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Catholic group will accept Scouts' decision to allow girls to join

IMAGE: CNS/Nancy Wiechec

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IRVING, Texas (CNS) -- The leaders of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, which has its headquarters in the Dallas suburb of Irving, said they "accept and work with the new membership policy of the Boy Scouts of America" to admit girls.

"We were informed this morning" of the policy change, said an Oct. 11 statement by George Sparks, the national chairman of the group, and the committee's national chaplain, Father Kevin Smith, a priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York.

"Once we have had more time to review the policy and a chance to consult our national membership, we will be able to comment further about how this new policy will reflect changes in the makeup of Catholic-chartered units," they said.

Sparks told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 13 telephone interview that a member of the Scouts' executive board came to the Catholic Committee's meeting shortly after the board vote "and brought us up to speed on it."

Afterward, "we took an informal straw poll, and everybody at our meeting -- there were about 18 people at our meeting -- thought this was the right thing to do," Sparks said.

The Boy Scouts currently have 2.3 million members, less than half than the 5 million the organization had at is peak in the 1970s.

The vote to accept girls as members was unanimous, according to a spokeswoman for the Boy Scouts.

The Boy Scouts allowed gay members in 2015, gay troop leaders in 2015 and transgender members last January.

Admitting girls to the Scouts has "really been an issue that's been there, although it hasn't been on the top of the list because of the other membership-related issues the Boy Scouts of America has faced. But it was an issue that was definitely brought up at the Boy Scouts' executive meeting in May of 2017, and it was carried forth to this board meeting," Sparks said.

"It is the mission of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting to utilize and ensure the constructive use of the program of the Boy Scouts of America as a viable form of youth ministry with the Catholic youth of our nation," said the Oct. 11 statement from Sparks and Father Smith.

"The National Catholic Committee on Scouting seeks to sustain and strengthen the relationship between the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church and to work cooperatively with the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry and various other groups involved in youth ministry in the United States."

Girl Scouts leaders expressed displeasure over the summer when the Boy Scouts sought advice from its 270 councils on whether to accept girls. Girl Scouts of the USA's president, Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, in a letter to her Boy Scouts counterpart, Randall Stephenson, said the Boy Scouts should stick to recruiting "the 90 percent of American boys not currently participating in Boy Scouts."

Joseph Carballo, 70, a member of St. Helena Parish in the Bronx, New York, has two grown sons who were both Eagle Scouts. "And we all have the same view: no girls," he told The New York Times Oct. 11.

"Boys and girls should have separate organizations for activities," Carballo added. "There is an organization for girls. It's called the Girl Scouts."

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Contributing to this story was Mark Pattison in Washington.

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

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Pope announces Synod of Bishops dedicated to people in Amazon

IMAGE: CNS photo/Fernando Bizerra Jr., EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Addressing the challenges of evangelization in one of the world's most remote areas and the connection between faith and environmental concern, Pope Francis announced a special gathering of the Synod of Bishops to focus on the Amazon region.

"Accepting the wish of several episcopal conferences of Latin America as well as the voice of pastors and faithful from other parts of the world, I have decided to convene a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region, which will take place in Rome in October 2019," Pope Francis announced Oct. 15.

Speaking at the end of a Mass in St. Peter's Square, the pope said the synod would seek to identify new paths of evangelization, especially for indigenous people who are "often forgotten and left without the prospect of a peaceful future, including because of the crisis of the Amazon forest," which plays a vital role in the environmental health of the entire planet.

The Amazon rainforest includes territory belonging to nine countries in South America and has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity.

The pope prayed that the synod would highlight the beauty of creation so that "all the people of the earth may praise God, the Lord of the universe, and, enlightened by him, may walk along paths of justice and peace."

The pope had spoken about a possible synod with a variety of bishops from South America, who have been making their "ad limina" visits to Rome this year. The groups included the bishops of Peru; about 60 percent of the country is in the Amazon.

In an interview published May 16 in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Archbishop Salvador Pineiro Garcia-Calderon of Ayacucho, president of the Peruvian bishops' conference, said one of the primary challenges of evangelization in the Amazon is the difficulty in physically reaching the native populations.

For example, he said, although they are in the same church province, one bishop is five hours away and another is 17 hours away.

"It's easier to meet in Rome," he told L'Osservatore Romano. "It isn't an easy area and the pope is very concerned."

The church, he said, has been the only voice speaking out in defense of the indigenous people of the Amazon. In the early 1900s, St. Pius X strongly denounced the mistreatment of the native population in the rubber plantations of Peru, Archbishop Pineiro said.

A synod, he said, would expand that message and strengthen current efforts to evangelize.

"It is difficult to evangelize the native population," Archbishop Piniero said. "Recently, the seeds have begun to be sown. Some of my brother bishops who are in that area have learned to speak the native language in order to draw closer to the population."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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

Christian life is a love story with God, pope says at canonization

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Like the Catholic Church's newest saints, Christians are called to live their faith as a love story with God who wants a relationship that is "more than that of devoted subjects with their king," Pope Francis said.

Without a loving relationship with God, Christian life can become empty and "an impossible ethic, a collection of rules and laws to obey for no good reason," the pope said during Mass Oct. 15 in St. Peter's Square.

"This is the danger: a Christian life that becomes routine, content with 'normality,' without drive or enthusiasm, and with a short memory," he said during the Mass.

At the beginning of the Mass, Pope Francis proclaimed 35 new saints, including: the "Martyrs of Natal," Brazil, a group of 30 priests, laymen, women and children who were killed in 1645 during a wave of anti-Catholic persecution; and the "Child Martyrs of Tlaxcala," three children who were among Mexico's first native converts and were killed for refusing to renounce the faith.

Tapestries hung from the facade of St. Peter's Basilica bearing images of the martyrs as well as pictures of Sts. Angelo da Acri, an Italian Capuchin priest known for his defense of the poor, and Faustino Miguez, a Spanish priest who started an advanced school for girls at a time when such education was limited almost exclusively to boys.

An estimated 35,000 pilgrims -- many of them from the new saints' countries of origin -- attended the Mass, the Vatican said Oct. 15.

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the day's Gospel reading from St. Matthew in which Jesus recounts the parable of the wedding feast.

Noting Jesus' emphasis on the wedding guests, the pope said that God "wants us, he goes out to seek us and he invites us" to celebrate with him.

"For him, it is not enough that we should do our duty and obey his laws," Pope Francis said. "He desires a true communion of life with us, a relationship based on dialogue, trust and forgiveness."

However, he continued, Jesus also warns that "the invitation can be refused" as it was by those who "made light" of the invitation or were too caught up in their own affairs to consider attending the banquet.

"This is how love grows cold, not out of malice but out of preference for what is our own: our security, our self-affirmation, our comfort," the pope said.

Despite constant rejection and indifference, God does not cancel the wedding feast but continues to invite Christians to overcome "the whims of our peevish and lazy selves" and to imitate the church's new saints who, he said, not only said yes to God's invitation, but wore "the wedding garment" of God's love.

"The saints who were canonized today, and especially the many martyrs, point the way," Pope Francis said. "The robe they wore daily was the love of Jesus, that 'mad' love that loved us to the end and offered his forgiveness and his robe to those who crucified him."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

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

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To fight hunger and forced migration, end war, arms trade, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- It makes no sense to lament the problems of hunger and forced migration if one is unwilling to address their root causes, which are conflict and climate change, Pope Francis said.

"War and climate change lead to hunger; therefore, let's avoid presenting it as if it were an incurable disease," and instead implement laws, economic policies, lifestyle changes and attitudes that prevent the problems in the first place, he told world leaders at the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization.

Pope Francis received a standing ovation after he addressed the assembly at FAO's Rome headquarters to mark World Food Day Oct. 16, the date the organization was founded in 1945 to address the causes of poverty and hunger. The FAO was holding a conference on the theme "Changing the future of migration."

Food insecurity is linked to forced migration, the pope said, and the two can be addressed only "if we go to the root of the problem" -- conflict and climate change.

International law already has all the instruments and means in place to prevent and quickly end the conflicts that tear communities and countries apart, and trigger hunger, malnutrition and migration, he said.

"Goodwill and dialogue are needed to stop conflicts," he said, "and it is necessary to fully commit to gradual and systematic disarmament" as well as stop the "terrible plague of arms trafficking."

"What good is denouncing that millions of people are victims of hunger and malnutrition because of conflicts if one then does not effectively work for peace and disarmament?" he asked.

As for climate change, he said, scientists know what needs to be done and the international instruments -- like the Paris Agreement -- are already available.

Without specifying which nations, the pope said, unfortunately "some are backing away" from the agreement. U.S. President Donald Trump announced in June that the United States would withdraw from the accord as a way to help the U.S. economy.

"We cannot resign ourselves to saying, 'Someone else will do it,'" he said. Everyone is called to adopt and promote changes in lifestyle, in the way resources are used and in production and consumption -- particularly when it comes to food, which is increasingly wasted.

Some people believe reducing the number of mouths to feed would solve the problem of food insecurity, but, the pope said, this is "a false solution" given the enormous waste and overconsumption in the world.

"Cutting back is easy," he said, but "sharing requires conversion and this is demanding."

"We cannot act only if others are doing it or limit ourselves to having pity because pity doesn't go beyond emergency aid," the pope said.

International organizations, leaders and individuals need to act out of real love and mercy toward others -- particularly the most vulnerable -- in order to create a world based on true justice and solidarity.

Arriving at the FAO headquarters, Pope Francis presented a gift of a statue depicting the tragic death of Alan Kurdi (also known as Aylan), the 3-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on the shore of Turkey when a small inflatable boat holding a dozen refugees capsized in 2015. The statue, made of pure white Carrara marble, depicts a child-like angel weeping over the boy's lifeless body.

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

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Victims of Las Vegas shooting remembered at funeral Masses, vigils

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Immediate makeshift memorials in Las Vegas to the 58 victims killed during the Oct. 1 outdoor country music concert are being replaced by memorial services, vigils and Catholic funerals at the victims' hometowns across the country and in Canada.

Many of the services are taking place in California since 33 of the victims, more than half of those killed at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, were from the Golden State.

Bakersfield, California, two hours north of Los Angeles, was home to three victims of the shooting. A memorial service was held there Oct. 6 at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church for Jack Beaton, a 54-year-old father of two who worked with a roofing company.

More than 800 people attended the service where Beaton was remembered as a fun-loving friend, a hard worker, a kindhearted neighbor and a devoted husband and father of an 18-year-old daughter and 20-year-old son. He and his wife, Laurie, attended the concert to celebrate their 23rd wedding anniversary. He died in her arms after putting his body on top of hers to protect her.

"I knew every day that he would protect me and take care of me and love me unconditionally, and what he did is no surprise to me," Laurie Beaton told The Associated Press before the service, adding: "He is my hero."

In San Francisco, a funeral Mass was celebrated Oct. 12 at St. Mary's Cathedral for Stacee Etcheber, a 50-year-old hairstylist and mother of two children, 10 and 12, who was attending the Las Vegas concert with her husband, Vince, a San Francisco police officer.

At the funeral Mass, so close to where the devastating wildfires are happening, the San Francisco Chronicle said it was not lost at anyone that Etcheber was exactly the kind of person the area needed at this time.

She was described as someone who wouldn't have thought twice about volunteering and doing what she could for the thousands affected by the fires. She also would have been the "the incident commander" getting horses to safety, Father Michael Quinn, pastor of St. Mary Star of the Sea in Sausalito, California, told the congregation.

The Etchebers had been separated during the chaos of the shooting. Her husband, who survived, was helping many of the wounded at the concert.

Although Stacee was not a member of the San Francisco Police Department, her funeral included many of the honors of an officer's funeral. Bagpipers played as officers with the department's mounted unit stood their horses at attention outside the cathedral.

Some of those in attendance wore orange ribbons for Stacee's favorite color.

The same day, a funeral Mass was celebrated for 28-year-old Christopher Roybal, a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Navy at St. Matthew's Church in Corona, California.

Roybal had gone to the concert with his mother, and like many others, they were separated in the confusion during and after the shooting took place.

"He always made me feel so beautiful, so amazing, and I'm sure that a lot of you in here understand exactly what I'm saying because he was such an amazing soul," his mother said at the funeral, according to the local ABC news affiliate KABC, which also reported that the priest encouraged the congregation to sing Roybal a country song as a final goodbye.

Roybal's father said his son's Navy training immediately kicked in when the gunfire started.

He suspected that his son "immediately went into that mode of protecting everybody around him like he did in Afghanistan -- the sound nobody will understand -- Christopher just started saving lives and not for one second thought about his own life," he said.

In Alberta, Canada, a candlelight vigil took place just two days after the Las Vegas shooting at St. Rita's Catholic Church in Valleyview for Jessica Klymchuk, a 34-year-old mother of four and educational assistant at St. Stephen's Catholic School, across the street from the church.

"I just really, really miss her," said a 10-year-old at the vigil. An 11-year-old described her as the kindest person he knew, reported CBC News in Canada.

Klymchuk, one of four Canadians killed in the mass shooting, attended the festival with her fiance. She wore several hats at the school where she was a bus driver, a classroom aide and librarian.

"She had this heart of gold," said Christine Ikonikov, a friend of who organized the vigil, and described her to a reporter as a "wonderful woman, strong, always put other people first."

A celebration of life for Sandy Casey, a newly engaged 35-year-old resident of Redondo Beach, California, was scheduled to take place Oct. 17 at the United Church of Dorset and East Rupert in Dorset, Vermont, where her family lives.

Casey, who was a special education teacher at Manhattan Beach Middle School near Los Angeles, attended the College of St. Joseph in Rutland, Vermont, and received a master's degree in special education in 2005 from Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Catholic college is planning to hold a memorial for Casey. The school's president, Francesco Cesareo, said in a statement that the mass shooting is a "harsh reminder of the darkness that attempts to consume the world in which we live."

"Despite that darkness," he said, "the light of hope can be found illuminating such tragedies in the selfless actions of those that put their own lives in jeopardy assisting others."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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