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March 28, 2017
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Pope Francis: Eliminating nuclear weapons is a moral imperative

Vatican City, March 28 (CNA/EWTN News) .- On Tuesday, Pope Francis acknowledged the difficulty of totally eliminating nuclear weapons, but said the challenge is still a necessary undertaking, especially given what’s at stake.
FULL STORY »



Vatican

Pope Francis: Eliminating nuclear weapons is a moral imperative

US

Arizona strengthens conscience protections for health care workers
This historic black Catholic grade school could get shut down
In NYC, admissions error excludes Catholic school students
Mother Angelica: A female powerhouse in a supposedly sexist Church
How the 'pirate nun' changed a gay man's life

Americas

Catholics are bringing health care to one of the world's poorest countries
Abortion bill makes unlikely alliance of Bolivian clergy, feminists

Europe

Visionaries' canonization would 'complete' the Fatima centenary



Vatican

Pope Francis: Eliminating nuclear weapons is a moral imperative

VATICAN CITY, March 28 (CNA/EWTN News) .- On Tuesday, Pope Francis acknowledged the difficulty of totally eliminating nuclear weapons, but said the challenge is still a necessary undertaking, especially given what’s at stake.

“The ultimate goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons becomes both a challenge and a moral and humanitarian imperative,” he said in a message to United Nations members March 28.

The message was read before the “United Nations conference aimed at negotiating a legally binding instrument on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, leading to their total elimination,” held in New York March 27-31.

Presented by Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, Secretary for Relations with States and head of the Holy See’s delegation at the meetings, the Pope’s message acknowledged that the goal is a “demanding” and “forward-looking” one.

And this is true especially given the present international climate, which is both “cause and indication” of the difficulties of furthering and strengthening a nuclear ban, he said.

“If we take into consideration the principal threats to peace and security,” he continued, “for example, terrorism, asymmetrical conflicts, cybersecurity, environmental problems, poverty, not a few doubts arise regarding the inadequacy of nuclear deterrence as an effective response to such challenges.”

These combined with the “catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences” that would follow the use of nuclear weapons make the goal a moral and ethical necessity, he said.

Additionally, the resources spent on nuclear weapon development could be used for more worthy causes, such as poverty, and the promotion of peace and integral human development.  

Considered to be only the first part of UN meetings to ban and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons, the talks are supported by more than 120 countries, as well as numerous disarmament groups.

On the other hand, more than 40 countries have declined to participate in the talks, including the United States and most other nuclear powers, such as Britain and Russia.

On Monday, U.S. Ambassador Nikki R. Haley led a group of dozens of UN members in boycotting the discussions, saying she did not think that it was the right time to have these talks given the unlikeliness of North Korea banning nuclear weapons, according to the New York Times.

In his message, Pope Francis said the conference “intends to negotiate a Treaty inspired by ethical and moral arguments.”

“It is an exercise in hope and it is my wish that it may also constitute a decisive step along the road towards a world without nuclear weapons. Although this is a significantly complex and long-term goal, it is not beyond our reach,” he said.

“International peace and stability cannot be based on a false sense of security, on the threat of mutual destruction or total annihilation, or on simply maintaining a balance of power.”

 




US

Arizona strengthens conscience protections for health care workers

PHOENIX, ARIZ., March 28 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Health care providers and institutions opposed to assisted suicide gained more legal protections under a new Arizona law that aims to help ensure doctors and nurses aren’t fired for their beliefs if the practice is ever legalized.

Senate Bill 1439 was “an important rights of conscience bill,” according to the bishops of the Arizona Catholic Conference.

“S.B. 1439 will help protect health care providers not wanting to participate in services causing the death of their patients,” the state’s four bishops said March 24, adding they were grateful that it has become law.

The bill lists assisted suicide, euthanasia, or “mercy killing” as some activities that a doctor, nurse or health care entity may decline to participate in.

Bill sponsor Sen. Nancy Barto said the bill would help ensure that individuals would not lose their jobs if they have objections to these practices.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed the legislation on Friday.

The Arizona bishops’ conference said federal law already protects health care providers who decline to participate in assisted suicide or similar actions, but the bill adds state-level protections and clarifies that providers cannot face discrimination in employment.

The bill bars discrimination against state health care providers and facilities if they refuse to assist in services that result in a person’s death or if they refuse to provide items that result in a person’s death.

Assisted suicide is illegal in Arizona, though the conscience protection bill comes at a time when several other states have legalized the practice.




This historic black Catholic grade school could get shut down

BIRMINGHAM, ALA., March 27 (CNA/EWTN News) .- After 111 years of serving the community of Birmingham, Alabama, the city's only African American Catholic elementary school could close due to financial struggles.

Over its long history, Our Lady of Fatima has become an integral part of the community, serving students from all backgrounds: of its 64 children, 11 percent are Catholic, and 89 percent are non-Catholic.

“It's looked at as a community school,” the school's principal Al Logan told the Birmingham Times.

“Most of these children are neighborhood children and their parents are struggling to send them here for a Catholic education,” staff member Cynthia Pinkard noted, according to CBS WIAT.

Closing the school “would really hurt the neighborhood,” she said.  

Our Lady of Fatima is the oldest Catholic elementary school in Birmingham, serving students from pre-kindergarten through the fifth grade. The school is located in the Titusville area, and is also connected with Our Lady of Fatima parish in the Diocese of Birmingham.

“We've seen a decline in enrollment,” Logan said. “It's just because of the way our housing market went a few years ago. It all plays into that same arena. I don't think it has personally anything to do with Catholic or non-Catholic (schools); it just happens.”

Logan believes that the school can raise the necessary funds to keep the school open for at least another year. The school is asking for $150,000 in donations for the 2017-2018 academic year, which needs to be raised by August. The Diocese of Birmingham has chipped in over the years, but the school will need more to keep its doors open.

“I really think we will be able to keep it open,” Logan said, saying that they have already received donations from all across the country from places like Indiana and Florida.

“With the support of everyone who's interested in seeing a good, Catholic education be afforded to the kids, we'll find a way to keep the school open,” he added.

However, Our Lady of Fatima is not the only school on the chopping block. Across the country, private and Catholic schools in particular have faced financial trouble due to lower enrollment.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there has been a two percent enrollment decrease in private schools over the past 20 years for elementary or secondary students. Over 1,000 Catholic schools have also been forced to close or team up with other schools since 2006.

Looking to the future, Logan is hopeful that the school will receive the money necessary to keep the school open and asked for continued donations.

“We would like for the community to step up and to give us whatever they can donate, and likewise, anyone who would like to (donate) from any city or location in the country.”

Donations to Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School can be received by phone at 205-251-8395 or through the mail at 630 1st Street S., Birmingham, AL, 35205.




In NYC, admissions error excludes Catholic school students

NEW YORK CITY, N.Y., March 27 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Amid charges that a selective public high school excluded Catholic school students from admission, the principal insists it was due to a clerical error but still faces heavy criticism.

Maspeth High School, in the New York City borough of Queens, gives admission priority to students who live nearby and attend information sessions or open houses.

The school selected about 250 prospective students out of 1,000 applicants in its lottery.

However, the principal had failed to mark for priority status 207 students of Catholic schools who had attended an information session for Maspeth. Priority status would have placed them in the random lottery.

Instead, none of those 207 students were accepted, the New York Post reports.

Principal Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir told parents the omission was due to a “clerical error.”

“There was an error. There was a problem,” the principal said at a March 16 meeting of the Juniper Park Civic Association, the Queens Chronicle reports. “So there is no vast conspiracy against any of the parochial schools. Some of our best students come from parochial schools.”

As controversy grew, New York City Department of Education officials then entered 207 of the applicants from parochial schools into a second lottery. It offered seats to 66 of these students, who would make up about 15 percent of the freshman class.

Critics of the system charge that it is vulnerable to abuse by principals who want to exclude or favor certain students.

The president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, Bob Holden, told the New York Post that the principal had in a phone call described parochial schools as “a problem” because “many of the students opt out and don’t go to my school,” which costs the school funding.

Holden called for an investigation.

Parents may ask the city to re-do the entire lottery for the high school.

Among the parents critical of the school was Jimmy Guarneri, whose son Michael was not accepted. “We’re very angry,” he told the New York Post.

His son will go to a Catholic high school, but only received a partial scholarship. “I’m working two jobs as it is,” he said.

The second lottery meant many students were rejected twice, including the son of parent Santo Vicino.

“I haven’t seen my son cry before and he’s cried twice this past week,” Vicino told the New York Post.

“I need this school for my son’s health, safety and well-being,” he added. “I’m demanding a seat. I want what’s right.”




Mother Angelica: A female powerhouse in a supposedly sexist Church

BIRMINGHAM, ALA., March 27 (CNA/EWTN News) .- It was September 1987, and Pope John Paul II had just arrived in Los Angeles after traveling around the United States. The Pope was greeted in the City of Angels by a closed-door meeting with a group of progressive bishops who had a bone to pick with several Church traditions.

One of four chosen representatives, Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee, spoke to the pope about female ordination:

“Women seek…(a church) that teaches and shows by example the co-discipleship of the sexes as instruments of God’s kingdom. They seek a church where the gifts of women are equally accepted and appreciated...where the feminine is no longer subordinate but seen in a holistic mutuality with the masculine as forming the full image of the Divine,” he said.

Meanwhile in Alabama, a woman of the Church named Mother Angelica had just thrown her cable network, which reached more than 2 million homes at the time, into 24-hour coverage territory. During the 1987 papal trip, the EWTN Network took on the then-unprecedented task of live, unedited, constant coverage of the Holy Father’s visit.

And when word reached the spunky nun of the Milwaukee bishop’s remarks to the Pope during the trip, she couldn’t help but chime in with her opinion.

“Women in the priesthood, that’s just a power play, that’s ridiculous,” Mother Angelica said the next day.  

“As it is women have more power in the Church than anybody. They built and run the schools. God has designed that men be priests, and we can’t afford to deny God his sovereign rights,” she said, as recalled in her biography by Raymond Arroyo.

If anyone has any doubts as to whether ordination is necessary for leadership and influence in the Church, they need look no further than the media mogul nun herself to be proven wrong, said Catholic talk show host and media consultant Teresa Tomeo.  

“Not only was she a prominent international media personality, because of her work on air and her great shows, but she was a foundress of a major religious network and she was a CEO of that network while being on the air, which is something that few women in the secular world accomplish,” Tomeo told CNA.

“And here she is accomplishing this in the Catholic Church, which is supposedly so sexist and backward according to the world. She’s breaking barriers that these powerful women in secular media can’t even touch.”

In 1981, at a time when women were still struggling for places of prominence in the world of broadcasting, Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation launched Eternal Word Television Network, which today transmits 24-hour-a-day programming to more than 264 million homes in 144 countries. What began with approximately 20 employees has now grown to nearly 400. The religious network broadcasts terrestrial and shortwave radio around the world, operates a religious goods catalog and publishes the National Catholic Register and Catholic News Agency, among other publishing ventures.

She’s breaking barriers that these powerful women in secular media can’t even touch.

Besides founding EWTN, Mother Angelica is also credited with building a monastery, a shrine, and establishing two religious orders.

Mother Angelica passed away on March 27, 2016 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old.

After her passing, the praises of Mother Angelica were sung from both the secular and Church media, with many recognizing her as a strong example of female leadership.

In his tribute, John Allen of Crux wrote:  

“Today there’s a great deal of ferment about how to promote leadership by women in the Church in ways that don’t involve ordination, a conversation Pope Francis himself has promoted. In a way, however, debating that question in the abstract seems silly, because we already have a classic, for-all-time example of female empowerment in Mother Angelica.”

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, remembered her as a “devout believer and media pioneer" in a statement following her death.

"Mother Angelica reflected the Gospel commission to go forth and make disciples of all nations, and like the best evangelists, she used the communications tools of her time to make this happen. She displayed a unique capacity for mission and showed the world once again the vital contribution of women religious," he said.

Her vigorous leadership and vision in a Church with all-male clergy came from her security in knowing her identity before God, Tomeo added.

“Bottom line is that she knew who she was in Christ, she knew that she was designed in the image and likeness of God, that we’re male and female, we’re equal but we’re different,” she said.

“And she knew that God has a special role for her, and that he chose her for a specific reason, and that you can do all things through Christ as St. Paul tells us.”

Mother Angelica doesn’t stand alone in the line of formidable female figures in the Church, either, Tomeo noted. She succeeded other spiritual giants like St. Teresa of Avila and St. Catherine of Siena, and is joined by other women in the contemporary world, who are working to make a difference in the Church.

For years to come, Mother Angelica will be remembered for her authenticity and punchy humor, and her ability to preach the Gospel with love, Tomeo added.

“She was funny, she always gave me hope that no matter how many mistakes any of us make, God is always going to allow us to come home,” she said.

“I think that we have just begun to unpack her wisdom. I think...for decades and centuries, she’s going to be seen as one of the greatest evangelists in America.”

 

This article was originally published April 1, 2016.




How the 'pirate nun' changed a gay man's life

BIRMINGHAM, ALA., March 27 (CNA) .- Paul Darrow went to his first gay beach when he was 15.

Soon after, he hitchhiked his way to New York, where there was a thriving gay scene and where he could pursue a career in modeling. Once there, he landed a high-end job as an international model and rubbed elbows with celebrities at clubs in the city.

When he wasn’t at the studio or at the gym, Darrow spent his time looking for partners. He found himself going through dozens, and then hundreds, and then thousands of lovers.

“It became frantic, and it was never my intention...but I became insensitive to what it means to be with a partner, both body and soul,” he said in the documentary film, “Desire of the Everlasting Hills.”

But after the AIDS epidemic claimed around 90 percent of his friends, a disease he himself narrowly and miraculously escaped, Darrow decided to move to San Francisco for a fresh start. He met his partner, Jeff, there and they moved to a cabin in Sonoma County.

It was in their shared home that Darrow accidentally discovered a one-eyed, straight-talking “pirate nun” wearing an eye-patch who would change his life forever.

“It was so strange that I said 'Jeff Jeff come in here! You gotta see this!'” he said, pointing to the image on the T.V.

Unbeknownst to them at the time, it was Mother Angelica on EWTN. She had just had a stroke, which pulled the left side of her face into a slump and required her to wear a black eye patch over one eye.

“So (Jeff) comes in and I'm laughing mockingly at this nun with a patch over her eye, a distorted face…and a complete old fashioned habit,” Darrow said. “We both mocked her and laughed at her, you know, 'Gosh these crazy Christians.'”

Jeff left the room and Darrow was about to change the channel, when Mother Angelica “said something so intelligent, so real, and so honest, that it really struck me,” he said.

“You see God created you and I to be happy in this life and the next,” Mother Angelica said through slumped lips, her good eye still twinkling behind her glasses.

Mother Angelica's words struck a chord with Darrow that day, and he found himself secretively snatching glimpses of her episodes every chance he got.

“He cares for you. He watches your every move. There's no one that loves you can do that.”

Mother Angelica's words struck a chord with Darrow that day, and he found himself secretively snatching glimpses of her episodes every chance he got.

Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, foundress of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), passed away on March 27, 2016 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old.

“She really had…a huge influence on my life, and I learned to love her,” he said, “but at the same time, I had to hide her.”

“So when I turned off the TV, I would always change the channel so that when Jeff or whoever was watching that TV came in, they would never see that I was watching Mother Angelica. And it reminded me as I was doing this of when I used to turn the channel when I was watching porn because I didn't want Jeff or anyone else to see a porn station come up.”

Eventually, Mother Angelica's influence convinced Darrow to go back to church after decades of absence. It was a move that made Darrow very wary; he was sure he would lose friends and clients if they saw him going into a Catholic Church.

And in some ways, he was right.

“I lost clients, I lost friends,” he told CNA in a 2014 interview, at the premiere of the documentary.

“People were in shock that an educated, relatively intelligent man could believe in Jesus Christ. These were the few friends that were aware that I was back in the Church.”

But it's a move that he’s never regretted. Since his conversion, Darrow has shared his experience through talks and conferences. Mother Angelica also led Darrow to discover Courage International, the
Vatican-approved apostolate that reaches out to Catholics with same-sex attraction with the goals of growing closer to God, engaging in supportive friendships, and learning to live full lives within the call to chastity.

It was through Courage International that Darrow became involved with the film “Desire of the Everlasting Hills,” which he saw as a chance to share his story and to give others the same hope that he found in the Catholic Church.

“I was not discriminated against at the beginning of my journey back to the Catholic Church, I was never told that I was a bad person, that I was doing something wrong, even in confession,” he said.

“The Catholic Church really is, according to its teachings, open to everybody.”

Darrow said he felt he owed it to God to share his story through courage and through the film because of all that God had done in his life.

“I wanted to express my love to God and my appreciation for all that He has done for me,” Darrow said, “that He had never forgotten me during the decades that I had forgotten him or turned against him.”

The full documentary is available for free online at: https://everlastinghills.org/movie/

 

This article was originally published March 29, 2016.




Americas

Catholics are bringing health care to one of the world's poorest countries

PORT AU PRINCE, HAITI, March 28 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Catholics are banding together to bring life-saving health care to rural areas in one of the poorest countries in the world.

“The key thing that I saw was partnership. Catholic Medical Mission Board can’t do it alone,” Adam Kerrigan told CNA.

Kerrigan is the Catholic Medical Mission Board’s senior vice president for partnerships. In an interview, he described the new hospital his organization helped build in Côtes-de-Fer on Haiti’s Southern coast.

“We work with the bishops’ conference, with the ministry of health, and with the community together,” he continued.

The Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan Center for Health, named for a late board member of the CMMB and the former auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn, opened on Haiti’s southeastern coast on Monday, providing health care to the area’s population who previously would have had to travel for hours to the nearest hospital for care.

After a catastrophic 2010 earthquake shook the country, most of the aid response focused on the country’s capital of Port-au-Prince, Kerrigan told CNA.

In the wake of the earthquake, there was “little attention was being paid to the Southern tier,” which was just as devastated as the north but harder to get to, Kerrigan said. The local bishop had asked the Catholic Medical Mission Board to bring supplies and volunteers to the area, which they did.

Bishop Guire Poulard was eventually moved to the archdiocese of Port-au-Prince but he still insisted that a hospital should be built in the south.

With the help of a $2 million matching grant from Mercy Health, a Cincinnati-based Catholic health care system, construction began on the hospital in Côtes-de-Fer in 2013. It will serve 50,000 Haitians in the region.

Child and maternal mortality is a big problem in the region, Kerrigan said, and the hospital will be primarily addressing the health of women and children. According to recent UN estimates, Haitian women have “a one in 80 chance of dying due to pregnancy or child birth, compared to the region-wide risk of one in 510.”

“Nutrition is really poor there, they have really poor crops,” he said, and so in addition to “trying to get the moms to come to the hospital and deliver” where they can receive the proper care, the board is also working to improve nutrition and reduce anemia in the area.

Also, “clean, potable water is essential,” he added, as the water in the area has high salinity.

The hospital was a partnership effort between the board, Mercy Health, the local church, the community, and Haiti’s public health ministry, he insisted.

“The community was at the very base of this beginning. We assessed what their needs were as they told us, and worked with them on those issues. We have a really strong commitment from the community to work with us to improve their health overall.”

Americans were quite responsive to the fundraising for the $2 million, Kerrigan said, from individuals and corporations to foundations and health systems contributing.

A “team from the Mercy Health system of doctors, nurses” and other medical staff also traveled down to Haiti to help local staff, he added.

The board has also started a CHAMPS program, or “children and mothers’ partnerships,” in order to provide a health center and better sanitation, clean water and nutrition in the area.

The whole health care initiative will be a 15-to-20 year project, Kerrigan acknowledged. Over the next 10 years, dental and ophthalmology facilities will be added to the hospital,” CMMB stated, and future doctors and nurses will be trained at the center.

“It’s a long-term struggle to overcome the health needs of a poor, rural community. And Côtes-de-Fer can be a model for us for the rest of Haiti,” he said.

 




Abortion bill makes unlikely alliance of Bolivian clergy, feminists

SUCRE, BOLIVIA, March 27 (CNA/EWTN News) .- A bill in Bolivia that would allow abortions only for certain groups of women is uniting unlikely groups in opposition to the policy - namely, Bolivian bishops and pro-choice feminists.

Abortion is currently illegal in Bolivia except in certain rare cases, such as rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.

The new legislation, proposed by the Movement for Socialism (MAS) party, would decriminalise abortion during the first eight weeks of pregnancy in situations of extreme poverty, and would allow students and women with three or more children to be eligible for an abortion up to eight weeks.

The Catholic Bishops of Bolivia have said that the new proposal “seriously threatened” the right to life found in the Bolivian constitution.

“Life is a gift from God and no one can dispose of it under any circumstances,” said Bishop Aurelio Pesoa Ribera, the Secretary General of the Bishop’s Conference, according to Vatican Radio.

He also decried the new policy as targeting children born into poor circumstances, and said that it does not address the issues that lead to poverty.

“The proposal introduces a foreign ideological colonization that discards boys and girls born in fragile situations and accepts the sad violence of abortion as a way of providing solutions to social and economic problems.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, pro-choice feminists also voiced opposition to the bill, in part because it targets poor women.

“They should then promote vasectomies for poor and irresponsible men,” the feminist group Mujeres Creando told The World Weekly.  

However, they believe that the government should allow access to abortion for all women up to  eight weeks of pregnancy.

Although President of Bolivia Evo Morales is a member of the Movement for Socialism party, he has distanced himself from the controversy surrounding the bill, saying that he has not been involved in the proposal process. Abortion was decriminalized under certain circumstances in the country under Morales in 2014.

Most countries in majority-Catholic Latin America have very strict laws on abortion, with some countries allowing for it in certain circumstances, and only four countries allowing for abortion without restrictions.




Europe

Visionaries' canonization would 'complete' the Fatima centenary

FATIMA, PORTUGAL, March 28 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Fatima's bishop has said the centenary of the locale's Marian apparition would not be complete without the announcement of the canonization of Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the children who witnessed the apparition.

“I would consider the centenary to be incomplete without the canonization. I have had this hope. We are in time for it to be May 13, but everything depends on the exclusive competency of the Pope,” Bishop Antonio dos Santos Marto of Leiria-Fatima said at a recent press conference.

The bishop also spoke about the news that Pope Francis approved March 23 the decree recognizing a second miracle attributed to the intercession of both siblings. This opens the way for their canonization.

Together with their cousin Lucia Santo, the brother and sister witnessed the 1917 apparitions of Mary.

Francisco and Jacinta died soon after, in 1919 and 1920, respectively. Lucia became a Carmelite nun, and died in 2005.

Bishop dos Santos Marto said he received with “enormous satisfaction the news of the approval of the miracle.”

He acknowledged that the announcement was not a surprise because “I had confident hope.” However, he said, “I must confess I was caught by surprise by the date; I didn't expect it to be so soon.”

“After this there's just one remaining decisive step, which belongs to the Holy Father: choosing the date and location of the canonization.”

He indicated that information will not be available until the April 20 consistory.

Also present at the press conference was the postulator for the cause of canonization of Francisco and Jacinta Marto, Sister Angela Coelho. The religious is also the vice-postulator of the cause for the beatification of Sister Lucia.

Sister Coehlo pointed out that “the little shepherds, who died at the age of 10, will be the youngest saints in the history of the Church, with the exception of child martyrs.”

She said the miracle attributed to the intercession of the blessed involves the cure of a child in Brazil. The healing began to be studied in 2013, but “more details on the case are not allowed to be revealed” because it concerns a child and the need to protect the child's identity.

Sister  Coelho also spoke about the speed with which the theological approval came about after the medical validation of the miracle. “The theological argumentation was already prepared previously and all the documentation for Rome was immediately sent,” she said.

The postulator clarified that no announcement is expected concerning the process of beatification for Sister Lucia. “That's a separate cause,” she explained.





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