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Archbishop in New Mexico sees bigotry in Trump comments

Archbishop John C. Wester, the leader of New Mexico's largest diocese said Wednesday he believes comments about immigration attributed to President Donald Trump "reflect bigotry" and that immigrants from poor countries made the U.S. great.

Priest tends to miners, sex workers deep in Peru’s Amazon

More than half of Peru lies within the Amazon biome, which spans nine countries and is home to one-tenth of the world's species. In recent decades, the Amazon has undergone a dramatic transformation, with dams, expanded ranching and mining decimating nearly one-fifth of the total forest.

In Chile, apocalyptic pope gives Catholic universities a mission

On Wednesday in Chile, Pope Francis laid out a vision of the Catholic university as a bulwark against technology-driven forces of globalized postmodernity that are dissolving the bonds of belonging, sweeping away institutions and turning us into consuming individuals obsessed with gratification and increasingly divorced from cultural and religious roots.

Lila Rose: Pro-life movement must feed hunger for truth

Lila Rose is a pro-life advocate and founder of Live Action, an activist group most famous for its undercover work exposing the seedier side of the abortion industry.

Pope to youth: Maturity doesn’t mean accepting injustice, corruption

Pope Francis on Wednesday told youth in Chile that older people often dismiss the idealism of the young, saying they'll get over it as they age, but the pontiff urged them not to accept that corruption and injustice are the price of maturity.

Vatican to host nuclear disarmament conference

The Vatican is preparing for a conference on nuclear disarmament this week in the wake of an international effort to ban nuclear weapons. Hosted by the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, the Nov. 10-11 conference will explore solutions and prospects for a world free of nuclear weapons and integral disarmament, in cohesion with Pope Francis' emphasis on promoting peace.

In a Nov. 7 Vatican communique Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the dicastery, said the event “responds to the priorities of Pope Francis to take action for world peace and to use the resources of creation for a sustainable development and to improve the quality of life for all, individuals and countries, without discrimination.”

At the International Atomic Energy Agency conference in Vienna in September, department secretary Msgr. Bruno Marie Duffé also emphasized the importance of the “moral responsibility of the States” and the challenge of a “common strategy of dialogue” invoked by Pope Francis.

The international symposium represents “the first global gathering on Atomic Disarmament” after the approval of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was passed in New York July 7. Until the treaty, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction not explicitly banned by any international document. The treaty passed with 122 votes in favor and one abstention, Singapore. However, 69 countries – all the nuclear weapon states and NATO members except the Netherlands –  did not take part in the vote.

One of the conference’s speakers Saturday will be Masako Wada, one of the last survivors of the Hiroshima nuclear attack and an assistant secretary general of Nihon Hidankyo, a confederation of nuclear weapons and experiments victims.  Other attendees include 11 Nobel Peace Laureates, representatives from the United Nations and NATO, diplomats from Russia, the United States, South Korea, and Iran, experts on armaments and weapons and leaders from foundations engaged in the topic. There will also be representatives of bishops' conferences and other Christian organizations and a delegation of professors and students from US and Russian universities.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, as well as the leadership of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, will deliver speeches on behalf of the Holy See; Pope Francis will meet with participants and give an address Nov. 10.

The conference builds on a conference held in New York in March to negotiate the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty. Pope Francis sent a message to that conference saying the doctrine of nuclear deterrence has become ineffective against 21st century threats like terrorism, asymmetrical conflicts, environmental problems, and poverty. These threats, the Pope stressed, are “even greater when we consider the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences that would follow from any use of nuclear weapons, with devastating, indiscriminate and uncontainable effects, over time and space.”

Pope names two laywomen to key positions in Vatican's family office

On Tuesday the Vatican announced Pope Francis’ appointment of two lay women – experts in bioethics and canon law – as the first two under-secretaries of the mega-dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. The appointment of Dr. Gabriella Gambino for the section on life and Dr. Linda Ghisoni for the section on laity was announced in a Nov. 7 Vatican communique, bringing the leadership of the dicastery more clearly into shape after it's establishment in 2016.

The Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life officially began its work Sept. 1, 2016, replacing the former Pontifical Council for the Laity and Pontifical Council for the Family, which were dissolved. The department is responsible for projects relating to the apostolate of laity, families, and the institution of marriage, within the Church, and is responsible for the organization of events such as the World Meeting of Families, which will take place in Dublin in August 2018.

Both Gambino and Ghisoni join dicastery secretary Fr. Alexandre Awi Mello and prefect Cardinal Kevin Farrell, in leading the department. However, the appointment of a third under-secretary for the section on family is still forthcoming.

Gambino, 49, is currently a professor at the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences, is a professor of bioethics at the Faculty of Philosophy, and a researcher and associate professor in the philosophy of law at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata.” Originally from Milan, she holds a doctorate in bioethics from the Institute of Bioethics at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome.

From 2001-2007, she taught and did research at the Institute of the Methodology of Social Sciences of the LUISS-Guido Carli University in Rome, and in 2002 was appointed scientific expert of the National Committee for Bioethics at the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. Gambino collaborated with the former Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Academy for Life from 2013-2016. She is married with five children, and has written numerous publications on the themes of life, family and marriage. In addition to Italian, she speaks five other languages.

Dr. Linda Ghisoni, 52, works as a judge at the First Instance Court of the Vicariate of Rome, as a professor of canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and as a professor of law at Roma Tre University. She is from the town of Cortemaggiore in the north of Italy and studied philosophy and theology at the Eberhard-Karls-University in Tübingen, Germany. In 1999 she received a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and in 2002 she received the diploma of Rotary Attorney at the Studium rotale of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

Since 1997 Ghisoni has held various positions at the Tribunals of First Instance and Appeal of the Vicariate of Rome, including Notary, Defender of the Bond, Auditor and Judge. She has also served as Judicial Counselor at the Tribunal of the Roman Rota from 2002-2009, and Commissioner of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments for the Defense of the marital bond in causes for the dissolution of the marriage “ratum sed non consummatum” (ratified but not consummated). Since November 2011, she has also worked at the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. From 2013-2016, she collaborated with the former Pontifical Council for the Laity in the field of specialist laity studies in the Church. She is married and has two daughters.

Venezuela's hate crime law seeks to silence political opposition, bishops warn

The president of the Venezuelan bishops' justice and peace commission has criticized a hate crimes law passed on Thursday, charging that its aim is to silence those opposed to the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro. The Law Against Hatred and Fascism, the Nov. 2 legislation passed by the Constituent Assembly, will be used by Maduro's government against the opposition “so we can't even speak or protest,” Emeritus Archbishop of Coro Roberto Lückert Leon told ACI Prensa.

The Constituent Assembly's president, Delcy Rodriguez, has said the law targets media that “promote hatred and racism.” Lückert stated that news media critical of the government have been undercut by Maduro's government. “Right now they've hamstrung the news media. They're using the supply of newsprint to undermine us. The oldest newspaper in Coro is called La Mañana. The can't print it because they're not giving them any newsprint; on the other hand, they gave to the paper that they founded a building, machinery, and newsprint, and it comes out every day. That's freedom of the speech? No.”

According to the Maduro government “it's the opposition that's violent. But when you go to a peaceful march to hand over documents to the prosecutor's office, you're met with the Bolivarian National Guard, the militias and pro-government thugs on motorcycles, so you can't fulfill a civic duty with a state agency. They're the violent ones,” he charged.

Archbishop Lückert stated that “as a Venezuelan, the only solution for the country that I have is elections; but elections that are transparent and fair.” However, he said that at this time the Venezuelan people are profoundly upset by the National Electoral  Council, which “is completely sold out to the government” and which manipulated recent elections so Maduro's party would win.

“I'm really afraid that if people abstained from voting in the Oct. 15 election of governors, it's going to be worse for the election of mayors this coming Dec. 10,” Lückert said. The prelate also said the Constituent Assembly “is an invention Maduro brought in from Cuba,” where there are no political parties or independent news media.

The Constituent Assembly is the product of contested elections, which took place in July. The body has superseded the authority of the National Assembly, Venezuela's opposition-controlled legislature. The vice president of the National Assembly, Freddy Guevara, has been accused of encouraging violence during protests. Guevara has taken refuge at the Chilean ambassador's residence in Caracas.

Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savnio of Caracas called the Constituent Assembly “fraudulent and illegitimate”  in a recent interview with El Nacional. “It's made up of political activists at the service of the government and it's not going to resolve the problems with the economy. What's needed here is to change the Marxist, totalitarian, and statist ideology that has brought the country to ruin,” he charged.

Cardinal Urosa told El Nacional that Maduro wants to “decapitate the opposition so there's  just one political party.” He lamented that “the situation in the country is worse than a month ago: disregard for human rights continues, there are still political prisoners and opposition leaders that won in the elections are being persecuted; childhood malnutrition has increased and diseases eradicated in the 1950s are coming back, such as  malaria, tuberculosis and diphtheria. But we've got to keep up the fight as did Bolivar, despite the defeats.”

Frustration in Venezuela has been building for years due to poor economic policies, including strict price controls coupled with high inflation rates, which have resulted in a severe lack of basic necessities such as toilet paper, milk, flour, diapers, and medicines. Venezuela's socialist government is widely blamed for the crisis.

Since 2003, price controls on some 160 products, including cooking oil, soap and flour, have meant that while they are affordable, they fly off store shelves only to be resold on the black market at much higher rates. The International Monetary Fund has forecasted an inflation rate of 2,300 percent in Venezuela in 2018.  

This article was originally published by ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

We are in the mercy business

This past weekend I was invited to address students in the business program at Mount Saint Mary’s University here in Los Angeles.

I do not hold a master’s degree in business. I have training as an accountant, so I know how companies work. However, my main job is to be a pastor, a priest.

But as I was praying and thinking about it, it struck me that there are management lessons we can learn from Jesus and the Church.

The Church is not a “corporation.” The Church is the family of God on earth, called to carry on the mission that Jesus Christ gave to her. But in earthly terms, we do have a kind of “corporate profile.”  

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles employs more than 16,000 people. We oversee payroll and taxes, pensions and health care plans; we manage a large portfolio of investments. We also operate several nonprofit foundations that provide charitable grants.

Of course, our primary “revenue stream” comes from the generosity of our Catholic people. We are a nonprofit and for us that means everything we bring in goes out in the form of services to our people and the wider community.

We have about 500 or 600 “franchise outlets” or “points of presence” in a “service territory” of about 9,000 square miles — that includes our parishes, schools and all our various ministries in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Our “customer base” numbers about 5 million Catholics and is incredibly diverse — in terms of race, ethnicity and economic status. We carry out our operations in more than 40 different languages.

So what is the Church’s “business”?

People tend to see the Church as a charitable or humanitarian institution. And that is an important part of what we do.

Our parishes and agencies provide services to nearly 1 million people each year, most of them non-Catholic. We serve nearly 80,000 young people in our schools — two-thirds are from minority households and about one-third are from families living below the poverty line.

But our corporate mission is much more than that. I would say we are in the “mercy business.”

The Church holds the most precious “commodity.” Our Founder and owner called it “the pearl of great price” — the path to true happiness and everlasting life that every person longs to find.

That is the Church’s bottom line.

And as I was thinking about it, my management philosophy as an archbishop is based on the words and example of our “corporate Founder,” Jesus Christ. For me, leadership in the Church is about knowing our purpose — “why” we are doing what we do.

We all know what the Church does. We celebrate Mass and we make the sacraments available — baptism, confession, marriage, confirmation. We teach kids and we heal patients. We help the elderly and the poor. We work for justice in society and try to inspire people to do good and to seek God.

But none of that explains “why” we do what we do. And if we do not think about “the why,” the Church is reduced to only another humanitarian agency trying to make the world a better place.

Jesus is “the why” of the Church. He is the Founder and owner of the Church and we do everything because of him and we do it for him.

Apart from whatever technical and professional skills they bring to their jobs, our employees need to love Jesus and want to follow him and serve his mission. This is the key to our “corporate identity.”

We do not just have a job — we have a mission. The “why” makes all the difference.

Feeding the hungry is important. People need to eat. But when we feed the hungry, as followers of Christ, we have his larger mission in mind. Through the love we show to the poor, we hope to bring them to discover the love of God.

Jesus also gave us instructions for “how” we are to lead.

In founding the Church, he told the apostles, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant.”

He held himself up as the model for leadership. He said he came “not to be served, but to serve.” That should be the leadership motto for everyone in the Church — to serve, not to be served.

We do not lead by “being the boss.” We exercise leadership through humble service to others, always asking, “What does this person need and how can I help?”

Maybe our business schools should be studying the “leadership style” of Jesus. After all, he founded the most successful institution in human history — the Catholic Church.

The saints and religious founders who followed in Jesus’ footsteps are some of the most dynamic “entrepreneurs” the world has ever seen.

Pray for me this week and I will be praying for you. And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to intercede and guide us always to follow in the footsteps of her son. 


You can follow Archbishop Gomez daily via FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Filipino Bishops begin rosary campaign against violent drug war

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has called for a prayer campaign to address violence in an escalating conflict between police and drug traffickers. Since President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on drug trafficking began last year, nearly 4,000 Filipinos are reported to have been killed by the police.

While police say the killings have been acts of self-defense against armed gangs, critics allege that police forces are conducting unauthorized, extrajudicial executions. Vigilante groups are also said to have conducted murder in the midst of the drug war.

The bishops’ prayer campaign challenges Filipinos to pursue healing and repentance, instead of escalating the violence. “Repent so healing can begin. Stopping the killing is only one big step. The journey of healing for the values of our nation turned upside down will be a long journey still,” said Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Filipino bishops conference. “God's people, let's go back to the Lord … we choose darkness over light … We choose violence rather than peace,” he added.

On November 5, an estimated 3,000 Filipinos gathered for Mass and a procession along the Abenida Epidanio de los Santos, a historic Manila highway where a non-violent protest helped end the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. The prayer campaign involves praying the rosary for 33 days, until the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, on December 8th.

In August, the deaths of three teenagers prompted a 40-day prayer campaign, in which churches rang their bells nightly, and parishioners gathered to honor the dead with candles.

In his homily on Sunday, Archbishop Villegas urged Filipinos to work for justice while resisting the temptation to violence. “Peace to you the murdered brethren and victims of extrajudicial killings. May the Lord give you peace in His kingdom, that peace that the world failed to give you!” “May your blood speak to us, disturb us and move us to act to resist violence,” he said, noting that curses will be cast on a nation which spills the blood of its own citizens. Healing begins with asking for repentance, the archbishop said, and he challenged clergy and government officials to be the first to turn away from sin and commit to the service of their roles.

May leaders ask forgiveness, he said, “for falling for the lure of comfort and the attraction of convenience, for giving in to the temptation to be powerful and popular rather than be humble and faithful, for our tendency to judge rather than seek unity, for keeping quiet when we should speak and blabbering when what is needed is silence, God forgive us leaders of your Church.”

He called for greater respect of the country's democratic institutions and laws, noting that civil servants are servants to the people and not in power because of weapons. He encouraged the government to pursue justice not revenge, and to rule by respect rather than fear.  

The war on drugs was a major part of Duterte's 2016 presidential campaign. Reportedly, over 7,000 people have died from police officers and vigilantes from July 2016 to January 2017. In recent months, groups like the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism have accused the government of providing unclear statistics. Harry Rogue, a presidential spokesperson, denied any extrajudicial killings, and said the government was looking into more than 2,000 suspicious deaths. He also encouraged the bishops to work more closely with drug rehabilitation and anti-drug forces.