " a deep and abiding commitment" to the best interests of the church in western New York.

Bishop Malone did not share details of what the report contained in his letter.

"This has been a difficult period in the life of the church in Buffalo. Throughout this process, the lay faithful, religious and clergy were in my prayers," Bishop DiMarzio said in a Dec. 4 statement.

At the Vatican's direction, he said, the visitation was thorough, "conducted with urgency" and carried out with "the good of the people of the Diocese of Buffalo" being the foremost consideration. More than 80 people were interviewed over a period of several weeks "to gather information for this administrative review," he said.

"What I found are many deeply devoted Catholics who love their church. I pray this moment of suffering and pain will lead to a birth of new faith," he added, saying he is confident Buffalo Catholics "are in good hands" with Bishop Scharfenberger overseeing the diocese.

"I hope that now Catholics in Buffalo can begin the process of moving forward, healing and helping the diocese in all of its ministries," Bishop DiMarzio said. "We extend a promise of prayer for Bishop Richard Malone, as he moves into the retirement phase of his episcopal ministry, and for the faithful of Buffalo."

Bishop Malone said in his letter that some have attributed the Buffalo Diocese's turmoil "to my own shortcomings." "But the turmoil also reflects the culmination of systemic failings over many years in the worldwide handling of sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy."

"The crisis our church is facing relates not only to the immoral and criminal acts of those who committed unconscionable offenses toward the most vulnerable," he said, "but also to the failure to regard these violations as grave offenses that warranted the full weight of civil and ecclesiastical justice."

Much has been accomplished in addressing the abuse crisis by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops since passage of the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" in 2002, but "injury caused by past abuse continues to bring immense suffering around the world and here in our diocese," Bishop Malone said.

"I have met with many survivors of child sexual abuse and felt deeply their anguish, which words and gestures alone are inadequate to soothe," he said, and he has acknowledged on "many occasions the mistakes I have made in not addressing more swiftly personnel issues that, in my view, required time to sort out complex details pertaining to behavior between adults."

The Diocese of Buffalo, too, has "made much progress" in many areas including accountability and ensuring safe environments, but in listening sessions he has held across the diocese, he said, "I have heard your dismay and rightful concerns."

"I have been personally affected by the hurt and disappointment you have expressed, all of which have informed our actions. I have sought your understanding, your advice, your patience and your forgiveness," he said.

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Editor's Note: The full text of Bishop Malone's letter can be found online at

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Contributing to this story was Mike Matvey, staff writer at The Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany.

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Pope demands action for failing fight against climate change

IMAGE: CNS photo/Susana Vera, Reuters

By Paige Hanley

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Despite growing recognition of climate change as a legitimate and looming threat, current commitments to mitigate its effects and alter human behavior fall short of those needed to resolve the crisis in time, Pope Francis said.

"We must admit that this awareness is still rather weak, unable to respond adequately to that strong sense of urgency for rapid action called for by the scientific data at our disposal," the pope said in a message to the U.N. Climate Change Conference, COP25.

The conference was being held in Madrid Dec. 2-13, and the Vatican released a copy of the pope's message Dec. 4.

The conference aimed to take crucial steps in the U.N. climate change process and to identify effective strategies for implementing the Paris Agreement, a framework of action against climate change adopted by the U.N. Dec. 12, 2015.

However, studies by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change "demonstrate how far words are from concrete actions," the pope said.

According to the intergovernmental panel, global temperatures and emissions continue to rise and humanity is not on course to fulfill the goals of the Paris Agreement by 2020.

"We must seriously ask ourselves if there is the political will to allocate with honesty, responsibility and courage, more human, financial and technological resources to mitigate the negative effects of climate change," Pope Francis said.

The pope also affirmed that numerous studies show how curbing global warming is still possible.

This closing window of opportunity "calls us to reflect conscientiously on the significance of our consumption and production models and on the processes of education and awareness to make them consistent with human dignity," he said.

"We are facing a 'challenge of civilization' in favor of the common good and of a change of perspective that places this same dignity at the center of our action," the pope said.

He called on the current generation of international leaders and regular citizens to act, rather than allow the burden to fall on the next generations.

"We should give them the opportunity to remember our generation as the one that renewed and acted on -- with honest, responsible and courageous awareness -- the fundamental need to collaborate in order to preserve and cultivate our common home," Pope Francis said.

"May we offer the next generation concrete reasons to hope and work for a good and dignified future," he said.


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Trust in Christ, not in psychics, sorcerers, pope says at audience

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis scolded people who consider themselves practicing Christians, but who turn to fortunetelling, psychic readings and tarot cards.

True faith means abandoning oneself to God "who makes himself known not through occult practices but through revelation and with gratuitous love," the pope said Dec. 4 during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.

Departing from his prepared remarks, the pope called out Christians who seek reassurance from practitioners of magic.

"How is it possible, if you believe in Jesus Christ, you go to a sorcerer, a fortuneteller, these types of people?" he asked. "Magic is not Christian! These things that are done to predict the future or predict many things or change situations in life are not Christian. The grace of Christ can bring you everything! Pray and trust in the Lord."

At the audience, the pope resumed his series of talks on the Acts of the Apostles, reflecting on St. Paul's ministry in Ephesus, a "famous center for the practice of magic." In the city, St. Paul baptized many people, and drew the ire of the silversmiths who made a business of crafting idols.

While the uprising of the silversmiths eventually was resolved, the pope recounted, St. Paul made his way to Miletus to deliver a farewell speech to elders of Ephesus.

The pope called the apostle's speech "one of the most beautiful pages of the Acts of the Apostles," and he asked the faithful to read chapter 20.

The chapter includes an exhortation of St. Paul to the elders to "keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock."

Pope Francis said that priests, bishops and the pope himself must be vigilant and "close to the people to guard them and defend them," rather than being "disconnected from the people."

"Let us ask the Lord to renew in us his love for the church and for the deposit of the faith which she preserves, and to make us all co-responsible in the care of the flock, supporting in prayer the shepherds so that they may manifest the firmness and tenderness of the Divine Shepherd," the pope said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Pope Francis Accepts Resignation of Bishop Richard Malone of the Diocese of Buffalo and Appoints the Bishop of Albany as Apostolic Administrator

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Richard J. Malone from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Buffalo and has appointed Most Reverend Edward B. Scharfenberger, Bishop of Albany as the Apostolic Administrator of Buffalo to serve until the installation of a new bishop.

The resignation and appointment were publicized in Washington, D.C. on December 4, 2019, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

The Diocese of Buffalo is comprised of 6,357 square miles in the state of New York and has a total population of 1,529,576 of which 571,000 are Catholic.

Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Pope Francis, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Bishop Richard Malone, Diocese of Buffalo, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, Diocese of Albany.

Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte


Sister recalls vaudeville days and her family as 'Nine Dancing Donahues'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Michael Brown

By Michael Brown

TUCSON, Ariz. (CNS) -- Sister Barbara Donahue, 90, was only 10 minutes into an interview about the vaudeville group made up of her and her siblings when she broke out in "The Donahue Song."

The ditty was written by her mom for the group, which became its signature piece, emphasizing the importance of family.

"We were just ordinary people trying to do extraordinary things," said Sister Barbara Donahue, who is a member of the Sisters for Christian Community.

She was talking to Catholic Outlook, Tucson's diocesan newspaper, as she looked back looking back on memorabilia from her childhood when she and her siblings were the "Nine Dancing Donahues."

Sister Barbara, who had her 90th birthday in September, lives at El Rancho Encanto assisted living center in Tucson. She was diagnosed recently with lung cancer. She's the last survivor of the troupe.

Born Sept. 14, 1929, she was the youngest of five boys and four girls growing up in Detroit. Her dad, Emmett, was a bricklayer by trade, but supported his family with his job at the Plymouth auto factory. Her mom, Ella, was the musical genius. She graduated from St. Aloysius School and played the organ in church.

"St. Aloysius was the root of all that happened," Sister Barbara said.

"Her early occupation was to play at the silent movies," she said about her mother. When the oldest child, Emmett Jr., turned 7, she put him to work as "an Irish tenor."

"When she would play, he would sing," Sister Barbara said.

Later, someone approached her and suggested that they form a family vaudeville group, and the "Nine Dancing Donahues" were born. After Emmett Jr. came Jack, Dennis, Thomas, Richard, Betty, Kay, Nancy and Barbara.

"Our sponsor was the Kennedy Milk Company," she said with a grin.

Her dad was the stage manager, Sister Barbara recalled. His greatest challenge was trying to keep the girls' shoes properly organized offstage as they switched between their tap and stage shoes.

The group was prominent in the Detroit area, especially among the Irish parishes. It broke up in 1945 when the U.S. entered World War II. Three brothers entered the military and Barbara entered the convent. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Kalamazoo, Michigan, at age 16, taking the name Sister Mary Leah. She joined her current community after the Second Vatican Council.

In 1949, the University of Michigan sponsored a vaudeville show that included the siblings' group. Even though she was preparing for her vows, Sister Barbara said, she was allowed to return to join the reunion.

During their touring days, each child had a song. Hers was "Alice Blue Gown," from the play "Irene" as sung by 1930s' Hollywood star Alice Faye. She even has a photo of her singing in a blue gown at age 15.

Nancy and Kay sang "East Side, West Side," Sister Barbara recalled. That was usually preceded by her brother Denny singing "Ain't She Sweet?"

Whenever a local parish sponsored a fundraiser, the "Nine Dancing Donahues" was there in a pinch, she said.

The signature song, "The Donahue Song," became a family mainstay, so much so that those who marry into the family are not really members until they attend a special ceremony with the family at the Irish American Club in Detroit. Family members encircle the newcomer and sing "The Donahue Song."

"Then you are in the family," Sister Barbara said.

When Ella died Sept. 8, 1953, her obituary ran the following week in Billboard magazine, the entertainment industry periodical of record.

Sister Barbara marveled at the amount of detail she still remembers from her early days. "All this is extraordinary. I paid a lot of attention apparently."

The theater skills came in handy in ministry, especially during her time serving at the San Solano missions in the Tucson Diocese. "I was always regarded as a good teacher," she said.

She repeated a mantra she learned from her mother: "If you see a need, step up to it."

Sister Barbara said when she was growing up, people always knew the location of the Donahue house. A fire hydrant stood in front, so the city also placed a streetlight nearby to help first responders during nighttime emergencies.

"We were always out there playing baseball," she said.

More than seven decades after the troupe broke up, one memory was as strong as the day it started, said Sister Barbara, the last surviving member. "The wonderful part of this was family."

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Brown is managing editor of Catholic Outlook, newspaper of the Diocese of Tucson.

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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 [email protected]