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Christian vocation is to serve life, health, pope says in message

IMAGE: CNS photo/John E. Kozar, CNEWA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church's care for the sick, especially through Catholic-run hospitals, is an antidote to "the business mentality that is seeking worldwide to turn health care into a profit-making enterprise," Pope Francis said.

In his message for World Day of the Sick, Feb. 11, the pope urged Catholics individually and as a community to continue to provide loving care for the sick.

The church marks the day each year on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, and Pope Francis' message for 2018 had a strong Marian focus, emphasizing the church's maternal mission to provide for the spiritual and physical needs of all people.

"May our prayers to the Mother of God see us united in an incessant plea that every member of the church may live with love the vocation to serve life and health," he prayed.

The church's motherly concern for the sick has been clear throughout its history and continues today, the pope said. "In countries where adequate public health care systems exist, the work of Catholic religious congregations and dioceses and their hospitals is aimed not only at providing quality medical care, but also at putting the human person at the center of the healing process, while carrying out scientific research with full respect for life and for Christian moral values."

Perhaps more heroically, he said, "in countries where health care systems are inadequate or non-existent, the church seeks to do what she can to improve health, eliminate infant mortality and combat widespread disease."

"The image of the church as a 'field hospital' that welcomes all those wounded by life is a very concrete reality, for in some parts of the world, missionary and diocesan hospitals are the only institutions providing necessary care to the population," he noted.

In rich and poor countries alike, he said, the church focuses on caring for the sick even when a cure is not possible.

Pope Francis urged Catholic health care institutions and individual doctors, nurses and staff members to remember the church's tradition of generous care for the sick and renew their commitment to continuing that kind of loving service.

But especially on the World Day of the Sick, he said, "we cannot forget the tender love and perseverance of many families in caring for their chronically sick or severely disabled children, parents and relatives. The care given within families is an extraordinary witness of love for the human person; it needs to be fittingly acknowledged and supported by suitable policies."

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'Crowning jewel' of national shrine -- Trinity Dome Mosaic -- dedicated

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The overflowing congregation at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception hardly needed reminding to raise their "eyes to the heavens" during a dedication of the Trinity Dome Mosaic Dec. 8.

Before Mass began, all eyes were already on the newly completed gold dome above the front central section of the Upper Church.

When it was blessed during Mass, incense rose above the congregation and bright lights were turned on to give a better view of the newly finished dome that includes the words of the Nicene Creed encircling the base and a depiction of the Holy Trinity, Mary, the four Evangelists, angels and more than a dozen saints connected to the United States or the shrine.

During the blessing and before and after Mass, phones and cameras were held aloft to capture the completed work more than two years in the making. But it would take more than a few pictures to capture the details in this majestic work of art described as the "crowning jewel" of the national shrine during introductory remarks by Msgr. Walter Rossi, the rector.

The dome mosaic is composed of more than 14 million pieces of Venetian glass covering more than 18,300 square feet of the dome's surface. Its completion marks the final step in finishing the work of the Upper Church that began in 1955.

The dome was dedicated, fittingly, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, reflecting the basilica's namesake. The dedication Mass was celebrated by Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl and Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, who was named by Pope Francis to be his special envoy at the dedication Mass.

Other cardinals concelebrating the Mass included Cardinals Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington and Justin Rigali, retired archbishop of Philadelphia, along with Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. They were joined by more than two dozen bishops and 90 priests.

Cardinal Wuerl pointed out in his homily that the mosaic tiles in the dome are symbolic of the living body of Christ regularly filling the pews of the shrine and reflecting the church's diversity.

He urged the congregation of families, women religious, students and people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds who filled the pews, the side chapels and stood in the back at the dedication Mass to always look to this "great majestic dome mindful of our prayer to Mary" and ask for her intercession.

He said Mary is the model of "what our faith should be" because she believed that nothing was impossible with God.

The cardinal said he remembered coming to the shrine when he was a student at The Catholic University of America in the 1960s when the walls were simply brick except for the mosaic image of the Risen Christ at the front of the church.

He also noted that the completion of the dome finishes a work that began nearly 100 years ago when the shrine's cornerstone was placed in 1920.

As construction began on the National Shrine, as it was then called, Catholics across the country were invited to contribute however they could. Some donated pieces of gold jewelry and even precious stones, the cardinal said, which were fashioned into what came to be known as the "first chalice of the National Shrine" and was used at the Dec. 8 mosaic dedication.

When Pope Francis was at the shrine in 2015 to celebrate Mass and canonize St. Junipero Serra, he also blessed a piece of the mosaic: the words for the beginning and end of the Nicene Creed: "I believe in one God" and "Amen."

At the end of the dedication Mass, Msgr. Rossi thanked the artists and workers, some of whom were seated at the front of the church, for their work on the mosaic, which was done in Italy and shipped in 30,000 sections weighing 24 tons. He pointed out that no one was injured and no damages occurred in the installation.

He also thanked the many donors who contributed to the dome work and gave to the shrine's one-time national collection for the project on Mother's Day.

"This crowning jewel of Mary's shrine is really your work, your gift to the Blessed Mother," he said.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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Copyright © 2017 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

Vatican renews call for peace, negotiated solution on Jerusalem

IMAGE: CNS photo/Debbie Hill

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Following days of violence and backlash after U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Vatican appealed for "wisdom and prudence" to prevail.

The Holy See "reiterates its own conviction that only a negotiated solution between Israelis and Palestinians can bring a stable and lasting peace and guarantee the peaceful coexistence of two states within internationally recognized borders," the Vatican said in a Dec. 10 statement.

President Trump announced his decision Dec. 6 to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, fulfilling a promise he made during his presidential campaign.

The announcement sparked anti-U.S. protests throughout Asia and the Middle East, including a four-day protest in the Palestinian territories, Reuters reported. An Israeli security guard in Jerusalem, the report said, was in critical condition after he was stabbed by a Palestinian man at the city's bus station.

Pope Francis expressed his "sorrow for the clashes in recent days" and called for world leaders to renew their commitment for peace in the Holy Land, the Vatican said.

The pope "raises fervent prayers so that the leaders of nations, in this time of special gravity, commit themselves to avert a new spiral of violence, responding with words and deeds to the desires of peace, justice and security for the populations of that battered land," the Vatican said.

Trump's decision also drew warnings from Middle Eastern and European leaders that overturning the United States' long-standing policy would further complicate peace negotiations.

Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had made similar promises to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital during their presidential campaigns. However, once in office, they did not carry through with the move, citing its potential negative impact on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

The Arab League, a regional organization consisting of 22 Arabic-speaking member states, held an emergency meeting in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 9 to discuss Trump's announcement, calling it "dangerous and unacceptable."

Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital goes "against international law and raises questions over American efforts to support peace," said Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Arab League's secretary-general.

Just hours before Trump had announced his decision, Pope Francis urged respect for "the status quo of the city in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations."

In his appeal, Pope Francis said, "Jerusalem is a unique city, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims who venerate the holy places of their respective religions, and has a special vocation to peace."

The Vatican consistently has called for a special status for Jerusalem, particularly its Old City, in order to protect and guarantee access to the holy sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

"The Holy See is attentive to these concerns and, recalling the heartfelt words of Pope Francis, reiterates its well-known position concerning the singular character of the Holy City and the essential need for respecting the status quo, in conformity with the deliberations of the international community and the repeated requests of the hierarchies of the churches and Christian communities of the Holy Land," said the Vatican's Dec. 10 statement.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2017 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


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Trinity student studies, works to create her preferred future

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Daniela doesn't remember much about coming to the United States from her native El Salvador with her parents when she was 3 years old. 

"The only thing I remember is the dress I wore when I got on the plane," she said.

Daniela, now 19, is a sophomore at Trinity Washington University. Her college costs are paid for in large part by a scholarship from "TheDream.US" fund. She is one of about 100 "Dreamers" enrolled at the Catholic college, which is women-only for its undergraduate studies but admits men to its graduate programs.

She hasn't declared it yet, but Daniela, who asked that her last name not be used for this story, wants to be a double major -- one of those majors being in education.

"But I can't see myself teaching elementary school my whole life," she told Catholic News Service in a Dec. 5 interview. For her, that means graduate and post-graduate studies, so she can be a college professor "and do my own research."

Dec. 5 was the same day that Dreamers descended upon Capitol Hill for a workshop and to lobby members of Congress to pass a "clean" DREAM Act.

DREAM is an acronym for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, which would create a path to citizenship for those, like Daniela, who have been protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.

The clean part of the DREAM bill? No amendments that would lessen the bill's impact or make it problematic, at best, to pass. Congress needs to take such action to preserve DACA after the Trump administration announced the program will end in March.

"I know they (opponents) want border security" to be included in any bill, Daniela said. Doing so, she added, would harm her parents, who also are from El Salvador. Since she and her parents arrived in the United States, Daniela now has a baby brother and baby sister -- both of whom are U.S. citizens.

Daniela described an uneventful childhood growing up in a close-in suburb of Washington. She recalled that when she was in middle school, her parents would tell her, "Don't worry, we'll be here for you." She said she never quite understood at the time what they meant, since they had always been there to begin with.

The first time Daniela said she started feeling different from everyone else as an immigrant without legal documents to be in the country was as a high school junior. That's when she started researching colleges and scholarship availability, only to learn that most scholarships required the student to be either a U.S. citizen or a documented immigrant. "That's what got me frustrated," she noted.

However, a counselor at her school told her about TheDream.US scholarships. "You have a grade point average better than what they need, you have all the extracurricular activities," Daniela said the counselor told her. Among other things, she had been captain of her high school's lacrosse team -- and, ironically, involved in her school's ACES club, short for Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success.

The biggest obstacle for Daniela at the time: "Six essays! Now that I'm in college, six essays seems like no big deal. But in high school ... !"

TheDream.US seeks "partner" schools, either public or private, so that dreamers can be clustered at particular colleges and receive whatever academic and social supports are necessary. Trinity was the first college in the District of Columbia to sign on as a partner school -- and, after five years, is still the only one, according to Trinity spokeswoman Ann Pauley.

With 100 Dreamers in the 1,000-student undergraduate program, 50 of them freshmen, "it has changed the demographics" at Trinity, Pauley said. What had been a majority-African-American student body, most of whom lived within commuting distance of the school, is now more diverse and more geographically far-flung. 

"And we think that's a good thing," she added.

What made Daniela choose Trinity? "My parents are 'helicopter parents,'" meaning they hover over their children's school lives, she replied. "The closer, the better." Her commute from home is plus or minus 30 minutes depending on traffic.

Sadhana Singh, another Dreamer, wrote in Trinity's campus magazine that she had arrived with her parents from Guyana when she was 13 years old. They moved to Georgia and she finished near the top of her class in high school. But Georgia's state-funded universities were off-limits to immigrants in the country illegally and she was "ineligible for in-state tuition and any kind of financial aid, loans and scholarships," Singh said.

But Singh gained DACA status in 2012, which "refilled my diminishing well of hope," she added. By that time, she had been seven years out of high school with no chance in sight of a college education.

Her scholarship from TheDream.US allowed her to enroll at Trinity in 2014. Now a senior, she expects to graduate on time. Singh also was part of a busload of Trinity students being shuttled to a nearby subway station to lobby at the Capitol for the DREAM Act.

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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Copyright © 2017 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


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