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Knights of Columbus praise increased US aid for persecuted Iraqis

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The federal government has pledged $55 million in aid for religious and ethnic groups that have faced ISIS persecution in Iraq’s Ninewa Province, drawing praise from the Knights of Columbus, a supporter of humanitarian efforts in the region.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced last week that the government will provide $75 million to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for aid to Iraq, including the $55 million earmarked for communities of Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities. Future contributions from USAID will depend on the success of new accountability and transparency measures at the UN, according to the announcement.

The earmarked funds will help to rebuild communities in areas of Ninewa Province previously controlled by ISIS. According to USAID, the money will be used to restore basic services, like water, sewage, and electricity, as displaced religious minorities return to the region. Most of Ninewa’s religious minorities, including the majority of its Christian population, fled Mosul over the last decade. The Yazidi population had been persecuted by ISIS, and many Yazidi women were sold into sex slavery or killed.

The province, located in the northern part of Iraq, contains the city of Mosul, an ISIS stronghold until July of 2017, when it was decimated in the Battle of Mosul, which ousted ISIS and liberated the city.  Mosul has still not recovered from the battle, which lasted for more than nine months.

Last year, speaking at the In Defense of Christians summit, Vice President Mike Pence promised to provide assistance for Christian communities in the Middle East that were at risk of being wiped out.

Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus issued a statement Wednesday saying that the group is “grateful” for the increased funding, and that they look forward to continue collaboration with NGOs and government agencies to support Christians and other groups persecuted by ISIS.

“We are grateful for the actions of the American government in this regard, and look forward to continuing to work with our government and those affected by the genocide to ensure that needed relief reaches those most in need, and that these communities survive for generations to come,” the statement read.

The Knights also praised the funding increase, saying that the United States is now treating the genocide of Christians in the Middle East in a manner similar to other genocides, and will help to continue to weaken ISIS’ influence in the area.

“In addition, the U.S. government's actions bring America's foreign aid into line with our country's response to previous genocides and will also help defeat ISIS' overall strategy of eliminating minorities from the Middle East,” Anderson said.

In August 2017, the Knights of Columbus pledged more than $2 million to rebuild the Christian town of Karamdes, which was decimated by ISIS.  The group has raised more than $11 million to support Christian refugees, especially in Iraq and Syria.  In 2016, the Knights, in partnership with In Defense of Christians, led a successful effort to persuade the US government to designate ISIS persecution of Christians and other minorities a genocide.
 

 

New Los Angeles ministry aims to help families of the imprisoned

Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 17, 2018 / 04:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Families with loved ones in prison are feeling isolated, and a new initiative of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is setting out to change that.

Deacon Paulino Juarez and Deacon Louis Roche, both of the archdiocese, have headed up a new ministry that reaches out to families of the incarcerated and raises awareness in local communities of the suffering and challenges that these families face.

“I was a chaplain for 19 years, and during this time I saw all of these troubles of the inmates and their families, too, because sometimes they really don’t have any support – not just from official agencies and offices in the county, but also sometimes from the Church and their communities,” Deacon Juarez told CNA.

“They are isolated and rejected. After all of these years, we decided to do something to support these families and create a place where they feel welcomed,” Juarez continued.

The new program, which is part of the Archdiocese’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace, was launched Jan. 12 with a blessing which took place at the pastoral center of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in North Hollywood.

The parish’s associate pastor, Fr. Jeff Baker, led the blessing and opening ceremony for the Ministry of Assistance to the Families of the Incarcerated. The program reaches out to families in the counties of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Ventura.

According to Deacon Roche, the ministry takes place every Friday, where families of the incarcerated are welcome to seek any kind of aid. Usually, these families are referred to the ministry from other parishes or chaplains, but they do not have to be Catholic to participate in the program.

“We provide these families with food, clothes, resources as far as getting them identification cards and getting them medical help. Some people need help with substance abuse, so we are trying to pair these families with resources that they need,” Deacon Roche said.

“We are seeing these people face-to-face and aren’t just giving them a number to call. We are trying to take people from beginning to end and making sure we see results. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality, and getting these people what they really need,” Roche continued.

In addition, Juarez said that part of their goal is to “break the cycle.” Because some of the inmates have children, the ministry is also trying to put the kids through school, so they have better opportunities in the future.

Both deacons have found that the majority of these families suffer greatly from isolation and rejection, and are really looking for a community of support.

“The day that we did the opening, one of the mothers of a man who had just been sentenced to the death penalty shared with me her experience of going to his church with her daughters. When people realized who she was, they moved from the pews,” Juarez said.

“They really feel not welcomed, and this was the kind of experience that they had on a daily basis. We want to stop that – we want to create consciousness within the community that these people are suffering, too.”

Roche stated he believes that “It’s part of our responsibility to take the needs of the people to church. We want to make progress and to make sure these people are getting what they need,” Roche said.

People of faith, especially Catholics, have the responsibility to put their faith into action, Juarez noted. When suffering people in the church community feel like outsiders, then he said it becomes the Christian’s duty to help them.

“The Gospel – the Good News – is for everyone. This is what Jesus did – he looked for people on the outside,” Juarez said.

While the LA ministry has only been running for a short time, the deacons have seen an overwhelming response, saying there is a universal need for this particular service.

“We would like to invite more dioceses into this ministry. We just started, but we already know that in every parish there are families who are in this situation,” Juarez said.

“There really is a need for this ministry and to take sensibility to the community that these people exist, that they are suffering, that they are our brothers and sisters, and we should do something for them.”

Christ statue in Peru suffers smoke damage

Lima, Peru, Jan 17, 2018 / 04:38 pm (ACI Prensa).- Last weekend, just days before Pope Francis' visit to Peru, a fire was set that damaged part of Cristo del Pacifico, a 120 foot tall statue located in Lima, the nation's capital.

According to RPP News, five fire department units responded and put out the fire Jan. 13, which caused noticeable smoke damage to the back part the the statue.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="es" dir="ltr">Incendiaron el Cristo del Pacífico o “Cristo de lo Robado”, no sufrió daños de consideración. <a href="https://t.co/85fqMbN0nf">pic.twitter.com/85fqMbN0nf</a></p>&mdash; Mona Paredes (@monaparedes) <a href="https://twitter.com/monaparedes/status/952148963485978624?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 13, 2018</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

“So far the motive leading to the incident is unknown; but the theory has come up that this may have been done  because of Pope Francis's upcoming visit,” RPP stated.

Cristo del Pacifico is a 70 feet tall sculpture set on a 50 foot base and can be seen from several areas of the capital. It was dedicated June 29, 2011.

 

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

Peace and progress start with education, Francis says at Chilean university

Santiago, Chile, Jan 17, 2018 / 03:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking to Chilean university students and academics Wednesday, Pope Francis said Catholic educational institutions play a prophetic role in helping future generations tackle problems with an integrated, inclusive approach.

“In our day, the mission entrusted to you is prophetic,” the Pope said Jan. 17 to a crowd of  some 2,400 students and academics at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in Santiago. “You are challenged to generate processes that enlighten contemporary culture by proposing a renewed humanism that eschews every form of reductionism.”

This prophetic role on the part of Catholic universities is a key motive in seeking out “ever new spaces for dialogue rather than confrontation,” he said.

These spaces, he added, must be occasions “of encounter rather than division, paths of friendly disagreement that allow for respectful differences between persons joined in a sincere effort to advance as a community towards a renewed national coexistence.”

The meeting marks the last event for the day, and is part of his Jan. 15-18 visit to Chile, after which he will visit Peru Jan. 18-21.

In his speech, the Pope said Chilean Saint Alberto Hurtado, SJ, who studied at the university, is a prime example of how “intelligence, academic excellence and professionalism, when joined to faith, justice and charity, far from weakening, attain a prophetic power capable of opening horizons and pointing the way, especially for those on the margins of society.”

He then noted how the rector of the university, Dr Ignacio Sánchez, had said there are “important challenges” in Chile which deal with “peaceful coexistence as a nation and the ability to progress as a community.”

On the topic of peaceful coexistence as a nation, Pope Francis said even speaking of challenges is a sign that certain situations “need to be rethought.”

“The accelerated pace and a sense of disorientation before new processes and changes in our societies call for a serene but urgent reflection that is neither naïve nor utopian, much less arbitrary,” he said.

Peace as a nation is possible to the extent that educational processes are transformative, inclusive, and favor coexistence, the Pope maintained.

This doesn't mean simply attaching values to educational work, but rather implies means “establishing a dynamic of coexistence internal to the very system of education itself. It is not so much a question of content but of teaching how to think and reason in an integrated way.”

For this “mental formation” to happen, Francis said an “integrating literacy” is needed which can help students process the rapid changes happening in society.

This literacy, he said, must integrate know how to integrate and harmonize the various “languages” which “constitute us as persons”: the “intellect (the head), affections (the heart) and activity (the hands).”

Following this approach will allow students to grow not only on a personal level, but also at the level of society, he said, which is important since “we urgently need to create spaces where fragmentation is not the guiding principle, even for thinking. To do this, it is necessary to teach how to reflect on what we are feeling and doing; to feel what we are thinking and doing; to do what we are thinking and feeling. An interplay of capacities at the service of the person and society.”

The Pope noted the importance of the unity of knowledge against the fragmentation of fields, saying, “The 'divorce' of fields of learning from languages, and illiteracy with regard to integrating the distinct dimensions of life, bring only fragmentation and social breakdown.”

He noted that in our “liquid” society, borrowing a phrase from the late Polish sociologist and philosopher Zygmunt Bauman, “those points of reference that people use to build themselves individually and socially are disappearing.”

“It seems that the new meeting place of today is the 'cloud', which is characterized by instability since everything evaporates and thus loses consistency,” he said.

The Pope said that “This lack of consistency may be one of the reasons for the loss of a consciousness of the importance of public life, which requires a minimum ability to transcend private interests (living longer and better) in order to build upon foundations that reveal that crucial dimension of our life which is 'us'.”

“Without that consciousness, but especially without that feeling and consequently without that experience, it is very difficult to build the nation. As a result, the only thing that appears to be important and valid is what pertains to the individual, and all else becomes irrelevant. A culture of this sort has lost its memory, lost the bonds that support it and make its life possible,” he said.

“Without the 'us' of a people, of a family and of a nation, but also the 'us' of the future, of our children and of tomorrow, without the 'us' of a city that transcends 'me' and is richer than individual interests, life will be not only increasingly fragmented, but also more conflictual and violent.”

“The university, in this context, is challenged to generate within its own precincts new processes that can overcome every fragmentation of knowledge and stimulate a true universitas.”

On progressing as a community, the Pope pointed to the university's chaplaincy program, which he said is a sign of “a young, lively Church that 'goes forth'.”

This same mentality has to be present in universities, he said, noting that classic forms of research are now “experiencing certain limits,” which means modern-day culture requires new forms that are more inclusive “of all those who make up social and hence educational realities.”

A great challenge for the university's community, then, “is to not isolate itself from modes of knowledge, or, for that matter, to develop a body of knowledge with minimal concern about those for whom it is intended.”

Rather, “it is vital that the acquisition of knowledge lead to an interplay between the university classroom and the wisdom of the peoples who make up this richly blessed land,” Francis said, adding that education has to extend beyond the classroom and to “be continually challenged to participation.”

Francis then pointed to the need for an education that emphasizes both quality and integration, saying the service that universities offer must always aim for excellence when it comes to national coexistence.

“In this way, we could say that the university becomes a laboratory for the future of the country, insofar as it succeeds in embodying the life and progress of the people, and can overcome every antagonistic and elitist approach to learning.”

The Pope warned against a kind of knowledge that seeks to subject nature to its own “designs and desires,” citing a warning against this from the 20th century kabbalist Gershom Scholem. He said that “to reduce creation to certain interpretative models that deprive it of the very Mystery that has moved whole generations to seek what is just, good, beautiful and true” will “will always be a subtle temptation in every academic setting.”

“Whenever a 'professor', by virtue of his wisdom, becomes a 'teacher', he is then capable of awakening wonderment in our students,” Pope Francis said. “Wonderment at the world and at an entire universe waiting to be discovered!”

The mission entrusted to the university, then, is prophetic, he said, and closed his speech asking the Holy Spirit to guide the steps of everyone present, so that the university is able continue “to bear fruit for the good of the Chilean people and for the glory of God.”

Why do some young people leave the Church? A new study investigates

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2018 / 03:29 pm (CNA).- A national two-year study released this week offers a look at why young people are leaving the Church as early as age 13.

The study was released today by St. Mary’s Press and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University (CARA).

Of those who left the Catholic Church, the median age for doing so was 13 years old, the study found. Seventy-four percent of the 214 former Catholics interviewed said that they decided to leave the Church between the ages of 10 and 20.

“We heard young people describe the beginnings of their questioning and doubts as early as fifth grade, some even younger,” said John Vitek, one of the principal authors of the study.
 
Vitek, who is the president and CEO of St. Mary’s Press, told CNA that this finding may surprise many adults “because many of the young people also told us that they never talked about their doubts and questions with their parents or their Church leaders.”

Young ‘Nones’

Many of the young former Catholics interviewed now fall into the category of “Nones” -  or people who have no religious affiliation. Thirty-five percent of the participants told the researchers that they no longer have a religious affiliation, whereas only 14 percent would label themselves as atheist or agnostic.

These results align with previous Pew Research Center findings that the “Nones” are a growing category in the U.S. The CARA researchers cite a 2015 Pew study that the number of religiously unaffiliated adults in the U.S. increased by 19 million between 2007 and 2014.

In addition, 21 percent of young Catholics who left the Church responded that they are now “born again” or evangelical Christian.

Although the “Nones” represented the largest category of former Catholics, Vitek said that “the vast majority of young people who disaffiliated from the Catholic Church still believe in God and most still desire some type of religious community with which to affiliate.”

Reasons for leaving

The study, Going, Going, Gone! The Dynamics of Disaffiliation in Young Catholics, is based on a national survey and interviews with 214 former Catholics between the ages of 15 and 25.

“This study was all about young people telling their stories of why they left the Church in their own words, uncensored and unfiltered,” explained Vitek in a press release on the study.

CARA researchers identified patterns among the young people’s personal stories and described three archetypes for their Catholic disaffiliation: the injured, the drifter, and the dissenter.

The “injured” are young people who experienced a hardship or tragedy in which God seemed to be absent. Despite their prayers, their parents divorced or ill family members died, for example.

One young man told the researchers that he remembers family and loved ones praying  for his grandfather with lung cancer, “everyone is praying for him, probably over 150 people. Personally praying for him and still there was nothing done to help him and that was my first skepticism.”

The “drifter” is one who typically had trouble connecting their identity as a baptized Catholic to their concrete life experiences in the real world. They struggled to articulate why being Catholic matters, so they just drifted away from the Church.

The researchers noted the influence that parents can have on this drifting away from the Church and that a family unit can drift together when parents feel inadequate to explain why the faith matters.

Reachers encountered a more active rejection of the faith in those in the “dissenter” category. Some of these young people cited disagreement with Church teaching on birth control, same-sex marriage, and sexuality as the precipitating force for their departure.

Notably, only two percent of respondents cited the clergy sex abuse scandal as a reason they left the Church.

Vitek explained to CNA that there can be intersections between these three common categories, saying, “a young person may first have a disruptive experience that causes them to feel hurt or broken in some way, that brokenness might lead the young person to begin to question and doubt their faith, and their unresolved doubt may lead them to drift away.”

A final decision?

Before they left their faith, the young former Catholics were involved in the Church to varying extents. Twenty-eight percent told CARA that they rarely or never attended Mass at the time when they considered themselves Catholic. Only 17 percent surveyed said that they attended Mass weekly when they were Catholic. Three-fourths of the respondents never attended a Catholic school.

Eighty-seven percent of these former Catholics said that their decision to leave the Church is final.

Vitek noted that “this is a response given at a particular point in their life and they can’t predict the future. So there is always hope for the believing community.”

Studies do show, however, that “(m)ore and more, once a person chooses to disaffiliate from the Church they are not re-affiliating later in life,” he added.

As for what the Church can do to prevent young people from rejecting their faith, Vitek recommends, “We need to create a place where young people can freely wrestle with their questions of faith, including their doubt…”

“We found that young people want to talk about their faith but they aren’t sure if they can without judgment,” he said.

Join the 9 Days for Life campaign of prayer and action

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2018 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The US Conference of Catholic Bishops have beefed up their social media presence for the 9 Days for Life novena, calling Catholics not only to prayer but to action within communities, both virtual and local.

The novena takes place Jan. 18-26, and includes the Jan. 22 National Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children (the anniversary of Roe v. Wade) and the 44th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19.

“As Catholics we are proud to have our voices heard in support for the protection of life. We welcome every human life,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston.

“Please join me and my brother bishops in prayer and action during these nine days for life. Together we can help to build a culture of life in which every human life is cherished,” said the cardinal in a recent video on the People for Life Facebook page.

Cardinal O’Malley then encouraged individuals to join the bishops in a “digital pilgrimage” by downloading the 9 Days for Life smartphone application, which allows its users easily to share on social media the prayers, sacrifices, and other actions conducted in support of life.  

The novena also includes a daily reflection, intercession, and challenge to follow throughout the nine days. The application will remind the participant of that day’s prayer schedule, opportunities for sacrifice, and challenges to take the pro-life message even further.

Anne McGuire, the USCCB’s Assistant Director for Education and Outreach for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, encouraged Christians to take action and to engage in this year’s virtual pilgrimage.  

“Wherever we are, wherever the Lord places us, we are called to be witnesses to [life]. So many of us are on social media … it can be an incredible opportunity to share that Gospel of life,” McGuire told CNA Jan. 16.

The novena outlines different actions people may take to support life, whether it is through parish or private prayer gatherings, fasting from coffee, or participating in a local march for life. McGuire expressed hope that this year people will share this experience by sharing a selfie or a short video on their social media accounts using #9daysforlife.

McGuire said the 9 Days for Life app also includes pro-life images that easily transfer to the social media platform of the person’s choice or pro-life frames which may be added to an individual’s Facebook profile.

She clarified that the primary goal of 9 Days for Life is an end to abortion, but other pro-life intentions are also encouraged. She said this year’s novena will intercede for “Share the Journey,” an international campaign in support of victims of human trafficking.

However a person decides to support life this year, McGuire said it is responsibility of Christians to aid a culture conducive to human life.

“It’s incumbent upon us to work to protect human life and to cherish it, both in the sense of defending it from the attacks as well as, again, following John Paul II’s call to build a culture of life and a civilization of love,” she said.

Faith is an adventure, Pope Francis tells Chilean youth

Santiago, Chile, Jan 17, 2018 / 02:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a meeting with youth during his second full day in Chile, Pope Francis said that faith is a grand adventure, one that gives young people the inspiration to overcome difficulties and dream big.

“I know that the hearts of young Chileans dream, and that they dream big dreams, for these lands have given rise to experiences that spread and multiplied across the different countries of our continent,” he said.

“Who inspired those dreams? It was young people like yourselves, who were inspired to experience the adventure of faith,” the Pope said Jan. 17 at the Basilica of Our Lady of Carmel in Maipú, a suburb of Santiago, Chile.

“For faith excites in young people feelings of adventure, an adventure that beckons them to traverse unbelievable landscapes, rough and tough terrain,” he said, but added that young people like adventures and challenges.

Pope Francis spoke to youth during an encounter at the National Shrine of Maipú, which includes a basilica dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Patroness and Queen of Chile. The meeting took place as part of the Pope’s Jan. 15-22 apostolic visit to Chile and Peru.

Among those present was a group who took part in a 10-day missionary project earlier this month, in anticipation of Francis’ visit. The project included more than 2,500 college students, who spread out to 90 rural communities across Chile to share their faith, lead youth activities, and build chapels.

During the encounter, students presented the Pope with a flag signed by those who took part in the mission projects, as well as a scale model of a rural chapel, representing the evangelization of the peripheries of Chile.

Pope Francis said that the National Shrine where the gathering with youth took place “is a home to both heaven and earth. A home for Chile, a home for you, dear young people, where Our Lady of Carmel waits for you and welcomes you with an open heart.”

Just like she has accompanied the nation and its people over these last 200 years, she wants to accompany you and the dreams that God has placed in your hearts, he said. “Dreams of freedom, dreams of joy, dreams of a better future.”

Francis told a story about a young man who once told him about how unhappy it made him when his cell phone battery died, or when he couldn't connect to the internet. The young man said it was because when this happens it makes him feel “shut off from the world, stuck.”

The same thing can happen in our faith: “After a while on the journey or after an initial spurt, there are moments when, without even realizing it, our ‘bandwidth’ begins to fade and we lose our connection, our power,” Pope Francis said.

“Then we become unhappy and we lose our faith, we feel depressed and listless, and we start to view everything in a bad light.”

Jesus is our internet “connection,” he continued. Without a good relationship with Jesus, we can become frustrated and annoyed, even starting to believe that nothing really matters or that nothing we do makes a difference.

“It worries me that, once they have lost their ‘connection,’ many people think they have nothing to offer; they feel lost. Never think that you have nothing to offer or that nobody cares about you. Never!” Francis emphasized.

Referencing the Chilean St. Alberto Hurtado, he said that the saint can be a good guide for young people on how to set their hearts ablaze “with the fire that keeps joy alive” – which is Jesus.

St. Alberto’s “password” for achieving happiness was to ask the question: “What would Christ do in my place?” Francis said, asking youth to type that phrase into their phones to remember to ask it on a regular basis.

He advised them to ask themselves “at school, at university, when outdoors, when at home, among friends, at work, when taunted: ‘What would Christ do in my place?’ When you go dancing, when you are playing or watching sports: ‘What would Christ do in my place?’”

The only way to commit something to heart, like a password, is by using it over and over, day after day, the Pope said. Therefore, “wherever you are, with whomever you are with, and whenever you get together,” ask yourself: “What would Jesus do?”

“The time will come when you know it by heart, and the day will come when, without realizing it, your heart will beat like Jesus’ heart.”

“Dear friends, be courageous, go out straightaway to meet your friends, people you don’t know, or those having troubles,” he encouraged.

“Go out with the only promise we have: that wherever you are…you will always be ‘connected’; there will always be a ‘power source.’ We will never be alone. We will always enjoy the company of Jesus, his Mother and a community.”

 

Trump to address March for Life via livestream

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2018 / 01:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- U.S. President Donald Trump will address participants in the 45th national March for Life via live video, the White House confirmed Wednesday.

The march, held annually on or near the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, recognizes the lives lost since abortion became legal nationwide and celebrates the dignity of every human life.

The march typically draws crowds of several hundred thousand from across the country. It includes a rally with speakers and live music. This year, the theme of the march is “Love Saves Lives.”

Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush addressed the March for Life while in office via telephone or remote loudspeaker. Trump will be the first sitting president to address the march via live video.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., and Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Va., announced earlier this month that Catholic marchers may gain a plenary indulgence by their participation, if they fulfill the usual conditions, which include Mass, confession, and prayers for the Pope’s intentions.

Pope appeals for unity, non-violence in Chile's torn Mapuche zone

Temuco, Chile, Jan 17, 2018 / 07:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Chile's largely indigenous Araucania region, long divided by violent conflict. He stressed the importance of unity, which he said cannot be achieved through violence or forced uniformity.

Pointing to Jesus' prayer that “they may all be one” at the end of John's Gospel, Pope Francis noted that it is at this “crucial moment” before his death that Jesus “stops to plea for unity.”

“In his heart, he knows that one of the greatest threats for his disciples and for all mankind will be division and confrontation, the oppression of some by others,” he said, and urged those present to take Jesus' words in the prayer to heart.

We must “enter with him into this garden of sorrows with those sorrows of our own, and to ask the Father, with Jesus, that we too may be one,” Francis said, and prayed that “confrontation and division never gain the upper hand among us.”

Pope Francis spoke during his Jan. 17 Mass in Chile's Araucania region in Temuco, which for years has been torn apart by violent conflict surrounding the plight of the area's Mapuche people, an indigenous group present largely in south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina.

He traveled to the region as part of his Jan. 15-18 visit to Chile, after which he will make an official visit to Peru from Jan. 18-21.

The largest indigenous group in Chile, the Mapuche resisted Spanish conquest during colonial times by using guerrilla warfare tactics to evade soldiers and maintain control of their land.

They continued to resist after Chilean independence in 1818, however, in the 1860s the military gained control, and the majority of their land was given over to members of the military and incoming immigrants.  

Despite the launch of some initiatives aimed at restoring parts of their land and the creation of scholarships for Mapuche students, the Mapuche live in one of the poorest areas of Chile and claim to be mistreated by authorities.

Some of the Mapuche have in recent years adopted violent means of protest, and have bombed trucks and land of non-Mapuche people they say are illegally inhabiting the area.

They have also set fire to churches, burning more than two dozen in 2016 and 2017, according to the Chilean prosecutor's office. Just last Friday three more churches were firebombed in the Chilean capital Santiago in protest of the Pope's visit.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and authorities are unsure whether Mapuche activists are to blame, however, leaflets criticizing the upcoming visit of Francis and calling for a “free” Mapuche nation were dropped at the scene.

The field attached to the Maquehue Airport, where Pope Francis landed and celebrated Mass, had once been used as a detention center where many indigenous peoples were tortured during Chile’s military government under Augusto Pinochet.

In the lead up to the Pope's trip, a number of the Mapuche had protested the use of the airport for the papal Mass given the serious human rights violations that took place there, arguing that the land belongs to them and not the government. Two more attacks on churches took place shortly before the Pope's arrival to Temuco, however, no one has claimed responsibility for these either.

In his homily, Pope Francis recognized that in the past, the airport had been the site of “grave violations of human rights,” and said he was offering the Mass for “all those who suffered and died, and for those who daily bear the burden of those many injustices.” He paused in a moment of silence for all who died.

“The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross bears all the sin and pain of our peoples, in order to redeem it,” he said, and pointed to the day's Gospel reading from John, in which Jesus prays for the unity of his disciples.

Unity is a gift which must be “persistently sought” for the good of all, and for future generations, he said, but cautioned against what he named as two temptations that can “poison the roots” of this unity.

First, Francis warned against the temptation to confuse unity with uniformity, saying “Jesus does not ask his Father that all may be equal, identical, for unity is not meant to neutralize or silence differences.”

“Unity can never be a stifling uniformity imposed by the powerful, or a segregation that does not value the goodness of others,” he said. Rather, the unity that Jesus refers to is a “reconciled diversity” which recognizes the value of the individual contribution of each tradition and culture.

This unity “will not allow personal or community wrongs to be perpetrated in its name,” the Pope said, adding that “we need the riches that each people has to offer, and we must abandon the notion that there are higher or lower cultures.”

It also requires both listening to and esteeming one another, which in turn builds solidarity. And solidarity, he said, is the most effective weapon against “the deforestation of hope.”

He also warned against the temptation to obtain unity with the use of violence, and cautioned against two forms of violence which he said stifle the growth of unity and reconciliation rather than encouraging them.

The first, he said, are the “elegant agreements that will never be put into practice.” They consist of nice words and detailed plans, and while these are needed, they end up “erasing with the elbow what was written by the hand” when they go unimplemented, he said, explaining that this is a form of violence “because it frustrates hope.”

Second are the actual acts that take place, he said, insisting that “a culture of mutual esteem may not be based on acts of violence and destruction that end up taking human lives.”

“You cannot assert yourself by destroying others, because this only leads to more violence and division,” he said. “Violence begets violence, destruction increases fragmentation and separation. Violence eventually makes a most just cause into a lie.”

Rather than using these two avenues, which are “the lava of a volcano that wipes out and burns everything in its path,” the Pope urged attendees to pursue a path of “active non-violence” as a political style, and told them to never tire of promoting true and peaceful dialogue for the sake of unity.

After Mass, Pope Francis will head to the mother house for the Sisters of the Holy Cross order, where he will each lunch with around 11 people, eight of whom will be Mapuche.

Who cheats? The demographics of faith and infidelity

Denver, Colo., Jan 17, 2018 / 04:00 am (ACI Prensa).- Last week, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens admitted to an extramarital affair with his former hairdresser, although he denied allegations that he subsequently blackmailed her.

Greitens issued a joint statement with his wife saying that they had dealt with the affair privately, while his attorney issued a statement denying the blackmail allegations.

The allegations came as a surprise to many, given Greitens’ public persona as a family man, and a devout follower of Judaism.  Critics have accused the governor of hypocrisy, and he recently cancelled a statewide tour promoting a new state tax plan.

But recent data shows that Greitens’ infidelity is not the norm among religiously active people.

According to data gathered from the recent General Social Survey (GSS) by NORC, a non-partisan research institution at the University of Chicago, people who attended religious services at least semi-regularly were less likely to cheat on their spouses than people who attended religious services once a year or less.

The data was analyzed in a blog post by Wendy Wang, director of research with the Institute for Family Studies.

Wang said that while the data didn’t indicate whether the type of religious service played a role, “it’s a fact that people who regularly attend religious services are less likely to cheat.”

“I think it’s interesting how your faith could play a role in your relationship,” Wang told CNA. “It probably has something to do with what the church or the synagogue is teaching you. A lot of religions emphasize the importance of family, marriage stability, so that’s probably why it has such an impact,” she said.

The data showed that attendance at religious services was the strongest factor among both genders that indicated a low likelihood of infidelity.

On the whole, factors that indicate chances of infidelity varied widely between the two genders, Wang noted. For example, race and age were strong determining factors of the chances of infidelity among men, while for women, political party identification and family background were significant determining factors.

However, religious service attendance remained a significant factor for both genders, even when controlling for other variables, Wang said.

Family background was also a strong determining factor in indicating whether someone might cheat, Wang said. While it was a stronger determining factor for women, family background played a significant role overall in determining whether people were likely to cheat.

“Overall, Democrats, adults who didn’t grow up in intact families, and those who rarely or never attend religious services are more likely than others to have cheated on their spouse. For example, 15% of adults who grew up with both biological parents have cheated on their spouse before, compared with 18% of those who didn’t grow up in intact families,” Wang wrote.

“I don’t know the reasons why exactly, but we do see that people who grow up with both parents married to each other, they’re less likely to cheat,” Wang told CNA. “I think it is important to see how a steady family, a stable marriage actually could help even in your children’s marriage quality.”

Wang’s research also indicated that cheaters - both men and women - are more likely to be divorced or separated than non-cheaters.

“Men who cheated are more likely than their female peers to be married. Among men who have cheated on their spouse before, 61% are currently married, while 34% are divorced or separated. However, only 44% of women who have cheated before are currently married, while 47% are divorced or separated,” Wang wrote in her post.

However, the data doesn’t indicate whether men are more likely to remain married to the spouse whom they cheated on, or to remarry after infidelity, Wang said.

“Basically the question is who’s more likely to forgive their cheating spouse? I don’t have numbers for that,” Wang said. “What I see here is we definitely see a consequence for cheating.”

Part of the reason for the discrepancy among marriage rates after infidelity could be the differing reasons why men and women cheat, Wang said. Cheating men may more often act out of physical impulses, while women who cheat may be more likely to be emotionally involved in their affairs, and more likely to divorce as a result of them, she said.

“That might explain some of the gender difference there, but it’s hard to say,” she said.

Overall, Wang said that the data and analysis are important, especially as more accusations of sexual misconduct come out against celebrities and politicians, many of whom are married.

“That’s why I was interested to take a look and see the data; it is amazing to see how things have changed in a few months,” Wang said.

Wang said what couples can take from the analysis is that “there’s consequences to cheating...I just wanted people to be aware that there’s consequences to cheating and it’s very detrimental to a relationship.”