Browsing News Entries

'Repent and accept the Gospel' Trumps say in Ash Wednesday statement

Washington D.C., Feb 26, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump issued a presidential message on Wednesday, Feb. 26, acknowledging Ash Wednesday and offering prayers for everyone observing Lent. 

The Trumps said in the message that they wished “everyone observing Ash Wednesday a peaceful and prayerful day.” 

Ash Wednesday marks the start of the liturgical season of Lent, during which Catholics observe a time of repentance and preparation for Easter through the practice of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. 

“Today, millions of Christians will be marked on their foreheads with the sign of the cross. The imposition of ashes is an invitation to spend time during Lent fasting, praying, and engaging in acts of charity,” said the statement from the Trumps.

“This powerful and sacred tradition reminds us of our shared mortality, Christ’s saving love, and the need to repent and accept the Gospel more fully,” they said. 

The president and first lady offered prayers for everyone who is observing Ash Wednesday, and said they wished everyone a “prayerful Lenten journey.” 

“May you grow closer to God in your faith during this blessed season,” said the message. 

This is the first time the Trumps have issued a message concerning Ash Wednesday. The last presidential message on Ash Wednesday was released in 2016 by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. 

In addition to prayers for those observing Lent, the Obamas extended prayers to “all those who suffer, including those Christians who are subjected to unspeakable violence and persecution for their faith.”

Pope Francis' Lent advice: Put down phone, pick up Bible

Vatican City, Feb 26, 2020 / 02:55 am (CNA).- Pope Francis urged Catholics Wednesday to use the season of Lent to spend less time immersed in the chatter and noise of the world through television and their phones, and to spend more time in silence and in conversation with God.

“Lent is the right time to make room for the Word of God. It is the time to turn off the television and open the Bible. It is the time to disconnect from your cell phone and connect to the Gospel,” the pope said Feb. 26.

This penitential period, he continued, is also the time to work on giving up gossip, rumors, and useless chatter, focusing instead on giving yourself to the Lord, who spent 40 days in the desert in fasting and prayer.

During Lent, Jesus is “calling us into the desert,” Francis explained. Jesus “invites us to listen to what matters. To the devil who tempted him, he replied: ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

“Like bread, more than bread we need the Word of God, we need to speak with God: we need to pray,” he urged.

In his weekly general audience, which fell on Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis reflected on the “desert” of Lent and how countercultural it is to spend time in silence, away from the noisiness of modern life.

“We live in an environment polluted by too much verbal violence, by many offensive and harmful words, which the internet amplifies,” he explained.

“We are inundated with empty words, with advertisements, with subtle messages. We have become used to hearing everything about everyone and we risk slipping into a worldliness that atrophies our hearts.”

In this noise, “we struggle to distinguish the voice of the Lord who speaks to us, the voice of conscience, of good,” the pope said.

According to Francis, the ‘desert’ of Lent, where we can be in conversation with the Lord, becomes a life-giving place.

He acknowledged that it is not easy to make space for silence in one’s heart, but invited everyone to imagine themselves in the desert, surrounded by a great silence, with “no noises, apart from the wind and our breath.”

“It is the absence of words to make room for another Word, the Word of God,” he said.

Pointing again to the image of the desert, Pope Francis said it recalls what is essential, and how often in life people become surrounded by many useless things.

“We chase a thousand things that seem necessary and in reality are not. How good it would be for us to get rid of so many superfluous realities, to rediscover what matters, to find the faces of those around us!” he urged.

“Prayer, fasting, works of mercy: here is the road into the Lenten desert.”

The solitude of the desert also reminds us of the people around us who are lonely and abandoned, he said, saying the “path in the Lenten desert is a path of charity towards the weaker.”

He also said fasting is a way of seeking a simpler life by giving up superfluous, vain things. But, he warned, it is not about “slimming down.”

“In the desert one finds intimacy with God, the love of the Lord,” he stated. “The road that leads us from death to life opens up in the desert. We enter the desert with Jesus, we will go out savoring Easter…”

“Have courage.”

Catholics must reject social media anti-Semitism, Indiana bishop says

Fort Wayne, Ind., Feb 25, 2020 / 08:00 pm (CNA).- The Catholic Church has “firmly condemned” anti-Semitism, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana said Feb. 19, warning against theological errors and “false and hateful” rhetoric against Jews on social media.

“Unfortunately, there has been a rise in recent years of anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic rhetoric in our society,” the bishop said in a statement published in the diocesan newspaper Today's Catholic. “Further, there have been incidents of violence incited by hateful speech about Jews. The Church has firmly condemned such rhetoric and violence. Those who speak of Jews as our enemies are mistaken.”

“Pope St. Paul VI, Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have consistently referred to our Jewish brothers and sisters as 'friends' whom we love and esteem, not as enemies or adversaries whom we reject,” he said. “Language matters. Language that incites animosity is harmful.”

Bishop Rhoades did not mention specific incidents or personalities.

In October 2018, a gunman attacked the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh during morning Shabbat services. Shouting anti-Semitic slogans, the attacker killed eight men and three women. He also injured six others, including four policemen. He was wounded and surrendered to police. He had previously posted anti-Semitic comments and criticized Jewish aid for migrants, whom he denigrated as “invaders.”

In Poway, California in April 2019, a shooter attacked Chabad of Poway Synagogue on the last day of Passover. The attacker killed one woman and injured three people, including the rabbi. The attacker had published an anti-Semitic manifesto before the attack, and also claimed responsibility for an arson attack on a California mosque.

In December 2019 in Jersey City, New Jersey two gunmen shot and killed four people, including two Orthodox Jews, at a cemetery and kosher supermarket. Local authorities said preliminary evidence indicated the suspects held views that reflected hatred against Jews.

Bishop Rhoades' comments warned of errors and hateful rhetoric about Jews.

“Some writers today do not present Jews or Judaism in a respectful or theologically correct manner,” he said. “In this age of social media, people read or listen to all kinds of opinions expressed about Judaism and the Jewish people on internet blogs, websites, and the like. Some are filled with false and hateful rhetoric, opposed to the very spirit of Christianity. As Catholics, we must reject any that express, or can lead to, contempt for Jews.”

To this, Rhoades added “the Catholic Church offers no shelter to anti-Jewish bias, regardless of its content or expression. This applies to racist statements against Jews, to anti-Semitism, or to any religious opinion that denigrates Jews or Judaism.”

Rhoades acknowledged disagreement between Christians and Jews on matters of faith, “but such disagreements need not imply hostility,” he said.

“The only truly Christian attitude towards the Jewish people is an attitude of respect, esteem, and love,” Rhoades continued. “As members of God’s family, we are bound to one another in His plan of salvation.”

He described a November 2019 gathering at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Fort Wayne, where over 1,000 Jews and Christians gathered for the “Violins of Hope” event. The event's musical instruments included violins used by Jewish prisoners in Nazi concentration camps and both Jewish and Catholic choirs sang. The audience prayed the Psalms together.

This event, said Rhoades, “brought us tears of both sadness and joy — sadness at the horrors of the Holocaust, and joy at the love we share as brothers and sisters, drawn together by a common spiritual patrimony.”

The bishop also delivered a theological and historical reflection.

“We recognize that the anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism of past centuries contributed to the rise of the Nazi project to exterminate Jews,” he said. He cited the Second Vatican Council's document Nostra Aetate, which condemned “all hatreds, persecutions, displays of antisemitism leveled at any time or from any source against the Jews.” The document urged careful catechesis and preaching about Jews.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches “The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Testament,” the bishop said.

“We must never forget that Judaism was the religion of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the apostles, and of the early disciples who spread the good news of Christ to the world,” said Rhoades. “The four gospels were written by Jews, about a Jew and originally for a Jewish readership. The Jewish people, then, are Jesus’ own family.”

“Though many Jews did not accept the Gospel or opposed its spreading, they were not thereby rejected by God,” said the bishop, who emphasized the Second Vatican Council's rejection of the claim that all Jews were “Christ-killers”

“Even though the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ (cf. John 19:6), neither all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his passion,” Nostra Aetate said.

Rhoades noted that the Catholic Catechism teaches that all human beings are responsible for the death of Jesus.

“The Jews are not our enemies. We are bound together with them in friendship as brothers and sisters in the family of God,” said Rhoades.

He invoked the example of Pope Francis' 2016 visit to the synagogue of Rome. The pope's remarks stressed as fundamental to inter-religious dialogue the Christian and Jew's encounter of each other “as brothers and sisters before our Creator,” their praise for God, and their mutual respect, appreciation, and attempts at cooperation.

“This is especially important as the Church and the Jewish communities continue to address religious and ethical questions that both face in a world intent upon challenging religious freedom,” Rhoades said. “Jews and Christians can impact society profoundly when they stand together on key issues such as the sanctity of human life, immigration reform, health care, human trafficking and world peace.”

“Even as we Catholics profess our belief in Christ as the Messiah, the Son of God, and Savior of the world, we also recognize God’s unfailing, steadfast love for His chosen people, Israel,” the bishop said. In our mission of preaching Christ to the world, we do not dismiss or reject the spiritual treasures of the Jewish people.”

“Let us give thanks to God for the growth in trust and friendship established between Catholics and Jews since the Second Vatican Council,” the bishop's statement concluded. “May the Lord accompany us on our journey of friendship and bless us with His peace!”

 

US Supreme Court rules in favor of border patrol agent in cross-border shooting

Washington D.C., Feb 25, 2020 / 07:19 pm (CNA).- The US Supreme Court has issued a ruling in the case of a border patrol agent who shot and killed a Mexican boy across the border a decade ago. The court ruled 5-4 in favor of the agent, finding that court precedent allowing lawsuits against federal officers do not apply to cross-border shootings.

At the U.S.-Mexico border in 2010, three Mexican boys were playing a game of “chicken” by seeing who would run the closest to the border. Fifteen-year-old Sergio Hernandez crossed the border, and border patrol agent Jesus Mesa Jr. noticed him.

As Hernandez ran back into a culvert between the walls on either side of the border, the agent fired two shots, one of which struck Hernandez in the face and killed him.

Mesa claimed the boys were engaged in an illegal border-crossing attempt, and also that they were throwing rocks at him.

The Justice Department conducted an investigation of the incident and found that, while expressing regret over the boy’s death, Mesa had not violated policy or training, and the DOJ declined to bring charges against him.

Mexico requested that Mesa be extradited for the killing, but the Obama administration refused. Hernandez’s family sued for damages, claiming that the Fourth Amendment protects against such use of force on the border.

The Supreme Court had begun hearing oral arguments in the case during February 2017, and at that time declined to rule on the case. Oral arguments began again during November 2019.

The Fourth Circuit had dismissed the case, saying, “the plaintiffs fail to allege a violation of the Fourth Amendment, and that the Fifth Amendment right asserted by the plaintiffs was not clearly established at the time of the complained-of incident.” That court also ruled that as a Mexican citizen on Mexican soil, Hernandez was not entitled to Fourth Amendment protection.

In the 1971 opinion Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, the Supreme Court held that a person claiming to be the victim of an unlawful arrest and search could bring a Fourth Amendment claim for damages against the responsible agents even though no federal statute authorized such a claim.

However, the Supreme Court declined to extend that precedent to the current case for several reasons, one of which was the potential effect on foreign relations.

A “cross-border shooting is by definition an international incident,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the court’s opinion, adding that the executive and legislative branches, rather than the judicial branch, ought to be entrusted with matters related to foreign relations.

He also wrote that “since regulating the conduct of agents at the border unquestionably has national security implications, the risk of undermining border security provides reason to hesitate before extending Bivens into this field.”

Justice Clarence Thomas noted in a concurring opinion that the Bivens case may have been wrongly decided in the first place.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, writing that the parents’ lawsuit does not endanger border security or U.S. foreign policy, and opining that the majority rejected the family’s Fourth and Fifth Amendment claims only because Hernandez happened to be on the Mexican side when he died.

The Border Patrol drastically changed its use of force policies in the years after the shooting, following several complaints of excessive force, the Associated Press reports.

S. Dakota dioceses focus on healing, after statute of limitations bill fails

Pierre, S.D., Feb 25, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- The South Dakota legislature has killed a bill that would have opened a two-year window for childhood victims of sexual abuse of all ages to sue the organizations in which their abuse took place.

The bill would have been an expansion of current South Dakota law on the statute of limitations for abuse cases, which allows victims of childhood abuse up to the age of 40 to sue organizations, such as Catholic dioceses.

According to the AP, the legislature heard testimony in favor of the bill from some of the surviving members of a group of nine biological sisters who allege that they were sexually abused by priests and nuns at an Indian mission school.

The Charbonneau sisters have been unsuccessfully lobbying to expand the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse in South Dakota for nearly 10 years, the AP reported. The sisters allege they were the victims of rape and abuse by clergy and nuns at St. Paul’s Indian Mission School on the Yankton Reservation in South Dakota while they attended during the 1950s and 1960s.

In the past year, following a new wave of Church sex abuse scandals in the United States and throughout the world, multiple states and countries have repealed or extended their statutes of limitations in order to allow more time for victims of childhood abuse to come forward.

Officials with the dioceses of Sioux Falls and Rapid City told CNA that regardless of the civil law, the dioceses were prepared to offer help to victims in the form of counseling and spiritual accompaniment.

“The Church recognizes God's law as superior to all other laws. And for that reason, if there's going to be any person coming forward that feels they've been harmed at the hand of the minister of the Church, out of her moral obligation we will respond and do all that we can to assist that person, regardless of what the statutes and civil law says,” Matt Althoff, chancellor of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, told CNA.

Althoff said that sexual abuse creates a “woundedness” in people’s souls, and that the diocese offers psychological counseling as well as spiritual direction in order to help victims heal. He said anyone who has been wounded by the Church is welcome to seek out those services regardless of when the abuse took place.

Father Michel Mulloy, administrator of the Diocese of Rapid City, told CNA he also hoped for “reconciliation and healing for anyone who has experienced any wrong. I believe that the one who can give that reconciliation and healing is Jesus Christ.”

“All I attempt to do in my ministry is to bring people to the cross of Jesus Christ and to accompany them in seeking and receiving the reconciliation and healing that Jesus can and, I believe, does want to give.”