Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Pro-life Canadians concerned by Trudeau's abortion ideology litmus test

Ottawa, Canada, Jan 18, 2018 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A litmus test on abortion and recent comments from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have been slammed by Catholic and conservative critics, and raise new and troubling questions for pro-life Canadians about the state of religious freedom in their country.

In a speech last week, Trudeau defended a policy requiring grant applicants to state their support of abortion. He said that while individuals are free privately to hold pro-life beliefs, there is a difference between freedom of expression and freedom of action.

“Defending rights and freedoms is at the core of who I am and is the core of what Canada is,” he said. “At the same time, we need to know there is a difference between freedom of expression and acting on those freedoms.”

Furthermore, Trudeau added that pro-life groups which explicitly oppose abortion are “not in line with where we are as a government and, quite frankly, where we are at as a society.”

Trudeau was defending new guidelines of application for a government grant that funds around 70,000 non-profit and for-profit summer jobs, such as camp counseling or landscaping.

Among the new requirements for employers applying for the grants is an “attestation” that the employer is “consistent with individual human rights in Canada, Charter rights and case law, and the Government of Canada’s commitment to human rights, which include women’s rights and women’s reproductive rights, and the rights of gender-diverse and transgender Canadians.”

The requirement has been criticized by Catholics and conservatives in the country as a litmus test for Liberal party ideology that would unfairly and unnecessarily exclude pro-life groups from participating in the grant program, which is not directly related to abortion or reproductive services.

Sara Francis, a Catholic wife and mother from Calgary, told CNA she was “very disappointed with our prime minister and his comments.”

“I think if you were to talk to everyday Canadians on the street, the majority would be uncomfortable with abortion at some point in the nine-month gestation. I don’t think that his comments represent the majority, I think he’s the one that’s out of touch with Canadian values,” she said.

For Francis, the policy could directly impact the Catholic summer camp to which she sends her children, by disqualifying the group from funding for their summer staff.

In a statement released last week, the Canadian bishops blasted the attestation on abortion and transgender issues as an “obvious and regrettable infringement of freedom of conscience and religion” for the groups applying for the grant.

“Faith communities consider abortion, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression as major questions with ethical, moral, social and personal bearing which determine our understanding of human dignity and thus appreciation for the meaning and significance of each and every human life,” the bishops said.

“This new policy conflicts directly with the right to freedom of religion and conscience which too are enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as in associated case law. It seriously undermines the right to religious freedom since the Government of Canada is directly limiting the right of religious traditions to hold, teach and practise their principles and values in public,” they added.

Neil MacCarthy, director of communications for the Diocese of Toronto, said everyone should be included in a pluralistic society and not discriminated against because of their views.

“We certainly believe that core values of our faith, including the sanctity of life, should not preclude us from discussion and engagement in the public square. We must do so respectfully and thoughtfully but certainly, ours is a country with citizens holding a variety of views on a number of different topics,” he told CNA.

“We need to be part of the dialogue. It is difficult to see how caring for the most vulnerable among us at every stage of life would clash with Canadian society and values,” he added.

In an opinion column for the National Post, Father Raymond J. de Souza further noted that the policy is a deliberate act of discrimination by the government, which tried and failed to block pro-life groups from the grant last year only to double down this year.

“Last year the federal Liberals denied the applications of several pro-life groups because, well, the Liberal Party bans pro-life Canadians for running for office under its banner and concluded that if you can’t be a good Liberal then obviously you should be disqualified from public programs,” de Souza wrote.

But because there was nothing in the program guidelines requiring applicants to support abortion, the discriminated groups took the government to court and won, de Souza noted.

Demanding “coerced” assent to certain positions is “the hallmark of a totalitarian government,” de Souza added.

“Demand public displays of ideological loyalty, even from those who everyone knows do not really believe it. That the totalitarian ethos, a cabinet minister who advises pastors to make false statements to qualify for programs their own parishioners pay taxes to fund,” he said.

The Toronto Right to Life Association, a pro-life group which has received funding from the grant in the past, is suing over the new policy.

The Catholic Civil Rights League noted in a statement that as the policy currently stands, no Catholic group could in good conscience apply for the grant, and called for change.

“Any Catholic individual or organization, which professes fidelity to the teachings of the Church, cannot make this affirmation, and is thereby excluded from a program which should be open to all law-abiding organizations,” the statement said.

“We call upon the government to revoke this unconstitutional and deeply offensive provision immediately,” said the League. “Canadians of all faiths must recognize what is at stake.”

The Catholic Register in Canada reported that numerous Christian groups have joined Catholic groups in voicing opposition to the measure. The Catholic bishops have advised groups applying for the grant to do so by paper application, in order to avoid automated exclusion from the program, and to explain their pro-life position in writing.

Venezuelan bishops accused of “hate crimes”

Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 18, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, called for an investigation of two bishops accused of committing “hate crimes” in homilies they gave on the Feast of the Divine Shepherdess, Jan. 14, a popular Marian feast day in the country.

On Monday, the Venezuelan president gave a speech before the Constitutional Assembly asking the Supreme Court of Justice, the Comptroller's Office and the Public Prosecutor's Office to investigate the Archbishop of Barquisimeto, Antonio López Castillo; and the Bishop of San Felipe, Víctor Hugo Basabe.

Venezuela’s El Nacional reports that the bishops “cried out for the end of hunger and corruption” in their homilies. Bishop Basabe made reference to a “corrupt plague” causing starvation in the country, and Archbishop Castillo prayed the country would be saved from corruption, according to the report.

In his speech, Maduro said that “a devil comes in a cassock to call for violent confrontations, to call for civil war…and I thank the people of the state of Lara who alerted me to this filth, because I really don't listen to [the bishops]. We don't listen to those bandits.”

Maduro’s allegations came just days after the Venezuelan bishops’ conference called for international monitors to oversee the country’s 2018 presidential elections, calling the Constitutional Assembly controlled by Maduro “unconstitutional and illegitimate.”

Archbishop Castillo told reporters Tuesday that he had received a phone call of support from Pope Francis, according to a report from El Impulso.

“We received Pope Francis' message and he supports us as well as the people of Venezuela,” he said.

Bishop Basabe responded to Maduro's accusations through a letter obtained by ACI Prensa--CNA's Spanish language sister agency. Basabe stated that his “conscience in no way reproaches him” because his “only crime seems to be serving the truth.”

“Mr. Maduro has put in my mouth words I never said. How sad it is  that a national public official would so scandalously lie in front of the whole country on National Teacher's Day. What's worse is he accuses me committing a crime while he commits one himself,” the bishop said.

“I knew that my words would upset those who deep down in their consciences know they are responsible for the tragedy that this people whom I love is going through,” Basabe added.

“Here I am in my own church with my only weapons: my faith in Christ and the certainty that my life is in his hands. [My fate] is up to those who will not be pardoned by conscience or history,” he concluded.

Bishop Mario Moronta Rodriguez, vice-president of the Venezuelan bishops' conference, also repudiated Maduro's accusations. On Jan. 16, he appeared on the television program Circuito Éxitos, arguing that the accusations made against Lopez and Castillo are accusations “against the entire episcopate and the entire Catholic Church.”

“What they did was to simply make a statement reflecting everything we have been saying for a long time and it touches on a wound or sore,” he added.

Finally, he said that “when the bishops are called ‘devils in a cassock,' [Maduro] is also inciting hatred.”

“There are a lot of people going hungry. If that's calling for hatred then the dramatic nature of that law has to be changed,” he concluded.

In a Jan 16 press release, the Venezuelan bishops' conference expressed their solidarity with Lopez and Basabe, and said that President Maduro, “totally twisted the message” given by both of them, “with the purpose of claiming the bishops were committing a crime.”

“The truth about what is happening in the country was evidenced in the homilies given that day. The gestures of the thousands of parishioners present at the Mass on Venezuela Avenue showed they agreed with what they were hearing,” the statement added.

Venezuela’s hate crime law “criminalizes any demonstrations” against the government, the bishops noted.

“We exhort all the parishioners of the Archdiocese of Barquisimeto and the Diocese of San Felipe to care for your pastors, to be alert to any move against them, which could attack their human dignity,” the statement added.

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

Knights of Columbus praise increased US aid for persecuted Iraqis

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The federal government has pledged $55 million in aid for religious and ethnic groups that have faced ISIS persecution in Iraq’s Ninewa Province, drawing praise from the Knights of Columbus, a supporter of humanitarian efforts in the region.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced last week that the government will provide $75 million to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for aid to Iraq, including the $55 million earmarked for communities of Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities. Future contributions from USAID will depend on the success of new accountability and transparency measures at the UN, according to the announcement.

The earmarked funds will help to rebuild communities in areas of Ninewa Province previously controlled by ISIS. According to USAID, the money will be used to restore basic services, like water, sewage, and electricity, as displaced religious minorities return to the region. Most of Ninewa’s religious minorities, including the majority of its Christian population, fled Mosul over the last decade. The Yazidi population had been persecuted by ISIS, and many Yazidi women were sold into sex slavery or killed.

The province, located in the northern part of Iraq, contains the city of Mosul, an ISIS stronghold until July of 2017, when it was decimated in the Battle of Mosul, which ousted ISIS and liberated the city.  Mosul has still not recovered from the battle, which lasted for more than nine months.

Last year, speaking at the In Defense of Christians summit, Vice President Mike Pence promised to provide assistance for Christian communities in the Middle East that were at risk of being wiped out.

Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus issued a statement Wednesday saying that the group is “grateful” for the increased funding, and that they look forward to continue collaboration with NGOs and government agencies to support Christians and other groups persecuted by ISIS.

“We are grateful for the actions of the American government in this regard, and look forward to continuing to work with our government and those affected by the genocide to ensure that needed relief reaches those most in need, and that these communities survive for generations to come,” the statement read.

The Knights also praised the funding increase, saying that the United States is now treating the genocide of Christians in the Middle East in a manner similar to other genocides, and will help to continue to weaken ISIS’ influence in the area.

“In addition, the U.S. government's actions bring America's foreign aid into line with our country's response to previous genocides and will also help defeat ISIS' overall strategy of eliminating minorities from the Middle East,” Anderson said.

In August 2017, the Knights of Columbus pledged more than $2 million to rebuild the Christian town of Karamdes, which was decimated by ISIS.  The group has raised more than $11 million to support Christian refugees, especially in Iraq and Syria.  In 2016, the Knights, in partnership with In Defense of Christians, led a successful effort to persuade the US government to designate ISIS persecution of Christians and other minorities a genocide.
 

 

New Los Angeles ministry aims to help families of the imprisoned

Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 17, 2018 / 04:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Families with loved ones in prison are feeling isolated, and a new initiative of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is setting out to change that.

Deacon Paulino Juarez and Deacon Louis Roche, both of the archdiocese, have headed up a new ministry that reaches out to families of the incarcerated and raises awareness in local communities of the suffering and challenges that these families face.

“I was a chaplain for 19 years, and during this time I saw all of these troubles of the inmates and their families, too, because sometimes they really don’t have any support – not just from official agencies and offices in the county, but also sometimes from the Church and their communities,” Deacon Juarez told CNA.

“They are isolated and rejected. After all of these years, we decided to do something to support these families and create a place where they feel welcomed,” Juarez continued.

The new program, which is part of the Archdiocese’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace, was launched Jan. 12 with a blessing which took place at the pastoral center of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in North Hollywood.

The parish’s associate pastor, Fr. Jeff Baker, led the blessing and opening ceremony for the Ministry of Assistance to the Families of the Incarcerated. The program reaches out to families in the counties of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Ventura.

According to Deacon Roche, the ministry takes place every Friday, where families of the incarcerated are welcome to seek any kind of aid. Usually, these families are referred to the ministry from other parishes or chaplains, but they do not have to be Catholic to participate in the program.

“We provide these families with food, clothes, resources as far as getting them identification cards and getting them medical help. Some people need help with substance abuse, so we are trying to pair these families with resources that they need,” Deacon Roche said.

“We are seeing these people face-to-face and aren’t just giving them a number to call. We are trying to take people from beginning to end and making sure we see results. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality, and getting these people what they really need,” Roche continued.

In addition, Juarez said that part of their goal is to “break the cycle.” Because some of the inmates have children, the ministry is also trying to put the kids through school, so they have better opportunities in the future.

Both deacons have found that the majority of these families suffer greatly from isolation and rejection, and are really looking for a community of support.

“The day that we did the opening, one of the mothers of a man who had just been sentenced to the death penalty shared with me her experience of going to his church with her daughters. When people realized who she was, they moved from the pews,” Juarez said.

“They really feel not welcomed, and this was the kind of experience that they had on a daily basis. We want to stop that – we want to create consciousness within the community that these people are suffering, too.”

Roche stated he believes that “It’s part of our responsibility to take the needs of the people to church. We want to make progress and to make sure these people are getting what they need,” Roche said.

People of faith, especially Catholics, have the responsibility to put their faith into action, Juarez noted. When suffering people in the church community feel like outsiders, then he said it becomes the Christian’s duty to help them.

“The Gospel – the Good News – is for everyone. This is what Jesus did – he looked for people on the outside,” Juarez said.

While the LA ministry has only been running for a short time, the deacons have seen an overwhelming response, saying there is a universal need for this particular service.

“We would like to invite more dioceses into this ministry. We just started, but we already know that in every parish there are families who are in this situation,” Juarez said.

“There really is a need for this ministry and to take sensibility to the community that these people exist, that they are suffering, that they are our brothers and sisters, and we should do something for them.”

Christ statue in Peru suffers smoke damage

Lima, Peru, Jan 17, 2018 / 04:38 pm (ACI Prensa).- Last weekend, just days before Pope Francis' visit to Peru, a fire was set that damaged part of Cristo del Pacifico, a 120 foot tall statue located in Lima, the nation's capital.

According to RPP News, five fire department units responded and put out the fire Jan. 13, which caused noticeable smoke damage to the back part the the statue.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="es" dir="ltr">Incendiaron el Cristo del Pacífico o “Cristo de lo Robado”, no sufrió daños de consideración. <a href="https://t.co/85fqMbN0nf">pic.twitter.com/85fqMbN0nf</a></p>&mdash; Mona Paredes (@monaparedes) <a href="https://twitter.com/monaparedes/status/952148963485978624?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 13, 2018</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

“So far the motive leading to the incident is unknown; but the theory has come up that this may have been done  because of Pope Francis's upcoming visit,” RPP stated.

Cristo del Pacifico is a 70 feet tall sculpture set on a 50 foot base and can be seen from several areas of the capital. It was dedicated June 29, 2011.

 

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

Peace and progress start with education, Francis says at Chilean university

Santiago, Chile, Jan 17, 2018 / 03:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking to Chilean university students and academics Wednesday, Pope Francis said Catholic educational institutions play a prophetic role in helping future generations tackle problems with an integrated, inclusive approach.

“In our day, the mission entrusted to you is prophetic,” the Pope said Jan. 17 to a crowd of  some 2,400 students and academics at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in Santiago. “You are challenged to generate processes that enlighten contemporary culture by proposing a renewed humanism that eschews every form of reductionism.”

This prophetic role on the part of Catholic universities is a key motive in seeking out “ever new spaces for dialogue rather than confrontation,” he said.

These spaces, he added, must be occasions “of encounter rather than division, paths of friendly disagreement that allow for respectful differences between persons joined in a sincere effort to advance as a community towards a renewed national coexistence.”

The meeting marks the last event for the day, and is part of his Jan. 15-18 visit to Chile, after which he will visit Peru Jan. 18-21.

In his speech, the Pope said Chilean Saint Alberto Hurtado, SJ, who studied at the university, is a prime example of how “intelligence, academic excellence and professionalism, when joined to faith, justice and charity, far from weakening, attain a prophetic power capable of opening horizons and pointing the way, especially for those on the margins of society.”

He then noted how the rector of the university, Dr Ignacio Sánchez, had said there are “important challenges” in Chile which deal with “peaceful coexistence as a nation and the ability to progress as a community.”

On the topic of peaceful coexistence as a nation, Pope Francis said even speaking of challenges is a sign that certain situations “need to be rethought.”

“The accelerated pace and a sense of disorientation before new processes and changes in our societies call for a serene but urgent reflection that is neither naïve nor utopian, much less arbitrary,” he said.

Peace as a nation is possible to the extent that educational processes are transformative, inclusive, and favor coexistence, the Pope maintained.

This doesn't mean simply attaching values to educational work, but rather implies means “establishing a dynamic of coexistence internal to the very system of education itself. It is not so much a question of content but of teaching how to think and reason in an integrated way.”

For this “mental formation” to happen, Francis said an “integrating literacy” is needed which can help students process the rapid changes happening in society.

This literacy, he said, must integrate know how to integrate and harmonize the various “languages” which “constitute us as persons”: the “intellect (the head), affections (the heart) and activity (the hands).”

Following this approach will allow students to grow not only on a personal level, but also at the level of society, he said, which is important since “we urgently need to create spaces where fragmentation is not the guiding principle, even for thinking. To do this, it is necessary to teach how to reflect on what we are feeling and doing; to feel what we are thinking and doing; to do what we are thinking and feeling. An interplay of capacities at the service of the person and society.”

The Pope noted the importance of the unity of knowledge against the fragmentation of fields, saying, “The 'divorce' of fields of learning from languages, and illiteracy with regard to integrating the distinct dimensions of life, bring only fragmentation and social breakdown.”

He noted that in our “liquid” society, borrowing a phrase from the late Polish sociologist and philosopher Zygmunt Bauman, “those points of reference that people use to build themselves individually and socially are disappearing.”

“It seems that the new meeting place of today is the 'cloud', which is characterized by instability since everything evaporates and thus loses consistency,” he said.

The Pope said that “This lack of consistency may be one of the reasons for the loss of a consciousness of the importance of public life, which requires a minimum ability to transcend private interests (living longer and better) in order to build upon foundations that reveal that crucial dimension of our life which is 'us'.”

“Without that consciousness, but especially without that feeling and consequently without that experience, it is very difficult to build the nation. As a result, the only thing that appears to be important and valid is what pertains to the individual, and all else becomes irrelevant. A culture of this sort has lost its memory, lost the bonds that support it and make its life possible,” he said.

“Without the 'us' of a people, of a family and of a nation, but also the 'us' of the future, of our children and of tomorrow, without the 'us' of a city that transcends 'me' and is richer than individual interests, life will be not only increasingly fragmented, but also more conflictual and violent.”

“The university, in this context, is challenged to generate within its own precincts new processes that can overcome every fragmentation of knowledge and stimulate a true universitas.”

On progressing as a community, the Pope pointed to the university's chaplaincy program, which he said is a sign of “a young, lively Church that 'goes forth'.”

This same mentality has to be present in universities, he said, noting that classic forms of research are now “experiencing certain limits,” which means modern-day culture requires new forms that are more inclusive “of all those who make up social and hence educational realities.”

A great challenge for the university's community, then, “is to not isolate itself from modes of knowledge, or, for that matter, to develop a body of knowledge with minimal concern about those for whom it is intended.”

Rather, “it is vital that the acquisition of knowledge lead to an interplay between the university classroom and the wisdom of the peoples who make up this richly blessed land,” Francis said, adding that education has to extend beyond the classroom and to “be continually challenged to participation.”

Francis then pointed to the need for an education that emphasizes both quality and integration, saying the service that universities offer must always aim for excellence when it comes to national coexistence.

“In this way, we could say that the university becomes a laboratory for the future of the country, insofar as it succeeds in embodying the life and progress of the people, and can overcome every antagonistic and elitist approach to learning.”

The Pope warned against a kind of knowledge that seeks to subject nature to its own “designs and desires,” citing a warning against this from the 20th century kabbalist Gershom Scholem. He said that “to reduce creation to certain interpretative models that deprive it of the very Mystery that has moved whole generations to seek what is just, good, beautiful and true” will “will always be a subtle temptation in every academic setting.”

“Whenever a 'professor', by virtue of his wisdom, becomes a 'teacher', he is then capable of awakening wonderment in our students,” Pope Francis said. “Wonderment at the world and at an entire universe waiting to be discovered!”

The mission entrusted to the university, then, is prophetic, he said, and closed his speech asking the Holy Spirit to guide the steps of everyone present, so that the university is able continue “to bear fruit for the good of the Chilean people and for the glory of God.”

Why do some young people leave the Church? A new study investigates

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2018 / 03:29 pm (CNA).- A national two-year study released this week offers a look at why young people are leaving the Church as early as age 13.

The study was released today by St. Mary’s Press and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University (CARA).

Of those who left the Catholic Church, the median age for doing so was 13 years old, the study found. Seventy-four percent of the 214 former Catholics interviewed said that they decided to leave the Church between the ages of 10 and 20.

“We heard young people describe the beginnings of their questioning and doubts as early as fifth grade, some even younger,” said John Vitek, one of the principal authors of the study.
 
Vitek, who is the president and CEO of St. Mary’s Press, told CNA that this finding may surprise many adults “because many of the young people also told us that they never talked about their doubts and questions with their parents or their Church leaders.”

Young ‘Nones’

Many of the young former Catholics interviewed now fall into the category of “Nones” -  or people who have no religious affiliation. Thirty-five percent of the participants told the researchers that they no longer have a religious affiliation, whereas only 14 percent would label themselves as atheist or agnostic.

These results align with previous Pew Research Center findings that the “Nones” are a growing category in the U.S. The CARA researchers cite a 2015 Pew study that the number of religiously unaffiliated adults in the U.S. increased by 19 million between 2007 and 2014.

In addition, 21 percent of young Catholics who left the Church responded that they are now “born again” or evangelical Christian.

Although the “Nones” represented the largest category of former Catholics, Vitek said that “the vast majority of young people who disaffiliated from the Catholic Church still believe in God and most still desire some type of religious community with which to affiliate.”

Reasons for leaving

The study, Going, Going, Gone! The Dynamics of Disaffiliation in Young Catholics, is based on a national survey and interviews with 214 former Catholics between the ages of 15 and 25.

“This study was all about young people telling their stories of why they left the Church in their own words, uncensored and unfiltered,” explained Vitek in a press release on the study.

CARA researchers identified patterns among the young people’s personal stories and described three archetypes for their Catholic disaffiliation: the injured, the drifter, and the dissenter.

The “injured” are young people who experienced a hardship or tragedy in which God seemed to be absent. Despite their prayers, their parents divorced or ill family members died, for example.

One young man told the researchers that he remembers family and loved ones praying  for his grandfather with lung cancer, “everyone is praying for him, probably over 150 people. Personally praying for him and still there was nothing done to help him and that was my first skepticism.”

The “drifter” is one who typically had trouble connecting their identity as a baptized Catholic to their concrete life experiences in the real world. They struggled to articulate why being Catholic matters, so they just drifted away from the Church.

The researchers noted the influence that parents can have on this drifting away from the Church and that a family unit can drift together when parents feel inadequate to explain why the faith matters.

Reachers encountered a more active rejection of the faith in those in the “dissenter” category. Some of these young people cited disagreement with Church teaching on birth control, same-sex marriage, and sexuality as the precipitating force for their departure.

Notably, only two percent of respondents cited the clergy sex abuse scandal as a reason they left the Church.

Vitek explained to CNA that there can be intersections between these three common categories, saying, “a young person may first have a disruptive experience that causes them to feel hurt or broken in some way, that brokenness might lead the young person to begin to question and doubt their faith, and their unresolved doubt may lead them to drift away.”

A final decision?

Before they left their faith, the young former Catholics were involved in the Church to varying extents. Twenty-eight percent told CARA that they rarely or never attended Mass at the time when they considered themselves Catholic. Only 17 percent surveyed said that they attended Mass weekly when they were Catholic. Three-fourths of the respondents never attended a Catholic school.

Eighty-seven percent of these former Catholics said that their decision to leave the Church is final.

Vitek noted that “this is a response given at a particular point in their life and they can’t predict the future. So there is always hope for the believing community.”

Studies do show, however, that “(m)ore and more, once a person chooses to disaffiliate from the Church they are not re-affiliating later in life,” he added.

As for what the Church can do to prevent young people from rejecting their faith, Vitek recommends, “We need to create a place where young people can freely wrestle with their questions of faith, including their doubt…”

“We found that young people want to talk about their faith but they aren’t sure if they can without judgment,” he said.

Join the 9 Days for Life campaign of prayer and action

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2018 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The US Conference of Catholic Bishops have beefed up their social media presence for the 9 Days for Life novena, calling Catholics not only to prayer but to action within communities, both virtual and local.

The novena takes place Jan. 18-26, and includes the Jan. 22 National Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children (the anniversary of Roe v. Wade) and the 44th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19.

“As Catholics we are proud to have our voices heard in support for the protection of life. We welcome every human life,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston.

“Please join me and my brother bishops in prayer and action during these nine days for life. Together we can help to build a culture of life in which every human life is cherished,” said the cardinal in a recent video on the People for Life Facebook page.

Cardinal O’Malley then encouraged individuals to join the bishops in a “digital pilgrimage” by downloading the 9 Days for Life smartphone application, which allows its users easily to share on social media the prayers, sacrifices, and other actions conducted in support of life.  

The novena also includes a daily reflection, intercession, and challenge to follow throughout the nine days. The application will remind the participant of that day’s prayer schedule, opportunities for sacrifice, and challenges to take the pro-life message even further.

Anne McGuire, the USCCB’s Assistant Director for Education and Outreach for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, encouraged Christians to take action and to engage in this year’s virtual pilgrimage.  

“Wherever we are, wherever the Lord places us, we are called to be witnesses to [life]. So many of us are on social media … it can be an incredible opportunity to share that Gospel of life,” McGuire told CNA Jan. 16.

The novena outlines different actions people may take to support life, whether it is through parish or private prayer gatherings, fasting from coffee, or participating in a local march for life. McGuire expressed hope that this year people will share this experience by sharing a selfie or a short video on their social media accounts using #9daysforlife.

McGuire said the 9 Days for Life app also includes pro-life images that easily transfer to the social media platform of the person’s choice or pro-life frames which may be added to an individual’s Facebook profile.

She clarified that the primary goal of 9 Days for Life is an end to abortion, but other pro-life intentions are also encouraged. She said this year’s novena will intercede for “Share the Journey,” an international campaign in support of victims of human trafficking.

However a person decides to support life this year, McGuire said it is responsibility of Christians to aid a culture conducive to human life.

“It’s incumbent upon us to work to protect human life and to cherish it, both in the sense of defending it from the attacks as well as, again, following John Paul II’s call to build a culture of life and a civilization of love,” she said.

Faith is an adventure, Pope Francis tells Chilean youth

Santiago, Chile, Jan 17, 2018 / 02:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a meeting with youth during his second full day in Chile, Pope Francis said that faith is a grand adventure, one that gives young people the inspiration to overcome difficulties and dream big.

“I know that the hearts of young Chileans dream, and that they dream big dreams, for these lands have given rise to experiences that spread and multiplied across the different countries of our continent,” he said.

“Who inspired those dreams? It was young people like yourselves, who were inspired to experience the adventure of faith,” the Pope said Jan. 17 at the Basilica of Our Lady of Carmel in Maipú, a suburb of Santiago, Chile.

“For faith excites in young people feelings of adventure, an adventure that beckons them to traverse unbelievable landscapes, rough and tough terrain,” he said, but added that young people like adventures and challenges.

Pope Francis spoke to youth during an encounter at the National Shrine of Maipú, which includes a basilica dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Patroness and Queen of Chile. The meeting took place as part of the Pope’s Jan. 15-22 apostolic visit to Chile and Peru.

Among those present was a group who took part in a 10-day missionary project earlier this month, in anticipation of Francis’ visit. The project included more than 2,500 college students, who spread out to 90 rural communities across Chile to share their faith, lead youth activities, and build chapels.

During the encounter, students presented the Pope with a flag signed by those who took part in the mission projects, as well as a scale model of a rural chapel, representing the evangelization of the peripheries of Chile.

Pope Francis said that the National Shrine where the gathering with youth took place “is a home to both heaven and earth. A home for Chile, a home for you, dear young people, where Our Lady of Carmel waits for you and welcomes you with an open heart.”

Just like she has accompanied the nation and its people over these last 200 years, she wants to accompany you and the dreams that God has placed in your hearts, he said. “Dreams of freedom, dreams of joy, dreams of a better future.”

Francis told a story about a young man who once told him about how unhappy it made him when his cell phone battery died, or when he couldn't connect to the internet. The young man said it was because when this happens it makes him feel “shut off from the world, stuck.”

The same thing can happen in our faith: “After a while on the journey or after an initial spurt, there are moments when, without even realizing it, our ‘bandwidth’ begins to fade and we lose our connection, our power,” Pope Francis said.

“Then we become unhappy and we lose our faith, we feel depressed and listless, and we start to view everything in a bad light.”

Jesus is our internet “connection,” he continued. Without a good relationship with Jesus, we can become frustrated and annoyed, even starting to believe that nothing really matters or that nothing we do makes a difference.

“It worries me that, once they have lost their ‘connection,’ many people think they have nothing to offer; they feel lost. Never think that you have nothing to offer or that nobody cares about you. Never!” Francis emphasized.

Referencing the Chilean St. Alberto Hurtado, he said that the saint can be a good guide for young people on how to set their hearts ablaze “with the fire that keeps joy alive” – which is Jesus.

St. Alberto’s “password” for achieving happiness was to ask the question: “What would Christ do in my place?” Francis said, asking youth to type that phrase into their phones to remember to ask it on a regular basis.

He advised them to ask themselves “at school, at university, when outdoors, when at home, among friends, at work, when taunted: ‘What would Christ do in my place?’ When you go dancing, when you are playing or watching sports: ‘What would Christ do in my place?’”

The only way to commit something to heart, like a password, is by using it over and over, day after day, the Pope said. Therefore, “wherever you are, with whomever you are with, and whenever you get together,” ask yourself: “What would Jesus do?”

“The time will come when you know it by heart, and the day will come when, without realizing it, your heart will beat like Jesus’ heart.”

“Dear friends, be courageous, go out straightaway to meet your friends, people you don’t know, or those having troubles,” he encouraged.

“Go out with the only promise we have: that wherever you are…you will always be ‘connected’; there will always be a ‘power source.’ We will never be alone. We will always enjoy the company of Jesus, his Mother and a community.”

 

Trump to address March for Life via livestream

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2018 / 01:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- U.S. President Donald Trump will address participants in the 45th national March for Life via live video, the White House confirmed Wednesday.

The march, held annually on or near the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, recognizes the lives lost since abortion became legal nationwide and celebrates the dignity of every human life.

The march typically draws crowds of several hundred thousand from across the country. It includes a rally with speakers and live music. This year, the theme of the march is “Love Saves Lives.”

Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush addressed the March for Life while in office via telephone or remote loudspeaker. Trump will be the first sitting president to address the march via live video.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., and Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Va., announced earlier this month that Catholic marchers may gain a plenary indulgence by their participation, if they fulfill the usual conditions, which include Mass, confession, and prayers for the Pope’s intentions.