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Large US companies rated on respect for free speech, religious freedom

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Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 27, 2022 / 10:58 am (CNA).

With some American companies able to have a profound impact on the exercise of free speech and religious freedom, Alliance Defending Freedom and Inspire Investing have launched a Business Index to rate their commitment to these values.

“CEOs and business leaders have positions of considerable power. They shouldn’t weaponize their influence or the companies they run to divide Americans or engage in speech censorship or anti-religious bigotry,” ADF Senior Vice President for Corporate Engagement Jeremy Tedesco said in a May 26 statement.

“Instead of using the cultural power of their brands to drive polarization, business leaders should commit to respecting everyone, regardless of their religion or ideology. Businesses should respect viewpoint diversity at every level of their organizations, from the shop floor to the board room, and externally as well.”

The 2022 Business Index rates 50 companies on the Fortune 1000 list according to a “Viewpoint Diversity Score” in the market, the workplace, and the public square. The 50 companies examined were organizations in the banking, payment processing, and cloud services industries.

Companies that “serve as platforms for third-party expression in the digital space” were also examined, ADF stated. The report said that only companies in “specific sectors of concern” were considered for rankings.

The statement said that “Viewpoint Diversity Score will provide companies with workable solutions through model polices, research, toolkits, polling, and constructive dialogue.”

Robert Netzly, CEO of Inspire Investing, a Christian investment firm, commented that “By adopting the model policies and strategies we recommend, companies can cement their reputations as tolerant businesses that respect free speech and religious freedom as a standard part of doing business.”

In a May 25 op-ed at the Wall Street Journal, Tedesco and Netzly wrote that “the time is ripe to restore a business culture that respects American freedoms and ideals as well as diverse views among employees, customers, shareholders, and the general public.”

Businesses in the U.S., they said, have become captive “to a left-wing political agenda that many of their employees, customers, and shareholders don’t support, and that many Americans don’t want imposed on them by powerful governments or private actors.”

“Companies that respect diverse viewpoints are better equipped to serve people and communities with diverse values, recruit and retain top talent, and contribute to a public culture that supports liberal democracy and open markets,” Tedesco and Netzly stated.

The 50 corporations on the Business Index were given an average Viewpoint Diversity Score of 12%, with a range from 2% to 35%.

While no industry performed well, according to ADF, certain industries scored “particularly poorly.”

Computer software industries were given a score of 6%, while internet services and retailing scored 7%. The financial and data services industry garnered an 8% rating.

Companies that have come under fire for encroaching free speech, such as Twitter, Meta, and Alphabet, are all on the list.

Among the members of the Viewpoint Diversity Score Advisory Council are Andrew Abela, Dean of The Bush School of Business at Catholic University of America; Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals & Institutions at Princeton University; and Andrew Olivastro, Vice President for Outreach at The Heritage Foundation.

Cardinal Zuppi announces report on clerical sex abuse in Italy

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, president of the Italian bishops’ conference. / Screenshot from CEI Chiesa Cattolica Italiana YouTube channel.

Rome Newsroom, May 27, 2022 / 09:18 am (CNA).

In his first press conference since being selected as president of the Italy’s bishops’ conference, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi announced on Friday plans for a report on clerical sex abuse in the country.

“Our thoughts always go to the victims and that is the first concern,” Zuppi said on May 27.

“We need to strengthen diocesan services for minors and vulnerable people,” he said, according to ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian-language news partner.

The cardinal announced that the report will only cover abuse in the Catholic Church in Italy from the year 2000 to 2021. He said it is due to be released on Nov. 18, 2022.

“There is a willingness peacefully and painfully to clarify, here we evaluate with accuracy … We want fair and true clarity,” Zuppi said.

The possibility of reparations for victims is an open question at this time, according to the cardinal, who said that the consequences for bishops found to have covered up abuse will be “very serious.”

The Italian bishops discussed whether to hold a national inquiry into abuse during the bishops’ plenary assembly in Rome this week.

Italian associations joined together in February to coordinate a movement against abuse in the Church. The network, which calls itself #ItalyChurchToo, is pushing the bishops to carry out an independent investigation into clerical sexual abuse in Italy over the last 70 years.

The consortium sent a letter to the Italian bishops’ conference on May 23 at the start of its general assembly.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston urged Italian bishops on May 25 to work for a “pastoral conversion” in their approach to survivors of clerical sexual abuse.

The head of the Vatican’s abuse commission made the appeal in a video message played on the third day of the bishops’ plenary assembly.

It was announced on May 24 that the pope had chosen Zuppi to lead the Italian bishops’ conference as its president.

The 66-year-old archbishop of the northern Italian city of Bologna has been dubbed the “bicycling cardinal” and has strong ties to the influential Sant’Egidio Community.

During the live-streamed press conference, Zuppi also touched on physician-assisted suicide, which is been a subject of national debate in Italy this year.

In February, Italy’s constitutional court blocked a referendum to decriminalize physician-assisted suicide in the country, citing inadequate legal protections for the weak and vulnerable.

“The doctrine of the Church is very clear,” Zuppi said. “Closeness to suffering remains the fundamental starting point.”

UPDATE: These Catholic bishops support Nancy Pelosi ban on Holy Communion

Photo illustration. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 27, 2022 / 08:39 am (CNA).

So far only a small minority of U.S. bishops have come out publicly in support of Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone’s May 20 announcement that he is barring Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from receiving Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, her home diocese, until she repudiates her longstanding advocacy of abortion.

There are 194 dioceses and archdioceses in the U.S. Here is a list of those bishops who have spoken in favor of Cordileone’s action. Please send updates, with links to online statements if available, to [email protected]

California

Diocese of Oakland

Diocese of Santa Rosa

Bishop Robert Vasa said on May 20 that he spoke to the pastor of St. Helena Catholic Church in St.Helena, a parish that Pelosi reportedly attends on occasion. 

Vasa said, “I have visited with the pastor at St Helena and informed him that if the Archbishop prohibited someone from receiving Holy Communion then that restriction followed the person and that the pastor was not free to ignore it.”

“The new Canon (1379 §4) makes it clear that providing sacraments to someone prohibited from receiving them [has] its own possible penalties,” he said.

Colorado

Archdiocese of Denver

Illinois

Diocese of Springfield

Kansas

Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann issued the following statement on May 20:

"I applaud Archbishop Cordileone’s patient and persevering efforts to enlighten Speaker Pelosi about the moral gravity of her extreme efforts to promote, to advocate and to initiate legislation to enshrine legalized abortion into federal law. I fully support the both pastoral and courageous actions that Archbishop Cordileone has now taken in an effort to awaken Speaker Pelosi’s conscience and at the same time to protect Catholics in the Archdiocese of San Francisco and throughout the country from being confused by Speaker Pelosi’s radical support for abortion, while claiming to be a faithful Catholic. I pray that Speaker Pelosi will have a change of heart."

Nebraska

Diocese of Lincoln

Oklahoma

Archdiocese of Oklahoma City

Oregon

Diocese of Baker

Bishop Liam Cary issued the following statement on May 20:

"Representative Nancy Pelosi proudly combines “devout” practice of Catholic faith in her personal life with high-profile promotion of legalized abortion in her political life. The scandalizing gap between belief and behavior on the part of the Speaker of the House grievously misleads her fellow believers about Catholic teaching on social justice and seriously handicaps Catholic efforts to defend unborn life in the womb. 

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has repeatedly brought these sad facts to Representative Pelosi’s attention and called her to repentance. In response, the Speaker has defiantly doubled down on her uncompromising advocacy for unlimited abortion, thereby proposing herself as an exemplar for Catholic politicians who deliberately distance themselves from the saving clarity of the Gospel of Life. At the same time, in choosing to ally herself actively with abortion’s most extreme proponents, Representative Pelosi has unilaterally broken communion with Archbishop Cordileone and the flock he shepherds. She has withdrawn herself from communion with the Church.  

In a letter to the Speaker on May 19 Archbishop Cordileone acknowledged this sad rupture for what it is and made her aware of its consequences: she is not to present herself for Holy Communion until she publicly renounces her support for abortion, makes a sacramental confession, and receives absolution. These conditions invite Representative Pelosi’s return to Communion and show her the way to do so on the Church’s terms, not her own. May our merciful Lord grant her the grace to accept them. May He strengthen Archbishop Cordileone to walk the path of courage with confidence."

Texas

Diocese of Fort Worth

Diocese of Tyler

Bishop Joseph Strickland said on May 25 that Pelosi would be barred from receiving Communion in the Diocese of Tyler in eastern Texas.

He wrote on Twitter: "The concern for Mrs Pelosi’s eternal salvation extends to the Diocese of Tyler. She is barred from Communion here until she repents & stops advocating the murder of children. Pray for her heart to be turned to God & away from the power of this world."

Washington State

Diocese of Spokane

Wisconsin

Diocese of Green Bay

Diocese of Madison

Bishop Donald Hying supported Cordileone, saying: “I fully support Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s prudent decision to recognize that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, has persistently taken public positions in support of legal abortion, contrary to her professed Catholic faith, choosing to separate herself from full communion with the Catholic Church, and therefore is not to present herself for the reception of Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.”

Hying said that “Cordileone’s public statement made it clear that this serious measure is ‘purely pastoral, not political’ in a further attempt ‘to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking…’”

Virginia

Diocese of Arlington

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge said May 25 that he would respect the ban imposed by Cordileone because of Pelosi's staunch advocacy for legalized abortion.

“He is her bishop and as that bishop the direction and guidance he provides is not limited to just a geographical area,” Burbidge said on his diocese's "The Walk Humbly Podcast." His comments were first reported by the Arlington Catholic Herald, the diocese's newspaper.

“I can’t say it enough, (these) decisions are made for the good of individuals to guard the faithful from scandal," which is caused when Catholics in public office take positions at odds with Church teaching," the bishop said, according to the newspaper's report. "That confuses people and a bishop has to guard against that."

Burbidge revealed that while he has not publicly announced that someone should not receive Communion in his diocese, "I have privately shared that directive with individuals who have continuously scandalized the Church by holding a personal Catholic identity while also publicly advocating for abortion or other inherent moral evils," the newspaper reported.

“All people, including those who are not public individuals, have to approach the sacraments truly in communion with the Church and Our Lord,” Burbidge said.

This Catholic is trekking 4,000 miles across Europe to Jerusalem

Carlota Valenzuela. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Rome Newsroom, May 27, 2022 / 08:12 am (CNA).

A 29-year-old woman from Spain is walking 4,000 miles across Europe on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Carlota Valenzuela began her journey in January at Cape Finisterre in northern Spain, a point which the ancient Romans considered “the end of the world.”

Her goal is to reach the Holy Land by Christmas after trekking on foot across 12 countries with only a backpack and her deep faith in God.

“It was something that I felt in a very clear and a very obvious way that God was calling me to do a walking pilgrimage to Jerusalem,” Valenzuela told EWTN News Nightly from Rome on May 25.

“Before this day, there was a period of around six months in which I kept feeling the fact that God was calling me for something bigger,” she added.

Currently in Rome, Valenzuela is at about the halfway point of her pilgrimage. During her trip, she has made stops at many historic Catholic churches and shrines, including the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes and the Monastery of St. Joseph in Cotignac in France.

For Valenzuela, the highlight of her pilgrimage so far has been “the encounters along the way.”

“My way of doing this pilgrimage is literally knocking on people’s doors to ask them to host me, so the fact that I am in a position of need is helping me to see the best of humanity. I’m having a daily lesson of generosity,” she said.

Valenzuela added that she loves talking with people she meets about the faith and praying together.

The 29-year-old has also been filming and sharing aspects of her journey with a growing audience on social media via her Instagram account, @finisterreajerusalen, which already has more than 13,000 followers.

Her posts often show the natural beauty of the paths where she is walking with a voiceover of her reciting a prayer or reading a poem.

Valenzuela describes her pilgrimage so far as “a process of abandonment,” surrendering to God everything that is outside of her control.

“I feel that He is in charge, that this is not up to me, it's up to Him. I've never felt that kind of loneliness, although I've never been alone for so long in my life,” she told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.

“My prayer has been changing a lot and I am learning little by little to contemplate, to see the landscapes and contemplate the work of God in the things I see, in the song of the birds, in how the leaves move with the wind, in the landscapes,” she said.

Valenzuela said that her parents were quite worried when she first told them of her plans to walk across a continent alone.

She left behind her job, friends, and family to make the pilgrimage. But even at the halfway point in her journey, she already feels like she is not the same person who set out from Spain in January.

She said: “I would invite people to have the courage to search a little inside, to ask themselves: what has God put inside of me?”

“And on that path of discovery, when they begin to glimpse which way to go, then they should set out on the road. For you only have one life, even if that sounds very cliché. You only have one life and there is only one opportunity to reach its fullness.”

Valenzuela will head off from Rome on the next leg of her journey at the beginning of June, on her 30th birthday. Her next stops include Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Greece.

Once she arrives in Jerusalem, she hopes to tell God “what I have been telling him since I started: that I am here, so that he may do his will in me.”

Germany’s Bishop Bätzing defends promotion of priest accused of sexual harassment

Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg. / Bistum Limburg.

Limburg, Germany, May 27, 2022 / 06:45 am (CNA).

German Catholic Bishop Georg Bätzing has defended his decision to promote a priest accused of sexual harassment.

The bishop of Limburg, western Germany, said on May 26 that if he was taking the decision today, he would send the case for review to a diocesan advisory board, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

The board did not exist at the time that Bätzing appointed the unnamed priest to the post of district dean, although the bishop knew of the allegations and was in contact with both reported victims, the “Christ und Welt” supplement of the German newspaper Die Zeit said on May 25.

The victims were identified as a trainee Protestant pastor and a Catholic employee of the Limburg diocese.

Bätzing, who has served as chairman of the German Catholic bishops’ conference since 2020, said that today he would “present the whole matter and ask for advice” from the board.

“It’s not about criminal liability or not,” he said. “It’s about hurt and a conflict that simply goes incredibly deep.”

The Diocese of Limburg issued a statement on May 25 addressing the case.

It said a diocesan employee alleged in 2007 — years before Bätzing was appointed to the diocese — that the unnamed priest had called her pet names and stroked her hair and back with his hand.

The diocese said that it took immediate action. The priest was confronted with the allegations and told to refrain from the behavior.

The employee then alleged in 2013 that the priest had touched her under her T-shirt in 2007.

“The priest was also confronted with this accusation, but in contrast to the earlier accusations, he emphatically denied it,” the diocese said.

It said: “Georg Bätzing only learned about the priest’s misconduct and the accusations a few years after his move to the Limburg diocese [in 2016].”

“He then spoke with the [Church] employee and with the priest. In 2020, the bishop also confronted him about a new allegation relating to misconduct dating back to 2000 and made against the priest.”

“Bätzing made it unmistakably clear that he disapproved of such behavior. He issued a monitio, an admonition in written form. The priest apologized for his behavior to the employee, asked for forgiveness, and showed credible remorse. He has been dealing intensively with his misconduct for years.”

It went on: “After a renewed examination of the accusations and further discussions, Bishop Georg Bätzing appointed the priest as district dean of one of the 11 districts of the diocese.”

“The employee’s consternation and indignation over this personnel decision are understandable. In a personal conversation with the employee, Bätzing tried to convey and explain this decision to her.”

“In the appointment as district dean, both the formally disapproved misconduct of the priest and his handling of it were taken into account, as well as the fact that the pastoral workers entitled to make proposals expressed a clear vote for the appointment of this priest. Bishop Georg has come to the conclusion that an appointment as district dean is possible.”

Speaking on May 26 at the 102nd Katholikentag in Stuttgart, southwest Germany, Bätzing said that physical or verbal harassment of women was “an absolute no-go.”

But he said that, in light of the accused priest’s remorse and apology, and the penalties imposed, he asked whether the priest should be offered the possibility of rehabilitation.

This was “not a faux pas,” he insisted.

Pope Francis cites JRR Tolkien in essay on storytelling

Pope Francis and J.R.R. Tolkien. / Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk and TuckerFTW via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Vatican City, May 27, 2022 / 04:43 am (CNA).

Pope Francis cited J.R.R. Tolkien in an essay on storytelling published this week.

“As Frodo, the main character in Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ says: ‘The tales never end,’” Pope Francis wrote in an afterword to a book published on May 26.

The pope may have been referring to an exchange between Frodo and Sam in the second book of the trilogy on “the tales that really mattered.”

In the exchange, Sam says: “And why, sir, I never thought of that before! We’ve got — you’ve got some of the light of it in that star-glass that the Lady gave you! Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It's going on. Don’t the great tales never end?’”

“‘No, they never end as tales,’ said Frodo. ‘But the people in them come, and go when their part’s ended. Our part will end later — or sooner.’”

The pope brought up Tolkien in an afterword he wrote for the recently published Italian book “La Tessitura del Mondo” (“Weaving the World”).

According to its publisher, the book features chapters written by “major cultural figures” in Italy on “storytelling as a way to salvation.”

In the pope’s afterword, published in full by Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, the pope also quoted Donna Tartt, an American author who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2014 for her novel, “The Goldfinch.”

The pope reflected on Tartt’s description of the stories human beings tell as unbreakable ropes that connect the living and the dead and weave vast webs across centuries and cultures.

“The American novelist keenly captures one of the points on which many of the authors in this book converge: storytelling as a ‘fabric’ made of ‘unbreakable ropes’ that connects everything and everyone, present and past, and allows one to open to the future with feelings of trust and hope,” the pope said.

Throughout his papacy, Francis has made reference to books such as Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov” and Romano Guardini’s “The Meaning of the Church.”

Among his favorite books are the Italian novel “The Betrothed,” by Alessandro Manzoni, and “Lord of the World” by Robert Hugh Benson.

This was not the first time that Pope Francis has referenced “The Lord of the Rings” or “The Hobbit.”

In a 2008 Easter homily when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he reportedly said: “Tolkien portrays in Bilbo and Frodo the image of man who is called to walk, and his heroes know and enact, precisely by walking, the drama … between good and evil.”

"The walking man has within him the dimension of hope: he enters into hope. Throughout mythology and history, there resounds the echo of the fact that man is not a still, tired being, but is called to the journey, and if he does not enter into this dimension he destroys himself as a person and becomes corrupted.”

Papal preacher Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa also cited Tolkien at the Vatican’s Good Friday liturgy this year. He reflected on a letter that the author wrote to his son about people who denied the existence of Jesus.

Armenian patriarch to represent Catholics at Middle East Council of Churches

Patriarch Raphaël Bedros XXI Minassian. / Screenshot from MECC - The Middle East Council of Churches YouTube channel.

London, England, May 27, 2022 / 03:00 am (CNA).

Patriarch Raphaël Bedros XXI Minassian is the new representative of Catholics at the Middle East Council of Churches.

The Armenian Catholic leader was elected to represent “the Catholic family” at the closing session of the council’s general assembly, held on May 16-20 in Wadi El-Natrun, northern Egypt.

He succeeds Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako, the leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church, reported ACI Mena, CNA’s Arabic-language news partner.

The Middle East Council of Churches was founded in 1974 to bring together the region’s Evangelical, Oriental Orthodox, and Greek Orthodox Christians. Catholics joined the body in 1990. The council has four presidents, each representing one of its four constituent communions.

Patriarch Minassian, 75, became the 21st Catholicos-Patriarch of Cilicia of Armenian Catholics in September 2021.

He succeeded Patriarch Gregory Peter XX Ghabroyan, who died in May 2021 at the age of 86.

The Armenian Catholic Church is one of 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome. It has more than 700,000 members worldwide.

Before his election as patriarch, Minassian served as the bishop of Armenian Catholics in Eastern Europe since 2011.

He was born to an Armenian family in Lebanon on Oct. 24, 1946. He was ordained in 1973 in Beirut as a priest of the Patriarchal Congregation of Bzommar, an Armenian Catholic religious congregation of priests founded in 1750.

From 1990 to 2006, he served as a pastor in California, where he helped to create a foundation supporting humanitarian projects in Armenia. He also initiated the construction of St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Catholic Church in Glendale.

In 2005, he was appointed leader of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate of Jerusalem and Amman. In 2009, he established perpetual Eucharistic adoration at the church marking the Fourth Station of the Way of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.

In a statement at the end of their general assembly, members of the Middle East Council of Churches said that they were praying “for the stability of the Middle East, the end of wars and conflicts, the lifting of the epidemic and inflation, and the establishment of security and peace in the East and the world, so that everyone may explore the path of peace.”

Bishops lament threats facing Jerusalem's Christians

Members of the Holy Land Coordination meet with young people of Jerusalem at St James the Apostle Beit Hanina parish, May 21, 2022. / Mazur/cbcew.org.uk via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Denver Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

At the end of a trip to the Holy Land, a group of European bishops lamented the threats to Jerusalem’s Christians, noting in particular the attack on mourners at the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh.

“The Christian community is essential to Jerusalem’s identity, both now and for the future. Yet its continued presence is threatened by occupation and injustice,” read the May 26 final communique of the Holy Land Coordination group.

“Many of those we encountered are facing violence and intimidation by settler groups, restrictions on their freedom of movement, or separation from their families because of the status they are assigned.”

Six bishops from across Europe visited Jerusalem May 21-26. Since 2000, the Holy Land Coordination has taken an annual trip to the Holy Land, promoting awareness, action, and prayer for the region. The group was founded by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

“We share the concerns expressed by the Christian community about unilateral restrictions on freedom of worship during Easter, imposed by the Israeli police,” the bishops stated. “We experienced the deep sorrow and anger felt by local Christians at the killing of Palestinian Catholic journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and the shameful attack on mourners at her funeral.”

Abu Akleh was a Melkite Greek Catholic and a Palestinian American who was killed while covering an Israeli raid on a refugee camp in the West Bank May 11. During her funeral procession May 13, Abu Akleh’s coffin nearly fell as police waded into the crowd brandishing batons and using stun grenades.

The bishops said that Jerusalem is a “common patrimony” of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and it must “never become the exclusive monopoly of any one religion.”

“We came to meet and pray with our sisters and brothers, mindful of Patriarch Pizzaballa’s message that it is our right and duty as Christians to uphold the city’s openness and universality.”

They noted that “people of all backgrounds are living in poverty, which has been compounded by the pandemic. The absence of pilgrims during the past two years has devastated livelihoods, including among Jerusalem’s Christian community, leaving some families struggling to afford housing, food, or other essentials.”

The bishops added that there are “signs of hope,” however. “We visited Christian organisations taking responsibility for the wellbeing of their community and wider society. They are working tirelessly to alleviate hardship and improve lives. We met young people who, despite facing daily violations of their fundamental human rights, refuse to be the last generation of Christians in the city.”

They urged pilgrims “to support Christians in Jerusalem and throughout the Holy Land,” saying, “It is essential that all pilgrims understand and engage with the reality of life for the Christian community here.”

“All Christians must help preserve the city’s sacred character,” they wrote, “and promote an authentic vision for Jerusalem as a place of dialogue and unity.”

Pope Francis encourages Hispanic ministry in North America

Pope Francis addresses the executive committe of CELAM at the apostolic nunciature in Bogota, Sept. 7, 2017. / Alvaro de Juana/CNA.

Denver Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

In a video message on Thursday, Pope Francis encouraged the Pontifical Commission for Latin America to continue its mission at the service of the Church in Latin American Church and of Hispanic ministry in the United States and Canada.

The pontifical commission is called to "a service, a diakonia, which should mainly show the affection and attention that the Pope has for the region" and explained that this consists in a "service that helps the various dicasteries to act in synergy and better understand the Latin American social and ecclesial reality,” the pope said May 26 to the plenary assembly of the dicastery.

In addition, the Pope urged the members of the pontifical commission to continue promoting “Hispanic pastoral car in the United States and Canada, in communion with the universal Church.”

“I am convinced that … the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean has made 'the path by walking,' that is, it has shown that a correct interpretation of the conciliar teachings implies relearning to walk together,” the pope affirmed.

Likewise, Pope Francis indicated that the Pontifical Commission for Latin America “is not called to be a customs office, which controls things in Latin America or the Hispanic dimension of Canada and the United States, no. Its existence as an instance of service is justified by the peculiar identity and fraternity that the nations of Latin America live.”

The Holy Father underlined the importance of ecclesial communion and stated that the synodal process is called to remember the universal call to holiness because “we are all disciples called to learn and follow the Lord. We are all co-responsible for the common good and for the holiness of the Church.”

“Synodality should lead us to live ecclesial communion more intensely, in which the diversity of charisms, vocations and ministries are harmoniously integrated animated by the same baptism, which makes us all sons in the Son. Let us beware of one-person protagonism and let us bet on sowing and encouraging processes that allow the people of God, who walk in history, to participate more and better in the common responsibility that we all have to be the Church”, the pope stated.

He noted recent lay appointments to the commission, which he made “to help us all to generate new dynamics and uninstall us a little bit of some of our clerical uses and customs, both here in the Curia and in all places where there are Latin American communities.”

The pontifical commission, “through all its members, must promote true synodality as widely as possible,” he said. “Communion without synodality can easily lend itself to a certain undesirable fixity and centralism. Synodality without communion can become ecclesiastical populism.”

The Church asks Colombia, Venezuela to resume diplomatic relations to address migration

Migrant child has lunch at the Casa de Paso "Divina Providencia" in Cucuta. / David Ramos/ACI Prensa.

Lima, Peru, May 26, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The Church has asked the governments of Colombia and Venezuela to resume their “truncated binational relations” in order to respond effectively to the challenges involved in serving migrants.

The call to restore diplomatic relations was made during a May 24 press conference in the Diocese of Cúcuta, where a meeting of the National Secretariat for Social Pastoral Ministry was held with the border dioceses of Tibú, Ocaña, Cúcuta, Nueva Pamplona, Arauca, and Riohacha, as well as Jesuit Refugee Service, in order to address the situation of Venezuelan emigration.

Reading from a statement,  Father Rafael Castillo Torres, director of the National Secretariat for Social Pastoral Ministry in Colombia, said that "there have been not a few signs of concern … that challenge our humanitarian and pastoral action.”

Among these are "human trafficking, the recruitment of minors into armed gangs, the exploitation of workers, illegal economies, widespread violence, people disappearing, the absence of government institutions abandoning our borders and the ongoing presence of organized crime, capable of controling people and organizations.”

Therefore, he said, "from this city of Cúcuta, so historically united with our sister nations, we call on our governments to resume the truncated binational relations.”

The breaking of diplomatic relations goes back to when Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a second term as president in January 2019 after winning a contested election in which opposition candidates were barred from running or were imprisoned. Venezuela's bishops called his new term illegitimate, and opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself the country's interim president.

Since Maduro succeeded Hugo Chávez as president of Venezuela in 2013, Venezuela has been marred by violence and social upheaval. Under the socialist government, the country has seen severe shortages and hyperinflation, and millions have emigrated.

Guaidó set Feb. 23, 2019 as the date to try to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela overland from Brazil and Colombia and by sea from Curaçao, a Dutch Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela. However, the Maduro regime forcibly blocked the aid from coming in, sparking clashes at border crossings.

The same day Maduro announced he was breaking diplomatic relations with Colombia and gave Colombian diplomatic personnel 24 hours to leave the country.

However, the Colombian Foreign Minister at the time, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, pointed out that since Colombia no longer recognized the Maduro regime and was supporting Guaidó as interim president, diplomatic relations could not be broken.

Nevertheless, in practice there have been no bilateral relations between the states since then.

Fr. Castillo said it is necessary for the two nations “to be able to rebuild their binational relations with all that that means and involves.”

“Not only because of border traffic, but because we believe that two sister nations that have grown together, that have progressed together historically, have to rebuild their relations as sister peoples. Especially in the face of this migratory challenge that we have on our border that must put the life and dignity of our migrant brothers in first place,” the priest said.

According to a World Bank article from November 2021, some 5.6 million people have left Venezuela since 2015, and of these, 1.7 million are in Colombia.

The director of the National Secretariat of Social Pastoral Ministry of Colombia expressed his desire that it be possible to “have a joint strategy of Church and nation to be able to respond to these pastoral challenges” with migrants.

"Regardless of who the Colombians elect as president," the priest said, "we believe that it’s imperative to be able to reestablish those bilateral relations because we need it.”

"It’s almost a moral imperative to do so, because our peoples are suffering and because of the need we have to rebuild these relationships with a sense of fraternity, solidarity and hope, because that is what we want as a Church.”