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Pope's tip for becoming a saint: Pray for someone who doesn't like you

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- A practical first step toward holiness -- as well as for assuring peace in one's family and in the world -- is to pray for a person who has caused offense or harm, Pope Francis said.

"Are you merciful toward the people who have harmed you or don't like you? If God is merciful, if he is holy, if he is perfect, then we must be merciful, holy and perfect as he is. This is holiness. A man or woman who does this deserves to be canonized," the pope said Feb. 19 during an evening parish Mass.

"I suggest you start small," Pope Francis told members of the parish of St. Mary Josefa on the extreme eastern edge of the Diocese of Rome. "We all have enemies. We all know that so-and-so speaks ill of us. We all know. And we all know that this person or that person hates us."

When that happens, the pope said, "I suggest you take a minute, look at God (and say), 'This person is your son or your daughter, change his or her heart, bless him or her.' This is praying for those who don't like us, for our enemies. Perhaps the rancor will remain in us, but we are making an effort to follow the path of this God who is so good, merciful, holy, perfect, who makes the sun rise on the evil and the good."

The day's first reading included the line, "Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy," and in the Gospel reading, Jesus said, "Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."

"You might ask me, 'But, father, what is the path to holiness?' 'What is the journey needed to become holy?' Jesus explains it well in the Gospel. He explains it with concrete examples," the pope said.

The first example, he said, is "not taking revenge. If I have some rancor in my heart for something someone has done, I want vengeance, but this moves me off the path of holiness. No revenge. 'But he did this and he will pay.' Is this Christian? No. 'He will pay' is not in the Christian's vocabulary. No revenge."

In people's everyday lives, he said, their squabbles with their relatives or neighbors may seem a little thing, but they are not. "These big wars we read about in the papers and see on the news, these massacres of people, of children, how much hatred! It's the same hatred you have in your heart for this person, that person, that relative, your mother-in-law. It's bigger, but it's the same hatred."

Forgiveness, the pope said, is the path toward holiness and toward peace. "If everyone in the world learned this, there would be no wars."

Wars begin "with bitterness, rancor, the desire for vengeance, to make them pay," he said. It's an attitude that destroys families and neighborhoods and peaceful relations between nations.

"I'm not telling you what to do, Jesus is: Love your enemies. 'You mean I have to love that person?' Yes."

"'I have to pray for someone who has harmed me?' Yes, that he will change his life, that the Lord will forgive him," the pope said. "This is the magnanimity of God, of God who has a big heart, who forgives all."

"Prayer is an antidote for hatred, for wars, these wars that begin at home, in families," he said. "Think of how many wars there have been in families because of an inheritance. "

"Prayer is powerful. Prayer defeats evil. Prayer brings peace," the pope said.

As is his custom for parish visits, Pope Francis began this three-hour visit to St. Mary Josefa by meeting different parish groups, including children, who were invited to ask him question.

One asked how he became pope and Pope Francis said when a pope is elected "maybe he is not the most intelligent, perhaps not the most astute or the quickest at doing what must be done, but he is the one who God wants for the church at that moment."

Pope Francis explained that when a pope dies or resigns, like Pope Benedict XVI did, the cardinals gather for a conclave. "They speak among themselves, discuss what profile would be best, who has this advantage and who has that one. But, above all, they pray."

They use their reason to try to figure out what the church needs and who could provide it, he said, but mostly they rely on the Holy Spirit to inspire them in their choice.

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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.

Unusual detentions, raids raise questions as Trump announces 'crackdown'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Stephanie Keith, Reuters

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- People had been on edge for a while. You could feel the tension rise in immigrant neighborhoods in the U.S. as news of the first immigration raids under the Trump administration began in early February.

Then news of unusual detentions, some involving battered women and students who had been protected under previous policies, set off panic.

A variety of communities, from the Irish to Latinos, worry that the roundups mark the beginning of what President Donald Trump promised in his campaign for the presidency: to deport the country's estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants.

Responding to the fears, Spanish-language television network Telemundo hosted a prime-time show Feb. 12: "Immigration, Trump and Hispanics." The show featured activists, lawyers, children of deported parents and relatives, along with advice about what to do if government officials come knocking.

The publication IrishCentral almost daily has been posting stories about raids in Latino communities sprinkled with some assurances, but also a few worries about the immigration status of some 50,000 unauthorized Irish immigrants in the U.S.

In a recent post on its website, the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns said that of the more than 4 million Filipinos in the U.S., "1 million are undocumented and Philippine officials in Washington D.C. recently reported that more than 300,000 could be facing deportation due to Trump's anti-immigrant policies."

Whether the recent raids and detentions are routine or whether they're part of a new effort is unknown. Officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which directs Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE, said the February raids that resulted in more than 680 arrests are "routine." 

But later, Trump said they were part of a new effort. About 75 percent of those arrested in the raids near Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio and New York City, the agency said, had been convicted of crimes, but it did not say who made up the other 25 percent.

Some worry that it included students and women who had previously been protected from deportation through programs such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, and the Violence Against Women Act, which protects victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

In a wide-ranging Feb. 16 news conference after announcing his pick for labor secretary, Trump talked about a "crackdown on sanctuary cities," said a "nationwide effort to remove criminal aliens" had begun, and that he had ordered an end to the "catch and release policy" that allowed unauthorized immigrants caught by officials to go free while they await a hearing.

He also announced the creation of "a new office in Homeland Security dedicated to the forgotten American victims of illegal immigrant violence, of which there are many," he said.

In attempting to answer a question about the future of some 750,000 DACA beneficiaries who were brought as minors to the U.S. without legal permission, he said, "DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me," and "you have these incredible kids in many cases, not in all cases, in some cases they have DACA and they're gang members and they're drug dealers, too. But you have some absolutely incredible kids." He said, "I find it very, very hard doing what the law says exactly to do and the law is rough," but he didn't say how he would address the situation other than it would be with "heart."

The announcement came just a day after Catholic bishops whose dioceses are on the U.S.-Mexico border met Feb. 13-15 in Texas in the Diocese of Brownsville. They visited an immigration detention center as well as a church-run facility that helps migrants.

In a statement, the border bishops said they could sense the "pain, the fear and the anguish" migrants are undergoing and asked that they be treated with respect and dignity "regardless of their migration condition."

All of this came in a week of incidents carrying the narrative that no one is safe from deportation. In Alexandria, Virginia, the pastor of a church denounced actions of ICE agents who arrested in mid-February a group of homeless men leaving a hypothermia shelter his church operates. In Seattle, a 23-year-old with no criminal record and protected by the DACA program was detained Feb. 10.

In early February in Texas, ICE agents showed up to a protection order hearing and arrested a woman who was about to testify against her alleged abuser. Univision Las Vegas reported that immigrants, fearing raids, are afraid to go to church.

The Associated Press reported Feb. 17 that the administration is considering using the National Guard to detain unauthorized immigrants, a charge the White House denied. AP provided documents to back up its claim and at least one governor, Republican Asa Hutchinson from Arkansas, said such activities "would be too much of a strain on the state's guard."

ICE reportedly canceled a meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as the lawmakers were trying to find answers to the incidents. While all of them involve Latinos, other immigrant groups are expressing on social media anxiety in their communities. Some of it was manifested as Trump spoke of them by those who took to the streets in "A Day Without Immigrants" protests against the immigration measures he has proposed and his promise to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. 

Restaurants and businesses closed across the country and schoolchildren boycotted classes, but Trump said he was pressing ahead and was in the process of "beginning to build the promised wall on the southern border." He said it would be a "great wall," not one "like they have now which is either nonexistent or a joke."

The Catholic bishops who met along the border, without mentioning Trump or his proposals, said they wanted to build "bridges, rather than the walls of exclusion and exploitation."

Sister Norma Pimentel, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, who is executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in the Brownsville Diocese, said during a Feb. 15 town hall that those who work along the border had started seeing that something was different. One of the centers that helps migrants had been seeing about 300 to 350 people a day seeking shelter and food after being released by immigration officials. Now they see between 50 and 75 a day, she said.

"It's unfortunate that this is happening because these families come so eager to find a place that's safe, where they feel protected, and unfortunately they find themselves in detention facilities where they feel hopeless, not knowing what's going to happen to them."

Sister Pimentel, along with Jesuit Father James Martin, participated in the town hall as part of the "Build Bridges, not Walls" campaign sponsored by the Washington-based Faith in Public Life. The campaign is taking place Feb. 17-24 and asks those wishing to support immigrants and refugees to organize prayer events, call their local politicians, attend town halls and educate others about the plight of migrants during the campaign.

Father Martin, who is a book author and editor at large for the Jesuits' America magazine, spoke of the Holy Family, how they once were refugees, too, and how the Bible throughout calls on Christians to help "the stranger."

"Jesus says that how we care for the stranger is a kind of a litmus test for whether we get into heaven and he says 'whatever you did for the least of these, you did to me,'" he said. "That includes the stranger."

It's also part of a consistent pro-life ethic, Father Martin said. "If you're for an unborn child, who's in the womb of a migrant woman, are you (in support) of that child's safety and health after that child is born?"

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Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

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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.

Bishop, advocates oppose Mississippi bill to outlaw sanctuary cities

By Maureen Smith

JACKSON, Miss. (CNS) -- A bill that would keep agencies, cities and college campuses in Mississippi from offering sanctuary to unauthorized immigrants would not keep communities safe and goes against the Christian tenet of caring for those in need, said Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz of Jackson.

He issued a statement Feb. 15 opposing S.B. 2710, also known as the "sanctuary cities" bill, which passed the state Senate in a 32-16 vote Feb. 9. The bill goes to the state House for consideration.

The measure would prohibit cities and institutions of higher learning from declaring themselves sanctuary cities. There are currently no sanctuary cities in the state, although the city of Jackson proposed such a declaration last year.

"As Christians we are called to welcome the stranger and care for those in need. As citizens, we are called to keep our communities strong and safe. We feel that the so-called 'sanctuary cities' bill being debated right now in the Mississippi Legislature damages both of those efforts," wrote Bishop Kopacz.

In a sanctuary city, local law enforcement would not be forced to act as federal immigration agents, like the officers of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In fact, they would be prohibited from asking a person they detained about his or her immigration status. S.B. 2710 would prohibit cities from enacting sanctuary policies.

The bill's opening statement says it would apply to entities such as "a state agency, department, political subdivision of this state, county, municipality, university, college, community college or junior college, or any agent, employee or officer thereof."

Immigrant advocates said the bill raises several concerns.

Amelia McGowan, an immigration attorney for the Catholic Charities Migrant Resource Center based in Jackson, said the vague language, especially in relation to schools, opens up a number of potential problems.

"The first provision is potentially extremely dangerous. It could allow any state official, or anyone working for the state government to report any individual to federal immigration authorities. In other words, it prevents the state and local agencies from prohibiting its employees from reporting an individual to ICE," said McGowan in an email to the Mississippi Catholic, newspaper of the Jackson Diocese.

"That means, undocumented -- or suspected undocumented -- individuals seeking services in any state or local agency -- courts, police protection, K-12 education, higher education, state hospital, state health and mental health agencies -- could be reported to ICE by a disgruntled employee," McGowan explained.

It also means an agency "could not prohibit its employees from doing so," she continued. "Now, presumably that person may be protected in some cases by privacy laws, but I am afraid that this provision would prevent individuals from seeking state services, which include reporting violent crimes to the police."

According to Christy Williams, an attorney at the headquarters of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, known as CLINIC, in Silver Spring, Maryland, the provision also opens up municipalities to potential liability. A school employee who discloses a student's immigration information could be violating federal privacy laws and the school could be held liable.

If any officer reports a person they suspect is in the country without legal permission but that person turns out to have a valid legal status, the local agency can be sued. CLINIC highlighted one example from Allentown, Pennsylvania, when officers arrested a U.S. citizen for alleged drug crimes.

"He had both his driver's license and Social Security card with him at the time of the arrest and was eventually found innocent," according to a CLINIC document about sanctuary cities. "During his time in custody, the police called ICE based on the presumption that, because of his race, he was undocumented.

"Despite being documented, the citizen was held for three days after posting bail based on an ICE detainer. He was released only after an ICE agent interrogated him and confirmed his citizenship. The U.S. citizen sued local and county officials in 3rd District Federal Court, leading to verdicts in his favor and settlement costs totaling nearly $150,000," the document said.

When a local agency reports someone to ICE, the federal agents may ask the local agency to detain the suspect. The local agency has to absorb the cost of housing, feeding and caring for the person until ICE can process the case. That money is rarely reimbursed to state and local agencies.

Critics of the Mississippi bill say that because it is vague, it also could erode the relationship first responders have with their communities. If immigrants, even those in the country legally, believe police officers, medical personnel or firefighters are going to report them to immigration officials, they may hesitate to call for much-needed help.

McGowan said she thinks if the bill becomes law, it "would have a chilling effect on individuals seeking state services" such as medical care, mental health care and police protection," and would negatively affect immigrants' educational opportunities. She also thinks it would subject victims of violent crimes and/or abuse "to greater danger."

President Donald Trump has pledged to strip federal funds from jurisdictions that declare themselves "sanctuary cities."

"We urge lawmakers and advocates to oppose S.B. 2710," Bishop Kopacz said in his statement. "We will, as a Catholic community, continue to work with immigrants and refugees -- welcoming their contributions to our community and culture -- even as we pray for a just solution to the challenges of immigration and security."

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Smith is editor of the Mississippi Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Jackson.

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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.

Church leaders hope Trump does not repeal conflict-minerals provisions

IMAGE: CNS photo/Marc Hofer, EPA

By Jonathan Luxmoore

OXFORD, England (CNS) -- Church leaders and organizations in Africa, Europe and the United States said it would be disastrous if U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order telling companies they no longer had to disclose whether their firms use "conflict minerals" from Congo.

Western firms have been accused of working with violent gangs in Congo to obtain minerals used for producing mobile phones, laptops and other consumer objects, and of allowing trade in resources to perpetuate human rights violations.

In the United States, the chairman of the U.S. bishops' International Policy Committee wrote the acting head of the National Security Council urging Trump not to suspend the rules related to Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act.

"Congolese die every day in the illegal mines and at the hands of the armed groups that destroy communities in order to expel them from potential mining sites," wrote Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, committee chairman. "The estimated death toll in the Congo is the highest since the end of World War II. The international community, including our own nation, nongovernmental agencies and the church, provides emergency assistance to displaced and traumatized persons and families -- assistance that has real financial costs that do not appear on the balance sheets of corporations."

Bishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu of Bokungu-Ikela, Congo, told Catholic News Service such a ruling would be "a victory for big mining companies" and would "worsen human suffering."

"Other Western countries have since adopted more modest regulations, and we fear the consequences if this law is now suspended," he told Catholic News Service in mid-February.

He said if such an order were signed, Congo's bishops would work with church organizations in the U.S. and Europe to have it reversed.

The 2012 Securities and Exchange Commission ruling, required by Section 1502, does not prohibit companies from buying such minerals, but was designed to force companies to disclose the chain of custody of such minerals in an effort to keep them from helping armed groups, particularly in Congo.

As with other executive orders signed by Trump, a draft was leaked to the press. The draft called for the SEC ruling to be suspended for two years and for the government to review ways of breaking the connection between armed groups in Congo and the sale of these minerals, often used in high-tech devices, including cellphones.

Bishop Cantu noted that in 2011, Bishop Nicolas Djomo, then president of the Congolese bishops' conference, visited the United States to argue for strong and effective regulations on conflict minerals. Bishop Cantu said people in Congo saw the U.S. legislation "as a true expression of solidarity with the women, families, and villages who have suffered at the hands of those who destroy their communities to mine their resources."

Bishop Cantu noted that "more than 70 percent of the world's smelters and refiners" for minerals such as tungsten, tantalum and tin have passed audits showing they were not supporting armed gangs disrupting the local area. "Trade in these minerals is now significantly less lucrative for armed groups because the price for certified minerals is higher than for illegal, illicit minerals. Thus, the free market is now working to offer the right incentives to encourage safe and legal mining activities."

Stefan Reinhold, advocacy officer for CIDSE, a network of 17 Catholic development agencies in Europe and North America, said "the trend globally, from China to Europe, has been toward introducing guidelines on conflict minerals. We must hope this encouraging trend continues."

Anne Lindsay, a private sector analyst at CAFOD, Britain's Catholic aid agency, told CNS Feb. 16 that such a move would contradict steps "now being implemented in 30 countries around the world."

"Too often people in countries rich in oil, gas and minerals haven't seen the benefits of their own natural resources -- and it was the U.S. which led the drive to ensure extractive companies had to be more transparent," Lindsay said.

"The U.S. provisions have sparked the passage of similar transparency laws, regulating use of conflict minerals in global supply chains -- and international standards for businesses are here to stay," she said.

Congress has already passed, and Trump has signed, a two-year suspension of another section of the Dodd-Frank bill, which required oil and gas mining companies to publish what they paid foreign governments in countries in which the companies operated.

Bishop Cantu had urged Congress to reject the legislation.

Opponents of the Dodd-Frank provisions said the disclosure rules cost jobs and put U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage, and had worsened, rather than reduced corruption, violence and hunger in the developing world.

Bishop Ambongo Besungu said such claims were theories invented by "big companies out to destroy the law."

"What the big companies argue isn't based on any investigations on the ground," the bishop told CNS. "To say the Dodd-Frank law has set people apart, and pushed them into poverty and famine, is just the version put about by big capitalists at the behest of the mining companies."

He said research by the Congolese bishops' Natural Resources Commission at Walikale, in Congo's North Kivu province, showed extraction of minerals had been "taken over and militarized" by rebel gangs.

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Contributing to this story was Barb Fraze 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.

Pope greets U.S. grass-roots groups, saying they help 'communities thrive'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Dennis Sadowski

By Dennis Sadowski

MODESTO, Calif. (CNS) -- Pope Francis congratulated more than 600 representatives of grass-roots organizations for responding with mercy to society's hurting people during the opening of the four-day U.S. regional World Meeting of Popular Movements.

In a letter to the assembly Feb. 16 read alternately in English and in Spanish, the pope said the work of the organizations and the people involved "make your communities thrive."

Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, read the pope's message in English. The letter encouraged wide-scale community organizing because it achieves social justice.

The pope expressed hope that "such constructive energy would spread to all dioceses because it builds bridges between peoples and individuals. These are bridges that can overcome the walls of exclusion, indifference, racism and intolerance."

The message earned applause at points throughout its delivery, especially when the pope reiterated that "no people is criminal and no religion is terrorist and as he encouraged people to "defend creation" in the face of "disturbing warming of the climatic system."

"Christian terrorism does not exist, Jewish terrorism does not exist and Muslim terrorism does not exist. They do not exist. No people is criminal or drug-trafficking or violent," he said.

He encouraged people to confront terror with love in the interest of peace.

Pope Francis' interest in promoting the work of grass-roots organizations can be traced to his time as cardinal in Buenos Aires, Argentina, when he often visited priest friends, struggling families and low-paid workers in poor neighborhoods spread across the city. Since 2014, three international World Meetings of Popular Movements have been held -- two in Rome and one in Bolivia -- to give people working to make life better for marginalized communities.

The pope's letter also cited the biblical good Samaritan as an example of someone who responded with mercy to a man, robbed and beaten, in dire need of help when others chose to ignore him. He said the Catholic Church along with "the Christian community, people of compassion and solidarity, social organizations" are those whom Jesus entrusts those who are afflicted in body and spirit."

The work of grass-roots groups coming together is vital to helping people overcome social injuries brought on by an "economic system that has the god of money at its center," the pope's letter said.

"Globalized society frequently looks the other way with the pretense of innocence," the pope wrote. "Under the guise of what is politically correct or ideologically fashionable, one looks at those who suffer without touching them. But they are televised live; they are talked about in euphemisms and with apparent tolerance, but nothing is done systematically to heal the social wounds or to confront the structures that leave so many brothers and sisters by the wayside. This hypocritical attitude, so different from that of the Samaritan, manifests an absence of true commitment to humanity."

Jesus encouraged people not to "classify others in order to see who is a neighbor and who is not," Pope Francis continued. "You can become neighbor to whomever you meet in need and you will do so if you have compassion in your heart. That is to say, if you have that capacity to suffer with someone else. You must become a Samaritan."

Topics related to housing, labor, land and the environment, migration and racism were on the agenda for the meeting sponsored by the dicastery, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and the PICO National Network of faith-based organizing groups.

In comments after reading the pope's letter, Cardinal Turkson commented that the topics were chosen months before the outcome of the U.S. election for president in November. Without mentioning the name of President Donald Trump, he said the gathering was not meant to criticize any particular office holder "and the fact that things happened the way they happened is just a coincidence."

"Pope Francis wants us to recognize the structure that create exclusion in society," the cardinal explained.

The pope also wants people to understand that "we are the protagonists of change ... that we are actors in this. We are not simply passive objects waiting for things to happen to us."

Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, said while introducing Cardinal Turkson that the gathering would discuss "transforming the world in which we live in light of our faith tradition in God. We are here because we want to be with the poor, the migrant, the workers, the homeless and with those who are excluded."

As the meeting began, the Rev. Trena Turner, who works alongside her husband at the nondenominational Victory in Praise Church in Stockton and is a leader in the community group Faith in the Valley, told the audience that 25 people who originally planned to attend the meeting decided not to risk traveling to Modesto. She said they feared being arrested and deported under the federal government enforcement efforts against undocumented people.

As she called each person's first name, the crowd shouted "Presente!" to recognize their participation.

Modesto was chosen for the papal-inspired meeting because of its location in California's fertile Central Valley, where on a daily basis people confront each of the topics to be addressed at the gathering -- land, labor, lodging, racism and migration.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.

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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.

SANCTUARY BLESSING MARKS MILESTONE IN CATHEDRAL RENOVATION

Hundreds of the faithful watched as Bishops Kevin Vann and Timothy Freyer blessed the interior of Christ Cathedral on Friday...

Counteract vitriol by toning it down, talking less, listening more, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

ROME (CNS) -- Addressing the fear of immigrants, dissatisfaction with a "fluid economy" and the impatience and vitriol seen in politics and society, Pope Francis told Rome university students to practice a kind of "intellectual charity" that promotes dialogue and sees value in diversity.

"There are lots of remedies against violence," but they must start first with one's heart being open to hearing other people's opinions and then talking things out with patience, he said in a 45-minute off-the-cuff talk.

"It necessary to tone it down a bit, to talk less and listen more," he told hundreds of students, staff and their family members and friends during a visit Feb. 17 to Roma Tre University.

Arriving at the university, the pope slowly made his way along a long snaking pathway of metal barricades throughout the campus, smiling, shaking hands and posing for numerous selfies with smiling members of the crowd. When handed a small baby cocooned in a bright red snowsuit for a papal kiss, the pope joked whether the child was attending the university, too.

Seated on a platform facing an open courtyard, the pope listened to questions from four students, including Nour Essa, who was one of the 12 Syrian refugees the pope had brought to Rome on a papal flight from Lesbos, Greece, in 2016.

The pope said he had received the questions beforehand and wrote a prepared text, but he preferred to answer "from the heart" and be "more spontaneous because I like it better that way."

Asked what "remedy" could counteract the world's violence and how to live well in such a fast-paced, globalized world of "social networks," the pope said today's frenetic pace "makes us violent at home."

Family members don't bother saying "good morning" to each other, they absentmindedly say "hi" or eat together in silence, each absorbed with a smartphone, he said.

The faster the pace in life, the more people become "nameless" because no one takes the time to get to know the other, ending up with a situation where "I greet you as if you were an object."

The tendency to de-personalize others, which starts in one's own heart, at home and with relationships, "grows and grows and it will become violence worldwide," he said.

"In a society where politics has sunk very low -- and I'm talking about society around the world, not here -- one loses the sense" of building up civic life and social harmony, which is done through dialogue.

Pope Francis commented on the way many electoral campaigns and debates feature people interrupting each other. "Wait! Listen carefully to what the other thinks and then respond," he said, and ask for clarification when the point isn't understood.

"Where there is no dialogue, there is violence," he said.

The pope said universities must be places dedicated to this kind of openness, dialogue and respect for a diversity of opinions and ideas.

An institution cannot claim it is offering higher education if there is no "dialogue, discussion, listening, where there is no respect for how others think, where there is no friendship, joy of play," he said.

People go to university to learn and listen, but not passively, the pope said. It is a place to actively seek the good, the beautiful and the true, as a journey done together over time.

He also critiqued the so-called "fluid economy," which leads to a lack of stable, "solid" employment.

Networked trades and transactions in which a person can make -- like a business friend of his did -- $10,000 in 10 minutes trading commodities is an example of this "fluid" economy, he said.

This "liquidity" erases "the culture of work" and everything that is "concrete" about labor "because you cannot work and young people don't know what to do," which can lead them to addictions or suicide.

"Or the lack of work leads me to join a terrorist militia. 'At least I have something to do and have meaning in my life.' It's horrible," he said.

Essa, the 31-year-old Syrian woman, told the pope she, her husband and small boy were living in a refugee camp in Lesbos until "our life changed in one day, thanks to you." Already possessing degrees from her studies in Syria and France, Essa was finishing a degree in biology at Roma Tre.

She asked the pope to address the fear of immigrants, saying she remembered a journalist on the papal flight a year ago asking about people's fear of those coming from Syria and Iraq and whether they threatened Europe's Christian culture.

"How many invasions has Europe had?" during its long history, the pope asked.

Europe has been built upon invasions and movements of peoples, he said. "Migration is not a danger, it is a challenge to grow," he said.

It is only logical that people migrate to escape from conflict, exploitation, hunger and lack of development, he said.

"Don't exploit. Don't be the bullies that go to exploit" these nations already suffering so much, he said.

Asking his audience to reflect on how the Mediterranean Sea has become "a cemetery" with the drownings of so many immigrants, he said those fleeing their homelands first must be seen as one's own "human brothers and sisters. They are men and women like us."

Each country must determine how many refugees and migrants it can properly welcome and integrate with structures and resources in place so the newcomers can become contributing members of the community and not isolated or "ghetto-ized."

While trying to grapple with the way times change, he said, it's also true some things just stay the same. "If we don't learn to understand life as it comes, we will never ever learn to live it."

Life is like being a "goalie" where people have to be alert and ready to grab the ball from whatever direction it comes, Pope Francis said. Today "is a different age, that is coming from somewhere I didn't expect, but I have to take it, I have to take it as it comes without fear."

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HOW THIS COUPLE HAS STAYED MARRIED (AND IN LOVE) FOR 75 YEARS

Madrid, Spain, Feb 16, 2017 / 08:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News) – Eulogio Martínez and Martina Abian are 100 and 95...

USCCB leaders urge Trump to protect religious liberty

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic Church leaders in a Feb. 16 statement said they were encouraged that President Donald Trump may be considering an executive order to protect religious freedom and said they would be grateful if he would move forward with the pledge that his administration would "do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty."

"As Christians, our goal is to live and serve others as the Gospel asks. President Trump can ensure that we are not forced from the public square," said the statement from committee chairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The statement was jointly issued by: New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

The church leaders said an executive order would "implement strong protections for religious freedom across the federal government in many of the areas where it has been eroded by the preceding administration, such as health coverage, adoption, accreditation, tax exemption, and government grants and contracts."

"We ourselves, as well as those we shepherd and serve, would be most grateful if the president would take this positive step toward allowing all Americans to be able to practice their faith without severe penalties from the federal government," they said.

A draft version of the executive order was leaked in late January called "Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom." When it failed to appear on the president's desk, rumors were circulating that a scaled-back version might appear at his desk but there has been no word about it from the Trump administration.

The U.S. bishops posted an online letter for Catholics to send to the president urging him to sign the order after the draft version was leaked.

The Feb. 16 statement said the order would restore "the federal government's proper relationship with the First Amendment and other laws protecting conscience and religious freedom will enable us to continue our service to the most vulnerable of Americans."

The statement stressed that U.S. Catholic bishops have long supported religious liberty, adding that during the last several years "the federal government has eroded this fundamental right," most notably with the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate for religious employers who do not fit the mandate's narrow exemption including the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The USCCB leaders urged Trump to keep his promise and put an end to regulations and other mandates by the federal government "that force people of faith to make impossible choices. 

"We express our fervent hope that with new leadership in the executive branch, basic protections for religious practice may be restored and even strengthened," they said.

The statement said an immediate remedy to the threats against religious freedom is needed and without it the church's freedom to serve others "will remain in jeopardy and needless conflict between the faith community and the federal government will continue."


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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.