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Pope Francis approves USCCB delegates for October's Synod of Bishops

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has ratified the members elected by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to represent the United States at Synod of Bishops Oct. 3-28.

The synod will meet at the Vatican to discuss "young people, faith and vocational discernment."

The USCCB announced July 23 that the U.S. church's delegates will be:

-- Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

-- Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the USCCB.

-- Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.

-- Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, a member of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.

-- Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis.

In preparation for the synod, the USCCB and other episcopal conferences, as well as ecclesial movements, associations and experts in the field, were consulted throughout 2017 on the synod topic of "young people, the faith, and vocational discernment."

The Vatican also collected responses from an online questionnaire aimed at youth and young adults conducted last year.

In March of this year, over 300 young adult delegates gathered in Rome, where Pope Francis convened a presynod gathering to listen directly to the voice of young people from around the world. The gathering produced a final presynodal document.

The USCCB sent three delegates to that 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.

The working document was released in late June and includes a summary of all the synod consultations to date. It describes the purpose of the upcoming Synod of Bishops as an opportunity for the church "to accompany all young people, without exception, toward the joy of love," realizing that "taking care of young people is not an optional task for the church, but an integral part of her vocation and mission is history."

On July 14, the Vatican announced Pope Francis has chosen his delegates to the synod -- four cardinals from countries where young people are facing special challenges.

He named Cardinals Louis Sako of Baghdad, the Chaldean patriarch; Desire Tsarahazana of Toamasina, Madagascar; Charles Bo of Yangon, Myanmar; and John Ribat of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. As presidents-delegate, the cardinals will alternate presiding over the synod sessions.

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Editor's Note: The official USCCB webpage for the synod is www.usccb.org/synod-2018.

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Copyright © 2018 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 cns@catholicnews.com.

Texas Catholic 'respite' center serves as symbol of American compassion

By Rhina Guidos

MCALLEN, Texas (CNS) -- It's been featured in fundraisers at the Vatican and on news shows. This summer, it's been visited by Kerry Kennedy, Robert and Ethel Kennedy's daughter, and TV celebrity Gayle King.

The U.S. bishops recently made it the first stop on a high-profile visit to the border.

But the real celebrities who walk through its doors are the poor, unkempt, tired, thirsty, hungry women, children and men who run to it shortly after being released by immigration authorities -- a modern Statue of Liberty come to life.

Its official name is the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley's Humanitarian Respite Center. From the outside, the humble cream-colored building with Mission-revival style touches, calls little attention to passers-by. But inside its walls, volunteers give a warm welcome, including unexpected smiles and applause, along with clothes and warm food, to recent arrivals to the U.S. as they walk through its doors.

It was Sister Norma Pimentel, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus and executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, whose idea it was to create this place to "welcome the stranger" and who came in the form of a migrant to the border town of McAllen.

She often posts pictures on Twitter of babies and moms, teens and fathers and other children who walk through the center's doors. She calls them "miracles." She tells their stories. One was about a woman who fled Guatemala after her 16-year-old son was kidnapped and killed by gangs. She photographed the woman with her remaining son as they passed through the center.

"The fact is that they are human persons, they are people, they need attention, they need care," Sister Norma, as she's popularly known, said in a July 1 interview with Catholic News Service.

In 2014, Sister Norma set out to provide some of that care, as she saw an influx of immigrants arriving in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, in the Brownsville Diocese. With local volunteers, she began a makeshift operation to help the migrants obtain clothes and food. Out of a property that belonged to the local Sacred Heart Church, they began clothing and feeding the newcomers.

Her mission now has a more permanent home on Beaumont Avenue in McAllen, where migrants, many seeking asylum, have access to a shower after a harrowing trip, a clean change of clothes, a quick medical look, if they need it, a warm meal and a snack for the road.

On the trip by a group of U.S. bishops in early July, Sister Norma said she wanted the prelates to talk with the families, to see them and hear their stories so they could talk about them to others and speak on their behalf. Though there's a sense of antagonism toward immigrants around the country, she's eager to showcase at the respite center a side of the U.S. that the newscasts and TV stories often leave out and that immigrants may not be aware of.

"They (the immigrants who pass through) go in gratitude of the fact that we, here in the United States, are people that have a heart, that care and that are able to participate by serving them, by bringing them soup, by hearing their story, by showing them they matter," she said.  

Some, like volunteer Lisa Foley, of Reno, Nevada, who was at the center July 1, cared enough to spend her summer vacation days with them.

"I came here to help. I can't sit and watch it on the news any longer," said Foley, a social worker by profession, showing in her hand shoelaces and rubber bands she was handing the women who had them taken away while being processed by immigration authorities. "It's the least I can do."

Through the center, Sister Norma also wants others to see migrants as children and mothers, fathers and brothers, many of them fleeing danger. The mothers and fathers who pass through "all tell you that, in one way or another, they're fleeing, they fear for the lives of their children."

"They know that if they stay (in their home countries), their life is in danger and their child may be kidnapped, or taken by a gang," she said. "Their stories are so similar and they all flee because they are frightened for their lives."

The center's mission of compassion has been noticed at the highest levels of the church. On the occasion of his elevation to cardinal, Chicago Archbishop Blase J. Cupich, through his role as chancellor of Catholic Extension, organized a benefit dinner in 2016 at the Vatican that raised $100,000 and donated it to the respite center.

The flow of migrants, which ebbs and sometimes overflows, has sent Sister Norma on a mission to find more space, and funds, to continue the work of helping migrants. Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley has set up a GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/humanitarian-respite-center for those who want to help.

Sister Norma hopes the center will continue to be a place where the poor and hungry will find more than just material help, but will continue to provide newcomers an initial dose of compassion that exists in the United States and that many of the migrants who have passed through have experienced.  

"They're hopeful and they have faith in their God that here in the United States, there will be people who understand and will help them make sure they're safe," she said.  

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Copyright © 2018 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 cns@catholicnews.com.

Rome Diocese opens sainthood process for young Italian mother

East African bishops applaud Eritrea, Ethiopia peace process

Pope calls for respect for migrants amid rising number of deaths at sea

Pope calls for respect for migrants amid rising number of deaths at sea

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jon Nazca, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With the rising death toll of migrants and refugees attempting the treacherous voyage across the Mediterranean Sea, Pope Francis urged world leaders to act to prevent further tragedy.

"I make a heartfelt appeal to the international community to act decisively and promptly in order to prevent such tragedies from recurring and to guarantee the safety, respect for the rights and dignity of all," the pope said July 22 after reciting the Angelus prayer with an estimated 25,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

According to the International Organization for Migration's Missing Migrant Project, an estimated 1,490 migrants have died in the Mediterranean Sea this year. The pope expressed his pain "in the midst of such tragedies" and offered his prayers "for the missing and their families."

In Italy, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has barred several rescue ships from docking and has vowed to stop any foreign boats carrying rescued migrants into the country. The move has hampered rescue efforts of migrants trying to escape war, violence, persecution and poverty.

Before making his appeal, the pope reflected on the day's Gospel reading in which Jesus invites his disciples to rest after their first mission, but the gathering of a large crowd prevents them from relaxing and eating.

"The same thing can happen today as well," the pope said. "Sometimes we don't succeed in carrying out our plans because something urgent occurs that messes up our plans and requires flexibility and availability to the needs of others."

In those situations, he continued, Christians are called to imitate Jesus who wasn't upset but rather was compassionate toward the people because "they were like sheep without a shepherd."

"Jesus' gaze isn't a neutral gaze or, worse, cold and distant because Jesus always looks with the eyes of the heart. And his heart is so tender and full of compassion that he is able to see even the most hidden needs of people," the pope said.

The same compassion, he added, is the "behavior and predisposition of God toward humankind and its history."

"With Jesus at our side, we can proceed safely, we can be overcome trials, we can progress in love toward God and toward our neighbor. Jesus has made himself a gift for others, becoming a model of love and service for each one of us," Pope Francis said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Copyright © 2018 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 cns@catholicnews.com.

Do you want to grow in love? Keep Jesus close, pope says

Vatican City, Jul 22, 2018 / 06:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Christian can stay on the right path to Heaven, and grow in love for God and his neighbor, only by keeping close to Christ and his love, Pope Francis said Sunday.

“When one moves away from Jesus and his love, one loses oneself and existence turns into disappointment and dissatisfaction,” the pope said July 22. “With Jesus at [our] side we can proceed with security, we can overcome trials, we progress in love for God and for our neighbor.”

“To find the right orientation of life,” everyone needs the truth – which is Christ – to guide and enlighten their path, he continued.

Speaking before the Angelus, Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel reading from Mark, which tells of Jesus’ pity on the crowd of people, who “were like sheep without a shepherd.” In this passage, Jesus is “the realization of God’s concern and care for his people,” he said.

Jesus is moved with compassion for the people in need of guidance, but he does not perform a miracle, the pope noted. Instead, he teaches them. “Here is the first bread that the Messiah offers to the hungry and lost crowd: the bread of the Word.”

Pointing to how Jesus and his disciples had been searching for a place to rest, but the crowd had followed them, Francis said, the same thing can happen to today. “Sometimes we fail to realize our projects, because an unexpected emergency occurs that messes up our programs and requires flexibility and availability to the needs of others.”

He said when this happens, “we are called to imitate Christ.” As it shows in the Gospel, Jesus did not ignore the people. He had compassion on them, came down to them, and “began to teach them many things,” something Christians can learn from.

“The gaze of Jesus is not a neutral or, worse, cold and detached look, because Jesus always looks with the eyes of the heart,” the pope said. Jesus’ heart “is so tender and full of compassion, that he knows how to grasp the even more hidden needs of people.”

Jesus’ compassion on the people is not “an emotional reaction of unease,” it is much more, he continued: “it is the attitude and predisposition of God towards man and his history.”

In this example of Jesus, Christians find a model of love and service toward others, he said.

After the Angelus, Pope Francis added a note about recent reports of the shipwrecking of boats filled with migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. “I express my sorrow in the face of these tragedies and assure my memory and my prayer for the missing people and their families,” he said.

He also made an appeal to the international community to act promptly to prevent the reoccurrence of such tragedies and to guarantee safety and respect for the rights and dignity of all people.

Is Church teaching changing on the death penalty?

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The Church has consistently taught that the state has the authority to use the death penalty. But, in recent years, popes and bishops have become more vocal in calling for an end to its use. Many Catholics instinctively favor life over death, even after the worst crimes, and some are left wondering if the Church’s mind is changing.

Two recent cases highlighted an apparent tension between traditional teaching and modern circumstances.

On July 13, the bishops of Tennessee wrote to Governor Bill Haslam asking him to halt a slate of planned executions. In their letter, Bishops Mark Spalding of Nashville, Richard Stika of Knoxville, and Martin Holley of Memphis emphasized the value and dignity of every human life, even those who have committed the worst possible crimes.

One day earlier, on July 12, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, expressed his “support” for the Sri Lankan government’s decision to introduce the death penalty for drug traffickers and organized crimes bosses.

“We will support [Sri Lankan] President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to subject those who organize crime while being in the prison to [the] death sentence,” he told local media. The cardinal went on to add that more needed to be done to prevent drug traffickers and crime bosses from operating with impunity while in jail.

The state’s authority to execute criminals is explicitly sanctioned in the Bible, including by St. Paul. Historically, the Church has recognized the use of the death penalty in a practical way: executions were carried out in the Papal States well into the nineteenth century, with the last official executioner retiring in 1865.

For much the twentieth century, attempted assassination of the pope was a capital crime in Vatican City; Pope Paul VI only removed the death penalty from the law in 1969.

Today, the Church still officially teaches that the death penalty is a legitimate option for states to employ.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches this: “Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.”

This formulation contains a heavy qualification. When exactly is the death penalty the only effective means of defending human life? That’s a thorny question.

St. John Paul II was outspoken in his opposition to the use of capital punishment. In an address in the United States, in 1999, he called for Christians to be “unconditionally pro-life” and said that “the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.” He also spoke of his desire for a consensus to end the death penalty, which he called “cruel and unnecessary.”

That address, given in St. Louis, was credited with helping persuade to Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan to commute the death sentence of inmate Darrell Mease to life in prison.

More recently, Pope Francis has denounced capital punishment in even stronger terms. Speaking in October 2017, he called it “contrary to the Gospel” because “it is freely decided to suppress a human life that is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator, and of which, in the final analysis, God alone is the true judge and guarantor.” He has, however, stopped short of revising the official teaching contained in the Catechism.

There is a broad sentiment among American Catholics against the death penalty. It is a point of unusually strong consensus, even among those who normally disagree. In 2015, four Catholic publications with often-divergent viewpoints issued a joint editorial calling for an end to capital punishment.

But Catholic thinkers do not unanimously agree that a total renunciation of the death penalty is appropriate, or even possible.

Cardinal Joseph Bernadin, in his famous “Consistent Ethic of Life” speech delivered at Fordham University in 1983, explicitly recognized the legitimate authority of the state to resort to capital punishment. Cardinal Avery Dulles, writing in 2001, observed that “the Catholic magisterium does not, and never has, advocated unqualified abolition of the death penalty.”

While there is real scope for debate about when and how sparingly capital punishment should be used, Dulles concluded that “the death penalty is not in itself a violation of the right to life.”

His conclusion was informed by the constant teaching of the Church that judicial executions are licit, even if regrettable and to be avoided whenever possible.

In the City of God, St. Augustine wrote that the state administers justice under divine concession. “Since the agent of authority is but a sword in the hand, and is not responsible for the killing, it is in no way contrary to the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”… for the representatives of the State’s authority to put criminals to death, according to law or the rule of rational justice.”

While the trend of recent papal statements has been towards a relegation of the death penalty to, at most, a theoretical possibility, scholars have urged caution about going too far.

Dr. Chad Pecknold, associate professor of systematic theology at the Catholic University of America, told CNA that it was important distinguish between changing circumstances and a change in what the Church has always taught.

“The Church has always held that the death penalty is a just option available to the state, even if we do not welcome its use. St. Augustine says that the death penalty is just, but the Church should plead for mercy.”

Pecknold stressed that relationship between mercy and justice is a live concern. In seeking mercy, he said, we must implicitly recognize the validity of justice.

“Mercy isn’t calling something that is just ‘unjust.’ Mercy relieves the punishment properly due to the guilty. As the Catechism recognizes, there can be circumstances in which the death penalty is a legitimate service to justice. This is qualified by a preferential option for other means, whenever they can serve the same ends.”

These alternative means have not been always and everywhere available. “The common and constant teaching of the Church can be applied to different circumstances. Alternatives available to us in modern western countries simply have not been present at other times, or may not be now in other places.”

There is a crucial difference between applying a consistent teaching to changed circumstances and appearing to suggest humanity has evolved beyond a previously valid doctrine, Pecknold said.

“The death penalty is not, and has never been a positive end in itself. It is a means towards serving justice. If we find we can now serve the same ends and express a preferential option for life, this is doubly good.”

“But we should not fall into a false understanding that what was once ‘good' is now ‘bad.’ The Church doesn’t evolve out of a true teaching, nor does humanity progress beyond natural law.”

“We should prize our increasing opportunities to serve mercy and justice together, but be wary of giving ourselves too much credit, we have not progressed to a new, higher level of justice."

Cardinal Dulles agreed. He considered the argument that Church sanctioning of capital punishment was an “outmoded” concession to past ages of “violence” and “barbarity,” one which could yield to “the signs of the times” and “a new recognition of the dignity and inalienable rights of the human person.” He dismissed this as “a tempting simplicity” which found “no echo” among Catholic theologians of the past.

The consensus against capital punishment in modern western nations, it must be observed, has grown in line with increased prosperity, political stability, and states’ ability to deploy credibly effective alternatives to execution.

In the recent Sri Lankan case, the government acted in response to the ineffectiveness of prison sentences, with drug traffickers and crime bosses seeming to continue operating with impunity, even behind bars. Following local complaints at his expression of support, Cardinal Ranjith issued a clarification, making clear his support for the government announcement was not a “carte blanche” advocacy for the death penalty, but noting that he could not “close my eyes and do nothing before this terrible phenomenon our country is faced with.”

“[The drug trade] causes death and violence in the streets and the destruction of the cream of our youth, who become drug addicts at an age as early as their adolescence, being exposed to drugs even in their schools. This is being done by drug cartels operated at times from the prisons,” he said.

For Ranjith, such a context seems to find a place within the Catechism’s criteria that capital punishment be reserved for the final defense of innocent life when other options fail.

In the West, conditions seem to be narrowing the scope for the death penalty’s use, and bishops are responding, which has led to a sense, especially after Pope Francis’ comments last year, that the Church might declare the death penalty absolutely unjust. Yet, as was recently seen in Sri Lanka and Tennessee, things are not yet the same everywhere.

That serves as a good reminder about the importance of understanding the Church’s global perspective, and the importance of distinguishing between teachings which supply criteria through which Catholics must make moral judgments, and teachings which declare that certain actions are, in fact, immoral everywhere and always.

The Church’s teaching on the death penalty expresses, essentially, a criteria by which state authorities should make judgments about the just use of the death penalty. While in the developed West, use of the death penalty may, in fact, be almost completely unnecessary, not all parts of the world are as developed.

The divergence of views from bishops around the world on this issue reflects the role that the circumstances of time and place can play in moral reasoning. That is instructive, and a reminder about the complex richness, and importance, of Catholic moral teaching.

'Walking priest' pursues street evangelization hoping listeners seek God

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jerry Mennenga

By Joanne Fox

WEST BEND, Iowa (CNS) -- With apologies to Fats Domino, Father Lawrence Carney is "walkin' and talkin' about you and me," and hoping that listeners will come back to -- not "me" -- but God.

Known as the "walking priest," Father Carney brought his message of street evangelization to Sts. Peter and Paul Church in the north central Iowa town of West Bend in early July.

The event was sponsored by the Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption in collaboration with the Office of Discipleship and Evangelization for the Diocese of Sioux City.

Ordained for the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, Father Carney is on loan to the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, where he serves as chaplain to the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, in Gower. He visits the nuns daily to celebrate the Tridentine Mass, offers the sacrament of reconciliation and provides spiritual direction.

Once his duties are complete, Father Carney, 42, takes to the streets of St. Joseph. Armed with a rosary in one hand and a large crucifix in the other, the tall priest in a black cassock and wide-brimmed clerical hat known as a "saturno" shares the Gospel with anyone who approaches.

The oldest of three boys in his family, Father Carney recalled his first inkling of a vocation surfaced in kindergarten.

"A Redemptorist priest visited and held up a card of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and it seemed like the eyes of Our Lady would follow me," he said.

"I thought, 'If a priest can do that with a holy card, then I want to be a priest,'" he said, smiling.

Father Carney confessed he "fought" the idea of the priesthood in high school.

"I was convinced I was to marry a beautiful young woman and have 12 children," he said. "God ultimately won that battle."

Following his 2007 ordination, Father Carney served as a parish priest in the Wichita Diocese. His life changed when he chose to walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain -- opting to wear a cassock -- talking to about 1,000 people during his 32 days on the trail.

The experience led to his decision to walk the streets.

Father Carney's ministry led him to pen "Walking the Road to God," published in 2017 by Caritas Press. The book is subtitled, "Why I left everything behind and took to the streets to save souls."

"I'm a horrible author," the priest said. "Isn't is something how God chooses the worst people to do his will?"

But save souls, he has, in his travels in Missouri and elsewhere.

"Three years ago, I was approached by a non-Catholic family who insisted their home was possessed by demons; the children were saying they saw red eyes in the house," he said. "They asked me to pray for them and I did."

When he later saw the family, Father Carney asked about the house.

"'Oh, Father, after you prayed and left, the devils left,' the mother reported," he said. "After one year of instruction, they were received into the church and one of the sons is discerning a vocation to the priesthood."

The story was one of several the priest shared with the 125 people who attended his talk.

In his book, Father Carney expressed his dream of a new order of priests, clerics and brothers, who walk and pray in cities around the U.S. to reach out to lukewarm and fallen-away Catholics and non-Catholics.

The Vatican approved his request for the new order Dec. 8 -- to accept men into the Canons Regular of St. Martin of Tours. The new community will be based in St. Joseph. About a dozen men have indicated an interest in joining, Father Carney said.

"I am in the process of discernment myself for this new community," he said. "God willing, I will profess my first vows on Nov. 11, 2019."

Meanwhile, Father Carney "walks the walk and talks the talk" to about 10 people a day, about 2,000 to 5,000 folks in the last four years.

"The best part of the walking is I get to contemplate God," he said. "I pray the rosary, get some exercise, look at nature and someone might talk to me and then, I share my contemplation with them."

After his presentation, Father Carney took questions, with one person asking if he walked the 245 miles from St. Joseph to West Bend.

With a grin, Father Carney shook his head in response. However, he did admit to being somewhat of an expert on shoes.

"I have discovered 'shandals' work well," he said, referring to a part-shoe, part-sandal, which he had on his feet.

Father Carney reported the Canons Regular are looking into creating the hybrid and marketing them.

"We will be calling them, Father Martens," he said, chuckling repeatedly at the reference to the popular Doc Martens footwear.

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Fox is managing editor of The Catholic Globe, newspaper of the Diocese of Sioux City.

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Copyright © 2018 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 cns@catholicnews.com.

Adoptive parents nervous after raids of Missionaries of Charity homes

IMAGE: CNS photo/Saadia Azim

By Saadia Azim

RANCHI, India (CNS) -- Theodore Kiro held 13-month-old Navya on her return to his family after they were separated for a week. The crying baby happily clung to Kiro, whom she knows as her grandfather.

Navya is one of the four babies whose fate became entangled in the recent child trafficking scandal broke at Rachi's Nirmal Hriday (Tender Heart) home, run by the Missionaries of Charity. A five-member district child welfare committee decided it was not fair for the foster mother and the child to be separated for long and ruled they should be united conditionally. The welfare committee asked the foster parents to take the child before the committee every week and keep it informed of the child's schedule.

"The child and the mother were in trauma after separation, so the committee members decided compassionately to unite them. But this status has been fixed for the next two months only," said Kiro, a local political leader using his clout to prepare legal papers for adoption of the toddler. Navya was brought to their home in Ranchi just after her birth and was reclaimed by the child welfare committee as one of the babies who allegedly was sold illegally by an employee of the Missionaries of Charity home.

Though the parents confess that there was no exchange of money yet, the officers are investigating the process of adoption without proper paperwork. This makes Anuka Tigga, another adoptive mother of a 4-year-old, jittery. She is scared for her child after the central government announced July 17 that all records and child care homes run by the Missionaries of Charity will be inspected and adoption processes scrutinized.

"It is not that I have committed any wrong. Rather, these happenings will adversely affect the well-being of my child," said Tigga.

The Indian Ministry for Women and Child Development has directed the state governments that all child care institutions should be registered and linked to the Central Adoption Resource Authority within a month. Many mothers such as Tigga question the fate of children already living with adoptive parents, for fear the government will say the process was not followed and their children will be taken away.

In 2015, the Missionaries of Charity stopped offering adoption of children because the Indian government introduced new rules making it easier for single women and men to adopt. The government rules said prospective adoptive parents must pay a fixed amount of 40,000 rupees ($580).

Police said Jharkhand state's Child Welfare Committee came to suspect the Ranchi home was involved in the illegal trading of children after a couple complained they were not given a child, despite paying 120,000 rupees (US$1,850) as an adoption fee. Sister Mary Prema Pierick, superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, said in a July 17 statement from Kolkata that the order was cooperating with authorities, and that when a lay employee, Anima Indwar, admitted to the welfare committee in early July that the baby had not been given to the couple, Indwar was handed over to police.

During recent raids at Nirmal Hriday and Shishu Bhawan (Children's Home) in Ranchi, 11 unwed pregnant women were shifted to government homes and 22 children, including one child as young as a month old, were sent to the Karuna Center, a government-run home. Navya's family complained that, after the separation, they found their child to be in a miserable condition in the government facility.

Those children who remain in many of homes run by Missionaries of Charity are destitute, orphans and unwanted children who are nursed and cared for and prepared for adoption through the Central Adoption Resource Authority system. The police are investigating now as to why the nuns continued to keep children in their facility when they were no longer a registered body for adoption. The norm has been that though the unwed mothers are provided with nursing and support by the nuns, it is the responsibility of the guardians and families who want to adopt to register with the child welfare committees. The nuns and the Missionaries of Charity staff facilitate the process.

The Missionaries of Charity and other Christian bodies are questioning the intention of the government in the recent actions against the order. They say that, after the arrests of Indwar and Sister Concelia, the nun in charge of accompanying mothers and babies to the welfare committee, the Missionaries of Charity were not given a chance to be heard and were not warned about the raids.

The Christian community and some politicians are also questioning the role of the media, which widely published a video of Indwar's confession leaked by police.

Police have seized record books from the Missionaries of Charity homes in Jharkhand state. Christian leaders say this is deliberate antagonism by the state's extremist Bharatiya Janata Party government, which has accused the Missionaries of Charity of religious conversion in the pretext of social service. Sister Concelia was sent to two weeks of judicial custody.

After the incident, Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal state, where the religious order is based, called the actions against the Missionaries of Charity a move to undermine the work of St. Teresa of Kolkata, who founded the order.

Abraham Mathai, former vice chairman of the Indian Minorities Commission, has asked for independent judicial inquiry if need be to stop what he calls persecution of the Missionaries of Charity, saying it is bringing disrepute to the whole organization.

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