September 26, 2016
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Our elders are lonely – do we care?

Denver, Colo., September 25 (CNA/EWTN News) .- It was August in Rome, the dog days of summer, and most people had left the Eternal City for the beach or another summer holiday destination.


Body of third priest kidnapped in Mexico found
Pope Francis: The truth can't be forced on people
Love can be only response to evil, Pope tells attack survivors
The Vatican is changing how it verifies miracles


Our elders are lonely – do we care?
Who's behind the mysterious Eye of the Tiber?
Archbishop Gomez: It's time to end the death penalty
Catholic event aims to answer 'challenging' sexuality questions with charity
DC leaders discuss protection, justice for ISIS victims
What do you say to a homeless person? Advice from Catholic urban missionaries


Another Catholic priest has been kidnapped in Mexico


Exorcist says there's a demon that targets the family
Catholics, Orthodox sign agreement on synodality and primacy


Body of third priest kidnapped in Mexico found

VATICAN CITY, September 26 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Less than a week after two Catholic priests in Mexico were found murdered after having been abducted from their parishes, the body of a third slain priest, Fr. José Alfredo López Guillén, has been found.

Fr. López Guillén, pastor of Janamuato in Mexico’s central state of Michoacan, was taken from the rectory of his parish by unknown persons Monday, Sept. 19. His car had been found overturned on a road nearby.

According to a message written on the archdiocese’s Facebook page, the priest had been killed several days before his lifeless body was found near the town of near Puruandiro.

His abduction occurred on the same day that authorities found the lifeless bodies of previously-kidnapped Fathers Alejo Nabor Jiménez Juárez and José Alfredo Juárez de la Cruz, in the Diocese of Papantla, in Veracruz state.

According to the Catholic Multi Media Center, 15 priests have been killed in Mexico in less than four years. The majority of the killings have taken place in areas plagued by drug violence, which continues to terrorize country and frequently targets priests, since the Catholic Church is one of the most vocal in speaking out against cartel crimes and activities.

Pope Francis, who has often condemned drug related crime and violence in Mexico, voiced his closeness to the country’s bishops in his Sunday Angelus address.

He offered his support to the commitment of the Church and of civil society in Mexico to “in favor of the family and of life, which in this time require special pastoral and cultural attention throughout the world.”

“I also assure of my prayer for the dear Mexican people, so that the violence which has in these days also affected some priests, ceases.”

In a video posted on YouTube Sept. 22, Cardinal Alberto Suárez Inda of Morelia, capital of Michoacan and one of the most troubled cities in Mexico, said that “after sharing in the enormous pain over the murder of two young priests in the Diocese of Papantla in Veracruz, today we are suffering anguish firsthand over the disappearance, the kidnapping of one of our priests.”

The cardinal offered prayers for the kidnapped priest and asked that the captors would “respect his person and his life, so that he can return soon to the exercise of his ministry.”

“We join in prayer for his family members and parishioners who are going through this distressing time,” he said, and prayed for peace, for respect for life, and for the conversion “of those who dedicate themselves to doing evil.”

“Our community suffers the death, the anguish of any one of our faithful. In this case, it's a good man, dedicated to doing good and who is peaceful. This barbarity is in no way justifiable, I ask for your prayers.”

Pope Francis: The truth can't be forced on people

VATICAN CITY, September 25 (CNA/EWTN News) .- God is shared with the world through love and authentic relationships, not by forcing the truth on people, Pope Francis said Sunday.

“God is proclaimed through the encounter between persons, with care for their history and their journey. Because the Lord is not an idea, but a living person,” the Pope said in his homily at the Mass for the Jubilee of Catechists Sept. 25.

“His message is passed on through simple and authentic testimony, by listening and welcoming, with joy which radiates outward.”

Referencing St. Paul's first letter to Timothy, Pope Francis called the Resurrection the “beating heart which gives life to everything.”

“The Lord Jesus is risen, the Lord Jesus loves you, and he has given his life for you; risen and alive, he is close to you and waits for you every day. We must never forget this.”

Nothing is more important than the fact that the Lord is risen, the centerpiece of our faith, he explained. But we cannot keep it to ourselves.

“We are called always to live out and proclaim the newness of the Lord’s love: 'Jesus truly loves you, just as you are. Give him space: in spite of the disappointments and wounds in your life, give him the chance to love you. He will not disappoint you,'” Francis said.

“It is by loving that the God-who-is-Love is proclaimed to the world: not by the power of convincing, never by imposing the truth, no less by growing fixated on some religious or moral obligation,” he continued.

In the day's Gospel, a rich man doesn't notice the poor Lazarus outside the door to his house, his spiritual blindness and worldliness are like a black hole that “swallows up what is good, which extinguishes love, because it consumes everything in its very self.”

“Today’s callousness causes chasms to be dug that can never be crossed,” Francis said. “And we have fallen, at this time, into the sickness of indifference, selfishness and worldliness.”

The Lord asks us, today, to meet and help all of the Lazaruses we encounter. We cannot delegate to others, “saying: 'I will help you tomorrow; I have no time today, I’ll help you tomorrow.' This is a sin,” he said.

“The time taken to help others is time given to Jesus; it is love that remains: it is our treasure in heaven, which we earn here on earth.”

After Mass, the Pope led pilgrims in the Angelus, and expressed his solidarity with the bishops of Mexico in supporting the efforts of the Church in favor of family and life. On Saturday an estimated 215,000 people marched through the streets of Mexico City to oppose President Enrique Pena Nieto's push to legalize same-sex marriage.

Pope Francis also offered his prayers for the Mexican people in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of two priests whose bodies were found Sept. 19 – the same day a third priest was kidnapped.

The Pope also spoke of the beatification of Engelmar Unzeitig, a German priest killed in the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, and greeted all of the deaf people present on the “World Day of the Deaf,” encouraging them to do their part to make the world better.


Love can be only response to evil, Pope tells attack survivors

VATICAN CITY, September 24 (CNA/EWTN News) .- In the face of the devil's assaults, we must respond as God would, promoting respect for others and extending love and forgiveness to those who have harmed us, Pope Francis said in a Saturday audience with survivors of the terror attack in Nice, France in July.

“When the temptation to turn in on themselves, or to answer hatred with hatred and violence with violence is great, authentic conversion of heart is necessary,” he said Sept. 24. “This is the message that the Gospel of Jesus addressed to all of us.”

Pope Francis received the nearly 1,000 survivors of the July 14 attack in Nice in the Pope Paul VI hall at the Vatican. After his speech he greeted them each one by one.

Eighty-six people were killed and over 400 were wounded in the Nice terror attack in July after a Tunisian man, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, intentionally drove a large truck through the crowded seafront Promenade des Anglais.

The crowds had been celebrating Bastille Day, which marks the day of France’s independence and is traditionally the country’s biggest public holiday.

“I wish to share your pain, a pain that becomes even stronger when I think of the children, even entire families, whose lives have been torn suddenly and dramatically. To each of you I assure my compassion, my closeness and my prayer,” the Pope told those gathered.

“The Church remains near and accompanies you with great mercies,” he said. “With its presence next to you in these moments so heavy to deal with, she asks the Lord to come to your aid and to put in your hearts feelings of peace and brotherhood.”

In his speech, Pope Francis praised all those who went to the aid of the wounded, the victims, and their families, after the attack, both Catholic and organizations of other religions.

“I am glad to see that among you interreligious relations are very much alive, and this can only help to alleviate the hurt of these dramatic events,” he said.

“In fact, establish a sincere dialogue and fraternal relations among all, particularly among those who confess one and merciful God, it is an urgent priority that those responsible, both political and religious, should seek to encourage and which everyone is called to implement around him.”

Pope Francis also met with the Hospital Sisters of Mercy Sept. 24, praising them for their dedication to serving the sick and dying, regardless of race or religion.

“In front of the weakness of the disease can be no distinctions of social status, race, language and culture; Everybody grows weak and we must trust the other,” he said.

“You dedicated your life above all to the service of brothers and sisters who are in hospitals, who thanks to your presence and professionalism will feel better supported in the disease,” the Pope said. “And to do this there is no need for long speeches: a caress, a kiss, stand by in silence, a smile.”

“On that hospital bed always lies Jesus, present in the person who is suffering, and it is he who asks for help from each of you.”

The Vatican is changing how it verifies miracles

VATICAN CITY, September 23 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Changes to the regulations for confirming alleged miracles during the causes of saints aim to preserve the scientific rigor of the examination and maintain its distinction from matters of theology, it was announced Friday.

The changes, which were approved by Pope Francis Aug. 24, were announced by the Vatican Sept. 23. They concern the professional secrecy of the proceedings regarding presumed miracles and hold that a supermajority of two-thirds (five out of seven, or four out of six) of the votes from members of the Medical Board must be positive for the cause to continue to the next step.

Previously, only a simple majority of medical experts acknowleding a supernatural healing was required. The changes also stipulate that the medical experts will receive their remuneration only through bank transfer – not cash.

“The purpose of the Regulation can be none other than the good of the Causes, which can never neglect the historical and scientific truth of the alleged miracles,” Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, Secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, wrote regarding the changes. “Just as it is necessary for the legal checks to be complete, convergent and reliable, it is also necessary that their study be performed with serenity, objectivity and sure competence by highly specialised medical experts.”

“This Regulation obviously concerns only the good functioning of the Medical Board, whose task appears increasingly delicate, demanding and, thanks be to God, appreciated both inside and outside the Church.”

Archbishop Bartolucci added, “Always the Church is convinced that miracles of the saints is the 'finger of God,' which ratifies, so to say, the human judgement of their holiness of life.”

“This vision is part of the mind of the Church and has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the ordinary magisterium to the pronouncements of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. It is historically certain that miracles are always a decisive argument for the canonization of Servants of God,” he stated.

The new wording is based on the regulations approved by Blessed Paul VI in 1976. The drafting of the new regulations was done by a special commission which began its work in September 2015.

Besides the new requirements of a qualified majority and professional secrecy on the part of those involved, the president of the Medical Board is limited to one term and one reappointment (a total of 10 years in the position). Nor can a case be re-examined more than three times, and when a re-examination is made, there must be a nine persons on the Medical Board.

Also, it is now the Under-Secretary of the Council who will undertake the functions previously under the rapporteur, who had been responsible for reporting on the proceedings of the meetings.

In addition to the changes introduced, there were also adjustments made to procedural language.

Since the 12th and 13th centuries the Church has continually revised the regulations under which a miracle is confirmed in cases of causes for beatification or canonization. The 1917 Code of Canon Law established access of the miracle to theologians only after the alleged miracle had been studied and verified by two expert doctors, aside from issues of philosophical and religious consideration.

“And even today it is so: the scientific aspect remains distinct from the theological,” Archbishop Bartolucci affirmed.

“Miracles are not marginal events of the Gospel or the causes of saints. Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God in word and with 'messianic signs,' that he worked to make clear his identity and credibility to its mission and also to anticipate the final news of the redeemed world,” Archbishop Bartolucci said.

“The same is true for saints,” he said.

“Miracles, that they receive through their intercession, are a sign of God's presence in history and, at the same time, are the confirmation of their former high holiness, expressed first of all in the exercise of heroic Christian virtues or martyrdom.”


Our elders are lonely – do we care?

DENVER, COLO., September 25 (CNA/EWTN News) .- It was August in Rome, the dog days of summer, and most people had left the Eternal City for the beach or another summer holiday destination.

It happens every year, essentially slowing the city to a crawl for a good two weeks or more. It can be a lonely time, especially for the elderly who no longer travel.

That’s when, on August 2, Italian police discovered Jole, 89, and Michele, 94, a couple living in the Appio neighborhood of Rome. Feeling particularly lonely, having had no visitors for some time, the couple’s sobs became so loud that concerned neighbors called the police, who found no crime on their arrival, just two very lonely people.

Besides offering medical assistance, the police decided to offer some comfort as well.

“They improvised a cozy dinner. A plate of pasta with butter and cheese. Nothing special. But with a special ingredient: Inside, there is all their humanity,” the Facebook post from the Italian police says.

Sadly, the problem of loneliness among the elderly is not just confined to the summer holidays in Rome - it is a growing problem around the world.

Earlier this month, Katie Hafner for the New York Times reported that in Britain and the United States, roughly one in three people older than 65 live alone. In the United States, half of those older than 85 live alone. Studies in both countries show the prevalence of loneliness among people older than 60 ranging from 10 percent to 46 percent.

While not a physical sickness in and of itself, chronic loneliness can also be detrimental to physical health. Several studies show that social isolation or feelings of loneliness can lead to an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and even an earlier death.

Sr. Constance Veit, communications director for the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic sisters whose mission is “to offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they will be welcomed as Christ, cared for as family and accompanied with dignity until God calls them to himself.” They currently operate more than 25 homes for the elderly in the United States, as well as homes all over the world.

Sr. Constance told CNA that the lonely elderly often pine for those who have preceded them in death, or perhaps family members who live far away or from whom they have been estranged.

“(W)e recognize that in a very real way you can never really replace those who are gone, so for most people there’s always going to be an unfilled hole left, so to speak,” she said. “But we do the best we can.”

Sr. Constance said that the Little Sisters and their staff are always on the lookout for signs of loneliness and isolation among their residents, and that they do the best to connect with them both through group activities and through one-on-one relationships.

“We recognize that we’re not just here to minister to people’s physical or medical needs, but the whole person,” she said.

The New York Times article featured several different service and organizations in the UK that are working to combat loneliness among the elderly. Although similar programs exist in the United States, the research and awareness of the topic in the UK is still much further ahead than it is in the U.S.

“In the U.S., there isn’t much recognition in terms of public health initiatives or the average person recognizing that loneliness has to do with health,” Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, told the New York Times. Her own research has also linked loneliness to deteriorating health.

John Lewis, a British retailer known for its heartwarming Christmas advertisements, partnered with Age UK, a charity for older people, to raise awareness of loneliness among the elderly, particularly during the holidays.

In the video, a young girl discovers with dismay that there’s an old man all alone on the moon for Christmas. Determined to show him he’s not alone, she sends some airborne Christmas gifts his way.

Statistics compiled in the UK have found that a million seniors go as long as a month without talking to anyone. The statistics in the United States are probably similarly shocking, Sr. Constance said.

“To think of an older person going a month without speaking to friends or family, that’s pretty bad,” she said.  

Pope Francis would agree. The pontiff once called neglect of the elderly a “mortal sin” after visiting an elderly woman in August who hadn’t seen her family since Christmas.

“It is a mortal sin to discard our elderly…The elderly are not aliens. We are them – in a short or in a long while we are inevitably them, even though we choose not to think about it,” he said during a general audience in March 2015.

“Children who do not visit their elderly and ill parents have mortally sinned. Understand?” he added.

The Holy Father himself had a very close relationship with his grandmother when he was growing up, and has urged Catholics many times to not neglect the elderly or the sense of memory that they bring to their families and to society.

Pope Francis has said that “we don’t have a sense of memory, of appreciation of a family history and family tradition, the things that used to bind the generations together in families,” Sr. Constance said.

We’ve also lost a sense “of filial piety, that we do have a duty to one another in a family and especially to our elders,” she added.

Another part of the problem can be that older people who don’t know how to use new technologies get left out of the loop, Sr. Constance said. A family that stays in touch through a texting group may be unintentionally leaving out older folks who don’t text.

But the blame lies not just with young people - it’s a reciprocal problem, Sr. Constance noted.

“The older generation, relatively speaking, of baby boomers also hasn’t nurtured bonds,” she said.

“They’ve been much more independent and have had more disposable income and have kind of done their own thing, but when something happens and they become frail, they haven’t really set up the networks themselves or those strong bonds, so I think it’s really’s just kind of sad, it leaves us all a bit isolated.”

Social isolation can also become a self-perpetuating problem. Studies show that, counter-intuitively, social isolation often causes people to go into a kind of defense mode, where rather than reaching out for the support they need, they instead close themselves off further from society.

The most important thing that people can do is to combat the problem is to look for meaningful ways to connect with the elderly in their lives, Sr. Constance said.

“Even if you feel like you don’t have elderly people in your life, chances are you do have elderly people in your neighborhood or in your parish, maybe in your extended family of aunts and uncles,” she said.

“Reach out to them and relate to them and to create bonds with them intentionally, whether it’s visiting them or offering them a ride to church or shopping, or include them in various things,” Sr. Constance added.

For those who live at a distance, teaching the elderly how to use Skype or some other technology that would help them say in touch is also important, she said.

The Little Sisters of the Poor home in Washington, D.C., where Sr. Constance is based, is right across the street from Catholic University of America, which sends student volunteers to the home four nights a week.

While the young people are there to offer friendship to the elderly, it’s a very reciprocal relationship, Sr. Constance said.

“Sometimes I gaze out and realize what’s really going on is that the students are telling their trials, tribulations, joys and anxieties to these little old ladies, and the students feel listened to,” she said.

“So it’s very reciprocal, the residents are receiving something from the students, but the students - whether it’s relationship woes or academic worries, the elderly are going to listen in a different way than your friends who have been hearing it all the time. The elderly can really lend a more sympathetic ear to the angst of younger people, and be a great support for them if they would take the time to realize that.”

The Little Sisters in D.C. are also launching an initiative called “Youth & Aged for Life,” a prayer movement for the Gospel of Life that brings together the young and the old.

Strengthening bonds between generations - or what John Paul II once called the “covenant between generations” - is one of the most pro-life things Catholics and Christians can do, Sr. Constance added.

“It’s only by reestablishing that or strengthening (those bonds) that we can fight the temptation for abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide, by bonding together more strongly and cherishing one another’s lives, both the very young and the very old.”

Who's behind the mysterious Eye of the Tiber?

DENVER, COLO., September 25 (CNA) .- If you’re a Catholic on Facebook, or the internet in general, chances are SC Naoum has made you laugh. Or he’s made you angry.

If he’s done his job the way he wants, he’s done both.

Naoum is the man, the myth, the legend behind the Catholic satire site, Eye of the Tiber. Catholic News Agency had a chance to sit down with the Californian writer and professional smart aleck to talk inspiration, excommunication (well, his nightmares of it), and of course all those people who think it’s actual news.   

1: What first inspired you to start writing Eye of the Tiber?

I've loved satire for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, anyone who loves the Church recognizes that satire, like most everything else that's good in this world, like literature, poetry, music, the sciences and so on has been secularized. Heck, even Judeo-Christian symbols like the rainbow and the thunderbolt were taken by those typically most hostile to the Church. The rainbow, of course, represents God's covenant with Noah. The world now sees it as a symbol representing man's covenant with another man. The thunderbolt, I understand, never really represented anything for the Church, but I kinda wish it did, because thunderbolts are pretty awesome, and I'd love an excuse to get one of them tattooed on me.

Where the heck was I? Ah yes, what inspired me? Love for the Church and love for good satire. The Onion is wonderful. Their ability to poke fun and to reveal truths with sometimes subtle, sometimes absurd headlines is breathtaking. But there were so many times I thought, and still do think, that they could tone down the sacrilege a notch or ten. And so, cue light bulb, and the idea of a Catholic satire site was born.

2: What is your goal for Eye of the Tiber?

To piss off every Catholic at least once. If you're not happy with that answer, please delete and insert this: to shed light on the absurdity of some of the things going on in the Church while giving people an opportunity to laugh at themselves. And also not getting excommunicated. You think the last part's a joke, but it's not. I've literally had nightmares of being excommunicated because of an article. But the nightmare's always followed by a happy dream about me being handcuffed and led to a tribunal during the Spanish Inquisition, and realizing that Toquemada is the Grand Inquisitor for my case, and he sets me free because Torqumada wasn't as bad as he's been made out to be.

Anyhow, that's my goal for EOTT. Not the weird dream part per se, but letting readers know about random Catholic facts that I find interesting, while poking fun on important things like liturgical dancing and the other 7 Deadly Sins.       

3: Are you a one-man team? Do you take submissions?

I've written most of the articles on the site. I've had a couple submissions from readers, and about ten to fifteen from friends. I don't really accept articles from readers anymore because I found it difficult to deny someone when I didn't think their article was a good fit for the site. It always made me feel bad to say no. It especially made me feel bad when that one guy I denied told me to shove it. I didn't want to shove it, that's the thing. I wasn't telling him that it wasn't funny...just that it simply wasn't a good fit. I remember that I had had a long work week, and I was tired and had so many things going on, and shoving it was seriously the last thing on my mind. So I didn't. I just decided that I'd no longer take submissions.

4. Where does your inspiration for articles come from?


5. When you're not running EOTT, what do you do?

I love hanging out with my family. I love reading, writing, praying, and working out. That last part was a lie. I hate working out. I have no idea what I was trying to pull off with that lie.

6. What has been the most popular EOTT article?

Peter Jackson Announces Plans For 72-Part Movie Series of the Silmarillion is the most popular EOTT article written. It got like 100k+ Facebook likes, 600+ Twitter reposts or whatever you call them, and a bunch of other relatively impressive stats as well. Actually, there was a while there where if you googled "Silmarillion" it was the top post in Google News. That was kinda awesome.

Best part about the article, though, is that it wasn't even written by me. It was written by a priest friend, Fr. Andy Younan (Twitter: @Jonah_3001). The thing with many of these articles, as Fr. Andy (Twitter: @Jonah_3001) would agree with is that the ones you think are gold will typically suck and the ones you think will suck, will typically turn gold. It's an odd thing that neither I (Twitter: @SCNaoum), nor Fr. Andy (Twitter: @Jonah_3001) can figure out. So if you ever see an article that just absolutely sucks, it's because I (Twitter: @SCNaoum) thought it was genius. Don't be frustrated. It was an honest mistake.

7. Which EOTT article has cause the most controversy?

I can't remember exactly which article caused the most controversy, but I know that the ones written about the Mass typically get the most heated. If I write an article titled, Report: Some 2nd Century Roman Christians Hated Latin Mass Because It Was Said In The Vernacular, I know I'm gonna piss off liturgical traditionalists. If I write one titled, Clown At Circus Mass Reprimanded For Honking Sanctus Horn At Wrong Part Of Consecration, I know it's gonna piss off whatever the complete opposite of a liturgical traditionalist is. I think they're called Protestants, actually.

8. How often do people think EOTT is a real news source?

Very often. [Awkward silence]. Is there a follow up to the question?

9. How can satire speak truth in ways that news sources or other media cannot?

Satire is an interesting art form. It's not only the greatest form of passive aggression there is, but it is, at the same time, the most direct form of criticism and examination. While proper journalism takes the issue at hand and attempts to reveal the fact of the matter, proper satire takes that very same matter assumed to be factual, beats it to a pulp, dissects it, finds the inaccuracy in what the media is reporting, siphons off the inaccuracy, beats it to a pulp once more just for good measure, waterboards it to make sure it has all the details, and represents it in a way so that the average reader can truly understand the fact of the matter without the spin. It's in this way that satire is passive aggressive and at the same time direct. It takes a round about way of delivering direct truths. You know what I'm saying? Good, cause I sure as heck don't.

10. What is your favorite liturgical dance?

My top three are The Catholic Carlton, Walk Like an Egyptian Coptic, and of course The Cha Cha Slide, Stand, Sit, Stand, Kneel.

This article was originally published Sept. 4, 2015.

Archbishop Gomez: It's time to end the death penalty

LOS ANGELES, CALIF., September 24 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Californians should vote for Proposition 62, a ballot measure to end the death penalty, the Archbishop of Los Angeles has said in a reflection on justice, Catholic teaching and American society.

“It is time for us to end the death penalty – not only in California but throughout the United States and throughout the world,” Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said Sept. 21.

“In a culture of death, I believe mercy alone can be the only credible witness to the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person.”

His essay is part of a special issue of the Los Angeles archdiocese's newsweekly Angelus dedicated to the Church and the death penalty.

Rather than condemn criminals to death, he said, Christians “should pray for their conversion and encourage their rehabilitation and ultimate restoration to society.”

Those who seek an end to the death penalty must not forget the victims of crime and their loved ones.

“We entrust them to the Father of mercies and we pray that he grant them healing and peace,” the archbishop continued.

California’s ballot measure Prop. 62, which is on the November ballot, would replace the death penalty with lifetime in prison without parole.

Public opinion survey results have been mixed.

A Sept. 1-8 online poll of 1,909 registered voters sponsored by the USC Dornslife College and the Los Angeles Times found that only 40 percent of registered voters would approve the proposal. Another survey, run by the Field Poll, polled 942 likely voters Sept.7-13. It found support from 48 percent of voters and opposition from 37 percent.

Another ballot measure, Prop. 66, would limit the appeal process for death row inmates and shorten the time from sentencing to execution.

Archbishop Gomez cited St. John Paul II’s words in his final U.S. visit in 1999, in which the Pope called the death penalty “cruel and unnecessary.”

“The reason is that every life is sacred and every person has a dignity that comes from God,” the archbishop explained. “This is true for the innocent and it is true for the guilty. It is true even for those convicted of the most violent crimes.”

He acknowledged historical Catholic support for the death penalty.

“The Catholic Church has always taught that legitimate governments have the right to impose the death penalty on those guilty of the most serious crimes. This teaching has been consistent for centuries — in the Scriptures, in the writings of the Church Fathers and in the teachings of the Popes,” he said.

“But in recent years, there has been a growing consensus that the use of the death penalty can no longer be accepted.”

Archbishop Gomez cited a “strange appetite for violence” in American culture, violent video games, demeaning music and entertainments.

“In this cultural context, I do not see how the death penalty can ever again express society’s ultimate value for human life. In this cultural context, the death penalty can only function as one more killing.”

Archbishop Gomez and the Los Angeles archdiocese’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace have established a website supporting a Yes vote on Proposition 62,

Catholic event aims to answer 'challenging' sexuality questions with charity

PHOENIX, ARIZ., September 24 (CNA/EWTN News) .- A Catholic-run conference aims to help clergy, lay ministers, and medical and mental health professionals provide better support for people who experience same-sex attraction or confusion about sexual identity.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix and Father Paul Check, the executive director of Courage International, invited to the conference clergy, vowed religious, lay ministers and other relevant professionals in a Sept. 15 letter.

“The ‘Truth and Love’ project endeavors to bring the clarity and charity of Catholic teaching to challenging questions, while never losing sight of individual people,” they said. The event aims to offer “sound practical and pastoral guidance.”

The Truth and Love Conference, now in its third edition, will be held Jan. 9-11, 2017 in Phoenix, Ariz. at St. Paul Catholic Church. The conference’s sponsors are the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, the Catholic apostolate Courage, and the Catholic publishing company Our Sunday Visitor.

Among the clergy to speak will be Bishop Olmsted, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, and auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Byrnes of Detroit. Fr. Check will speak, as will Courage associate director Fr. Philip Bochanski.

Other speakers include Deacon Timothy Flanigan, M.D., a Brown Medical School professor who has been a leader in HIV care; Dr. Andrew W. Lichtenwalner, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; and Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute.

Several of those who appeared in the Courage documentary “Desire of the Everlasting Hills” will speak at the conference, including writer and speaker Daniel Mattson and Rilene Simpson.

The conference will include testimony from people who experience same-sex attractions on how the Church and chaste friendships have helped them journey towards chastity and sanctity, organizers said.

Experts will speak on a Christian view of humanity, natural law, Scripture, chastity and the psychology of homosexuality.

The conference will also discuss how pastors, family and friends can best love those who experience same-sex attractions or sexual identity confusion. It aims to provide “practical recommendations and tools” for communicating Catholic teaching on homosexuality and sexual identity to parishes, schools and students. These recommendations aim to be “an integral part of the New Evangelization,” the conference said.

The conference will open and close with a Mass.

Registration and more information is available at the conference website:

DC leaders discuss protection, justice for ISIS victims

WASHINGTON D.C., September 23 (CNA/EWTN News) .- With ISIS continuing to threaten vulnerable populations in Iraq and Syria, more action is needed to protect victims and offer justice before it’s too late, said human rights leaders this week.

“The survivors of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Iraq and Syria merit the fullest possible assistance of our government, including consideration for admission of victim refugees to the United States,” said David Scheffer, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues.

Without adequate aid and support, these communities face total eradication, warned other speakers.

Policies focused on individual aid instead of helping whole communities increase “the likelihood that the complete eradication of these groups from the region – which was the intent of the genocide – will succeed,” warned Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus.

Anderson and Scheffer spoke at a Sept. 22 hearing before the U.S. Helsinki Commission on Capitol Hill entitled “Atrocities in Iraq and Syria: Relief for Survivors and Accountability for Perpetrators.”

The hearing focused on the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2016 (H.R. 5961), introduced by commission chairman Rep. Chris Smith (R- N.J.), which includes steps to protect religious and ethnic communities targeted by ISIS – both in their homelands and as refugees – and how to guarantee that perpetrators of human rights abuses will be prosecuted and punished.

Rep. Smith praised recent declarations by the United States and other organizations that acknowledge continued ISIS persecution of Christian, Yazidi and other religious and ethnic communities as “genocide.”

However, he criticized the lack of action, saying that “displaced genocide survivors cannot pay for food, medicine, or shelter with words from Washington.”

Christians, Yazidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities in areas of Iraq and Syria have been facing intense persecution, human trafficking and death since their territories fell under ISIS control. In late 2015, the U.S. State Department formally labeled ISIS’ persecution as a “genocide.”

While documentation of the human rights abuses is necessary and can help spread awareness of the horrors these populations face, Smith continued, “first and foremost, they are crimes committed by perpetrators who need to be investigated and prosecuted.”

“This requires collecting, preserving, and preparing evidence that is usable in criminal trials.”

Scheffer explained in his testimony that it is already possible to prosecute perpetrators of war crimes, under some circumstances, but added that Smith’s proposed legislation could help ensure that “perpetrators of crimes against humanity do not find sanctuary from prosecution in the United States,” by including their atrocities under the criminal code.

Chris Engels, deputy director of the Commission for International Justice and Accountability, a non-profit that carries out investigations of human rights atrocities, also spoke. He too stressed the need for increased accountability and prosecution of perpetrators of human rights abuses, and to prevent these events from happening in the future: two goals which he described as connected.   

Noting again that some avenues for accountability and punishment of human rights abuses exist currently and do not depend on the creation of special tribunals and courts, Engels encouraged government leaders to start planning for accountability measures, pointing to their importance for rebuilding efforts after conflict.

Prosecution of ISIS members and the Assad regime can also help the region “evolve into stable, peaceful, and just societies,” in a way that a lack of fighting or political settlements alone cannot, Engles continued.

“These trials have the power to serve as tangible examples to all in the region that the rule of law is here, and here to stay,” he said, warning that without avenues for justice, “the seeds of future conflict, cataclysmic destabilization, unprecedented human displacement, and militant terrorism lay undisturbed and ready to grow.”

Prosecuting militant leaders for human rights abuses, as opposed to charges of terrorism, could also help to diffuse the “‘clash of cultures’ narrative” between the West and the Islamic world, by providing fact-based evidence of the horrific crimes they have committed against whole classes of people.

Anderson urged the commission that the communities facing the most horrific violence at the hands of ISIS are not receiving adequate public aid – an oversight which all but seals their extermination.

“On the one hand we have the unanimous policy of the elected branches of the United States government stating that a genocide is occurring. On the other hand we have an aid bureaucracy that is allowing the intended consequence of the genocide to continue, even though it is in our power to stop it,” he criticized.

The bureaucratic roadblocks threaten the survival of Christians and Yazidi communities, he said, asking the United States to expand aid to these populations more directly.

Anderson also urged the commission to focus on building structures that end the “system of religious apartheid” in the region and ensure that Christians and other religious minorities receive “equal rights and the equal protection of the laws as enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Stephen Rasche, legal counsel and director of resettlement programs for the Archdiocese of Erbil provided an on-the-ground perspective of working with more than 10,000 displaced families fleeing violence in Northern Iraq, echoing Anderson’s critique of the lack of public funding for the diocese’s work. The care for the tens of thousands of Christian and non-Christian internally displaced persons has been accomplished mainly through private donors, Rasche testified.

“It is no exaggeration to say that without these private donors, the situation for Christians in Northern Iraq would have collapsed, and the vast majority of these families would without question have already joined the refugee diaspora now destabilizing the Middle East and Europe.”

He noted that the “individual needs” policy assessment imposed by the United States and other international organizations excluded these displaced persons, because the care they receive from the Church is better than that received in many refugee camps. Such an assessment fails to acknowledge that they are “threatened with extinction as a people, the victims of genocide and a cycle of historical violence which seeks to remove them permanently from their ancestral homes.”

Bill Canny, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services, spoke of the need both to rebuild the societies in Iraq and Syria, and to address “the root causes of the forced migration,” as well as the need for the United States and other countries to “continue to protect and support internally displaced people and refugees from Syrian and Iraq.”

He pointed out that “return is the first choice and option most viable for most refugees,” but that in some cases, return is not possible. He suggested that in those cases, resettlement of refugees in new homes should be considered, particularly those who are most vulnerable if they return.

“We have urged the United States and other concerned countries, as well as countries in the region, to do more to protect them and others who are facing persecution at the hands of both state actors and non-state actors.”

However, he continued, the United States has resettled a concerningly low number of religious minorities in the past year, particularly Christians.

Whatever the causes for the low numbers of Christian resettlement, Canny said, it is clear “that Christians and other religious minorities have become a target for brutality at the hands of the non-state actor ISIS, and that they are fleeing for their lives, and that far too few of them have been attaining U.S. resettlement.”


What do you say to a homeless person? Advice from Catholic urban missionaries

DENVER, COLO., September 23 (CNA/EWTN News) .- It’s a common sight at a city intersection. A man or a woman holds a cardboard sign: “Homeless, Hungry. Please Give. Anything Helps.”

Most motorists, stopped at the light and eager to move on, just ignore the person.

But what should you do before the light changes?

The Denver-based urban ministry Christ in the City offers some advice.

“Ask the person’s name,” said the group’s tip sheet. “One of our friends on the street told us he went four months without hearing his own name. Ask the person’s name and remember it.”

Those with a regular commute should remember that name and say hello the next time.

“You’ll be amazed how his or her face will light up that you remembered.”

“To love is to know and be known,” Christ in the City said. “And so, the chronically homeless become unknown, they become separated, not just from society but from the experience of love itself.”

The chronically homeless are the most resistant to social services and other help. They’re most likely to have substance abuse or mental health problems.

Erin McCrory, the ministry’s managing director, reflected on their situation.

“They’ve told us that once your reality becomes eating out of garbage cans and you don’t hear your name spoken for months at a time, you accept this is your reality,” McCrory told the Denver Catholic Register. “Their spirits are broken and they are lacking in hope and faith in people.”

There are other ways of making personal contact.

“Reach out and offer a handshake,” the group’s tip sheet advised. “This simple gesture breaks a barrier and expresses that you recognize their dignity. One moment of awkwardness for you can be the highlight of the day for him or her.”

Each year, a new team of Christ in the City missionaries gathers in Denver for efforts such as homeless outreach. About 25 young missionaries volunteer for two years, receiving spiritual and academic formation in their time of service.

The group says one missionary alone reaches 500 homeless and engages 80-100 volunteers to engage in more than 62,000 hours of service for the homeless.

The group advises people to give more practical items in lieu of money, like socks, water, Gatorade, or gloves. Those who give food should keep in mind that people who live on the street often have teeth problems and can’t eat hard granola bars or apples. Soft foods like bananas or soft-baked granola bars are more edible.

“Giving money is a personal decision that requires discernment. Gift cards can be a better alternative to cash,” Christ in the City said. Items showing personal care are more likely to keep a focus on friendship.

“Your love and compassion is more effective than five bucks,” the group added.

The group’s final piece of advice?

“Offer to pray for them, and mean it,” Christ in the City said. “We try to be another Christ to our friends on the street, but we accept that we can only do so much. The rest we leave up to God in prayer. He loves our friends more than we ever could.”

The organization has had requests to expand into five other dioceses.

It will host its annual celebration at Holy Name Church in Sheridan, a Denver suburb, on Oct. 7. Missionaries will emcee the event and sit at tables with attendees.

More information about Christ in the City and tickets for its celebration are available at the Christ in the City website,


Update 9/25/16 8:32 p.m.: A previous version of this story stated that the annual celebration would take place October 6. It will take place on October 7. 


Another Catholic priest has been kidnapped in Mexico

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO, September 23 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Mexican Cardinal Alberto Suárez Inda is offering prayers for the safety of a priest who was kidnapped in the country earlier this week.

Fr. José Alfredo López Guillén, pastor of Janamuato, was taken from the rectory of his parish by unknown persons on Monday, September 19. His whereabouts remain unknown, as does the motive for the kidnapping. His car was also stolen.

His abduction occurred on the same day that authorities found the lifeless bodies of previously-kidnapped Fathers Alejo Nabor Jiménez Juárez and José Alfredo Juárez de la Cruz, in the Diocese of  Papantla, in Veracruz state.

In a video posted on YouTube Sept. 22, Cardinal Suárez said that “after sharing in the enormous pain over the murder of two young priests in the Diocese of Papantla in Veracruz, today we are suffering anguish firsthand over the disappearance, the kidnapping of one of our priests.”

The cardinal offered prayers for the kidnapped priest and that the captors may “respect his person, his life, that he can return soon to the exercise of his ministry. We join in prayer for his family members and parishioners who are going through this distressing time.”

“We ask God for peace, for respect for life, for the conversion of those who dedicate themselves to doing evil,” he said.

“Our community suffers the death, the anguish of any one of our faithful. In this case, it's a good man, dedicated to doing good and who is peaceful. This barbarity is in no way justifiable, I ask for your prayers.”



Exorcist says there's a demon that targets the family

ROME, ITALY, September 24 (CNA/EWTN News) .- There's a demon that specializes in attacking the family, said exorcist César Truqui, a priest who participated in a course on exorcism held in Rome last year.

Fr. Truqui warned that everything that is harming the family, including divorce, pleases the devil.

Speaking to the Italian weekly Tempi in 2015, the priest said that there is “a demon who specializes in the attack on the family, also cited in the story of Tobias, called 'Asmodeus.'”

In the Old Testament book, the demon is known to have killed seven of Sarah's husbands and was chained in the desert by Saint Raphael. The demon “is present” in many exorcisms, Fr. Truqui said.

The priest recalled encountering the demon “in exorcisms by Father Gabriele Amorth and Father Francisco Bamonte, whom I assisted.” The recently-deceased Fr. Amorth was a renowned exorcist in Rome who has performed an estimated 70,000 exorcisms over the course of 29 years. Carrying out an exorcism can require multiple sessions and each time the rite is administered it is counted as one instance.

“I remember a young couple, very united, who wanted to get married, however, the woman had to undergo an exorcism to be set free,” Fr. Truqi said.  

During the exorcism “the demon was furious and threatened Fr. Amorth in order to prevent the marriage, otherwise he would kill the young woman. Obviously, it was a threat from the Liar which in fact did not happen.”

In that regard, the priest added that the devil also seeks to attack the family through ideologies and lifestyles, as well as individualistic thinking and the spread of divorce.

“They think 'if I don't like my husband anymore, I would be better off divorcing' but they forget about the consequences to the children and society,” he said. “This mentality that works against the family pleases the devil – he knows that a man who is alone without any points of reference is manipulable and unstable.”  

“Even today, and I'm more than 50 years old, just thinking that my mother and father love each other forever, I find comfort and courage. In contrast, the children of separated parents are more fragile and wavering,” he said.

In 2014, Pope Francis gave an address to the Charismatic Renewal, in which he pointed out that the devil seeks to destroy families because that is where Jesus grows, in the midst of the love of the spouses and in the lives of their children.

“He grows in the love of the spouses, he grows in the lives of the children. And  that's why the enemy attacks the family so much. The devil does not love the family. He seeks to destroy it, he wants to eliminate love there,” he warned at Rome's Olympic stadium before 52,000 people.

On that day Francis reminded that “families are these domestic churches. The spouses are sinners, like everyone, but they want to progress in the faith, in their fruitfulness, in the children and their children's faith.”

And so he asked the Lord to “bless the family, make it strong, in this crisis in which the devil wants to destroy it.”

This article was originally published May 26, 2016.

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Catholics, Orthodox sign agreement on synodality and primacy

CHIETI, ITALY, September 23 (CNA/EWTN News) .- At an ecumenical gathering held this week, representatives of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches signed a joint document regarding synodality and primacy during the first millennium.

The agreement can point to ways of “resolving problems still existing between Catholics and Orthodox today,” said Msgr. Andrea Palmieri, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

The 14th plenary session of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches was held in the Italian city of Chieti Sept. 15-22. Their agreement was subtitled “Towards a Common Understanding in Service to the Unity of the Church.”

The primacy of the Bishop of Rome is among the main points of disagreement between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.

In the west, Church unity was expressed through being in communion with the Bishop of Rome, as the successor of Saint Peter. Petrine primacy among the apostles was a cornerstone in the west, whereas the east regarded Saint Peter and his successors as Bishop of Rome as “first among equals.”

The Eastern Orthodox, on the other hand, have a conciliar or synodal model of the Church. For them, unity is through the common faith and communion in the sacraments, rather than a centralized authority. They do not recognize the authority of the Bishop of Rome over all Christians, but rather consider him equal to other bishops, though with a primacy of honor.

The understanding reached this week was approved despite a disagreement regarding particular paragraphs by the Georgian Orthodox Church. When the document is published, the Georgians' objection will be included as a footnote.

Moreover, the commission was unable to agree to a focus for the next plenary session, due to be held in two years in an Orthodox nation.

According to a statement of the Russian Orthodox Church, its Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk proposed synodality and primacy in the second millennium – with a stress on the place of the “uniate” Churches, or those which maintain Byzantine rites while having come into communion with the Bishop of Rome.

The Russian Orthodox Church says the phenomenon of Eastern Catholic Churches which broke communion with the Orthodox “still constitutes a stumbling stone in the Orthodox-Catholic relations.”

The statement noted that Metropolitan Hilarion “reminded the meeting that the Joint Commission was to discuss the issue of ecclesiological and canonical consequences of Uniatism at its plenary session in Baltimore, USA, as far back as the year 2000,” but that “the work in Baltimore was not completed because of disagreements that arose both between the Catholic and Orthodox sides of the dialogue and within each of the sides.”

The metropolitan said that the Russian Orthodox agreed to discuss synodality and primacy on the condition that within this context “the Commission will explore the canonical and ecclesiological consequences of Uniatism. However, for ten years from 2006 to 2015 the Commission has never revisited this theme.”

He maintained that having talked about primacy and synodality in the first millennium, these themes in the second millennium is the natural next step, and that “here we will have to deal with the issue of the 1054 schism and also the issue of Uniatism as one of the central ones in the second millennium. I can predict that there will be many divisive issues and that we will not agree on every point. However, the aim of our dialogue is not simply to agree on the points of which we agree anyhow, but we have to explore also the points of disagreement. And the issue of Uniatism is one such extremely burning issues.”

Metropolitan Hilarion drew attention to statements made by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, who is head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church – one of the 'uniates'. He said the major archbishop's statements “go against the line of our dialogue, create obstacles on its way and sow distrust between the Orthodox and the Catholics … We have to understand that there are people in our Churches who create obstacles on our way, and we have to bear it in mind when we speak about the future of our dialogue.”

The Russian Orthodox statement also said that one member of its delegation, Archimandrite Irenaeus, “stressed that it would be difficult for the Russian Orthodox Church to continue working in the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue if the problem of ecclesiological and canonical consequences of the unia remains unsolved.”

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