Faith in everyday life
A new Pew Research Center study of Americans across the religious spectrum finds that faith plays a measurable role in how people live their everyday lives. "People who are highly religious are more engaged with their extended families, more likely to volunteer, more involved in their communities and generally happier with the way things are going in their lives," said the introduction to the study, "Religion in Everyday Life," which was issued April 12. "Nearly half of highly religious Americans — defined as those who say they pray every day and attend religious services each week — gather with extended family at least once or twice a month," compared to three in 10 of less religious Americans. Also, 65 percent of highly religious adults say they have donated money, time or goods to help the poor in the past week, more than half again as many as the 41 percent who are less religious.
Syrian refugees thank pope for safety
ROME (CNS) — After less than 48 hours in Rome, "dream" is the word used most often by the six Syrian adults Pope Francis brought back to Italy with him from a refugee camp in Greece.
By April 18, the couples — who asked to be identified by only their first names, Hasan and Nour, Ramy and Suhila, Osama and Wafa — and their six children had spent more than three hours doing paperwork with Italian immigration officials and had enrolled in Italian language classes.
Other than that, most of their first two days in Rome had been spent giving interviews and answering phone calls from friends and relatives who saw them on television boarding the pope's plane April 16. All three families saw their homes bombarded in Syria and all three arrived in Greece from Turkey on overloaded rubber boats months ago.
Being chosen from among thousands of refugees to come to Italy felt like "a dream," said Wafa. Being in Rome and not a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos "is a big dream," said Hasan.
Osama is dreaming of peace in his homeland. "We want peace in Syria so we can go home," he told reporters outside the language and culture school run by the Catholic Sant'Egidio Community.
In agreement with the Italian government, the Rome-based lay community, along with the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy, has been operating a "humanitarian corridor" for vulnerable Syrian refugees — the elderly, families with sick children, women traveling alone with their children. The Vatican asked Sant'Egidio to help it screen refugees in Greece and choose families that both the Greek and Italian governments would provide with the necessary travel papers in time for the papal flight.
Daniela Pompei, coordinator of Sant'Egidio programs for migrants and refugees, said the Greek government insisted that they choose only refugees who arrived in Greece before March 20, when an agreement between the European Union and Turkey went into effect. Under the terms of the agreement, new arrivals must apply for asylum and will be taken back to Turkey if their requests are denied.
Asked if his gesture was not really so small as to be insignificant, Pope Francis told reporters flying to Rome with him and the refugees that people used to tell Blessed Teresa of Kolkata that what she was doing was meaningless when there was an ocean of need in the world.
"And she responded, 'It's a drop in the ocean, but after this drop, the ocean won't be the same,'" the pope said. "I'll respond the same way. It's a little gesture. But all of us, men and women, must make these little gestures in order to extend a hand to those in need."
New nuncio worked in Mexico during a difficult period
Archbishop Christophe Pierre
MEXICO CITY — Archbishop Christophe Pierre represented the Vatican in Mexico for nearly a decade, a time defined by a drug war, a delicate period of domestic politics and the election of a pope whose pastoral approach and church vision appears at odds with many in the Mexican Catholic hierarchy.
Archbishop Pierre won an important reform for the church on religious liberty, which moved Mexico further away from its anti-clerical past. He became known for working behind the scenes and acting discreetly in a country where church and state were estranged until 1992.
"He had to navigate a very difficult political environment," said Pablo Mijangos Gonzalez, a historian at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics in Mexico City. "He was a very diplomatic nuncio, who did not create unnecessary antagonisms for the Catholic Church and avoided distractions and media scandals."
Mijangos Gonzalez added that Archbishop Pierre "was one of the various ecclesiastical actors involved in the (religious freedom) reform" and will likely assume a similar role in the United States.
Archbishop Pierre, 70, brings a low-key approach to the United States, where issues such as a religious freedom are priorities for Catholics. He must work with bishops believed to be not entirely on board with the pope's plans for the church — something he struggled with in Mexico.
Earlier this year, the country's most senior Catholic leader, Mexico City Cardinal Norberto Rivera, allowed an editorial in an archdiocesan publication to pose the question, "Who gave the pope bad advice?" It alluded to the February papal tour, in which Pope Francis told Mexican bishops to "stop resting on their laurels" and start speaking out on social issues and vices such as drug violence, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives since late 2006.
Pope Francis also called for increased closeness between Mexican and U.S. bishops' conferences — an issue Archbishop Pierre is in a position to address, though some observers see him as one of the bishops being admonished by the pope in the speech.
Archbishop Pierre was appointed apostolic nuncio in 2007 during the early days of the country's crackdown on drug cartels and organized crime.
||Cesar Chavez anniversary
People pray with a portrait of Cesar Chavez in their midst during an April 10 Mass celebrated in remembrance of the late United Farm Workers' founder at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez celebrated the Mass in honor of the legacy of the labor leader, who died April 23, 1993.
Victor Aleman/Vida Nueva, CNS
Yes on contraceptive idea
WASHINGTON — The religious nonprofits challenging their participation in the contraceptive mandate under the Affordable Care Act agreed with a U.S. Supreme Court proposal that such coverage be provided through an alternative health care plan without involving the religious employers in a legal brief filed with the court. The brief, filed April 12 in the case of Zubik v. Burwell, said that as long as any alternative plan offering contraceptive health coverage is "truly independent" of the petitioners and their health insurance plans, then they would no longer object to the ACA's goal of providing access to free birth control to women.
RICHMOND, Va. — Amid his vetoes of several bills passed by the Virginia Legislature, Gov. Terry McAuliffe "made three decisions that contradict life and liberty at their core," said the state's Catholic bishops. "We are dismayed and deeply disappointed that he sided with the abortion industry over real health care centers, vetoed legislation that would have protected the right of religious organizations to follow their faith," they said. With regard to the third decision, they said that "instead of vetoing expanded use of the electric chair, (he) inserted language that would shroud in secrecy the execution process."
Religious freedom video
WASHINGTON — Religious freedom "is foundational to our church and American society," said Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori in announcing a new video that explores the foundations of church teaching on religious liberty, including the Second Vatican Council document "Dignitatis Humanae."
Working for good
DEARBORN HEIGHTS, Mich. — Joining Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders to promote unity and common areas of cooperation, Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron visited a Dearborn Heights mosque April 5 for an interfaith "unity lunch." The archbishop's visit to the Islamic House of Wisdom came at the invitation of Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi, who also spoke to the gathering of about 60 people, including members of the secular media. Imam Elahi spoke for about 20 minutes about the dangers presented by the Islamic State and other terrorist groups in the Middle East and across the globe, saying such radical violence harms Christians, Muslims and Jews alike.
WASHINGTON — If you want to know what Pope Francis considers important, the Aparecida document written by the bishops of Latin American and the Caribbean in 2007, is a good place to start, according to an Argentine theologian. The theologian, Father Carlos Maria Galli, helped collaborate on this document written by then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, and has continued to discuss the role of the church with his then-archbishop, now Pope Francis. When it was issued, the Aparecida document provided guidelines and a pastoral vision for the region's church, which was experiencing a sharp decline in its Catholic population. But the document's call for Catholics to be missionaries was hardly just a local message just for that time.
Convent opens doors
ROME — A medieval Franciscan convent near Assisi opened its doors once again to offer refugees shelter and assistance. With the support of the Order of Friars Minor in Umbria, the local Caritas will provide educational, cultural and language assistance to 13 men from Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria.
— Catholic News Service
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