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It may be hard to believe today, but when it was completed in 1980 the Crystal Cathedral had its critics....


Reverend Robert H. Schuller was an American pastor, motivational speaker, televangelist, and author whose career spanned five decades. Rev. Schuller...


Dear Visitors and People of the Diocese of Orange,    Thank you for joining us for the historic Dedication of...

Faith is no trick up this magician's sleeve

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Giancarlo Bernini

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- For Giancarlo Bernini, a recent graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, things are not always as they appear and that's a good thing because it is how he plans to make a living.

The magician, who has done shows for colleges, corporate events and Catholic parishes and church-sponsored gatherings, recently got some nationwide exposure for his trade when he was featured on the season premiere of "Penn & Teller: Fool Us" on the CW network.

In the show, aspiring magicians try to impress the renowned magician duo Penn and Teller (Penn Jillette and Raymond Joseph Teller) with a trick, and if the two are unable to duplicate it, the guest magician wins a trip to Las Vegas to perform as an opening act in their show.

Bernini, who performed a time-travel trick on the television show, didn't completely hoodwink the pros, but the experience hardly made his imaginative spirit disappear. He said being on the show was a big moment in his life, along with watching the episode with family and friends. And a big highlight of the episode was that it also featured his longtime idol: David Copperfield.

In the show's opening, taped months before graduation, Bernini said he was a college student studying religious studies and he didn't see a conflict between his faith and magic "because illusions are all about discerning what's true and what's good."

He said the trick he chose for the show focused on time travel "the way that faith and reason kind of go together."

During college, he was doing a show or two a month and some magic on the street, and now he is devoting a lot of time to get more shows, which he admits might not seem the most stable career choice. But he said his parents have been supportive and are on board with him.

Bernini's first public magic act -- beyond performing for family members and friends -- was at a cancer clinic for children when he was 11. Years later he performed at a juvenile detention center as part of a Catholic retreat. He has since done a number of fundraisers and shows for young kids and adults.

"Little kids already believe in magic and want to be entertained," he said, "but adults are already skeptics, so it is fun to see the routines transforming them."

The magic bug bit him when he was in fifth grade and he dad showed him a card trick in his grandparents' backyard and more importantly, showed him how to do it.

"I showed it to everyone I know," Bernini told Catholic News Service in late May.

From the start, his motivation was to share something with others. He also loved the element of surprise and catching people off guard when they don't know what was going to happen. This effect doesn't happen magically though; it takes a lot of practice.

"For me, the most thrilling thing is seeing people experience something they haven't felt since they were kids," he said, which he describes as joy and wonder and something he feels has a big faith connection.

"Magic, like all forms of entertainment, are adventures to share the Gospel," he added.

Bernini also thinks that it doesn't matter what he did as a career, even if he were a doctor or a lawyer, he would view it as a ministry. "My magic shows are a ministry and to be good, I have to be the best I can," he said.

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Editor's Note: For more information on Bernini, visit

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim


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Update: Faith leaders decry ICE deportations, say action causes fear

IMAGE: CNS photo/ICE, Charles Reed via Reuters

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Many Catholic and other faith leaders noted that the Gospel reading for July 14 -- the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was to carry out deportation orders for some immigrants -- was the parable of the good Samaritan from the Gospel of St. Luke.

The story admonishes people to put aside their differences and "help those who are in need of help," such as the immigrants coming across the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum, faith leaders said.

In a July 16 statement, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, condemned ICE enforcement actions, saying that they "separate families, cause the unacceptable suffering of thousands of children and their parents and create widespread panic in our communities."

The cardinal criticized the Trump administration's "enforcement-only approach" to immigration, which includes a new rule requiring asylum-seekers to apply for asylum in the U.S. in countries they go through before arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. Otherwise, these immigrants will be refused asylum protection.

"It is contrary to American and Christian values to attempt to prevent people from migrating here when they are fleeing to save their lives and to find safety for their families," said the cardinal, who urged President Donald Trump to reconsider these policies and noted he recently wrote to Trump to reconsider using such enforcement actions.

"All who are at or within our borders should be treated with compassion and dignity," Cardinal DiNardo added. "Beyond that, a just solution to this humanitarian crisis should focus on addressing the root causes that compel families to flee and enacting a humane reform of our immigration system."

Other leaders criticizing the ICE actions included Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, who said July 13 that her organization strongly opposed "the reported plans of ICE raids this weekend."

"The threats of deportation and family separation are causing anxiety and fear within the vulnerable communities our agencies serve, endangering immigrant rights and safety. Most significant is the lasting psychological damage family separation inflicts upon children," she said. "Such cruel behavior will impact children for the rest of their lives."

"Our Catholic Charities agencies stand committed to providing legal and humanitarian assistance for our immigrant brothers and sisters," she said. "We support the pursuit of legal immigration but recognize that all immigrants, regardless of status, must be treated with basic human dignity and respect."

Sister Markham urged Congress and the Trump administration "to enact comprehensive immigration reform and address the root causes of migration rather than pursue enforcement raids on America's immigrant community."

In Texas, Brownsville Bishop Daniel E. Flores echoed the same concerns, saying: "The threat of mass deportation raids is psychologically cruel to families and children. The actual separation of parents from their children without even a chance for a court appearance is simply reprehensible. Laws ought to treat families and children differently than drug lords."

News reports estimated that about 2,000 people were going to be arrested for deportation. ICE actions were taking place in at least nine cities: New York, Baltimore, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta and Miami. Some news reports reported that ICE actions also would take place in New Orleans.

Mayors in those cities announced they would not allow their law enforcement agencies to cooperate with ICE agents. Thousands across the country protested the agency's actions.

In New York, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan July 13 decried a general negative attitude toward refugees and immigrants that he said he sees among many in this country, a nation of immigrants. His remarks were not issued in direct response to the announced ICE deportations but came after he celebrated Mass that day in the chapel at the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Shrine in New York City.

The saint, also called Mother Cabrini, is the patroness of immigrants and refugees. An Italian American, she founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a religious community that was a major support to the Italian immigrants to the United States.

"I was moved as I recalled her work among Italian immigrants in the United States in the 19th and early 20th century," Cardinal Dolan wrote in a blog post. "This work inspires me today as the church continues to welcome immigrants from so many different countries, particularly in these troublingly uncertain times."

"It saddens me to admit that many, some even in the church, opposed Mother Cabrini's work. It troubles me that today in too many places hate and malice are directed against immigrants and refugees -- in both words and actions," he added.

"As a pastor, I pray that understanding, respect and love might grow in dealing with newcomers to our land. I am proud of the welcoming that our parishes, schools, charitable, and health care ministries have and do provide," Cardinal Dolan said.

In a July 14 interview on Fox News Channel, Matt Albence, acting ICE director, said "using the term 'raid' does everybody a disservice. We are doing targeted enforcement actions against specific individuals who have had their day in immigration court and have been ordered removed by an immigration judge."

"We are merely executing those lawfully issued judges' orders," he said.

Albence said he could not give details of what the agency was calling "Operation Perspective," but said individuals ICE was targeting came "to this country illegally, had the opportunity to make an asylum claim before an immigration judge, and most of them chose not avail themselves of that opportunity and didn't even show up for their first hearing."

Albence added that in February, ICE gave these individuals an opportunity to turn themselves and arrange "processes for leaving the country." Just 3%, he said, "actually responded, the rest ignored (the request)."

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the weekend action aligned with ICE's priority to remove criminals from the U.S.

"We've got compassionate, loyal ICE agents who are just doing their job," Mr. Cuccinelli said in a morning interview July 14 with CNN's Jake Tapper. "It shows you how far we've fallen in that it's become news that they would actually go deport people who have removal orders."

In other faith-based reaction, Katie Adams, domestic policy advocate for the United Church of Christ and co-chair of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, said July 12 that having "these raids" take place on a Sunday, "the Christian holy day," is "further proof that these actions are morally bankrupt."

"These raids come from a place of fear, suspicion, and hate; living in that kind of hate is antithetical to the Gospel that teaches love for humanity. Families are sacred, both those we are born with and those we find," Adams said.

The National Council of Churches, also in a July 12 statement, urged the Trump administration to call off the ICE actions, which it labeled as "unconscionable and immoral."

"This is a moment in which God is calling the church to do all it can to stand with those who have sought refuge within our borders and to resist these measures and show compassion toward persons threatened with deportation," the council said.

Back in June, when the Trump administration indicated it planned enforcement operation in major cities to remove thousands of migrant families with deportation orders, the chairman of the U.S. bishops' migration committee criticized the decision, saying broad enforcement actions "instigate panic in our communities and will not serve as an effective deterrent to irregular migration."

"We recognize the right of nations to control their borders in a just and proportionate manner," said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, in a June 22 statement. ICE deportations were later postponed.

"We should focus on the root causes in Central America that have compelled so many to leave their homes in search of safety and reform our immigration system with a view toward justice and the common good," he said, adding the U.S. bishops were ready to work with the administration and Congress to achieve comprehensive immigration reform.

"During this unsettling time, we offer our prayers and support to our brothers and sisters," Bishop Vasquez said, "regardless of their immigration status, and recognizing their inherent dignity as children of God."

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Follow Asher on Twitter: @jlasher


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Hers is as iconic an image as there is in local Catholicism: Hands steepled, a modest, downward gaze, clad in...

Synod emphasizes church's mission to defend the vulnerable, cardinal says

IMAGE: CNS Photo/Paul Jeffrey

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The objective of the upcoming Synod of Bishops for the Amazon is to highlight the need for religious, political and social leaders to come together and defend the dignity of indigenous men, women and children and an ecosystem that is crucial to the environment, said Peruvian Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno of Huancayo.

In an essay published July 18 by La Civilta Cattolica, the Jesuit journal, Cardinal Barreto said the synod as well as the church's mission in the Amazon are "expressions of a significant accompaniment to the daily life of the peoples and communities who live there."

"According to the social doctrine of the church, the mission of every Christian includes a prophetic commitment to justice, peace, the dignity of every human being without distinction, and to the integrity of creation in response to a predominant model of society that leads to exclusion and inequality and causes what Pope Francis has called a real 'culture of waste' and a 'globalization of indifference,'" the cardinal said.

The synod gathering in October will reflect on the theme "Amazonia: New paths for the church and for an integral ecology." The Vatican released the preparatory document for the synod June 8.

The Peruvian cardinal, who also serves as vice president of the Pan-Amazonian Church Network, known by its Spanish acronym as REPAM, did not directly address recent criticisms or concerns about doctrinal matters and theological questions regarding the synod's working document, but instead focused on the dangerous impact climate change will have on the region and its inhabitants.

The Amazon, he said, is a living system that "reflects great social diversity, since it is inhabited by about 2.8 million indigenous people who belong to 390 peoples, 137 of which are isolated or without external contacts; 240 languages are spoken there, belonging to 49 different linguistic families. Its inhabitants number around 33 million."

Cardinal Barreto said the synod for the Amazon is a continuation of the church's mission of "following the Gospel command" to go out to the world and accompany the poor, especially in "an increasingly devastated and threatened territory."

"In this sense, as an ecclesial event, the synod can be an important sign of the effective response, promoting justice and the defense of the dignity of the people most affected," he said. "In general, we believe that everyone -- society, governments and the church -- must pay attention to these voices in order to assume more consistently our respective differentiated and potentially complementary responsibilities."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju


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Their words echo across generations. Their legacies inspire millions.  Catholic saints lived with discipline and dedication, working to ensure their...


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,    Christ Cathedral reflects the faith and devotion of all the people of our...

Justice Stevens changed death penalty views during three decades on court

IMAGE: CNS photo/Larry Downing, Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who served on the court for nearly 35 years, died July 16 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at age 99 after suffering complications from a stroke the previous day.

The justice, who retired in 2010, remained active after retirement, even writing his autobiography, "The Making of a Justice: My First 94 Years," which was just released in April. Last year, he wrote an op-ed published in The New York Times calling for action to end gun violence.

"He brought to our bench an inimitable blend of kindness, humility, wisdom and independence. His unrelenting commitment to justice has left us a better nation," Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement.

Stevens was often portrayed as the leader of the court's liberal side, but he didn't stand by that description, telling The New York Times in 2007: "I don't think of myself as a liberal at all. I think as part of my general politics, I'm pretty darn conservative."

The justice, a Chicago-born Protestant who served as a naval intelligence officer during World War II and was awarded a Bronze Star for his work with a codebreaking team, stood firm on many issues and changed his opinion on others during his time on the high court. Most notably, he changed his views on the death penalty from initially supporting it to renouncing it completely.

He was known as a defender of strict separation of church and state and was against official prayer in schools and vouchers for religious school tuition. He also defended legal abortion, gay rights, and the rights of crime suspects and immigrants in the country without legal documentation facing deportation.

Sister Helen Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille, who is a longtime opponent of capital punishment, posted a thread of tweets July 16 after the announcement of Stevens' death outlining his opinion on the death penalty over the years.

She said he voted with the court's majority in a 1976 case that reinstated the death penalty nationwide after a four-year moratorium and after his retirement he said this was the only vote he regretted.

In a 2008 death penalty case, he wrote that he had come to believe the death penalty was unconstitutional. Prior to that, in 2002, he wrote the decision in Atkins v. Virginia, which ended the death penalty for people with intellectual disabilities, and in 2005, he voted to do away with the death penalty for juvenile offenders.

He also spoke publicly against the death penalty in a number of interviews, calling it a "wasteful enterprise" in 2016 and something the U.S. should do away with under all circumstances in 2010.

In a 2014 interview on the "PBS NewsHour," he said he thought the court had made a grave mistake in formulating rules that "slant the opportunity for justice in favor of the prosecutor" in death penalty cases, especially when "the cost is so high if you make a mistake."

"If you make a mistake in a capital case, there's no way to take care of it later on. The risk of an incorrect execution in any case, to me, is really intolerable. The system should not permit that possibility to exist," he said.

Similarly, in 2005, he also told the American Bar Association that recent evidence that "a substantial number of death sentences have been imposed erroneously" was "profoundly significant because it indicates that there must be serious flaws in our administration of criminal justice."

In an abortion case in 1989, he was the only justice to say that a Missouri statute declaring that life begins at conception violated previous court decisions on abortion and was an "unequivocal endorsement of a religious tenet" that "serves no identifiable secular purpose."

In 1992, he voted to uphold the right to an abortion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which also established the "undue burden" standard for abortion restrictions.

Justice Elena Kagan filled Stevens' seat on the court.

He is survived by two daughters, nine grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending, the Supreme Court said in a statement announcing his death. He is expected to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim


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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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