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Bishops of El Salvador warn against privatizing water

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jose Cabezas, Reuters

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SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (CNS) -- El Salvador's bishops urged lawmakers to discard any plans for privatizing water in the Central American country, saying the poor could not afford to pay the cost of a vital necessity.

In a terse statement, issued June 12 and titled, "We will not allow the poor to die of thirst," the Salvadoran bishops' conference cited Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," which said, "Access to potable and secure water is a basic, fundamental and universal human right because it determines the survival of people and therefore is a condition for the exercising of all other rights."

The bishops continued: "As pastors, we are witnesses to the outcry of our people, who ask for potable water in all homes and could not pay the costs if (water) is turned into a good, which is subject to market forces."

El Salvador's legislature is starting debate on a national water law. The legislation is proving controversial because some lawmakers favor increased private-sector participation in water management.

The bishops' conference preferred that public oversight of water resources be maintained.

"If a law is approved that grants a private entity the right to decide over distribution of water in the nation, denying the state this function, we would be facing an absolutely undemocratic law, which lacks legitimacy," the bishops said.

"An unjust law that violates the rights of the people cannot be admitted."

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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.

Biggest danger in life is fear, settling for less, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The worst enemies in a young person's life aren't the problems they may face, Pope Francis said.

The biggest dangers are being unwilling to find a way to adapt, mediocrity by settling for the status quo, and fear, he said at his general audience in St. Peter's Square June 13.

"It is necessary to ask the heavenly father for the gift of healthy restlessness for today's young people, the ability to not settle for a life without beauty, without color. If young people are not hungry for an authentic life, where will humanity end up?" he said.

As the pope spoke to the crowd of 15,000 people, he was flanked on either side by 10 children wearing bright yellow baseball caps. He had invited them to temporarily leave behind their parish group pilgrimage in the square and follow him to the platform in front of the basilica to be part of his VIP entourage for the morning.

The pope said he was beginning a new series of audience talks on the Ten Commandments and how Jesus leads people from the law to its fulfillment.

He asked people to reflect on the reading from the Gospel of Mark and Jesus' response to a young, wealthy man who asked what was needed to inherit eternal life. This question reflects the burning human desire for a full and dignified life, the pope said, but the challenge is "how to get there? What path to take?"

Unfortunately, the pope said, some people believe this restlessness, this desire to live a better life is too dangerous and should be tamped down.

"I would like to say, especially to young people, our worst enemy is not concrete problems" no matter how serious or tragic they may be.

"The biggest danger in life is a bad spirit of adapting that is not meekness or humility, but is mediocrity, pusillanimity," that is, cowardice or fear, and making the excuse for doing nothing by saying, "that's just the way I am."

"Where will humanity end up with young people who are tame (and) not restless?" he asked.

Referring to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati's insistence that it is better to live fully than to just get by, the pope asked the crowd whether a kid who is "mediocre has a future or not." The pope agreed with their answer, "No. He just sits there. He doesn't grow" and mature.

Reaching maturity, he said, is coming to realize and accept one's limits, and it is also seeing what is lacking in one's life, just as Jesus said the rich young man: "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."

This invitation to leave behind everything and follow the Lord, is "not a proposal of poverty, but of riches," the real treasure of everlasting life, he said.

If told to choose between having "the original" or just a copy, who would choose just a copy, the pope asked.

"Here's the challenge: to find the original, not the copy. Jesus doesn't offer substitutes, but offers real life, real love, real wealth," he said.

It is difficult to see why young people would choose then to follow those Christians who are not choosing "the original, if they see us putting up with half measures. It is terrible to encounter Christians (who only go) halfway, dwarf Christians who only grow a certain height and have a tiny, closed heart," he said.

Young people need the example of Christians who invite them to grow, "to go beyond" and look for more.

"We have to start from reality," with the way things are, "in order to take that leap into what is lacking. We have to scrutinize the ordinary in order to open ourselves up to the extraordinary."

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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.

Catholic groups condemn ruling that limits some asylum seekers

IMAGE: CNS photo/Adrees Latif, Reuters

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Asylum seekers fleeing domestic or gang violence need not apply for protection in the United States, said the country's top law enforcement official at a June 11 news conference explaining why he reversed an immigration court's decision that granted asylum to a Salvadoran woman who said she had been abused by her husband.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that while a person may suffer threats of violence in another country, "for any number of reasons relating to her social, economic, family or other personal circumstances," U.S. asylum laws cannot be used to remedy "all misfortune."

Various organizations, including some Catholic groups, quickly condemned the attorney general's ruling.

"No longer will the United States of America welcome and protect our vulnerable and abused brothers and sisters who are experiencing persecution and brutality," said Lawrence E. Couch, director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

Couch said in a statement that Sessions' decision was "inherently hostile and cruel."

"I believe that the American people are a hopeful and welcoming people, but our government is out of sync with our values. The soul of our nation is being tested," he said.

Last year, in remarks posted on the Department of Justice's website Oct. 12, 2017, Sessions insinuated that an influx of people was entering the country on false asylum grounds, and said there was "rampant abuse and fraud."

Sessions made clear in June that violent threats were not enough to be granted asylum, even if a country's authorities could not help victims.

The ruling could affect adults and children coming from what's known as the Northern Triangle -- El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras -- a region plagued by gang violence, drug trafficking and other social ailments causing people to flee because authorities cannot control the violence nor guarantee safety.

"The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes -- such as domestic violence or gang violence -- or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim," Sessions said in the decision.

Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., said Sessions' ruling "sets a dangerous precedent for other victims of violence, including those who are targeted for their religious beliefs."

Asylum law, she said, "has long recognized that persecution can occur at the hands of entities that a national government is 'unable or unwilling to control' including by terrorist groups such as the Islamic State, al-Qaida and the Tamil Tigers."

But that's exactly what Sessions says in the ruling, she pointed out, when he says that "claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by nongovernmental actors will not qualify for asylum."

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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.

Church praised for proactive response on abuse but warned of complacency

IMAGE: CNS photo/Peter Finney Jr, Clarion Herald

By Peter Finney Jr.

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- Despite groundbreaking steps the U.S. Catholic Church has taken to prevent the sexual abuse of minors in the past 16 years, a potential "complacency" in following safety protocols could pose a challenge to those hard-won advances.

Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, shared that view with diocesan safe environment and victims' assistance coordinators attending the Child and Youth Protection Catholic Leadership Conference in New Orleans.

The 13-member lay board advises the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on safe environment protocols for children in Catholic parishes, schools and organizations.

In his talk June 6, Cesareo that because a large percentage of abuse claims deal with incidents that happened many years and even decades ago, the issue may appear now to be less urgent.

"The church has responded very concretely to this question and very proactively, but one of the issues now is that because it is now historical -- you have newly ordained priests who were children when this broke out -- the urgency of it is not there," he said. "You have bishops who are new. They weren't there in 2002. The urgency is not there."

Cesareo, who is president of Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, said he was pleased the church has shifted its conversation about sexual abuse of minors "from a legalistic approach to a more pastoral approach, which is very helpful in the process of healing and reconciliation and also in getting the church to understand the real pain that victims have felt and have experienced through the abuse."

But, he said, because the church has done such a good job dealing with sexual abuse in the past 16 years, "there is this notion that this is a problem in the past, 'we've dealt with it, we don't have to put as much attention on it, we have the policies in place.'"

"That's where the complacency comes in," Cesareo said. "It's like a hospital. You have the protocols in place and then suddenly someone dies in the operating room. All the protocols were followed, so why did this happen?

"We need to create a culture whereby the church is doing the same thing. Why did this happen? How do we prevent it? How do we strengthen what we're already doing? That's where the complacency issue is becoming problematic."

Cesareo cited encouraging statistics from the most recent audit of how individual dioceses are performing under the U.S. bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People": outreach and support was provided to 1,905 victims/survivors; training on abuse prevention and safe environment was provided to more than 4.1 million children and more than 56,000 priests, deacons and candidates for ordination; and background checks have been administered to 97 to 99 percent of all adults serving in ministry with children.

"That's no small feat," Cesareo told the conference. "Yet, we are not finished. We can never be finished."

While some dioceses are going "above and beyond" the charter's guidelines, Cesareo said, "a number have fallen into a pattern of complacency regarding victim/survivor assistance and child protection efforts."

He said some dioceses had not completed background checks in a timely fashion and some had kept poor records, "which could potentially lead to unscreened individuals interacting with children."

Cesareo said accurate parish and school audits are vital in assessing compliance with the charter and also with diocesan policies. He suggested that individual diocesan review boards, which are called on to evaluate allegations of sexual abuse by clergy, should meet regularly -- at least annually and ideally four times a year -- even if no allegations have come forward.

Bishops can learn a lot by meeting regularly with the experts on the local review boards, Cesareo said.

"It is the belief of the (National Review Board) that diocesan review boards mitigate the risk that allegations will be mishandled and that possible offenders remain in ministry," Cesareo said.

No other organization in the U.S. has done a better job than the Catholic Church has in setting up safeguards to protect children, he said.

"Absolutely and without any doubt, even though we don't get the credit," Cesareo said. "That is clarified, No. 1, by the charter; No. 2, by the audit process that's in place; No. 3, by the policies and procedures that are in place. All the background checks, all the training that has taken place. There's no other organization that's doing what we're doing.

"Catholics in the pew should feel very confident that their children are safe in our schools and in our parishes, that the church is doing everything it can to ensure that kind of culture of safety and healing and that we are being proactive and not forgetting that this has to be always at the forefront of everything we do within the church."

The 13th annual conference, held June 3-6, drew more than 150 people from across the U.S. working in areas of safe environment, victims' assistance and pastoral care.

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Finney is executive editor/general manager of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

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Update: Papal diplomat says U.S.-North Korea summit brings hope for peace

IMAGE: CNS photo/Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Talks between the leaders of the United States and North Korea are "truly historic" and bring hope for the start of a new era of peace, said Pope Francis' ambassador to Korea.

A "very important" new page has been turned, Archbishop Alfred Xuereb, apostolic nuncio to South Korea and Mongolia, told Vatican News June 12.

"It marks the beginning of a still long and arduous journey, but we are hopeful because the start has been very positive, very good," he said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump met on Singapore's Sentosa Island for the historic summit June 12. It was the first meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

Afterward, Trump said Kim would work to end North Korea's nuclear program. Trump promised to end joint military exercises with South Korea.

After the summit, Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul, South Korea, and apostolic administrator of Pyeongyang, North Korea, celebrated Mass in Myeongdong Cathedral to pray for prompt execution of the summit agreement.

"When I heard the news that there was a meaningful agreement between the two summits in their first meeting, I deeply thanked God to remember our prayers for reconciliation and union of the Korean people," Cardinal Yeom said in his homily. "I sincerely wish that the agreement can be promptly executed to achieve the common good not only for Korean people but for all people on the globe."

He also added prayers for the believers in North Korea to have the freedom of religion and be able to lead humane lives as soon as possible.

Archbishop Xuereb told Vatican News the rhetoric has gone from unleashing "fire and fury" against North Korea to more moderate language "that speaks of peace, of relations based on understanding, therefore, we are truly full of hope and confidence."

"You can imagine how anxiously the Korean people and the church here in Korea are experiencing this truly historic moment," the papal nuncio said.

"The Holy See wants to support whatever possible initiative that promotes dialogue and reconciliation" while also taking advantage of being able to take the Gospel message to everyone, he said.

Pope Francis led thousands of people in St. Peter's Square in prayer June 10, expressing hopes the summit would lead to lasting peace.

"May the talks," he said, "contribute to the development of a positive path that assures a future of peace for the Korean peninsula and the whole world."

 

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