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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 10 min 28 sec ago

Digital rosary discovered to be hackable, Vatican says it has fixed bugs

5 hours 35 min ago

Vatican City, Oct 21, 2019 / 07:40 pm (CNA).- Shortly after the new “smart rosary” bracelet was released last week, the Vatican discovered an easy route for hackers to retrieve a user’s personal information. The issue has since been fixed.

Launched on Oct. 15, the device is called an eRosary and allows users to track their prayers, find spiritual resources, and connect with an online prayer community.

A few days after its release, Fidus Information Security, a cyber security consulting service, discovered the device’s weak safety measures, which could have allowed hackers to gain access to a user’s personal information such as their phone number, date of birth, gender, and height.

“One of our researchers decided to check out the code, and in just 10 minutes found some glaring issues,” Andrew Mabbitt, founder of Fidus, told The Register tech site.

According to Fidus, the most glaring concern was a glitch that would allow a hacker to access a user's password - a four-digit PIN - without connecting to the user’s email. The application uses API calls to talk to its backend system. Upon request for a user’s email address, the system would send over a readable text of the user’s PIN through the API.

Father Frédéric Fornos, international director for the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network, told The Register that Vatican coders were placed on the problem immediately after he heard about the issue on Oct. 17. Since then, the issue has been corrected.

According to The Register, Fidus also found that, because there are unlimited password guesses, hackers would be able to retrieve the pin number by “brute forcing” - a means to retrieve hidden information through excessive trial and error. However, a Vatican spokesperson said this issue has also been resolved.

The eRosary was launched under the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network and developed by the Taiwan-based tech company GadgTek Inc.

The Bluetooth device in the bracelet connects to Click to Pray, a phone app on iOS or Android that reminds people to pray. It also includes reflections, campaigns, and an electronic bulletin board, where users may request or find prayer intentions.

The eRosary activates when the user makes a sign of the cross. It tracks the user's progress and, in connection with the user’s phone, provides visual aids and audio reflections on the mysteries of the rosary.

The device is available on Amazon.it for 99 euros, roughly $109.

According to an Oct. 15 press release from Click to Pray, the eRosary is an opportunity to connect young people together in prayer.

“Aimed at the peripheral frontiers of the digital world where the young people dwell, the Click To Pray eRosary serves as a technology-based pedagogy to teach the young how to pray the Rosary, how to pray it for peace, how to contemplate the Gospel,” the press release said.

 

How parishes can help address the epidemic of domestic abuse

7 hours 13 min ago

Washington D.C., Oct 21, 2019 / 06:02 pm (CNA).- Domestic violence is a hidden epidemic that many clergy and laypersons need additional training to address, says one priest who runs the country’s largest parish-based ministry to counter the problem.

“When you start talking about it, that’s when people will start coming forward,” Fr. Chuck Dahm, O.P., who directs domestic violence outreach for the Archdiocese of Chicago, told CNA about the problem of domestic abuse.

Fr. Chuck said that many priests and deacons have little preparation to assist victims of domestic violence, and that more seminary training would be helpful for both preparing priests and raising awareness on the issue.  

He said that “When I Call for Help,” a pastoral letter on domestic violence from the USCCB, is a helpful resource for clergy looking for more understanding.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. According to the CDC, “intimate partner violence” can be physical, sexual, or even emotional, as with instances of stalking or “psychological aggression.”

Some 27 percent of women in the U.S. have suffered intimate partner violence at some point, along with 12 percent of men, the CDC has reported.

There are many physical and psychological effects of domestic violence on victims – physical injuries and disabilities and bodily effects of stress, but also anxiety, depression, and trust issues. Children witnessing violence in the home may grow up with emotional problems like anger, or may even become abusers themselves when they are adults.

In his apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris laetitia, Pope Francis wrote of the problem of domestic abuse:

“Unacceptable customs still need to be eliminated. I think particularly of the shameful ill-treatment to which women are sometimes subjected, domestic violence and various forms of enslavement which, rather than a show of masculine power, are craven acts of cowardice. The verbal, physical, and sexual violence that women endure in some marriages contradicts the very nature of the conjugal union.”

He also insisted upon the need for parishes and priests to be ready to deal properly with these problems: “Good pastoral training is important ‘especially in light of particular emergency situations arising from cases of domestic violence and sexual abuse’,” he added, citing the final document from the 2015 Synod on the Family.

Catholics have responded to this dire need in various ways, from organizing a prayer campaign for domestic abuse victims to working to spread awareness of the problem and educate clergy on how to properly deal with instances of abuse.

A “toolkit” for fighting domestic abuse has been provided by the Catholics for Family Peace, Education, and Research Initiative, which includes prayers and directions for helping a victim of domestic abuse.

In recent years, the group has marked Domestic Violence Awareness Month by asking people to pray at 3 p.m. daily for domestic abuse victims, and has called for a day of prayer on Oct. 28, the feast of St. Jude the Apostle, the patron saint of hopeless cases.

Fr. Chuck Dahm has created a parish-based ministry to combat domestic violence. A key part of his work is simply preaching about it, he says, because it is a widespread problem that hides in plain sight.

There is an “overwhelming lack of recognition that the problem is more frequent, more common than people think,” he told CNA. Many priests are completely unaware of cases of it, Fr. Chuck noted, although “there are people in their parishes who are suffering.”

“I have gone to 90 parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago,” he said. “And after I preach about it, people walk out of the church and they tell me ‘thank you for talking about this. This is long overdue. And my sister, my daughter is in it, or I grew up in it.’ And this is so much more common than anybody realizes.”

Sometimes, Fr. Chuck said, priests are not well trained and do not know how to handle situations in which parishioners come to tell them about abuse. They may offer inadequate advice and solutions.

Fr. Chuck participated in a symposium on domestic abuse at Catholic University of America in 2016. Since then he’s seen the fruits of the conference, spreading awareness of the problem.

“A significant number went home with the plans of doing something in their diocese or their respective organizations,” he said of conference participants.

The Archdiocese of Washington held a workshop for priests to learn how to deal with incidents of domestic abuse and 31 priests attended, he said. Two representatives of Catholic Charities in Vermont are starting a workshop for priests there, and the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City held a workshop attended by several priests and a meeting for priests with Fr. Chuck.

Still, sometimes priests do not attend these events, Fr. Chuck acknowledged, and raising awareness about the importance of the problem is key.

Unfortunately, it’s been negative incidents that have driven the conversation about domestic abuse, he said. For instance, when surveillance videos surfaced of former NFL running back Ray Rice punching his fiancée, and then dragging her off an elevator while she was unconscious, the “subsequent outrage” after that and other incidents like it “helps create more awareness about the problem.”

Then “people feel a little bit more comfortable and required to speak out about this and do something about it,” Fr. Chuck explained. “The publicity about negative events or harmful events is quite helpful in raising awareness.”

“We’re really behind on this,” he said of the Church’s efforts to combat the problem, but at the same time, “we’re making progress.”


An earlier version of this article originally ran on CNA Oct. 24, 2016.

Abortion legalized in N Ireland, after deadlock in devolved legislature

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 11:20 PM

Belfast, Northern Ireland, Oct 21, 2019 / 05:20 pm (CNA).- Northern Ireland's devolved legislature failed Monday to block a change to the region's law imposed by the British parliament. As a result, both abortion and same-sex marriage will now be legal in the region.

Same-sex marriages are expected to begin taking place in Northern Ireland by February 2020, while the new abortion law is set to take effect by April 2020.

Previously, abortion was legally permitted in Northern Ireland only if the mother's life was at risk or if there was risk of permanent, serious damage to her mental or physical health.

The British parliament passed the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 in July, with amendments legalizing abortion and same-sex marriage.

That act took effect Oct. 22 because the Northern Ireland Assembly, which has been suspended the past two years due to a dispute between the two major governing parties, was not able to do business by Oct. 21.

Pro-life members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, largely comprised of members of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), recalled the assembly Monday for the first time since January 2017 in order to block the relaxed abortion restrictions. The DUP favors union with the UK and is known to be a right-of-center political party on many issues.

Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, told The Guardian that she hoped the recall would allow assembly members to debate the issue at the local level, and would allow those opposed to the changes officially to voice their opposition.

However, in order for the assembly to make any binding changes, the election of a speaker of the assembly with cross-party support was required. This proved impossible when the nationalist Social Democratic Labour Party walked out of the Oct. 21 meeting, the BBC reported. The assembly also would have needed to form an executive (similar to an administration), which could also not be done without cross-party presence and support.

Members of the assembly from Sinn Fein, a left-of-center nationalist party, as well as the Green Party and People Before Profit did not participate in the Oct. 21 session.

Incumbent speaker Robin Newton, a member of the DUP, also went against party leader Foster and refused to suspend normal assembly rules to allow for the introduction of the Defence of the Unborn Child Bill 2019, a DUP initiative that, had it passed by midnight, could have blocked the new abortion law.

Foster called it a "shameful day" for Northern Ireland, according to the BBC.

Mary Lou McDonald, leader of Sinn Féin, celebrated the "decriminalisation of women that will take effect from midnight,” the BBC reported.

Abortion has been legal in the rest of the United Kingdom up to 24 weeks since 1967, and it was legalized in the Republic of Ireland in 2018. Same-sex marriage has been legal in the rest of the UK since 2014.

Pressure to legalize abortion in Northern Ireland increased after a 2018 referendum legalized abortion in the Republic of Ireland.

Bills to legalize abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, or incest failed in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016.

In September, religious leaders of Northern Ireland called on Ireland Secretary Julian Smith to reconvene the local legislative assembly in order to block the new liberalizing abortion laws.

“Our Northern Ireland political parties have it in their own hands to do something about this,” the religious leaders said in a Sept. 30 joint statement.

“There is no evidence that these [legal] changes reflect the will of the people affected by them, as they were not consulted. They go far beyond the ‘hard cases’ some have been talking about,” the statement added.

Signatories of the statement included leaders of the Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland, Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and the Irish Council of Churches.

The Northern Ireland Catholic bishops’ conference previously condemned the move by the British Parliament as an “unprecedented” use of authority in the region.

Earlier this month, the High Court in Belfast had ruled that the region's ban on the abortion of unborn children with fatal abnormalities violated the UK's human rights commitments.

In September, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Belfast to protest the impending change to abortion restrictions in the region.

Louisiana court skeptical, but lets challenge to abortion regulations continue

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 11:10 PM

Baton Rouge, La., Oct 21, 2019 / 05:10 pm (CNA).- A lawsuit challenging Louisiana’s pro-life legislation will be allowed to continue, but the state is confident that it will prevail after the lower court re-examines whether the plaintiffs have standing to challenge the regulations.

The 5th Circuit’s Court of Appeals declined to dismiss the case altogether, but also stated that those suing the state did not have standing for many of their claims, and that the case never should have been allowed to go forward.

The case was heard by Chief Judge Priscilla Owen, along with Judges Don Willett and Andrew Oldham.

The state was being sued by an abortion clinic and two doctors, who were seeking an injunction blocking “virtually all of Louisiana’s legal framework for regulating abortion.” They argued that even if some of the regulations and provisions were constitutional, the entirety of them as a whole were not.

The panel of judges on the court said that a good number of the things the plaintiffs were challenging do not meet the legal standard to actually bring a case to court.

“Plaintiffs challenge a bevy of legal provisions that appear incapable of injuring them,” said the opinion. The plaintiffs stated they were attempting to get an injunction under what they have termed the “cumulative effects” theory.

“The plaintiffs’ theory, as we understand it, is that Louisiana’s various laws and regulations regarding abortion cumulate to an undue burden,” said the opnion. “But before any federal court can analyze the ‘cumulative effects’ of Louisiana’s laws, we must know which laws plaintiffs have standing to challenge. Again, jurisdiction first.”

Among the provisions challenged in the case are regulations concerning the privacy of medical records, a law that forbids abortion facilities from having a name that would make someone think the state is operating the facility, laws that require the suspected sexual abuse of a child be reported to authorities, and a law that requires abortion facilities to have clean bathrooms. The opinion stated that it is simply not possible for the plaintiffs to claim that they have been somehow harmed by these laws.

The opinion also contained a list of 10 provisions that were challenged in court by the plaintiffs without alleging how or if the regulations actually applied to them. These included regulations regarding proper flooring and wall finishes for new or relocated abortion facilities, regulations regarding laundry facilities at clinics with “in-house laundry,” and provisions requiring that only “qualified medical staff” and “qualified nursing staff” be employed at abortion facilities.

The judges said that the plaintiffs did not properly explain how these regulations actually applied to them, as their clinic was not relocating, nor were the plaintiffs seeking to hire unqualified medical staff at the clinic.

Louisiana’s attorney general was hopeful about the future of the case.

“This lawsuit was always an overreach—it was filed by abortion clinics and doctors with poor safety records to evade regulation, even on common sense safety measures that benefit and protect women,” said Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry. “We are gratified that the Fifth Circuit reaffirmed very basic rules that apply when State laws are challenged in federal courts.”

Democratic US presidential candidates seek to limit charter schools

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 8:28 PM

Washington D.C., Oct 21, 2019 / 02:28 pm (CNA).- Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has released a K-12 education plan that, among other proposals, pledges to quadruple federal funding for schools that serve low-income students, but also would place some limits on charter schools.

The New York Times notes that Vermont Senator and fellow Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders issued a similar proposal to limit charter schools in May.

Charter schools receive public funds but are privately operated. Warren’s plan would end “high-stakes testing”— tests that are used to make important decisions affecting the school — as well as ending federal funding for opening new charter schools and banning for-profit charters.

The New York Times notes that charter schools expanded in popularity and support under the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, but there is evidence that public opinion is turning away from charter schools as a means of facilitating school choice.

The Times reports that Warren and her Democratic rivals are vying for endorsements from teachers’ unions, which generally oppose the expansion of the charter sector.

Sister Dale McDonald, P.B.V.M., director of public policy and educational research at the National Catholic Educational Association, told CNA in March that the NCEA has supported “fair and full choice” or “parental choice” for more than two decades.

The NCEA’s membership includes more than 150,000 educators serving 1.9 million Catholic school students across the U.S.

While the group mainly advocates for Catholic education and schemes such as tax credits to help low-income families send students there, the NCEA has also supported charter schools as a means of providing additional school choice to parents.

In guidelines on school choice published in May 2018, the NCEA stated of charter schools that they “typically provide for a clear, focused mission, a smaller student population that facilitates creation of community, more innovative teaching practices, greater parental and local community involvement, clear educational and fiscal standards and accountability measures and fewer state and local school board bureaucratic regulations.”

A major school choice case regarding tax credits for students who choose religious schools, a scheme that the NCEA supports, is currently pending in the Supreme Court. The court in July agreed to hear a case addressing the question of whether states  can deny tax credit programs to parents and children who choose religious private schools.

Amazon synod bishops sign new version of Vatican II-era 'Catacombs Pact'

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 2:50 PM

Rome, Italy, Oct 21, 2019 / 08:50 am (CNA).- In the Roman catacombs Sunday morning, some bishops participating in the Amazon synod signed a pact about how they want to conduct their particular churches in the Amazon region, following the style of a similar Catacombs Pact signed during the Second Vatican Council.

The two-page document is called “Pact of the Catacombs for the Common Home,” and says it is “for a Church with an Amazonian face, poor and servant, prophetic and Samaritan.”

Quoting a line from Pope Francis’ homily at the opening of the Amazon synod, it says, “so many of our brothers and sisters in the Amazonia are bearing heavy crosses and awaiting the liberating consolation of the Gospel, the Church’s caress of love. For them, with them, let us journey together.”

It was signed by an estimated 40 bishops after a Mass celebrated with about 250 people in the Catacombs of Domitilla in the south of Rome in the early morning Oct. 20. The Mass’ main celebrant was Cardinal Claudio Hummes, who holds the position of relator, or chairman, of the Amazon synod.

Hummes is the archbishop emeritus of San Paolo, Brazil and the president of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM), a driving force behind the synod.

Crux reported that Emeritus Bishop Erwin Krautler of Xingu, Brazil, was the impetus behind developing the Catacombs Pact during the Amazon synod.

The Oct. 20 declaration was modeled after the Pact of the Catacombs: A Poor Servant Church, an agreement signed by 42 bishops on Nov. 16, 1965, near the close of the Second Vatican Council.

The 11 points of the 1965 Pact of the Catacombs mostly centered on the commitment to avoid wealth and to live “according to the ordinary manner” of their people in regards to food, housing, transportation, and related things, and to renounce symbols of power.

The document, which was later circulated and adopted by about an additional 500 bishops, was likewise signed after a Mass in Rome’s Catacombs of Domitilla.

The signatories of the 1965 “pact” included many Latin American bishops, and is said to have had an influence on the development of “liberation theology,” much of which has been condemned by the Church.

In 1984 and 1986, while prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger issued two instructions, approved by Pope St. John Paul II, denouncing many aspects, tendencies, and conclusions of liberation theology.

The Oct. 20 declaration notes a gratitude for the bishops of the Second Vatican Council who signed the 1965 Pact of the Catacombs for the poor, and says they remember “with veneration” all those “who shed their blood for this option for the poor, for defending life and fighting for the protection of our Common Home.”

They state their decision “to continue their struggle with tenacity and courage” in the midst of a “feeling of urgency that prevails in the face of aggressions that today devastates the Amazon territory, threatened by the violence of a predatory and consumerist economic system.”

Invoking the Holy Spirit, they commit themselves “personally and communally” to 15 points, including the commitment “to abandon... all types of colonist mentality and posture,” instead “welcoming and valuing cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity in a respectful dialogue with all spiritual traditions.”

The signatories denounce violence against the autonomy and rights of native people and their ways of life and state a commitment to “announce the liberating novelty of the Gospel of Jesus in welcoming the other and the one who is different.”

A commitment was also stated to “walk ecumenically with other Christian communities in the inculturation and liberating proclamation of the Gospel with other religions and people of good will…”

They promise to establish “a synodal lifestyle” in their particular churches, in which representatives of native people, missionaries, and other lay people have a “voice and vote” in everything “that concerns the governance of the communities.”

They commit to recognize and value the work already being done in ecclesial ministries in their communities and to move from “pastoral visits to pastoral presence,” “ensuring the right to the Table of the Word and the Table of the Eucharist…”

The bishops promise, as well, to recognize the service and “real diakonia” of women in the Amazon, and to “consolidate them with an adequate ministry of women leaders in the community.”

Several of the points refer to the protection of our “Common Home,” making the promise to live a simple and “happily sober lifestyle” in the face of consumerism and “extreme global warming and the depletion of natural resources.”

They promise to “defend the Amazon jungle” by cutting down on their production of waste and their use of plastic, and by using public transportation whenever possible.

The bishops who signed the pact call themselves not “the owners of Mother Earth, but rather the sons and daughters,” and commit themselves “to an integral ecology in which all is interconnected, the human race and all creation, because all beings are sons and daughters of the earth and over them the Spirit of God moves (Gen 1:2).”

They declare their commitment to renew the preferential option for the poor in their churches, especially for native peoples, and to help them to “preserve their lands, cultures, languages, stories, identities and spiritualities.”

The signatories also promise to “cultivate true friendships with the poor, visit the simplest people and the sick, exercise the ministry of listening, comfort and support that bring encouragement and renew hope.”

The pact closes by saying they place themselves under the protection of the prayers of the Church, and they request to be helped with the intercession, affection, and “when necessary, with the charity of fraternal correction,” of their ecclesial communities.

Amazon synod's controversial carved figures thrown into Tiber River

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 2:15 PM

Rome, Italy, Oct 21, 2019 / 08:15 am (CNA).- A video uploaded to YouTube on Oct. 21 shows two men taking several wooden figures of a nude pregnant woman from a church near the Vatican and throwing them into the Tiber River.

The figures have been present at several events connected to the Vatican’s Amazon synod, and have been the subject of considerable controversy: some have characterized them as images of the Blessed Virgin Mary, others as the indigenous religious figure “Pachamama,” while Vatican spokesmen have characterized them more vaguely as symbols of “life.”

From the four-minute video it appears the event took place around dawn Oct. 21, when a person holding the video camera appears to enter the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina. The church is in the immediate area of the Vatican, and has been the location of events at which the controversial carved figure of a woman has been present.

Inside the church, a man is seen entering a side chapel and then leaving with a figure. The two people then exit the church and the video shows them carrying five of the carved images of the woman toward Castel Sant’Angelo. The men throw the figures from the side of the Sant’Angelo bridge into the Tiber River.

No faces are shown and the video was uploaded to YouTube under an anonymous account. As of publication, the video had amassed over 12,000 views.

Video has emerged of two men entering a church near the Vatican and stealing indigenous statues. They then filmed the statues being thrown into the Tiber River. #AmazonSynod #SinodoAmazonico pic.twitter.com/IXx5NgFDZN

— EWTN News (@EWTNews) October 21, 2019  

The same YouTube account uploaded a second video of the event Oct. 21. The second video is shorter, of higher video quality, and has been edited with music added.

In the caption beneath the second video, it says the action was taken “for only one reason: Our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ, his blessed Mother, and everybody who follows Christ, are being attacked by members of our own Church. We do not accept this! We do not longer stay silent! We start to act NOW!” [sic]

“Because we love humanity, we can not accept that people of a certain region should not get baptised and therefore are being denied entrance into heaven,” the caption continues. “It is our duty to follow the words of God like our holy Mother did. There is no second way of salvation. Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat!”

Asked about the event at a press conference Oct. 21, Paolo Ruffini, head of Vatican communications, called it a “stunt.”

He said it is difficult to be asked for a Vatican reaction to something that had happened only a short time earlier, adding that “to steal something from a place and, in sum, to throw it away, is a stunt.”

Recalling comments he had made last week that the figure “represents life, fertility, the earth,” Ruffini said Oct. 21  that discarding the statues “is a gesture that seems to me to contradict the spirit of dialogue that should always animate everything.”

“I don’t know what else to say. It was a theft,” Ruffini added.

Fr. Giacomo Costa, a communications official for the Amazon synod, said Oct. 21 the carved figure represents life in the Amazon in the same way a “glass of water” or “parrots” represent life in the region.

Focus on the statues, and the gesture of throwing them into the Tiber river, “doesn’t make sense,” Costa said.

The priest added that “really, however, it is never constructive to steal an object.”

The controversial image was part of a tree-planting ceremony in the Vatican Oct. 4 and an Amazonian Via Crucis Oct. 19. The same figure has been present in the vicinity of the Vatican at various events happening during the synod, under the “Casa Comun” initiative, many of which have taken place at the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina.

The Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazonian region is a meeting on the life and ministry of the Church in the Amazon. It is taking place at the Vatican Oct. 6-27.



A small group of people supporting an alleged Marian visionary in Texas were also present outside the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina Oct. 21, protesting the Amazon synod. Four people stood outside the church, two of whom held signs with “the synod is heretical” written in English, Italian, and Latin.

The group handed out small slips of paper to passersby with the text: “Christ and Mary have come with new words and warnings The Amazon synod is heretical Do not miss the signs”

Both the signs and the slips of paper pointed people to visit the website of a group supporting an alleged Marian apparition, which supporters call “Our Lady Mystical Rose of Argyle.” The Bishop of Fort Worth, Texas, Michael Olson, said in August the alleged apparitions are not real, and released video evidence of the alleged visionary hiding a rose she later claims to have been manifested by the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Supporters of the alleged apparitions say that Satan is trying to discredit their visions.

The protestors, among them the alleged visionary, were present outside Santa Maria in Traspontina at around 1:00 pm Oct. 21, but by 3:00 pm were no longer seen there.

 

This story was updated at 8:46 MDT Oct. 21, 2019.

Amazonian 'Way of the Cross' prayed during Vatican's Amazon synod

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 12:30 AM

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2019 / 06:30 pm (CNA).- An “Amazonian Stations of the Cross” was prayed outside the Vatican Saturday, organized as part of a set of semi-official events connected to the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops on the Amazon.

 

Imágenes del Via Crucis Panamazónico #SinodoAmazonico #sinododelaamazonia pic.twitter.com/XVu27S3O8g

— Walter Sánchez Silva (@WSanchezSilva) October 19, 2019  

The “Via Crucis Amazonico” Oct. 19 was held as part of the “Casa Comune” project, an initiative promoting more than 115 events hosted by a loose network of groups, connected in varying degrees to the Catholic Church.

Among the organizations involved in the project are an advocacy organization backed by bishops’ conferences in Latin America; two aid and development organizations of the German bishops’ conference; and a Brussels-based confederation of social justice groups.

 

Algunas imágenes del Via Crucis Panamazónico esta mañana en el Vaticano #SinodoAmazonico #SinododelaAmazonia pic.twitter.com/x3CeO2u2bB

— Walter Sánchez Silva (@WSanchezSilva) October 19, 2019  

The Saturday Stations of the Cross were attended by people indigenous to the Amazon region and their supporters, along with religious, priests, and bishops participating in the synod on the Amazon, an Oct. 6-27 Vatican meeting of bishops called to discuss the Church’s pastoral ministry in the Amazon region.

Among the participating bishops were Cardinal Pedro Barreto, Archbishop of Huancayo and vice president of the Ecclesial Network of Panama (REPAM) - the principal organizer of the Casa Comune project, along with Bishop Roque Paloschi , Archbishop of Porto Velho and president of the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) - another one of the organizations sponsoring the Casa Comune initiative.

The Stations of the Cross, like most of the events organized by the Casa Comune project, included both traditional Christian symbols and the use of symbols and images derived from the culture of indigeneous Amazonian groups.

 

Via Crucis Amazónico este sábado en el Vaticano #SinodoAmazonico #sinododelaamazonia pic.twitter.com/ZsJLBMPXSF

— Walter Sánchez Silva (@WSanchezSilva) October 19, 2019  

The Way of the Cross began near the Castel Sant’Angelo, roughly one kilometer from St. Peter’s Square, and concluded outside St. Peter’s Basilica.

Participants carried objects symbolic of Amazonian culture, among them a large canoe, bowls with food, indigenous musical instruments, along with the controversial, and now familiar, image of a naked pregnant woman, which has been described variously as a Marian image, as an indigenous religious symbol of Pachamama, or Mother Easter, or as a symbol of life.

As the stations began, participants placed on the ground the canoe, the image of the woman, and photographs of the “martyrs of the Amazon,” among whom was Saint Oscar Romero, the only one of the persons represented who has been canonized by the Catholic Church.

 

Via Crucis Panamazónico #SinodoAmazonico #sinododelaamazonia pic.twitter.com/gZEvREObT1

— Walter Sánchez Silva (@WSanchezSilva) October 19, 2019  

The other persons identified as “Amazonian martyrs” were Sister Cleusa Coelho, Marçal de Souza, Josimo Morales, Fr. Vicente Cañas, Sister Inés Arango, Galdino Pataxó, Fr. Alcides Jiménez, Sister Dorothy Stang, Msgr. Alejandro Labaka, Fr. Ezequiel Ramín, Father Rodolfo Lunkenbein, Father Simao Bororo and Chico Mendes.

After initial chants, the meaning of the celebration was explained: “Remember the martyrs of the way, the lives given by the Kingdom of life. We also remember our lives, the joys and hopes that brought us here, and the sadness and anguish of our people of Panamazonía and the earth. ”

Then, the smoke of some plants that burned in a bowl was spread among the attendees with a feather.

After this initial ceremony, the “Way of the Cross” itself began with its 14 stations, plus an added 15th station dedicated to the resurrection. A large wooden cross, in which a rosary and photographs of the martyrs were nailed, headed the entourage.

The 14 stations were adapted from the traditional Stations of the Cross, and each station was accompanied by a phrase or theme: "human rights," "the great projects of 'development' in the Amazon Basin," "reconciliation," "encounter," "the cultures of Panamazonía," " a call for all,” “ the destruction of nature,” and others.

At the end of each station, a different person read a brief reflection. Among the messages that were conveted was thatt “Mother Earth weeps for the excessive exploitation that is committed in the 9 countries of the Panamazonía.”

Forgiveness was also requested “for the mistakes made as a Church and as humanity; especially through of the abuses of colonization, the systematic violence to human rights and the ethnocide carried out of so many peoples throughout the continent.”

One reflection warned that "scientists and environmentalists presage darkness and shadows of death for our land if we do not stop the indiscriminate use of resources." Therefore, "the call as Church is to announce the Gospel of Jesus and denounce the abuses that Sister Mother Earth experiences."

 

Imágenes del Via Crucis Panamazónico realizado hoy en el Vaticano #SinodoAmazonico #sinododelaamazonia pic.twitter.com/dBA6JDGWua

— Walter Sánchez Silva (@WSanchezSilva) October 19, 2019  

Upon arriving at St. Peter's Square, while meditating on the final station, some participants lay on the ground, upon the photographs of the so-called martyrs of the Amazon, pretending to be dead. At the end of the 15th station, dedicated to the Resurrection, the people lying on the ground rose, conveying resurrection from the dead, and raising their hands to heaven in thanksgiving.

Finally, one woman’s face was painted with Amazonian signs, and adorned her with a crown of feathers, and then raised overhead in a canoe, amid songs and applause from participants.

 

A version of this story was first reported by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Vatican documents detail suspicious investments at Secretariat of State

Sun, 10/20/2019 - 10:33 PM

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2019 / 04:33 pm (CNA).- A confidential report from the Vatican’s anti-corruption authority shows that the Secretariat of State has used about $725 million, most of which came from the pope’s charity fund, in off-books operations.

Italian weekly L’Espresso published a report Oct. 20, revealing information from three confidential Vatican documents, one of which is a report from the pope’s anti-corruption authority, called the Office of the General Auditor, claiming to have found serious financial crimes and corruption within the Secretariat of State.

The documents, L’Espresso reported, detail the use and management of extra-budgetary funds by the Secretariat of State, “deriving in large part from the donations received by the Holy Father for charitable works and for the sustenance of the Roman Curia.”

At least most of the money was drawn from Peter’s Pence, the annual collection through which Catholics are invited to support the charitable activities of the pope.

L’Espresso reported these funds are being used “in reckless speculative operations,” and that the same report by the General Auditor says about 77% of the assets (about $558 million) were put into Swiss and Italian branches of the investment bank Credit Suisse.

A second confidential document acquired by L’Espresso is the 16-page decree authorizing the Oct. 1 search of the offices of the Secretariat of State and the Financial Intelligence Authority (AIF). The raid was ordered by the Vatican City’s prosecutors, called “promoters of Justice,” and led to the suspension of five Vatican officials and employees.

At the time of the raid, a Vatican statement said documents and devices were taken in connection to an investigation following complaints made last summer by the Institute for Religious Works (IOR)— commonly called the Vatican Bank— and the Office of the Auditor General.

The search decree indicates, according to L’Espresso, that the complaints indicated by the Vatican originated from the general auditor and the director of the IOR, Gian Franco Mammi. In the same document, the prosecutors, Gian Piero Milano and Alessandro Diddi, state that they believe they have found “serious indications of embezzlement, fraud, abuse of office, money laundering and self-money laundering.”

Other reports provide details into the Vatican’s 200 million euro ($223 million) investment purchase of a 17,000 square meter apartment building in London.

L’Espresso said that documents show a connection with Italian financier Raffaele Mincione, who was reportedly first approached and asked to invest 200 million euros, on behalf of the Vatican, in an oil company in Angola.

This was the idea of Cardinal Angelo Becciu, then bishop and second-ranking official of the Secretariat of State, according to L’Espresso. Becciu is a former papal nuncio to Angola.

When this project fell apart, Mincione reportedly proposed instead making the investment in the London property, converting a former Harrod’s warehouse into luxury apartments.

The deal went through with the Vatican purchasing 45% of the property in 2012 through Mincione’s Athena Capital Global fund. When the London real estate market took a downturn, the Vatican, in 2018, pulled out of Mincione’s fund and purchased the remaining 55% of the property.

CNA asked Becciu this week for comments about allegations made in relation to his role in the London real estate transaction; the cardinal has not yet responded.

The London property deal was reportedly signed by Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, at the time an official at the Secretariat of State, in November 2018. The Vatican’s London investment was then given over to a different Italian investor, Gianluigi Torzi.

Those are the investments which IOR director general Gian Franco Mammi supposedly reported to the Vatican prosecutors in 2018, leading to the investigation and this month’s raid on the Secretariat of State and subsequent suspension of five officials and employees.

The L'Espresso report claimed that another person involved in the deal was Fr. Mauro Carlino, once a personal secretary of Cardinal Becciu, who was one of the five employees suspended from the Secretariat of State this month.

Carlino was named head of information and documentation at the Secretariat of State by Pope Francis this summer. 

The L’Espresso report was written by Italian journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi, one of five people investigated and charged by the Vatican for the publication of confidential documents in the 2015 scandal referred to as “Vatileaks II.” Fittipaldi and a fellow journalist were later acquitted on the basis of a lack of jurisdiction.

The Secretariat of State is the central governing office of the Catholic Church and the department of the Roman Curia which works most closely with the pope. It is also responsible for the governance of the Vatican City state. The Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority oversees suspicious financial transactions, and is charged with ensuring that Vatican banking policies comply with international financial standards.

Grant offered for creation of artificial wombs to help premature babies

Sun, 10/20/2019 - 10:01 PM

s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, Oct 20, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- A university in the Netherlands has been awarded a $3.3 million grant for the development of a working prototype of an artificial womb that will closely resemble biological conditions and aid in the development of premature babies.

The Horizon 2020 EU program awarded the grant to researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands for their continued development of the artificial wombs, in which the baby will be immersed in fluids and will receive oxygen and nutrients via an artificial placenta attached to their umbilical cord, The Guardian reported.

These wombs differ from previous models of artificial wombs in that they more closely resemble the actual biological environment of a real womb, the researchers have said. A photograph in the Guardian of an artist’s rendition of what the artificial wombs could look like shows large red suspended balloon-like structures, with several intravenous tubes connected to them.

Guid Oei, a professor at Eindhoven and a gynecologist, told The Guardian that current protocols for premature babies deliver oxygen and nutrients directly to yet-underdeveloped organs, putting them at risk for damage.

“When we put the lungs back underwater then they can develop, they can mature, but the baby will receive the oxygen by the umbilical cord, just like in the natural womb,” he said, according to The Guardian.

An artificial womb would allow the child to continue to develop in an environment that closely mimics a real womb, Oei added, including environmental factors such as a replication of the mother’s heartbeat.

“When they are in this environment, they just feel, and see, and smell, and hear the same sounds as when they are in the womb of the mother,” he told The Guardian.

Typically, human babies are considered premature if they are born before the 37th week of pregnancy. Normal pregnancies last for about 40 weeks. Babies born on or before the 25th week of pregnancy are considered particularly at risk for complications and death.

According to USA Today, the earliest premature baby ever recorded to survive outside of the womb, born in San Antonio, Texas, turned 3 years old in 2017 and at the time was a “healthy toddler.”

Researchers hope to have the first-of-its-kind artificial womb ready for real-world use within five years.

Artificial wombs called “biobags” were successfully used on premature lambs by researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in 2017. After roughly a month inside the fluid-filled bags, the premature lambs had continued developing normally as if they had been in their natural womb.

Elizabeth Chloe Romanis, a lawyer at the University of Manchester, told The Guardian that artificial wombs raise ethical questions that should be thought through before their debut in clinics and their use on human babies.

“The law treats fetuses and babies very differently, so how does the subject of the artificial womb fit in? Is it possible to turn off the artificial womb, and in what circumstances?” she told The Guardian.

“It is clear that the legal and ethical issues emerging from the technology must be talked about now, in advance of the artificial womb becoming a reality,” she added.

Because they are not yet used in real-world clinics, there is little information available on the ethics of an artificial womb from a Catholic perspective. Guiding principles for Catholic morality regarding reproductive problems include not separating the sexual act from the reproductive act, and respect for the human dignity of both the parents and the child. For example, under these principles, in vitro fertilization and surrogate pregnancies are morally impermissible.

In 2014, Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D., director of education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA that in the case of a woman who had successfully given birth after a womb transplant, the procedure was licit by Catholic principles and “would be analogous to a situation where a kidney fails to function,” and a donor provides a healthy organ to someone in need.

The womb was donated by a woman who was past her reproductive years, and the pregnancy resulted from the recipient’s own ovaries. Had the womb been donated with a contraceptive mentality on the part of the donor (such as donating a functioning womb during childbearing years in order to avoid conception), or had the pregnancy resulted from the use of the donor’s ovaries instead of from the birth mother’s ovaries, the procedure would be considered problematic from a Catholic perspective, the priest noted.

But in the case at hand, “by donating the uterus she (the donor) is not compromising her reproductive function nor is she compromising any significant hormonal function,” he said.

According to a 2010 article by David T. Reiber on artificial wombs, published in The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, “the most obvious benefit of (artificial wombs) would be the ability to save the lives of babies born at extremely early gestational ages, and as I have stated, the technology would be morally permissible when used for this purpose.”

However, he added, the technology also raises important ethical questions, including “if a miscarriage, or spontaneous abortion, were to occur because of profound fetal anomaly, would it be appropriate to use AWT to attempt to rescue the fetus, or should the child be allowed to die as perhaps God intended? If AWT actually functions as it is imagined, would it be ethical to use it to bring to term a severely disabled child who would not have survived without it?”

Other considerations would include whether it would be moral to transfer a premature baby to an artificial womb for corrective, but not life-saving, surgery, or to transfer multiples from the natural womb in order to give them a better womb environment and to prevent complications.

Potential abuses of artificial womb technology, Reiber stated, would include women who want to deliver early for convenience or comforts’ sake, or if employers would force women to deliver early and use artificial wombs in order to allow them to come back to work earlier than if they had given birth naturally.

On World Mission Day, pope urges Catholics to share Christ's love with all

Sun, 10/20/2019 - 10:48 AM

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2019 / 04:48 am (CNA).- Jesus Christ desires that all people know him and his love, and every Catholic has the mission of sharing this love with the world, Pope Francis said Sunday at Mass for World Mission Day.

“Those who bear witness to Jesus go out to all, not just to their own acquaintances or their little group. Jesus is also saying to you: ‘Go, don’t miss a chance to bear me witness!’” the pope said Oct. 20.

“My brother, my sister, the Lord expects from you a testimony that no one can give in your place,” he continued. “‘May you come to realize what that word is, the message of Jesus that God wants to speak to the world by your life…. lest you fail in your precious mission.’”

Pope Francis spoke about the missionary mandate of the Church during a special Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Mass also falls during the Church’s celebration, in October, of the Extraordinary Missionary Month.

The Mass also took place during the Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazonian region, a meeting of bishops and others at the Vatican Oct. 6-27, to discuss the Church’s life and mission in the Amazon region.

In his homily, Pope Francis emphasized the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

He noted other occasions when scripture refers to God’s desire for all people to be saved, such as in 1 Timothy, when St. Paul writes that God desires “all to be saved,” and in Isaiah and the Psalms, when it says, “all peoples.”

“The Lord is deliberate in repeating the word all. He knows that we are always using the words ‘my’ and ‘our:’ my things, our people, our community... But he constantly uses the word all. All, because no one is excluded from his heart, from his salvation,” Francis stated.

He told Catholics to consider whether they take the time to have a personal encounter with the people they run across in their daily lives. “Do we accept the invitation of Jesus or simply go about our own business?” he asked.

The instruction Catholics have received from the Lord, to “make disciples,” is simple, he said, but care must be taken to make people “his disciples, not our own.”

The Church must live out this discipleship herself in order to proclaim the Gospel well, he said, explaining that a disciple “follows the Master daily and shares the joy of discipleship with others.”

This does not mean “conquering, mandating, proselytizing,” he stated, but “witnessing, humbling oneself alongside other disciples and offering with love the love that we ourselves received.”

The pope acknowledged that this is not easy, like climbing a mountain, but requires prayer and effort, as well as a shedding of the unessential. “To proclaim, you must first renounce,” he said.

A credible proclamation of the Gospel requires striving after an “exemplary life,” he said. “a life of service that is capable of rejecting all those material things that shrink the heart and make people indifferent and inward-looking; a life that renounces the useless things that entangle the heart in order to find time for God and others.”

Francis said: “We can ask ourselves: how am I doing in my efforts to go up? Am I able to reject the heavy and useless baggage of worldliness in order to climb the mountain of the Lord?”

Catholics must think about God and about their brothers and sisters, the pope said, because “this is our mission: to give pure and fresh air to those immersed in the pollution of our world.”

Concluding his homily, he urged Catholics to “have courage!” saying “Jesus expects so much from you!”

The Lord wants everyone to know they are his beloved children, he said. “Do you want to quell Jesus’ concern? Go and show love to everyone, because your life is a precious mission: it is not a burden to be borne, but a gift to offer. Have courage, and let us fearlessly go forth to all!”

Following Mass, Pope Francis shared a brief message and prayed the Angelus from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

In his message, the pope said the day’s celebration of World Mission Day is a good time for all the baptized to consider the necessity of their participation in proclaiming the Word of God, and to make a renewed commitment to do so.

“Believers are called to bring everywhere, with new enthusiasm, the good news that, in Jesus, mercy overcomes sin, hope overcomes fear, fraternity overcomes hostility,” he said. “Christ is our peace and in Him every division is overcome, in Him alone is there the salvation of every man and every people.”

Francis added that to share Christ effectively, however, prayer is “indispensable,” and asked Catholics to pray in a special way for the Church’s missionaries, including those who go to far places to share God’s Word.

 

Pope Francis at Ethnological Museum: 'Beauty unites us'

Sat, 10/19/2019 - 12:25 PM

Vatican City, Oct 19, 2019 / 06:25 am (CNA).- Pope Francis paid a visit Friday to the renovated wing of the Vatican Ethnological Museum, which he praised for being “a place where everyone can feel represented.”

“Beauty unites us. It invites us to live human brotherhood, countering the culture of resentment, racism, nationalism, which is always lurking,” Pope Francis said at the “Anima Mundi” museum Oct. 18.

“I think the Vatican Museums are increasingly called to become a living home, inhabited and open to everyone, with the doors wide open to the people of the whole world ... a place where everyone can feel represented,” the pope said.

The Anima Mundi Ethnological Museum contains 80,000 artistic works and objects from non-European cultures throughout history ranging from prehistoric artifacts to current gifts given to the pope. Among its displays are works of art from Islamic civilizations and the indigenous peoples of America.

“All peoples are here, in the shadow of the dome of St. Peter, close to the heart of the Church and of the pope,” Pope Francis said.

“Whoever enters here should feel that in this house there is also room for him, for his people, his tradition, his culture: the European as the Indian, the Chinese as the native of the Amazon or Congolese forest, of the Alaskan or the Australian deserts or the Pacific islands.”

The pope’s visit to the Vatican Ethnological Museum coincided with its exhibition dedicated to the Amazon: “Mater Amazonia - The deep breath of the world.”

The Amazon exhibit -- on display in the Vatican museum until January 2020 -- includes portraits and names of some of the Catholic missionaries who lived among the Amazonian peoples, as well as objects from everyday life in the rainforest.

Pope Francis said that in the museum one should feel that God’s art has the same value and is treated and preserved with the same passion that is reserved for Renaissance masterpieces or for Greek and Roman sculptures.

“Since works of art are the expression of the spirit of peoples … one must always look at each culture, at the other, with an open mind and with benevolence,” he said.

Pope Pius XI first organized an exhibition to display “the artistic and spiritual traditions of all peoples” in 1925. After the temporary exhibition drew over one million visitors, the pope decided to make it a permanent exhibit in the Lateran Palace. The collection was transferred to the Vatican Museums in the 1970s as the Missionary Ethnological Museum.

“May this Ethnological Museum preserve its specific identity over time and remind everyone of the value of harmony and peace between peoples and nations. And may the art gathered here make the voice of God resonate in those who visit this collection,” Pope Francis said.

Questions raised as Satanic Temple asks to hold meeting at Naval Academy 

Sat, 10/19/2019 - 9:17 AM

Annapolis, Md., Oct 19, 2019 / 03:17 am (CNA).- As an outside group is asking to hold “satanic religious services” at the U.S. Naval Academy, questions have arisen as to its actual motives for doing so.

The Satanic Temple (TST), a group recognized as a church by the Internal Revenue Service, has threatened legal action against the U.S. Naval Academy if Midshipmen are not allowed to hold “satanic services” on campus as members of other religions are allowed to do.

However, Jordan Lorence, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, told CNA that the group’s efforts at the Naval Academy are “misleading” because what they wish for “is not a satanic service.”  Rather, what certain Midshipmen wish to host “is a discussion about how the supernatural doesn’t exist.”

On Oct. 8, an internal email was sent to the Brigade of Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy announcing that “‘satanic services’ would start this week,” according to a Wednesday statement issued by Commander Alana Garas, public affairs officer at the United States Naval Academy.

“This email was sent without the review and approval of the Naval Academy’s Command Chaplain, as required by command policy; it did not represent the U.S. Naval Academy’s Command Religious Program,” Garas said.

The academy had previously walked back an original email announcement of satanic services and had said that services would not be taking place on campus.

The Satanic Temple then said on Wednesday that it would pursue legal action if the group was “discriminated against” on campus by being denied official services at the academy.

Lucien Greaves, a spokesperson for the Satanic Temple, called the idea of the group being denied services at the Naval Academy on the grounds that it constituted political advocacy “self-evidently absurd.”

Under that reasoning, he said, the academy would also “be obligated to deny the services of Catholics for their Church’s political lobbying against abortion, the services of LDS-affiliated Mormons for their political activism related to gay marriage, and most every Protestant denomination for both.”

Controversy over the Satanic Temple has been ongoing for years, with critics arguing it is a political-cultural stunt, while temple founders have repeatedly asserted that it is a religion and not merely a hoax or performance.

The group’s mission statement does not include any statements of satanism, but rather claims that it exists “to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits by the individual will.”

In a 2013 interview with Vice, the temple’s leader, Lucien Greaves, revealed himself to be a man named Doug Mesner. He said a friend had conceived the Satanic Temple as “a ‘poison pill’ in the Church-State Debate” to help expand the idea of religious agendas in public life.

“So at the inception, the political message was primary,” Mesner said, though he acknowledged that there are self-identified Satanists who deserve “just as much consideration as any other religious group.”

An October 2017 story at Vox portrayed the Satanic Temple as “equal parts performance art group, leftist activist organization, and anti-religion religious movement.” It claimed that though it began as “internet trolling going mainstream,” the organization is becoming “more serious” and “more complicated” to outline. It said chapter leadership members debate which historic works about Satan to recommend and whether it should host more ritual.

Lorence contended that despite adopting the name of The Satanic Temple and using satanic imagery, the group is just “anti-supernatural and rationalistic” rather than satanic like the Church of Satan.

Previously, the group tried to push an “After School Satan” program in 2016, which Lorence saw as an effort to undermine Christian after-school programs at public schools. The group’s strategy, which cited religious freedom laws to demand a space at public schools alongside other religious after-school programs, aimed to use fear of the promotion of satanism as a means to shut down all religious after-school programs.

“The Satanic Temple does not worship Satan,” Lorence said. “They use this ‘Satanic Temple’ label to confuse people.”

And the group could be trying to adopt a similar strategy at the Naval Academy, Lorence said. As a public institution, the academy “is by law open to groups that are student-oriented and student-led.”

According to the academy, a group of Midshipmen whose “beliefs aligned with those practiced by The Satanic Temple” did make a request for a space at the academy, but they asked for a “study space” and not a space to hold “satanic services,” Commander Garas said.

The academy’s official statement on Wednesday said that the Command Religious Program “provides for the exercise of diverse beliefs.”

Furthermore, “[a]rrangements were being made to provide the Midshipmen with a designated place to assemble as chaplains facilitate for the beliefs of all service members,” per the Navy instructions, Garas said. However, the group would not be able to “engage in partisan political activities.”

Mexican diocese prays for peace as capture, release of El Chapo's son sparks violence

Fri, 10/18/2019 - 11:01 PM

Culiacan, Mexico, Oct 18, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- Following hours of heavy fighting in a city in Northern Mexico as officials detained and then released the son of imprisoned drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, the local church called for prayers for peace.

“At a time when fear and insecurity reign in the streets of the Sinaloan capital, we join with those seeking the peace and welfare of Culiacán. We urge unity in prayer to reign in each family and for members of this society to be promoters of reconciliation,” said the Diocese of Culiacán in a statement.

The diocese called for “an atmosphere of coexistence to return and for peace to be reestablished soon.”

“We ask the members of our city to not put yourselves in risky situations and to be attentive to the instructions that will help us return to our ordinary lives,” the statement added.

According to government officials, a patrol of 30 troops of the National Guard and the Secretariat for National Defense discovered Ovidio Guzmán López during a routine patrol in the city of Culiacán on Thursday.

However, cartel members attacked the police forces and massive fighting ensued. After several hours, the police retreated, releasing Guzmán López, to avoid further violence in the area, Mexican media outlets reported.

Photos from the area showed cars on fire and bodies strewn on the streets. It is not known how many people were killed or injured in the fighting.

With El Chapo - among the most powerful drug traffickers in the world - sentenced to life in prison in the U.S. earlier this year, Guzmán López is believed to be partially in charge of the Sinaloa cartel, considered the largest in Mexico.

Auxiliary bishop Alfonso Miranda Guardiola of Monterrey, secretary general of the Mexican Bishops' Conference, voiced his “solidarity, support and closeness” with the people of Culiacán” in a statement on Twitter.

“May God grant you peace, protect you and bless you. We pray for them and for all of Mexico,” he said.

In face of the violence, the Diocese of Culiacán has asked people to join in offering the following prayer for the city and for all of Mexico:

“Lord Jesus, you are our peace, look down upon our homeland harmed by violence and dispersed by fear and insecurity. Bring consolation to those suffering in sorrow. Give success to the decisions of those who govern us. Touch the hearts of those who forget that we are brothers and cause suffering and death. Give them the gift of conversion. Protect families, our children, teens and young people, our towns and communities. May we your missionary disciples, responsible citizens, know how to be promoters of justice and peace, so that in you, our people may have a decent life. Amen. Our Lady of Guadalupe, Queen of Peace, pray for us.”

Other violent clashes between security forces and criminal elements have also taken place in Mexico in recent days.

On October 15, a confrontation between military forces and armed civilians in the town of Tepochica, in Guerrero state, claimed the lives of an army corporal and 14 alleged criminals, who according to the authorities had “high powered weapons and three vehicles reported stolen.”

The previous day, in the town of El Aguaje, in Michoacán state, armed civilians opened fire on state police, killing 14.

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

Archdiocese of Washington opposes local bill to legalize prostitution 

Fri, 10/18/2019 - 10:07 PM

Washington D.C., Oct 18, 2019 / 04:07 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., was one of many organizations that testified Thursday during a hearing on a bill to decriminalize prostitution in the District of Columbia.

The D.C. Council is currently considering B23-0318. Should the bill pass, Washington, D.C. would become the second place in the country to decriminalize prostitution. The practice is currently legal in parts of Nevada.

The bill was sponsored by Council members David Grosso (I-At Large), Robert C. White Jr. (D-At Large), Anita Bonds (D-At Large) and Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1).

“Because we believe that each of us possesses inherent dignity and is entitled to respect as a person created in the image of God, it is also part of the mission of the archdiocese and the Catholic Church to defend the dignity of the human person against all forms of exploitation,” Mary Forr, Director of Life Issues for the archdiocese, said during the hearing.

“This includes prostitution, which reduces the person to an article of commerce and a mere possession to be bought, used, and discarded without regard for any physical and psychological trauma to the person in the process,” she added.

She outlined the various programs the archdiocese offers to anyone who has been victimized by traffickers, which include counseling, medical and dental care, and job training.

“We provide hope to those struggling on the margins of society and strive to make a positive difference in people’s lives,” she said.

“The archdiocese will always strive to be a source of support for anyone in need; however, full decriminalization of the sex trade will exacerbate the struggles many residents of the District already face,” said Forr.

The Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019 (B23-0318) - also known as the Reducing Criminalization of Commercial Sex Amendment Act of 2019 - is modeled after similar legislation in New Zealand.

Unlike the “Nordic Model,” which decriminalizes the act of a person selling themselves but instead heavily penalizes the act of buying the services of a sex worker, the DC proposal would also decriminalize brothels, pimping, and buying sex.

Sex trafficking, or the act of forcing someone into prostitution against their will, would still remain illegal, although advocates against the bill warned repeatedly that passage of B23-0318 would encourage the sex trade and increase prostitution. Child prostitution would also remain illegal under the proposed legislation.

Supporters of the bill argued that adults have a right to engage in consensual sex work.

Laws criminalizing prostitution “impede sex workers’ ability to negotiate safer sex practices, screen clients, report incidents of violence, and access basic needs like housing and health services,” the ACLU of DC said in a statement.

“Criminalization has placed vulnerable D.C. residents at greater risk of violence, police harassment, and exposure to exploitation. It has led to a cycle of violence, poverty, and incarceration that only creates additional barriers to more traditional employment for those engaging in survival sex work.”

Tamika Spellman, a biological male who identifies as transgender, testified in favor of the bill. Spellman has worked as a prostitute for some four decades - since age 14.

Spellman, who was one of the bill architects, according to the New York Times, argued that the bill is a matter of empowerment and safety for sex workers, particularly racial minorities and members of the LGBT community.

Opponents of the bill include D.C. government officials. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has led the District of Columbia since 2015, is vehemently against the bill. She says it would make it harder for the city to successfully target sex traffickers and would not make the sex trade any safer for those who engage in it.

“The mayor’s position is rooted in the need to maintain a safety net to identify and assist victims of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking, and her belief that decriminalization will lead to an increase in sex trafficking,” Michelle Garcia, director of the city’s Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants said in the hearing.

Garcia said there are steps that should be taken to improve the lives of sex workers, but that this bill is not the correct approach. Mayor Bowser has long been concerned about the lives of sex workers in the city, said Garcia. The city has had a working group since April 2019 that is aimed at creating a program to divert sex workers away from the criminal justice system and into alternative assistance programs, she explained, and Bowser was given their proposals and recommendations for review earlier this week.

The D.C. Attorney General’s office also raised concerns about the bill, and how it could put children at increased risk from sex trafficking. The bill repeals part of the “safe harbor law” that requires children be referred to services if they are found to be victims of trafficking, and it also “negatively impacts” the use of nuisance laws that are used to target traffickers, said Erin Cullen, deputy attorney general for the Family Services Division at the D.C. Attorney General’s office.

Opponents of the bill also claimed that should prostitution be decriminalized, there will be an increased demand for prostitution, which could potentially turn the nation’s capital into a destination for sex tourism. There were repeated claims that this increased demand for commercial sex would naturally result in an increased number of people who are trafficked into sex work.

The hearing lasted approximately 17 hours. Public comments can be submitted until November 1.

Catholic aid group expresses concern over Haiti unrest

Fri, 10/18/2019 - 9:36 PM

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Oct 18, 2019 / 03:36 pm (CNA).- Political conditions in Haiti have disrupted aid programs and increased economic hardships, leaving Catholic Relief Services concerned about another humanitarian crisis.

“There is an overwhelming sense of panic that’s growing by the day,” said Chris Bessey, CRS’ representative for Haiti.

“Roads are closed. People are trapped in their homes. Children are out of school. We are on the edge of yet another humanitarian disaster if the unrest continues unabated,” he said Oct. 17.

Last week, thousands of anti-government protesters trying to march on the president's residence clashed with police.

Violent protests have erupted intermittently in the country since July 2018. According to a report from the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti, demonstrations in February left 34 dead and 102 others injured.

The protesters have called for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse, who has been accused of mismanaging billions in aid given to the country after Hurricane Matthew in 2010. Oppositional forces have requested for the installation of a transitional government.

In 2018, a Haitian court released a report on the Venezuelan oil subsidy program and government corruption. According to the York Times, the report found that two companies controlled by the president had been given the same government contract to build the same road.

Due to the political turmoil, there is a deficiency in basic necessities such as fuel and sanitary water. This has closed down hospitals, orphanages, and schools. According to the New York Times, inflation is at nearly 20 percent.

“We are feeling the early tremors of what could erupt into catastrophe. Once the full disaster hits, a response will be complicated by lack of security, transportation and other services,” Bessey said.

CRS is one of the largest aid organizations functioning in Haiti. It promotes educational, health, and farming initiatives. Under a U.S. Department and Agriculture program, CRS has helped nearly 35,000 people to rebuild after Hurricane Matthew.

However, all of these programs been disrupted or halted because of the political turmoil. In response, Bessey has encouraged Americans to offer support.

“As a result of countless manmade and natural disasters, Haitians have been through an enormous amount of trauma over the years. But they’re resilient. They just need the international community’s continued support,” Bessey said. “We are pleading with the American public not to give up on Haiti. Don’t let the Haitian people suffer in silence.”

Hong Kong court says redefining marriage is beyond its authority

Fri, 10/18/2019 - 6:54 PM

Hong Kong, China, Oct 18, 2019 / 12:54 pm (CNA).- A court in Hong Kong has ruled against the recognition of same-sex partnerships, upholding the government’s policy of not recognizing same-sex marriage or civil unions.

The court’s review stemmed from a petition that a Hong Kong woman filed in June 2018, asking to enter into a legally recognized civil union with her female partner.

Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal had ruled in July 2018 that foreign same-sex couples who have been married elsewhere are entitled to to spousal visas.

According to the New York Times, Judge Anderson Chow Ka-ming wrote Friday that “updating” the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples would lead to “far-reaching consequences” that the court was not prepared to accept.

According to The Standard, the judge noted that the territory’s Legislative Council is free to enact new legislation to legalize same-sex unions, or provide an alternative such as civil unions. But that decision would be beyond the court’s scope of power, he said.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam in July 2018 said that the Hong Kong government has no plans to amend the law and approve same-sex marriage in the near future, and reiterated her position in March 2019.

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China, which also does not recognize same-sex marriage.

In May of this year, the Parliament of Taiwan legalized same-sex unions, the first Asian country to do so.

Taiwan's constitutional court had in 2017 ruled that same-sex couples had the right to legally marry, and lawmakers were given a two-year deadline to draft legislation.

The people of Taiwan voted against the recognition of same-sex marriage in the country’s civil code in a series of referendums in Nov. 2018. Despite this, the government passed a special law recognizing same-sex marriages while leaving the definition of marriage in civil law unchanged.

Cardinal John Tong, leader of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, has in the past called on Catholics to consider candidates’ views on sexual morality when electing lawmakers.

The Diocese of Hong Kong has not yet commented on the most recent court ruling.

Amazon synod discussion groups support married priests, female deacons

Fri, 10/18/2019 - 4:26 PM

Vatican City, Oct 18, 2019 / 10:26 am (CNA).- At least four of the 12 language groups at the Amazon synod overtly propose the ordination of married men to the priesthood in summary reports published by the Vatican Friday, with the majority of the discussion groups expressing openness to the idea.

“We ask, Holy Father, that you accept, for the Pan Amazon region, men to the priestly ministry and women to the diaconate, preferably indigenous, respected and recognized by their community, even if they already have a constituted and stable family, in order to assure the sacraments that accompany and sustain the Christian life of the community,” Portuguese language group A, moderated by Bishop Jesús Maria Cizuarre Berdonces of Bragança do Pará, stated in their report Oct. 18.

The Vatican released summary reports in Spanish and Portuguese from the Amazon synod’s 12 “circoli minori,” small synod discussion groups divided by language: five in Spanish, four in Portuguese, two in Italian, and one in English/French.

All four of the Portuguese discussion groups express openness to the possibility of the ordination of viri probati – a term referring to mature, married men – in remote areas of the Amazon to the priesthood.

“The ordination of the viri probati was considered necessary for Panamazonía. Married men candidates for ordination, after a fruitful diaconate must meet the following criteria, among others: life of prayer and love of the Word of God and the Church, Eucharistic life that is reflected in a life of donation and service, community experience, missionary spirit,” Portuguese group B stated in their summary report.

The Portuguese group moderated by Archbishop Pedro Brito Guimarães of Palmas proposed that the implementation the ordination of married men as priests could be delegated to the bishops’ conferences in the region or entrusted to the local bishops.

The first Italian group noted that there has been concern among some synod fathers that that the proposal of married priests in the Amazon would have implications for the Church in other regions of the world.

“Other synod fathers believe that the proposal concerns all continents, that it could reduce the value of celibacy, or make the missionary impulse to serve the most distant communities be lost. They believe that, in virtue of the theological principle of synodality, the subject should be placed before the opinion of the whole Church and therefore suggest a universal Synod in this regard,” the Italian group A report stated.

The majority of Spanish groups also expressed open support for ministerial alternatives for women, including female deacons.

“Given the tradition of the Church, it is possible to recognize women's access to the existent ministries of the lectorate and the acolyte, as well as the permanent diaconate,” Spanish language group C, moderated by Bishop Jonny Eduardo Reyes Sequera, Vicar Apostolic of Puerto Ayacucho, stated.

Spanish group E, however, stated it was against the ordination of female deacons, but proposed instead some other ministerial alternative for women. This language group is moderated by Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa.

Italians participating in the Amazon synod proposed in their report the development of an “Amazonian Rite” that would open a path for married priests and female deacons.

The group, moderated by Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that the creation of an “Amazon Rite” would “express the liturgical, theological, disciplinary and spiritual heritage” of the local culture.

The Synod of Bishops on the Amazon is an Oct. 6-27 meeting on the Church’s life and ministry in the Pan-Amazonian region.

“These are not final texts,” Fr. Giacomo Costa, a communications official for the Amazon synod, said at the synod press conference presenting the language group reports Oct. 18.

“Everybody has something important to say … The synod must consider everyone’s contribution,” he added.

The synod drafting committee will meet over the next week to assemble into a document the recommendations of the language groups into the final document of the Amazon synod.

The final document of the synod will then be voted on by synod members, on the penultimate day of the gathering. Per synod norms, it must pass with a 2/3 majority.

The document of synod recommendations will then be given to Pope Francis for him to use, or not, as he desires, in the writing of a post-synodal apostolic exhortation.

“The final document of the synod is offered exclusively to the Holy Father who is then going to do with it what he thinks fit,” Costa said.

N Ireland sees effort to recall Assembly ahead of abortion changes

Fri, 10/18/2019 - 6:23 AM

Belfast, Northern Ireland, Oct 18, 2019 / 12:23 am (CNA).- Pro-life groups in Northern Ireland are hopeful that there is sufficient support in the legislature to block an expansion of legal abortion from going into effect next week.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, the pro-life group Both Lives Matter says 30 members of the legislative assembly have pledged to ask the Speaker to recall the Assembly, which the Speaker will be obligated to do under Northern Ireland law.

In order to block the new abortion measures from taking place, however, an Executive would need to be formed, which is unlikely before the Monday deadline, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

The British parliament voted in July to add same-sex marriage and a loosening of abortion restrictions as amendments to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill, which is designed to keep the region running amid a protracted deadlock in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

If Northern Ireland Assembly is not reconvened by Oct. 21, the expansion of abortion rights and the legalization of same-sex marriage will take effect. Secretary Julian Smith would be mandated to put the laws into effect by March 31, 2020.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has been suspended for the past two years due to a dispute between the two major governing parties. The DUP, the largest party, is opposed to changing the law. Sinn Féin, another prominent party in Northern Ireland, backs a liberalization of the abortion law.

The DUP has said it is ready to return to the Assembly “immediately without pre-conditions,” according to local media reports.

Talks over the matter are being held Thursday and Friday.

“The British and Irish Governments both share the view that there remains an opportunity in the coming days to reach an accommodation,” Northern Ireland minister Robin Walker said Wednesday, according to the Guardian.

“One only has to look at the passionate and sincere demonstrations in recent weeks on both sides of this issue to appreciate that this remains a highly sensitive matter in Northern Ireland,” he said, adding that in the government’s view, it is preferable to have the matter decided by the Northern Ireland assembly.

Labour MP Stella Creasy criticized Walker for his statement, arguing that the UK government was only in favor of a quick resolution that handed power back to the Northern Ireland assembly because UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson saw a need to secure DUP support for his Brexit negotiation plan.

The DUP has said that it does not support Johnson’s plan, arguing that its provisions on customs and value-added tax rates are not in Northern Ireland’s best interest.

Leaders of the Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland, Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and the Irish Council of Churches, have called on their congregations to pray and lobby against the abortion changes, saying, “There is no evidence that these [legal] changes reflect the will of the people affected by them, as they were not consulted. They go far beyond the ‘hard cases’ some have been talking about.”

Last year, the Republic of Ireland held a referendum in which voters repealed the country’s pro-life protections, which had recognized the life of both mothers and their babies. Irish legislators then enacted legislation allowing legal abortion in what had long been a Catholic and pro-life stronghold.

Elective abortion is legal in the rest of the United Kingdom up to 24 weeks, while currently it is legally permitted in Northern Ireland only if the mother's life is at risk or if there is risk of permanent, serious damage to her mental or physical health.

Northern Irish women have been able to procure free National Health Service abortions in England, Scotland, and Wales since November 2017.

The UK government’s plans to decriminalize abortion in Northern Ireland has garnered opposition from hundreds of health professionals in the region, who the BBC reports have written to Secretary Smith expressing opposition and calling for reassurance that as “conscientious objectors,” they will not have to perform or assist abortions.
 
 

 

New hotline connects women in crisis pregnancies to resources, community 

Thu, 10/17/2019 - 11:06 PM

Austin, Texas, Oct 17, 2019 / 05:06 pm (CNA).- When Pamela Whitehead takes a call for LoveLine, a new pregnancy helpline, she listens.

“Too often we think we know what a woman needs and we don't really listen to what she says to us,” Whitehead told CNA, “and I think if we listen long enough, we really hear her need.”

In one recent call to the helpline, Whitehead said she listened to a woman who, at first, thought her biggest need was rent money.

The young woman from Arizona had three children with her boyfriend and had just found out she was pregnant with their fourth. Facing extreme pressure from her boyfriend and family to abort, the woman was sure she would be kicked out of her house for refusing the abortion, and said she needed rent money to prevent her from being homeless.

“So I simply asked her the question, do you want to have an abortion? And she said no,” Whitehead said.

Whitehead said she reassured the woman that no one could force her to have an abortion. She suggested to the woman on the phone that she should first try humanizing the baby to her family - telling her mom how much she would love another grandbaby, and telling her boyfriend how much better their lives would be for having another child.

“And you know what she did? She went back and she stood up for herself and she spoke to her family and they actually...turned around and she ended up not having an abortion,” Whitehead said.

“So while what she thought she needed was some material resources, what she actually needed was empowerment and confidence, and that's what we were able to provide for her.”

That story is just one of many hopeful stories that have come from the newly-released LoveLine, Whitehead said, which is a pro-life helpline, founded by former abortion clinic worker Abby Johnson, who is now a pro-life advocate. The helpline connects pregnant or post-abortive women in need to the proper resources. Sometimes that means public assistance or private donations or simply a community of like-minded pro-life people. Often, it is some combination of all three.

LoveLine is a new project under the larger umbrella organization of ProLove Ministries, which houses multiple pro-life projects founded by Johnson. The organization was a spin-off of And Then There Were None, a support organization for abortion clinic workers who are leaving the abortion industry.

Through LoveLine, women in need can text, chat or call the helpline and talk to someone about what they’re going through and the resources that they need. The project hopes to respond to a “gap in services.”

“There's a population of women who are in need who aren't being served,” Whitehead explained.

Usually, she said, it’s because the resources that women in crisis pregnancies need are either unavailable, hidden, or delayed. Public assistance is often delivered on a first-come first-served basis, Whitehead noted, and by the time a woman connects to those services, there can be a long line ahead of her before she actually gets the help that she needs.

“For instance, if all of a sudden (a woman’s) partner leaves her, whether it's her spouse or her boyfriend, and she's accustomed to having a two-income household...that puts her in a major situation,” Whitehead said.

“While her pregnancy wasn't a so-called crisis, all of a sudden the pregnancy becomes a precipitating factor for her because it's just one more thing. And so she's looking at her situation and she's considering all of her options, and one of those oftentimes is abortion because it's like, well, he's left me, now what?”

LoveLine wants to be there to fill in those gaps, Whitehead said. Some other examples of assistance that the group has provided so far to women in need include baby registries, diapers and food assistance, referrals to pro-life doctors, rent assistance through private donations, and referrals to vetted, untapped public assistance.

Any public assistance or service that LoveLine refers to is first vetted by staff or volunteers to make sure that it can actually provide what the woman needs in a timely manner.

“If we are going to send her to an organization or to an individual or to a social service resource, I'm going to call that resource in advance...and make sure this woman's going to hear ‘yes.’ Because it's overwhelming when the pressures of life are on top of you and you're trying to just make it through and you've got 10 decisions you've got to deal with,” Whitehead said.

“We want to give her a yes,” she added. “So whatever that takes, we want her to say yes and feel empowered, so that means we have to vet resources.”

“So we connect, we care, we make a commitment and we offer community.”

The community aspect of LoveLine’s promise often comes in the form of volunteers spread throughout the country who offer to help with various needs of the project, Whitehead said. When baby registries are set up for women in need, for example, everything is sent to a volunteer’s house, where the goods are unpacked, sorted and personally delivered, so that the woman is not overwhelmed with receiving dozens of packages at her house. They have also helped connect women with pro-life moms’ groups in their own areas. Whitehead said she was personally delivering a highchair and some maternity clothes to a woman in her area this week.

For Whitehead, working in the pro-life movement is personal. In 2001, she had an abortion that perforated her uterus and sent her to the emergency room. For years afterward, she though the trauma she was experiencing was “what she deserved,” she said.

At the time, Whitehead had been addicted to drugs and alcohol and was living in poverty. She said the advice she received at the time ignored her needs, and was instead focused on concerns that she would not be able to care for the child.

“They all considered the child and thought, ‘There's no way you can bring this child into the world because you can't take care of it, and I'm not willing to help you,’ basically. No one tried to help me with the drug addiction or help me with the alcoholism or help me with my poverty,” Whitehead noted.

“So when I see these situations, I see the woman. Not that we don't care about the unborn, of course we do, and that's the goal. But if we don't see the woman, if we don't see her and her dignity and her worth and her value, then we're missing. We're missing it,” she said. The tagline for LoveLine is “When you love first, life follows.”

For the pro-life movement, Whitehead said, LoveLine offers people a chance to do something concrete for the women and babies in need.

“So many people love to give to tangible, practical needs. They love to buy a box of diapers and know that it's going to this person, you know? And that means so much to people,” Whitehead said.

Typically, she explained, the word gets about the womens’ needs on social media, either through Abby Johnson’s Facebook page or through ProLove Ministries’ Facebook page.

“What we've seen is every time we put out a need, the pro-life movement just moves on it. I mean, within hours a whole registry is filled. They just can't wait. The love is just exploding,” she said.

The LoveLine website offers a phone number that women in need can call or text, or an online chat. Volunteers can also offer their assistance in their area via the LoveLine website under the “Get Involved” tab.