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Seek the Lord by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr

12/01/2018 - 12:20am

The season of Advent, which we enter in December, is a period of watchful waiting in preparation for the Nativity of the Lord at Christmas. In this, as in so many things, the Church is counter-cultural. Some stores have been decorating for Christmas since before Halloween!

It is common during these weeks each year to hear references to “the real meaning of Christmas,” especially in movies and television programs. Depending on the production, this is variously depicted as being nice to everybody, praying for peace on earth, helping the less fortunate, or being with family and friends.

Those are all wonderful ways of celebrating Christmas, but none of them is the meaning of Christmas. One program that gets it right, however, is the perennially popular “Charlie Brown’s Christmas.” The dramatic high point of the show is when Linus stands in a spotlight and quotes from the Gospel of St. Luke. We will hear that same section of the Gospel proclaimed at Midnight Mass on Christmas:

“Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’” (Lk 2:8-14)

Linus concludes by saying, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” And so it is.

The Gospel according to St. John, unlike that of St. Luke and St. Matthew, does not give us a narrative of the Nativity. Instead, it tells the story in theological terms: “And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).

Earlier in John’s Gospel, the Evangelist refers to Christ as “the light of the human race” announced by John the Baptist: “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (Jn 1:9). Jesus later refers to Himself as “the light of the world” (Jn 8:12). That is what the lights on our Christmas trees and homes represent.

The world is in dire need of that light, for we live in very dark times. In the political life of our nation, divisions among Americans run deep. Our discourse is characterized by an appalling lack of civility that has reached new depths. And in the Church, we Catholics are angered and saddened by the evil actions of some members of the hierarchy. Many of us feel betrayed.

However, Christ has not betrayed us or abandoned us. No, our Christmas lights recall that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:5). Christ is the light to which we must turn in dark times, not to any human leader. He is the only true source of the peace, joy, and fullness of life that God wants to give us.

May that peace of Christ fill your home and your life this Christmas season. And if you have been away from the sacraments for several months or even several decades, please come home for Christmas.

A question of faith: When was the birth of Christ? We cannot be sure

12/01/2018 - 12:10am

Q: Was Christ born on Dec. 25 in the year A.D. 1?

A: We cannot be sure of the day and month, nor the year, of Jesus’ birth. Many scholars date the Nativity to several years before the traditional first year of the Lord (Anno Domini or A.D. 1) This earlier date is based in part on the historian Josephus, who places the death of Herod, king of Judea at the time of Christ’s birth, at 4 B.C. However, other scholars contend that Josephus (who held other inaccuracies) is incorrect about the timing of Herod’s death. They believe Jesus could have been born in December in the final days of 1 B.C., ushering in 1 Anno Domini (since there is no “zero” A.D. year).

As for the time of year, the church declared as early as the second century that the angel Gabriel’s announcement of Jesus’ conception to Mary occurred on March 25, and Jesus was born nine months later on Dec. 25. St. Hippolytus made this claim, also noting Jesus’ death date of March 25 (which would mean that Jesus was conceived and died the same day).

March 25 is significant in the Jewish tradition since it was the date assigned to the beginning of creation and the commemoration of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22: 1-19) – both of which Christians see as linked to the sacrifice of Christ. Since the early Christians thought of Isaac as a figure of Jesus and Jesus as the sacrificial lamb that God promised to Abraham (Genesis 22:8), the annunciation of Jesus was also commemorated by Christians on March 25.

Drawing from that tradition, St. Augustine in the fourth century explained the theological significance of Jesus’ conception and death occurring on the same date: “The womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before him nor since.” The common date allowed for a link between the foretold messiah and the announcement and birth of Jesus.

Despite the witness of the early church, many today question this tradition of dating the Nativity to Dec. 25. Some contend that it was chosen as the birthday of Jesus because it was the date of the celebration of the birthday of the Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun – a pagan god). However, there is little evidence of Dec. 25 being connected to the sun god before the reign of Julian the Apostate (who was trying to replace Christianity with paganism) in the fourth century – by which time Christians were already celebrating Christmas.

Some point to the likelihood of a springtime birthday for Jesus, when shepherds would have kept their flocks outside (as described in Luke 2:8), or to spring or summer months, when it was more common to call for a census (Luke 2:4-5). Others, however, note that Palestine (with an average high temperature in December of nearly 60 °F) is not subject to harsh winters, precluding activities generally omitted in the winter months.

We will never know for sure whether Jesus was born in winter or the spring, whether in 4 B.C. or 1 B.C. Even if Dec. 25 was not the birthday of Jesus and it was a date the church selected later, the date – and its relationship to March 25 – retains its theological significance. The lack of surety of the date of Christmas should not prevent us from celebrating the reality of the Nativity. For what is most important is that the Word became flesh, that God entered space and time.

In response to global warming, the idea of personal sacrifice resurfaces

11/30/2018 - 5:08pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/George Frey

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A major scientific report by 13 federal agencies that concludes that climate change poses dire economic consequences to the United States and already is affecting the well being of people serves as a warning that demands action to protect the earth, Catholics working on environmental concerns said.

Personal response can encompass the simple or the complex, but some action is required of everyone if the consequences foreseen in the 1,656-page report are to be avoided, they told Catholic News Service.

"We really have to wake up and get serious about tackling this issue, particularly reducing our energy consumption and reducing greenhouse gas emissions," said Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant. "We need to realize if we don’t get really serious about this soon our children and grandchildren will seriously suffer."

The congressionally mandated Fourth National Climate Assessment, released Nov. 23 by the White House, projects that climate change will cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars a year by 2090. It points to worsening health, reduced farm production, stressed natural areas, lost work and classroom hours, and widespread destruction of coastal and inland property if carbon emissions are not reined in.

Elderly and poor people, children and minority communities are the most vulnerable, said the report, which was developed by more than 200 scientists and environmental experts from the U.S., Canadian and Mexican governments, national laboratories, universities, research institutions and the private sector.

President Donald Trump dismissed the assessment, saying simply, "No, no, I don’t believe it," in response to a reporter’s question about the projected economic impact of global warming. He claimed Nov. 26, without citing evidence, the U.S. air and water are "the cleanest we’ve ever been and that’s very important to me."

Trump’s response falls in line with a series of policy changes during his administration. New regulations and laws in at least 49 areas related to the environment — from vehicle mileage standards to emissions from coal-fired power plants — have been enacted or proposed since 2017, according to Harvard Law School’s Environmental Regulation Rollback Tracker.

The massive federal report is a scientific assessment built on the findings of years of research and therefore does not offer policy solutions. It outlines regional impact in 10 regions of the country. Its 29 chapters cover topic such as human health, water, forests, transportation and land use.

"Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities," the report said. "The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future — but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops acknowledged the challenges posed by climate change in a 2001 statement, "Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue Prudence and the Common Good."

The statement noted that climate change "is not about economic theory or political platforms, nor about partisan advantage or interest group pressures," but rather "about the future of God’s creation and the one human family … about the human stewardship of God’s creation and our responsibility to those who come after us."

Some solutions are already known, said Marianist Sister Leanne Jablonski, a biologist who directs the Marianist Environmental Education Center in Dayton, Ohio. They include reducing waste, consuming less and keeping in mind the needs of others, she said.

"We have a long tradition as Catholics of responding in active mercy," she explained, citing multitudes of soup kitchens, the work of charitable agencies and the millions of dollars raised to aid people harmed by natural disasters. The climate requires similar response, she said, because things will only get worse if personal responsibility is ignored as global temperatures continue to rise.

After reviewing the report, Sister Jablonski and others contacted by CNS found themselves returning to Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on the environment, "Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home." They said the encyclical offers guidelines for Catholic action and reflection.

The encyclical — as well as the government’s report — serves to remind the human family that the focus is not what’s best for an individual or one country, but what’s best for the entire planet, said Father Michael Lasky, a Conventual Franciscan who serves as director of Justice, Peace and Care for Creation Ministry for the order’s Our Lady of Angels Province based in Ellicott City, Maryland.

He and others suggested that people keep in mind the Catholic tradition of sacrifice for the common good in their response to the consequences of a warming planet.

"The message in a nutshell is it’s not that I’m rich and they are poor, it’s that because I’m rich they’re poor. That includes our planet. So the sacrifice comes in the sense of interconnectedness that is cited in this report as well as ‘Laudato Si’,’ being integral as the reason for the sacrifice," he told CNS.

"We are brother and sister to one another. In that context, don’t you sacrifice for the one you love, especially if the one you love is hurting? That means we have to live differently. We have to do a radical shift," Father Lasky said.

Laura Anderko, professor of nursing and health studies and Georgetown University, said people are beginning to see how a changing climate is affecting human life through warmer temperatures that affect people with asthma, more destructive wildfires and hurricanes that dump more water on coastal communities.

Greater incidents of illnesses known to result from the effects of high temperatures are being seen by health care professionals, said Anderko, who also is director of the Mid-Atlantic Center of Children’s Health and the Environment.

"Even a few years ago people were not as receptive to seeing the connection, but these days they are," she said of rising incidences of asthma and other lung-related illnesses.

Anderko, too, pointed to the pope’s encyclical as a guide for Catholics.

"I would encourage folks to reread ‘Laudato Si’,’" she told CNS. "This report underscores what the pope said, with more scientific data, and we really need to be encouraged to not be fooled by those 30-second sound bites."

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Editor’s Note: The Fourth National Climate Assessment can be found online at The USCCB statement on climate change is online at

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski


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Copyright © 2018 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

Pope tells kids battling cancer to talk to their guardian angel every day

11/30/2018 - 3:15pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — It is not easy living with cancer, but there is always some kind of victory that awaits each person on the horizon, Pope Francis told young oncology patients from Poland.

"Your journey in life is a bit difficult, dear children, because you have to get treated and overcome the disease or live with the disease. This is not easy," he told the children, their parents and health care specialists Nov. 30 at the Vatican.

But with the support of family, friends and others, "there is no difficulty in life that cannot be overcome," he told his young guests who were being treated at an oncology clinic in Wroclaw, Poland.

God has given everyone a guardian angel so that "he may help us in life," Pope Francis said.

"Become accustomed to talking to your angel so that he may take care of you, give you encouragement and always lead you to victory in life," the pope told them.

"Victory is different for each person; everyone prevails in his or her way, but prevailing is always the ideal, it is the horizon for moving forward. Do not get discouraged," he told them.

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Copyright © 2018 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

Being Pro-Life: the plight of adults brought to the United States as children

11/30/2018 - 1:41pm

“I was born dirt poor on a dirt floor. I lived in a small shack with aluminum walls and an aluminum roof. No running water, no electricity, a bed and a bucket… When I was four years old, my parents decided to come to the United States.”

This is how José describes the life his parents escaped from in Mexico. His parents wanted to find a way to provide something better for their son, but their living situation in Mexico provided no hope. The trip across the desert to the United States was too dangerous for a young child, so they made a desperate choice. They found a man with a son of similar age to José willing to bring him across pretending he was his son. There, they waited for his parents to make the perilous journey across the desert.

Entering the United States legally was not an option for his parents. Although the system cannot be explained fully here, it is reasonable to say that without a close relative who is a U.S. citizen or greencard holder, or a job offer from a U.S.- based employer, there is no pathway for permanent entry into the United States. Another way to cross the border would be by obtaining a visitor’s visa, and then just staying after it expires. But, unlike a U.S. citizen who typically needs only a passport to travel to Mexico, a Mexican citizen must pay costly fees and provide reasonable proof that he will not try to stay — like substantial property held in Mexico — to obtain a visa to travel in the United States José’s parents had nothing, and were left to either stay where they had no hope, or cross the U.S. border without documentation in hopes of finding something better.

José was reunited with his parents, but his father turned abusive and abandoned his family, including José and two U.S.- born sisters. If you think raising three kids as a single mom is tough in this country, try doing it as an undocumented, unskilled and uneducated immigrant who can’t apply for legal work. José is very proud of what his mother was able to do for her children, and was inspired by her example to work hard to do something with his life.

In his freshman year of high school, José was unable to read, write or do basic math. But inspired by his mother and a new mentor from Big Brothers Big Sisters, José worked hard to become an honor student by his senior year, and he went on to study at Xavier University.

Because of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program instituted under President Obama in 2012, José was able to receive a work permit and apply for scholarships so he could afford college. He earned a degree in Entrepreneurship and has an internship in Washington, D.C. Of course, all of that may come to a halt if the DACA program does not continue before his current status expires.

“We’re not asking for free citizenship,” José explained. He simply wants to be allowed to continue to work in the United States while he goes through the multiyear process of applying for permanent residency.

If you want to get involved, José said the Interfaith Justice and Peace Center (IJPC) is a great place to start, at There you can learn about the challenges and needs of immigrants, and invite a trained presenter to speak at your parish or school about our broken immigration system. You can also contact legislators to support solutions for the problems facing immigrants today.

To watch or listen to the full interview, check out the video below:

This is the third topic of a 12-month series, focusing on a different aspect of Respect Life work each month. Next month’s column will be on Project Rachel, a Catholic post-abortion ministry.

Today’s Video: Advent explained in 2 Minutes

11/30/2018 - 12:01am

As the Advent Season is upon us, here is a great educational video in 2 minutes to share with your family and friends: What Advent is really about!


Michigan sisters sing at National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony

11/29/2018 - 4:35pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jim Young, Reuters

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) — To hear the voices of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist from Michigan in Washington, the best bet was to listen to them sing at the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse outside the White House late Nov. 28.

Ahead of the ceremony, the sisters had turned down all media requests for interviews about their planned performance, according to their publicist, Monica Fitzgibbons.

Because they had received so many interview requests, she said, they didn’t want to appear as if they’re playing favorites by OKing one media outlet while turning down another.

For those unable who were unable to attend the evening event in person, a one-hour special of highlights culled from the ceremony will be shown Dec. 2 on both the Ovation and Reelz cable channels at 10 p.m. EST.

After being introduced as our "very own caroling angels," the 14 sisters assembled in Washington sang the Christmas classic "Carol of the Bells."

What they had planned to sing was being kept a secret until the day of the ceremony, Fitzgibbons told Catholic News Service in a Nov. 27 telephone interview from Naples, Florida, home to the DeMontfort Music record label, which releases the nuns’ music.

The order hit the top spot on the Billboard classical music charts a year ago with their third album, "Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring: Christmas With the Dominican Sisters of Mary." In fact, it was that CD that won them a spot to perform during the ceremony.

"I’ve been in the music business for a long time, and the promoter was a friend of a friend," Fitzgibbons said. "They had the Christmas album out. … This is put on by the National Parks (Service), so I submitted it that way." It was so long ago, she admitted, "I just forgot about it."

"They’re not Beyonce, they’re just kind of doing this and want to put Christ in Christmas," Fitzgibbons added. "Can you imagine Christmas without Christmas music?"

Asked how they got from their motherhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to the nation’s capital, Fitzgibbons replied, "The National Parks flew them in. … They’re ‘Nuns on the Plane.’ They had no choice. That’s what was offered to them. They live in poverty, so it was the National Parks that arranged for their transportation."

Although teaching is the order’s charism, the Dominican Sisters of Mary have issued two other chart-topping CDs, "Mater Eucharistiae" and "Rosary: Mysteries, Meditations and Music." They also have published three journals, "Advent Journal, Mother of Life," "And the Word Became Flesh" and "Life of Christ Lectio Divina Journal."

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Editor’s Note: More about the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist, can be found online at


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Copyright © 2018 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

Visitors are most important things about shrine, pope says

11/29/2018 - 4:07pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — People who visit Catholic shrines must find a place of warmth and welcome, as well as good priests who enjoy being with and listening to the faithful, Pope Francis said.

"It is sad," he said, whenever visitors arrive and "there is no one there who gives them a word of welcome and receives them like pilgrims who have accomplished a journey, often a long one, to reach the shrine," and it is even worse if they find the place is closed.

"It cannot happen that more attention is paid to material and financial demands, forgetting that the most important part is the pilgrim. They are the ones who count," he said.

The pope spoke Nov. 29 to hundreds of priests, religious and laypeople attending the first International Convention of Rectors and Pastoral Worker of Shrines, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. The convention, held in Rome Nov. 27-29, focused on the way shrines are "an open door to the new evangelization."

Pilgrimages and visits to shrines are a key part of popular traditions, and Pope Francis told the group that keeping such popular piety alive was very important.

"It is the immune system of the church. It protects us from many things," he said.

Welcoming groups and visitors is very important, he said, so make sure they are made to feel "at home, like a family member who has been expected for a very long time and has finally come."

Sometimes visitors are people who have distanced themselves from the church, but they made the trip because they are attracted to the shrine’s artistic treasures or its beautiful natural surroundings, the pope said.

"When they are welcomed, these people will become more willing to open their hearts and let them be shaped by grace. A climate of friendship is the fertile seed our shrines can toss on pilgrim soil, allowing them to rediscover that trust in the church" that might have been lost because of having been met with indifference, he said.

No one must ever feel like a stranger or an "outsider, above all when they get there with the burden of their own sins."

If the sacrament of reconciliation is offered at a shrine, the priests should be "well-formed, holy, merciful" and able to help the penitent experience "the true encounter with the Lord, who forgives," he added.

Shrines should be places of prayer, but also a place where an individual can pray in silence, he said. He added that priests serving the shrine must be ministers who love being with and understand the people of God. If not, "the bishop should give him another mission, because he is not suitable for this, and he will suffer greatly, and he will make the people suffer."

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Copyright © 2018 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

English bishop says miracle of U.S. woman could make Newman a saint

11/29/2018 - 3:58pm

IMAGE: CNS/Catholic Church of England and Wales

By Simon Caldwell

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) — Catholic bishops have expressed hope that Pope Francis will canonize Blessed John Henry Newman in 2019 after Vatican medics said the inexplicable healing of a U.S. mother was a miracle attributable to his intercession.

The cardinal was beatified in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI in Birmingham, England, after the miraculous healing of Boston Deacon Jack Sullivan.

Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham said the English and Welsh bishops were informed during their "ad limina" visit to Rome in September that the second miracle needed for the canonization of Blessed Newman had been found.

"I understand that the medical board responsible for assessing a second miracle has now delivered a positive assessment to the congregation," he told Catholic News Service in a Nov. 29 email.

The archbishop said members of the congregation will meet early next year "to consider the medical board’s assessment and to make its own recommendation" to Pope Francis, who will make the final decision and possibly set a date for the canonization ceremony.

Archbishop Longley said: "It is wonderful news that the process for canonization is now moving closer toward its conclusion, and I pray that we may witness the canonization of Blessed John Henry Newman within the coming year."

He said the canonization would be a "great joy," especially for the Catholics of Birmingham, the city where Blessed Newman founded his oratory.

"I am sure that Pope Benedict XVI, who came to our city to beatify Cardinal Newman, will be joining us as we continue to pray for Blessed John Henry’s canonization in the near future," he said.

The second healing miracle involved a young law graduate from the Archdiocese of Chicago who faced life-threatening complications during her pregnancy but suddenly recovered when she prayed to Blessed Newman to help.

It was reported in the British media in early 2016 that a file on the healing had been passed from the archdiocese to the Vatican.

The news that the second miracle had been approved in Rome was revealed by Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth in a weekly newsletter in mid-November.

He told the people of his diocese that developments in the cardinal’s cause meant that it "looks now as if Newman might be canonized, all being well, later next year."

In a Nov. 29 telephone interview with CNS, Bishop Egan described the progress of the cause as a "wonderful thing."

He said it would be "great" if it (the canonization) was in October next year because that was the month of Blessed Newman’s conversion to the Catholic faith.

"It shows that it is possible to be an Englishman and holy," he said.

"It is an inspiration for anyone from England," he added. "I hope and pray that one day he will be made a doctor of the church, because there is so much in his teaching that is really rich."

Before he became a Catholic in the 19th century, Blessed Newman was an Anglican theologian who founded the Oxford Movement to try to return the Church of England to its Catholic roots.

Despite a life marked by controversy, he was renowned for his exemplary virtue and for his reputation as a brilliant thinker, and Pope Leo XIII rewarded him with a cardinal’s red hat.

He died in Birmingham in 1890, and more than 15,000 people lined the streets for his funeral procession.

Scholars believe he was years ahead of his time in his views of the Catholic Church and its teachings.



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As caravan concerns rise, bishops urge respect, compassion for migrants

11/28/2018 - 5:00pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/

By James Ramos

HOUSTON (CNS) — Laredo’s Bishop James A. Tamayo is calling church leaders and lay faithful to "extend the compassion of Christ" to those who come to Catholic churches in need.

Bishop Tamayo leads the youngest diocese in Texas and the U.S. The south Texas city of Laredo borders the Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo, and local Catholic leaders are "preparing to help in any way … should the caravan come to our doorsteps," he said.

His comments come as tensions with tear gas and violence rise on the far west part of the U.S.-Mexico border in Baja California. Thousands of people with a caravan from Central America began arriving in Tijuana, Mexico, Nov. 13, and more continue to arrive.

Bishop Tamayo said his diocesan and social services staff have met with local and national border officials to ensure that the position of the Catholic Church on immigration is known.

The government knows of the church’s respect of the nation’s laws, he said, "but also of our desire if some (migrants) come in need of health care, if some come to try to reunite with family members, we want to help them through the legal process or if they’re at our door and they need food, they need medical care and attention, they want to tell their story and seek asylum from violence and from the governmental structures of their own country, they should be heard."

Respect is key to the process of dialogue with local and national officials, Bishop Tamayo told the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

"We need to respect them because they have policies and guidelines," he continued. "When we can tell them we know what you must do or what your policies state, we need to help you to see where the church stands too. We respect all of that but in turn we ask you to come to know us. Our church is composed of the people of the community."

Bishop Tamayo said church leaders tell border officials that "as you stand at the border following your law of safeguarding the frontier, we stand too at a border to see that everyone that comes, knocks, that travels across or desires to travel across is respected, is assisted with their questions, their concerns, their immediate needs."

Still, with this "there is a spirit of collaboration," he said.

In Brownsville, Bishop Daniel E. Flores has directly dealt with the federal government.

At a recent lecture in Houston, Bishop Flores described the U.S. government’s attempt to survey land owned by the Diocese of Brownsville with goals to eventually build a wall there. While he denied the request and the government has since filed suit, Bishop Flores said he had several "amicable discussions" with federal officials.

"I have great respect for border security agents," he said. "I know many of them personally. Still, I decided not to consent to this request on the grounds that it limits the freedom of the church and is a counter-sign to her mission."

A border wall is not an intrinsic evil, but it is a prudential social disaster, according to Bishop Flores.

"I am a realist," he said. "The government has virtually unlimited resources, the Diocese of Brownsville does not. If in the end the wall is not built on our property, then we have defended our principled position; but, if in the end the barrier is built; it will not be because the church signed a permission. This, would, in fact, speak for itself."

Of the caravan of asylum seekers, Bishop Flores said that "to seek asylum at terrible moments of life is a human right recognized by the laws of the United States as well as of the Republic of Mexico. To ask for asylum is not a crime, and ought to be an orderly process and proceed in a way respecting the laws of each nation."

"Ours is the poverty of a discourse that is governed by mutually exclusive and insufficiently nuanced narratives," he said. "This is abundantly evident in the current discussion about the ‘caravan.’ Are they a band of marauders, or are they the poor fleeing from marauders? Realistically, I have little reason to doubt that criminal elements infiltrate caravans of immigrants who are in the great majority the poor, who are themselves fleeing from criminal elements controlling vast parts of their native countries."

But there are "just ways" governments can collaborate on to differentiate people and families escaping from "humanly intolerable circumstances" and those "criminal elements that seek to infiltrate and manipulate the vulnerable condition of the immigrant."

Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, who is the chair of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, recently told another Houston audience that caring for immigrants is "rooted in the Gospel" and part of the original religious identity of Catholics. He also strongly faulted the polarized political climate for blurring Church teaching on immigration and dividing God’s people.

"As Catholics, we must respect, love and protect the immigrant," Bishop Vasquez said, noting that he was not speaking politically but as a pastor concerned for persons and the well-being of souls.

He described immigration as "one of the most critical challenges the church faces in our hemisphere," with millions of vulnerable people on the move, forced from their homelands by violence and extreme poverty. Millions more live amid crippling fear in the U.S. with serious consequences that Bishop Vasquez said he has witnessed in his own Austin Diocese.

He said an ignorance of church teaching and deep political ideologies are creating hostility around the issue and have cowed some in church leadership from speaking out; nonetheless, he said, "We cannot allow the world to dictate to the church how she understands herself, her role, her mission."

"We need to help our people and our leaders to examine their conscience in light of these principles of Catholic social teaching," Bishop Vasquez said. "Dialogue is needed. Very, very clearly it is evident that dialogue is not taking place."

Bishop Vasquez said immigration issues the church is currently working on include advocating for immigration reform; a permanent solution for the status of "Dreamers," as beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are known, and of other individuals brought into the U.S. illegally as children; and an end to family separation at the border.

"We must remember that they are human beings that are in many instances escaping persecution, targeted by violence and running away from threats," he said. "We must help them to be treated humanely."

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Ramos is a staff writer and designer for the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

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Today’s Video: What are you going to do to prepare for Advent.

11/28/2018 - 12:04pm

In Today’s Video: Bro. Casey gives a glimpse on how to prepare for Advent and to make this the best Advent ever!

For the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Advent Calendar to help you enjoy the season of Advent, click here

Modern Nativity Exhibit on Display at the Maria Stein Shrine

11/28/2018 - 11:23am

MARIA STEIN, Ohio (November 19, 2018) – From Dec. 1 though Jan. 7, The Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics is hosting a Nativity Exhibit from the collection of Tim & Katheleen Nealeigh entitled “Modern Takes on a Timeless Theme”.

“I purchased my first nativity in 1965 when I was teaching in Northern Illinois. On my way to the train station, I passed a religious store and paid the equivalent of a month’s salary. I still have that set on display,” says Nealeigh.

His second set was purchased shortly after in France, but it wasn’t until the boom of the internet and e-Bay in the 90s that Tim and Katheleen’s collection really started to grow.

The Nativities this year range from those made out of kitchen utensils complete with corkscrew angel, to a set that was glazed with horse hair, which burned artfully when the figures were fired.

“In sharing these lovely scenes with friends and family, we hope visitors will enjoy the contemporary ways various cultures have chosen to depict the birth of the Lord,” says Matt Hess, Director of Hospitality at the Shrine, “Even if that means the three kings are riding Segways bearing Amazon boxes while Joseph gets the first ever Christmas selfie with his family.”
Since the first nativity scene was developed by Saint Francis of Assisi, different people have been putting their own spin on the birth of Christ. This display of nativities showcases the various ways the Jesus’ birth has been interpreted. This year’s collection especially takes us out of the Bethlehem stable and into the ordinary circumstances of our contemporary lives and tastes.

Enjoy this intriguing and beautiful display during normal Shrine Hours now through January 7th, but it will be closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. There is no charge to experience the nativities display; however, a free will offering will be graciously accepted.

The Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics provides faith nourishment and spiritual renewal through opportunities for prayer and pilgrimage and inspiration from the lives of the saints. People from around the world visit the shrine to explore and enjoy this environment rich in holiness and history. The Relic Chapel is home to the second largest collection of relics of the saints in the United States.

The Shrine is located at 2291 St. John’s Road in Maria Stein. To learn more about the Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics, visit or call 419-925-4532.

Breaking News: $237,241.89 raised in #iGiveCatholic

11/27/2018 - 11:31pm

(Cincinnati OH) Update 11/28/2018 11:15 a.m.
This year the Archdiocese of Cincinnati embarked on a new initiative: #iGiveCatholic. As part of Giving Tuesday, Parishes, Schools, and Ministries signed on for this most historic day. The participating organizations raised $237,241.89. Thank you!!!!!!!!

Check out the Prizes:





Woman religious in war-torn Syria focuses on rebuilding, healing

11/27/2018 - 8:22pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Sister Annie Demerjian has seen a lifetime of suffering in Aleppo, Syria, over the past seven years. Now, as conflict is beginning to die down, her ministry is no longer about getting emergency supplies to those in need as buildings collapsed and food, water and electricity were scarce. The current challenge is to help people begin to rebuild their lives.

"We are now living the consequences" of years of civil war, she said.

As the Syrian city finds its way out of the rubble, Sister Annie and three other Sisters of Jesus and Mary are at work, reopening garment factories and helping people find jobs and develop job skills.

"Before, we were living day by day or minute by minute," she said, stressing that she and the other sisters never knew when bombs would fall or who would die next.

"It was a big fear," the 52-year-old sister said in Washington Nov. 27. She was visiting to attend a Nov. 28 prayer service — sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need-USA — honoring today’s Christian martyrs at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. She planned to speak to the congregation about enormous suffering in the region and the task of rebuilding.

"Every part of my country has a story to tell, a story that reveals wounds that only time and God’s mercy can heal," she said, stressing that the current situation primarily involves "recovering from this heavy burden." Many are mourning those who died and those who fled; children, in particular, have witnessed horrific violence or lost limbs due to explosions and face the "long process of healing."

The death toll from this war is staggering. Earlier this year, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 511,000 people had been killed since fighting began in Syria in March 2011.

The U.N. Refugee Agency said 5.6 million Syrians have left the country and 6.6 million are internally displaced since the war began.

Of those who remain, millions need humanitarian assistance and health care. More than 86,000 lost limbs. Sister Annie said children in particular are suffering, especially the 3 million born during the war who only know of violent destruction. More than 20,000 children were killed in the war, and 2.8 million children have been uprooted from their family homes, she added.

When the fighting first began, Sister Annie and four other sisters in Aleppo who were teaching at the time were told by their provincial that they could leave. They chose to stay, saying they had lived there in good times and would stay during bad times.

"For us it’s been a very painful experience, but to be present makes a difference for us and our people," she told Catholic News Service.

And now, she said, the focus is on "supporting our people and letting them stand in dignity to start a new life," stressing that the easier part is the physical rebuilding. "Rebuilding the heart and soul" is the bigger challenge.

She also knows that news about the war in Syria has fallen off the radar for many people.

"At the beginning the news was all about Syria; now there is no news about Syria. It seems like it’s finished," she said, stressing, "It’s not finished, of course."

In prepared remarks for the vespers service, Sister Annie likened the situation in Syria to someone recovering from a serious operation.

"One thing is the actual experience of the surgery; another thing is the long period of time needed to recover. Syria and its people are, we hope and pray, about to enter the recovery period. It will be long and challenging. It will need much help from friends and neighbors; it will need much patience from the people themselves and the determination to rebuild their lives."

She told CNS that she feels more people need to be aware of the current situation in Syria. She compared it to the words of St. Paul when he said: "If one part of the body is suffering, the whole body is suffering."

"We need to be aware," she said. "We can’t just turn the channel" and look away.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

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Catholic groups pledge to make church’s voice heard at climate conference

11/27/2018 - 7:00pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Arnd Wiegmann, Reuters

By Jonathan Luxmoore

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) — As government delegations from across the globe prepare for a Dec. 2-14 U.N. conference on climate change, Catholic organizations are pledging to make the church’s voice heard.

CIDSE, a network of 17 Catholic development agencies from Europe and North America based in Brussels, joined other Catholic aid organizations in Katowice, Poland, for the 24th U.N. Climate Change Conference, which was expected to propose measures for restricting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"Over the past year, there have been fears of a loss of energy — that ambition and commitment are being deflated by the magnitude of the tasks ahead," said Josianne Gauthier, CIDSE secretary-general. "But we’ve been called out by the world’s most vulnerable countries to make the bold changes needed to restrict global warming — not by seeking the lowest common denominator, but by joining in courageous actions."

The Canadian Catholic told Catholic News Service Nov. 26 that Catholic campaigners would press the conference to maintain a "comprehensive rights approach to climate change," rather than merely focusing on "technical questions."

Adriana Opromolla, international advocacy officer for Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based federation of 164 Catholic charities, said Catholic groups "want an open, transparent dialogue on the global common good, not just a preoccupation with the interests of certain countries."

"While governments have to comply with global emission reduction goals, actors below government level can also have a major impact with a shared vision for reversing current trends," said Opromolla. "What absolutely cannot happen is that we just continue with business as usual."

"We’ve seen a growing interest in the Catholic Church as a moral leader and globally recognized authority, so I’ve no doubt its voice will be listened to," she said.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for the Promoting Integral Human Development, will lead a delegation from the Holy See.

In an Oct. 26 statement, church leaders from five continents called for the conference to be a "milestone on the path set out in 2015," by encouraging "urgency, intergenerational justice, human dignity and human rights."

They added that Pope Francis had demanded "rapid and radical changes" in his 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si’, on Care for our Common Home." They called on countries with heavy carbon emissions to "take political accountability and meet their climate finance commitments."

The statement said the Catholic Church worldwide was now supporting a "shift toward more sustainable communities and lifestyles," including disinvestment from fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy, and was "rethinking the agriculture sector" to promote agro-ecology.

"We must resist the temptation to look for solutions to our current situation in short-term technological fixes without addressing the root causes and the long-term consequences," said the signers, who included Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, and Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, Colombia, president of the Latin American bishops’ council. Their counterparts from Europe, Africa and Oceania also signed the letter.

The bishops’ statement was welcomed as a "strong indication" of global Catholic commitment to climate justice by Tomas Insua, director of the Boston-based Global Catholic Climate Movement, who said he counted on political leaders to "take up the challenge" when "every notch in the global thermometer is a tragedy for the most vulnerable."

Gauthier also welcomed the statement’s support for "deep societal change," adding that Catholic experts would work with representatives of other religions at Katowice to "make noise and instill hope" around the shared goals of "justice, dignity and care for creation."

"I think there’s a thirst for another kind of discourse now, something less technical and with a more human face. This is where churches and religious communities can offer vital help," she added.

A U.N. website statement said the conference’s main objective would be to adopt implementation guidelines for the 1.5-degree limit adopted under a 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement.

It added that the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had recently warned net carbon dioxide emissions must reach zero by 2050 to meet the Paris target, thus reducing "the risks to human well-being, ecosystems and sustainable development."

In a Nov. 22 report, the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization said levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, had reached a new record high, driving increases in sea levels, ocean acidification and more extreme weather, with "no sign of a reversal in the trend."

A separate Nov. 27 emissions report by the U.N. Environment Programme tracked policy commitments by countries to reduce emissions and said these were trailing behind official targets.


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The 4:30 p.m. #iGiveCatholicAOC update

11/27/2018 - 4:30pm

For the list of organizations participating and how you can be a part of this great day, click here

Everyone’s hour will come, so be prepared for Judgment Day, pope says

11/27/2018 - 4:26pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — People would be wise to think about Judgment Day and wonder what God will see when he examines their lives, Pope Francis said.

"If the Lord were to call me today, what would I do? What will I say? What harvest will I show him?" the pope asked during Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae Nov. 27.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the day’s reading about the end of the world in the Book of Revelation, in which St. John uses the image of the Lord and angels armed with sharp sickles, reaping the harvest.

With the liturgical year coming to a close and the readings focused on the end of time, the pope said it would be good for people to examine their lives and reflect on how they might be judged when their hour has come.

"We don’t like to think about the end," he said. "We always put this thought aside," especially when people are young, "but look how many young people go, how many are called. Nobody’s life is guaranteed."

No one is on this earth forever; everyone’s life will come to an end, he said, and God will want to see what has been harvested — "the quality of our life."

This examination of conscience will help people understand what things they must fix in their lives and what things should be continued because they are good, the pope said.

"Yes, there will be an end, but that end will be an encounter, an encounter with the Lord. It’s true there will be accounting for what I have done, but it will also be an encounter of mercy, of joy, of happiness," he said.

"Thinking about the end, the end of creation, the end of one’s life, this is wisdom, the wise ones do it," he said.

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Update: CDC report shows continued decline in U.S. abortion rate

11/27/2018 - 4:05pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/David Maung


WASHINGTON (CNS) — The archbishop who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities cheered news that the abortion rate in the United States continues to shrink, as does the number of abortions overall.

"I am gratified that the number of abortions in the United States continues to decline," said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, in a Nov. 26 statement. "The reduction in the number of abortions is due to many factors, from declining rates of sexual activity, especially among teens, to pro-life legislative gains."

According to a report issued Nov. 21 by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the drop in both abortions overall and the abortion rate has declined each year for a decade.

The CDC said the abortion rate in 2015 — the last year for which statistics are available — is at 11.8 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44. The rate has dropped eight of the past nine years since 2006’s rate of 15.9; the rate of 15.6 held steady in 2008.

"The efforts of the staff and volunteers at crisis pregnancy centers, as well as pro-life educational efforts, are to be commended," Archbishop Naumann said in his statement.

The overall number of abortions also continued to slide. The 2015 number of reported abortions was 638,169, about one-fourth less than the 852,385 reported in 2006. It is down 2 percent from 2014’s figure of 652,639.

"At the same time, we cannot be content with hundreds of thousands of abortions occurring annually in our nation," Archbishop Naumann added.

Over the past decade, the ratio of abortions to live births has also trended downward. The ratio rose slightly from 2007 to 2008, and held steady in 2010 based on 2009’s figures, but has declined from 2006’s 233 abortions per 1,000 live births to 2015’s 188 abortions per 1,000 live births.

The number of legal abortions in the United States peaked in the 1980s before beginning a slow but steady decline, interrupted only by the slight rise in, or holding steady of, numbers in the late 2000s.

The CDC’s numbers are not complete. They do not include California, Florida, Maryland, New Hampshire and Wyoming because they either "did not report, did not report by age, or did not meet reporting standards," the CDC said.

The abortion rate is highest for women in their 20s. Women ages 20-24 had an abortion rate of 19.9, and women ages 25-29 had an abortion rate of 17.9 per 1,000 women in their age group. Together, they accounted for close to 60 percent of all abortions.

White women had an abortion rate close to one-fourth that of black women. White women accounted for an abortion rate of 6.8, while black women had an abortion rate of 25.1. The CDC report, though, noted that abortion rates, ratios and numbers have gone down among all racial and ethnic groups.

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Catholic migrant advocates have mixed reaction to Tijuana border events

11/26/2018 - 9:10pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/ Kim Kyung-Hoon

By David Agren

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — The chaotic scene in Tijuana Nov. 25 — when migrants, including women and children, were repelled from the U.S. border with tear gas — prompted the closure of one of the world’s busiest border crossings. It also showed the increasing impatience and despair of thousands of caravan participants, who could spend months in an uncomfortable camp as they wait to present asylum claims to U.S. officials.

And while some Catholic migrant advocates criticized U.S. reaction as excessive, some who work with migrants through a network of shelters stretching the length of the country said they tried warning the caravan participants and a migrant advocacy group accompanying it, Pueblo Sin Fronteras, that — unlike past years, when smaller caravans would cross Mexico — times had changed. Resources for sustaining thousands of migrants in Tijuana are stretched thin and the current U.S. government has showed few signs of speeding up the process for accepting asylum applications.

Press reports from Tijuana described a peaceful protest, in which the migrants planned to present their case: that they had come only to work and save their own lives. But the protest was met by a wall of Mexican police officers, prompting the migrants to detour the barricade and head to a train border crossing.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a tweet that some migrants "threw projectiles." In response, "Border Patrol agents deployed tear gas to dispel the group because of the risk to agents’ safety. Several agents were hit by the projectiles."

The caravan has crossed closed borders and pushed past police barricades since departing San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in mid-October. Parishes have assisted the original caravan and several subsequent caravans as they passed through southern Mexico; a group of religious offered medical attention, and dioceses have taken up collections.

But now the migrants have run up against the U.S. border and a U.S. administration that has warned that the caravan will not enter the country. The U.S. has allowed fewer than 50 claims to be made daily, even as thousands wait their turn in Mexico.

The caravan also risks becoming unwelcome in Tijuana, where hostile attitudes have already been expressed, border closures hurt the economy and the local government warned resources were running low.

Taking that many people to one border crossing and organizing a march "can’t be a good idea. It’s a horrific one," said Father Alejandro Solalinde, who operates a migrant shelter in southern Oaxaca state. "But there is no control there whatsoever."

"I … gave them this advice, but they ignored it because the leaders (the activists) taking them made them believe that they were going to be able to do it, when in reality, it wasn’t like that," said Father Solalinde.

Jorge Andrade, coordinator of a collective of Catholic-run migrant shelters, called the U.S. response "excessive." In the spring, Andrade said caravan organizers "have good intentions, but they’re exposing (the migrants) to danger."

"Unfortunately, there are groups (of migrants) there that want to cross the border under these circumstances," he said in late November.

Father Andres Ramirez, who works with migrants in Tijuana, called the response "unprecedented" and said such a border closure as occurred Nov. 25 had not happened since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Father Solalinde has refused to accompany migrants farther north than Mexico City, saying the road poses risks such as kidnap. He recounted how one group of migrants, who were evangelicals, and told him: God will take care of us and "touch the heart" of president Donald Trump.

"They truly thought that God was going to move the heart of this person, but no! no! no! It wasn’t like that," Father Solalinde said. He added that some in that group of 250 migrants had gone missing since setting out from Mexico City for Tijuana.

"They wouldn’t take into account the current political climate, the (Dec. 1 presidential) transition in Mexico, the bad organization that they had, because they didn’t see the opportunity for people to help them," Father Solalinde said, speaking to the haste of many to rush to the border and not fully consider the opportunity to work in Mexico or apply for asylum there.

"These are difficult times (but) it’s as if they have this chip, ‘They have to go north’ and they think that it was going to be the same as the previous times, but it’s not like that."

The Mexican government said in a Nov. 25 statement it had detained almost 500 migrants who tried to cross the border at Tijuana.

It added more than 7,400 migrants from various caravans were currently in the border state of Baja California, while 11,000 migrants had been repatriated or deported to Central America since Oct. 19.

The Washington Post reported Nov. 24 the United States and Mexico’s incoming government had reached an agreement known as "Remain in Mexico," in which asylum seekers would wait south of the border while their claims are processed in U.S. courts. Incoming Mexican Interior Minister Olga Sanchez Cordero later denied the story, but did not disavow her comments to the Post confirming a deal.

She also denied Mexico would become a "safe third" country, which would mean migrants in Mexico would be considered to have already found safety.

In effect, "Remain in Mexico is the configuration of Mexico as a safe third country," said Andrade.


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