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Damascus bombing kills 9 in Christian districts

Damascus, Syria, Jan 22, 2018 / 06:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An estimated nine people were killed in a bombing on Monday afternoon in Damascus. The shelling targeted the Bab Touma and al-Shaghour districts, which are historically Christian areas, and several churches were damaged as well.

At least 18 additional people in Old Damascus were injured in the bombings.

Nobody has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks.

A bomb reportedly caused “severe damage” to the Maronite cathedral in Damascus. According to Archbishop Samir Nassar, the bomb also knocked out water and electricity.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">From Archbishop Samir of Damascus &quot; Another bomb hit the Archdiocesan complex which includes the Cathedral at 14h today January 22nd . There is severe damage . We are without water and electricity. <br>3 bombs not far from here have claimed 15 victims.<br>We pray to the Lord.&quot; <a href="https://twitter.com/acn_uk?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@acn_uk</a></p>&mdash; Edmund Adamus (@EdmundPAdamus) <a href="https://twitter.com/EdmundPAdamus/status/955450206018994176?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 22, 2018</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">BREAKING NEWS: Another bomb hit the Maronite Archdiocesan buildings in Damascus, Syria today, 22 January at 14:00 - damage is severe. 3 bombs close by claimed 15 victims. Please pray for them <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Prayforus?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Prayforus</a></p>&mdash; Aid to the Church (@acn_uk) <a href="https://twitter.com/acn_uk/status/955464058970558465?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 22, 2018</a></blockquote>
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This is not Archbishop Samir’s first brush with death this month: a bomb hit his bedroom Jan. 8. He survived unscathed due to an extremely well-timed trip to the bathroom before the bombing began.

The Maronites are an Eastern Catholic Church that is in full communion with Rome. There are about 3 million Maronites in the world. Although the church originated in the Levant, there are now significant Maronite populations in Brazil, Argentina, and the United States. The Maronites have faced persecution throughout their history.

The Syrian civil war began nearly seven years ago, in March 2011. More than 400,000 people have been killed. At least 4.8 million have become refugees, and another 8 million have been internally displaced.

What began as demonstrations against the nation's president, Bashar al-Assad, has become a complex fight among the Syrian regime; moderate rebels; Kurds; and Islamists such as Tahrir al-Sham and the Islamic State.

OneLife LA event an opportunity to celebrate life, face culture of death

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2018 / 05:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Thousands gathered in Los Angeles on Saturday for a rally and march supporting the dignity of every human life and proclaiming that every human person is “made for greater.”

“God made a decision to make each one of you. He decided to make you, to make me. This is how special we are to him,” said Archbishop Jose Gomez in his homily during the Requiem Mass for the Unborn, which concluded the Jan. 20 OneLife LA event.

“[God] comes to us to proclaim the Gospel of Life,” he said. “We are called to announce this good news to every person that we are made for greater things,” he said, citing the event’s theme, “Made for Greater.”

Archbishop Gomez told CNA that the event was created four years ago. The archbishop said he saw the need for both an annual celebration of life and an opportunity to address the challenges in the culture of death, such as abortion and assisted suicide.

The day began with a youth rally at 11 a.m., where young people from Southern California gathered at La Placita Olvera.

There, bands led the crowd in praise and worship, and Daniel Rangel-Santos, executive board vice president of the USC Caruso Catholic Center, shared the story of how his parents were advised to abort him when doctors discovered a likely birth defect.

“Immediately, my parents strongly refused to have the abortion. For them, despite their financially humble situation at the time, a birth defect was neither an issue nor an excuse for an abortion. They loved me and they wanted to meet the new son God sent them,” he told CNA.

Shortly after noon, dozens of students, families, seminarians, clergy, and religious made their way to the Los Angeles State Historic Park, chanting along the way, “We are the pro-life generation” and “OneLife LA.”

Karen Gaffney, worldwide pro-life speaker and the first person with Down syndrome to ever swim the 21-mile stretch of the English Channel, was the keynote speaker at the event. She decried the abortion industry’s effort to target babies with Down syndrome, saying, “They want to screen us out.”

However, she also expressed gratitude for the steps taken by schools, businesses, and individuals to work toward greater inclusion for people with Down syndrome.

“We are musicians and artists, actors and fashion models, we own black belts in Taekwondo. And some of us have even escaped from Alcatraz … 15 times,” she said jokingly, referring to her own accomplishments of crossing the San Francisco bay 15 times.

Gaffney encouraged the crowd to take the time to learn more about Down syndrome.

Also in attendance was Bishop W.C. Martin, pastor at Bennet Chapel Baptist Church who has helped members of his parish adopt 76 children; Jose Arellano who aids Homeboy Ministries, which helps teens escape gang violence; and Patricia Heaton, pro-life advocate and star in ABC’s Sitcom “The Middle.”

“I love the fact that so many of these diverse groups can all get together and support each other… I think that’s also the other important thing – to look around and see how much support there is from all kinds of people – everybody has a stake in this,” said Heaton.

The day concluded with Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Some After the liturgy, 180 candles were lit and processed to the base of the altar in memory of the 180 unborn lives aborted that day in Southern California alone.

For many OneLife LA attendees, the march is just one way to witness to the dignity of life all year round.

Father Alan Benander, a Norbertine priest prays for the unborn at every Mass he celebrates. He is also the Right to Life Moderator at St. Michael’s Preparatory School in Silverado, California, where he is also a teacher and coach.

When Fr. Benander leads his students on pro-life outings, he reassures them of the power of prayer and fasting.

“On this trip I took 20 students, and I said, ‘We are going to pray for an end to abortion, and we might not be able to stop every abortion from happening … but pray for one particular girl right now who is thinking of killing her unborn child,’” he told CNA.

In addition to prayer, Father Benander said Catholics should aim to educate themselves more thoroughly, so that they can be sources of catechesis for those who support abortion.

Rangel-Santos, from the USC Caruso Catholic Center, agreed. He told CNA that he worked to support “The Real Sex Week” at the USC, where he is a senior. As part of the initiative, he spoke to students at the secular college about “the effects of pornography, developing healthy relationships, resources for reproductive health, support for victims of sexual assault, self-defense classes, and the effects of sex in the media.”

In addition to advocating and praying for an end to abortion, march participants also focused on end-of-life care. California legalized assisted suicide in a high profile bill in 2016.

Sister Isabella, a Carmelite of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus of Los Angeles, has spent the last seven years caring for the elderly in the area. Those she works with often face suffering and depression, but Sister Isabella said the answer is not in handing them pills that will kill them.

“We are God’s hands and feet in this world, and we have to say yes to the love,” she told CNA. She recalled how an elderly man once told her, “When you all are near, the suffering doesn’t matter anymore, because the love is greater.”

“That’s what we have to do when someone is suffering. It’s a call for help, it’s a call to love to a greater degree, and if we don’t listen to that call, our brothers and sisters…won’t feel God’s love for them.”

March for Life in Paris draws 40,000 despite heavy rain

Paris, France, Jan 22, 2018 / 04:51 pm (ACI Prensa).- Heavy rains did not deter huge crowds from gathering in the streets of Paris for the city’s March for Life on Sunday.

Organizers estimated that about 40,000 people showed up for the march, which had as its theme, “From darkness to light.”

Despite the heavy rain, the marchers completed the entire route. The march lasted about four hours, starting from Porte Dauphine and ending in the Trocadero esplanade, in downtown Paris.

A minute of silence was held during the march for those who have lost their lives to abortion.

More than 200,000 abortions are performed each year in France, according to government statistics.

March for Life spokesman Emil Dupont told CNA’s Spanish-language sister agency ACI Prensa that “it is important to break the silence and speak about the consequences of abortion, which no one want to say anything about. So we've got to do it.”

“It is very important to work together for life,” he stressed. 

Ana del Pino, the European coordinator of the OneOfUs Federation, agreed, emphasizing the need for unity and cooperation among all the European pro-life groups “to present a common front in defense of motherhood, the family and life.” 

In addition to protection for the unborn, this year the March for Life placed special emphasis on end-of-life issues.

Although active assisted suicide is illegal in France, a bill passed in January 2016 allows for “terminal sedation.” For those who are determined to be near death, the law permits “heavy and continuous sedation,” administered until the patient dies either from the illness or starvation. 

In addition to the tens of thousands of French who took to the streets to demonstrate for life, several pro-life groups from Holland, Spain, Germany, Italy and Portugal also joined in the march.

Pablo Siegrist from the Jerome Lejeune Foundation in Spain told ACI Prensa that his group participated in this demonstration in France because the laws on surrogate motherhood, abortion and euthanasia have “a clear crisscross effect between countries, and that's why we believe we have a much more encompassing goal to offer, which is to defend everyone's life.

“We believe that life is a treasure regardless of the physical or mental abilities a person may have and that everyone has a lot of contribute. We stand up for everyone, no matter what their situation is,” Siegrist stressed. 

Alvaro Ortega, president of the Spanish +Life Foundation, one of the numerous groups of young people attending the March for Life, said the reason they came was because “we believe it is absolutely necessary to defend the most innocent and defenseless which is the child who has been conceived but not yet born.”

Ortega also stressed the importance of an international presence in demonstrations such as this one because issues like abortion and euthanasia “come from an agenda organized on the international level, and so the response has to also be international.”

Analysis: Did Cardinal O’Malley open a door to papal criticism from US bishops?

Denver, Colo., Jan 22, 2018 / 04:37 pm (CNA).- It is no secret that the pontificate of Pope Francis has been a challenge for Church leaders to navigate, and the bishops of the United States are no exception.  A man often called the Pope of surprises, who has encouraged Catholics to “make a mess,” the pontiff’s spontaneity, new approaches, and willingness to rebuff traditional consultative mechanisms has, more than once, seemed to catch American bishops off-guard.

But for the most part, America’s church leaders have been careful to emphasize their unity with Pope Francis. The bishops have mostly expressed strong public support for Francis, even while offering widely differing takes on the meaning of his teachings, especially regarding the interpretation of the apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia.  

Although some sitting American bishops have privately expressed reservations about the Pope’s leadership, none had deemed it appropriate to publicly correct the Pope.

Ecclesiastical culture emphasizes fraternity, harmony, and the appearance of getting along, and the American bishops have seemed to stress those values during the Francis pontificate.
 
In 2013, Archbishop Charles Chaput told a reporter, “I’ve never been critical of the Holy Father and would never speak ill of him.” That sentiment might have been considered a universal commitment among America’s bishops.

At least until this weekend, when Cardinal Sean O’Malley issued a strong criticism of some recent comments from Pope Francis.

The criticism was a response to remarks Pope Francis made about a Chilean bishop, Juan Barros, who is accused of covering up acts of sexual abuse for his one-time friend, the disgraced Fr. Fernando Karadima. Barros has claimed to be innocent, and Francis has been a staunch defender. In 2015, he appointed him to lead the Diocese of Osorno, and shortly thereafter, he told an official at the Chilean bishops’ conference that opposition to the appointment was “silliness.”

“Think with your head, and do not be carried away by the noses of the leftists, who are the ones who put this thing together,” the Pope told Deacon Jaime Coiro during a brief meeting in May 2015 at the Vatican.

Karadima was a prominent figure in Chile, and many Chileans have been critical of the Vatican for the handling of his case. Although he was found guilty of sexual abuse by a Vatican tribunal, he was not laicized because of his advanced age. Before Francis arrived in Chile, there were large protests in the country, and several churches were vandalized. The matter of Barros’ appointment was a part of the conversation.   

On Friday, Francis told a reporter “the day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I’ll speak. There is not one shred of proof against him. It’s all calumny. Is that clear?”

Francis may have meant otherwise, and Barros’ situation is complicated, but the Pope was largely understood to be accusing Barros’ accusers, some of whom are Karadima’s victims, of calumny-- slander or detraction.  

For many, this was a bridge too far.

O’Malley’s statement called the Pope’s remarks a “source of great pain” for abuse survivors.  

“Words that convey the message ‘if you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed’ abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile,” O’Malley’s statement read.

On his return flight from South America yesterday, the Pope apologized for his remarks, and tried to clarify them, while continuing to express support for Barros.

O’Malley’s statement praised the Pope’s support for abuse survivors, and it can hardly be called “speaking ill” of Francis. But it was certainly a direct criticism of his comments.
 
It is not surprising O’Malley was unhappy with the Pope’s remarks. O’Malley took over the Archdiocese of Boston in 2003, after the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, who was widely reported to have been negligent in his response to allegations of sexual abuse among the clergy. Boston was the epicenter of the “Long Lent of 2002,” which began the sexual abuse scandal in the United States, and O’Malley, arriving in the midst of the fervor, bore the brunt.

By many accounts, O’Malley handled that responsibility admirably. He met with victims, engaged in complicated litigation, dealt with canonical and civil trials of priests, and, to his chagrin, oversaw the closure of some Boston parishes.

He became, in many respects, the face of the American Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis.

But O’Malley was not alone. Since 2002, the leaders of the Catholic Church have worked, with a great deal of actual unity, to ensure safe Catholic environments for children and vulnerable adults. The 2002 documents guiding that work have led bishops to establish lay-led review boards, to implement background checks and abuse-prevention trainings, and to establish offices for child protection in their dioceses.

While some bishops have expressed concern about “mission creep” among child protection professionals, or advocated for a stronger stated correlation between homosexuality and some acts of sexual abuse, the bishops have been unified in recognizing a problem, and working to root it out.

Most American bishops have had the difficult experience of meeting with victims of clerical sexual abuse, and apologizing for their suffering.

The issue has not been characterized by ideological division. The current chairman of the bishops’ committee on child and youth protection, Bishop Ed Burns of Dallas, is widely perceived to be hard-working, non-political, and collaborative. Most observers would say that those adjectives describe the character of the bishops’ approach to child-protection.

And, for the most part, their efforts have had effect. Sexual abuse prevention policies have largely worked to screen potential predators from among the clergy, and the Church in the US has begun to rebuild its credibility on the issue of sexual abuse.

O’Malley’s statement emphasized the Church’s concern for victims of sexual abuse, and its commitment to safe environments. While his concern for Karadima’s victims rang true, the statement may have also been motivated by a concern that the Pope’s remarks would be a step backward for the public credibility of the Church in the US, which has taken many painful steps in order to move forward.

Given the difficult work American bishops have done to address sexual abuse, it makes sense that O’Malley offered a response to the Pope.  But his statement was certainly outside the norm for American bishops in the modern era.

In the Church’s long history, criticism from bishops aimed at the Pope is not uncommon.  But contemporary critique from American bishops is usually far less direct and far more veiled than O’Malley’s statement. His statement may prove exceptional: a singular correction on a unique issue. Or it may have pave the way for other kinds of statements.

O’Malley’s concern was likely shared by other American bishops, but, since Pope Francis has apologized, it seems unlikely that there will be more statements from American bishops on this issue.

But other significant issues are looming.

This year, the Pope will lead a synod on vocations and young people, where some expect that clerical celibacy may be an issue for discussion. And during this year, the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, some predict debate on the encyclical’s interpretation.

Humanae Vitae, especially, is an issue that the bishops of the United States have stressed over the past few decades. Several American bishops have long-standing affiliation with natural family planning apostolates, and, especially since the 2012 HHS mandate, the USCCB itself has invested in a pastoral emphasis on the teachings of Humanae Vitae.  If there was any perception that those teachings were at risk of being de-emphasized, American bishops might view that as a bridge too far, as O’Malley did in this case.

And, given the work the bishops have done to promote priestly vocations over the past twenty years, they could be similarly concerned if they felt that Rome might give conflicting signals about clerical celibacy.

The American bishops might stick to their emphasis on unity and fraternity. But, with difficult conversations on the horizon, and with O’Malley setting a new precedent, it’s possible that other bishops might feel empowered to offer more direct criticism, if they felt it was needed.

On those issues, of course, it is not clear whether the Pope would respond to criticism with a mid-flight apology.  

Commentary: Respect is pro-life

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2018 / 03:55 pm (CNA).- Last week, I attended the national March for Life in Washington, D.C. I have attended the march on several occasions before, and it is always a beautiful and encouraging experience.

But unfortunately, I also witnessed something at this year’s march that was discouraging. As marchers arrive at the Supreme Court – the end of the march route – they usually encounter a few dozen counter-protesters, waving signs and chanting slogans in support of abortion under the guise of women’s “freedom” and “choice.”

This year, however, there were also a few demonstrators waving signs about immigration: With Congress in a stalemate over DACA and the threat of government shutdown looming just hours away, the immigration issue was in the spotlight in Washington that day.

I didn’t hear what the people with the immigration signs said to the marchers. But suddenly, a whole group of pro-life marchers started chanting, in unison, “Build that wall! Build that wall!”

This is wrong. Whatever one’s views on immigration, it is a matter of basic courtesy to maintain respect and courtesy when discussing an issue. DACA is not just a heated political topic. It is a policy question with human consequences: family members facing separation and young adults whose entire lives may be uprooted. Uncertainty causes real suffering for hundreds of thousands of people impacted by DACA. The “Build that wall” chant tossed out so casually by the pro-life marchers did not express a coherent argument or invite reasoned debate. All it did was harm.

There are several issues being debated within the pro-life movement. One is how to respond to the inconsistencies of President Trump. Another is which social initiatives and political policies will best achieve the goals of the pro-life movement. Still another is the question of whether abortion is the sole issue under the pro-life banner, or whether other issues – the death penalty, for example – fall under the same umbrella.

People of good will may debate and strongly disagree on these questions. What’s not up for debate, however, is the necessity of respect for other people, no matter who they are, and what they think. Taunting people at a march themed “Love Saves Lives” discredits pro-life claims about the dignity of every human person.

Shortly before the march began, I talked to Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore. Now 45 years after the Supreme Court mandated legal abortion nationwide, I asked him if he is hopeful about the future of the pro-life movement. He said that he is hopeful, first and foremost, because the pro-life movement is joyful. Because of this joy, he said, the pro-life movement is growing.

My own experience supports Archbishop Lori’s observations. The pro-life movement is a joyful movement, and people take notice. One young woman at this year’s march shared with a CNA reporter that her mom had considered abortion while pregnant with her, after being kicked out of her home and lacking support from family. It was the support and joyful witness of pro-lifers that led her to reconsider and choose life for her daughter, who is now active in the pro-life movement in Canada.

This is the pro-life movement at its best: joyful, supportive, full of hope. And it is a standard that must not be compromised. When individuals wearing pro-life t-shirts shout antagonistic, vitriolic comments at anyone, they do a disservice to the cause they profess to care about so deeply.

 

Roe anniversary observed as National Sanctity of Human Life Day

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2018 / 03:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- US President Donald Trump has proclaimed that Jan. 22, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion nationwide, is being observed as National Sanctity of Human Life Day.

“Today, we focus our attention on the love and protection each person, born and unborn, deserves regardless of disability, gender, appearance, or ethnicity,” began the president’s proclamation issued Jan. 19, the same day he spoke to March for Life participants via live video.

“This is why we observe National Sanctity of Human Life Day: to affirm the truth that all life is sacred, that every person has inherent dignity and worth, and that no class of people should ever be discarded as ‘non-human,’” the President Trump explained in the proclamation.

The statement calls on Americans to recognize the human dignity of the elderly, the infirm, the disabled, the addicted, the mentally ill, single moms, orphan and foster children, pregnant mothers, and their unborn children. It also commends those who volunteer to assist pregnant mothers and legislators who work towards legal restrictions on abortion.

In the proclamation, the president explicitly highlights “the humanity of the unborn,” citing medical advances that make possible operations on babies in utero and images that “present us with irrefutable evidence that babies are growing within their mothers’ wombs – precious, unique lives, each deserving a future filled with promise and hope.”

On Jan. 19, the White House also released a separate document with information related to the Trump administration’s commitment to the protection of life, stating: “President Trump has expressed strong support for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would stop late-term abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, when science tells us that an unborn child can experience pain.”

The U.S. is one of seven countries globally that permits elective abortions after 20 weeks. The other countries are Canada, China, the Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam.

The White House document cites a study by the Charlotte Lozier Institute that “taxpayer funding subsidizes 900 health care plans that cover abortions” in the U.S.

The Catholic Church has long held the sanctity of each human person as the foundation upon which stand her social teachings. The Catechism of the Catholic Church roots the dignity of the human person in humanity’s creation in the image of God with the powers of intellect and the will: “Endowed with ‘a spiritual and immortal’ soul, The human person is ‘the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake.’ From his conception, he is destined for eternal beatitude.”

Mexico City Policy ensures US funds won't force 'abortion ideology,' backers say

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- One year ago, President Trump reinstituted and expanded the Mexico City Policy, widening a ban on funding for NGOs that are involved in abortion—a ban that could shift tens of millions of dollars away from groups like the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Backers and foes of the policy have voiced their views on the Trump administration’s expanded limitations on grants to international organizations promoting or providing abortion.

Greg Schleppenbach, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNA the policy is needed “because the agenda of many organizations receiving U.S. population aid has been to promote abortion as an integral part of family planning – even in developing nations where abortion is against the law.”
 
“Abortion proponents assert that this policy is nothing more than powerful U.S. politicians forcing their policies on poor nations. But, frankly, the opposite is true,” Schleppenbach said, adding that the the policy “ensures that NGOs, as grantees of U.S. funds, will not themselves force their abortion ideology on countries without permissive abortion laws.”
 
The Reagan-era Mexico City Policy takes its name from the location of the 1984 United Nations conference on population and development, where the funding ban was announced. The policy was repealed by Bill Clinton in 1993, reinstated by George W. Bush in 2001, repealed by Barack Obama in 2009, and again reinstated by President Donald Trump when he took office.
 
President Trump, who had not promised to implement the Mexico City Policy during his campaign, signed the executive order on Jan. 23, 2017. He instructed the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to expand the Mexico City Policy, now called “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” because of its increased scope. When fully implemented, it would apply to over $8.8 billion in foreign aid for global health assistance. By comparison, the previous version of the policy affected $600 million in U.S. aid for family planning programs.
 
Foes of the policy characterize it as a “gag rule.”
 
In January 2017, before the policy’s expansion, a spokesperson for International Planned Parenthood Federation said the organization could lose $100 million in annual funding for its non-abortion services. On Thursday Marie Stopes International, a U.K.-based abortion and contraceptive services provider, has estimated its own funding shortfall at $80 million, about 17 percent of its income from donations.
 
“Unless we can fill the $80 million gap created by the global gag rule, it will deprive millions of women of the contraception they need to prevent an unintended pregnancy, and it is the world’s poorest women and girls who will bear the brunt,” said Marjorie Newman-Williams, Marie Stopes’ vice president and director of external affairs.
 
Marie Stopes claimed the lost resources would result in 2.5 million unintended pregnancies, 870,000 unsafe abortions, and 6,900 maternal deaths.
 
The new policy could affect 1,275 foreign NGOs and about $2.2 billion in global health funding, the Kaiser Family Foundation has said.
 
Schleppenbach, however, said critics made “the same dire predictions” about widespread harm to global health care services in 2001 when President George W. Bush reinstated the policy. He thought such claims were “dishonest and sad.”

Past experience with the policy “provides little to no credible evidence to support claims that the policy will lead to dramatic adverse health consequences,” Schleppenbach said.
 
“The vast majority of Americans reject abortion as healthcare and do not want their tax dollars used for programs that promote or provide abortion as a method of family planning,” said Schleppenbach. He said the expanded policy aligns foreign aid with Americans’ views, and with other laws limiting funding for abortion and abortion providers, like the Helms Amendment and like the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, which bars funding for organizations determined to be involved in coercive abortion or sterilization.
 
The NGO Human Rights Watch has advocated congressional action as a long-term strategy to provide “stability” to U.S. global health assistance.
 
“It is disruptive and counterproductive to the global health community to have the U.S. policy on foreign assistance change dramatically from one presidential administration to the next,” the NGO said in June 2017.
 
The organization advocated passage of the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights Act, whose shortened name is the Global HER Act, which would permanently revoke the policy. Other backers of this legislation include Amnesty International.
 
Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the Susan B. Anthony List’s research arm, also backed the Trump administration’s policy, saying it “reflects the wishes of the American people who time and again have indicated they do not want their tax dollars used to provide abortions either domestically or overseas.”
 
He said that because some nations increase their funding for such programs when U.S. funding is cut, it is difficult to know how many millions of dollars are used for such campaigns.
 
The She Decides NGO was launched by the Dutch government to encourage donors to replace the funding cut by the Mexico City Policy. About $450 million has been raised from country donors, especially European governments, and private donors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In July, Melinda Gates announced the foundation would boost family planning funding by 60 percent, another $375 million over the next four years, the U.K. newspaper The Guardian reports.
 
Lilianne Ploumen, former Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation for the Netherlands, founded She Decides. Ploumen was the focus of controversy upon news that she had been awarded the Order of St. Gregory the Great. The honor was later described by a Holy See press officer as simply a matter of protocol during a visit of the Dutch royal family, not an endorsement of Ploumen’s abortion views.
 
The pushback against the Mexico City Policy itself has funders, including the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Two $1 million grants from each foundation aim to track the policy’s effects in Kenya and Nepal through a research project based at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
 
The Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at the school announced the research project and the grants which funded it Nov. 29, 2017, while the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute reported on the grants in December.
 
Another $500,000, four-year grant from the Hewlett Foundation to the Guttmacher Institute backs a “large-scale, multi-country study” on the Mexico City Policy’s impact on “sexual and reproductive health funding, services, and outcomes” in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Uganda.
 
“Research findings will be useful for advocacy,” the foundation’s Oct. 6, 2017 grant listing said.
 
Since 2001, the Hewlett Foundation has given several million dollars to the Guttmacher Institute both for general support and support for various domestic and international projects, grant listings indicate.
 
The foundation is a major supporter of Planned Parenthood, giving tens of millions to the abortion provider’s local, U.S., and international affiliates. A 2015 grant listing from the Open Society Foundations indicated the Hewlett Foundation was a partner in a multi-million dollar campaign responding to investigations that appeared to implicate the abortion provider in the illegal procurement and sale of unborn baby parts and fetal tissue.
 

 

Scholars decode one of the last fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Haifa, Israel, Jan 22, 2018 / 12:35 pm (CNA).- The Dead Sea Scrolls, which are among the oldest extant biblical manuscripts, have been a topic of interest since they were discovered in the Qumran Caves in the West Bank beginning in 1946.

More recently, Israeli scholars have pieced together some of the last fragments of the ancient documents, revealing new information about the scrolls.

Dr. Eshbal Ratson and Professor Jonathan Ben-Dov of Haifa University decoded 60 previously unread fragments over the course of a year to discover a festival marking each changing season which was celebrated by the Jews. The researchers also found the name for the festival: the Hebrew word “tekufah,” meaning “period.”

These fragments, some of which were smaller than a centimeter, identified the seasonal celebrations, which included the festivals of New Wheat, New Wine, and New Oil, which are linked to the Jewish festival of Shavuot. These celebrations were based on the 364-day Jewish calendar.

Additionally, the researchers found that a second scribe made additional notes on the scroll, correcting some mistakes and omissions made by the original author. According to Ratzon, these notes made it easier for them to decode the ancient scrolls.

“What’s nice is that these comments were hints that helped me figure out the puzzle – they showed me how to assemble the scroll,” said Ratzon, according to the BBC.

While it is not known who penned the ancient texts, some have attributed them to the Essenes – a Jewish sect who lived in the desert. The scrolls, around 900 in number, contain Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic writing, and are thought to date to between 300 BC and AD 100.

According to The Telegraph, a statement from Haifa University said that both Ratson and Ben-Dov have moved on to decoding the last remaining scroll.

Full text of Pope Francis’ in-flight press conference from Peru

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2018 / 10:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a conversation with journalists on his return flight from Peru to Rome on Sunday, Pope Francis discussed the people of Peru and Chile, clerical sexual abuse, his recent in-flight marriage celebration, and the Amazon region, among other topics.
 
Here is CNA's full transcript of the Pope's in-flight press conference:


Greg Burke: Holy Father, thank you after a long and intense journey, at times warm, where you touched people's hearts, the holy people faithful to God, with a message of peace and hope, but also faced the challenges of the Church in Chile, the Church in Peru and also the two societies, with a special intention for the human dignity of the indigenous peoples and for the Amazon. Thank you for the opportunity to follow it closely and now let’s try to delve a bit further into the themes of the trip.

Pope Francis: Good evening and thanks for your work. It was a trip... I don’t know how you say in Italian, but in Spanish you say “pasteurized,” as you do with milk. You don’t pass from cold to hot, from hot to cold. And we passed from the south of Chile, a fresh, beautiful landscape, to the desert, the forests of Maldonado, then to Trujillo, the sea, and then to Lima. All the temperatures and all the climes. And this is tiring. Thanks so much! Now, the questions.

Greg Burke: Yes. We have questions from Peru and Chile to start. Armando Canchanya.

Pope Francis: Let’s start with those about the trip, all of them, and when we finish, if something is missing about the trip, I’ll tell you, and then the other questions if there are any.

Greg Burke: Perfect! Armando Canchanya of RPP, Perù
 
Armando Canchanya (RPP, Perù): Thanks for letting us accompany you. You went through three cities. I wanted to ask you about this trip. What does the Holy Father take with him from the trip to Peru?

Pope Francis: I take the impression of a believing people who have had many difficulties and they had them historically. But they have a faith that impresses me, not only the faith in Trujillo, where popular piety is very rich and very strong, but also the faith on the streets, and not only in Lima where evidently you see it, but also in Trujillo, also in Puerto Maldonado, where I thought to have an event in a place like this one, but it was a full square and when left for another, the streets as well. It’s a people who went out to express their joy and their faith.

It is true that you have, as it says today at noon, a saintly land. They are the Latin American people who have more saints, and high-level saints. Toribio, Rosa, Martin, Juan. High level. I believe that faith has run deep, very deep ... I take from Peru an impression of joy, of faith, of hope, of [a people] walking again, and above all, many children. I returned to that image that I saw in the Philippines and Colombia, the dads and the moms along my route raising up their kids, and that says “future.” It says “hope,” because nobody brings a child into the world if they do not have hope.
The only thing I ask is that they take care of their wealth, not only that of the churches and the museums — that the works of art are great — and not only of the suffering, that have enriched them so much, but the riches that I have seen in these days.

Greg Burke: Thank you Holy Father! Now Giovanni Hinojosa from the Republic of Peru

Giovanni Hinojosa: The political class has defrauded the people with acts of corruption and negotiated pardons, but so have members of the Church, like the Sodalitium...

Pope Francis: The problem of corruption...I wouldn't know how to respond to you historically, the progress of corruption of other countries in the world, you know that some countries in Europe there is a lot of corruption...some, not all. Yes in Latin (America) there are a lot of spotlights of corruption. Today this way of speaking about Odebrecht, for example. But this is a sample. The origin of corruption is...I would say that it is original sin which then carried...I wrote a booklet one time, very small, called "Sin and Corruption" and the motto I use is sinner yes, corrupt no. All of us are sinners, but I think that all of us here, at least I admit it on my part, treat a friend badly, steal, do drugs,or try not to...God's forgiveness is above all of this. I am not afraid of sin, I am afraid of corruption, because corruption impairs the body and the soul. And a corrupt person is so sure of themselves that they cannot go back. They are like those swamps that you try to get out of and they suck you [back]. It's a swamp. Yes, it's the destruction of the human person.

I don’t know if you want to ask something more about corruption. After I pass to the Sodalitium, no? Of course, the politician has a lot of power. The businessmen also has a lot of power. The businessmen who pays half of his workers is corrupt. And a housewife who is accustomed and believes that it is normal to exploit the maids either with salary or with the way she treats them, is corrupt. I remember a conversation I had with someone, a professional, young, 30 years old, who told me that he was carrying the thing, young, he was 30 years old. And he told me that he treated his domestic staff in a non-noble way. I told him, but you cannot do this, this is a sin. Father, he told me, we are not going to buy these people with me, these people are here for that. And this is what the sex trafficker thinks, the slave labor handler, they are corrupt.

And is there corruption in the Church? Yes, there are instances of corruption in the Church. This has always been so. Men and women of the Church have engaged in the game of corruption. And that serves as a bridge for the Sodalitium.

The situation of the Sodalitium began with the case of a person who appeared very virtuous, who died, and investigating his life, it was discovered that he had led a double life (Editor’s Note: he is referring to the case of German Doig Klinge, who died Feb. 13, 2001).  This is the first chaos of the Sodalitium that I know of, but that happened in the past, twenty or twenty five years ago. And after that, there was an allegation of abuse, not only sexual, but of manipulation of the conscience by the founder.  The case of the founder went to the Holy See, he was sentenced, he was not expelled from the Sodalitium, but he lives alone. One person attends to him.  He declares himself to be innocent of the evidence of the case and has appealed to the Apostolic Signature, which is the supreme court of justice at the Vatican. According to the information I have, the appeal will be released in less than a month.  It has been a year. But what has happened now?  That trial was the trigger for other victims of this person to make civil and ecclesial claims. If the Apostolic Signatura decides in favor of the appeal, it will not make sense, because many, many serious cases are accumulating. Civil justice has intervened and, in this chaos, that is necessary, it is a matter of justice. I am not very informed, but the thing is very unfavorable for the founder.

On the other hand, this was not only a personal situation, there were things that weren't clear. Almost two years ago, I named a visitator in the person of Cardinal Tobin of Newark. Since the visit, he has discovered things that he doesn't understand and that aren't clear, and I named two economic viewers. And this is the third abuse, which also went up to the founder. And after a study, he recommended a custodian for the Sodalitium. Four weeks ago I sent the letter, and two weeks ago I named [him]. Concerning the procedures, it is a similar case to that of the Legionaries, which was carried out by Benedict XVI. In this, he was very strong. He didn't tolerate these things, and from him I’ve understood not to tolerate them as well. The legal status is [that they are] under a custodian, and the apostolic visit continues.
 
Greg Burke: Now, we’re passing on to Chile, with Juan Pablo Iglesias of La Tercera.

Juan Pablo Iglesias (La Tercera): At first, your message was very strong about [clerical sexual] abuse, but the last day [in Chile] you made a statement [saying some victims] are committing slander. Why do you believe Barros more than the victims?

Pope Francis: I understand the question perfectly. On [Bishop] Barros, I only made one declaration. I spoke in Chile, and this was in Iquique, at the end. I spoke two times about the abuse, with a lot of strength, in front of the government, which was to speak in front of the country, and in the cathedral with the priests.

What I said to the priests is what I feel most deeply about this case. You know that Benedict XVI began by taking a zero tolerance [approach], and I have continued with zero tolerance. After almost 5 years of being Pope, I have not signed any "permission of pardon.” In the cases of dismissal from the clerical state, it's a definitive sentence in first instance. The person condemned has the right to appeal to the tribunal of the second instance. The tribunal knows that if there is clear proof of abuse, they cannot appeal the sentence. What can be appealed are the procedures: lack of procedures, irregularities, then there you have to make a review of the process. If the second instance confirms the first, there’s only one exit left for the person and that is appealing to the Pope, as a grace.

In five years, I have received — I don’t know the number — 20 or 25 requests for “grace” that have come in. I didn’t sign any. Only in one case, which wasn’t grace but the argument of a juridical sentence, in the first year of the pontificate.

I found myself with two sentences, one very serious from the diocese, and one from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was the strongest. The one from the diocese was very serious and very conditioned… with these conditions, one needs to wait a time to see that… that is, the case wasn’t closed. (Editor note: The comments appear to refer to the case of Italian Mauro Inzoli)

As must be done with good jurisprudence, always in favor of the accused. I opted for the most lenient sentence, with the conditions.

After two years, it was decided that the conditions weren’t completed and so I let the other work. It was the only case in which I hesitated because there were two sentences and there was a juridical principle “in dubia pro reo” and so for this I opted for that. That is my position.

In the case of Bishop Barros, I had it studied, I had it investigated, I had it worked on a lot. And truly there is no evidence. I use the word evidence. Then I will speak about proof. There is no evidence of culpability, it seems that it will not be found. There is a coherence in another sense. I am waiting for evidence to change position, but I apply the judicial principle basic in any tribunal: “nemo malus nisi provetur” — no one is guilty until it is proven.

I used the word "proof" and I believe that gave me a hard time. I said it in Spanish, as I remember, I was entering and a journalist from Iquique asked me: ‘In Chile we have a big problem with Bishop Barros, what do you think?' I think that the words I said were these. First I thought about whether to respond or not, and I said yes [I would], because he had been bishop of Iquique, and a parishioner is asking me. I said, the day that I have proof I will speak. I think I said, ‘I don’t have proof,’ but it is recorded, you can find it.

The answer was: the day that I have proof, I will speak. The word 'proof' is what caused [concern]. No one is bad “sino probetur.” I would speak about evidence and, of course, I know that there are a lot of people who have been abused and that they cannot show proof, they do not have it. They cannot [show it] or sometimes they have it, but they are ashamed and hide it, and suffer in silence. The drama of those who have been abused is tremendous. Terrible. Two [months] ago I tended to a woman who was abused 40 years ago — 40, married with three children. This woman hadn’t received Communion from that time, because in the hand of the priest she saw the hand of the abuser. She couldn't go near. And she was a believer. She was Catholic. Sorry to continue in Spanish, but I want to be precise with the Chileans. The word “proof” wasn’t the best [word to use] in order to be near to a sorrowful heart. I would say evidence.

The case of Barros was studied, it was re-studied, and there is no evidence. That is what I wanted to say. I have no evidence to condemn. And if I were to condemn without evidence or without moral certainty, I would commit the crime of a bad judge.

I have another thing to say… I’ll explain it in Italian.

One of you came up to me and said: have you seen the letter that came out? They showed me a letter that I had written years ago when the problem with Barros began. I need to explain that letter, because it is also a letter in favor of prudence, how the problem with Barros was managed. That letter does not tell of a momentary fact; that letter is the narration of more or less 10-12 months. When the scandal with Karadima was discovered, we all know this scandal, we began to see many priests who were formed by Karadima who were either abused or who were abusers. In Chile there are four bishops who Karadima invited to the seminary. Someone from the episcopal conference made a suggestion that it would be better perhaps if these four bishops renounced their positions, resigned, took a sabbatical year while the storm passed, to avoid accusations, because they are good bishops.

And Barros, Barros already had been bishop there for 20 years and was about to finish his military bishopric. He was an auxiliary, then bishop of Iquique and then military bishop for almost 10 years, and 20 years a bishop. But let us ask if the accusations against him, perhaps explaining them...and he diligently resigned. And he came to Rome and I told him: ‘No, we don't play this way, because this is to admit culpability in advance, and then, as in any case, if there are culpable parties, it will be investigated.’ And I rejected it. This is about the 10 months contained in that letter. Then, when he was appointed and all this protest took place, he gave me his resignation for the second time. I said, ‘No, you go.’ I spoke with him for a long time, others spoke at length with him… you go. You know what happened there the day he took possession, the protests. They continued to investigate Barros, but there is no evidence and this is what I wanted to say: I cannot condemn him because I don't have the evidence and this is what I wanted to say. I cannot condemn him because I do not have the evidence. But I am also convinced that he is innocent.

I will pass to a third point, that of the letter I explained clearly: what those who have been abused feel. With this I have to ask forgiveness because the word "proof" wounded, it wounded many people who were abused, but I must go to look for the certificate, I have to do that — a word on translation, in the legal jargon, I wounded them. I ask them for forgiveness because I wounded them without realizing it, but it was an unintended wound. And this horrified me a lot, because I had received them. (But) in Chile I received two [abuse victims] as you know, I met others that I kept hidden. In every trip, there is always some possibility. The ones in Philadelphia were published, three (meetings) were published, then the other cases no… And I know how much they suffer, to feel that the Pope says in their face ‘bring me a letter, a proof.’ It's a slap. And I agree that my expression was not apt, because I didn't think, and I understand how the Apostle Peter, in one of his letters, says that the fire has been raised. This is what I can say with sincerity. Barros will remain there if I don't find a way to condemn him. I cannot condemn him if I don't have — I don't say proof — but evidence. And there are many ways to get evidence. Is that clear?

(They announce turbulence on the plane)

They tell me that after the turbulence of Barros and the Sodalitium, we have a more meteorological one...I’ll stay here.

(He sits in a row of seats with the journalists during the turbulence).

Matilde Burgos, CNN Espanol: (Follow up question about Bishop Barros and about a possible distance between the Pope and the people in Chile)

Pope Francis: The case maybe started with the bad decision of the resignation, and he began to be accused. But there is no evidence of abuse. Covering up an abuse is abuse. There is no evidence. There isn’t. The best they believe is this, to provide the evidence quickly. If you think it is like this honestly. I, in this moment, do not think it is so, because there is none. But my heart is open to receive it.

And the other from Chile is made up.


I came from Chile happy, I did not expect that many people in the street. And they weren’t paying an entry fee. The people were not paid nor taken in collectively. The spontaneity of Chile was very strong, even in Iquique, and I thought it was going to be a little thing. But you saw what it was. In the south, the same and in Santiago, the same. The streets of Santiago spoke for themselves.

In this, I think that the responsibility of the informant is to go to the concrete facts. There was this, and this. The thing about a divided people, I do not know where it comes from, it is the first time I hear of it. Maybe Barros is the cause of this, but placing it in its reality it could be because of this. But my impression of Chile was very strong and rewarding. Then, I would like to go back a moment to what most moved me about Chile, at least a moment.

Greg Burke: Let's move on to the Italian group. Andrea Tornielli, Vatican Insider.

Andrea Tornielli (Vatican Insider/La Stampa): Your Holiness, I wanted to talk about what you said in the past day in the Amazon, because there was a new element in that speech: not only the threat posed by the big economic groups, but also the threat — indeed you have talked about perversion — of some environmental policies that end up stifling people's lives. So is there an environmentalism that is against man?
 
Pope Francis: Yes, yes in that area, I could not at this moment describe it well, but to protect the forest and to save some tribes who ended up outside the forest, because the forest is being finished by exploitation. But the most concrete fact of this case is in the statistics of the area. You will surely find the precise data. It is a phenomenon of preserving the environment and then isolating it, they have remained isolated from real progress. The number that was given there, in that area, the information they sent to prepare the trip, I have studied it.

Greg Burke: Aura Miguel, of Radio Renascenca.

Aura Miguel (Radio Renascenca): The wedding on the airplane. From now on, what would you say to the parish priests, to the bishops will be asked by couples if they can marry them I don’t know where, on the beach, on boats, airplanes?

Pope Francis: You’re imagining a cruise with a wedding. Eh, this would be… One of you told me that I’m crazy for doing these things. The thing was simple. The man was on the first flight. She wasn’t there. I spoke with him… then, I realized that he had become awkward. I spoke of life of how I thought of life, then the life of the family. A nice chat. Then, the day after both of them were there and after we took a photograph, they told me this: ‘We were going to get married in a church, we were married civilly, but the day before’ - you could tell it was a small city - ‘the church was toppled by an earthquake and there was no wedding.’ This was 10 years ago, maybe eight, the earthquake was in 2010, eight years ago. And then [they thought]: “tomorrow we’ll do it,” and “the day after tomorrow.” That’s the way life goes and then the daughter [came] and another daughter. I interrogated them a bit. And the answers were clear, for their whole life…. “You know these things. Do you have a good memory of the catechism?” “We have taken the pre-matrimonial classes.” They were prepared and I judged that they were prepared. They asked me. Sacraments are for people. All of the conditions were clear and why not do today … and not delay it for tomorrow… and maybe after ‘tomorrow’ it  would have been eight or 10 years more. This is the answer. I judged that they were prepared, that they knew what they were doing, that each of them was prepared before the Lord with the sacrament of penance. When they had arrived at that point, it was all over. They told me that, they said it to some of you… “We’re going to the Pope to ask if he’ll marry us.” That’s how the thing went. But tell the parish priests that the Pope interrogated them well. And then they had done the pre-marriage course, and they were aware.

Greg Burke: Holiness, we’ve done almost an hour, but I don’t know if we can still do one or two [questions].

Pope Francis: Yes, about the trip.

Greg Burke: On the trip. Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

Pope Francis: Yes, because about Peru, almost nothing [has been asked].

Nicole Winfield (AP): Ah, no more Chile... Holy Father, yesterday Cardinal O’Malley made a statement on these comments about Bishop Barros and he said that words such as these are a source of pain for the survivors of abuse with the effect of making them feel abandoned and discredited… you said that you didn’t feel well [at knowing the victims felt abandoned], and I imagine, I wonder if it was precisely the words of Cardinal O’Malley that made you realize the pain [caused], and then a question linked to this: the Commission for the Protection of Minors, led by Cardinal O’Malley. There was the expiration last month of the first members. There are people who see in this expiration, they ask themselves if this is a sign of a “non-priority” of the protection of minors.

Pope Francis: I understand, I understand. On Cardinal O'Malley, I saw his statement, and he said, "the Pope has always upheld this, the Pope has zero tolerance, the Pope said the other.. with this unhappy expression."
 
And this has made me think of the word "proof." [It is] calumny, [if] anyone says with obstinacy, without evidence, that he did this, he did that... it is calumny. If I say that he stole and he did not steal, then I am slandering [him], because I do not have evidence, I do not have evidence that he did that to them.

But I have not heard of any victim of Barros... they have not come, they have not given evidences of the judgment. It is a little up in the air. It is a thing that you cannot assume.

You, with goodwill, tell me: there are victims [of Bishop Barros, or of the alleged coverage of Bishop Barros]. But I have not seen them because they have not come to me. It is true that Barros was part of the group of young men [around Karadima]. Barros entered the seminary, I don't know when, but he has been a bishop 24 years. He was probably a priest 15 years, many years. He entered as a very young man,... he says that he did not see it, he was part of the group but then he went another way. And on this we should be clear. One that accuses without evidence, with obstinacy, this is calumny.

But if a person comes and gives me the evidence, I am the first to listen to him. We should be just. I have an appreciation for Cardinal O'Malley, I thank him for his statement because it was very just. He said all that I did and that I do, that the Church does, and then he spoke of the sorrow of the victims. Not in this case, in general. Because many victims feel that they are not able to bring [forward] a document or a testimonial.

The commission was appointed for 3 years I believe, it has expired. I will study a new commission and they, the same commission, decided to renew a part, to nominate new members and others renew. But also before the start of the trip, the definitive list of the commission has come, and now it follows (that) there were some observations on someone that they should clarify, because they are studying the new people. There were two observations that they should clear up. Cardinal O'Malley has worked well, has worked as he should. No, please, do not think that... the time has been a normal amount of time for a nomination of people.

Greg Burke: Holiness, we’ll do a final question, if it’s about the trip.

Unknown Journalist: One of the aims of the Church is to fight against poverty. Chile, in 20 years has lowered the poverty level to 11 percent. Is it, in your perspective, the result of a liberal political [system]? Is there good in liberalism, do you think? I have another small question regarding Cardinal Maradiaga: what do you think of the news of money that regards him? Thanks.

Pope Francis: About Cardinal Maradiaga, it’s not from the trip but I will answer: he has made a signed statement. I say what he said.

About liberalism, I will say that we have to study the cases of liberal politics well. There are other countries in Latin America with liberal politics. I’m not a technician, but in general a liberal political [system] that doesn’t engage all of the peoples, leads downwards. I don’t know in Chile but we see that in other Latin American countries, things are going down.

About the trip, I would like to say something that really moved me: the women’s jail. Well, I have an ever sensitive heart… I’m very sensitive the jails and inmates. I always ask myself about jails, why them and not me. But, to see these women, to see the creativity of these women, the capacity for change, their capacity to change their lives, to reinsert themselves in society with the force of the Gospel. One of you told me that I saw the joy of the children. It moved me. And, I was very moved by that meeting, one of the most beautiful things of the trip. Then, at Puerto Maldonado, that meeting with the indigenous. We are there because obviously - in a moment you’re in their world, no? - that day was the first meeting of the Synod for the Amazon, which will be in 2019. I was so moved by the “Hogar Principito”, to see these kids, the majority abandoned, those young boys and girls who were able, with education, to move ahead. They are professionals. It moved me so much. It’s a work to bring the person upwards. This moved me so much.

Then, the people, the warmth of the people. And today it was unbelievable what was there. The warmth of the people, and I say this nation has faith. This faith was contagious for me and I thank God, and I thank you for the work that awaits you, to write articles and news on the questions you’ve asked me. Thanks for your patience and thanks for the questions. Many thanks.

Greg Burke: Thanks, Holiness, for you patience. Have a good rest and a good dinner.

 

Mid-air marriage was to avoid further delay, Pope Francis explains

Aboard the papal plane, Jan 22, 2018 / 10:16 am (CNA).- Addressing concerns Monday about the pastoral implications of his witnessing a marriage aboard a plane while in flight, the Pope said that he judged the couple to be prepared for the sacrament, and didn't wish them to delay the regularization of their situation any longer.

“All of the conditions were clear, and why not do it today and not delay it for tomorrow? Tomorrow would possibly have been eight or 10 years from now,” Pope Francis said Jan. 22 while en route from Lima to Rome.

Aura Miguel of Radio Renascenca had asked him about his Jan. 18 witnessing of the marriage of two flight attendents, Paula Podest and Carlos Ciuffardi, while en route from Santiago to Iquique, Chile.

The Pope's decision had raised questions among commentators and various priests concerning the liceity and even the validity of the marriage. Miguel asked, “From now on, what would you say to the parish priests, to the bishops, whom fiances are going to ask to marry them I don’t know where – on the beach, on boats, on airplanes?”

Pope Francis noted to those on the plane that “One of you told me that I’m crazy for doing these things,” but responded that “the thing was simple: The man was on the first flight. She wasn’t there. I spoke with him; then, I realized that he had become awkward. I spoke of life: of how I thought of life, then the life of the family. It was a nice chat.”

“Then the day afterwards both of them were there, and when we took a photograph, they told me this: 'we were going to get married in a church, we were married civilly, but the day before' – you could tell it was a small city – 'the church was toppled by an earthquake and there was no wedding'. This was 10 years ago; maybe eight – the earthquake was in 2010, so it was eight years ago. And then 'tomorrow we'll do it', and 'the day after tomorrow' – and that's the way life goes. And then the daughter, and another daughter.”

“I interrogated them a bit,” Pope Francis explained. “And the answers were clear.” They had taken marriage preparatory classes. “They were prepared and I judged that they were prepared,” he said.

“They asked me. And sacraments are for people. All of the conditions were clear, and why not do it today and not delay it for tomorrow?”

“This is the answer,” he said. “I judged that they were prepared, that they knew what they were doing, that each of them was prepared before the Lord with the sacrament of penance … that’s how the situation went.”

“But tell the parish priests that the Pope interrogated them well,” he said. “And that they had done the pre-marriage course.”