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Be brave enough to dialogue, pope tells Thai religious leaders

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

BANGKOK (CNS) -- Meeting Thai religious leaders and then celebrating Mass with Catholic young adults, Pope Francis encouraged them to strengthen a culture that treasures the past, holds fast to faith, is unafraid of differences and always seeks a way to promote dialogue and cooperation.

No single nation or religious or ethnic group can guarantee itself a future "in isolation from or immune to others," the pope told Thai Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Sikh and Muslim leaders at Chulalongkorn University Nov. 22.

The global migration phenomenon, climate change, technological advances, conflict and war all "require us to be bold in devising new ways of shaping the history of our time without denigrating or insulting anyone," Pope Francis insisted at his meeting with the religious leaders.

An "insular" way of thinking and acting will not work, he said. "Now is the time to be bold and envision the logic of encounter and mutual dialogue as the path, common cooperation as the code of conduct, and reciprocal knowledge as a method and standard."

At the university named for King Chulalongkorn of Siam, who reigned from 1868 to 1910 and abolished slavery, Pope Francis asked all religions in Thailand to work together to end "the many present-day forms of slavery, especially the scourge of human trafficking," which in Thailand includes trafficking both for prostitution and cheap domestic labor.

With dialogue and cooperation, the pope said, "we can provide a new paradigm for resolving conflicts and help foster greater understanding and the protection of creation."

By promoting justice and peace, he said, the religions of Thailand will give their younger members "the tools they need to be in the forefront of efforts to create sustainable and inclusive lifestyles" based on respect for human dignity and concern for the environment.

Pope Francis ended his day celebrating Mass with representatives of the country's young adult Catholics in Bangkok's Cathedral of the Assumption. He read the Mass prayers in English but preached in Spanish; a Thai priest provided a successive translation.

For the Mass on the feast of St. Cecilia, a martyr, the pope and concelebrants wore bright red silk vestments sewn for the occasion by Thai Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and volunteer seamstresses.

In his homily, Pope Francis urged the young people to keep their faith alive and strong, being on guard so that disappointments and suffering do not cause their faith to weaken or grow cold.

"You need to be deeply rooted in the faith of your ancestors -- your parents, grandparents and teachers," he said. It's not about being stuck in the past, but about having roots that reach deep and provide stability.

"Without this firm sense of rootedness, we can be swayed by the 'voices' of this world that compete for our attention," the pope told them. "Many are attractive and nicely packaged; at first they seem appealing and exciting, but in the long run they will leave you only empty, weary, alone and disenchanted and slowly extinguish that spark of life that the Lord once ignited in the heart of each of us."


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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Federal judge blocks scheduled executions of federal death-row inmates

IMAGE: CNS photo/Erin Scott, Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A federal judge Nov. 20 temporarily blocked the executions of four federal death-row inmates scheduled for December and January, saying the lethal injections they were to receive goes against the Federal Death Penalty Act.

When U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced in July that the government was reinstating the federal death penalty after a 16-year hiatus, he said the executions would use a single drug instead of a three-drug protocol used in recent federal executions and used by several states. Several of the inmates have challenged the use of the single lethal injection.

In her ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan of the District of Columbia said that since the inmates were likely to win their case, their executions should be blocked until their legal challenge is resolved. The 1994 Federal Death Penalty Act says federal executions should be carried out "in the manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence is imposed."

Shawn Nolan, an attorney for the inmates facing execution, praised the judge's decision, saying it "prevents the government from evading accountability and making an end-run around the courts by attempting to execute prisoners under a protocol that has never been authorized by Congress."

He said in a Nov. 21 statement that the preliminary injunction makes clear "that no execution should go forward while there are still so many unanswered questions about the government's newly announced execution method."

A fifth federal execution scheduled for December was already blocked in October by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

In her ruling, Chutkan said "requiring the federal government to follow more than just the state's method of execution is consistent with other sections of the statute and with historical practices. For all these reasons, this court finds that the FDPA (Federal Death Penalty Act) does not authorize the creation of a single implementation procedure for federal executions."

She added that there is no statue that gives the Bureau of Prisons or the Department of Justice the "authority to establish a single implementation procedure for all federal executions."

The judge disputed the Justice Department's claim that reinstating the federal death penalty should not be delayed, pointing out that nothing had been done about the federal death penalty protocol for years after shortages developed of at least one drug used in the previous protocol.

"While the government does have a legitimate interest in the finality of criminal proceedings, the eight years that it waited to establish a new protocol undermines its arguments regarding the urgency and weight of that interest," she wrote.

When Barr announced the end to the moratorium on executing federal inmates this summer, many Catholic leaders spoke out against it, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; the Catholic Mobilizing Network, a group that works for an end to the death penalty; the Mercy sisters; and Sister Helen Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille, who is a longtime opponent of capital punishment.

Indiana bishops added their objection to the federal government's decision, calling it "regrettable, unnecessary and morally unjustified."

The state's bishops spoke out because federal executions are primarily conducted in Indiana since most of the federal death-row inmates are imprisoned at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim


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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Church becomes improvised morgue as Bolivian violence continues

IMAGE: CNS photo/Marcelo Perez del Carp

By Manuel Rueda

A church located on the outskirts of Bolivia's capital city became an improvised morgue Nov. 20, following another deadly day of protests in the South American country.

Father Gechi Revelin of St. Francis Parish in El Alto said protesters started to bring corpses into his small church late Nov. 19 following intense clashes between Bolivia's military and supporters of former President Evo Morales at a nearby gasoline depot.

Protesters said they brought the corpses to the brick and mortar church in an effort to stop government officials and the military from getting ahold of the bodies and "hiding the truth" about what happened to those killed.

By early Nov. 20, seven bodies had been brought to the church by protesters and were laid down on its pews, where they were covered with flags and blankets. The demonstrators then had Bolivian forensic scientists conduct autopsies on site.

"We don't trust the government," said Sandro Tenorio, an indigenous resident of El Alto whose 23-year-old brother was killed in the protest. Tenorio said his brother, Juan Jose, was shot dead as he tried to rescue people who were injured during the clashes.

"We gathered the bodies and brought them here, to stop soldiers from dragging them into their base," Tenorio said. "We want a transparent investigation."

Wilmer Barran, a doctor who has been assisting protesters, said he reviewed the corpses and found some with bullet injuries in their skulls and others pierced by bullets in the abdomen.

"The military is using live ammunition," Barran said after seeing the bodies, adding that another 20 people were seriously injured.

Eight people were killed Nov. 19 as Bolivia's military and supporters of Morales clashed outside a gasoline depot, according to the nation's human right ombudsman.

The protesters were keeping gasoline trucks from distributing fuel to El Alto and the nearby capital city of La Paz as part of a campaign to starve both cities of fuel and force the resignation of Interim President Jeanine Anez. But the military managed to break up the road block and send fuel trucks to La Paz.

Bolivia's defense minister said soldiers did not fire "a single bullet" against protesters, He said the country was facing threats from "terrorist groups" that tried to use dynamite to break into the gasoline plant.

Political turmoil broke out in Bolivia Oct. 20 after Morales was elected to a fourth consecutive term, in an election his opponents claim was rigged. Morales resigned Nov. 10 following weeks of riots and protests as well as a police mutiny; he was replaced by Anez, a conservative opposition senator. After being named Bolivia's interim leader, Anez walked into the presidential palace holding a copy of the Bible and said God had finally "returned" to the building.

Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, said he was deposed in a "right-wing coup," and his supporters have held large protests to have him reinstated. The Bolivian bishops' conference has facilitated preliminary talks between both sides and has said a new election in which all parties can participate is the best way to settle differences.

On Nov. 20, Bolivia's Senate passed a draft law for holding new elections, with the support of Morales' party, which holds a two-thirds majority. The bill now needs to be approved by the House of Representatives. Anez also presented an election law that will be debated in congress.

Thirty-two people have died in postelection violence in Bolivia, according to the national human rights agency. Morales supporters have recently constructed dozens of road blocks that have made fuel and food scarce in some cities, doubling the price of items like chicken, eggs and vegetables.

Father Revelin said the situation in his parish, near the gas depot, is "very tense," with streets that remain empty most of the day and have been blocked by local residents with burning tires and barbed wire.

He called on both sides to tone down their discourse in order to facilitate talks. He also had tough words for Bolivia's interim government.

"They took the Bible into the presidential palace, but they also need to defend Christian principles ... like not killing people," he said.

"It's not enough to place a Bible there, you have to practice what it says."


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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Mission is seeking family members you don't know yet, pope tells Thais

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

BANGKOK (CNS) -- Missionaries are not mercenaries, but beggars who recognize that some brothers and sisters are missing from the community and long to hear the good news of salvation, Pope Francis told the Catholics of Thailand.

Celebrating Mass Nov. 21, the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Bangkok's National Stadium, Pope Francis looked at the meaning of what he calls "missionary discipleship."

Pope Francis' visit was part of the celebrations of the 350th anniversary of the establishment of the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam Mission, the first Catholic jurisdiction in what was to become Thailand.

In his homily, the pope said the early missionaries realized "they were part of a family much larger than any based on blood lines, cultures, regions or ethnic groups," and, empowered by the Holy Spirit, "they set out in search of family members they did not yet know."

The missionaries didn't see the Thai people as pagans or nonbelievers, but as brothers and sisters, the pope said. And they did not just want to share the Gospel with the Thai people, but wanted "to receive what they needed to grow in their own faith and understanding of the Scriptures."

"A missionary disciple is not a mercenary of the faith or a producer of proselytes, but rather a humble mendicant who feels the absence of brothers, sisters and mothers with whom to share the irrevocable gift of reconciliation that Jesus grants to all," the pope said.

Pope Francis said he came to Thailand for the anniversary not to encourage some kind of nostalgia for the past, but to help spark "a fire of hope" to help Catholics today reach out to others with the same "determination, strength and confidence" the early missionaries had.

The anniversary, he said, should be "a festive and grateful commemoration that helps us to go forth joyfully to share the new life born of the Gospel with all the members of our family whom we do not yet know."

Those family members, the pope said, include the "children and women who are victims of prostitution and human trafficking, humiliated in their essential human dignity," and deserving of God's love and promise of salvation.

They also include "young people enslaved by drug addiction" and "migrants, deprived of their homes and families, and so many others, who like them can feel orphaned, abandoned," but deserve a family and a helping hand, Pope Francis said.

"All of them are part of our family," the pope said. "They are our mothers, our brothers and sisters. Let us not deprive our communities of seeing their faces, their wounds, their smiles and their lives. Let us not prevent them from experiencing the merciful balm of God's love that heals their wounds and pains."

"A missionary disciple knows that evangelization is not about gaining more members or about appearing powerful," the pope said. "Rather, it is about opening doors in order to experience and share the merciful and healing embrace of God the Father, which makes of us one family."

Pauline Sister Maria Parichat Jullamonthon, a member of the communications team for the papal visit, said that for her, the first thing isn't to bring her Buddhist neighbors into the Catholic Church, "but to share with them the values that will make peace and harmony."

"To be a missionary is to go out and love," she said.

Deacon Paul Loonubon, 29, a seminarian for the Diocese of Udon Thani, said his country is fortunate to have the pope visiting. "The pope gives the world peace, and he gives peace to my heart."

Earlier in the day, the pope visited St. Louis Hospital, which Catholics have been operating since 1898.

Before touring the hospital and visiting dozens of patients, Pope Francis spoke to about 700 doctors, nurses and other staff members in the hospital auditorium.

Where Catholics are tiny minority, and even where they aren't, the pope said, "it is precisely in the exercise of charity that we Christians are called not only to demonstrate that we are missionary disciples, but also to take stock of our own fidelity, and that of our institutions, to the demands of that discipleship."

Catholic doctors, nurses, hospital staff and volunteers have a unique opportunity to see and honor "the sacred grandeur" of the human person and to recognize God present in each one, he said. They welcome and embrace "human life as it arrives at the hospital's emergency room, needing to be treated with the merciful care born of love and respect."

In treating patients, he said, the doctors and nurses carry out "a powerful anointing capable of restoring human dignity in every situation, a gaze that grants dignity and provides support."

Pope Francis called the hospital's work "a living testimony of the care and concern that all of us are called to show to everyone, especially the elderly, the young and those most vulnerable."


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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Response to migration is sign of character, pope says in Thailand

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

BANGKOK (CNS) -- Calling migration "one of the principal moral issues" facing humanity today, Pope Francis thanked the government and people of Thailand for the way they've welcomed migrants and refugees, but he urged greater efforts to protect migrants and poor Thais from human trafficking.

Migration movements around the globe "are one of the defining signs of our time," the pope said Nov. 21 during a meeting with government officials, civic leaders and members of the diplomatic corps in Bangkok's Government House.

"The crisis of migration cannot be ignored," the pope said. "Thailand itself, known for the welcome it has given to migrants and refugees, has experienced this crisis as a result of the tragic flight of refugees from nearby countries."

According to the 2019 report of the U.N. working group on migration in Thailand, of the 64 million people living in Thailand, 4.9 million are non-Thais, an increase of 1.2 million people in five years. The largest groups come from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Pope Francis urged the international community to "act with responsibility and foresight" to help people live dignified lives in their own homelands and to "promote safe, orderly and regulated migration" for those who see emigrating as the only option for themselves and their families.

"May every nation devise effective means for protecting the dignity and rights of migrants and refugees, who face dangers, uncertainty and exploitation in their quest for freedom and a decent life for their families," he said.

"It is not just about migrants; it is also about the face we want to give to our societies," Pope Francis insisted.

Human trafficking, especially of women and children for prostitution and for domestic service, is a major problem in Thailand, according to the U.N. Action for Cooperation Against Trafficking in Persons.

"Thailand is recognized as a key destination for human trafficking in the Mekong region, in addition to being a source and transit country for forced labor and sex trafficking," the U.N. said. The problem involves poor Thais as well as migrants.

Addressing Thai leaders, including Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, Pope Francis drew special attention to women and children "who are wounded, violated and exposed to every form of exploitation, enslavement, violence and abuse."

Pope Francis also looked briefly at the political situation in Thailand, congratulating the country for holding a general election in March for the first time since the military coup in 2014 that installed Gen. Chan-ocha as prime minister. After no party or coalition of parties was able to form a government, the parliament voted for the general to continue in office.

But, mostly, the pope focused on Thailand as a country of ethnic, cultural and religious diversity, although about 90 percent of the population is Buddhist.

"Our age is marked by a globalization that is all too often viewed in narrowly economic terms, tending to erase the distinguishing features that shape the beauty and soul of our peoples," he said. "Yet the experience of a unity that respects and makes room for diversity serves as an inspiration and incentive for all those concerned about the kind of world we wish to leave to our children."

Accompanied by his second-cousin, Salesian Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, a missionary in Thailand who acted as his translator, Pope Francis went from Government House to the Wat Ratchabophit temple, where he met the supreme patriarch of Thailand's Buddhist community, Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong.

The pope, Sister Sivori, the cardinals traveling with the pope and his entire entourage took off their shoes to enter the temple which was built in 1869.

In a room filled with scent from the large bouquets of fresh roses and with a large gold statue of Buddha in the background, Pope Francis sat close to the elderly patriarch as they spoke of the need for mutual respect and cooperation in promoting tolerance and peace.

"The culture of encounter is possible, not only within our communities but also in our world, so prone to creating and spreading conflict and exclusion," the pope told the patriarch. "When we have the opportunity to appreciate and esteem one another in spite of our differences, we offer a word of hope to the world, which can encourage and support those who increasingly suffer the harmful effects of conflict."

Religions worthy of the name, the pope said, must be "beacons of hope" and promoters of brotherhood.

Pope Francis thanked Thailand's people for ensuring that the country's Catholic minority -- less than 1% of the population -- enjoy religious freedom.

"Thanks to scholarly exchanges, which lead to greater mutual understanding, as well as to the exercise of contemplation, mercy and discernment -- common to both our traditions -- we can grow and live together as good 'neighbors,'" the pope said.

And, as he has done with leaders of other Christian communities and other religions, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics and Buddhists to work together on common projects to help the poor and to protect the environment, "our much-abused common home."

In his speech to the pope, the 92-year-old patriarch recalled the meeting between St. John Paul II and the Thai patriarch in Bangkok in 1984.

"The meeting on that day remains impressed upon my memory as I was also in attendance," he said. "The two leaders conversed and expressed well wishes toward one another on the basis of the genuine compassion both possessed as honorable saints of the two religions with the shared ideology of spreading sincere and endless goodwill to all lives."

At the end of the meeting, the Vatican press office said, the pope and patriarch gave each other their blessings.


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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Students collect soil from lynching site in act to achieve racial justice

IMAGE: CNS photo/Michael Hoyt, Catholic Standard

By Mark Zimmermann

LEONARDTOWN, Md. (CNS) -- In the dark of night June 17, 1887, a mob lynched Benjamin Hance, hanging the 22-year-old African American man from the branch of a witch-hazel tree near the road to Newtown Neck in Leonardtown.

Hance, a Catholic who worked on an oyster boat, had been accused of making an "improper proposal" to a white woman and attempting to attack her.

Three weeks after he had been jailed, but before he faced trial, the mob stormed the jail house, held the jailer at gunpoint and kidnapped Hance, leading him away on horseback. The coroner's report later noted that a rope with a hangman's knot had been placed around Hance's neck.

About 140 people gathered at the site in southern Maryland Nov. 1 in a solemn ceremony to remember Hance and to commit themselves to working for racial justice.

"It's important to acknowledge this history and that it happened. It's important to learn from it so we don't repeat the same mistakes from the past," said Juliana Oladipo, one of about 50 students from St. Mary's Ryken High School in Leonardtown who attended the ceremony at Port of Leonardtown Winery Park.

Jesse Harris Jr., a junior at Ryken and member of the school's Black Student Union, echoed Oladipo. He said acknowledging such a tragic event also involved recognizing the need for people to "walk forward in the future" together.

Students took turns reading a summary of the events surrounding Hance's death. They also read "Strange Fruit," a poem by Abel Meeropol about the horror of lynching as dancers from the school performed a dance they choreographed after researching the issue.

Noting the importance of the students' participation, Catherine Bowes, Ryken's principal, said: "Pope Francis said to kids, 'You are the now of God.' This is one way we can be the 'now of God.' ... In our everyday lives, we stand up for justice and peace."

Karen Stone, manager of the St. Mary's County Museum Division, welcomed the participants, noting that the ceremony was being held on Maryland Emancipation Day, the day in 1864 when the state adopted its new constitution that freed all people in bondage.

"Mr. Hance was accused of a crime but never received a fair investigation or trial," she said. "Showing complete disregard for the legal system, the mob ended Mr. Hance's life and was never held accountable for doing so."

Also reading the narration during the ceremony was Janice Walthour of the St. Mary's County chapter of the NAACP. She noted the jailer and his wife identified members of the mob to a jury that rendered no verdict and declined to ask the state to charge anyone for the lynching.

"Benjamin Hance was one of at least 28 African American victims of racial terror lynching killed in Maryland between 1877 and 1950 and is the only known documented victim in St. Mary's County," she said.

The Equal Justice Initiative has documented more than 4,400 lynchings of black people in the U.S. during that time frame. The story is documented in the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened in 2018 in Montgomery, Alabama. The memorial includes 800 steel monuments, one for each U.S. county where a lynching occurred. Each monument is inscribed with victims' names.

During the ceremony in southern Maryland, two jars labeled with Hance's name were filled with handfuls of soil from the site. One jar was sent to the national memorial and the other jar stayed in the county as part of a traveling exhibit.

Father David Beaubien, pastor of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parish in Leonardtown, joined the ceremony, reciting a passage from St. Luke's Gospel about Jesus' suffering and death on the cross.

He offered a prayer, saying participants were consecrating the ground where a grievous wrong was committed. "In return, may peace and reconciliation abound as we look beyond the veil of race and ethnic background and see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ," he prayed.

Beforehand, Father Beaubien noted that Hance was buried in an unmarked grave in the old St. Aloysius Parish cemetery a mile and a half from the church.

In an address during the event, Kyrone Davis, an adjunct professor of business at George Mason University, described lynching as an act of terrorism. He linked such acts of injustice against African Americans to slavery that was introduced to the colony of Virginia in 1619.

"To date, African Americans have been terrorized in this country in one form or another for 400 years," he said.

Elliot Spillers, a fellow at the Equal Justice Initiative, said the soil collected from the spot of Hance's lynching also harkened to the soil containing the blood of the enslaved and the sweat of those who labored in the civil rights movement. The soil also represents "the opportunity for new life, for hope," he said.

To represent that hope, a wreath of yellow flowers was placed on the site.

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Zimmermann is editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.


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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

After U.S. reversal, Vatican reiterates two states needed in Holy Land

IMAGE: CNS photo/Ammar Awad, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican reiterated its call for a two-state solution in the Holy Land after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the United States would no longer recognize the illegality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

In a statement released Nov. 20, the Vatican said that in the "context of recent decisions that risk undermining further the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the already fragile regional stability, the Holy See reiterates its position of a two-state solution for two peoples as the only way to reach a complete solution to this age-old conflict."

The Vatican also reiterated that it supports Israel's right "to live in peace and security within the borders recognized by the international community." However, it also "supports the same right that belongs to the Palestinian people, which must be recognized, respected and implemented."

"The Holy See wishes that the two parties, negotiating directly with each other, with the support of the international community and in compliance with United Nations resolutions, may find a fair compromise which takes into account the legitimate aspirations of the two peoples," the statement said.

The Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land support the statement issued by the Vatican, a spokesman for the assembly told Catholic News Service.

While the Vatican's statement did not refer to any particular incident or policy, it comes nearly two days after the U.S. government's decision to reverse the 40-year-old policy established by the State Department in 1978 upon recommendation from its legal adviser, Herbert J. Hansell.

The legal opinion, known as the Hansell Memorandum, stated that the establishment of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories "is inconsistent with international law."

Announcing the U.S. shift in policy Nov. 18, Pompeo said the memorandum's assessment "has not advanced the cause of peace."

"The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace," Pompeo said, according to NPR.

The issue of Israel establishing settlements in Palestinian territories has long been an impediment to the peace process. The West Bank, which along with the Gaza Strip was captured by Israel in 1967, forms part of the area offered to Palestine by the U.N. for the establishment of a prospective state.

However, under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli government has doubled down on the establishment of settlements, citing that the West Bank, known in the Bible as Judea and Samaria, historically belonged to the people of Israel.

In a tweet sent shortly after Pompeo's announcement, Netanyahu thanked U.S. President Donald Trump and said the policy reversal "corrected a historic injustice."

"Somebody needed to say a simple truth, and President Trump did this, just as he did with the recognition of the Golan Heights and the moving of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem," Netanyahu tweeted.

Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said the Trump administration's decision threatens "the international system with its unceasing attempts to replace international law with the 'law of the jungle.'"

The establishment of civilian settlements, he added, had been defined as illegal by international law and under "the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; Israel's long-standing settlement policy in occupied Palestine falls within the definition of war crimes."

"The international community must take all necessary measures to respond and deter this irresponsible U.S. behavior, which poses a threat to global stability, security, and peace," Erekat said. "The only way toward achieving peace in Palestine, Israel and the entire Middle East is with the freedom and independence of the state of Palestine on the 1967 border, with East Jerusalem as its capital."

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Contributing to this story was Judith Sudilovsky in Jerusalem.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju


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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Welcoming pope after long flight, Thais keep it warm and informal

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

BANGKOK (CNS) -- Arriving in Thailand after an 11-hour flight, Pope Francis was greeted by 11 children -- one for each of the country's dioceses.

Pope Francis caressed the faces of the shy little ones and reciprocated a hug with the bolder, older girls. All of the children were dressed in traditional costumes and held a Thai flag and a Vatican flag.

Also on hand was Pope Francis' second cousin, Salesian Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, a missionary in Thailand for more than 50 years and the official translator for the pope's stay Nov. 20-23.

Because of the length of the overnight flight from Rome, the formal welcoming ceremony with Thai government officials was scheduled for Nov. 21.

Pope Francis went directly from the airport to the Vatican nunciature in Bangkok, where he will be staying. Dozens of young adults -- including novices from women's religious orders and seminarians -- gathered outside the nunciature to welcome him. Six of them performed a traditional Thai dance for him.

Flying to Bangkok from Rome, Pope Francis spent about half an hour with the close to 70 journalists accompanying him on the trip. Most of that time was devoted, as is his custom, to going row by row and greeting each person individually, blessing rosaries, asking after family members and making small talk.

In his very brief remarks to the whole group, he thanked the journalists for joining him on the trip to Thailand and on to Japan Nov. 23-26, telling them their work is very important for keeping people informed and, especially for his trip to Asia, for sharing with them cultures they may not know.


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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

In health scare, Jeannie Gaffigan relied on combined dose of faith, humor

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chad Griffith, courtesy Jeannie Gaffigan

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Jeannie Gaffigan didn't initially set out to write a book about having her brain tumor removed.

It is a story that pretty much rolled out of her usual observations on life, faith and family that have been such an integral part of what she's been doing for the past several years as the co-writer and producer of comedy specials, two books and a television series with her husband and business partner, Jim Gaffigan.

"When Life Gives You Pears: The Healing Power of Family, Faith and Funny People," released Oct. 1, recounts the unexpected discovery of a pear-sized tumor in Gaffigan's brain in 2017, her three-day journey from learning about its existence (almost by accident) to surgery and a complicated recovery where she was unable to eat or even drink water for six months.

"Obviously when I was sitting there looking at my MRI scan and saw that thing in my brain, I did not think of a joke immediately," she said. But in retrospect, thinking that it looked like a pear, she said, was "kind of funny but at the time I couldn't even believe it; it seemed like something out of a movie."

Gaffigan, a mother of five who is accustomed to seeing humor in everyday observances, could have easily hit the panic button with this "emergency medical situation, " as she describes it.

But here's the thing: She didn't. She was even able to see humor in it -- from the unglamorous dry shampoos at the hospital to the feeding tubes that her husband joked could be part of a new cooking show.

She is convinced that the only way she could jump from crippling fear of what was happening (or could happen) to a pretty calm acceptance of it and even an ability to see absurdity and grace in the new routines and giving up her own control stems from the strength of her Catholic faith.

As she put it: "When you recognize that God gives you ways to cope with hardships, you can't just crawl into bed and say: 'Just handle my life for me, it's hard.'"

Gaffigan recognizes that her sense of humor, which she described as her "lens at which I look at life and marriage" is a gift from God, but still, she hadn't intended to write about her way of looking at this particular situation, at first.

Prior to the 10-hour surgery and lengthy stay in the intensive care unit, she had been in the process of writing a book about what it was like to keep it together as a busy mom and wife of a touring comedian.

All of that was put on hold after a visit to with her children to their pediatrician who ended up recommending that Gaffigan get her head examined, literally, for her recent inability to hear out of one ear.

That initial test then put everything in fast forward with little time to think about it. In one interview, Gaffigan said that as she was being wheeled into surgery, she was telling her husband her computer passwords and about ordering groceries online, fearing he wouldn't know how to keep the household routine going.

During her recovery, she promised her publicist she would finish the book she started, but he told her to put that aside noting her bout with a brain tumor couldn't just be another chapter; it had to be its own story.

Fortunately, it was a story Gaffigan had already been trying to piece together for her own sake -- trying to remember what exactly had happened in the chaos of it all. She thought she was no different from pianists who might write songs about a personal tragedy to help them therapeutically.

Her initial manuscript was a lot more Catholic, she said, but in the end, she made the book for everybody. As she put it: "I made it a little more 'you might not be Catholic or understand how the Blessed Mother understands my suffering more than anyone else does,' but that's the way I cope with it.'"

"I made it more universal so what that did was it brought it out of the Christian section of the bookstore and put it more in the comedy section." And to Gaffigan, that's evangelization, not proselytizing.

"It's like saying: 'Look, I don't know what you would do, but this is how I did it.' And I feel like that's more gentle and I feel like people are more open to that. There's no secret. I'm not trying to dunk someone into the baptismal font, and you know, handcuff them to their RCIA classes; I'm just telling my story."

Different publishers said they were interested in prolonging publication of the book more for Mother's Day 2020 to see where she was at that point, but Gaffigan wasn't interested.

"In a year, I will have a different book in me," she said, adding: "This is what happened; this is where I'm at right now, then I want to move on, because I can't just sit there and dwell on the fact that I had brain surgery even though it's an important part of my life. The train is moving; I've got to move on."

And the train -- with five kids, work, volunteering and her husband's comedy tour -- is moving rapidly. Gaffigan, who says she has recovered from the surgery but jokes that she still misses the daily nurse care, spoke to Catholic News Service Nov. 14 by phone after ducking into an empty music room at her son's school where she was helping out.

For now, she is laser-focused on her family and a personal calling that she feels strongly about: working with young people in the community and in her parish at the Basilica of Old St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York because she is concerned that young people in the church seem to fall off the radar in the gap years between confirmation and young adult programs.

Gaffigan concludes her book saying she is grateful for the tumor, which not only gave her a second chance but a deeper appreciation for her faith, family and the ability to swallow water.

When she had no time to mentally prepare for this surgery, Gaffigan said, she wished she could have read a book by someone with a lot going on, facing a similar crisis, and how they dealt with it.

So she thought of "that pretend person" that might pick up her book while facing a challenge, medical or otherwise, while she was writing. But she also hopes her book speaks to those who have never had anything bad happen to them.

Between the lines throughout the book is Gaffigan's message that "all of this is just temporary, and you don't realize that until you almost lose it."

"If I can convey that message to people who are doing just fine, that's even more of a victory than (reaching) people that are facing a big obstacle," she said.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim


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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Everyday Heroes: Priest who once dreamed of majors now an MLB chaplain

IMAGE: NS photo/ Spirt Juice Studios, c

By Andrew Butler

Burke Masters was a baseball player who waited years for his call up to the major leagues. But when it finally came, he was wearing a different uniform than he expected.

Masters, you see, is a Catholic priest. And years after his dream died out in the minor leagues, he was named the chaplain of the Chicago Cubs.

"God was saying this was your dream to be a major league baseball player and now you're living my dream as a priest. And you get to do it in the major leagues," he said.

His inspiring story -- built around a surrender to God's will -- is why Father Masters is featured in "Everyday Heroes," a video series produced by the Knights of Columbus showcasing ordinary men acting in extraordinary ways, who are strengthened by their Catholic faith and membership in the Knights of Columbus.

Father Masters was not raised Catholic. He played baseball at a Catholic high school and was baptized into the Catholic Church during his senior year. As a student-athlete at Mississippi State University, he fit in his faith when he had time, but baseball was his central focus. He also was dating a girl that he hoped to marry. God had other plans for him.

One day, his girlfriend invited him to eucharistic adoration. He was afraid of the silence there, afraid of what God might tell him. What he heard was that God wanted him to become a priest. Unsure, he asked God for a sign. Soon people began telling him he would make a great priest. With this affirmation, he went to the seminary and "didn't look back."

While in the seminary, the Knights of Columbus supported him both financially and spiritually. Knights councils around the world support vocations through the Refund Support Vocations Program, or RSVP, through which they adopt a seminarian or religious aspirant by praying for them and providing monetary assistance.

He sees the Knights of Columbus as continuing God's mission.

"If you look at what Jesus did, strengthening and teaching, and then sending forth, and that's what the Knights of Columbus does with their men for fraternity, for faith and then for charitable works," Father Masters said.

In 2013, Father Masters got a call saying that the Cubs were looking for a Catholic chaplain. He has served in that role for six years, offering the sacraments to Cubs players, coaches and employees.

He offers two Masses before Sunday home games at Wrigley Field -- one for the employees, which he celebrates in section 209 in the stands -- and one in the locker room for players and coaches from both the Cubs and the visiting team. After Mass, he is available for anyone who wants to talk or go to confession.

Given the busy schedule of the team, Father Masters' presence is important.

"Oftentimes to have a Saturday evening game and then a Sunday 1 o'clock game, you have to be at the ballpark early, so it's really hard to get to Mass sometimes," Father Masters said. "Being able to provide the sacraments at the stadium is very, very appreciated by the Catholic players."

In addition to serving as the Cubs' chaplain, Father Masters is the director of adult formation in the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois. He also works with Catholic Athletes for Christ, an organization dedicated to serving Catholic athletes, coaches and staff.

In his time with the Cubs, Father Masters has seen a lot. He was the chaplain during the Cubs' 2016 World Series victory, and he will be there as the team transitions to new management next season. Through it all, the priest provides a steady hand to the team.

"I see my ministry as a ministry of presence, and just being available and building relationships with the guys," he said. "Inevitably guys go through difficult times on or off the field and just to help them to trust in the Lord."

Father Masters sees a connection between faith and the ups and downs of rooting for the Cubs. He said there is "nothing more that is affiliated with faith than a Chicago Cubs fan" because no matter how they play, fans fill the stadium to support their team after all these years. And no matter how far we've strayed from God, there is always a fresh season, a new spring training, ahead.

"It's not about our plans," Father Masters said. "Every good thing that you have has come from him. Offer them back to him. Because we can't outdo God in generosity. And watch what he does with it."

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Editor's Note: A video accompanying this story can be found on YouTube at https://t.co/tLAKYmvRfZ?amp=1. To share your story of an everyday hero with the Knights of Columbus contact [email protected]

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]