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German cardinal thanks Pope Francis for his letter’s call to conversion

June 29, 2019 CNA Daily News 5

Cologne, Germany, Jun 29, 2019 / 03:30 am (CNA).- German Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki thanked Pope Francis for ‘fearlessly’ calling Catholics in Germany to be a missionary church in a letter published Saturday.

“It is refreshing how clearly and fearlessly the Holy Father also puts into words the terms which we often express in this country only with hesitation and a certain timidity, which we have almost lost: repentance, conversion, mission,” Cardinal Woelki said in a statement June 29.

Pope Francis published a more than 5,700 word letter addressed to Catholics in Germany Saturday calling for a focus on evangelization in the face of the “erosion” and “decline of the faith” in the country.

The Archbishop of Cologne said that it is obvious that Pope Francis shares the concern of many German Catholics: “How can we preserve the faith today and pass it on to the next generation?”

According to research recently published by the University of Freiburg, the number of officially registered Catholics in Germany is predicted to halve by 2060.

“The forthcoming process of change cannot respond exclusively to external facts and needs, such as the sharp decline in the birth rate and the ageing of communities, which do not allow a normal generational change to be considered,” Pope Francis said in his letter.

“A true process of change … makes demands that arise from our Christianity and from the very dynamics of the evangelization of the Church; such a process requires pastoral conversion,” he said.

Cardinal Woelki responded, “the fact that Pope Francis even speaks of ‘erosion and decay of faith’ in Germany shows that he really does not gloss over anything and also encourages us not to close our eyes to reality.”

This is “first and foremost a crisis of faith,” the German cardinal said.

“Let us be infected by the ‘hopeful serenity’ that Pope Francis has written to us with this letter. It is the serenity of all who are fully devoted to Christ,” Woelki said.

“Let’s take the words of the Holy Father, let’s take them seriously! Let us carry the Good News into the world of today!”


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Pope Francis tells German Catholics to focus on evangelization

June 29, 2019 CNA Daily News 6

Vatican City, Jun 29, 2019 / 03:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis sent a 5,700 word letter to Catholics in Germany Saturday calling for a focus on evangelization in the face of the “erosion” and “decline of the faith” in the country.

“The current challenges as well as the answers we give demand a long maturation process and the cooperation of an entire people over years,” Pope Francis wrote in a letter published June 29.

“This stimulates the emergence and continuation of processes that build us as God’s people, rather than seeking immediate results with premature and medial consequences that are fleeting because of lack of deepening and maturation or because they do not correspond to the vocation we are given,” he continued.

In his letter, Pope Francis issued a warning about the “synodal path,” a process announced by Cardinal Reinhard Marx. The pope said,“What this entails in concrete terms and how it unfolds will certainly require further consideration.”

The German bishops’ conference decided in March that the issues of priestly celibacy, the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, and a reduction of clerical power would be subject to a process  “synodal progression” that could lead to a binding, but as yet undetermined, outcome.

“Synodality presupposes and requires the action of the Holy Spirit,” Francis said in the letter.

The pope warned, “despite all serious and inevitable reflection, it is easy to fall into subtle temptations … therefore caution should be exercised, since they, anything but helpful to a common path, hold us in preconceived schemes and mechanisms that end in alienation or limitation of our mission.”

“What is more, if we are not aware of these temptations, we easily end up with a complicated series of arguments, analyses and solutions with no other effect than to stay away from the real and daily encounter with the faithful people and the Lord,” he said.

The pope also reiterated concerns he raised with the German bishops during their ad limina visit in Rome in November 2015 in which he had already noted a grave lack of participation in the sacraments among Catholics in Germany. He challenged bishops to “pastoral conversion” and warned of “excessive centralization.”

“To accept and endure the present situation … is an invitation to face what has died in us and in our congregations, which requires evangelization and visitation by the Lord,” Francis said. “But this requires courage, because what we need is much more than structural, organizational or functional change.”

The church in Germany has been embroiled in a number of controversies in recent months, several of which have also led to tensions with the Vatican, in particular pertaining to the practice of giving communion to protestants who are married to Catholics — a practice now officially established in several German dioceses — along with the practice of giving communion to divorced and remarried Catholics.

According to research recently published by the University of Freiburg, the number of officially registered Catholics in Germany will halve by 2060.

“The forthcoming process of change cannot respond exclusively to external facts and needs, such as the sharp decline in the birth rate and the ageing of communities, which do not allow a normal generational change to be considered,” Pope Francis said. “A true process of change … makes demands that arise from our Christianity and from the very dynamics of the evangelization of the Church; such a process requires pastoral conversion.”

“Pastoral conversion reminds us that evangelization must be our guiding criterion par excellence, by which we can recognize all the steps we are called to take as an ecclesial community; evangelization is the real and essential mission of the Church,” he said.

Anian Christoph Wimmer contributed to this report.


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Faith sustains wife of drowned migrant, bishop says

June 28, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Matamoros, Mexico, Jun 28, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- Tania Vanessa Ávalos, the wife and mother of the migrants who died trying to cross into the US this week, has found strength in faith and prayer amid her grief, the local bishop has said.

Óscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, 25, and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria died June 23, drowning as they tried to cross the Rio Grande from Matamoros. Graphic images of their bodies floating on the riverbank circulated across the world after they were discovered.

The Salvadoran emigrants intended to apply for asylum in the US, but the international bridge from Matamoros was closed until Monday, so they chose to swim across the river, the New York Times reported.

According to the Times, the family had left their home, about 14 miles east of San Salvador, for economic reasons, and not to escape gang violence.

Tania, 21, is now at one of the migrant houses run by the Diocese of Matamoros.

Bishop Eugenio Andres Lira Rugarcia told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister agency: “I had the opportunity personally to talk with her and I can say I was edified by her witness.”

“She’s a woman of faith who indeed bears witness that that faith is making it possible for her to face this with Christian hope,” he said.

“She told me about the very painful, difficult moments she has gone through. But how, thanks be to God, she has sought in prayer consolation, light, and strength and I tell you that for me, talking to her has been a great witness, a witness of faith,” Bishop Lira added.

Matamoros, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas, in Mexico’s Tamaulipas state, is among the major transit areas for migrants seeking to enter the US.

Tamaulipas is one of Mexico’s most violent states, but Bishop Lira emphasized that nevertheless, the faithful of the Matamoros diocese have not stopped showing their solidarity with the migrants.

The prelate thanked the “good example and witness of good people who even in the most difficult moments of violence in this area risked their lives, held out a hand to the migrants and continue to do so. Thanks be to God, the violence has decreased – not so much in Reynosa – but it has in the other eight districts that make up the Diocese of Matamoros.”

The Bishop of Matamoros said that the deaths of Óscar and Valeria “needs to lead us all to reflect: we’re talking about human lives, about people, not numbers. About people with their story, with their dreams, their hopes.”

“This shows us the human face of the migrant,” he said.

“Something very important is to discover in the phenomenon of migration names and faces … because if not, we can sometimes just dwell on statistics, on cold numbers. And in reality, it’s about people, each person with their own identity, their needs,” Bishop Lira stated.

Migrants, he said, are people who are trying to “seek something better for themselves or for their family. And they are willing to leave their land, their home, and set out on a quite dangerous adventure.”

Bishop Lira encouraged migrants to discover that “in the journey they have followed since they left their homes until the present, as well as the rest of their lives, God has always walked with them. He always walks with us, he does not leave us alone. And in those most difficult times he reaches out a hand to us, even through the people round about us.”

“I would ask you always to look at things through the eyes of faith, of the hope that does not disappoint, above all the great hope of the eternity that awaits us,” he said.

He asked the rest of society “to be aware of what kind of world we are building, and for every one of us to try to do our part  in building a culture and a society that is able to recognize, respect, promote and defend life, the dignity and rights and also the duties of all people, without excluding anyone.”

“We need this so no one finds himself forced to leave his own land because of economic necessities or because of violence or damage to the environment, and so he can find in his own place what is necessary for his development. And in the event he makes the decision to migrate that he can do so with all the conditions that his human dignity and rights deserve,” Bishop Lira said.


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Supreme Court rejects case on abortion by dismemberment

June 28, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Jun 28, 2019 / 02:45 pm (CNA).- The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it will not hear a case regarding an Alabama law banning abortions by dismemberment, allowing a lower court ruling against the legislation to stand.  

On June 28, the court issued a series of decisions announcing which cases it will hear in the next judicial year. 

The rejected case, Harris v. West Alabama Women’s Center, concerned the Unborn Child Protection From Dismemberment Abortion Act, a 2016 law that banned the abortion procedure “dilation and evacuation.” The procedure involves the dismemberment of the unborn child while it is still alive, and is only used for abortions in the second-trimester of pregnancy or later. 

This case did not involve the law passed in Alabama earlier this year, which banned abortion altogether in the state of Alabama, except when needed to preserve the health of the mother. 

The 2016 law was struck down by a lower court before it could ever go into effect, finding that the legislation placed an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to access abortion. The Supreme Court’s decision to not grant certiorari means that the lower court decision will stand. 

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing a concurring opinion to not hear the case, said that the Supreme Court did need to consider an abortion case and revisit its existing precedents on the “undue burden” test, which he described as “out of control,” but that the Alabama case did not present the right fact pattern for doing so. 

“The notion that anything in the Constitution prevents States from passing laws prohibiting the dismembering of a living child is implausible,” wrote Thomas. 

“But under the ‘undue burden’ standard adopted by this Court, a restriction on abortion—even one limited to prohibiting gruesome methods—is unconstitutional if ‘the ‘purpose or effect’ of the provision ‘is to place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.’”

While agreeing that the case was “too risky” for the Court to consider, he wrote that “this case serves as a stark reminder that our abortion jurisprudence has spiraled out of control.” 

“None of these decisions is supported by the text of the Constitution. Although this case does not present the opportunity to address our demonstrably erroneous ‘undue burden’ standard, we cannot continue blinking the reality of what this court has wrought.”

The national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List released a statment condemning the court’s refusal to hear the case.

“Once again the Supreme Court has punted on abortion, this time refusing to take up Alabama’s humane law protecting unborn children from gruesome dismemberment abortions in which a child is torn apart, piece by piece,” the statement said. 

“Unborn children and mothers will continue to be victimized by the abortion industry while the Court does nothing.”

Among those cases accepted by the court were DHS v. Regents of the University of California, Trump v. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and McAlleenan v. Vidal, which were consolidated into one case. 

All three cases concern President Trump’s plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. 

In 2017, Trump announced that the program would be ending, but federal courts have repeatedly blocked his decision and the program has remained.

DACA was created by an executive order issued by then-President Barack Obama. It provides work permits and protection from deportation for some people who were brought to the United States illegally as children. 

Trump has previously urged Congress agree a bipartisan compromise bill that would codify parts of DACA into law and strengthen border protections – including providing funding for a border wall, but no agreement has been reached. 

The Supreme Court’s next judicial session begins in October.