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Development proposals at synod raise questions about indigenous rights

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Barbara J. Fraser

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Proposals for Amazonian development made by well-known observers at the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon could conflict with the expectations of indigenous people unless they are included in decision-making, some synod participants said.

In his four-minute presentation to the synod on Oct. 15, economist Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University called for a common global plan for the forest and the peoples who live there. He proposed increased investment by the world's countries to preserve Amazonian forests, the creation of an international scientific panel, and action by governments to curb deforestation.

A week earlier, Brazilian climate scientist Carlos Nobre proposed taking advantage of modern technologies of what economists call the "fourth industrial revolution" to create a "bioeconomy" of sustainably produced items that would keep the forest standing. Processing Amazonian fruits and nuts, as well as crops like cocoa, can be more profitable than ranching, which is one of the main drivers of deforestation, he told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview.

Both proposals reflect a series of recommendations made in an essay titled "Scientific Framework to Save the Amazon," which was prepared for the synod by more than 40 scientists, including Nobre. The essay cites Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si'" and calls for countries to adhere to the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

It also presents the proposal of developing "bio-industries" to produce foods, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and other products using forests as a source, and calls for companies to ensure that any products they purchase are sustainably produced.

Several synod participants worried that such proposals could sideline indigenous people from decisions about development, especially if their land rights are not secure. Local communities in the Amazon must have the power to decide what kind of development they want, they said.

The scientific framework essay links the proposed bioeconomy to concept of integral ecology described in "Laudato Si'." Critics, however, said that it put a price on nature and created the risk of privatizing forest resources that communities now view collective goods.

Others noted that although outside experts invited to the synod speak from their own perspectives, the rights of indigenous peoples have been a constant theme during individual presentations and small-group discussions.

People who questioned the proposals said Sachs and Nobre did not mention indigenous people's right to be consulted about projects affecting them, which is enshrined in international treaties. They also worried that outsiders could use development projects to benefit themselves instead of the communities from which forest products are taken.

Nobre told Catholic News Service that the proposal is still new and that the scientists involved have not conducted a formal consultation with indigenous groups. He said the idea is for communities to operate their own businesses and not to open the door to outsiders.

Although she did not refer directly to those proposals, Yesica Patiachi Tayori, a Harakbut woman from Peru, told journalists Oct. 16, "We don't want (the synod) to end in a mercantilist discourse."

Patiachi, who made that remark at the daily press briefing, was one of the speakers who addressed the pope in January 2018 during his encounter with indigenous people in Puerto Maldonado, Peru. On that occasion, she asked him to help her people defend themselves against "outsiders who see us as weak and insist on taking our territory away from us in different ways."

Inside the synod and at parallel events nearby, indigenous people have called for church leaders especially to support their efforts to obtain official rights to their territories. When they do not have legal title, they risk losing their land to land speculators, private enterprises like mining companies, or outsiders who engage in illegal logging, wildcat gold mining or other illicit activities.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has halted the demarcation of indigenous lands even where the process was underway. In Peru, hundreds of indigenous communities await titling.

Amazonian indigenous groups hope that the pope, as an internationally known figure, will amplify their demand for respect for their rights and territories, Gregorio Diaz, president of an umbrella organization of Amazonian indigenous groups, told CNS.

"The synod has to issue a strong message to governments that are making decisions (that affect) indigenous peoples," he said.

At a news briefing Oct. 14, he called for the church to stand up for indigenous people who risk assassination or who face criminal prosecution and imprisonment for defending their territories.

He also asked the church to help indigenous people "talk with the new gods of the developed world, (such as) Google, the International Monetary Fund, the European Economic Commission and the World Bank," and to encourage Amazonian governments to "sit down and talk with us."

Amazonian governors are expected to attend a meeting at the Vatican Oct. 28, Brazilian media reported.

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Couple says adoption is a blessing, gift and 'roller coaster of emotions'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass

By Benjamin Wideman

KIEL, Wis. (CNS) -- After David and Maria Schuette got married in 2015, they wanted a family right away but months later they found out that infertility issues would likely prevent them from having children of their own.

"It was tough knowing that everything I thought about growing a family as a little girl ... it wasn't going to happen that way," Maria told The Compass, diocesan newspaper of Green Bay. "So there was a lot of pain and sadness over the loss of what we thought growing our family would look like," she added.

David agreed. "The pain we were experiencing was a combination of the infertility and the unknowns of adoption. Even when making the decision to adopt, we were fearful it would take five years, if it even happened at all. And we didn't know where to start or what the future would look like."

Now, it turns out the future is working out well for the Schuettes, proud parents of Isaac, 18 months old, and Eli, 8 months old, both adopted.

David and Maria, members of SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Kiel, were at the hospitals for each birth and remain in close communication with their sons' birth parents.

The new parents, who are both 30, are thrilled to be growing their family, even if it occurred differently than they originally planned.

"The joy of parenthood isn't dependent on whether your child is your biological child. We have so much love and joy being parents to Isaac and Eli," said David, adding they are discussing adopting a third child.

Their adoption journey began in spring 2017.

At the time, Maria worked for the Diocese of Green Bay in youth ministry and religious education so she knew about Catholic Charities' work in facilitating adoptions.

"Catholic Charities was phenomenal in helping us understand adoption from a pro-life perspective," Maria said, which included "how to care and walk with birth mothers and birth fathers and what our role was in that entire process."

She said they received an email that Isaac's parents had been referred to Catholic Charities and that several other matches fell through before they connected with Isaac's parents.

"Four weeks later, Isaac was born," Maria said. "When Isaac was about 7 months old, we met another birth mother through a friend of a friend, and that's how we got two adoptions 10 months apart."

Although David and Maria were at the hospitals for each birth, the two situations were different.

Isaac was born with a congenital heart defect and spent 11 days in the hospital's neonatal intensive care.

"Isaac is doing great now," David said. "He's sort of a miracle baby. But the doctors weren't sure how his health would be when he was born."

David and Maria were able to be in the room with Eli's birth.

"We were very, very lucky to be at the hospitals for both of the boys' births and to be matched the way we were," David said.

Early in the adoption process, the Schuettes wondered about ongoing contact with birth parents.

"What if the birth parents wanted to come back and co-parent?" she recalled thinking. "That was really a bit scary."

However, after learning more and being in contact with both sets of birth parents, she now calls it "a very special relationship. We have a lot of respect for the birth parents. Both sets expressed before they had the boys that they would like to have contact."

Sometimes there are visits, sometimes text messages.

"We really give preference to the birth parents with how they'd like to be communicated with," Maria said. "We very much love them for who they are and who God made them to be and the decision they made to place their children with us."

David and Maria are pleased that their sons are close in age and feature different personalities; Isaac is outgoing, whereas Eli is reserved.

"We continue learning every day how to be parents," Maria said. "Whether we had the boys biologically or they came to us through adoption, they are God's children first and we are caretakers of them. We learn every day how to be better parents, how to be more loving, more patient, more giving. And we have a lot of fun in the process."

The Schuettes enjoy sharing those experiences with others. In part because they were public about the adoptions, Maria said about 10 families, who are also struggling with infertility and considering adoption, have reached out to them.

"The biggest thing I'd say to (prospective adoptive parents) is to give it a chance," said David, noting that both his youngest sister and paternal grandmother were adopted. "For the most part, people are very open and want to share their experiences and help others. And agencies do a great job of educating."

"Adoption is a great blessing and gift, but also a roller coaster of emotions," Maria said. "We tell families to trust and have faith that there is a child out there for you. Our family is a picture of that."

Maria also had a message for birth parents considering placing their child for adoption.

"Know that you aren't alone and that there are many, many people who love you and want to help you," she said. "Please don't be afraid to reach out for help. Know there are people there to support you every step of the way."

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Wideman writes for The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay.

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North American indigenous support Amazonian indigenous at synod

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- As the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon heard pleas to defend the rights of the region's indigenous people and of the land they hold sacred, indigenous leaders from Canada and the United States came to Rome to support them.

Accompanied by representatives of their nations' bishops' conferences, the North Americans said Oct. 17 that the struggle for justice, for recognition of territorial rights and for the defense of the Earth unite the indigenous peoples of North, Central and South America.

Sister Priscilla Solomon, an Ojibway and a Sister of St. Joseph Sault Ste. Marie from Canada, said the indigenous peoples of the Americas "have a very similar kind of spirituality, vision, values that teach us that everything is connected: not only people, human beings, but we are part of land. The land is us. The water is us."

Colonization is also a common experience, she said, and one that has left members of the First Nations and Native Americans impoverished, both materially and culturally since their languages, customs and spirituality often were suppressed.

Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina, Saskatchewan, who accompanied the group, said one task of the delegation was to look at the synod's "implications for our homelands," specifically as regards the treatment of native peoples and the ecological challenges present in North America.

But also, he said, "How are we impacted by what is happening in the Amazon" and "How are we implicated," especially in ties to or outright ownership of the mining and other companies extracting resources, polluting the land and waters and leaving entire populations deeper in poverty.

Rita Means, a longtime activist and representative on the tribal council of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, told reporters that as "a mother and grandmother," she feels driven to work for justice for her people and the protection of the Earth.

Like the Amazonian indigenous trying to protect their lands from the activity of various extractive industries like mining and logging, she said, the Lakota Sioux and others are fighting the encroachment on their lands of oil pipelines.

"Some of these extractive industries are very destructive to our homeland," she said. "Again, as a mother and grandmother, I guess I find that particularly painful."

She and her people have been "nourishing that 'turtle continent' (Earth) for many centuries and to see it being attacked in such a vicious and destructive way really tears at my heart," Means said. "The Earth is crying for our assistance and this is one call that we cannot fail to answer."

Rodney Bordeaux, president of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, said he wanted to show his people's solidarity for the Amazonian indigenous, who are experiencing "what happened to us 100-120 years ago" with people trying to steal their land to extract resources. For the Lakota, he said, "there was gold in the hills and they just stole our land."

Sister Solomon said she does not believe the Catholic Church should try to convert indigenous peoples to Christianity, "but where there is openness to knowing Christ and the teachings of the church, the church needs to be ready to offer that."

Bordeaux said the Bible presents Jesus as one who got involved in the lives of the people he encountered, so Christians should ask themselves "What would Jesus do today? Would he stand aside, quiet? I think we know the answer and the church knows the answer."

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Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Safe injection sites for drug addicts 'a form of euthanasia,' priest says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gina Christian, catholicphilly.com

By Gina Christian

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Safe injection sites are "a form of euthanasia," according to a Philadelphia priest who has spent almost 50 years ministering to those suffering from addiction.

Officials are seeking to make Philadelphia the first U.S. city to open a safe injection site, modeled after a facility that has operated in Vancouver, British Columbia, since 2003.

But Father Douglas McKay, founder and chaplain of Our House Ministries, said that plan is "a way of killing those with addiction, a way of doping them up and 'protecting' ourselves from them."

Located in Philadelphia's Grays Ferry section -- a neighborhood long ravaged by drug and alcohol addiction -- Our House Ministries provides recovery homes, conducts numerous group recovery meetings each week and offers intensive spiritual support for those seeking sobriety.

Our House also hosts a chapter of the Calix Society, an international organization for Catholics in recovery that stresses the power of sacramental grace in overcoming addiction.

Father McKay, who began working with those in addiction even before his seminary studies, said he has known thousands who have died from substance abuse. He currently presides at an average of two funerals a week due to drug overdoses, "not counting the ones" he turns down.

Addiction has hit home for the archdiocesan priest, who grew up just a few blocks from where he now ministers. In 1995, his brother Anthony died at age 30 "in a crack house, with a needle in his arm," said Father McKay. Another brother, Harry, also struggled with addiction after serving in Vietnam, but remained sober for the last 25 years of his life.

Reflecting on an Oct. 2 federal court decision that has cleared the legal hurdles for Philadelphia's proposed safe injection site, Father McKay said such a facility would not have prevented Anthony's overdose. Instead, he noted, safe injection sites only "provide a slower death to people who are already dying."

"These people don't need more drugs; that's the cause of their sickness," he told CatholicPhilly.com, the digital newspaper of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. "You're poisoning their brains and making them sicker, when they need to be made well."

Father McKay sees the sites as the product of "a drug culture that's part of the culture of death." He likened the impact of such facilities to the "zombie effect" of extended methadone use in combating heroin addiction.

A synthetic opioid, methadone works to eliminate withdrawal symptoms, but long-term reliance on the prescription "burns out the brains" without healing addiction, said Father McKay.

"The whole approach here reminds me of lobotomizing violent criminals and mentally ill people," said Father McKay.

Lobotomy, or removal of the brain's frontal lobe, was widely practiced on tens of thousands in the mid-20th century to treat severe mental illness while reducing institutional overcrowding. Patients were generally left incapacitated and cognitively unresponsive after the procedure.

While acknowledging "there are good people on both sides" of the safe injection site debate, Father McKay said supporters of such sites fail to understand the real nature of addiction and the most effective ways to address it.

"They point to one feature, that they won't be alone when they inject themselves," he said, "but they need to look at the whole picture."

Recovery from addiction requires "a moment of truth" that enables the individual to grasp the impact of his or her self-destructive behavior, said Father McKay. Such awareness is central to the 12-step approach employed by Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and similar groups.

Safe injection sites "steal that moment away from them," he said, since facilitating the use of harmful drugs, even with compassionate motives, "takes away the opportunity for sufficient reflection" and keeps the affected person mired in addiction.

"Sobriety is the first step, and that's what we're stopping these people from taking in these safe injection sites," he said. "Without that step, there is no second step."

A number of studies have shown that sustained participation in 12-step groups, which are free and widely available, correlates with recovery rates as high as 70%.

The number is significantly lower for Insite, the Canadian safe injection site that has served as a model for Philadelphia's proposed facility. According to Insite's data, 48,798 -- or 1.35% -- of the 3.6 million users who have self-injected since 2003 there have accessed some form of clinical treatment for substance abuse disorder.

Father McKay also noted that Philadelphia's plan to offer fentanyl screening at its proposed site isn't viable. A synthetic opioid, fentanyl -- which is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine -- has driven the increase in the nation's overdose deaths.

"Fentanyl is actually a good deterrent, because they're scared to pick up (relapse) again," he said. "But these sites will take that fear away and keep them enslaved, since they'll think they can keep using."

For some users, fentanyl is actually desirable, he added, since it provides a high they can no longer attain after repeated heroin use.

He also noted that those in active addiction would be unlikely to travel from other sections of the city to the proposed Kensington location for Philadelphia's planned site. Many individuals already rely on a kind of "street buddy system," he said, and "watch out for each other when they're nodding off" prior to overdosing.

Clean needles, which safe injection sites typically provide, aren't a draw either, said Father McKay.

"They couldn't care less about clean needles when they have a death wish," he said. "That's how sick they are. They're on the brink of death."

Safe injection sites, like the addiction they seek to treat, ultimately work to harm everyone, said Father McKay.

"You're watching them inject themselves with poison, and they come out demoralized and dehumanized, as do the people who watch them and promote the sites," he said. "Are we really caring about them, watching them shoot up?"

Those suffering from addiction "are our brothers and sisters" who reflect the suffering Christ, the priest said, and they are inextricably connected with the larger community.

"You put that needle in your arm, and it goes into the arm of the Lord, and into everyone else's arm as well," said Father McKay, stressing that addiction simultaneously affects individuals, families and society.

Instead of supporting safe injection sites, he and the Our House team are working to create "spiritual sites" where the root causes of addiction -- such as isolation and hopelessness -- can be countered with God's grace and the fellowship of others.

"We offer healing from the shame and guilt of their past sins," said Father McKay, adding that those who struggle with addiction can become models of holiness through God's intervention in their lives.

Noting that "we underestimate grace and the power of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist," Father McKay said he persists in his work because "there's always an answer, and that is Jesus Christ."

"It's not a belief, it's an experience," he said. "I've seen so many people get better."

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Christian is a senior content producer for CatholicPhilly.com, the digital newspaper of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

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Inadequate formation a factor in lack of vocations, bishops say at synod

IMAGE: CNS Photo/Paul Jeffrey

By Barbara J. Fraser

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Existing formation programs are not preparing priests and other pastoral workers to be leaders in a church with an Amazonian and indigenous face, according to bishops participating in the synod for the Amazon.

"It's not the same to evangelize in the city as in the Amazon," Bishop Rafael Cob Garcia of Puyo, Ecuador, told journalists at an Oct. 12 press briefing. "The needs are different."

Formation must be adapted to meet those needs, he said.

Synod participants repeatedly have mentioned the lack of sufficient priests to celebrate the Eucharist and other sacraments in the thousands of communities scattered throughout huge church jurisdictions in Amazonia.

Some bishops have pointed to the church's mandatory celibacy requirement as an obstacle to indigenous vocations. In many indigenous cultures, a young man is not considered an adult and a full member of the community until he has a family.

Another obstacle is academic, because quality education is lacking in rural villages, Bishop Cob said. When young men from villages go to a seminary in the city, they often find themselves behind their urban classmates academically and drop out.

When a young man goes from an indigenous village to an urban seminary, he also is uprooted from his culture, Franciscan Father Joao Messias Sousa, who ministers among the Munduruku people in Brazil's Tapajos River basin, told Catholic News Service.

The Munduruku culture is based on sharing, instead of individual property, he said, and they are not "slaves of time." When they arrive at the seminary, where schedules are strict and people have their own rooms, study materials and other possessions, "it's a shock," he said.

For those who do continue, current formation falls short, Bishop Cob said, adding that seminary formation sometimes loses sight of the fact that "our vocation is rooted in being servants."

In brief remarks to synod participants Oct. 14, Pope Francis said he was disappointed that some seminarians from Latin America go to other countries to study and stay abroad instead of returning to work as missionaries in places like the Amazon, two participants told CNS.

Some bishops are seeking ways to give formation a more Amazonian face, but they said there is a shortage of qualified people to do formation. Brazilian Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Roselei Bertoldo said it is also important for seminaries and theology schools to include women on their faculties.

A lack of qualified teachers in Amazonian towns forces the Amazonian bishops in Ecuador to send priesthood candidates to Quito, the capital, Bishop Cob said. Once there, the students provide support for each other, and the bishops can pool staff to accompany them. Nevertheless, he said he hopes they will be able to establish a seminary in the Amazon in the future.

The Prelature of Sao Felix, in Brazil's Mato Grosso state, established its own school of theology to provide formation appropriate for ministry in Amazonian communities, Bishop Adriano Ciocca Vasino said at the press briefing. The school is open to both men and women.

Candidates for ordained ministry complete their theology studies at the prelature's school and then do four years of ministry in communities. Only if the community agrees that they are prepared for the priesthood does the bishop ordain them, he said.

Young men in their late teens are interested in the priesthood, but Bishop Ciocca said he and his colleagues are still determining the best way to accompany them.

Similar difficulties exist elsewhere in the world, according to Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, who told synod participants about an official visit he once made to seminaries in Guatemala.

Although the Central American nation has a large indigenous population -- in fact, it is one of the countries with the largest percentage of indigenous people in the world -- the seminary in Guatemala City had just received its first indigenous students.

Far from their home communities, however, the indigenous students at the capital's major seminaries "were like fish out of water," the cardinal wrote in an Oct. 11 blog post about his presentation at the synod.

After visiting schools in the capital, he traveled to the Diocese of Verapaz, in central Guatemala, which had a new seminary exclusively for indigenous students.

"I had to speak to them through interpreters because they did not speak Spanish," Cardinal O'Malley wrote.

The school lacked funding -- the cardinal noted that the seminarians' families had to take food to them -- and closed several years later, even though it had a large number of seminarians.

The Verapaz seminary offered "an opportunity to train indigenous priests in their own language and in their own cultural context," he wrote. "I felt badly when the seminary closed because I knew those seminarians would never be able to attend a different sort of seminary."

That is a cautionary tale for those looking for ways to increase vocations in the Amazon region, Cardinal O'Malley said.
 
"If we want to have priests there, we are going to have to make sacrifices to have people who can promote vocations and accompany and train seminarians in their own milieu and their own languages," he said.

 

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Pope criticizes cruelty of world marked by hunger, obesity, food waste

IMAGE: CNS photo/Khaled Abdullah, Reuters

By Paige Hanley

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Resolving the global crises of world hunger and malnutrition demands a shift away from a distorted approach to food and toward healthier lifestyles and just economic practices, Pope Francis said.

"We are, in fact, witnessing how food is ceasing to be a means of subsistence and turning into an avenue of personal destruction," he said in his message to Qu Dongyu, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, to mark World Food Day Oct. 16. World Food Day marks the date the FAO was founded in 1945 to address the causes of world hunger.

Pope Francis said he hoped the world day theme of 2019 -- "Our actions are our future: Healthy diets for a #ZeroHunger World" -- will be a reminder of how many people continue to eat in an unhealthy way.

"It is a cruel, unjust and paradoxical reality that, today, there is food for everyone, and yet not everyone has access to it, and that in some areas of the world food is wasted, discarded and consumed in excess, or destined for other purposes than nutrition," he said.

"To escape from this spiral, we need to promote 'economic institutions and social initiatives which can give the poor regular access to basic resources,'" he said, citing his encyclical, "Laudato Si'."

The theme also points to "the distorted relationship between food and nutrition," he said. Some 820 million people in the world suffer from hunger, "while almost 700 million are overweight, victims of improper dietary habits," said Pope Francis.

Being overweight is no longer a major health issue in developed countries, he said, but also in poorer areas where people may "eat little but increasingly poorly, since they imitate dietary models imported from developed areas."

Poor nutrition based on excess often results in illnesses, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and degenerative diseases, and poor nutrition has seen an increasing number of deaths related to anorexia and bulimia, he said.

A better understanding of food and its true purpose as well as "a conversion in our way of living and acting" will aid in fighting hunger and malnutrition, the pope said.  

"Nutritional disorders can only be combated by the cultivation of lifestyles inspired by gratitude for the gifts we have received and the adoption of a spirit of temperance, moderation, abstinence, self-control and solidarity," the pope said.

"By adopting such a lifestyle, we will grow in a fraternal solidarity that seeks the common good and avoids the individualism and egocentrism that serve only to generate hunger and social inequality," he said.
 
Pope Francis also highlighted the vital role of the family in continuing traditions of sustainable farming and the production of nutritional products.

"Within the family, and thanks to the particular sensitivity and wisdom of women and mothers, we learn how to enjoy the fruits of the earth without abusing it. We also discover the most effective means for spreading lifestyles respectful of our personal and collective good," the pope said.

This is why the FAO has devoted additional effort to protect rural families and encourage family-operated farms, the pope added.

Lastly, the pope underlined the human person must be valued above personal monetary gain.

"The battle against hunger and malnutrition will not end as long as the logic of the market prevails and profit is sought at any cost, with the result that food is relegated to a mere commercial product subject to financial speculation and with little regard for its cultural, social and indeed symbolic importance," the pope said in his message.

"When priority is given to the human person, humanitarian aid operations and development programs will surely have a greater impact and will yield the expected results," the pope concluded.

 

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Catholic schools 'essential, integral' to church's ministry, say educators

IMAGE: CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review

By Sydney Clark

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The mission and foundation of Catholic education are directly related to evangelization, said the head of the National Catholic Educational Association.

Catholic schools are obligated to evangelize simply because that is the core and mission of the Catholic Church, according to Thomas Burnford, president and CEO of the NCEA.

"The apostles told the good news of Jesus Christ, and Catholic schools are an essential and integral ministry of the Catholic Church," he told Catholic News Service.

Nationwide, 1.8 million students are enrolled in 6,300 Catholic schools, he noted. Additionally, 80% of students are Catholic, and the remaining 20% are non-Catholic.

Despite the percentage difference, the mission of Catholic education is the same for Catholic and non-Catholic students, Burnford explained.

"The teaching of the faith, the way we witness the Catholic faith fully to Catholic students is the same for all students. All students are invited and welcomed to participate fully in the whole culture of the school, the formation of the school and the life of the school," Burnford said.

Evangelization is present within schools because students are presented with a Catholic worldview that reveals the reality of God and the Gospel through the curriculum, he said.

"In that way, we are evangelizing students by giving them a real understanding of the world and society. Everyone in a Catholic school is being moved along in the process of evangelization and outreach," Burnford said.

Acknowledging the inherent relationship between Catholic education and evangelization in the presence of faith, community and identity, Pope Francis in a June 2018 address said: "Schools and universities need to be consistent and show continuity between their foundational mission and the church's mission of evangelization."

He delivered the address to members of the Gravissimum Educationis Foundation, which he established in October 2015 at the invitation of the Congregation for Catholic Education to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Christian Education.

In that same address, Pope Francis proposed a challenge to members of the foundation, which aims to renew the church's dedication to Catholic education, saying: "To fulfill your mission, therefore, you must lay its foundations in a way consistent with our Christian identity, establish means appropriate for the quality of study and research and pursue goals in harmony with service to the common good."

Elisabeth Sullivan, executive director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, identified roles within Catholic schools that help bring Catholic and non-Catholic students together. "I think Catholic schools have a unique opportunity to provide hope in a world that is increasingly beset by hopelessness. A world without God is a world without hope," Sullivan said.

Sullivan believes that Catholic education is uniquely distinct from other education systems due to its long tradition of conveying the inherent and inseparable relationship between faith and reason. Consequently, Catholic schools "restore what the industrialized model of education has stripped from the classroom -- an understanding of the meaning and purpose of things," she told CNS.

Catholic education asks the deeper questions, regarding the nature of something and its purpose, according to Sullivan. "Secular education can't offer that, can't decide on a meaning or a purpose, so it has to stay away, and therefore, it's incomplete," she explained.

Mary Pat Donoghue, executive director of the Secretariat of Catholic Education at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, expressed a similar viewpoint regarding evangelization efforts within Catholic schools. Donoghue said because formation in a Catholic school is integral, students are not solely taught religious doctrine in a religion course.

"What we seek to do is bring forward the church's intellectual tradition and form their minds in all of the content and areas that they study. This is an excellent tool of evangelization because it exposes kids not just to Catholic practices, regarding prayer and liturgy, but also to a Catholic understanding of reality."

Donoghue is hopeful that Catholic schools will continue to fulfill their mission of bringing children and young adults into a relationship with Christ.

As populations shift, she said, many Catholic schools will be located in new areas, creating a changing landscape. However, Donoghue said that Catholic education in America has been around for centuries and "will renew itself by turning toward the church's own tradition and that can be the way forward in the future."

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Pope: Evangelization must help, not hinder, people getting closer to God

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God wants everyone to be saved, which is why those who evangelize must avoid letting their prejudices get in the way of God's plan, Pope Francis said.

"An evangelizer cannot be an obstacle to the creative work of God, who 'wills everyone to be saved,' but one who fosters an encounter of hearts with the Lord," the pope said Oct. 16 during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.

The pope also recalled the day marked the anniversary of the 1978 election of St. John Paul II.

"Let us thank the Lord for everything good that happened in the church, in the world and in people's hearts because of the words, deeds and holiness of John Paul II. Let us remember that his appeal to open your heart to Christ is always timely," he said when greeting Polish-speaking visitors.

In his main catechesis, the pope continued his series of talks on the Acts of the Apostles.

He reflected on St. Luke's account of Cornelius -- the generous and God-fearing pagan, and St. Peter, whom God calls to meet with Cornelius. It was unlawful at the time for a Jewish man to meet with a Gentile, and Peter is harshly rebuked by the community in Jerusalem for visiting and baptizing him.

But God had told Peter, who had felt compelled to follow Jewish laws and restrictions, that "What God has made clean, you are not to call profane."

Peter learns "God shows no partiality" and that "whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him," according to the Gospel account.

In his catechesis, the pope said God wanted Peter to no longer judge or see people and external acts as clean or unclean, "but to learn to go beyond that, by looking at the person and the intentions in their heart. What makes a person unclean, in fact, doesn't come from the outside, but from the inside, from their heart. Jesus said this clearly."

The pope said Peter learns to open his mind and heart to God's "creativity" so that all people could receive the blessings promised to Israel.

Pope Francis asked that everyone learn what an evangelizer must be from Peter's example and ask, "How do we act with our brothers and sisters, especially with those who are not Christians?"

"Are we an impediment to an encounter with God? Do we block their encounter with the Father or do we facilitate it?" he asked.

"Let us ask for the grace to let ourselves be astounded by God's surprises, not to hinder his creativity, but to recognize and foster the ever-new ways through which the Risen One pours out his Spirit in the world and draws hearts" to him as they recognize he is the "Lord of all," the pope said.

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Update: Vatican security chief resigns following leak of internal document

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Domenico Giani, head of the Vatican police, nearly two weeks after an internal security notice was leaked to the Italian press.

The Vatican announced Oct. 14 that the pope accepted the resignation of the 57-year-old Vatican police chief who, although "bears no personal responsibility" for the leak, "tendered his resignation to the Holy Father out of love for the church and faithfulness to Peter's successor."

The pope accepted Giani's resignation, and in a conversation with him, "expressed his appreciation to the commander for his gesture."

"Pope Francis also recalled Domenico Giani's 20 years of unquestionable faithfulness and loyalty and underlined how, by offering an outstanding witness in many parts of the world, Commander Giani was able to establish and guarantee a lasting atmosphere of ease and security around the Holy Father," the Vatican said.

The day after the announcement, the Vatican announced that the pope named deputy Vatican police chief Gianluca Gauzzi Broccoletti as Giani's replacement. Gauzzi, who has been a part of the Vatican police force since 1995, was also responsible for developing the Vatican's cyber security network.

According to Vatican News, the pope also paid a surprise visit Oct. 15 to Giani and his family at their home in Vatican City after attending the afternoon session of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon.

"Pope Francis' visit confirmed the appreciation he has already expressed toward Giani and his family," Vatican News said.

Giani's resignation comes two weeks after L'Espresso, an Italian magazine, published what it said was an internal Vatican police notice about the "cautionary suspension" of five individuals after a raid Oct. 1 on offices in the Secretariat of State and the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority.

The suspension order, which was signed by Giani, featured photos of one woman and four men, including Msgr. Mauro Carlino, head of information and documentation at the Vatican Secretariat of State, and Tomasso Di Ruzza, director of the Financial Intelligence Authority.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, had confirmed Oct. 12 that the pope ordered an investigation into the "illicit distribution of a document for internal use by the security forces of the Holy See."

The seriousness of the leak, "in the words of Pope Francis, is comparable to a mortal sin since it is detrimental to the dignity of people and to the principle of the presumption of innocence," Bruni told ANSA, the Italian news agency.

In an interview released by the Vatican shortly after the announcement, Giani said the leak caused the pope "serious pain" and that as commander, "I, too, was ashamed of what had happened and of the suffering caused to these people."

"For this reason, having always said and witnessed that I am ready to sacrifice my life to defend that of the pope, with the same spirit I decided to relinquish my duty so as not to damage the image and activity of the Holy Father in any way," he said.

Giani said that in the fallout over the leak, the pope continued to show him the paternal concern, which has "marked the special relationship that I have had with him since the beginning of his pontificate." He also said the pope took into consideration "personal difficulties" he had been facing, particularly his "desire to devote more time to my family, my wife and my children."

A former officer in the Italian intelligence service, Giani began his Vatican career in 1999 during St. John Paul II's papacy, serving as deputy police chief under his predecessor, Camillo Cibin.

In 2006, he was appointed as Inspector General of the Vatican Gendarme Corps and had been a constant presence as personal bodyguard to Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis at the Vatican and during papal trips abroad.

Reflecting on his career protecting the lives of three popes, Giani said that despite "the moment of personal uncertainty I am living through," divine providence will "show the way, which is certainly the path of the Lord," and described his 20 years of service as "an honor."

"If I close my eyes, I see endless scenes of the almost 70 international apostolic trips that I have followed, of countless pastoral visits to Rome and Italy and of so many private moments with the three pontiffs," he said.

"I am deeply grateful to the Holy Father because his testimony of the loyalty, honor and fidelity with which I have done my service helps me to face the future and the new tasks that I may take on, within the scope of my skills, with serenity after this extraordinary experience," Giani said.

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