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Taking Care: Health charter goes beyond patient-doctor to whole world

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When updating the Catholic Church's medical and bioethical charter, experts decided it wasn't enough to aim the guidelines at health care professionals.

The entire "ecosystem" encompassing medical workers, patients, the sick and vulnerable had to be addressed, said the head of the drafting committee.

Everything in the system -- laws, social policies, economic situations, war, injustice, drug and insurance companies, social and family networks and the environment -- can have an impact on people's right to life and access to basic healthcare, said Camillian Father Augusto Chendi, undersecretary delegate of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

The "New Charter for Health Care Workers," released in Italian in early February, was meant to update the charter published by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry in 1994. Father Chendi -- an expert in moral theology and bioethics -- spent years as a hospital chaplain, then worked at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and later was named undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, which was merged into the new dicastery for human development.

Members of the committee charged with revising and updating the charter wanted to address the many medical advancements and bioethical dilemmas that emerged over the past two decades, such as what determines brain death, the cryopreservation of human eggs and embryos, and advance directives.

St. John Paul II, Popes Benedict XVI and Francis and the doctrinal congregation had released a number of important teachings and responses dealing with many bioethical questions over the years, and those needed to be included in the updated charter, the priest told Catholic News Service.

Pope Francis, with his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, showed "a global dimension of health and all the problems of justice" linked with access to basic care as well as the impact climate change and pollution have on human health, he said.

Pope Benedict's teachings in "Spe Salvi" (2007) and "Caritas in Veritate" (2009) addressed the need for "solidarity, subsidiarity and the common good," Father Chendi said, and how they relate to current injustices in the world of health.

Responses from the doctrinal congregation concerning "the problem of imperfect laws and the role of Catholic politicians" and the obligation of providing artificial nutrition and hydration for patients in a "vegetative state," which may involve the judicial system if contested, also showed how many different "professional figures revolve around the world of health."

The new charter, which is expected to be released this year in English, no longer "faces problems only tied to the relationship" between the doctor, nurse or aide and patient like the first one did, he said.

Rather, it takes on "the relationship the state must undertake with the world of health care" and calls on the rest of society and the private sector to be ethical in its practices, Father Chendi said.

One major example, he said, would be pharmaceutical companies, which must find a balance between reaping legitimate returns on research and development while also making their products accessible to people in need as well as producing drugs for rare diseases, which offer little profit-incentive because the market is so small.

"They are universal values that the public and private (spheres) are called to respond to, according to their specific responsibility; values that pertain to the dignity and life of every person," he said.

In fact, Father Chendi said, the way health care is connected to issues of justice and peace, the work of charitable organizations and solidarity in local development, and the needs and vulnerabilities of migrants, refugees and travelers shows how Pope Francis' decision to merge the four councils specializing in these fields into "a symphonic arrangement" also "effectively corresponds to the new problems emerging in the world of health care."

One area needing much more attention, Father Chendi said, is health education, specifically teaching cleanliness and personal hygiene, especially in impoverished areas and areas vulnerable to the spread of so-called "neglected" tropical diseases.

"There is no pharmaceutical that can replace" better sanitation, food hygiene and personal care practices like frequent hand washing and not sharing utensils, he said.

Since role models are so powerful in influencing people's behaviors, especially when those gestures come from the pope, Father Chendi said it would have a huge impact on human health if the pope were to simply wash his hands before sitting down to share something to eat with others.

Such a simple humble gesture "would echo worldwide," he said, and give so many people a critical key to better health.

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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.

Americans grow warmer toward religious groups, Pew study finds

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Americans are feeling more positive toward various religious groups than they did less than three years ago.

While Americans still feel less positive about Muslims and atheists when compared with people of other religions, those participating in a Pew Research Center survey in January viewed people in those two religious groups more positively than in June 2014.

The survey overall, part of Pew's American Trends Panel series of studies, found that warmer feelings toward various religions were expressed by people in all of the participating major religious groups. The same holds true when the sample of 4,248 respondents is divided into groups such as Democrats and Republicans, men and women, and younger and older adults.

The study used a "feeling thermometer" that asked 93 percent of the respondents -- 3,939 -- to move a slider on a scale from zero to 100 degrees. The remaining 7 percent responded in other ways. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

Jews and Catholics received the highest positive feelings, rising to 67 degrees and 66 degrees, respectively, from 63 degrees and 62 degrees in the earlier survey. Every other religious group measured except evangelical Christians moved upward on the scale this time around with Buddhists rising to 60 degrees from 53 degrees; Hindus to 58 degrees from 53 degrees; Mormons to 54 degrees from 50 degrees, atheists to 50 degrees from 41 degrees; and Muslims to 48 degrees from 40 degrees.

Even atheists were rated more highly, rising to 50 degrees from 41 degrees.

Evangelical Christians remained steady at 61 degrees.

The biggest difference in feelings toward Muslims can be seen when the results are reviewed by age. Young adults in the 18- to 29-year-old group rated Muslims at 58 degrees. Americans ages 30 to 40, ages 50 to 64 and older than 65 rated Muslims at 47 degrees, 45 degrees and 44 degrees, respectively.

Young adults, on average, tended to rate all religions within a small range, from 54 degrees for Mormons to 66 degrees for Buddhists. Americans 65 and older responded with a wider rating, from 44 degrees for atheists to 75 degrees for mainline Protestants.

Looking at Catholics, all age groups viewed that group positively, between 64 degrees by the youngest respondents to 71 degrees by the oldest participants. Overall, Catholics were rated consistently across all groupings in the study: in the low- to upper 60s.

The survey also found that Jews and Christians tended to rate each other warmly while atheists and evangelicals viewed each other negatively.

In looking at the responses from self-identified Republicans and Democrats, all religious groups except evangelical Christians saw a growing warmth being expressed toward them.

Catholics saw a modest gains to 64 degrees from 61 degrees among Democrats and 66 degrees to 69 degrees among Republicans. Muslims saw a 6-degree jump among Republicans, to 39 degrees from 33 degrees and an even wider gain among Democrats: to 56 degrees from 47 degrees.

Ratings for evangelical Christians remained steady among Republicans and Democrats at 71 degrees and 53 degrees, respectively.

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Editor's Note: The full study can be found online at https://tinyurl.com/jrjdykk.

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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.

SAINT PROFILE: POPE GREGORY II

As a subdeacon and deacon, this Roman served as treasurer and librarian of the church of Roman and became an...

Consult, respect indigenous peoples and their land, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano,

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Development projects involving indigenous communities must be planned in consultation with them and must respect their traditional relationship to the land, Pope Francis said.

Having the "prior and informed consent" of the native communities who could be impacted by development projects is essential for "peaceful cooperation between governing authorities and indigenous peoples, overcoming confrontation and conflict," the pope said Feb. 15 during a meeting with about three dozen representative of indigenous communities.

The representatives from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean were in Rome for continuing discussions with the U.N.-related International Fund for Agricultural Development. Their talks aim at ensuring development projects impacting native communities are carried out in consultation with them and that they respect their land, cultures and traditions.

"I believe that the central issue is how to reconcile the right to development, both social and cultural, with the protection of the particular characteristics of indigenous peoples and their territories," the pope said. "This is especially clear when planning economic activities which may interfere with indigenous cultures and their ancestral relationship to the earth."

While none of the representatives were from North America, several news outlets immediately connected the pope's remarks to the ongoing protests over the construction of a leg of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would go through indigenous land in North Dakota. Several Sioux tribes have protested the pipeline project saying it endangers the Standing Rock reservation's water supply and infringes on sacred tribal grounds.

Departing from his prepared text, Pope Francis praised the indigenous communities for approaching progress "with a special care for Mother Earth. In this moment in which humanity is committing a grave sin in not caring for the earth, I urge you to continue to bear witness to this. And do not allow new technologies -- which are legitimate and good -- but do not allow those that destroy the earth, that destroy the environment and ecological balance, and which end up destroying the wisdom of peoples."

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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.

INAUGURAL JSERRA SPELLING BEE MOTIVATES STUDENTS

In celebration of Catholic Schools Week, JSerra Catholic High School held its inaugural Spelling Bee for 5th and 6th grade...

Even in dark times, never lose hope in God's love, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Claudio Peri, EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians must never lose hope and should remind themselves that God loves them even at their worst, Pope Francis said.

God's love provides "security" both in difficult moments and even when "I have done something terrible and evil," the pope said Feb. 15 during his weekly general audience.

"No one can take this security from us. We must repeat it like a prayer: God loves me. I am sure that God loves me!" he said.

Among the thousands of pilgrims present at the Paul VI audience hall were numerous student groups from Europe, including several children's choirs from Italy and Spain.

When greeting the Italian-speaking pilgrims, the pope was interrupted by each choir who broke out in song to greet him.

Despite several applauses, one choir continued singing to the amusement of Pope Francis. He laughed heartily while praising them for their persistence in finishing the entire song.

"When you want something, that's how you do it. That's what we should do with prayer; when asking something from the Lord: insist, insist, insist. That is a beautiful example, a beautiful example of prayer," the pope said off-the-cuff, following his praise of the determined choir group.

Continuing a series of talks on Christian hope, the pope reflected on a passage from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans in which the apostle says Christians "should boast in hope of the glory of God."

"Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope," St. Paul writes.

The pope said boasting is "surprising" since from a young age, people are taught that boasting reflects "a certain pride" and reveals "a lack of respect for others, especially toward those less fortunate than us."

"How is it possible to do this without offending, without excluding anyone?" the pope asked.

He explained that Christians are called first to "boast of the abundance of grace we have received in Jesus Christ" by "learning to read everything with the light of the Holy Spirit."

"If we pay attention, acting -- in our history, in our lives -- we are not alone, but above all with God. It is he who is the absolute protagonist, who creates everything as a gift of love, who weaves the storyline of his plan of salvation and who fulfills it in us through his son," the pope said.

By seeing one's life illuminated by the Holy Spirit, he added, "we are at peace with God and experience freedom."

However, the pope continued, St. Paul's second invitation to boast in times of tribulation "is not easy to understand."

While it may seem to be unrelated with the peace that comes from "boasting of the abundance of grace," Pope Francis said that peace does not mean the absence of difficulties, but that "God loves us and he is always close to us."

"It's easy to say: 'God loves us,'" the pope said, departing from his prepared remarks. "But think a little; is each one of us capable of saying: 'I am sure that God loves me?' It is not so easy to say, but it is true. This is a good exercise, to tell yourselves, 'God loves me.' This is the root of our security, the root of our hope."

God's love, he said, nourishes Christian hope that "doesn't separate us from others, nor does it lead us to discredit or marginalize others."

"Our greatest boast is having, as a father, a God who does not make preferences, who excludes no one, but rather opens his home to all human beings, beginning from the last ones to the far away so that as his children, we learn to console and support one another," Pope Francis said.

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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.

POPE FRANCIS DELIVERS 2017 LENTEN MESSAGE

  “Each life we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love,” says Pope Francis as he shared his...

Diocesan phase of Fatima visionary's sainthood cause completed

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paulo Carrico, EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Diocese of Coimbra concluded its phase of the sainthood cause of Carmelite Sister Lucia dos Santos, one of the three children who saw Our Lady of Fatima in 1917.

Bishop Virgilio Antunes of Coimbra formally closed the local phase of investigation into her life and holiness Feb. 13 in the Carmelite convent of St. Teresa in Coimbra, where she resided until her death in 2005 at the age of 97.

The ceremony included the sealing of 50 volumes -- 15,000 pages -- of evidence and witness testimonies detailing the life of Sister Lucia. The documents sealed at the ceremony were to be shipped to the Congregation for Saints' Causes at the Vatican.

After a thorough review of the materials and a judgment that Sister Lucia heroically lived the Christian virtues, her cause still would require the recognition of two miracles -- one for beatification and another for canonization -- attributed to her intercession.

The Marian apparitions at Fatima began on May 13, 1917, when 10-year-old Lucia, along with her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, reported seeing the Virgin Mary.

The apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.

Father Romano Gambalunga, postulator of the visionary's cause, said that while "Lucia is already a saint in the eyes" of many people, "the prudent path of the church is that she is proposed to all, not just those who believe."

"Lucia became holy over the years, not because of the apparitions," Father Gambalunga told Agencia Ecclesia, the news agency of the Portuguese bishops' conference. Without providing details, he said she had a "spiritual experience" in the convent.

While many hope her heroic virtues will be recognized by the church soon, it is important "not to do things in a hurry," he said Feb. 13.

The evidence and testimonies gathered for Sister Lucia's cause, he said, provide "a great occasion for spiritual and theological deepening," and the material will help "illuminate the history of the church over the last 100 years."

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Fatima May 12-13 and many people hope he will use the occasion to canonize Sister Lucia's cousins, Francisco and Jacinta, who were beatified by St. John Paul II in 2000.

Bishop Antonio Marto of Leiria-Fatima told Radio Renascenca, the Portuguese bishops' radio station, that while nothing is certain, he is "deeply hopeful" the canonization will take place this year, the centenary of the apparitions.

"We are waiting and continue to pray to the Lord. But I hope that, during the centenary, we will have the grace and joy to participate in the canonization," he said.

Bishop Marto also admitted that "he is a convert," who, as a priest, was initially skeptical of the Marian apparitions in Fatima.

"I was a skeptic. I didn't care; I did not take an interest nor did I take a position. I understood it as something for children," Bishop Marto said.

The skepticism changed into belief after attending a conference on the apparitions and reading Sister Lucia's memoirs, he told the radio station. "I was deeply impressed, both by the authenticity of the testimony she gave and by the seriousness of the problems she dealt with. I read her memoirs three times to find the historical and ecclesial context" of the apparitions.

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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.

Vatican canon law official explains provisions of 'Amoris Laetitia'

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The provisions of "Amoris Laetitia" allow people in irregular marriage situations access to the sacraments only if they recognize their situation is sinful and desire to change it, according to the cardinal who heads the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

The fact that such a couple also believes changing the situation immediately by splitting up would cause more harm and forgoing sexual relations would threaten their current relationship does not rule out the possibility of receiving sacramental absolution and Communion, said Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the pontifical council that is charged with interpreting canon law.

The intention to change, even if the couple cannot do so immediately, "is exactly the theological element that allows absolution and access to the Eucharist as long as -- I repeat -- there is the impossibility of immediately changing the situation of sin," the cardinal wrote.

Cardinal Coccopalmerio's short booklet, "The Eighth Chapter of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia," was published in Italian by the Vatican publishing house and presented to journalists Feb. 14. It includes material compiled from articles and speeches the cardinal has given about the pope's document on marriage and family life.

The cardinal was unable to attend the presentation because of a meeting at the Congregation for Saints' Causes, said Salesian Father Giuseppe Costa, director of the Vatican publishing house.

"To whom can the church absolutely not concede penance and the Eucharist (because) it would be a glaring contradiction?" the cardinal asked in the book. "To one who, knowing he or she is in a state of serious sin and having the ability to change, has no sincere intention of carrying it out."

Cardinal Coccopalmerio quoted "Amoris Laetitia" to make his point: "Naturally, if someone flaunts an objective sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal, or wants to impose something other than what the church teaches ... such a person needs to listen once more to the Gospel message and its call to conversion."

Father Maurizio Gronchi, a theologian and consultant to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told reporters Feb. 14 that Cardinal Coccopalmerio's reading of "Amoris Laetitia" is the same as the bishops of Malta, Germany and the church region of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Those bishops have issued guidelines that include the possibility of eventually allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics access to the sacraments without first requiring an annulment of their sacramental marriage or a firm commitment to abstaining from sexual relations.

Dozens of other bishops around the world, including Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, head of the U.S. bishops' ad hoc committee for implementing "Amoris Laetitia," have insisted church teaching prohibits persons in an objective state of mortal sin from receiving the Eucharist and those who, in the eyes of the church, are not married to a person they are having sex with are in such a state of sin.

Father Costa told reporters the cardinal's book is not "the Vatican response" to the challenges posed by U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke and three retired cardinals to the supposed lack of clarity and potential misunderstanding of "Amoris Laetitia." Rather, he said, it is an "authoritative" reading of the papal document and a contribution to the ongoing discussion.

In his document, Pope Francis affirms the constant teaching of the Catholic Church on the indissolubility of marriage and the sinful state of those who cohabit and those who form a second union while one or both of them are still bound sacramentally in marriage to another person, Cardinal Coccopalmerio wrote.

The only time such persons would not be in a state of mortal sin, he wrote, is if they were ignorant of church teaching, were unable to understand church teaching or "knew the norm and its goodness, but were unable to act as the norm indicates without incurring another fault."

Cardinal Coccopalmerio cited the case of a woman who enters into a relationship with a man who, along with his small children, was abandoned by his wife. The woman knows the relationship is not in accordance with church teaching, but leaving the man and his small children would devastate him and leave the children without a maternal figure.

In writing that the church could admit such a couple to the sacraments with the "verification of two essential conditions -- that they desire to change that situation, but they cannot act on their desire," the cardinal said the verification must be done with "attentive and authoritative discernment" under the guidance of a priest.

Does "welcoming the sinner justify the person's behavior and renounce doctrine?" the cardinal asked. "Certainly not."

Father Gronchi told reporters "Amoris Laetitia" is not reaching out to couples who are "peaceful and tranquil" while living in situations that are not in harmony with the Gospel, rather it is offering guidance, hope and the possibility of sacramental grace to couples who know they are in sinful situations and want to change.

The papal document and the cardinal's book are "not saying, 'amnesty for all,'" Father Gronchi said. "It's about indicating possible paths to conversion, not to amnesty."

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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.

GUIDE, PROTECTOR AND FRIEND

It is a frequently read, quoted, illustrated and sung biblical verse, and nearly everyone in Judeo-Christian society – from the...