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Mexican bishops make statement on gasoline shortage

Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 17, 2019 / 03:19 pm (ACI Prensa).- Amid a crisis caused by the shortage of gasoline in Mexico and the government's fight against the theft and adulteration of fuel, the country's bishops have appealed to the citizenry and called for more truthful and objective information to be given.

Several Mexican states and the country's capital have been affected by a shortage of gasoline in recent days, with long lines at operating gas stations.

The situation is related to a series of measures taken by the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to deal with the theft and adulteration of fuel, which is costing the country around $3 billion a year. The government has shut down pipelines, from which fuel is tapped, using trucks and trains to transport fuel instead.

López Obrador has charged that the fuel theft has occurred with complicity within the government and Pemex, the state-owned oil company.

The shortage,which has produced long lines at gasoline stations in several cities, has caused a controversy among the citizenry and political groups a little more than a month after Lopez Obrador took office as president.

Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera López of Monterrey, president of the Mexican bishops' conference, expressed in a Jan. 13 statement his support for “the measures taken by the president of the Republic to address the problem of the theft of gasoline which has negatively affected our country.”

“I ask citizens to support this measure, asking the authorities to not let themselves be intimidated by actions which, in the past, were common and which caused so much harm, but rather enforce the laws and quickly respond to this situation, hoping that as soon as possible this problem will be resolved,” he said.

Archbishop Carlos Garfias Merlos of Morelia, vice president of the conference, encouraged waiting for “adequate information” on Lopez Obrador's strategy to deal with the theft of gasoline.

“At this time, there are many versions, many interpretations, which I don't think give us enough specifics to be able to give an opinion. I hope we can have objective information as soon as possible and have an explanation about everything that has happened.”

Archbishop Garfias expressed his desire that those affected by the shortage will have their dissatisfaction redressed.

In the states where there has been a fuel shortage, he said, “there has been a lot of discontent, a lot of dissatisfaction, and I hope that we will have an adequate explanation.”

However, he noted that “when corruption appears, when there are signs of a lack of truth, when there is deception, when there are lies, it's always going to be important to have a strategy to be able to find a way to make it clear where is the lie, the corruption, the theft, and that justice be done.”

 

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

Amid shutdown, DC Catholic Charities aids furloughed workers

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- It is a crowded-but-calm scene on Thursday morning, just before 9 a.m., in the lobby of the James Cardinal Hickey Center in downtown Washington, DC. About 50 people, including a woman with a seven-month-old baby girl, are packed in chairs against the walls, waiting for Catholic Charities of Washington, DC to officially open for the day.

 

A little after 9 a.m., people are asked to check in with a receptionist before they are led downstairs to begin meeting with Catholic Charities workers.

 

Unlike the majority of the people serviced by Catholic Charities, these people are not homeless, or even jobless: they’re furloughed government workers facing a partial government shutdown which has already lasted 26 days.

 

"We don't normally serve people who are government workers. That's not our normal population; (which is) people who are homeless, or have lost their jobs or don't have the ability to feed their families,” Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington president and CEO Fr. John Enzler explained to CNA.

 

“So this is a different group, and we want to be there for them as well, because this is a shock to their system to have no income, to have no paycheck."

 

This is the first time anyone can recall Catholic Charities of Washington being asked to provide assistance for furloughed workers.

 

For three days, at a set time and location, any furloughed government worker or federal contractor is eligible to receive up to $500 to help with rent, medical needs, or “essential home supplies.” Catholic Charities writes a check directly to the service provider. Catholic Charities explained on their website that they are not currently assisting with water, gas, or electricity bills because companies that service the Washington area have already established programs to help furloughed workers.

 

While the first two distribution days saw a “decent crowd” according to Enzler, Thursday’s was by far the largest. He told CNA that he suspected this was due to the location of the office, which is near all of the city’s metro lines. The first two locations were accessible only by car.

 

Catholic Charities of Washington got involved through a partnership with United Way of the National Capital Area. The President and CEO of United Way, Rosie Allen-Herring, reached out to Catholic Charities, and asked them to be one of the three charities to receive money to assist furloughed workers. Catholic Charities was picked because they have a "pretty broad spectrum of services," Enzler said, and are present throughout the southern Potomac area.

 

"It's a chance for us to become a player in trying to help people who have been affected by the shutdown," he added.

 

Catholic Charities COO Pat Dunne told CNA that he “didn’t know what to expect” when it came to assisting furloughed workers. He said that it was “a question of getting the word out, and our communications folks worked really hard to get the word out to everyone."

 

One of the people who received word that Catholic Charities would be providing assistance to federal employees was a woman named Zenola.

 

Zenola told CNA that she has worked for Housing and Urban Development for nearly 20 years. She has been furloughed the entire length of the shutdown.

 

She said that her daughter saw a notice about the program on Facebook, and she called Catholic Charities to ensure she would be able to receive assistance.

 

“They told me to come on down,” she said.

 

This past month without pay has been tough for Zenola and her family.

 

“We’ve been hit pretty hard as far as our January bills,” she said, and although she has tried to save money, she’s “exhausted” her savings account trying to keep up with bills for her mortgage, car, and other expenses.

 

Zenola was grateful to Catholic Charities for the assistance, and said she and her family “really, really, really” appreciates it.

 

Catholic Charities received $36,000 to allocate on a first-come, first-served basis, and Enzler expected that money would be exhausted on Thursday. His prediction looked to be accurate: by 9:45 a.m., the lobby was full once again.

He's walked 2,800 miles to the March for Life

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2019 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Last weekend, John Moore arrived at the Washington Monument in the US capital, after a walking pilgrimage from San Francisco that began in April 2018, in time to attend Friday's March for Life.

Moore has been accompanied in his 2,800 mile pilgrimage by Laura, one his six children, who drove and gave him assistance along the way.

The Moores are from Gallup, N.M., where they own a business renting space to RVs and campers, and John is a member of the Knights of Columbus.

“It’s from the site of the March for Life West Coast in San Francisco to the National Mall in Washington DC,” John told Voice of the Southwest. “I’ll end on January 18th of 2019 – that’s the March for Life there in Washington DC.”

Speaking to the Gallup diocese's paper in May, Laura said, “Usually if we’re close to the town we’re staying in, we settle in to a hotel and then [I] pick him up at the end of his walk, but today he’s going down a dirt road that doesn’t show up very clearly on maps, so every 20 minutes I’m driving up.”

Laura has been scouting the route for her father, making sure he has food and water throughout his day of walking, and picking up at the conclusion of each day's journey.

Once they got out of San Francisco, Laura said, they received a lot of support from people along the way.

“In San Francisco there were a lot of people who got in my dad’s face and were screaming at him pretty vulgarly. And then the further away we get from San Francisco the more support he gets. Not that he didn’t expect the bad stuff. He just kept his mouth shut and kept walking.”

“It actually surprises me how many non-religious people are intrigued by what he does. We’ve had a couple people stop to talk to us and they’re not religious at all. They don’t know anything about the March for Life,” said Laura. “People will stop and give my dad water, some people will walk with him for as long as they can, some people will give him money. A lot of people tell him how cool they think it is.”

John intends to donate the money he's received along the way to the Knights of Columbus for its effort to provide ultrasound machines to pro-life pregnancy centers; the project recently donated its 1,000th machine to the Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic in the Diocese of Arlington.

He's been making walking pilgrimages for some time: he's walked at least 13 times to the shrine of Chimayo; made a Kansas pilgrimage in honor of Fr. Emil Kapaun, an army chaplain who died in a prisoner of war camp during the Korean war; and walked to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Fiesta in Las Cruces, and to Mount Cristo Rey outside El Paso.

As he walks, John carries one of two wooden crosses: one displaying the Divine Mercy, and a chaplain's cross and barbed wire in honor of Fr. Kapaun, and another with the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Laura told Voice of the Southwest it would be an opportunity for spiritual growth for her, and a chance to grow even closer to her father.

“I think that God’s been preparing me to learn how to be alone, and I feel like that’s what this road trip is – gonna help me ultimately be alone with myself and be friends with myself and get closer to God in that aspect,” she said. “I feel like I’m really blessed with this opportunity to spend all day focusing on it instead of having to make time for it.”

John spoke recently to Columbia magazine about his cross-country pilgrimage, saying he walks “to humble myself before God, to be a witness for Christ and to pray for others … It’s a walk of faith.”

“If I’m out in the middle of nowhere on a trail, I’ll pray the rosary. But when you’re walking a pilgrimage like this, it’s very dangerous. You can’t be listening to music. You always have to pay attention and stay focused.”

He said his devotion to Fr. Kapaun is rooted in the fact that “his faith was greater than his fears. I’ll tell you what: I’m kind of a big chicken. I hate heights and have to go over big bridges. And the farther east we go, all this traffic makes you anxious.”

“It’s a daily grind and sometimes I don’t want to walk, but you just have to go and not do anything stupid. It takes a lot of faith. Faith has to be greater than your fears,” John told Columbia.

“This not a matter of me being successful. It’s a matter of keeping a promise – a promise I made to the Knights, to the people at the March for Life, to the unborn and to God.”

Senate passes ‘religious test’ resolution on Knights of Columbus

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2019 / 10:45 am (CNA).- The Senate yesterday passed a resolution saying it would be "unconstitutional" to consider membership in the Knights of Columbus a disqualifying criteria for public office. The resolution passed by unanimous consent, meaning it went unopposed by senators of either party.

 

The Jan. 16 resolution was drafted and introduced by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) in response to recent questions put to a judicial nominee, which suggested membership in the Knights could prevent someone serving impartially as a judge.

 

Citing the protection of religious liberty in the Constitution, the resolution noted that past candidates, including President John F. Kennedy, had suffered from “significant anti Catholic bigotry.”

 

“It is the sense of the Senate that disqualifying a nominee to Federal office on the basis of membership in the Knights of Columbus violates clause 3 of article VI of the Constitution of the United States,” the resolution states.

 

Article VI includes the provision that “no religious test shall ever be required as qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

 

On Dec. 5, Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) raised concerns about membership in the Knights of Columbus while the Senate Judiciary Committee reviewed the candidacy of Brian C. Buescher, an Omaha-based lawyer nominated by President Trump to sit on the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska.

 

In her questions to Buescher, Hirono said that the Knights have “taken a number of extreme positions.” Harris used her questions to label the organization as “opposed a woman’s right to choose” and against “marriage equality,” and suggested that Buescher could be unable to give a fair hearing to cases on these issues.

 

In his speech introducing the resolution, Sasse said that the anti-Catholic lines of questioning were "the same kind of garbage" which faced President Kennedy in 1960.

 

At least six other judicial nominees have faced scrutiny from Democratic senators over their Christian faith or membership in the Knights of Columbus since the 2016 election.

 

The Knights of Columbus are a Catholic fraternal organization with approximately 2 million members. Last year they carried out more than 75 million hours of volunteer work and raised more than $185 million for charitable purposes. As a Catholic organization, it holds views that are in line with Church teaching.

 

A recent Marist Poll survey, commissioned by the Knights of Columbus, found high levels of  support for religiously committed candidates for the federal bench.

 

The poll found that 59 percent of Democrats supported people for whom “religion is important” serving as federal judges. The same poll found 60 percent of independents and more than 7 in 10 Republicans (73 percent) also supported religiously committed judges.

 

“Americans rightly support religious freedom and reject religious tests for public office,” said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson in a statement.

 

Anderson said that the Constitutional bar against religious tests “continues to strongly resonate with the overwhelming majority of Americans” and that the Marist Poll results showed a clear majority for those who “believe that faith should not be a barrier to someone’s appointment to public service.”

 

The resolution was passed by the Senate the day after William Barr went before the Senate Judiciary Committee for confirmation hearings on his nomination for the post of Attorney General.

 

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) asked Barr, who is a member of the Knights of Columbus, if he thought his religion disqualified him from serving in office, observing that “some of my colleagues think it might.”

 

Spokesperson for the Knights of Columbus Kathleen Blomquist welcomed the passage of the Senate resolution.

 

“The Knights of Columbus is grateful that the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed that membership in a religious organization does not make a person unfit for public office,” she told CNA.

 

“We have also been gratified by the reaction of people of different faiths—including Senator Sasse — who never want to see a litmus test imposed on individuals based of their faith, a position that the vast majority of Americans support.”

Holy cow: Farm animals receive blessing outside St Peter's Square

Vatican City, Jan 17, 2019 / 10:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Farmers from across Italy brought their animals to the Vatican for a blessing Thursday, turning the street outside St. Peter’s Square into a farmyard of horses, donkeys, cows, pigs, hens, sheep, rams, goats, geese, ducks, and rabbits.

The animals (and their owners) were present for the annual Jan. 17 blessing for the feast of St. Anthony of Egypt, a third- to fourth-century saint who lived an austere and holy life in the Egyptian desert. Because the saint spent most of his life close to nature, in Italy he is venerated as a protector of animals.

Organized by an Italian farmers’ association, some family pets, such as cats and dogs, were also present for the benediction, which was given by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The event began with Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica (in which the animals did not participate, preferring the comfort of their pens and food). The blessing by Comastri followed.

The day’s festivities also included a parade of horses down the main street leading to St. Peter’s, with a performance by a mounted police band.

At Mass, Comastri pointed to a 16th-century statue of St. Anthony of Egypt, also known as St. Anthony the Abbot, which travels from the home to home of families of the farming association for use in family prayer.

St. Anthony “understood that God is the only true richness of life and understood that God came to meet us in Jesus,” he said.

“This is a sign that the agricultural life, life in contact with daily labor, is the healthiest life and the life closest to God. And when people, families, are close to God, they have nothing to fear.”

Bill to ban revenge porn introduced in Montana

Helena, Mont., Jan 17, 2019 / 12:04 am (CNA).- The state of Montana is considering a bill that would criminalize revenge porn - the circulation of nude photos of another person without their permission.

Montana is one of nine states in the U.S. that does not have a revenge porn law. The state failed to pass a bill banning revenge porn in 2017.

House Bill 192 has been sponsored by Rep. Marilyn Ryan, (D-Missoula), with help from Rep. Kimberly Dudik, (D-Missoula). A public hearing will be held at the House Judiciary Committee on Jan. 24.

Unlike the 2017 attempt, this bill would add a clause to the state’s statute on privacy in communications. The law would make it a felony to publish or distribute any type of nude or sexualized photos or videos without the consent of the person depicted.

Violators would face up to six months in jail or $500 in fines for a first offense, with repeat offenses being punished by up to five years in jail or $10,000 in fines.

“It’s pretty cut and dried as to, if you distribute those without the person’s consent, then you’re guilty. We don’t have to show that you also intended to cause fear in them or anything like that. Just the fact that you did it on purpose is enough,” said Dudik, according to the Missoula Current.

The bill allows for some exceptions, such as images published for work purposes by law enforcement officials, medical analysts, and news reporters.

Victim and activist Kristine Hamill will testify about her experience with revenge porn at the hearing at the end of this month. Her ex-husband had shared sexually explicit images of Hamill without her consent.

Last November, a court granted a forensic review of her ex-husband’s laptop, which had been used to spread the photos. The only way for the images to be removed from the internet at this point would be to copyright the original images.  

According to Missoula Current, Dudik expressed hope that the bill will pass, unlike the 2017 attempt that was unexpectedly killed on a final vote.

“I’m hopeful that our Legislature this time will understand that this isn’t a game, that this detrimentally impacts too many people’s lives and that people shouldn’t be allowed to act that way toward others and terrify them by the use of these images,” Dudik said.

 

January 17, 2019 – Memorial of Saint Anthony, Abbot

The Cleansing of a Leper Mark 1:40-45 In today’s Gospel, Jesus heals a leper. Though an outcast, the man approaches Jesus, showing the trust he has in Jesus’ healing power. Jesus instructs him to tell no one, but the man’s excitement gets the best of him. Prayer: Let us pray for all those afflicted by illness. May they find strength, hope, and healing.

January 16, 2019 – Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

The Cure of Simon’s Mother-in-Law/Other Healings/Jesus Leaves Capernaum Mark 1:29-39 Jesus’ visit with Simon’s mother-in-law is the second sign of the inbreaking of God’s kingdom. In the previous passage he cast out the demon by his word. He touches Simon’s mother-in-law, and she is cured, immediately and completely. By evening, the whole town gathers. In the morning he rises early and goes off to pray before continuing to preach and teach throughout Galilee. Prayer: You minister selflessly, balancing well the wholeness of doing and being in the presence of the Father. I pray to do the same.

January 15, 2019 – Tuesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

The Cure of the Demoniac Mark 1:21-28 Mark notes that Jesus teaches with authority, an authority not possessed by the scribes — a fact which disturbs them. His teaching does have a powerful effect on his listeners. They are astonished and amazed at his casting out of the demon. The news of the events in this single day of Jesus’ ministry is carried throughout Galilee. Prayer: Would I have followed you had I realized where your mission was taking you and where it would take me?

January 14, 2019 – Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry/The Call of the First Disciples Mark 1:14-20 John has been arrested. Jesus’ work begins. His compelling yet challenging words, “repent and believe in the Gospel,” summarize his entire message. He calls four, and they respond immediately by following him. Prayer: When you called me the first time, I am not sure my response was as immediate as Simon, Andrew, James, and John. I am not even sure I realized that it was you calling me. I know I did not drop everything and follow immediately. Thank you for your patience.