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Archbishop: Fr. Houbeck’s ordination ‘a sign of God’s love’ for Detroit

Novi — Fr. James Houbeck’s and his mother, Barb Houbeck’s, eyes may have been swelling up. But the newly ordained priest had an explanation. “Some of you may have noticed the church looks different with people doing renovations, so pardon the dust,” Fr. Houbeck told the congregation. “My allergies must be bothering me, and my…

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Fr. Solanus: The glue that binds the Casey family together

Detroit — It’s a great excuse for a family reunion: The Caseys are coming to Detroit. More than 300 relatives of Venerable Fr. Solanus Casey will visit the Motor City from as far away as Oakland, Calif., and Ireland to see the man many know as “Uncle Barney” come one step closer to sainthood. “I’m…

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‘Pagan baby’-turned-priest inspired couple to start school in Uganda

Farmington Hills — When Nancy and Paul Berrigan walked into their church on an October Sunday in 2005, they had no idea their lives were about to take a dramatic turn. Their parish, St. Fabian in Farmington Hills, was hosting a mission appeal, and Msgr. John Kauta from Uganda had come to share stories about…

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England's Buckfast Abbey to celebrate 1,000 years of foundation

Plymouth, England, Oct 18, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In 2018 one of England's historic monasteries will celebrate the millennium year of its foundation, offering a prime example of the contribution of monastic life to society amid an increasingly fast-paced world.

For the Benedictine monks who inhabit Buckfast Abbey in Devon, reaching such a significant anniversary means “we are the inheritors of a great tradition,” Abbot David Charlesworth told CNA.

“Place matters for Benedictines, so the fact that we are in a place that has been established for many centuries before we came is important.”

Not only to Benedictine monks take the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, they also make an additional vow of stability, meaning that when they are assigned to a monastery, they stay there. While they might travel or even spend time in other monasteries, they will always be attached to the original, as an individual would be to their family home.

Charlesworth, who served as Abbot at Buckfast from 1992-1999, and was re-elected in 2009, said that in general, human beings “like the idea of roots.”

The concept of monasticism is ultimately rooted in the Gospel and expressed through the Rule of St Benedict, he said, but it is also rooted “in place, in a place, and it is from there, out of that place, that we then live our Baptismal vocation expressed through our monastic vocation.”

When it comes to living this vocation in modern times, the millennium landmark “helps to sort of galvanize our approach as to what we're doing for the future,” Charlesworth said. This, he added, encompasses “what we're doing personally, what we're doing as a community, and what we're doing as members of the Church of the Southwest of England.”

The abbot spoke to CNA about the millennium anniversary during a sit-down interview inside one of the two main guest houses at Buckfast Abbey, located in Buckfastleigh, about 25 miles northeast of Plymouth.

The abbey was founded in 1018 during the reign of King Cnut and entrusted to care of the Benedictines.

The monks who inhabited the monastery followed the “Regularis Concordia” rule, which was drafted in Winchester around the year 970 for all Benedictine monasteries in an effort to re-establish, in a sense, monastic life.

Just over 100 years later, in 1147, Buckfast became a Cistercian monastery. The Order was founded in 1098 by a group of monks seeking to live a simpler life in more strict observance of the Benedictine Rule.

Under the Cistercians Buckfast thrived, exporting wool to Italy by the 14th century. By the 15th century, the monastery had in essence become a wealthy landowner, while continuing to run an almshouse and school, and support local parishes in the area.

But in 1539 was shut down by the commissioners of King Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries in a bid to confiscate the wealth of the country's religious institutes during the English Reformation.

The monastery was immediately vacated, stripped and left to decay. During the more than 300 years that Buckfast was without monks, the monastery changed hands four times, eventually landing in those of Dr. James Gale in 1872, who decided to sell the property, but wanted it to go back to a religious community.

Just six weeks after putting an advertisement in the paper, Buckfast was purchased by monks, who moved in shortly after, bringing a close to the 343 year gap in monastic presence at the abbey.

That first group of monks who returned to Buckfast were Benedictines who had been exiled from France and had made their way to Ireland. They moved to Buckfast in 1882 after acquiring the abbey, and began the process of restoring the property.

As the work was being carried out, the ruins to the original Cistercian design from the 1100s were discovered, and the monastery was constructed in its modern form from the ancient layout. The abbey was consecrated in 1932, with the final stone of the large bell tower being laid in 1937.

Now in 2017, the monastery is again a thriving presence in Devon. Not only does Buckfast represent a silent spiritual hub for tourists or visitors who want to get away for a day of prayer, but it also boasts of several other major activities available for people throughout the area.

The Buckfast monks essentially serve as the board of trustees for the St. Mary's grade school that sits on their property, and the abbey hosts a center for evangelization called the School of the Annunciation, which was established as a response to Church's call for a new evangelization.

The school offers formation to adults from all walks of life, and it also holds the status of a Catholic Institute for Higher Learning, providing distance-learning opportunities for students to obtain Master's Degrees in Catechesis and Evangelization, validated by the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.
 
Buckfast also has a large conference center where they host various congresses and retreats throughout the year, including for non-Catholic groups.

The monastery also offers two refurbished guest houses for pilgrims and tourists to stay. They also have private houses available to rent if people want a longer get-away.

Buckfast also has a cafeteria and an adoration chapel open to visitors. Monks also offer pilgrims the opportunity to pray Vespers with them every evening.

The abbey is known throughout the UK for a tonic wine they brew called Buckfast Tonic Wine. Originally brewed for medicinal purposes, the wine is controversial in some areas of the UK due to its unique recipe, which contains high amounts of alcohol infused with high levels of caffeine.

Reminiscent of the monastery's early centuries, Buckfast, which is strategically placed beside the River Dart that runs through the area, also generates their own power with a water turbine that provides enough energy not only for their own grounds, but for locals in the nearby area who want to purchase it for their own homes and neighborhoods.

Another means of income for the monastery is renting grazing ground for local farmers.

Several acres of land had been purchased for Buckfast when it was established in order to preserve the silence of the monastery and ensure that the monks were truly removed with few distractions. However, since the swath of land owned by Buckfast largely serves as a buffer-of-sorts from the outside world, they rent out certain patches to local farmers who need fresh grazing land.

And while Buckfast can't quite claim to be celebrating 1,000 years of having monks on the property, the millennium anniversary of the monastery's foundation is recognized as a monumental event not only for the abbey, but the entire region.

Preparations for the anniversary have been underway for 10 years. According to Charlesworth, “not only do we reassess the physical environment of the monastery, but we reassess our spiritual lives as well.”

“Everything is integrated, it's an integrated system,” he said, noting that while the monks themselves have had retreats and meditations to reflect on, the structure of the monastery itself has also been cleaned and renovated, from the base of the Church floor to the top of the bell tower.

Paintings depicting the history and reconstruction of the monastery have also been produced, and vestments woven in honor of the upcoming anniversary. Exhibits on Buckfast and monasticism are also set to be unveiled, and study workshops are scheduled exploring the role of Christian monasticism both in the past and in the present.

The famous image of Our Lady of Buckfast that greets visitors as they approach the monastery was also redone. Crafted by a local artist with her neighbor and her neighbor's baby as models, the statue depicts a smiling Mary holding a smiling infant Christ in a relaxed pose on her hip.

Based on the medieval original, which was destroyed during the sacking of the monastery in the 1500s, the statue, according to Charlesworth, is meant to depict “the joy of motherhood.”

“You don't typically see statues like that,” with Mary's soft but full smile, and her relaxed pose, he said, explaining that when he initially commissioned the statue in 2012, “I specifically asked that be emphasized...the smiling motherly face of Mary and child.”

When pilgrims arrive, he explained, they see Christ “smiling and looking at them as a child – because he was a child – and there is Mary looking at her Son in the joy of motherhood.”

Various liturgical events are also set to take place, with three major Masses scheduled throughout the year. The first will take place on the May 24 feast of Our Lady of Buckfast, which will mark the diocesan celebration.

The bishops of England, Wales, and Scotland will all be invited to the Mass. Parish priests and representatives of parishes in the area will also be invited.

The next major liturgical event will be the singing of Vespers by the abbey choir on the July 11 feast of St. Benedict. Members of both civil society and the Church of England will be invited for a civic and ecumenical celebration of the anniversary.

Another Mass will be offered on the Aug. 25 feast of the Dedication of the Abbey, which will be more of a community celebration for the abbey parish staff and their families.

On Oct. 27 a Votive Mass will be offered for the Oct. 27 feast of Saints Simon and Jude, which will be celebrated by the Benedictine Abbot Primate, Gregory Polan of Conception Abbey in Missouri, who will come in from Rome for the celebration.

The Mass will primarily be for the monks and nuns of the Benedictine family, particularly those from France and in Germany, since the first monks to re-settle Buckfast in the 19th century were French and German.

With around 120 employees on staff and 3-400,000 visitors a year, Buckfast is far from a small presence in the area. However, there are only 15 monks, including Abbot Charlesworth, who live in the enclosed monastery of the abbey.

But according to Charlesworth, “the vitality of a monastic community witness does not depend so much on the age or number of members as on their manner of living the monastic life.”

Going into the future, he hopes Buckfast Abbey is able to offer a concrete service based on “Christ-centered hospitality” to the mission of the Church as a whole, but specifically the pilgrims who come.

“The monastic life itself is our way of participating in the mission of Christ and his Church,” the abbot said, adding that it offers both the Church and the world “a strong clear sign of the very nature of the Christian life.”

Though the monks are enclosed, that doesn't mean they are inactive or that their presence isn't felt, he said, because if lived properly through a life of prayer and asceticism, monastic life “assumes an evangelical importance, being the attitude and behavior which demonstrates our faith at the point of contact with each other and the world.”

“To witness the contentment and pleasure that others experience here is a great joy,” he said, noting that for many of Buckfast's visitors, the monastery is a place “where they are uplifted and find peace,” which in itself is “an important source of encouragement.”

This opportunity for peace, joy and renewal is a primary way to evangelize, particularly amid a busy and often hectic rhythm, he said.

Evangelization, he said, “should seek to orientate our human freedom towards God, who is the source of truth, goodness and beauty.”

Because of this, a life of prayer is also a mode of evangelization, he said, explaining that “the Spirit given to us in prayer and the sacraments encourages us to spread the Good News of Jesus in word and deed” to the community, and to visitors.

“For us, the three-fold mission of liturgy, hospitality and evangelization helps us to express our commitment, through our monastic calling to the life of the Gospel,” Charlesworth said, stressing that “we do not have to work away from the monastery to bear witness to Jesus.”

“Within the monastic enclosure, if we are willing to cooperate with each other and collaborate with those who share our vision, we have the resources to bring hope and joy to those in need.”

Pope taps Joliet auxiliary to head Evansville diocese

Vatican City, Oct 18, 2017 / 05:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday, the Vatican announced that Joseph M. Siegel, until now auxiliary bishop of Joliet, Illinois, will be taking the reins in the diocese of Evansville, Indiana, which has been vacant for several months.

Siegel's appointment was announced in an Oct. 18 communique from the Vatican, and comes just four months after the previous Bishop of Evansville, Charles C. Thompson, was reassigned to Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

The youngest of nine children, Seigel was born in Lockport Township July 18, 1963, and attended Catholic school.

After graduating from St. Charles Borromeo High School, he entered the local seminary where he completed his college education, and was eventually sent to study at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

He completed his theological studies there, also taking courses at the Pontifical Gregorian and Angelicum Universities.

Siegel was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Joliet March 4, 1988, and assigned to the St. Isidore Parish in Bloomingdale. While serving at the parish, he completed a Licentiate degree in Sacred Theology from the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein.

Other parish assignments the bishop held include St. Mary Immaculate in Plainfield, St. Mary Nativity in Joliet and the Cathedral of St. Raymond, where he also served as the diocesan Master of Ceremonies. In 2004, Siegel was named pastor of Visitation Parish in Elmhurst.

He served as a member of the diocese's Presbyteral Council for nine years, including three as chairman, and was also appointed to the diocesan Board of Consultors. He also held the role of director of the Continuing Formation for Priests and was a member of the diocesan Vocation Board, the Priest Personnel Board and was the Dean of Eastern Will County.

Within the Catholic Conference of Illinois, Siegel served as a priest-representative on the Executive Committee and was also chairman of the Catholics for Life Department. During the diocesan celebration of the Year of the Eucharist and Eucharistic Congress in Joliet, he chaired the Steering Committee.

Siegel was also a member of the Bishops’ Respect Life Advisory Board, and is a fourth degree Knight of Columbus and a member of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.

He was named auxiliary bishop of Joliet by Benedict XVI in 2009, and received his episcopal ordination in January 2010.

A year later, in December 2010, the bishop was named Apostolic Administrator of Joliet when the previous bishop, J. Peter Sartain, was reassigned to the Archdiocese of Seattle. When Joliet's current bishop, R. Daniel Conlon, was appointed in 2011, Siegel was named the diocese's Vicar General.

In addition to English, the bishop also speaks Spanish and Italian.

Pope Francis prays for victims of Somalia massacre

Vatican City, Oct 18, 2017 / 04:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday, Pope Francis offered prayers for the more than 300 victims of a terrorist bombing in the African country of Somalia, one of the most lethal attacks to take place anywhere in the world in recent years.

“I would like to express my sorrow for the massacre that occurred a few days ago in Mogadishu, Somalia,” the Pope said Oct. 18. “This terrorist act deserves the most firm censure, because it ravages a population that has already been so tried.”

The attack took place Oct. 14 when a truck packed with explosives blew up in front of a hotel in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, killing more than 300 people and injuring hundreds, including children.

Responsibility for the bombing has yet to be claimed by any group, though some Somalis have reacted to the attack by condemning al-Shabaab, an Islamist militant group associated with al-Qaeda.

In his appeal, Pope Francis said he prays “for the dead and the wounded, for their family members and for all the people of Somalia,” and also offered prayers “for the conversion of the violent.” He also encouraged “those who, with great difficulty, work for peace in that tortured land.”

Pope Francis made his appeal at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square. In his address, the Pope spoke about the inevitability of death, saying it’s good to meditate on our eventual passing.

As a piece of advice, he told pilgrims to recite Psalm 90, which asks to be taught how “to count our days and acquire a wise heart.”

These words help to give us a “healthy realism, casting off the delusions of omnipotence,” he said, asking: “What are we? We are ‘almost nothing,’ says another psalm; our days are running fast.”

He noted how many times he has heard older people speak about their life, saying it “passed like a breath.” Death brings our life into focus, showing how all our pride, anger and hatred is ultimately vanity, he said.

“We realize with regret that we have not loved enough and did not look for what was essential. And, on the contrary, we see what we have really sowed: the affections for which we have sacrificed ourselves and who now hold our hand.”

But faith gives us hope, he said, explaining that “we are all small and helpless in front of the mystery of death. However, what a grace if we keep the flame of faith in our hearts!”

Francis noted that Jesus, by his life and death, illuminated the mystery that is death. As an example, he pointed to the New Testament, when Jesus weeps after learning of the death of his dear friend Lazarus, showing us that it is okay to mourn the loss of a friend.

But then Jesus prays to the Father, the source of life, and orders Lazarus to leave the tomb: “and so it happens.”

This is a source of Christian hope, he said: that though death is a part of life and is present in creation, it is “an affront to the design of God's love, and the Savior wants it to be healed.”

In another Gospel episode, there is a father with a very sick daughter who addresses Jesus with faith, asking him to save her, the Pope recalled. But then, someone comes out from the man's house to tell him it is too late, his daughter has died.

“Jesus knows that man is tempted to react with anger and despair because of the child's death, and advises him to guard the small flame that is lit in his heart: faith.”

“Do not be afraid, only have faith,” Jesus says to the father, telling him that when he arrives at home, he will find the child alive.

Also in his words to Martha, as she weeps for the death of her brother Lazarus, Jesus teaches us that he is “the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.”

These words are repeated to us every time death comes in order “to tear the fabric of life and affections,” Francis said, adding that “all our existence is played out here, between the side of faith and the precipice of fear.”

Jesus is the resurrection and the life, the Pope said, asking pilgrims: “do you believe this?” He then invited those present in St. Peter's Square to close their eyes and think of the moment of their death.

Think of your death and imagine the moment when Jesus will take you by the hand and say, “come, come with me, get up,” he said. Jesus will come to each of us, taking us by the hand “with his tenderness, his mildness, his love.”

“This is our hope before death,” he concluded. “For whoever believes, it is a door that opens wide completely; for those who doubt it is a glimmer of light that seeps out of a door that has not closed completely.”

“But for all of us it will be a grace when this light illuminates us.”

Wealthy donors working to limit 'inappropriate' religious freedom

Denver, Colo., Oct 18, 2017 / 02:51 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A network of wealthy donors is funding a series of well-organized lobbying campaigns to restrict legal protections for religious freedom, in order to advance access to abortion and LGBT causes.

Since 2013, a network of funders has earmarked at least $8.5 million in grants for projects intended to limit religious freedom provisions in federal, state, and local law, according to a CNA investigation of grant listings and tax forms.

Many of these funders are part of the Rights, Faith & Democracy Collaborative, a grantmaking fund launched by the Proteus Fund in March 2017. The collaborative opposes “the inappropriate use of religious exemptions to curtail reproductive health, rights and justice, discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community, and otherwise undermine fundamental rights and liberties essential to a healthy democracy,” the fund’s website says.

The new anti-religious freedom collaborative was created to oppose “ongoing and growing efforts in too many states to ‘legalize’ discrimination and restrict fundamental human and civil rights under the guise of protecting ‘religious liberty’,” according to the fund’s website.

The Rights, Faith & Democracy Collaborative has given grants to pro-abortion groups and LGBT advocacy groups at the state, federal and international levels; religious groups including Catholics for Choice; legal advocacy groups like the ACLU and Lambda Legal; and aligned academics, including those at Columbia Law School’s “Public Rights, Private Conscience Project.”

One donor, the Arcus Foundation, has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to John Podesta’s Center for American Progress initiatives. These grants seek to redefine religious liberty as “a core progressive American value that includes LGBT equality and women’s reproductive health and rights,” according to its latest grant listed at the Arcus Foundation website.

The collaborative’s network also spends millions on leadership development, donor development, anti-violence and anti-discrimination projects, and LGBT and pro-abortion rights advocacy.

The Rights, Faith & Democracy Collaborative says it will serve as “a vehicle for broader donor education and mobilization in order to achieve deeper funding alignment as well as enhanced donor collaboration.”

The collaborative aims to nurture strategies and organizations that foster collaboration between “the reproductive equity and LGBTQ movements, especially at the state and local level.” It aims to boost the influence of faith leaders and religious communities that it says will support “equal rights and opportunities for everyone while also protecting legitimate constitutionally protected religious liberty rights.” Its website also claims that “discriminatory practices fostered by overly broad religious exemptions” have a disproportionate impact on racial minorities.

The collaborative’s funding partners, listed on the Proteus Fund’s website, are the Alki Fund of the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Arcus Foundation, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, the Gill Foundation, the Groundswell Fund, the Irving Harris Foundation, the Moriah Fund, the Overbrook Foundation, and anonymous donors.

The Proteus Fund appears to have had previous success. Its Civil Marriage Collaborative, closed in 2015, was a leader in the push for legal recognition of gay marriage. The fund’s “Hearts & Minds” report says that the consortium of foundations invested $153 million over 11 years in many states and at the national level in marriage-related advocacy.

CNA contacted the Proteus Fund for comment, but received no response by deadline.

Religious freedom laws: ‘not a blank check’

Richard Garnett, a professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School, disagreed with the fund’s claims that religious freedom legal accommodations and exemptions are illegitimate. He said this claim is “inconsistent with our history and with our longstanding commitment to religious liberty as our ‘first freedom.’

“Reasonable exemptions do not ‘undermine fundamental rights and liberties,’ they protect and promote them,” he told CNA.

“Unfortunately, there are powerful and well-funded interests who, with broad support in the academy and in media, have been working hard to associate our ‘first freedom’ with discrimination and prejudice,” Garnett said.

He reflected on the state of religious freedom advocacy.

“Proponents of religious freedom, broadly and generously understood, will need to work hard to remind our fellow citizens that religious liberty – which has to mean religious liberty for all, and not just for ‘people like us’ – is itself a fundamental human right, and a protection for democracy,” he said. “And, of course, to make religious freedom more appealing, it is important that religious-freedom proponents conduct their efforts in a civil, charitable, and inviting way.”

For Garnett, the fund’s rhetoric about discrimination concerns did not accurately represent the current state of the law.

“In fact, only a tiny number of religious-exemptions claims involve antidiscrimination laws and these claims almost always fail,” he said. “The claim that religious-liberty laws undermine important anti-discrimination protections in the marketplace, the workplace, or in public accommodations is false.  

“Instead, what these laws do is call for sensible accommodations for religious conscience, in cases where the accommodations will not undermine compelling public interests. These laws call for a balance, not a blank check.”

Religious freedom protections have become more controversial in recent decades. In 2012, the Obama administration attempted to mandate that all employers, including religious employers, cover sterilization and contraceptive drugs, including drugs that can cause abortions. The mandate burdened many Catholic dioceses and organizations, including EWTN Global Catholic Network, and was only changed by a recent Trump administration action.

There is also an ongoing push in some states to require insurance coverage of abortions, and some medical professionals and hospitals have faced pressure to cooperate in providing abortions.

Garnett thought abortion would be a prime focus of the Proteus funding network.

“My sense is that what efforts like the Proteus Fund are really aimed at is undermining the longstanding protections in American law for religious health care workers and institutions who cannot in conscience participate in abortions,” he said. “These protections are falsely labeled as ‘discriminatory’ when, in fact, they reflect the commonsense notion that it would be deeply unjust to require, as a condition of working as a healer, a pro-life medical professional to participate in a procedure she believes to be gravely wrong.”

Some Christian adoption agencies have been forced to close because placing children with same-sex couples violates their religious convictions. There is an ongoing debate over whether small businesses in the marriage industry must cater to same-sex ceremonies if they have religious objections to them.

Ryan T. Anderson, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and co-author of “Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination,” reflected on the current situation.

“Anti-gay and anti-transgender bigotry exists and should be condemned,” he told CNA. “But support for marriage as the union of husband and wife isn’t anti-gay. Nor is the conviction that sex is a biological reality anti-transgender.

“Just as we’ve combatted sexism without treating pro-life medicine as sexist, any public policy necessary to help people who identify as LGBT meet their needs should be crafted so as to respect the consciences of reasonable people, acting on good-faith beliefs about marriage and gender identity,” said Anderson. “Not every disagreement is discrimination. And our law shouldn’t suppose otherwise.”

‘We’re going to punish the wicked’

The Proteus Fund’s collaborative brings together several organizations with experience in effective political advocacy.

One of its funding partners, the Colorado-based Gill Foundation, was launched by the politically savvy former businessman Tim Gill. He has pursued strategic LGBT advocacy through funding both non-profits and political campaigns.

“We’re going into the hardest states in the country… we’re going to punish the wicked,” Gill said in a June interview with Rolling Stone magazine about his LGBT activism.

In March 2015, Tim Sweeney, a former president and CEO of the Gill Foundation,  told leading business executives and others attending the Out & Equal Workplace Advocates executive forum in San Francisco about the need to ensure their fight against religious exemptions is finished quickly.

“We are at a crossroads where the choices we make will mean we will fight religious exemptions for two to three years or have a protracted twenty year struggle on our hands,” he said.

The New York-based Arcus Foundation, founded by billionaire heir Jon Stryker, has dedicated millions of dollars to opposing religious freedom protections and to funding LGBT advocacy within world religions, including dissenting Catholic groups like Catholics for Choice, New Ways Ministry and Dignity USA.

One board member of this foundation is Darren Walker, past vice-president of the Rockefeller Foundation and current president of the deeply influential Ford Foundation. The Ford Foundation has funded some projects against religious liberty protections, but is not listed as a direct member of the collaborative based at the Proteus Fund.

However, the Oakland, Calif.-based Groundswell Fund board of directors is chaired by Rocio L. Cordoba, a past program officer for the Ford Foundation’s Gender, Sexuality and Reproductive Justice Program. The Groundswell Fund claims to fund more reproductive justice organizations than any other foundation.

Another partner, the Rockefeller Family Fund, was launched in 1967 by members of the prominent American family, including then-New York governor and future vice-president Nelson Rockefeller. Its mission statement says it “initiates, cultivates, and funds strategic efforts to promote a sustainable, just, free, and participatory society.” The fund did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

The San Francisco-based Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund is a private family foundation with half a billion dollars in assets. Since 2014 it has earmarked at least $1.4 million in grants for projects related to religious exemptions, according to a CNA review of its grant listings.

The New York-based Overbrook Foundation, founded in 1948 by financier Frank Altschul and his wife Helen, has a gender rights program to fund those who oppose “overly broad religious exemptions.” Its website listed $220,000 in grants related to religious freedom: a $100,000 grant to the Proteus Fund’s collaborative, and two $60,000 grants to Lambda Legal.

The Chicago-based Irving Harris Foundation, created by the businessman and philanthropist, awards $10 to $15 million in grants annually, InsidePhilanthropy reports. The Washington, D.C.-based Moriah Fund dedicated over $10.6 million to program spending in fiscal year 2016. Neither grant maker's website listed grants related to religious freedom.

 

Correction Oct. 18, 2017, 12:40 pm ET: This article incorrectly identified the Alki Fund as being part of the Rockefeller Foundation. It is part of the Rockefeller Family Fund.

 

 

Chilean cardinal offers warm welcome to Syrian refugees

Santiago, Chile, Oct 18, 2017 / 12:26 am (CNA).- Last week in Santiago, government officials, representatives of the Catholic Church in Chile, and international organizations welcomed the first of 66 Syrian refugees who will be living in the country.

These 14 families, consisting of 34 adults and 32 children, traveled more than 20 hours from Lebanon and arrived as part of the Syrian Refugee Resettlement Program. The families will be making their homes in the Macul district in Santiago and Villa Alemana district in Valparaiso.

Present at the welcome were the President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet; the Archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati; the regional UNHCR representative for southern Latin America, Michele Manca di Nissa; Interior Minister Mario Fernandez; the mayors of the host communities; representatives of the Syrian community in Chile; and the International Organization of Migration (IOM).

Bachelet said she hopes that the refugees will be able to “gradually let go of your fear, pain and uncertainty. We know that you have had trying times, and we want you to find in our country a land that welcomes you with friendship and good will so you can have a fresh start and raise your families in peace and security.”

“I am extremely delighted that Chile once again shows itself to be an open, supportive and welcoming country,” Cardinal Ezzati said at the welcome event.

“Without a doubt, language separates us to some extent, but greeting the people, I have noticed that there is a common language, the children smile and respond to our smiles.”

“That gives us great hope…we have a common language that comes from our humanity, from our ability to smile, from our ability to welcome,” the cardinal said.

Once they completed the immigration procedures, seven Syrian families moved into Macul and the other seven into Villa Alemana. Workers from the Social Ministry were awaiting them in their new homes.  

To finalize the move, the Vicariate for Social Ministry traveled in August to interview the families and give them information on Chile. One of the requirements for participating in the resettlement program is that the families had spent two years in refugee camps.

In the coming days, the refugees will begin Spanish classes and will be introduced to the culture, the workplace and educational environments, and other aspects of life in Chile so they can assimilate and restart their lives far from the humanitarian crisis caused by the war.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

 

Pope Francis on why he gives interviews

Vatican City, Oct 17, 2017 / 03:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a preface to a new book of interviews, Pope Francis outlined his approach to speaking with journalists, explaining that he thinks interviews should be like a conversation and this is why he doesn’t prepare answers in advance.

“For me interviews are a dialogue, not a lesson,” the Pope wrote.

“I do not prepare for this,” he said, stating that he usually declines to read the questions when they are sent in advance, instead opting to answer organically, as he would in an actual conversation.

“Yes, I am still afraid of being interpreted badly,” he clarified, while adding that as a pastor, it’s a risk he’s willing to take.

“Everything that I do has pastoral value, in one way or in another,” he said. “If I did not trust this, I would not allow interviews: for me it is clear. It's a manner of communicating my ministry.”

Pope Francis gave his thoughts on interviews, and why and how he gives them, in a preface written for a book called Now Ask Your Questions.

The book, a a collection of both new and old interviews with Pope Francis, was compiled by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ, editor-in-chief of La Civiltà Cattolica. It will be presented Oct. 21.

In the preface, Francis explained that for him, giving an interview is not like ascending “a pulpit” to preach, but is a meeting between him and the journalist: “I need to meet the people and look them in the eyes,” he wrote.

He said he likes to speak with people from both small magazines and popular newspapers, because he feels “even more comfortable.”

“In fact, in those cases I really listen to the questions and concerns of ordinary people,” trying to answer “spontaneously” and in a “simple, popular language,” he explained.

He takes the same approach in press conferences aboard the papal plane when returning from apostolic visits, he said, though he sometimes imagines beforehand what questions journalists may ask.

He knows he must be prudent, he said, and he always prays to the Holy Spirit before listening to the questions and responding.

Historically however, Francis wasn’t fond of giving interviews. I may be “tough,” the Pope said, but I'm also shy, stating that as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was a little afraid of journalists, though one eventually persuaded him.

“I've always been worried about bad interpretations of what I say,” he wrote. As with interviews in the past, he said he was hesitant to accept Spadaro’s request, though eventually he did and gave two long interviews, both which make up part of the book.

The compilation also includes various conversations with fellow Jesuits, which Francis said are the moments he usually feels the most comfortable and free to speak.

“I'm glad they've been included in this collection,” he said, since he feels like he is speaking among family members, and thus doesn’t fear being misunderstood.

Included in the book “are also two conversations with the superior generals of religious groups. I have always requested a real dialogue for them. I never wanted to give speeches and not have to listen to them,” he said.

“To me, to converse always felt the best way for us to really meet each other.”

In his meeting with Polish Jesuits, for example, the Pope said he spoke about discernment, strongly underlining the specific mission of the Society of Jesus today, “that is also a very important mission of the Church for our times.”

“I have a real need of this direct communication with people,” he said.

These conversations, which take place in meetings and interviews, are united in form to how he delivers his daily homilies at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta every morning, what is sort of his “parish,” he pointed out.

“I need this communication with people. There, four days a week, they go to find me, 25 people of a Roman parish, together with others.”

“I want a Church that knows how to get involved in people's conversations, that knows how to dialogue,” he said.

“It is the Church of Emmaus, in which the Lord ‘interviews’ the disciples who are walking, discouraged. For me, an interview is part of this conversation of the Church with the people of today.”

A modern horror: global persecution of Christians at historic peak, report says

New York City, N.Y., Oct 17, 2017 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Anti-Christian persecution is “worse than at any time in history” and in many cases genocide and other crimes against humanity “now mean that the Church in core countries and regions faces the possibility of imminent wipe-out,” says a new report from Aid to the Church in Need.

The report, titled “Persecuted and Forgotten?”, covers the years 2015-2017. Its contents are bleak, describing Christianity as “the world’s most oppressed faith community.” Anti-Christian persecution in the worst regions has reached “a new peak” and its impact is “only now beginning to be felt in all its horror.”

“In 12 of the 13 countries reviewed, the situation for Christians was worse in overall terms in the period 2015–17 than within the preceding two years,” said the report’s executive summary, released Oct. 12.  

John Pontifex, the report's editor, commented that “In terms of the numbers of people involved, the gravity of the crimes committed and their impact, it is clear that the persecution of Christians is today worse than at any time in history. Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution.”

China, Eritrea, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Syria were ranked “extreme” in the scale of anti-Christian persecution. Egypt, India, and Iran were rated “high to extreme,” while Turkey was rated “moderate to high.”

The report’s ratings draw from analyses like the Pew Forum’s Social Hostilities Index and Open Door’s World Watch List, in addition to other factors and sources, including fact-finding trips.   

In some countries the state is the principal persecutor, while in other countries social groups are culpable, while in still others a combination of both are responsible.

Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic pastoral charity, provides emergency and pastoral relief in 140 countries. Its U.S. affiliate published the report.

The report’s foreword was written by Archbishop Issam John Darwish of the Melkite Archdiocese of Zahlé and Furzo, a Lebanese archdiocese near the Syrian border. He recounted the stories of Christian refugees fleeing the six-year-old Syrian civil war.

“Many refugees have told terrible stories of persecution: like the man whose brother, a priest, was kidnapped – and despite the family paying the ransom they killed the priest. They sent his family a box containing his severed wrist, tattooed with a cross, to show he was dead,” the archbishop said.

The Middle East is a major focus for the report.

“Governments in the West and the U.N. failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway,” the report said. “If Christian organizations and other institutions had not filled the gap, the Christian presence could already have disappeared in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.”

The exodus of Christians from Iraq has been “very severe.” Christians in the country now may number as few as 150,000, a decline from 275,000 in mid-2015. By spring 2017 there were some signs of hope, with the defeat of the Islamic State group and the return of some Christians to their homes on the Nineveh Plains.

However, the departure of Christians from Syria has also threatened the survival of their communities in the country, including historic Christian centers like Aleppo. Syrian Christians there suffer threats of forced conversion and extortion. One Chaldean bishop in the country estimates the Christian population to be at 500,000, down from 1.2 million before the war.

Many Christians in the region fear going to official refugee camps, due to concerns about rape and other violence.

The Islamic State group and other militants have committed genocide in Syria and Iraq. While Islamic State and other groups have been defeated in their major strongholds, many Christian groups are threatened with extinction and would not survive another attack.

In northern Nigeria, the radical Islamist group Boko Haram has engaged in genocide against Christians.

There are reports from North Korea of forced starvation of Christians and forced abortion. Some Christians have been hung on crosses over fire, and others have been crushed by steamrollers. Protestants and Catholics are ranked among those least sympathetic to the state, which limits their access to food, education, and health care. Christianity is linked with American influence, and Christians are executed as spies.

In Sudan, the government’s pursuit of an extremist Islamist agenda led to orders to tear down Christian churches. Christians are arrested for alleged proselytism, and women face fines for wearing “obscene” or immodest dress. The government stripped citizenship rights of people with origins outside Sudan, leading many to leave for their ancestral homelands in South Sudan. Many had lived in their homes for three decades or more.

In January 2017 the U.S. put a six-month waiver on human rights sanctions against Sudan, on condition that the country improve its human rights and religious freedom record.

In Pakistan, banned fundamentalist cells pose a great threat to Christians, but some charge that the government’s failure to crack down on these groups worsens the problem of violence. On Easter Sunday 2016 as many as 24 Christians were killed in targeted violence in Lahore. A faction of the Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

In India, persecution has increased since 2014, with the rise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Like-minded groups frequently accuse Christians of forced conversion, a charge local Christian leaders strongly deny. An India-based Catholic group reported 365 serious anti-Christian atrocities in 2016, with 10 people killed and more than 500 clergy or church leaders attacked for their faith.

Some Christians have faced pressure to convert under threat of force, while others have been forced to take part in Hindu rituals and deny their faith.

In China, church communities face increased hostility. Authorities in some provinces have removed crosses from some churches and destroyed church buildings. In some regions, Christmas trees and greeting cards have been banned.

President Xi Jinping has depicted Christianity as a means of “foreign infiltration” into China and has advocated more state control and targeting of unofficial churches. There are fears that China’s 2016 announcement of categorization of citizens based on political, commercial, social and legal “credit,” will create a system that disadvantages Christians in a way similar to North Korea.

Christians in Egypt suffered a major suicide bombing attack in December 2016 and again on Palm Sunday in April 2017. Dozens were killed and more injured in both attacks, for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility.

Saudi Arabia has come under criticism from western powers and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. However, President Donald Trump signed a $110 billion arms deal with the country, a deal which had been held up under the Obama administration due to human rights concerns. The Aid to the Church in Need report said sources in the country are supplying arms and finances to Sunni extremist groups including the Islamic State, known in the region as “Daesh.”

“Given that Islamist groups such as Daesh are likely to be heavily reliant on undeclared external sources for weapons and intelligence, there is an urgent need to step up action to stop all entities collaborating with them,” the report continued. “Persecuted Christians are among the many who stand to be beneficiaries of progress in this area.”

Archbishop Darwish said it is imperative to help persecuted Christians.

“When the Christian families who have turned to us need the very basics for daily life – food, shelter and medical care – how can we refuse to help?” he asked, lamenting a lack of aid from the U.N. and other humanitarian organizations.

He praised Aid to the Church in Need’s efforts to report anti-Christian persecution and aid those persecuted.