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Dolan: Democratic Party abandons Catholics, favors abortion agenda

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jeenah Moon, Reuters


NEW YORK (CNS) -- The once "big tent" of the Democratic Party "now seems a pup tent" as a party that Catholics once embraced has abandoned so many issues Catholics cherish, such as the sanctity of human life and religious education, said New York's cardinal.

He pointed to the party favoring a radical abortion agenda over protecting the human rights of unborn children and all-out efforts to block education credits to help poor and low-income families access Catholic and other nonpublic schools.

"The Democrats Abandon Catholics" reads the headline on a March 23 op-ed by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan in The Wall Street Journal.

"I'm a pastor, not a politician, and I've certainly had spats and disappointments with politicians from both of America's leading parties," he wrote. "But it saddens me, and weakens the democracy millions of Americans cherish, when the party that once embraced Catholics now slams the door on us.

"The dignity and sanctity of human life, the importance of Catholic schools, the defense of a baby's civil rights" are "widely embraced by Catholics. This often led Catholics to become loyal Democrats. I remember my own grandmother whispering to me, 'We Catholics don't trust those Republicans.'"

"A cause of sadness to him," Cardinal Dolan said, is that "the needs of poor and middle-class children in Catholic schools, and the right to life of the baby in the womb have largely been rejected by the party of our youth."

A couple of recent events, the cardinal said, brought to mind "two towering people who had a tremendous effect on the Archdiocese of New York and the U.S. more broadly" -- Archbishop John Hughes, the first archbishop of New York (1842-1864) and the funeral of "a great African-American woman, Dolores Grier," a convert to Catholicism, who became vice chancellor of the archdiocese.

"Their witness is worth remembering, especially in this political moment," he said.

For the cardinal, the March 17 feast day of St. Patrick -- patron saint of St. Patrick's Cathedral and the archdiocese -- recalled Archbishop Hughes' "dramatic reverence for the dignity of Irish immigrants."

"Thousands arrived daily in New York -- penniless, starving and sometimes ill -- only to be met with hostility, bigotry and injustice." The archbishop, himself an immigrant, "defended their dignity."

"Because the schools at the time were hostile to these immigrants, he initiated Catholic schools" to give the children a good education "sensitive to their religion" and to prepare them to be "responsible, patriotic citizens." The mission of today's Catholic schools remains "unchanged."

Grier, the first woman to be archdiocesan vice chancellor, was "passionate about civil rights, especially the right of babies in the womb." She always noted "abortuaries," he said," were clustered in poor black and brown neighborhoods."

The values espoused by these two prominent Catholic figures were -- and still are -- widely embraced by Catholics, Cardinal Dolan wrote.

He also noted that last year "an esteemed pro-life Democrat in Illinois, Rep. Dan Lipinski, effectively was blacklisted by his own party" when Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez "insisted that pro-life candidates have no place in the modern Democratic Party."

He said that in the state of New York in particular, these issues important to Catholics have been hit hard as "in recent years, some Democrats in the New York state Assembly repeatedly blocked education tax credit legislation, which would have helped middle-class and low-income families make the choice to select Catholic or other nonpublic schools for their children."

"Opposing the bill reduces the ability of fine Catholic schools across the state to continue their mission of serving the poor, many of them immigrants," Cardinal Dolan said.

In closing, Cardinal Dolan said that it was difficult to have to write about the Democratic Party abandoning Catholics: "To Archbishop Hughes, Dolores Grier and Grandma Dolan, I'm sorry to have to write this. But not as sad as you are to know it is true."

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Salvadoran: Blessed Romero, family friend, used visits to escape horrors

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jo Tuckman

By Jo Tuckman

SANTA TECLA, El Salvador (CNS) -- Leonor Chacon remembers every emotion she felt March 24, 1980, as if it were yesterday.

It started, she recalls, with the happiness that always accompanied the expectation that Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador would be coming to eat with her family in the small city of Santa Tecla, just west of the Salvadoran capital.

Later there was her disappointment when her husband returned home with the news that the archbishop could not make it because he was committed to celebrating Mass that evening in the chapel of the cancer hospital next to where he lived.

And then there was the call informing her he had been shot while celebrating that Mass.

"I ran to the room where my husband was and we cried together," recalled Chacon, now 80. "It was a very great pain."

Today, El Salvador eagerly awaits the canonization of the archbishop who began his pastoral life as a conservative priest known for his charity work and spent his final years accused of being a communist agitator for defiantly speaking out against the death squads and political repression.

But while Chacon celebrates the attention focused on Blessed Romero's message of peace, for her he was also a dear friend, who treated her little family restaurant and home behind it as a refuge from the horror.

Taking a break from making pastries she sells in glass jars on the counter of the restaurant, Chacon let the anecdotes flow.

She recalled the way he would ask to be told jokes, as well as his belly laughs from the sofa when the family would clown about. She smiled fondly at the memory of the time he spent hours sitting with her father, watching telenovelas, and at his voracious appetite for her refried beans.

"He used to say that he came here to disconnect and the rest," she said. "He would say it was like going to the house of Martha and Mary of Bethany."

Chacon first met Blessed Romero on her wedding day in 1963. Her fiance, Raul, had told her about the priest who had taken him in to live in his parish in the nearby town of San Miguel when he became an orphan at the age of 7, so she wrote to ask him if he would marry them. Blessed Romero married them and stayed for the small banquet the family threw for the newlyweds, then he whisked them off to a hotel for their wedding night, paying the bill himself.

From then on, Blessed Romero began regularly dropping by for lunch on his way to and from the capital, developing individual relationships with many of the family members, including her sister, Elvira, who became his secretary.

Chacon said he preferred not to talk about politics when he visited and would brush off concerns for his safety, as he did the last time she saw him, March 8, 1980. He dismissed the idea that he should be traveling with someone, saying he did not want to put anybody else in danger.

Like many in El Salvador, Chacon said the archbishop wrote his own death sentence in the homily he gave the day before his murder, in which he ordered soldiers to "stop the repression."

"He knew they were going to kill him, but he wasn't afraid," she said. "He was smiling a lot the last time he came here."

Chacon told of the children and old people crying as thousands filed passed his coffin as it lay for five days in the San Salvador basilica. She also described how that grief then turned to fear on the very day of his funeral in the cathedral, when snipers fired on the mourners. Dozens died, many in the stampede to escape. Listening to the funeral on the radio in her home, she said the transmission cut out soon after the gunfire and screams began.

A few months later, rumors circulated that anybody found with photographs of the archbishop would be killed. Her husband, who died in 2002, wanted to burn their photos, but she refused. Instead she wrapped them in cloth and put them at the bottom of a chest.

Now she has hung those same photographs proudly on the wall in a kind of shrine she proudly shows to anybody who visits.

"He used to say that there are more people who love me than hate me, and it's still true" she said. "The people who come here get all emotional."

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Purity is seen in how one treats oneself, others, papal preacher says

Young and old: Two thrown-away generations can save the world, pope says

Cardinal Tong says opposing Vatican-China deal is 'unreasonable'

Vatican City, Mar 23, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal John Tong Hon has voiced support for a proposed deal on the appointment of bishops between the Vatican and China, saying he believes the Chinese government has generally become more tolerant, and an accord would help bring further openness and unity to the Church.

Tong is the Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, and spoke at a March 22-23 conference titled “Christianity in the Chinese Society: Impact, Interaction and Inculturation” taking place at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University.

Tong is one of two Chinese cardinals, the other being his predecessor, Cardinal Joseph Zen. While Zen has consistently been an outspoken critic of the proposed deal, Hon holds a different opinion.

In an interview with a small number of journalists, one of which was CNA, Hon said opposition to the accord is “unreasonable,” because the deal aims at unity. He called the agreement “far-sighted” and said at times, sacrifice is necessary in order for Catholics to become “members of one family.”

The deal – which would allegedly follow the model of the Vatican's agreement with Vietnam, allowing the Holy See to pick bishops from a selection of candidates proposed by the government – is rumored to be “imminent.”

In a recent blog post, Cardinal Zen indicated that the agreement could be signed as early as March 23 (tomorrow) or March 27. If the deal is reached, Zen said he would “retire in silence” and would “hide and pray,” but that he would not oppose the pope.

In his interview with journalists, Cardinal Hon said he didn't want to speculate about when the deal might come, but said he was “optimistic” it would eventually happen.

Below are excerpts of Cardinal Hon's conversation with journalists:

Q: This conference is addressing the presence of Christianity in China. From your perspective, what is the current situation for Christians there? Some say there is persecution and an increase in restrictions for religions, but others say the situation has improved. What is your take?

I am a Hong Kong citizen. Hong Kong belongs to one country, is a part of China, yet Hong Kong, after 1997, is one country run under two systems, meaning Hong Kong still continues to be a capitalistic administration, and China is under the socialist system for 50 years. So we are doing the same things as before. Regarding China, I am also a foreigner, so that means I'm not an insider. I can offer my impression with a limited knowledge of China...In a general picture I think China has already greatly improved, so sometimes you find this tightening in this part or that part, but China is huge. You cannot use this to describe...If we have a very far-sighted vision about China, I think China is [becoming] more civilized, closer to the outside world. And then I think the general situation, in the present, is better. Those would be my remarks.

Q: So your perception is that China is more open to religion, is more tolerant?

In the future also it should be, not the other way. Because the people can come out from China, now most of the people like to come to Hong Kong or outside of China for a week, so their eyes are opened after seeing the outside world. So they of course have higher expectations. And also the officials, knowing, they are not stupid, they know the expectations of most of the common people, and although on one hand they want to exercise their authority over the common people, but at the same time they have to compromise. So from time to time, sometimes [there's] a tightening, but other times [there's] a loosening policy. But in the long run China will be more and wider open, there is no other way. If I were the officials, I would do similar things. So I am optimistic.

Q: In your opening remarks you spoke about the importance of dialogue and communication between Chinese authorities and Christianity. This reminded me of your remarks in February about a deal between the Vatican and China on the appointment of bishops and allowing the Church to be registered in China. You said you were optimistic if it followed the Vietnamese model. Some say it won't follow this model. Are you still optimistic?

Yes, I'm still optimistic, because I always, this is my belief, whatever is reasonable can last for a long time. Whatever is unreasonable will fade out or has to be changed. You can see from the whole of human history, even the history of China. Even Mao, Mao was so cruel, so strong, but finally...and also the cultural revolution created a lot of chaotic situations in China, but finally those situations have been changed. So there is no other way.

Q: So in this case 'reasonable' would be the deal, and 'unreasonable' would be against it?


Q: A lot has been said in the media about your predecessor, Cardinal Zen, who has spoken out a lot against this deal. What is your opinion about this and what it says about the current dynamics in China?

This is a free world, everybody can express their own opinion. Everyone can use their own mind, their wisdom, to discern. So when you open your eyes and also open your ears, you can hear many, many different voices. So this is a free world. What can you say? We, as persons, we respect everybody as a person. So different opinions, up to your own wisdom to discern. That's my [opinion], which I received from my teacher, it's the lesson I learned.

Q: How is Pope Francis received in China? In the West he's very popular even among non-Catholics. Is it the same in China?

Yes. Generally speaking, he's loved by Catholics and non-Catholics.

Q: What's the appeal?

He's a humble person. The first thing is that he is really humble, and a humble person will be loved by many people. If you are proud you get a lot of enemies. This is also biblical teaching by our Lord Jesus. So we have to be humble. Jesus humbled himself and came down to earth and finally received crucifixion, suffering. So humility is important, that's one thing. And second, he has a far-sighted vision. He's not only seeing [now], but how to achieve the reign of God. The reign of God is to make humanity whole, to be one family, and we are all brothers and sisters, the whole world. Also through the negotiations promoted and advocated by the Second Vatican Council...Sometimes we can lose something so we can achieve friendship and set an example for all others and all other people, so finally we become friends, and then eventually we become all members of one family. At that time the reign of God will be implemented on earth...I was trained here 50 years ago at the Urbanianum. At that time the Second Vatican Council was being held, and I witnessed the grand closing ceremony. And right away I was ordained a priest with more than 60 classmates by Pope Paul VI. So that is what we were taught, and we have also what we were taught to believe in. So if you don't believe that, that it's only looking for [certain] things, that's your business, that's not my faith. And finally, we have to pray for the Church in China.

Q: People have been talking about a deal with China for years, and now it seems that is pretty sure...

I don't want to make any guess, it's up to God's will.

Q: But if it does happen, is there something about Francis' pontificate or diplomatic style that would allow the deal to happen? Is there something about the way he does diplomacy that would make the deal more likely than in the past?

If there's any breakthrough, it's God's will, I don't want to make any speculation. I'm not a prophet, I only follow our dogmatic teaching in the Church, and also the teaching of the constitutions issued by the Second Vatican Council. What I have learned in teaching in seminary, we pray for the Church in China, but I don't want to make any speculations...during the year, almost three years ago, during the year of divine mercy, the Church in China, particularly, during that period, was also very happy to respond to the appeal made by the Holy Father. So it shows that they are very positive about the Holy Father because they follow the instructions given by the Holy Father.

Can axe-throwing Man Tour hit target of leading young men to the church?

IMAGE: CNS photo/New Albany Deanery

By John Shaughnessy

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- While talking about The Man Tour, Conventual Franciscan Brother Andrew Hennessy shares his purpose for creating an evening that combines throwing axes, drinking beer, eating pizza, smoking cigars and participating in eucharistic adoration.

The 28-year-old friar, who's involved in young adult ministry, wants The Man Tour to deepen the bonds of young men who already share the Catholic faith while also connecting with young men who don't have a home in the church.

"My main hope is to strengthen the community for guys who are in the core group and to reach out to guys who are on the periphery of the church -- to feel some spiritual solidarity together, to make connections across parishes, to build up the church," Brother Andrew told The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

"Hopefully, it will be a lot of fun, a lot of good energy, and a chance to come together before the Lord," he said, in advance of what he calls a "night of recreation and holiness."

The Man Tour, which costs $30, is open to 30 young men. On March 10 participants gathered at the Mount St. Francis Center of Spirituality in Mount St. Francis, in the archdiocese's New Albany Deanery. It's where Brother Andrew lives with his fellow Conventual Franciscans.

From the center, the group was chauffeured in two deanery vans to the Flying Axes establishment across the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky, where they could throw axes, eat pizza and drink beer.

Brother Andrew explained that Flying Axes is set up like a bowling alley, "but you're throwing axes at plywood. It's a really cool concept, a macho thing to do."

The second part of The Man Tour involved a return to Mount St. Francis for evening eucharistic adoration followed by "cigar smoking and conversation."

Brother Andrew said that his inspiration for The Man Tour partly came from "my imagination running away from me."

"I work with a lot of young adults here. Being guys, we were just throwing out ideas of hanging out as guys, doing guy things," he told The Criterion. "We figured we'd get guys from across the deanery, have some fun together, pray together and build the community of the Church together."

That element of building community is at the heart of The Man Tour, Brother Andrew insists.

"Someone told me that the two things that bring guys together are work and play. As Catholics, I think we also add 'pray' to it -- even though it's not easy to get people to pray together," he said. "It's natural to come together to have fun, and it's natural to come together to worship.

"The thing in my head is the Christian community. It's a community centered around Christ. We're having fun, but we're centering it all around Christ."

Combining faith and fun is a way of trying to connect with young adults who aren't closely tied to the church, said Philip Wiese, director of youth ministries for the New Albany Deanery, who helped coordinate The Man Tour with Brother Andrew.

It's an age group -- from 18 to 35 -- that's searching for something deeper, that's at a defining time in their lives, said Wiese, who is 29, married and the father of four children, with another child arriving soon.

"It's such an important time," he explained. "When you become young adults, the questions in life become more clear: Am I going to be married or single? Is the Lord calling me to be a priest or a religious sister? Where am I working, and is the place good for me spiritually or bringing me down? What kind of community am I in, and is it building me up?

"We're made for community as human beings. That's why it's so important for young adults to have authentic community -- to be built up as a man and as a son of God, to be built up as a woman and as a daughter of God," he added.

When Brother Andrew shared his idea for The Man Tour, Wiese embraced it. He also wants to explore ways to draw young women closer to God and the church through some combination of faith and fun.

"Pope Francis talks about going to the peripheries," Wiese said. "We need opportunities for people to come into the church and to grow in their relationship with Christ and the church without being overwhelmed-to involve them in something that strikes them as interesting."

He called The Man Tour one step in that process.

"We want to bring men together to see where they are in their walk in life, and where they are in their relationship with Christ and the Church so we can better prescribe a men's ministry," Wiese said, adding, "I'm interested to see where this will go, where the Lord will lead us. Prayer and adoration will always be involved."

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Shaughnessy is assistant editor of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

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US pre-synod delegates: Youth need authentic Catholic witnesses

Vatican City, Mar 22, 2018 / 11:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The United States delegates to a pre-synod gathering in Rome this week have said they think young Catholics in the nation need – and desire – faithful and authentic accompaniment in order to live the faith and to form a relationship with Christ.

“The common thread that we kept going back to… was the need for companionship for young people, and how there’s this real desire to meet authentic people who are authentic witnesses,” delegate Katie Prejean McGrady told CNA.

“That word [authentic] came up frequently. And then the whole concept that it didn’t matter where you were from, and it didn’t matter what the state of the Church was, young people respond far better to personal relationships and one-on-one interactions with people of faith.”

Prejean McGrady, a wife, mother, youth minister, and speaker from Louisiana, is one of four representatives – all in their 20s – who were chosen by the U.S. bishops as delegates to the Vatican’s pre-synod gathering happening ahead of the October Synod of Bishops on young people.

Prejean McGrady spoke to CNA March 21 alongside Br. Javier Hansen, FSC, a LaSallian Brother who teaches religion in El Paso; Nick López, a single young adult who is the director of campus ministry for the University of Dallas; and Chris Russo, a Byzantine Catholic who works as a research technologist at a hospital in Boston.

The pre-synod gathering has included discussion among young people from all over the world as they help to prepare and edit a document which will serve as a guide for bishops during the synod. The final document will be presented Saturday, and given to the Pope at Palm Sunday Mass.

Speaking to CNA, all four delegates said that the growing number of young Americans not practicing the faith they were given is one of the major concerns they brought to the meeting, and something they would like to see addressed.

Prejean McGrady said that she thinks one reason for the disaffiliation is that many Catholics in the US were catechized in a way that merely presented “bullet points to learn or these things to do”, rather than integrating these as part of the basis for a relationship with Christ.

She also noted that it is her belief that having “companions on the journey” makes it “much easier to build that relationship.”

Delegates also expressed frustration at feeling that older generations often place the blame of youths' disengagement from the faith on the young people themselves, and do not admit their own share in the responsibility.

Russo said that people to whom he’s spoken are “very distressed about disaffiliation in the Church,” but those “who ask why young people are no longer involved in the Church, are the same people who then criticize, saying, ‘oh, well, you’re too young to understand or to express an opinion.’”

Lopez agreed that it often feels like older generations think young people “don’t care” or are “too distracted,” but he takes hope in the fact that bishops are making an effort to listen to young people. He also expressed his desire that adults outside the hierarchy will also be inspired to listen more.

The four acknowledged that disaffiliation is also a problem in other parts of the world, and that it is not the only challenge young Americans have in common with youth in other parts of the globe.

They noted the increase in mental illness, the effects of media, and pornography use, in particular.

Because the meeting's participants come from different backgrounds, including different religions, Prejean McGrady said that not everyone in attendance has had a positive view of the Church. But in general, the discussions have been instructive and focused on cooperating with the Church, not tearing it down.

She said that she thinks there’s great hope “because we were already brought to the table. I think that’s the bishops appealing to us, saying we want to know how to meet you face-to-face.”

Br. Javier expressed the desire that the same sort of discussions happening at the pre-synod meeting could take place on a national or local level, creating a conduit for communication with young people.

In the end, the delegates all emphasized that young people are both the future of the Church and the Church now.

Russo also requested that the world continue to pray for everyone involved in the Synod. “This is only an initial step – this isn’t the be-all-end-all,” he said. “This isn’t ending, this is something so, so much bigger. We have to talk to our communities… we’re the Church.”

U.S. delegates say young people want mentors, a voice, unity

U.S. delegates say young people want mentors, a voice, unity

IMAGE: CNS photo/Robert Duncan

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Young people want trusted guides as they explore their faith and their vocation, said five young adults from the United States attending the Vatican's pre-synod meeting.

The U.S. delegates to the Vatican meeting March 19-25 also said the 305 young adults from around the world want to see young people consulted more often in their parishes and dioceses. And, one said, in conversations with other delegates, he discovered that Catholics in other countries are not experiencing the sharp divisions that U.S. Catholics are.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent three delegates to the meeting: De La Salle Christian Brother Javier Hansen, who teaches at Cathedral High School in El Paso, Texas; Nick Lopez, director of campus ministry for the University of Dallas; and Katie Prejean-McGrady, a wife, new mother, youth minister, and a popular speaker from the Diocese of Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Chris Russo, a 23-year-old working in Boston, represented the Ruthenian Catholic Church. And Nicole Perone, director of adult faith formation for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, represented Voices of Faith, an international group that highlights the contributions of women in the church.

A topic that came up consistently at the meeting, Prejean-McGrady said, was young people's desire "to find companions on the journey, to look for people to walk with them."

"When you have personal relationships with people who are vibrantly living their faith, then you yourself are inspired to live your faith," she said. And the relationship also provides a trusted source for dealing with concerns about topics such as sexuality or church teachings that may be difficult to understand, she said.

"'Here's a book; believe it' -- that doesn't work with young people anymore, and we know that because they are consuming far too much media to where they are not going to read that book," Prejean-McGrady said. "You have to talk with them, you have to walk with them, you have to love them and really spend time with them."

Lopez noted that Pope Francis opened the meeting March 19 by telling the delegates that the church wanted to hear their opinions and their questions, even those they thought might make church leaders uncomfortable.

In ministry to young people, they need to know they can ask those questions and that "we are going to discuss them. Nothing is too radical. Nothing is out of left field," he said. If a young person is struggling with something, that is all the reason needed to discuss it.

"Human issues are church issues, and we aren't going to get anywhere unless we begin the conversation," Lopez said.

"Young people seem to live in this age of anxiety, meaning that in a world of seemingly endless possibilities, they are almost paralyzed because they have all of these different options and they want to go forth, but they want to make the right decision, and they want to do so without the fear of failure," Russo said. "My hope is that just as Christ walked with the apostles, the church will walk with young people as they are discerning all these different thoughts and considering different paths."

The accompaniment discussion was key for Perone, who counts herself blessed to have had the guidance and friendship of "a number of people, but especially women, really bright, faithful women who love the church and have dedicated their lives in service to the church."

The preparatory document for the synod, which will be held in October, talks about "role models, guides and mentors," she said, but a lot of young people do not know how to ask for such accompaniment, and many people do not realize they can offer that to young people.

Faith mentors to young people, she said, first must be "faithful Christians, people who are living their lives faithfully and are committed to walking the journey of holiness."

And, she said, "it has to be a person who is not afraid to acknowledge they are human and make mistakes. The words 'authenticity' and 'vulnerability' have come up constantly this week. Those are the two characteristics young people crave, desire and are drawn to" because they make a mentor both trustworthy and approachable.

The young adults said their experience in Rome -- meeting with the pope and formulating suggestions for the bishops who will meet in October -- is an amazing, global example of what young people would like to see at least a hint of in their parishes and dioceses.

"All young people within the Catholic Church want to be heard," Russo said. "They want to have their thoughts expressed as they journey closer to Christ."

In formulating suggestions for the bishops, Lopez said, "one of the main ones was having things like this pre-synod gathering more common in the parishes," for example, by including young adults on the parish or diocesan council or creating parish or diocesan advisory committees of youth and young adults "and having those councils meet often."

"In the U.S., we're blessed to have very passionate young adults who take the initiative to form independent Catholic groups for young adults to meet, outside the church and outside the parish," he said, "but we need to integrate them into parish life to show we are not a separate group, that we're actually part of that community."

The delegates spent most of the week in small groups, working on their suggestions for the synod. Brother Hansen said he told his group that "one of the characteristics of the American church is this extreme polarization between liberal and conservative Catholics, and I was surprised that one thing I found was that that is more or less uniquely American."

The delegates from the wealthy Western nations would talk about "church teaching on controversial issues" or the need to be present on the digital platforms where young people spend their time, but "we have to move beyond these First World problems," Perone said, adding that she was touched by the witness of delegates coming from places where Christians experience violent persecution.

In the United States, she said, "it's easy for us to get bogged down in this division and discord and soundbites -- all these things that really drive us apart, and we don't quite focus on the unity we really should be focusing on: the beauty of our faith, the joy of the Gospel, the beauty of the truth that unites us and not the nuances that divide us."

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

At pre-synod, nonbeliever says he is optimistic about church's future