Archive of July 30, 2013

Cardinal Turkson links care for environment, human life

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jul 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Respect for the environment is a matter of justice, connected to respect for human life and founded upon our relationship with God and his creation, said Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana.

“The concern for the earth must go in tandem – side-by-side – with concern for human life itself,” he said.

The cardinal, who heads the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, spoke last week to a group of pilgrims at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

He delivered the keynote address at a conference hosted by Creatio, a group that seeks to address environmental problems by promoting reconciliation between humans and creation.

“I think it's very providential that we're gathered here in Rio,” he said, noting that the city has hosted prominent United Nations environmental meetings, dealing with sustainability and solidarity with past and future generations.

Cardinal Turkson discussed environmental issues in the context of Catholic social teaching. While it is sometimes said that the Church's social teaching began with Pope Leo XIII, the cardinal rejected this claim, explaining instead that Pope Leo formalized principles that had always been in place.

“Biblical faith always has a social component,” he said, pointing to Old Testament passages directing the people of God to show concern for the social order.

The Popes of the last century have been clear and consistent in reaffirming this teaching for a modern audience, he stated.

Examining Papal writings from Pope Leo XIII to Pope Francis, he traced a common thread of teaching that disrespect for the environment ultimately means disrespect for human life itself.

Through various encyclicals and papal messages, the recent Popes have shown a relationship between man and the rest of creation, stressing that the Catholic faith has implications for the world and the environment.

This tradition of linking humanity with creation continues with Pope Francis, the cardinal said, pointing to the Holy Father’s inaugural Mass, in which he repeatedly called for people to be “protectors of one another and of the environment.”

In this way, the Church invites us to recognize the connection between natural ecology and human ecology, Cardinal Turkson said.

“Both of them are interrelated,” he explained. “We cannot show concern for the earth and not show concern for human life. Neither can we show concern for human life and not show concern for the environment or the earth. The two go hand-in-hand.”

The cardinal invited his audience to reconsider the way they see the created world. He stressed the importance of understanding our world as a cosmos, or ordered system, that derives its order from the Word of God, which puts everything in its place.

“When this order prevails, there is beauty,” he noted, but when this order is ignored, chaos ensues.

Justice demands that we work to preserve the order that God put in place, Cardinal Turkson said. He explained that this concept is deeply connected to the relationships that we maintain.

“All of our social lives are bound up in a network of relationships,” he observed, pointing to the examples of marriage, parenthood and friendship.

The same sense of justice that guides our relationship with God and our relationship with other people must guide our relationship with the created world, he stated.

“Justice is respecting the demands of the relationships in which we stand,” the cardinal emphasized, and this includes our relationship with the environment.

We live our lives in relationships, and it is there that we find guidance in interacting with the created world, he said, adding that the solution to many environmental problems, like other challenges faced by humanity, is a fundamental and authentic “conversion of heart.”

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Polish pilgrims already anticipating Krakow 2016

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jul 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - With the final Mass of World Youth Day 2013 barely coming to a close, young people from Poland were already thinking about the next time the event will be held - in their home country.

“I can’t wait,” said Ola Rzezinowska. “I think it’s going to be a really great experience. Krakow is an awesome city.”

Born in Poland, Rzezinowska now lives in Chicago, but maintains close ties to her Polish roots.

She told CNA that it was “amazing” to hear that Krakow would be hosting the next World Youth Day and added, “I’m going to start raising money now.”

At the end of Mass in Rio de Janeiro on July 28, Pope Francis announced that the next World Youth Day will be held in 2016 in Krakow, Poland.

One of the most Catholic countries in Europe, Poland is home to 38 million people, about 90 percent of whom are Catholic, according to the CIA World Fact Book.

While the nation was strongly Catholic under Soviet-imposed atheistic communism and the papacy of John Paul II, church attendance has dropped in recent decades.

The location has particular significance because it is the former diocese of Archbishop Karol Wojtyla, who would become John Paul II, the Pope who instituted World Youth Day nearly 30 years ago and will soon be canonized.

Cardinal Stanislaw Dzwisz of Krakow, who served as personal secretary to Pope John Paul II, responded to the announcement with a statement of joy and anticipation.

“It is a joy, an honor and a great responsibility for us,” he said, noting that 2016 will also mark “the 1050th anniversary of the Baptism of Poland.”

“Among the many pastoral initiatives of John Paul II, World Youth Days has undoubtedly been among the most successful, far-reaching and fruitful,” the cardinal observed.

“Today Poland and Kraków open wide their hearts, so that in three years time they may welcome young pilgrims under the leadership of Pope Francis.”

Polish young people on Copacabana beach for the Closing Mass of World Youth Day 2013 cheered and waved flags when the announcement was made.

Piotr Sledz, age 24, said he is thrilled about the news “because it’s going to give me an opportunity not only to attend a World Youth Day again but also to attend it with family from Poland.”

He is also excited “to have everything in Polish, which is my first language.”

Lukasz and Piotr Barnas both said they were “very excited” as well, although the July 28 announcement was not a surprise to them.

Lukasz explained that they had attended Mass at a Polish parish the week before, and the bishops instructed them, “Bring the flags (to the final Mass). You’re going to have a surprise.”

The 21-year-old pilgrim said that he loves Pope John Paul II and recalls seeing him during a Papal trip to Poland.

“It was the best experience I’ve ever had,” he said. “That day it was pouring, we were drowning in mud to our knees. As soon as he landed, the sun came out, everything dried out.”

Piotr added that the choice of location is particularly exciting because Pope John Paul II was the founder of World Youth Day.

“I think it’ll be great for the country and for Catholics,” he observed. “And I’m looking forward to going – hopefully I can.”

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'Symbolon' program aims to improve adult faith formation

Denver, Colo., Jul 30, 2013 (CNA) - The Denver-based Augustine Institute has launched its new Symbolon program aimed at improving adult faith formation overall, and in particular the process of welcoming converts into the Church.

“This is a response to…the concern that many bishops and leaders of the catechetical world have about the crisis of faith that we're up against in everyday parish life,” Dr. Edward Sri, chancellor of the Augustine Institute, told CNA July 22.

“The U.S. bishops have identified RCIA with needing help…more than one out of three people who go through the RCIA process stop going to Mass in one to five years.”

“We're supposed to be fishers of men,” he reflected. “We're fishing with big holes in our nets if one out of three people in RCIA stop practicing” the faith.

Symbolon is an on-going relationship of training offered to parish leaders about how to conduct adult formation in a way that facilitates “conversion to Jesus Christ through his Church” rather than treating adult formation as “Catholic class” or “hoops you have to jump through” to become Catholic.

The program includes both parish subscriptions, which consist of a video based curriculum for adult formation, a guide to lectio divina –  a way of praying with the readings at Sunday Mass – and on-going training of leaders and volunteers; and diocesan training partnerships, which provide a full year of training to leaders in programs of adult faith formation.

Lucas Pollice, the training director for Symbolon, told CNA that it was “tremendously wise” of Vatican II to re-institute the adult catechumenate, or RCIA, but that the program is “relatively young” and that difficulties are part of “the nature of implementing something that's so new.”

“But I think the key is in the process of understanding that the catechetical, liturgical and pastoral –  those three aspects of formation” are “all so crucial” to a successful process of Christian initiation.

Symbolon is meant to “integrate all three of those throughout the process,” Pollice said. In his experience as a catechist, he's seen parishes that do one of the three areas of formation really well, yet lag in another area.

“So what we really emphasize is how do you do RCIA with the catechetical, pastoral and liturgical formation integrated throughout the process. It's like a three-legged stool, because if you're missing one of these three pillars of formation, your process is going to fail in one way or another.”

The training offered to parish leaders by Symbolon addresses how to include each of the pillars in every stage of the adult catechumenate.

Symbolon is meant to correct a situation in which the spiritual and liturgical rites of RCIA have been well implemented, Pollice said, but that the program, in large part, has been “severely impoverished … as far as people really receiving a systematic and complete understanding of what the Church teaches.”

Pollice also suggested a breakdown in the pastoral pillar, with RCIA directors failing in “really taking the time to know each person and their individual journey, calling them to conversion and calling them to holiness, even in the tough issues, even in the way they may be called to change that might be painful or tough, but sticking it out with people and really helping them through that conversion.”

“I think that’s really where you see a lot of the one in three people not attending Sunday Mass … is they just didn’t complete that conversion process.”

To help fix this, Symbolon is meant, Sri said, to “help a diocese, and help a leadership team, to form all of their parish leaders so they can be effective witnesses to Christ in the Catholic faith.”

The on-going training given in parochial and diocesan partnerships, Pollice added, is matter of helping the leaders who are being trained to regard “RCIA as an ongoing conversion of forming life-long disciples. Not just getting people to the Easter Vigil, but the importance of really forming life-long disciples of Christ.”

The diocesan training includes sessions several times throughout the year, as well as “webinars” every other week. Symbolon has already partnered with the dioceses of Rapid City, Denver, Colorado Springs, Toledo, and Madison. While sessions for 2013 have already filled, spots remain available for 2014 training partnerships.

The Augustine Institute considers it important to offer parish leaders on-going training and a partnership-relationship with “intentional follow-up” rather than a one-time “drive-by training” that can leave them with no support months after the training session is over.

“We're emphasizing the training, because that's really the most important part,” Sri reflected. “We need better formation for all the people involved in RCIA.”

“It's more important than any textbook or any handout, or any video someone may show: the most important instrument God will use to carry out the new evangelization in a parish is the local leaders, the local catechists, the local clergy.”

Sri continued, “they need to be formed catechetically so they’re passing on the correct form of the faith. They also need to be formed pastorally: they need the pastoral skills to know how to meet people where they’re at, and how to communicate the faith in a compelling, captivating way.”

“But they also need to be formed spiritually, so they can be really effective witnesses to the Gospel.”

He added that “if leaders are formed well on those levels, spiritually, pastorally, catechetically, then you've got all the ingredients for a dynamic new evangelization parish to grow.”

Parochial partnerships with Symbolon are available for those parishes that want to enter into a “whole parish partnership” with the Augustine Institute “over a long period of time to provide training and resources for adult faith formation and RCIA,” Pollice said.

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Young woman recalls deep pain, joy of immigrating to America

St. Louis, Mo., Jul 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A young woman who immigrated to the U.S. with her family from Guadalajara, Mexico, recalls the 11 years of paperwork granting them status in the country as a “huge, painful, interesting process.”

In February, 20-year-old Sofía González was able to return to St. Louis, Missouri after U.S. immigration laws sent her away from her family and back to Mexico for nearly two years.

González told CNA in a July interview that she is happy to now be living the life she hoped for while growing up in America.

“I finally have that after so many years. It's a blessing, and I have to remind myself what a blessing it is, and how many other folks which are so deserving and have worked so hard, do not have that.”

González's family came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 8 years-old. Although both of her parents are educated dentists, they weren't able to get enough business in the city of Guadalajara to provide for their family.

“In Mexico, you have very, very wealthy folks living right next to very, very poor folks,” González said. “It’s very rare to see a middle class family doing well; most of them struggle, and struggle badly, despite having education and degrees.”

In spite of  a 3.9 percent increase in 2013, minimum wage in Mexico in the highest-paid Zone A is still only equivalent to 64 U.S. cents per hour. Compounding the problem, González added, is the fact that food prices are largely the same as in the United States.

“The economy is still very weak. This is why you have a lot of beggars, even people that still work three jobs that are near minimum wage; of course they're not even going to have enough money to eat,” she said.

Given the opportunity to work for a landscaping company in Missouri, González's father came to the U.S. first, followed in 2001 by the rest of the family.

“This is my own modern experience” of the American Dream narrative, González said. “My dad would call us and he would tell us about St. Louis, about how clean it was, about how many trees there were; the wonderful things about this new place he was living at.”

Soon after joining Mr. González in the U.S., the family hired an immigration lawyer and began the process of applying for U.S. residency through Mr. González's employer.

“In the back of my mind, even as an elementary school kid, I kind of was worried about this issue, but it didn’t really affect me. As far as I knew I was just kind of average,” González said.

But with one difference: to tell anyone your immigration status “was a very dangerous thing to do. Any time someone really wanted to hurt you, they could simply call the police,” she noted.

Still waiting to be granted residency, González remembers the middle of her senior year of high school, in December 2010, when the immigration reform bill known as the Dream Act was being debated in Congress. The legislation proposed to create a pathway to residency for young adults brought to the country as children.

When the bill died in the Senate, González's hopes were crushed.

“I remember watching it on C-Span and just bawling that it hadn’t passed. And it was then I realized how powerful indeed laws are. Simply how the government can touch very, very deeply into the lives of people,” she said.

“It started to dawn on me that I wasn’t going to be able to go to college, not in the U.S. anyhow.”

González explained that under U.S. immigration law, undocumented minors are not held responsible for their stay in the country. However, this relief from legal consequences ends six months after a young person's 18th birthday. For González, this day fell in April of her senior year of high school.

“It was a very rough, really awkward conversation with my high school principal to be able to arrange an early graduation,” she said.

As the time neared for her to leave the U.S., González grew more and more upset. “I didn’t want to leave St. Louis; I didn’t want to leave my parents; I didn’t want to leave the goal I had set in mind for so long of attending college.”

“I was very angry at the situation. I had worked so hard in high school and before that to graduate top of my class, to take all these AP courses, and none of it was going to count anyhow.”

González had to travel by herself to Mexico where she stayed with her older brother, who had returned a few years earlier. Upon her arrival, she was struck by the contrast in economic statuses.

“The first picture I got of the country was seeing this gorgeous hotel that had slums at the bottom of it; it was overlooking poverty. I still can’t totally erase that picture from my mind.”

González was enrolled to study biology at the University of Guadalajara. But when she arrived in Mexico, there were still four months before classes started.

“I had returned from home itself, to live in this very strange place that held nothing familiar, that I had really no ties in,” she said. “I think it’s the hardest thing I’ve yet to do in my life.”

González wasn’t able to return to the U.S. at all, even to visit her family. “I had to pray for the strength to just be patient and to trust that I’d see my parents not very far from that point. It was scary. I thought, gosh, it’s never going to happen.”

“I was blessed to see what I saw in Mexico, too,” she added, though, “to meet the people that I met there.”

“I think I had a very, very negative image of it. Possibly more negative than Americans. You would think that I would have had more of a love for it. But it simply, for so many years in my young life, had been the place where my parents could not provide for us.”

“By the end of my time there, as much as I loved it, as much as it had, thank God, become a home for me, it’s not as if I’d stay there if I could move.”

It was in May 2012 that González's father obtained residency. Through him, his children were sponsored to gain residency as well.

According to law, however, a child cannot be sponsored if he or she is over the age of 21. González's brother was now 26.

“The process had started long before he was 21; he was 15 when we filed for this. But Immigration said that my brother would not be able to return to the U.S.,” she said. “You can’t really argue that.”

It took until January 2013 for González to reach the final steps of the process herself. The last thing she had to do before being approved to enter the U.S was travel to the border city of Cuidad Juarez for a medical examination and a formal interview.

“When you read about what immigrants from Europe had to go through in Ellis Island, there are modern versions of that,” she revealed.

“It’s kind of a cattle-like feel, because you go in in lines and they poke you around in lines and groups, and you really can’t say 'hey, can I have a room to myself?' or things like that.”

“You do whatever they tell you simply because you’re waiting for something you desire and they’re able to give it to you. You feel that if you complain, or you feel that if you say this isn’t the right way of treating people, that somehow that would affect you or your application.”

For González, one of the most moving moments of her week in Cuidad Juarez was standing at the fence which separates Mexico and the U.S. The slums of Cuidad Juarez were behind her, the large hospitals, hotels and highways of El Paso, Texas only a few meters away on the other side of the fence. 

“I really think being at the fence and seeing immigration patrols there,” González said, “you get the sense of that fear of what the U.S. sees as inferior or what it sees as something not desired, and that it fights with guns and other things, with laws.”

In five years, González said she can apply for citizenship in the U.S. “And then you take the famous test and do a little wave of the flag thing and ta-da! But it’s not really ta-da; really it’s a huge, painful, interesting process.”

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Franciscans of the Immaculate decree worries traditionalists

Rome, Italy, Jul 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican Congregation for Religious, with the approval of Pope Francis, has appointed a commissioner to oversee the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate and has restricted their celebration of the traditional Latin Mass, touching off a storm of speculation about the reasons and broader implications.

The news of the decree was first reported by the veteran Vatican journalist Sandro Magister, who described the move as the first time that Pope Francis has contradicted his predecessor Benedict XVI.

“But what is most astonishing are the last five lines of the decree of July 11,” writes Magister.

The declaration’s final paragraph reads:

“In addition to the above, the Holy Father Francis has directed that every religious of the congregation of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate is required to celebrate the liturgy according to the ordinary rite and that, if the occasion should arise, the use of the extraordinary form (Vetus Ordo) must be explicitly authorized by the competent authorities, for every religious and/or community that makes the request.”

“The astonishment stems from the fact that what is decreed contradicts the dispositions given by Benedict XVI, which for the celebration of the Mass in the ancient rite ‘sine populo’ demand no previous request for authorization whatsoever,” Magister explains.

The decree was signed by the Vatican congregation’s prefect, Cardinal Joao Braz de Viz, and its secretary, Archbishop José Rodrìguez Carballo. Capuchin Father Fidenzio Volpi was named in the declaration as the commissioner and he will be required to submit a written report every six months to the Vatican dicastery.

The reaction in the Catholic traditionalist blogosphere to the decree has been strong.

The blog Rorate Caeli, which focuses on the sacred liturgy, said in a four-point response that referenced Benedict XVI’s “Summorum Pontificum,” the papal document that allowed the pre-1962 Mass in Latin to be celebrated widely, that the new decree will impact one of the largest religious communities that celebrates the traditional Latin Mass.

“One justification now being raised,” the July 29 post says, “is that the FFI's application of Summorum Pontificum had caused discord in many communities and that the Traditional Latin Mass was ‘imposed’ brutally on priests who did not want it. On the contrary, we in Rorate, who have been closely observing the FFI since 2008, can affirm that the opposite is the case: Summorum was applied in a very gradual manner … .”

But the Assistant General for Apostolate, Missions and Media of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, Father Alfonso Bruno, told CNA July 29 that “more than 80 percent of the friars appreciate the intervention of the Church.”

In his estimation, the “problem is not the Holy Mass usus antiquior,” which he described as “only the tip of the iceberg.”

Fr. Bruno pointed to a “small group in power” within the religious congregation that is being influenced by Mother Francesca Perillo, who is “very close” with Lefebvrist groups. He is worried that Mother Perillo, who is in charge of the congregation's contemplative sisters, and her followers could fall into “heresy and disobedience.”

Mother Perillo could not be reached for comment before publication time.

Father Angelo M. Geiger, who was the chaplain of the contemplative sisters until recently and is now based in Newquay, England, said in a July 29 post on his Mary Victrix blog that Magister’s piece “is an unfortunate instance of an overeager journalist sensationalizing something he can only speculate about.”

“The restrictions on our community are specific to us and have been put in place for reasons specific to us,” Fr. Geiger remarked.

He also directly addressed the question of whether Pope Francis had contradicted his predecessor.

“Pope Francis has not contradicted Pope Benedict. The visitation of our community began under Pope Benedict and the Commission was recommended by Cardinal João Braz de Aviz who was appointed to the Congregation by Pope Benedict,” he wrote.

Fr. Geiger said that “what is being reported in the press and what has actually transpired within our community over the course of a number of years are two different things.”

Fathers Geiger and Bruno both finished their remarks by emphasizing their trust in the Church and in Pope Francis.

“We are in peace because we are in the hands of our mother Church, by a Pope that we love and appreciate so much,” Fr. Bruno said.

Corrected at on August 2 at 6:12 p.m. European Central Time. Changes include giving specificity to Fr. Bruno's title in paragraph 11 and correcting Fr. Greiger's title in paragraph 15 from U.S. Delegate to his current location in Newquay, England.

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Pope joins in prayers for Italian bus crash victims

Rome, Italy, Jul 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis has sent his “deepest condolences” and is offering “fervent prayers” as family and friends gathered today to mourn the 38 people who died in a tragic bus accident last Sunday.

“Profoundly saddened by the news of the tragic accident, the Pope raises fervent prayers for the souls of the deceased and conveys his deepest condolences to their families,” reads a July 29 telegram sent by Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone on the Pope’s behalf.

Pope Francis is also praying for the “rapid recovery of the injured, and imparts the comfort of an apostolic blessing as a sign of consolation for those who mourn the loss of their loved ones.”

The families of the 38 victims gathered on July 30 at the Alfonso Trincone sports hall in the Monterusciello neighborhood for a group funeral, presided over by Bishop Gennaro Pascarella of Pozzuoli.

The funeral was attended by Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who declared Tuesday a national day of mourning.

The approximately 4,000 people at the funeral heard Bishop Pascarella urged the authorities to find out what caused the accident and prevent it from ever happening again. In a July 29 statement, the Pozzuoli bishop reflected on the grief being experienced by the families.

“In the face of tragedies like the one involving so many of our fellow citizens and faithful,” he said, “every word is inadequate to express the pain, the anxiety, the anguish of people who suddenly found themselves without a father or mother, without a husband or wife, without a brother or a sister, without a son or daughter.”

“This is the time for solidarity, closeness, made of concrete actions. It is a drama that involves the whole civil and religious community,” the bishop added. As part of his efforts to comfort those struck by the tragedy, Bishop Pascarella visited Monteforte Irpino, the town closest to the accident, and also announced that the diocese’s Caritas group will be raising funds for the victims.

The accident occurred on Sunday evening when a bus full of pilgrims returning from the St. Padre Pio shrine in Pietrelcina, Italy failed to brake on a curve, struck several vehicles and then crashed through a concrete guardrail, plummeting almost 100 feet into a ravine below.

Some witnesses told the Italian media that the bus already had signs of crash damage up to a kilometer before the accident site.

Prosecutors have opened an investigation into possible manslaughter, but no charges have been made and the cause of the accident is still undetermined.

The bus crash at Monteforte Irpino is the second transportation crash within a week in Western Europe, following the June 24 derailment of a passenger train outside of Santiago de Compestela, Spain that has so far claimed the lives of 79 people.

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Interfaith leaders support Israeli-Palestine peace talks

Washington D.C., Jul 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Leaders from various faiths, including three U.S. bishops, sent a letter of support to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for his promise to prioritize Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

"We support the President’s commitment to make Israeli-Palestinian peace a high priority of U.S. policy," said the July 26 letter.

“Recognizing, as you do, that the passage of time makes achieving a viable two-state solution increasingly difficult, we have voiced strong support for your determined initiative for peace.”

The signatories, who included Christian, Muslim, and Jewish leaders, welcomed a July 19 statement by Kerry announcing that Palestinian and Israeli representatives have reached an agreement “that establishes the basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis.”

Catholic representatives signing the letter were Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington; Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines; and Bishop Denis J. Madden, an auxiliary bishop of Baltimore.

Cardinal McCarrick helped found an interreligious initiative for Mid-East peace, Bishop Pates is chair of the U.S. bishops' international justice and peace committee, and Bishop Madden is chair of the interreligious affairs committee.

The letter also noted the leaders' appreciation for “intermittent progress toward resolving final status issues in both unofficial talks and formal negotiations” between Israeli and Palestinian parties over the years.

They noted that “while these talks and negotiations have yet to yield a blueprint for peace, they have identified ideas for addressing key issues that must be resolved in a manner acceptable to both sides.”

The signers pledged to Kerry that they would "offer our prayers for your efforts," and support for “bold American leadership for peace” in the Mid-East.

“We know the path to peace is complex and challenging, but peace is possible.”

Peace talks between Palestine and Israel were put on hold in 2010 over the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which are considered illegal under international law.

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Catholic Bible studies in Thailand strengthen faith

Bangkok, Thailand, Jul 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Foreign missionaries in Thailand once dedicated their lives to encountering Christ, spreading the gospel and helping the growth of the Church.

Now this evangelical responsibility has been taken over by the Thai community. Local priests, religious and the laity help serve the mission of the local church, where Bible studies have become an important part of parish life.

At the parish of St. Nikolaus Church in the city of Pattaya, about 80 miles southeast of Bangkok, Catholics in small church communities dedicate themselves to Bible study.

Priests, vowed religious, and laity gather together after Sunday Mass to share both the Word of God and their life experiences to help strengthen Christian faith and life. Together, they explore the depth of the Bible passages.

Father Francis Xavier Kritsada Sukkaphat, parish priest of St. Nikolaus Church told CNA that the Bible study aims to help people enter into a “dialogue” between the Word of God and daily life.

At times the readings of the Gospel are confusing or misunderstood. The Bible study helps provide “right context and perspective,” he said.

“The sharing of faith experience thus deepens one’s daily living and becomes objective,” said Fr. Francis Xavier. “It’s a mystagogical experience, an ongoing formation.”

Bishop Silvio Siriphong Chartsri of Chantaburi, president of Thailand’s Catholic National Family Life Commission, cited the theme “families to help families” as one motivation for building lay communities.

The apostolate of the family is very important. Its growth has been encouraging and the apostolate has been “resuscitating” the Catholic community in Thailand, he said.

Other groups are vibrant in life of the St. Nikolaus Church in promoting faith journeys, Fr. Francis Xavier said. He noted groups like Couples for Christ, the Legion of Mary and base Christian communities.

The parish serves a small Catholic community. Many tourists and expats attend in large numbers for Mass and pious devotions.
Catholics in Thailand are a minority, but the Church contributes to education, social life, health care, and promotion of human rights and dignity in the country. 

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Pope cries with Brazilian child who wants to be a priest

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jul 30, 2013 (CNA) - Nathan de Brito brought Pope Francis to tears during one of his motorcades through the streets of Rio de Janeiro on Friday, when he broke past barriers to deliver an important message to the Pontiff.

“Your Holiness, I want to be a priest of Christ, a representative of Christ,” de Brito whispered in the ear of Pope Francis July 26, after jumping hurdles and making his way to the Popemobile in his Brazilian national soccer team jersey.

“I am going to pray for you, but I ask you to pray for me,” Pope Francis responded, moved to tears and embracing him.

“As of today, your vocation is set.”

Onlookers noticed that de Brito did not want to leave the Holy Father. It was only after several attempts that the Pope's security entourage was able to take him off the Popemobile.

Once on the street, Nathan walked along side the Popemobile, waving to the Pontiff and blowing him kisses. One of the security guards stopped to console the boy before bringing him back to his waiting family.

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Massive sex trafficking bust applauded by US lawmaker

Washington D.C., Jul 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A major U.S. law enforcement operation, which saved over 100 minors from prostitution rings and arrested over 150, drew praise from a congressman known for toughening laws against sex trafficking.

The raids were “simultaneously sad and heartening,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chair of the Congressional Human Trafficking Congress.

“Those children are freed from a terrible life of misery, but these crimes would not occur without the demand of buyers of commercial sex,” he told CNA July 30.

“It is my hope that law enforcement also caught buyers among the 150 arrests, and that it will seek justice to those who obtain children for commercial sex.”

Launching on July 26, the FBI and 230 separate law enforcement agencies took part in Operation Cross Country in 76 cities across the U.S. The children rescued were almost all girls and ranged from 13 to 17 years old.

The largest numbers of children were saved in the FBI divisions based in San Francisco, Detroit, Milwaukee, Denver and New Orleans. Those arrested include 150 alleged pimps.

Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, said that child prostitution remains “a persistent threat to children across America.”

“This operation serves as a reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere, and the FBI remains committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and holding the criminals who profit from this exploitation accountable,” he said July 29.

The operations often began as local law enforcement actions against truck stops, casinos, and websites that advertise dating or escort services, the FBI said. Initial arrests for violations of local and state laws help uncover organized prostitution efforts across different states.

About 2,700 children have been rescued in similar raids since 2003.

Teen runaways are particularly vulnerable to being lured into prostitution. Many sex trafficking victims are runaways from foster care or group homes, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said.

Rep. Smith, author of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, said his legislation “comes down hardest on those who traffic children.” Those who violate its provisions could face life in prison.

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