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Fresh from consistory, new cardinals greet family, friends

Taking 'vital coverage' from those in need 'unacceptable,' says bishop

IMAGE: CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuter

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Senate must reject any health care reform bill that will "fundamentally alter the social safety net for millions of people," said the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

"Removing vital coverage for those most in need is not the answer to our nation's health care problems, and doing so will not help us build toward the common good," Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, said in a letter to U.S. senators released late June 27.

He urged senators to reject such changes "for the sake of persons living on the margins of our health care system."

A day earlier, Bishop Dewane issued a statement saying that the loss of affordable health care under the Republicans' proposal was "simply unacceptable."

The Senate released its Better Care Reconciliation Act in "discussion draft" form June 22. In an analysis of the proposal aimed at replacing the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the measure would leave 22 million more people without insurance.

In response to that report, Bishop Dewane said June 26 that "this moment cannot pass without comment. ... As the USCCB has consistently said, the loss of affordable access for millions of people is simply unacceptable. These are real families who need and deserve health care."

On the afternoon of June 27, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, announced senators will not act on the bill until much later in July. News reports said McConnell and others determined they did not even have enough votes to begin debate on the measure. Senate leaders had hoped to vote on it before the July 4 recess.

In his letter to senators, Bishop Dewane reiterated initial concerns outlined by the USCCB when the draft was first released, namely that any health care reform bill must uphold several moral principles: affordability; access for all; respect for life; and protection of conscience rights. The bishops also have stressed the need for U.S. health care policy "to improve real access" to health care for immigrants.

Loss of coverage "will be devastating" to the people who can least afford it at a time "when tax cuts would seem to benefit the wealthy" and when increases in defense spending are being contemplated, he said in the June 27 letter.

The U.S. bishops do "value the language" in the Senate bill that recognizes "abortion is not health care," he continued, and it at least partially succeeds on conscience rights. But he said it needs to be strengthened to fully apply "the long-standing and widely supported Hyde Amendment protections. Full Hyde protections are essential and must be included in the final bill."

Bishop Dewane said the Senate's Better Care Reconciliation Act "is a slight improvement in limited ways" over the House version passed in May, called the American Health Care Act. "Overall, however, those enhancements do not overcome the BCRA's failure to address the needs of the poor," he said.

One part of the bill cuts the federal government's share of funding for Medicaid to 57 percent of its cost over the next seven years. States have picked up the balance of the funding to date.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the government had guaranteed that its funding for adults newly eligible for Medicaid would fall to no lower than 90 percent of their costs. Many states expanded Medicaid coverage for all adults ages 18-65 with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

The bill also would defund Planned Parenthood for one year under the bill.

In his earlier statement, Bishop Dewane criticized the "per-capita cap" on Medicaid funding, which would no longer be an entitlement but have its own budget line item under the Better Care Reconciliation Act. The effect, he said, "would provide even less to those in need than the House bill. These changes will wreak havoc on low-income families and struggling communities, and must not be supported."

In other reaction to the Senate measure, 300 Sisters of Mercy voiced their strong opposition to the Senate proposal in a statement issued June 27 from Buffalo, New York, where they gathered for the religious congregation's chapter meeting.

"Health care for all, especially the most vulnerable is one of our enduring concerns," said Sister Patricia McDermott, president of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. "The Sisters of Mercy have a legacy of advocacy for health care as a right, as well as providing care to generations of people. If the proposed legislation passes, health care ministries, social service agencies, and services for the elderly and family members will be impacted and suffer."

The Senate measure also drew opposition from the president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA. In a letter to senators June 26, Dominican Sister Donna Markham urged senators to reject the bill and "craft a health care bill which truly expands coverage, reduces costs and respect human life and dignity."

The bill in its current form "will have a devastating impact on the poor, marginalized and vulnerable in our country," Sister Markham wrote.

While welcoming provisions in the bill to protect human life and increase flexibility to states in paying for health care, "a bill that rolls back gains in health care for the poor and vulnerable is deeply regretful," her letter said.

"It is deeply shameful that instead of improving our health care system, the bill provides tax cuts for people making over $200,000 per year while at the same time demanding dramatic cuts or eliminating programs which help those most in need and most unlikely to afford health care," it added.

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Pope tells new cardinals to serve people, tackle sins

Pope tells new cardinals to serve people, tackle sins

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinals are not called to be "princes" of the church, but to serve the people of God and tackle the sins of the world, Pope Francis told five new cardinals.

Jesus "calls you to serve like him and with him, to serve the father and your brothers and sisters," the pope said as he created five new cardinals from five nations June 28.

The new cardinals created during the prayer service in St. Peter's Basilica were: Cardinals Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali, 73; Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona, Spain, 71; Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, 67; Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos, 73; and Gregorio Rosa Chavez, 74, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, El Salvador.

After reciting the Creed and taking an oath of fidelity to Pope Francis and his successors, each cardinal -- in his new red robes -- went up to Pope Francis and knelt before him. The pope gave them each a cardinal's ring, a red skullcap and a red three-cornered red hat. The crimson hue the cardinals wear is a reminder that they must be courageous and faithful to Christ, his church and the pope to the point of shedding blood, if necessary.

They also received a scroll attesting to their appointment as cardinals and containing the name of their "titular church" in Rome. The assignment of a church is a sign they now are members of the clergy of the pope's diocese.

After the consistory, Pope Francis and the new cardinals visited retired Pope Benedict XVI in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, his residence in the Vatican gardens.

The Gospel reading at the consistory was St. Mark's account of James' and John's pride and ambition to have a position of power and be honored, and how the other disciples reacted with angry jealousy (Mk 10:32-45).

Jesus corrects his disciples, explaining that pagan leaders are the ones who lord their authority over their people, and "it shall not be so among you." The pope said the cardinals, as leaders like Christ, are there to be slaves and serve others.

The Gospel reading, he said, shows how Jesus asked his disciples to "look at reality, not let yourselves be distracted by other interests or prospects."

The reality is always the cross, he said, and the sins the cardinals must face today include: "the innocent who suffer and die as victims of war and terrorism; the forms of enslavement that continue to violate human dignity even in the age of human rights; the refugee camps, which at times seem more like a hell than a purgatory; the systematic discarding of all that is no longer useful, people included."

Jesus "has not called you to become 'princes' of the church, to 'sit at his right or at his left,'" the pope told the new cardinals. "He calls you to serve like him and with him."

The evening before he was to enter the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Arborelius had just picked up his new red vestments, but had not had a chance to try them on. "I hope they will fit," he said.

The Swedish cardinal told Catholic News Service that about 450 people from Sweden had planned to travel to Rome for the consistory, including the leaders of the Lutheran, Syrian Orthodox and Baptist churches in Sweden. The Catholic contingent included a large group of Chaldean Catholics who emigrated from Iraq to Sweden. But, he said, there also was a big group of Salvadorans living in Sweden who were traveling to Rome to celebrate the red hat of Cardinal Rosa Chavez.

The Salvadoran auxiliary bishop was a friend of and mentored by Blessed Oscar Romero, who was assassinated in 1980. The new cardinal's loyalty to the memory of the Blessed Romero and to the memory of his country's sufferings is reflected in his coat of arms, which features a sprig of rosemary because in Spanish "Romero" also means rosemary, a palm frond as a symbol of the Salvadoran church's persecution and martyrdom, and a hand grabbing another hand, a symbol of the church's option for the poor.

When Cardinal Omella was asked how his life would change as a cardinal, he told reporters, "I think the tree is already fully grown. I will hardly change, I will be the same person."

"I don't see the cardinalate as major upgrade, of importance or climbing up to some honorable position," he said. "What is asked of me now is a greater service to the church, but in the way taught by Pope Francis, who goes to wash the feet of prisoners."

Serving the people of God and society, Spain's new cardinal said, "demands dying to one's self; it is difficult to be available every day, but it must be done with generosity."

Cardinal Ling experienced persecution first hand. After Laos became a communist nation, he set off -- without government permission -- to preach the Gospel in small villages and in prisons, according to his Vatican biography. He was arrested in 1984 and accused of "making propaganda for Jesus."

The new cardinal was imprisoned for three years, "with chains on my arms and my legs," he said.

But being a prisoner was "an apostolate," he said. "My presence (in prison) was necessary for my conversion and purification and also for that of others."

At the end of the consistory, the College of Cardinals had 225 members, 121 of whom are under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a pope.

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Contributing to this story were Cindy Wooden and Junno Arocho Esteves in Rome, and Rhina Guidos in Washington.

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Keep your eyes fixed on the cross, Pope urges new cardinals

Vatican City, Jun 28, 2017 / 08:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday, Pope Francis created five new cardinals, encouraging them to walk with Jesus, keeping their eyes fixed securely on the cross and on the realities of the world, not becoming distracted by prestige or honor.

“I speak above all to you, dear new Cardinals. Jesus ‘is walking ahead of you,’ and he asks you to follow him resolutely on his way. He calls you to look at reality, not to let yourselves be distracted by other interests or prospects,” the Pope said June 28.

“He has not called you to become ‘princes’ of the Church, to ‘sit at his right or at his left.’ He calls you to serve like him and with him.”

“To serve the Father and your brothers and sisters. He calls you to face as he did the sin of the world and its effects on today’s humanity. Follow him, and walk ahead of the holy people of God, with your gaze fixed on the Lord’s cross and resurrection.”

Pope Francis addressed the five bishops he chose to receive a red hat last month, and others present, during an ordinary consistory for the creation of new cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica.

He had announced his intention to create the new cardinals during a Regina Coeli address on May 21st.

Immediately following a reading from the Gospel of Matthew and his short reflection, the Pope made the proclamation creating the new cardinals. Afterward they received their red biretta and cardinal’s ring. At this time they were also assigned a titular church, tying them to Rome.
In his choice of cardinals, Pope Francis has remained true to his vision of a broader, more universal representation of the Church, forged during his last consistory, Nov. 19, 2016, where he created 17 new cardinals from 11 different nations and five different continents.

Among this consistory's picks are Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Sweden, and Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, Apostolic Vicar of Pakse, Laos and Apostolic Administrator of Vientiane, and Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali.

All three are the first cardinals from their respective countries.

Also noteworthy is his appointment of San Salvador’s auxiliary bishop, José Gregorio Rosa Chávez, marking the first time the Pope has tapped an auxiliary as cardinal.

Bishop Chávez was chosen over his archbishop, Jose Luis Escobar Alas, for the red hat, showing that Francis, as seen in his previous appointments, is willing to skip over “cardinal sees.”

In contrast to the other four is Archbishop Juan José Omella of Barcelona, Spain. His red hat is not a dramatic departure from tradition, as Barcelona is traditionally a see with a cardinal and Archbishop Omella’s predecessor, Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, turned 80 on April 29.

All of the new cardinals are under 80, and therefore eligible to vote in the next conclave.

In his homily, Francis reflected on the Gospel heard during the ceremony, which came from Matthew 10:32-45. In the passage, Jesus and the disciples are walking toward Jerusalem. This is when the third prediction of the Passion of Christ happens, which is nearing.

“‘Jesus was walking ahead of them.’ This is the picture that the Gospel we have just read presents to us. It serves as a backdrop to the act now taking place: this Consistory for the creation of new Cardinals,” he said.

Jesus walks ahead of them with full knowledge of what is going to take place in Jerusalem, but at this moment there is a divide, a distance, between his heart and the hearts of his disciples, which only the Holy Spirit can bridge, Francis said.

He knows this and is patient with them. “Above all, he goes before them. He walks ahead of them.”

Along the way, though, the disciples become distracted by things which have nothing to do with what Jesus is preparing to do, or with the will of the Father.

“They are not facing reality! They think they see, but they don’t. They think they know, but they don’t. They think they understand better than the others, but they don’t…” the Pope exclaimed.

“For the reality is completely different. It is what Jesus sees and what directs his steps. The reality is the cross.”

This reality, Francis continued, is the sin of the world, which the Lord came to take upon himself and to “uproot from the world of men and women.”

The reality of sin is manifest in the world in the innocent who suffer and die as victims of war and terrorism, in the many forms of human slavery that exist, he said. It’s found also in refugee camps, which are more like hell than purgatory, and it’s in the discarding of people and things that society doesn’t find useful.

“This,” he said, “is what Jesus sees as he walks towards Jerusalem.”

“During his public ministry he made known the Father’s tender love by healing all who were oppressed by the evil one (cf. Acts 10:38). Now he realizes that the moment has come to press on to the very end, to eliminate evil at its root. And so, he walks resolutely towards the cross.”

“We too, dear brothers and sisters, are journeying with Jesus along this path,” he said.

“And now,” he concluded, “with faith and through the intercession of the Virgin Mother, let us ask the Holy Spirit to bridge every gap between our hearts and the heart of Christ, so that our lives may be completely at the service of God and all our brothers and sisters.”

After the consistory, Pope Francis and the new cardinals will stop by the Vatican's Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to pay a visit to Benedict XVI, who was not present at the ceremony.

As is customary, the cardinals will then proceed to the atrium of the Pope Paul VI hall where they are formally greeted and congratulated.

The new cardinals will also concelebrate Mass with Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square on June 29, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the patrons of Rome. At the Mass the Pope will also bestow the pallia on the new metropolitan archbishops appointed during the last year.

The consistory was the fourth of Pope Francis’ pontificate. With the 5 new cardinals included, the number of voting cardinals comes to 121, and the number of non-voters to 104, for a grand total of 225.

Pope: Society needs labor unions and needs them to be inclusive

Pope: Christians fight evil with love, sacrifice, never with violence

Pope: Christians fight evil with love, sacrifice, never with violence

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians are called to detach themselves from power, reject violence and sacrifice themselves for God and others out of love, Pope Francis said.

Christians must live the way Christ chose to: not as "persecutors, but persecuted; not arrogant, but meek; not as snake-oil salesmen, but subservient to the truth; not impostors, but honest," he said June 28 during his weekly general audience.

In fact, "Christians find repugnant the idea that suicide attackers might be called 'martyrs' because there is nothing in their purpose that can come close to the behavior of children of God," who are called always to act out of love, he told the estimated 12,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square.

High temperatures and scattered sprinkles prompted the pope to tell guests in the Vatican audience hall that he was about to head outside to a "Turkish bath."

In his weekly catechesis, the pope continued his series on Christian hope by focusing on what gives Christians strength and perseverance in the face of opposition, hatred and persecution.

Jesus dispelled all "mirages of easy success," the pope said, and he warned his disciples that proclaiming the kingdom of God would come at a high price as "you will be hated by all because of my name."

"Christians love, but they are not always loved," the pope said.

Because the world is marked by sin, selfishness, injustice and hostility, he said, it is "normal" that Christians are expected to go against the current and live the way Christ lived and taught.

The Christian lifestyle must be marked by "poverty," he said, noting how Jesus talks to his disciples more about "stripping" themselves than about "getting dressed."

"Indeed, a Christian who is not humble and poor, detached from wealth and power and, above all, detached from him- or herself, does not resemble Jesus," he said.

Christians journey forth into the world with the bare essentials, except their heart, which should be overflowing with love, he added.

In the Gospel of Matthew (10:16-22), Jesus warned his disciples that he was sending them "like sheep in the midst of wolves." They could be shrewd and prudent, the pope said, but never violent because evil can never be defeated with evil.

That is why Jesus sent his people into the world like himself, as sheep -- without sharp teeth, without claws, without weapons -- Pope Francis said. In fact, "true defeat" for a Christian is to succumb to the temptation of responding to the world's resistance and hatred with violence, revenge and evil.

The only weapons Christians possess are the Gospel and the hopeful assurance that God is always by their side, especially in the worst of times.

Persecution, then, doesn't contradict the Gospel, it is part of its very nature, because if the Lord was hated and persecuted, the pope said, "how can we ever hope that we should be spared this battle?"

Yet, "in the great midst of the maelstrom, Christians must not lose hope, believing they have been abandoned," he said.

Christians know that in their midst, there is always a divine power greater than all evil, "stronger than the Mafia, murky conspiracies, (stronger) than those who profit off the lives of the desperate, those who crush others with arrogance," he said.

On the eve of the feast of the martyred Sts. Peter and Paul and just a few hours before he was to create new cardinals whose red robes symbolize martyrdom, Pope Francis underlined the real meaning of martyrdom in his catechesis.

"Martyrs do not live for themselves, they do not fight to assert their own ideas, and they accept having to die only out of fidelity to the Gospel" and with love, which is the highest ideal in Christian life, he said.

This, the pope said, is the strength that animates and sustains people facing so much hardship: knowing that "nothing and no one can separate them from God's love given to us in Jesus Christ."

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Pope Francis: The way of Christ is the way of persecution

Vatican City, Jun 28, 2017 / 03:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said that following Christ means taking a path contrary to that of the world, and being prepared to suffer because of this; though we have hope because of God’s constant presence.

“Persecution is not a contradiction to the gospel, but is part of it: if they persecuted our Master, how can we hope that we will be spared the struggle?” he said June 28.

“However, in the midst of the whirlwind, the Christian must not lose hope, thinking he has been abandoned. Jesus reassures his disciples saying, ‘Even the hairs of your head are all counted.’ As much as to say that none of the sufferings of man, even the most minute and hidden, are invisible to the eyes of God.”

“God sees, and surely protects; and will give his ransom.”

Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the theme of Christian hope during the weekly general audience Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square. This time he reflected on the counter-cultural life of the Christian, which will mean withstanding persecution on some level, and for some, even martyrdom.
“Christians are therefore men and women ‘against the current,’” he said. “It is normal: since the world is marked by sin, manifested in various forms of egoism and injustice, those who follow Christ walk in the opposite direction.”

As Christians we do this “not for a contrary spirit, but for loyalty to the logic of the Kingdom of God, which is a logic of hope, and is translated into a way of life based on the directions of Jesus,” he continued.

“Christians must therefore always find themselves on the ‘other side,’ on the other side of the world, that chosen by God; not persecutors but persecuted; not arrogant, but gentle; not conmen, but submissive to the truth; not imposters, but honest.”

The first indication of a life lived based on this logic is poverty, the Pope said. In fact, he emphasized, “a Christian who is not humble and poor, detached from wealth and power and above all detached from himself, does not look like Jesus.”

Following this way has its difficulties and struggles, of course, the Pope said. But in difficulty, we must remember that Jesus is with us, and he never leaves his disciples alone.

“This fidelity to the way of Jesus – a way of hope – unto death, will be called by the first Christians with a beautiful name: ‘martyrdom,’ meaning ‘testimony,’” he said.

The early Christians could have chosen a different name for this act, like ‘heroism,’ 'abnegation,' or 'self-sacrifice,' but instead they chose this one, Francis said.

Martyrs are not selfish, living for themselves. “They do not fight to assert their own ideas, and accept that that they have to die only for loyalty to the gospel,” he said, which is the only “force” or strength the Christian uses.

In his catechesis, Francis recalled that Jesus warned us that he sends us “as sheep in the midst of wolves.” And the Christian does not have weapons or claws against these wolves. He or she may need to be cautious, even shrewd at times, he said, but violent never.

A Christian travels through life with the essentials for the journey, but with a heart full of love, he said, because true defeat for the Christian isn't poverty, it's to fall into the temptation to respond to evil with evil.

There is, in fact, “Someone” among us who is stronger than evil, he said.

But martyrdom is not even “the supreme ideal of Christian life,” Francis continued, because above all there is charity, that is, the love of God and of neighbor.”

Reflecting on charity, the Apostle Paul says: “If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

This is why it Christians are disgusted by the idea that suicide bombers might be called “martyrs,” the Pope explained. “These do not know the martyrs – there is nothing in their end that can be brought closer to the attitudes of the children of God.”

The martyrs of yesterday and even of today had hope that no one and nothing could separate them from the love of God. So we ask that God gives us this same strength to be his witnesses, he concluded.

“He gives us the opportunity to live Christian hope especially in the hidden martyrdom of doing well and with love our duties of every day.”

Unity is more than 'bland uniformity,' Pope tells Orthodox

Vatican City, Jun 27, 2017 / 04:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis met with a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, saying their journey toward full communion is one that ought to respect their unique traditions – rather than a uniformity that would, in the end, make the Church more boring.

“Peter and Paul, as disciples and apostles of Jesus Christ, served the Lord in very different ways,” the Pope said June 27.

“Yet in their diversity, both bore witness to the merciful love of God our Father, which each in his own fashion profoundly experienced, even to the sacrifice of his own life.”

Because of this, since ancient times the Church in the East and in the West has celebrated the feast of the two Apostles together, he said, adding that it is right to jointly commemorate “their self-sacrifice for love of the Lord, for it is at the same time a commemoration of unity and diversity.”

Pope Francis spoke to a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, who are currently in Rome for the June 29 celebration of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. The Pope is particularly close to the Orthodox Church of Constantinople, and has met with their Patriarch, Bartholomew I, several times since his election in 2013.

In his address to the delegation, Francis said the traditional exchange of delegations on the feast of their patrons is something that “increases our desire for the full restoration of communion between Catholics and Orthodox.”

This, he said, is something “which we already have a foretaste in fraternal encounter, shared prayer and common service to the Gospel.”

He noted how in the first millennium, Christians of both the East and West were able to share the same Eucharist and preserve the essential truths of the faith while at the same time cultivating and exchanging a variety of theological, canonical and spiritual traditions founded on the teaching of the apostles and the ecumenical councils.

“That experience,” Francis said, “is a necessary point of reference and a source of inspiration for our efforts to restore full communion in our own day, a communion that must not be a bland uniformity.”

Francis then noted how this year marks 50 years since Blessed Pope Paul VI visited Istanbul's Phanar district in July 1967, where the seat of the ecumenical patriarchate is located, to visit Patriarch Athenagoras, as well as the visit of  Athenagoras to Rome in October of the same year.

“The example of these courageous and farsighted pastors, moved solely by love for Christ and his Church, encourages us to press forward in our journey towards full unity,” Francis said.

The Pope then expressed his gratitude for the many occasions on which he has been able to meet with Patriarch Bartholomew, which have taken place largely during his various trips and ecumenical prayer events.

At the end of his speech, Pope Francis noted that in September, a meeting of the Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church will take place in Leros, Greece.

He voiced his hope that the event “will take place in a spiritual climate of attentiveness to the Lord’s will and in a clear recognition of the journey already being made together by many Catholic and Orthodox faithful in various parts of the world, and that it will prove most fruitful for the future of ecumenical dialogue.”

The Pope closed by voicing his hope that with the intercession of Saints Peter, Paul and Andrew, through mutual prayer they would become “instruments of communion and peace.”