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Archbishop Jurkovic: Benefits of Trade not Equally Shared

Zenit News - English - 20 min 55 sec ago

The world has experience great expansion of trade in recent decades and movement toward more open trade, according to Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva at the 11th Session of the Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization meeting in Buenos Aires on December 12, 2017.

He went on to warn that growth in trade is slowing, and “the world is still facing, however, an unequal global distribution of resources and opportunities.” He expressed concern that “trade is unbalanced and unjust when it complements the landscape of social exclusion and inequality; when it transgresses somebody’s dignity anywhere in the world; when it neglects the common good of the whole of humanity.”

Statement by H.E. Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič

Buenos Aires, 12 December 2017

Madam President,

At the outset, my Delegation would like to thank the Government of Argentina for the effective organization of this timely conference and for its generous hospitality.

Madam President,

The world has gained an impressive, long record of momentum towards open trade. But now that momentum is slowing and affecting growth. Trade, in particular over the recent decades, has helped to lift a billion people out of poverty in developing countries and has improved the livelihood in many developed countries. An increasing number of developing and transition economies have managed to integrate into the world economy. This has resulted in an unprecedented expansion in international trade. Over the years, the world has witnessed, among other positive developments, a decline in global extreme poverty. These, however, have not been equally shared. The benefits of globalization, combined with a general improvement in macroeconomic management, have helped the graduation of some Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and the integration of many developing countries, into the global economy.

The world is still facing, however, an unequal global distribution of resources and opportunities; today, we are better positioned to take concrete actions that can address inequality between and among countries and peoples. In 2015, world leaders agreed on how to situate better the international community to address some of the most pressing global challenges. Adhering to principles such as equity, inclusiveness, common but differentiated responsibility, special and differential treatment, less than full reciprocity and the right to development, is crucial to strengthening the role of developing countries in the global economy. Our action in a multilateral trade normative system should contribute toward the realization of common aspirations to achieve prosperity, dignity and a better planet for all. Balanced rules and trade liberalization are key, especially in securing the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) pre-eminent role in global trade and ensuring equitable benefits to all its members, especially the LDCs. The Nairobi Decision, the Hong Kong Ministerial Decision on Duty Free Quota Free market access for LDCs and Decision on the LDC services waiver stand before us as examples of the developmental objectives achieved over the last years.

Looking at the current situation, the Holy See considers of particular importance the acknowledgment that trade can cause dislocation and uncertainty in some sectors and communities and that the benefits of trade have failed to reach as many people as they should. Our common action working here in Buenos Aires, as done in the previous two Ministerial Conferences, should not weaken the multilateral trade system, but making it work better. If we continue to look merely at the particular interest by shaping a closed economy, then, in the medium term, the economic growth could decline and the poorest would be hit the hardest. As already experienced, this would likely increase tensions between nations. A spirit of solidarity should guide our actions in these days to redouble our efforts to make trade truly inclusive and not to continue to defend privileged positions in international trade.

A new logic is progressively emerging.

The end of the bipolar dimension in world relations and the emergence of new actors in the economic and political arena has profoundly changed the scenario that we face. This more fragmented and unpredictable international landscape should favor dialogue and cooperation among countries, particularly within multilateral institutions. Meanwhile, a new logic has progressively emerged, a logic based on fragmented and partial agreements based more on an individualistic approach rather than an inclusive one.

The trade agenda greatly reflects this new approach with the stalemate in multilateral negotiations and the growing number of Regional and Preferential Trade Agreements.

The Holy See wishes to warn about the dangers associated with the marginalization of multilateralism. Despite its limitations and complexity, the multilateral framework gives pluralism a universal dimension and facilitates an inclusive dialogue. More importantly, the multilateral approach provides an enhanced and safer framework within which weaker and smaller countries may be better safeguarded than in a regional or bilateral setting, where an asymmetric situation inevitably tends to favor large and strong economies.

We should not forget that the main goal of multilateral institutions is to seek the common good by respecting the dignity of every single person. Starting from the original aspiration for truth, love, and justice, shared by every man and woman, every individual and country should be given the opportunity to give its contribution to the common goal; the multilateral institutions must provide the setting wherein such a constructive dialogue is facilitated.


Despite the generally fast growth of agricultural trade, most of the food consumed in many countries is produced domestically; net imports are within the range of 0-20 percent of the domestic food supply in many instances1. With more than 800 million hungry and undernourished people in the world, the problem of ensuring food security remains an enduring challenge, especially for developing countries. Many of them face daunting challenges, including a stagnant farm sector, inadequate domestic food stocks, volatility in food prices in international markets and low food purchasing power among the poor and needy. Two years ago, the UN General Assembly, through the adoption of SDG 2, called for action on trade restrictions and distortions in agriculture as one means to achieving the goal of ending hunger and malnutrition by 2030. The 2030 Agenda acknowledges that progress towards many other SDGs will depend on the extent to which food insecurity and malnutrition are effectively reduced and sustainable agriculture is promoted. Conversely, progress towards SDG  2 will depend on advancement made toward several other goals.

The Holy See considers it critically important to address the problem of food insecurity with due regard to a long-term perspective, eliminating the structural causes that give rise to it and promoting the agricultural development of poorer countries. Small-scale agriculture, as the mainstay of the rural economy, must certainly play a key role in growth. Boosting the productivity of small-scale agriculture is necessary to allow increased staple food production for household consumption and for the market when addressing challenges to improving infrastructure. Rural areas play a crucial role in the economic growth of LDCs. Thus, transforming rural economies by boosting agricultural productivity and by developing viable non-farm activities, while maximizing synergies between the two through greater access to technology and finance, is crucial for poverty eradication, job creation and sustainable development. The rural setting in itself does not provide the necessary opportunities for a sensible improvement of their working and living situations. “Their attempts to move to other, more diversified, means of production prove fruitless because of the difficulty of linkage with regional and global markets, or because the infrastructure for sales and transport is geared to larger businesses. Civil authorities have the right and duty to adopt clear and firm measures in support of small producers and differentiated production.”2


It is clear that trade plays a central role in economic development. The positive effect of trade, moreover, can be magnified by policies that favor the inclusion of all members of society in economic development. Policies aimed at women empowerment in the process of development may play a key role on this regard.

The Holy See has always stressed the importance of the contribution of women to society. Women are central not only in the development of the family but also for the development of the entire economic system. As Pope Francis recently stated: “The covenant between man and woman is called to be a guiding force for society as a whole. We are invited to be responsible for the world, in the realms of culture and politics, in the world of work and economic life, as well as in the Church.  This is not merely a matter of equal opportunities or mutual appreciation.  It involves the way men and women understand the very meaning of life and human progress.”3 Plenty of studies confirm that a higher participation rate of women is associated with stronger economic growth and with more equitable societies.

Agriculture is at the center of the 2030 Agenda, in this respect rural women play an essential role in ensuring household food security and nutrition, including through the preservation of biodiversity and plant genetic resources. Nevertheless, women are all too often discriminated and marginalized by societies in ways that offend their dignity.  Women are overrepresented among working poor, in informal employment and also account for most of unpaid work.

Perhaps the worst type of discrimination occurs in education where, in several countries, girls are prevented from attending schools, which exacerbates the vicious circle of poverty, exclusion and marginalization. Ensuring to all girls and women equitable access to education is not only a great opportunity for putting to good use their full talent, but it is also a crucial factor affecting the choices of future generations. Better educated women understand the full benefit of education and are more likely to improve the schooling of their own children, thus greatly contributing to the advancement of society. The Holy See strongly encourages the promotion of the female workforce through training and skills development and investing in time-saving, labor-saving technologies that respond to women’s needs.


The digital revolution has created development opportunities that were once impossible. The explosive growth of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and the digital economy are transforming economies at an unprecedented pace. The mobile revolution, expanded internet access and new online platforms, force enterprises to adapt their business practices. Technology has reshaped global value chains and trade patterns. It democratizes opportunities by enabling consumers and producers to buy and sell what they want, to and from whomever they want, making trade more inclusive. It also gives greater freedom of choice to make transactions at lower costs, making trade much more competitive. The governance of e-commerce must, therefore, guarantee the protection of consumers and producers, through transparent rules and norms, so as to render trade more fair and equitable. Within this spectrum, our common interest is to shape together in the WTO a global, multilateral and sustainable regulation that governs e-commerce and facilitates the inclusion of the most vulnerable people into the digital market. In this regard, it will be fundamental to increase affordable ICT connectivity in the developing world and to bolster the human capital, the physical infrastructure and the policy framework, that underpins ICT use.


Within the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, SDG 14 is exclusively dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas, and marine resources. Millions of people around the world rely on fisheries and aquaculture for income and livelihood. The most recent estimates indicate that 56.6 million people are engaged in the primary sector of capture fisheries and aquaculture.4 Around 350 million jobs are directly or indirectly created by the oceans economy. A large population of developing countries, LDCs, coastal economies and small island nations directly depend on fisheries. Therefore, the issue of subsidies is particularly sensitive for small and poor nations. This creates a new momentum at the multilateral level to address unsustainable practices in the fisheries sector, encompassing a specific target (SDG 14.6) to prohibit by 2020 those fisheries subsidies that lead to overcapacity and overfishing, to eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and to refrain from adopting such subsidies.

Regulating fisheries subsidies cannot be seen as a stand-alone issue. As is known, fisheries subsidies are projected to be as high as $35 billion worldwide, of which about $20 billion are categorized as capacity-enhancing and they directly contribute to overfishing. It is vital to adopt a holistic approach for the sector’s development that also addresses market access (tariffs and non-tariff measures) and capacity constraints in implementing sustainable fisheries-related measures. Failure to address these subsidies will jeopardize the livelihoods of coastal populations, particularly in countries and communities most dependent upon fish production.

Acknowledging the great obstacles that negotiations are facing, the Holy See supports the adoption of a pragmatic approach which allows the consolidation made so far. The longer we wait to conclude the current agreement, the fewer will be the benefits of the progress achieved, which, in some areas, are truly significant. Inaction would not only jeopardize all the efforts made so far but, most importantly, it would have a negative effect on the poorest countries which would be prevented from reaping the benefits of trade liberalization. The finalization of the current agreement would, moreover, allow countries and the WTO itself to deal more effectively on new important issues that have recently emerged.

In conclusion, trade is unbalanced and unjust when it complements the landscape of social exclusion and inequality; when it transgresses somebody’s dignity anywhere in the world; when it neglects the common good of the whole of humanity. As Pope Francis has repeatedly stated that “it is becoming increasingly difficult to find local solutions for enormous global problems which overwhelm local politics with difficulties to resolve. If we really want to achieve a healthy world economy, what is needed at this juncture of history is a more efficient way of interacting which, with due regard for the sovereignty of each nation, ensures the economic well-being of all countries, not just of a few”.5

All the world’s eyes will be on our deliberations during these days. If we fail to reiterate our commitment to multilateralism, development and inclusiveness, our silence will send a message to the world which will be louder than words. The effects of a no decision will have repercussions on the credibility of the organization for years to come. Let me close, Madam President, by assuring this Conference of the Holy See’s commitment to strengthening multilateralism and constructively engaging in the discussions on all areas of the work of the WTO.

Thank you, Madam President.

1 Cf. FAO, The future of food and agriculture. Trends and challenges, Rome 2017 available at (

2 Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter, Laudat is’, n.129.

3 Pope Francis, Address to the Participants of the Pontifical Academic for Life, 5 October 2017.

4 Cf. FAO: The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture – 2016, at p. 32-34.

5 Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelic Gaudier, n. 206.

Copyright © 2017 Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, All rights reserved.



Pope: Foundation Sign of Church Closeness to Poor

Zenit News - English - 45 min 49 sec ago

When John Paul II established the Populorum Progressio Foundation in 1992, “His wish was for this institution to express the Pope’s closeness to people who lack even the most essential goods to live, and whom society or its authorities often leave behind,” Pope Francis said on December 13, 2017.

His comments came in a message to Cardinal Peter K. A. Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development Service and
President of the Populorum Progressio Foundation. The Foundation is observing its 25th anniversary in Rome.

Pope Francis pointed out that since its creation, the Foundation has been involved in around 4,400 projects, “thanks to the generosity of so many Catholics and men of good will who have generously given what they had so others could improve their living conditions.”

The Holy Father went on to point out that the situation in Latin America continues to require a greater commitment to help the poor and marginalized.  He warned that “when an economic system places only the god of money at the center, policies of exclusion are triggered and there is no longer any place for men or for women.”

Message of the Holy Father Francis for the 25th Anniversary of the “Populorum Progressio” Foundation

To Cardinal Peter K. A. Turkson
Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development Service and
President of the Populorum Progressio Foundation

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Populorum Progressio Foundation, I would like to convey my greetings to all the members of the Board of Directors of the institution, to its collaborators and to all those who will meet to celebrate this event in Rome.

On 13 November 1992, my predecessor, John Paul II, created the Populorum Progressio Foundation to help improve the conditions of the indigenous, mestizo and African-American peoples in Latin America, who are among the most marginalized groups in Latin American and Caribbean society. His wish was for this institution to express the Pope’s closeness to people who lack even the most essential goods to live, and whom society or its authorities often leave behind. The initiatives this organism carries out are intended as a manifestation of God’s love and of the maternal presence of the Church in the midst of all men, particularly the poorest of the poor (Lk 7: 22).

Since then, the Foundation has supported around 4,400 projects, thanks to the generosity of so many Catholics and men of good will who have generously given what they had so others could improve their living conditions.

It is important to mention that the particular Churches of Latin America participate in the realization of the projects and in the Managing Board, formed by six Ordinaries of the region, which studies the initiatives presented by bishops and pastoral leaders.

However, the situation in Latin America requires a stronger commitment, in order to improve the living conditions of all, without excluding anyone, also in the fight against injustice and corruption, so as to obtain the best results of the efforts deployed. Indeed, despite the potential of the Latin American countries – inhabited by people in solidarity with others and with great wealth from a historical and cultural point of view, as well as natural resources – the current economic and social crisis, worsened by the scourge of external debt that paralyzes development, has affected the population and increased poverty, unemployment and social inequality, also contributing to the exploitation and abuse of our common home, at a level we had never imagined before.

When an economic system places only the god of money at the center, policies of exclusion are triggered and there is no longer any place for men or for women. The human being, then, creates that throwaway culture that leads to suffering, depriving so many of the right to live and to be happy (see Encyclical Letter Laudato si’, 44).

The Foundation was established to be a sign of the closeness of the Pope and of the Church to all, especially those communities that are marginalized and considered disposable, deprived of basic human rights and sharing at the table of the common good, as happens unfortunately with the native peoples, mestizos and African-Americans in Latin America. The Church is called to be close and to touch in the neighbor the flesh of Christ, which is also the measure of Christ’s judgment (cf Mt 25).

The Foundation, despite the limited means available to it, embodies in its projects the preferential option for the poorest, highlighting their dignity (see Encyclical Letter Laudato si’, 158), through witness of Christ’s charity, that gives, reaching out a hand to our brothers and sisters so that they can rise up, have hope again, and live a dignified life. Only in this way can they become protagonists of their own integral human development, recovering their dignity as human beings loved and wanted by God, also to contribute to the economic and social progress of their country with all the wealth that they conserve in their hearts and in their culture. And this human development will be everyone’s work, as because it will be the fruit of a common effort that, through the means provided so generously by the ecclesial communities, turns rejection into an authentic resource, not only for a country but also for the benefit of all the humanity.

The Foundation, which finances many projects in support of native peoples, will find at the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region, to take place in Rome in October 2019, a source of inspiration for the future and for the evangelization of the Continent.

Allow me to thank the representatives of the Italian Episcopal Conference, who so generously and faithfully accompany the Foundation, as well as Catholic Organizations and donors who have offered an appreciated contribution for the financing of the projects. Sharing in the gratitude of those who benefited from this important help, I ask God to reward them with abundant spiritual blessings. I finally greet the Secretariat’s colleagues in Bogotá and the dicastery, thanking them for their active commitment on behalf of their brothers and sisters in need. I encourage them in their work in support of integral human development and the common good in our American continent, so that the collaboration of all may contribute to creating a world that is increasingly just and humane, that sees the face of Christ in every brother and sister of the most marginalized populations of Latin America, following the example of Saint Teresa of Calcutta. I commend the celebrations of this anniversary to the maternal intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, venerated throughout the American Continent, and may the Lord bless the members of the Foundation and their benefactors.

From the Vatican, 20 November 2017


© Libreria Editrice Vatican

Pope Greets Participants in Catholic NGO Forum

Zenit News - English - 1 hour 12 min ago

Pope Francis greeted the participants in the 2017 Forum of Catholic-inspired Non-Governmental Organizations meeting in Rome. He made his remarks during his December 13, 2017, general audience in Paul VI Hall.

“I express my deep appreciation for your efforts to bring the light of the Gospel to the various peripheries of our world, in order to defend human dignity, to promote the integral development of peoples, and to meet the material and spiritual needs of so many members of our human family,” the Holy Father said. “I encourage you to work always in a spirit of communion and cooperation with other Catholic NGOs and with the representatives of the Holy See, as an expression of the Church’s commitment to the building of a more just and fraternal world.”

The Pope also greeted the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors in the audience, particularly the groups from Australia, Indonesia, India, Japan and the United States of America.



Pope Receives a Popemobile

Zenit News - English - 1 hour 29 min ago

Pope Francis received the gift of a used vehicle on December 13, 2017.  But he was the one who put a few miles on this shiny Dodge.

The vehicle is the Popemobile the Holy Father used during his apostolic journey to Mexico, February 12-18, 2016.  It came to Rome as a gift from the Mexican people and marked the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the Holy See.

“The Dictator Pope” is sometimes frustrating, but filled with valuable insights and information

Catholic World Report - 3 hours 54 min ago
The most valuable service provided by the author of The Dictator Pope is the psychological portrait of Pope Francis: manipulative, hypersensitive, and often downright vindictive—certainly [...]

Vatican communications department will soon unveil new website

CNA General News - 4 hours 18 min ago

Vatican City, Dec 13, 2017 / 11:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis and his Council of Cardinals met this week to continue discussions on reform of the Roman Curia and unveiled a new communications system for the Secretariat for Communications.

Taking place at the Vatican Dec. 11-13, all members were present for the meetings, apart from Cardinal George Pell. Pope Francis was present except for Wednesday morning during the general audience, as is ordinary.

Fr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, presented the new communications system, including a new website and logos, during the 22nd round of meetings.

According to a Dec. 13 statement, the “the Vatican media system adopts a new production model based on integration and unified management, in full harmony with the reform desired by Pope Francis.”

The center of the communications system will be new multimedia publishing center, which will present a unified structure for the daily production of content, including audio, text, video, and graphics, in multiple languages.

This system is the result of consolidation on both an economic and technical level, and will be available soon (in a beta version) at, the press release stated. This replaces the previously used informational websites and aims to streamline the image and channels of communication.

Starting Jan. 1, 2018, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s photo service, and the Vatican Typography will merge with the secretariat.

It will start with a team of 70 people divided into six language divisions – English, Italian, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese – in four thematic areas: Pope, Vatican, Church, and world. It will all be overseen by an editorial directorate in coordination with other support groups.

The new system draws its inspiration from the words of Pope Francis to the Secretariat for Communication during their first plenary earlier this year: that “reform is not ‘whitewashing’ things: reform is to give another form to things, organize them in another way.”

Viganò also reported on the final stretch of the reform of Holy See communications, including the achievement of goals to reduce costs and consolidate personnel.

The meetings also included an update from Cardinal Kevin Farrell on the work of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, which is preparing for the 2018 synod on youth.

The cardinals also listened to presentations by Fr. Michael Czerny and Fr. Fabio Baggio, the under-secretaries of the Migrant and Refugee section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

The section is developing a global strategy to implement in cooperation with the Secretariat of State, bishops’ conferences, NGOs, and religious congregations.

As usual, Cardinal Sean O’Malley also provided an update on the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Members of the commission are appointed for a term of three years, which may be reconfirmed. The terms of the present 15 members of the commission end Dec. 17. Pope Francis will decide whether to reconfirm current members and whom to appoint as new members.

Peter Saunders, founder and former Chief Executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood and a member of the commission since Dec. 2014, told the Tablet Dec. 13 he plans to step down from the commission at the end of the week. He has been on a leave of absence from the advisory body since early 2016.

Established by Pope Francis shortly after his pontificate began in 2013, the Council of Cardinals – also known as the “C9” – serves as an advisory body on Church governance and reform, with special emphasis on the reform of Pastor bonus, the apostolic constitution which governs the Roman Curia.

The council’s next round of meetings will take place Feb. 27-29.

Shrine rector sees Trinity Dome Mosaic as work of art, work of faith

Crux Now - 4 hours 43 min ago

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In the years since its 1959 dedication, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception has had three main architectural focal points: On the exterior, its Great Dome and Knights Tower over the northeast Washington skyline, and in the interior, its dramatic Christ in Majesty Mosaic behind the main altar.

With the Dec. 8 dedication of its interior Trinity Dome Mosaic completing its original architectural and iconographic plans, the national shrine has a new dramatic focal point, before it marks the centennial of the laying of its foundation stone in 2020.

And Monsignor Walter Rossi, the national shrine’s rector, said in an interview that it is fitting that the Trinity Dome is centrally located in the nation’s largest Catholic church, and that the Holy Trinity is central to the new mosaic’s iconography.

“The Trinity is central to the mosaic, because the Trinity is central to our Christian life and faith. This is how God has revealed himself to us as Father, Son and Spirit,” Rossi told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Washington Archdiocese.

Opposite the monumental figures of the Trinity in the mosaic is a nearly three-story high depiction of Mary as the Immaculate Conception, appearing as a beautiful young woman, her arms extended toward a procession of saints and holy people, ultimately pointing to her son Jesus.

“Mary’s arms are outstretched to embrace us, just as the arms of Jesus in Christ in Majesty are outstretched to embrace us,” the rector said.

Msgr. Walter Rossi, rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, is pictured in a Dec. 1 photo. (Credit: Jaclyn Lippelmann/Catholic Standard via CNS.)

He noted that those two main parts of the Trinity Dome Mosaic are based on 1953 designs by the shrine’s iconography committee as plans were underway to complete the Great Upper Church.

“We altered the figures on the east and west sides to include saints of the United States, and saints who had a history with the national shrine, like Mother Teresa and St. John Paul II, and we also wanted saints that reflect the face of the people who come here,” said Rossi.

That procession of saints reflects the diversity of the nearly 1 million pilgrims from across the United States and from around the world who come to pray at the basilica each year.

“This without question is the most diverse Catholic church in the United States,” the National Shrine’s rector said, noting that is why the saints in the mosaic include St. Juan Diego from Mexico, St. Lorenzo Ruiz from the Philippines, St. Josephine Bakhita from Sudan in Africa, and St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be recognized as a saint.

Those holy people depicted in the mosaic include St. John Paul II, who in 1979 became the first pope to visit the National Shrine, where he prayed in the Our Lady of Czestochowa Chapel and addressed a gathering of women religious. Also pictured is St. Teresa of Kolkata, who visited and prayed at the basilica many times over the years.

The saint in the mosaic with the most recent connection to the national shrine is St. Junipero Serra, the noted 18th-century Spanish Franciscan missionary of California who was canonized in 2015 by Pope Francis during a Mass celebrated outside the shrine, the first canonization ceremony held in the United States.

In addition to St. John Paul II, the saints in the mosaic include two other popes: St. John XXIII, who was pontiff when the national shrine was dedicated in 1959, and Blessed Paul VI, who visited the shrine one year later as a cardinal. The Nicene Creed encircles the base of the Trinity Dome.

The Trinity Dome Mosaic’s figures, symbols and words all together offer a visual representation of the Catholic faith, the priest said.

“That’s what religious art is meant to be, a catechism. … Looking at religious art, people learn about the Gospel message, the lives of the saints and salvation history,” he said.

Rossi, 56, is in his 20th year at the national shrine. The priest of the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, was named rector in 2005. Before that, he was director of pilgrimages there for eight years.

He said what inspires him most at the national shrine is witnessing the faith of the people who come to pray and worship God there.

When asked what impact he hopes that the Trinity Dome Mosaic will have on visitors, he said: “As you look up and see the images of the Holy Trinity and the Blessed Virgin Mary, you cannot but be reminded that the goal of our life on earth is our life with God, that heaven is our final goal, to rejoice forever with Mary in a hymn of praise to the blessed Trinity, and then we have the saints whose lives and example direct us on our way. Everybody’s life is a pilgrimage to the Father.”

Zimmermann is editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

Hold the phone: Vatican says Pope Francis doesn’t use WhatsApp

Crux Now - 5 hours 47 sec ago

ROME — While the thought of receiving a blessing by text from Pope Francis could have millions of mobile users glued to their smartphones, the Vatican spokesman said that isn’t his style.

The spokesman, Greg Burke, issued a statement on Twitter Dec. 13 saying that Francis doesn’t use the instant messaging platform WhatsApp.

Reports of “the Holy Father using WhatsApp are false,” Burke tweeted. “He does not send messages or blessings through this medium.”

The Pope Francis Foundation, a Catholic organization in Corrientes, Argentina, announced Dec. 12 the launch of “Wabot-Papa Francisco,” a chatbot that allows users to contact the pope and keep up-to-date with his schedule, reported the Argentine newspaper, La Nacion.

The foundation said the chatbot would respond to users’ queries through “texts, images, video, audio and documents,” La Nacion reported.

“You can also have a simulated chat with His Holiness. Wabot technology allows the entire Catholic community or people of any other faith to interact with the pope,” the foundation said.

The pope, the organization added, “is a technological man, he believes that technology can help many people and understands that it is the future of communications.”

In his message for the 50th World Communications Day Jan. 24, 2016, Francis acknowledged that emails, text messages, social networks and chats can be “fully human forms of communication.”

However, he added, “it is not technology which determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal.”

Despite his favorable attitude toward new forms of communication, the pope has also admitted that he is “a dinosaur” when it comes to technology.

During a Google Hangout conversation sponsored by Scholas Occurrentes in 2015, a young girl from Spain asked the pope if he liked to take photos and upload them to a computer.

“Do you want me to tell you the truth?” the pope asked. “I’m a disaster with machines. I don’t know how to work a computer. What a shame!”

USCCB’s top lobbyist trades political realm for parish catechesis

Crux Now - 5 hours 4 min ago

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Jayd Henricks, the U.S. bishops’ chief lobbyist, is about to trade the turbulent political wars of the nation’s capital for the tranquility of parish catechesis.

After 11 years with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Government Relations, including the last six as executive director, Henricks, 49, planned to relocate to the Augustine Institute in Denver, where he was to oversee its FORMED online catechetical program.

The new position has nothing to do with politics, “thanks be to God,” he told Catholic News Service.

Not that politics is something he wants to totally avoid after his diverse experience lobbying Congress and the White House for much of the past 15 years. Henricks said he saw an opportunity to take part in the new evangelization as envisioned by St. John Paul II and Pope Francis and he wanted to embrace it.

Henricks won’t miss the meetings, late night phone calls, endless memos and social gatherings in which he presented the U.S. bishops’ views on the importance of protecting human dignity whether the issue was abortion, religious freedom, immigration reform, health care, federal spending or tax policy.

In a way, he said, politics and catechesis intersect.

“Going to the Augustine Institute is a way to enter into the new evangelization and hopefully be a player in re-evangelizing a once-Christian culture. From there, that will affect the policies,” Henricks said.

The Northern California native expressed satisfaction with his 11 years at the USCCB. Sure, he said, there have been disappointments. Among them is the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which at the time it was being debated in 2010 consumed most of his waking hours.

While recognizing that the act would expand health care coverage to millions of Americans, three provisions fueled the bishops’ opposition: Funding for abortion; threats to religious liberty as expressed in the contraceptive mandate developed by the Department of Health and Human Services; and not allowing people in the country illegally to get on the health exchanges.

The bill became law, but parts of it have faced court challenges since.

The criticism the bishops received over their opposition still bothers Henricks. He wishes people could understand that the bishops’ stance was rooted in their concern for human dignity, as it is in all public policy stances.

“There is an essential thread that weaves through it all. That is the understanding of the human person. Christian humanism is the foundation for all that we do. To misunderstand that is to fail to understand the work of the church,” Henricks said.

“(It’s) understanding that the extraordinary dignity of every human person will affect every part of our life. That’s why the church speaks to the breadth of the issues that it does,” he explained.

Henricks arrived at the USCCB in 2006, becoming associate director of government relations. He had spent the immediate previous year teaching theology in Lawrence, Kansas, after working for three years as director of government relations at the Family Research Council, whose leaders often made controversial remarks about abortion, same-sex marriage and homosexuality.

Even though Henricks handled the pro-life portfolio at the council, building coalitions among groups opposed to abortion, he said that working at the organization “was an unnatural fit for me.”

“I’m not that firebrand. I’m not that conservative either,” he said.

Henricks considers joining the USCCB a sign of God’s intervention in his life. He said he wanted to join the bishops’ conference, but was not sure he could land the job because of his work at the Family Research Council. He credited Frank Monahan, former director of what was then the Office of Government Liaison, for taking a risk because he “saw something in me that he thought would be a good fit.”

The environment at the USCCB was more comfortable for Henricks, enabling him to embrace the chance to bring his Catholic faith to the public arena.

Henricks said he rooted his work in the theology of the Catholic faith. At one time, Henricks studied for the priesthood. He was three months from ordination to the transitional diaconate when he stepped back from pursuing a religious vocation. He holds a licentiate in systematic theology.

The theological formation received from five years in the seminary was useful on the job, he said.

“I don’t think you can do this job without a theological sensibility,” he said. “That background is employed every day in my job. For me, to be effective making the case for the church’s position, I have to know it and understand it and almost live the church’s heart and mind.”

Heading in January to the Augustine Institute, a Catholic graduate school established in 2005 in response to St. John Paul’s call for a new evangelization, will allow Henricks to return to his first love: Guiding people in the formation of their faith. He believes he can have an impact on the political realm as well by continuing to serve the church, just in another way.

The move is being made with family in mind. Henricks and his wife, Lillian, have three children, ages 9, 7 and 3. He said it is the right time for his family to make the move because the Washington area can be a difficult place to raise a family with its high cost of living and high-intensity lifestyle.

“In some respects, even though the USCCB is the heart of the institutional church, I believe that what I’m going to do is closer to the heart of the evangelizing church. This work is very important here, but it touches people’s lives in a less direct way,” he said.

“When you can touch people’s hearts to be converted and they and their families live closer to the Gospel call, that’s a privilege to work that closely to the mission of the church.”

These Dominican brothers are releasing a folk album

Crux Now - 5 hours 20 min ago

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Folk music is known for its foot-tapping, hand-clapping, barn-raising style – but now, a group of Dominican brothers is giving the genre a theological twist.

Meet the Hillbilly Thomists, a group of Dominican brothers who have a new album coming out on Dec. 12, which they describe as an authentic human and religious experience.

“Music can be sacred, but it can also be simply human – which is also sacred, just in a less explicit way with lyrics and themes,” Brother Timothy Danaher, one of the vocalists, told Catholic News Agency in an interview with four of the band members.

“The New Evangelization needs all kinds of music, both the sacred and the human, to get the attention of people going about their daily lives.”

The band consists of 10 members from the Dominican House of Study and St. Dominic’s Priory in Washington, D.C. It began as a lighthearted project with a focus on traditional Celtic music.

“The band itself was started by a couple of friars in our province,” said Brother Jonah Teller, who sings and plays guitar in the band. It grew out of a group of brothers who would get together to play Irish tunes, he said.

At first, the project was a fun excuse for the brothers to get together weekly and enjoy music. But as it grew from Irish tunes to more folk and bluegrass, the band began to perform publicly, receiving gigs for Catholic venues outside of the house.

The name “Hillbilly Thomists” comes from a line delivered by Catholic author Flannery O’Connor. After her novel “Wise Blood” was released, she said people had identified her as a “hillbilly nihilist,” to which she responded that she was more like a “hillbilly Thomist.”

The album is eponymous – named after the band – and consists of 12 songs featuring instruments including the guitar, washboard, fiddle, banjo, and the bodhrán, an Irish drum. Eleven of the songs are covers of old-timey spirituals like “Poor Wayfaring Stranger,” “Amazing Grace,” and “St. Anne’s Reel.” The album also includes an original song, “I am Dog,” written by Brother Justin Bolger.

When asked how music corresponds to evangelization, the band emphasized that humans are both spiritual and physical beings, and that their spirits are lifted by beautiful images and sounds, especially when accompanied by Scripture-based lyrics.

“I do think music can enhance evangelization if done right. We’re bodily beings, so beautiful images and sounds can be good for us, can help lift our minds to God,” said Brother Peter Gaustsch, who plays mandolin, piano, and guitar.

The Dominican order has released several albums of choir music, but the band hopes that this project reaches hearts of its listeners in a different way.

“There are so many great old songs in this tradition that speak of God’s love, his mercy, his grace, and our hope in him,” said Bolger, who sings and also plays piano, accordion, bass, and guitar.

Among the songs on the album is “Poor Wayfaring Stranger” – an American spiritual which has been covered by artists including Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris.

The wayfarer – or traveler – is an important image in Catholic theology, one of the brothers said, and cited examples from St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine.

“The poor wayfaring stranger is all of us,” said Gautsch. “There’s a strong theme in the history of Christian spirituality of our lives as a kind of pilgrimage to our heavenly homeland.”

“There’s a loveliness and beauty that carries with it the longing for our heavenly home and the trials that can face us as we make our way towards the Lord, hopeful because of the promise of his love and mercy,” added Teller.

Gautsch said the song depicts the struggle that is part of carrying our individual cross and learning to rely on the graces Christ provides for the journey.

“Sometimes the way is hard and steep, as the song says – in fact, it inevitably involves the cross – but the path has already been trod by Christ, who goes before us to prepare a place for us.”

The album can be ordered online, and is available for download at iTunes and Google Play.

A Christmas prayer for natural disaster victims and clean-up crews

Natl Catholic Reporter - 5 hours 26 min ago
Eco Catholic: One of the largest consequences of unnatural disasters is a loss of faith. When we join a clean-up crew or send a water filter to Puerto Rico, we are helping people restore their faith. We are saying that, on behalf of God, we care. 

Pope wants church to be voice of poor in Amazon, bishop says

Crux Now - 5 hours 27 min ago

ROME — Pope Francis’s decision to convene a Synod of Bishops dedicated to the Amazon is a sign of his desire for the choice to be a voice for the voiceless living in the region, a Brazilian archbishop said.

The Amazon region remains unknown to many, including Latin Americans, “because it is a region where there are many poor people” with no “great communication centers” to inform the world of their plight, Archbishop Sebastiao Ramos Krieger of Sao Salvador da Bahia told Catholic News Service Dec. 13.

“Someone must speak in their name, because a poor person is unable to defend himself. The pope wants the church to be the voice of the poor and help the Amazon find real solutions to its problems and challenges,” Krieger said.

Francis announced Oct. 15 that a special gathering of the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon region will take place in Rome in October 2019.

The synod will seek to identify new paths of evangelization, especially for indigenous people who are “often forgotten and left without the prospect of a peaceful future, including because of the crisis of the Amazon forest,” which plays a vital role in the environmental health of the entire planet, the pope said.

The Amazon rainforest includes territory belonging to nine countries in South America and has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity.

Krieger was one of several Latin American bishops attending a Dec. 12 conference in Rome commemorating the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Populorum Progressio Foundation.

Named after Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical on the development of peoples, the Populorum Progressio Foundation was instituted by St. John Paul II in 1992 to promote “the integral development of the communities of the poorest ‘campesinos’ (‘farmers’) of Latin America.”

In a Dec. 13 message, Francis praised the “generosity of many Catholics and people of goodwill” who contributed to the nearly 4,400 projects the foundation maintains to help those in need in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The current economic and social crisis on the continent, however, “has affected the population, increasing poverty, unemployment and social inequality while, at the same time, contributing to the exploitation and abuse of our common home at a level that we would have never imagined before,” the pope said.

“Despite the limited resources available, the foundation embodies, through its projects, the preferential option for the poorest, highlighting their dignity through the witness of Christ’s charity that helps, with a hand outstretched to the brother and sister so they may stand up, return to hope and live a dignified life,” the pope said.

Echoing the pope’s sentiments, Krieger told conference participants that, despite the challenges, the church can continue to play a fundamental role in directing the hearts of those charged with making “decisions on the sustainability of the Amazon” through the “values of the Gospel.”

“The church believes that the Amazon is a gift from God. It is not only great in its territorial size but also great in its beauty and biodiversity. And this gift was given to his sons and daughters who live here in our common home,” Krieger said in his address.

With poor people in the Amazon facing increasing dangers to themselves and their livelihood, there is an urgency for the church to be “a prophetic voice” for the world, the Brazilian archbishop told CNS.

The Synod of Bishops, he added, is a way for the church to fulfill its mission.

“With this synod, the pope wants the world to care for the Amazon, to help it and not look for their own interest,” Krieger said.

Francis is scheduled to meet with the indigenous people of the Amazon during his Jan. 18-21 visit to Peru. About 60 percent of Peru is in the Amazon.

Founding member of CFRs and EWTN host Fr. Andrew Apostoli dies at age 75

CNA General News - 5 hours 35 min ago

New York City, N.Y., Dec 13, 2017 / 09:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Franciscan friar and EWTN host Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR, passed away on the morning of Dec. 13, his community has confirmed.

Fr. Apostoli was a founding member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and was a regular on EWTN programming, most recently as the host of “Sunday Night Prime.”

He also authored numerous books and was considered one of the leading experts on the Our Lady of Fatima apparitions.

“All of us at EWTN are saddened by the loss of our dear friend Father Andrew Apostoli, CFR. Father Andrew was a constant presence on the Network for nearly twenty-five years, particularly as the host of ‘Sunday Night Prime’ for the past five years,” said Michael P. Warsaw, Chairman of the Board and CEO of the EWTN Global Catholic Network.

Fr. Apostoli was born Joseph Dominic Apostoli on July 3, 1942 in Woodbury, New Jersey, and was the second of four boys. He first encountered Capuchin Franciscan friars at his parish in 8th grade and was inspired by their joy.

“I felt that the brothers were joyful and I wanted the joy that I saw,” he told the Catholic Herald in 2015.

He met Archbishop Fulton Sheen while attending high school seminary, and would later be ordained a priest by Archbishop Sheen on March 16, 1967. He would eventually become the Vice Postulator for Sheen’s cause for canonization.

Fr. Apostoli was a founding member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in 1988, and was also influential in the founding of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal.

During his time in active ministry, Fr. Apostoli served as a teacher, retreat leader and spiritual director. He also wrote many spiritual books on subjects including Our Lady of Fatima and the Holy Spirit. His most recent book, “Answering the Questions of Jesus,” is a book designed to lead readers into deeper reflection on each of the personal questions Jesus asks in the Gospel.

Fr. Apostoli first appeared on EWTN on the “Mother Angelica Live” program in July of 1993, together with Fr. Benedict Groeschel, and taped his own series for the network in 1994, which first aired in 1995.

In 2012, Fr. Apostoli took over as host for EWTN’s “Sunday Night Prime” which had previously been hosted by Fr. Benedict Groschel, a fellow Franciscan Friar of the Renewal.

On November 10, Fr. Apostoli announced on the CFR’s website that due to declining health, he could no longer maintain a public schedule. Over the past month, the brothers have been posting brief health updates about the priest and asking for prayers.

In the morning of Dec. 13, the brothers confirmed that he had passed away.

“We always looked forward to his many visits to Irondale to produce programs,” Warsaw said.

“He was such a kind and holy man who always brought joy to the EWTN Family and who was a constant witness to the Franciscan spirit. We will certainly miss him.”

Youth with special needs rock runway in NYC church

Crux Now - 5 hours 38 min ago

NEW YORK CITY – Last Friday night, more than 200 people gathered for a Times Square fashion show in New York City.  It wasn’t in a fashion house or theater. Instead, the models walked in a unique venue: A church. The special venue was only fitting: The models have special needs, and they modeled adaptive clothing brands and styles, raising money for charities that help children with disabilities.

“Organizing a fashion show for those with special needs reminds us that true beauty lies in our dignity as unique children of God,” said Sean O’Hare, fashion show organizer, in a statement.

The show was held at St. Malachy’s Church on the West Side of Manhattan, and all proceeds from the show went to benefit the Special Needs Activity Center for Kids and Adults. Models, who have a variety of special needs, modeled outfits from dress designer Jovani, fashion brand Thursday Boots, and adaptive clothing brand Independence Day Clothing.

Because some of the models have sensitivities to loud music, shouting, or clapping, the show chose a novel soundtrack for its show: A live choir. The St. Joseph’s Choir, a Catholic choir based at the university parish at New York University, sang pop and praise songs as the models walked.

Along with O’Hare, former Miss America 2008 and Fox News Contributor Kirsten Haglund co-hosted the event.

In any fashion show, one of the most important elements, besides the clothes themselves, is the audience reception. At St. Malachy’s the models were met with overwhelmingly positive reviews.

“What a terrific night!” said Tracy Nixon, a mother and founder of a non-profit for those with Down syndrome, Gigi’s Playhouse NYC. “My daughter and everyone from GiGi’s Playhouse NYC had the best time tonight!”

The positive reception of the show has even inspired organizer O’Hare to plan other fashion shows like this around the country under the name, “100 Million Strong.”

“According to the UN, there are approximately 100 million severely disabled individuals around the world,” O’Hare explained. “We want to demonstrate that this a large community, but one with strength, fortitude and joy!”

He hopes these shows can help to raise money for local special needs charities, encourage other designers to consider adaptive clothing solutions for people with unique physical needs, and celebrate the special needs community around the nation.

Accused NYC attacker followed radical preacher

Natl Catholic Reporter - 5 hours 40 min ago
The man accused of carrying out a bomb attack in New York City's subway system was influenced by the sermons and writings of a radical Muslim preacher but appeared to have no known links to local radical groups, Bangladeshi officials said.

'Three Billboards' is an American parable of anger

Natl Catholic Reporter - 5 hours 45 min ago
NCR Today: An anti-Advent tale, the movie "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" charges into the darkest corners of humanity.

Philippine Congress extends martial law in southern Philippines

Natl Catholic Reporter - 5 hours 50 min ago
Martial law in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao, originally aimed at quelling a terrorist attack in Marawi in May, has been extended for another year.

Pope wants church to be voice of poor in Amazon, bishop says

Natl Catholic Reporter - 5 hours 56 min ago
Pope Francis' decision to convene a Synod of Bishops dedicated to the Amazon is a sign of his desire for the choice to be a voice for the voiceless living in the region, a Brazilian archbishop said. 

New Vatican news site ready to launch; multimedia plan explained

Crux Now - 5 hours 56 min ago

ROME — Before Christmas, the Vatican plans to launch its new multimedia communications website, although the Vatican Radio and Vatican Television Center sites will stay accessible as archives.

Monsignor Dario Vigano, prefect of the Secretariat for Communication, announced Dec. 13 that the new site — — would be launched in beta form “in the coming days.”

The public announcement came the day after Vigano presented the site to Pope Francis and his international Council of Cardinals and explained to the council the progress made in unifying the various Vatican media.

“The cornerstone of the system, fruit of a process of consolidation on an economic and technical level, is represented by the Editorial Multimedia Center,” which will be a single structure responsible for producing audio, text, video and graphics in several languages and for use on a variety of platforms, including the new website and social media.

The Secretariat for Communication’s editorial board will determine how various events and issues are presented and covered.

According to a statement from Vigano, eventually the multimedia center will include about 350 employees drawn from the 40 language programs of the former Vatican Radio and from the nine institutions — the radio, Vatican newspaper, Vatican television production center, Vatican printing press, etc. — that now form part of the secretariat.

The multimedia center will begin its work with 70 people working in six languages: Italian, English, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese. They will focus on four areas: The pope, the Vatican, the Church and the world.

Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, briefed reporters on the meeting of the Council of Cardinals Dec. 11-13, including on Vigano’s report that the new website and production center are simply the “first visible and concrete expression” of the unified approach to communications requested by the pope and cardinals.

More generally, the pope and cardinals discussed “the Curia as an instrument of evangelization and of service to the pope and the local churches,” Burke said. The idea of the “reform of the Roman Curia” is not simply to change structures, “but mentalities.”

U.S. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, a member of the Council of Cardinals and president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, briefed the group on the commission’s activity, “especially regarding its work in helping local churches.”

Burke said the discussion was held before Peter Saunders, a British abuse survivor and advocate, told The Tablet, the British Catholic journal, that he would formally resign from the commission Dec. 15, two days before his three-year appointment to the body expires. Saunders had been asked in 2016 to take a leave of absence from the group.

Like Marie Collins, an Irish survivor who resigned in March, Saunders cited his frustration with the slow pace of action, particularly in holding accountable bishops who have failed to report alleged cases of sexual abuse.

Francis formed the Council of Cardinals one month after his election in 2013. The cardinals have been working on ideas for the reform of the Roman Curia, but also advise Francis on a variety of matters regarding church governance. The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 26-28.

Sunday has lost its sense as day of rest, renewal in Christ, pope says

Crux Now - 6 hours 3 min ago

ROME — Just like a plant needs sun and nourishment to survive, every Christian needs the light of Sunday and the sustenance of the Eucharist to truly live, Pope Francis said.

“How can we carry out the Gospel without drawing the energy needed to do it, one Sunday after another, from the limitless source of the Eucharist,” he said Dec. 13 during his weekly general audience.

“We don’t go to Mass to give something to God, but to receive from him that which we truly need,” the pope said. Sunday Mass is the time and place Christians receive the grace and strength to remain faithful to his word, follow his commandment to love others and be credible witnesses in the world.

The pope continued his series of audience talks on the Mass in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall, which was decorated with a large Christmas tree and a life-sized Nativity scene. A number of people in the audience hall handed the pope — who turns 81 Dec. 17 — Christmas cards, notes and a chocolate cake.

In his catechesis, the pope responded to the question of why it is so important to go to Mass on Sundays and why it is not enough just to live a moral life, loving others.

Sunday Mass is not simply an obligation, he said. “We Christians need to take part in Sunday Mass because only with the grace of Jesus, with his presence alive in us and among us, can we put into practice his commandment and, in this way, be his credible witnesses.”

“Just like a plant needs the sun and nourishment to live, every Christian needs the Sunday Eucharist to truly live,” he said in summarized remarks to Arabic speakers.

“What kind of Sunday is it for a Christian if an encounter with the Lord is missing?” he asked in his main talk.

Unfortunately, in many secularized countries, the Christian meaning of the day has been lost and is no longer “illuminated by the Eucharist” or lived as a joyous feast in communion with other parishioners and in solidarity with others, he said.

Also often missing is the importance of Sunday as a day of rest, which is a sign of the dignity of living as children of God, not slaves, he said.

“Without Christ, we are condemned to be dominated by the fatigue of daily life with all its worries and the fear of tomorrow. The Sunday encounter with the Lord gives us the strength to live today with confidence and courage and to move forward with hope,” he said.

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