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Despite human sinfulness, God's projects will endure, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church will endure, despite the frailty and sins of its members, because it is God's project, Pope Francis said.

Continuing his series of audience talks about the Acts of the Apostles and the early Christian community Sept. 18, Pope Francis looked at the story of Gamaliel, a Pharisee who tried to teach members of the Sanhedrin a key aspect of "discernment," which is not to rush to judgment, but rather to allow time for something to show itself as worthy or not.

As recounted in Acts 5, Gamaliel told the Sanhedrin not to execute the apostles for preaching Christ, "for if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God."

"Every human project can initially drum up consensus, but then go down in flames," the pope said. But "everything that comes from on high and bears God's signature is destined to endure."

"Human projects always fail, they have a (limited) time, like we do," he said. "Think of the great empires. Think of the dictatorships of the past century; they thought they were so powerful and dominated the world, and then they all crumbled."

The most powerful governments and forces today also "will crumble if God is not with them because the strength human beings have on their own is not lasting," the pope said. "Only the strength of God endures."

The history of Christianity and of the Catholic Church, even "with so many sins and so many scandals, with so many ugly things," illustrates the same point, the pope said. "Why hasn't it crumbled? Because God is there. We are sinners and often, often, we give scandal," but "the Lord always saves. The strength is God with us."

The story also shows just how much courage the presence of the Holy Spirit brings, the pope said. When Jesus was arrested, the disciples "all ran away, they fled," but after the Resurrection, when he sent the Spirit upon them, they became courageous.

Pointing to the 21 Coptic Orthodox beheaded on a beach in Libya in 2015, Pope Francis said the same courage is still seen today in martyrs, who continued to repeat the name of Jesus even as their fate becomes clear. "They did not sell out their faith because the Holy Spirit was with them."

In the Acts of the Apostles, Gamaliel tells the Sanhedrin that if Jesus was an imposter, his followers eventually would "disappear," the pope said, but "if, on the other hand, they were following one who was sent by God, then it would be better not to fight them."

The "wait and see" attitude of Gamaliel is a key part of discernment, Pope Francis said.

"His are calm and farsighted words," part of a process that urges people to "judge a tree by its fruits" rather than acting hastily, the pope said.

Pope Francis asked people at the audience to join him in praying that the Holy Spirit would "act in us so that, both personally and as a community, we can acquire the habit of discernment" and learn to notice God acting in history and in our brothers and sisters.

 

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Copyright © 2019 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 [email protected]

DESPITE HUMAN SINFULNESS, GOD’S PROJECTS WILL ENDURE, POPE SAYS

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Catholic Church will endure, despite the frailty and sins of its members, because it is...

Renowned journalist Cokie Roberts, lifelong Catholic, dies at age 75

IMAGE: CNS photo/Randy Sager, ABC photo archives

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Cokie Roberts, a broadcast journalist and political commentator who spoke publicly about her Catholic faith and her admiration for the Sacred Heart sisters who taught her, died Sept. 17 due to complications from breast cancer. She was 75.

Roberts, who died at her home in Bethesda, Maryland, was an Emmy award-winning reporter, author and frequent keynote speaker at Catholic college graduations. She was described as "a true pioneer for women in journalism," by James Goldston, president of ABC News, her longtime employer. He said her "kindness, generosity, sharp intellect and thoughtful take on the big issues of the day made ABC a better place and all of us better journalists."

She was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame and was listed one of the 50 greatest women in the history of broadcasting by the American Women in Radio and Television. She also was named a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress in 2008.

Roberts started her radio career at CBS and in 1978 began working for NPR covering Capitol Hill, where she continued to work as a political commentator until her death. Roberts joined ABC News in 1988 and during her three decades there, she was a political commentator, chief congressional analyst and co-anchor with Sam Donaldson of the news program "This Week" from 1996 to 2002.

She was born in New Orleans in 1943 with the full name Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs and was nicknamed "Cokie" by her brother.

Roberts attended Catholic schools in New Orleans and Bethesda, run by the sisters of the Society of the Sacred Heart. During her career, she also wrote eight books, including a book with her husband, Steve Roberts, also a journalist, called "From This Day Forward'' about their interfaith marriage. Steve is Jewish.

Cokie Roberts' roots are both political and Catholic. She is the daughter of Hale Boggs, the former Democratic House majority leader and representative from New Orleans, who died in a plane crash in 1972. Her mother, Lindy, was elected to fill his seat and served nine terms. Lindy Boggs, who died in 2013, was appointed U.S. ambassador to the Vatican in 1997, a post she held until 2001.

Over the years, Roberts addressed big Catholic gatherings including those of the National Catholic Educational Association, Catholic Charities USA and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

In a 2014 interview with America magazine by Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh, who died the following year, Roberts said: "There is no way to talk about my faith absent the Society of the Sacred Heart. The women who were my teachers and remain my dear friends mean the world to me. They took girls seriously in the 1950s -- a radical notion, so there was never any 'grown-up' need to reject them, only to thank them -- and they keep the faith."

When asked about her family's Catholic and Democratic background, Roberts said it's "an interesting balancing act in all kinds of ways to try to convince people that I am a fair-minded journalistic observer while coming from a family that has been strongly identified for many decades both politically and religiously."

She said she also had made clear her "continuing commitment to Catholicism -- as opposed to many who say, 'I was raised Catholic.'" She said she didn't think she had been "discriminated against officially" as a Catholic woman, but she also answered the question about this with her own question: "Are there people in this society still who think that to be a believer is to be a little bit simpleminded? Sure. And to be a Catholic, still a little simpler still? Yes," she said.

That didn't stop her though from being public about the role of faith in her life and in others' lives.

During a 2009 LCWR meeting in New Orleans, she told the sisters that their vitality extends beyond their numbers and can best be seen in the lasting effects they have had on students and others they are serving.

"You wonderful, holy, awe-inspiring women -- you women of spirit -- have taught us well. Your teaching will go on, constantly creating a better world for the people of God, corralling the chaos to create a better quality of life for others that you can be proud of."

She also praised the church's efforts to help the poor at a 2006 Catholic Charities USA convention in Minneapolis where she said: "It seems to me that your issues are actually the ones that Jesus talked about." She also challenged the conference participants to educate parishioners about the "option for the poor," a Catholic social teaching that puts the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

Roberts is survived by her husband, her children, Lee and Rebecca, and her six grandchildren.

A statement released by her family said she will be missed "beyond measure, both for her contributions and for her love and kindness."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

 

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Copyright © 2019 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 [email protected]

U.S. delegation brings V Encuentro results to pope, Vatican

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A delegation of U.S. bishops and laypeople came to Rome to share with Pope Francis and Vatican officials the joyful experiences and valuable recommendations that came out of last year's Fifth National Encuentro.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Catholic News Service that he was looking forward to announcing "the good news" about what they've learned and how the process has been unfolding.

"When we talked to the Holy Father" as they were still preparing for the September 2018 event, the archbishop said forming and inspiring missionary disciples across the nation "was our dream, and now we can share with him that it is happening."

Archbishop Gomez along with Bishop Nelson J. Perez of Cleveland, chairman of the USCCB committee on cultural diversity in the church, and Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Cepeda of Detroit, chairman of the subcommittee on Hispanic affairs, led a delegation to the Vatican Sept. 13-18. They were presenting the "Proceedings and Conclusions of the Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry," and they spoke with CNS Sept. 16.

The materials they have been sharing offer a summary of the challenges, opportunities, recommendations and successful practices when it comes to pastoral care and accompaniment of Hispanic and Latino communities in the United States and their call to be missionary disciples.

The national gathering of V Encuentro in Grapevine, Texas, was a historic gathering of Hispanic/Latino leaders in ministry, delegates from dioceses, church movements, schools and Catholic organizations from across the United States. The bishops estimated more than 1 million Catholics had participated in parish, diocesan and regional encuentros in the two years prior to the Grapevine meeting.

One of the things they are telling the Vatican, Archbishop Gomez said, is that "Latinos in the United States are excited about their faith."

"The church in the United States is alive, it's a young church" with an estimated 50 percent of Catholics who are 18 or younger being of Hispanic or Latino origin, Bishop Cepeda told CNS.

"It is wonderful," he said. "They are bringing in the future of the church, but at the same time, they are the 'now' of the church," which brings "a lot of joy and hope."  

Bishop Perez told CNS he's telling Vatican officials how excited people are to "actually be missionary disciples" going to places Pope Francis has called "the peripheries." People have been going "to places where the church isn't always present," he said, like prisons and street corners, and to those who may feel disenfranchised, like young people and undocumented workers.

"The political climate in the United States with immigration and our undocumented brothers and sisters has been very challenging, in fact, very painful," Bishop Perez said.

But the encuentro process, which began at the grassroots level in 1972, "providentially created the space, the forum, for people to come together and share their uncertainty, their fear and feel the support, the warmth of a Christian community," he said.

Bishop Cepeda said this moment has prompted the church to be "the voice of the voiceless. It's a moment for us to bring them out of the shadows, to be able to work for a reform, an immigration reform that is integral and that does not separate families."

"We want to be the voice of a nation that welcomes immigrants and we will be the ones transforming our church and our nation if we do so," he said.

Archbishop Gomez said the increasing presence of Hispanic and Latino Catholics and the work and visibility of the encuentros is "helping Latinos to understand they are an integral part of the life of the church and the life of society in the United States and it's calling them for leadership."

"I hope that helps everybody in the United States see that Latinos really want to participate in the life of society and that brings real immigration reform in our country," the archbishop said.

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Editors: "Proceedings and Conclusions of the Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry" was to be available for sale in October at the USCCB online store store.usccb.org/default.asp.
Other related tools and resources will be posted on the V Encuentro website: vencuentro.org/

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Copyright © 2019 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 [email protected]

Cardinal Pell appeals abuse convictions to Australian High Court

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By

SYDNEY (CNS) -- Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted of child sexual abuse offenses, has lodged an application with Australia's High Court to appeal his guilty verdict.

The application to the country's highest court is Cardinal Pell's last avenue of appeal and comes 27 days after the Supreme Court of the Australian state of Victoria decided, in a 2-1 decision, not to overturn his conviction on one count of child rape and four counts of indecently assaulting minors. The crimes involved two 13-year-old boys, in 1986 and 1987.

According to The Australian newspaper, in the application for special leave to appeal, Cardinal Pell's legal team said the believability of the single witness was not sufficient for "beyond reasonable doubt." If the case is heard, it will have widespread ramifications for trials concerning sexual abuse.

Unlike his first appeal, which had a high chance of being heard, this last appeal has less certainty. The Australian High Court will decide to hear a case only if it is of national importance on a point of law or is in the interests of "the administration of justice" or concerns a dispute between courts. In the 12 months ending June 30, 2018, the High Court received 456 applications for leave to appeal but heard only 56 appeals.

A High Court justice, and possibly a panel of up to three, will be chosen from the court's seven justices to consider the application. The justice may decide whether the court will hear the cases purely on written pleadings, or she or he may call for a short verbal hearing. If an appeal is to be heard, it is unlikely to be until 2020, said lawyers in Australia.

The appeal application came the same day as the release of a second book about Cardinal Pell. "Fallen," written by Australian journalist Lucie Morris-Marr, covers the cardinal's legal trials and purports to reveal further allegations about the cardinal and historic cases of abuse. It follows the 2017 publication of journalist Louise Milligan's' "Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell," which has collected multiple book awards in Australia.

Cardinal Pell continues to be a polarizing figure both in his home country and the global church, with many prominent commentators publicly criticizing the Australian courts that twice found him guilty.

Lawyers representing the father of Cardinal Pell's deceased victim issued a statement Sept. 17.

"Our client is beyond disappointed to hear that George Pell plans to take his legal fight to the High Court," said Lisa Flynn of Shine Lawyers. She said the continued appeals were taking a toll on her client's health, but that "hearing the news this afternoon has made him angry."

Also underway is a canon law investigation into the cardinal, once one of Pope Francis' closest advisers and who had been charged with cleaning up finances in the Vatican. That investigation will determine whether Cardinal Pell will be expelled from the College of Cardinals and whether he will be laicized.

The Vatican press office said the process was on hold until Cardinal Pell has exhausted all his avenues of appeal in the Australian legal system.

 

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Copyright © 2019 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 [email protected]

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