Ivanka Trump meets with human trafficking survivors in Rome

May 24, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Rome, Italy, May 24, 2017 / 10:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After a visit with Pope Francis Wednesday, Ivanka Trump met a group of human trafficking survivors, calling them examples of strength and addressing various legislative ways the U.S. government can help victims.

Ivanka met with a dozen victims of human trafficking from Nigeria and Eritrea. She described them as “remarkable women,” who are “testaments to strength, faith and perseverance in the face of unspeakable adversity and challenge.”

Ivanka is currently accompanying her father, U.S. President Donald Trump, on his first international tour, which also included stops in Saudi Arabia and Israel. Earlier in the day, Trump and Pope Francis had their first highly anticipated meeting.

The encounter between Ivanka and human trafficking victims took place at the headquarters of the Community of Sant’Egidio in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood.

Founded in 1968 by Italian layman Andrea Riccardi, a historian and former minister in the Italian government, the community focuses their mission on service to the poor and refugees, conflict resolution, and both ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue.

Sant’Egidio is a favorite of Pope Francis, who often praises the community for their work. It has long been involved in campaigns to combat human trafficking – also an important topic for Pope Francis – and has partnered with the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See for several events.

Ivanka thanked the community for their work, which she said “resonates strongly” not just in Italy, “but throughout the world.”

She said that in her meeting with representatives of Sant’Egidio, they were able to discuss several programs “that have been successfully launched and developed over many, many years now.”

These programs, she said, “have provided support and help to those who need it most, whether it’s the elderly or the disadvantaged, and also victims of human trafficking throughout Africa and the whole world.”

“So it was a great privilege to be able to be here and the hear firsthand from these tremendous thought leaders about the work that’s being done, what has worked and what has the potential to work better and to be better executed in the future,” she said, adding that she looks forward to further collaboration.

In comments to journalists following the meeting with Ivanka, two women from Sant’Egidio who work with the trafficking victims said it was an “intense” and “moving” encounter.

Some of the women told their stories, including how they were rescued, how their lives have changed and the situations they are in now.

There was “a lot of interest” on the part of Ivanka, they said, noting that she “listened very carefully” to their stories, but also asked questions about possible legislative initiatives on the part of the government to stop human trafficking, specifically when it comes to women.

Trafficking in the Mediterranean and Africa was mentioned specifically, including the trafficking of children, and a strong emphasis was placed on how the process begins in the countries where the victims originate.

According to the women from Sant’Egidio, Ivanka referred to her brief meeting with Pope Francis earlier that morning, telling the women that he is “a great advocate of your stories” of success and integration.

Ivanka then asked the victims what could be done. They said there is a greater need for communication and the sharing of information in their countries of origin, since many women are tricked into a trafficking ring under the false pretense that they will be moving to Europe for legitimate work, in many cases as a cook or maid.

They said that “public campaigns” are needed, because most women “never imagined” they would end up being trafficked.

In addition to the trafficking of persons, organ trafficking was also discussed, as well as the role of religion in ending violence and achieving peace, the freedom of women and the education of children.

In brief comments to journalists, Sant’Egidio founder and president Andrea Riccardi noted that Ivanka made a strong reference to collaboration with the organization’s projects in Africa, specifically in terms of helping to get legal documents for the continent’s “ghost children,” meaning children who are not registered and therefore have no legal identity, making them extra vulnerable and easy prey for traffickers.

Riccardi said Ivanka also showed a strong interest in an initiative the community is currently trying to push forward in Italy to get legal documents for women rescued from forced prostitution.

Before leaving with her father on his first international tour, Ivanka hosted an anti-human trafficking roundtable discussion at the White House May 17. The event gathered a swath of bipartisan lawmakers and representatives of numerous organizations that deal with human trafficking.  

According to reports, Ivanka spoke during that discussion about the Trump administration’s efforts to combat trafficking not only in the U.S., but throughout the world, telling attendees that “combatting human trafficking and modern slavery is both a moral and strategic interest domestically and abroad.”

That particular roundtable was a follow-up to a February discussion on the same topic, which was also organized by Ivanka. At the time, President Trump said he would use the “full force and weight” of the U.S. government to fight against trafficking.

 

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Pope Francis: Even in the darkest moments, Jesus walks with us

May 24, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, May 24, 2017 / 08:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said that no matter what trials we might face, we have hope because Jesus is always by our side, just like he was for the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

“All of us, in our lives, have had difficult, dark times; moments in which we have walked sad, thoughtful, without horizons and (with) only a wall in front,” Pope Francis said May 24.

However, even in these moments “Jesus is always beside us to give us hope, warm the heart and say, ‘Go ahead, I’m with you. Go ahead,’” the Pope said, adding that “the secret of the road leading to Emmaus is all here: even through unfavorable appearances, we continue to be loved.”

The Pope met with thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience, immediately following his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Francis said that no matter what, God always wants the best for us and “will walk with us.”

“Even in the most painful moments, even in the worst moments, even in moments of defeat: the Lord is there. And this is our hope. Let’s go ahead with that hope! Because he is next to us and walks with us always!”

The Pope reflected on hope as it is found in the story of Christ’s appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, when they feel sad, discouraged and defeated because Jesus has been killed, but they do not yet know about his Resurrection.

All of their hopes from before the crucifixion have been shattered, but this is because they “cultivated only human hope,” Francis said.

It is on this scene that Jesus appears. “This scenario – the road – had already been important in the accounts of the Gospels,” he explained, but “now it will become even more, as they begin to recount the story of the Church.”

This encounter of Jesus with the disciples seems “fortuitous,” he said, in the way it resembles the many times we are carrying our own crosses or burdens of sorrow and disappointment. But Jesus joins them, even though they do not recognize him, and he begins what Pope Francis called a “therapy of hope.”

The first step in this therapy, he said, is to “ask and listen: our God is not an intrusive God. Even though he already knows the reason for the disappointment of those two, he leaves them time to be able to gauge the depth of the bitterness that he has undergone.”

Then, listening to their words, we hear “a chorus of human existence: ‘We hoped, but…We hoped, but….’”

“How much sadness, how many defeats, how many failures there are in each person’s life!” the Pope said, noting that “we are all a bit like those two disciples.”

“How many times in life we hoped, how many times we felt a step away from happiness, and then we found ourselves disappointed,” he asked.

“But Jesus walks with all discouraged people who go forward with head down. And walking with them, in a subtle way, he succeeds in returning hope.”

When he does speak to them, Jesus does it first through the Scriptures. In the Bible, you will not find stories of “easy heroism, thunderous campaigns of conquest,” the Pope said. “True hope is never cheap: it always goes through defeats.”

In fact, Francis said, Jesus models this for us by not being the kind of leader that drags his people to victory by violently destroying his opponents. Instead, he takes a position of disdain himself.

Later that same night, when the disciples have invited him to eat dinner with them, they recognize him when he breaks the bread, repeating the gesture of the first Eucharist.

“In this series of gestures, is there not the whole story of Jesus? And is there not, in every Eucharist, the sign of what the Church must be? Jesus takes us, blesses us, ‘breaks’ our lives – because there is no love without sacrifice – and offers it to others, offers it to everyone.”

Jesus’ encounter with the disciples on the road to Emmaus is quick, he said, but in it we find “the fate of the Church.”

“He tells us that the Christian community is not locked up in a fortified citadel, but walks in its most vital environment; namely, the road. And there it meets people, with their hopes and their disappointments, sometimes heavy.”

“The Church listens to the stories of everyone, as they emerge from the depths of personal conscience, in order then to offer the Word of Life, the testimony of love, faithful love to the end,” he concluded. “And then, the hearts of people return to burning hope.”

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St. Louis rule creates legal traps for pro-lifers, lawsuit charges

May 24, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

St. Louis, Mo., May 24, 2017 / 06:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A St. Louis city ordinance that could force Catholic schools and pro-life pregnancy centers to hire employees who support abortion has drawn legal opposition from the Archbishop of St. Louis and several pro-life organizations.

“As Catholics, we know that all life is a gift from God and our parents, and must be protected at any cost,” St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson said May 22. “Sadly, legal protection for those members of the human family waiting to be born in this country was removed by the Supreme Court in 1973.”

“Now, some of our St. Louis politicians have made a protected ‘class’ out of ‘reproductive health,’ which is merely a politically correct euphemism for abortion,” the archbishop said at a press conference on the steps of the federal courthouse in downtown St. Louis.

He said the archdiocese will not comply with the “vile bill.”

Archbishop Carlson was joined by Peggy Forrest of Our Lady’s Inn, which promotes abortion alternatives for pregnant women, archdiocesan newspaper the St. Louis Review reports. Also present was Sarah Pitlyk, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, which has filed the lawsuit seeking judicial review.

The Archdiocesan Elementary Schools of St. Louis, Our Lady’s Inn, and the private company O’Brien Industrial Holdings, LLC are parties to the lawsuit concerning St. Louis Ordinance 70459, also called Board Bill 203 Committee Substitute. The ordinance, enacted in February, creates a protected status for anyone who has “made a decision related to abortion,” even in cases where the abortion was not their own. The protections apply to corporations and all businesses, not only individuals.

Opponents said the bill would bar any individual or entity, including Christian organizations, from refusing to sell or rent property to individuals or businesses that promote or provide abortions. It could require Catholic schools to hire abortion supporters or potentially be sued.

The lawsuit notes the archdiocesan schools require teachers and employees to sign a statement saying they will not publicly support abortion and will otherwise live in harmony with Catholic teachings in their professional and personal lives. Organizations that require such a statement face criminal fines under the city bill, while individuals who enforce it face a fine and even jail time.

“The passage of this bill is not a milestone of our city’s success. It is, rather, a marker of our city’s embrace of the culture of death,” said Archbishop Carlson.

Pitlyk of the Thomas More Society further criticized the ordinance.

“The City of St. Louis, by pushing an abortion agenda, is clearly out of step with the rest of the state,” she charged. “The city has taken the protections typically granted to prevent discrimination for ‘race, age, religion, sex or disability’ and applied them to those who have made or expect to make ‘reproductive health decisions’,” she said.

Forrest said that the ordinance would bar Our Lady’s Inn from hiring only individuals who support its mission to provide abortion alternatives.

She said that since the ordinance was passed, her organization has received several suspicious calls that seemed like possible legal traps. She said there is a great possibility “that women either pretending to need services or knowing full well they don’t want the services that we provide will engage us just to see if they can catch us in violating the ordinance.”

“It’s insincere and takes up time for women who really are interested in our services,” Forrest added. “We support women who have already made a choice for life. And if that’s not the choice they’ve made then our services don’t match them.”  

The ordinance would also require businesses to include abortion coverage in employee health care plans, even if owners object. The Thomas More Society said this requirement is unlawful under the 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision involving Hobby Lobby’s challenge to a federal rule mandating coverage of contraceptive drugs, including drugs that can cause abortion.

The Catholic-owned O’Brien Industrial Holdings, LLC, was also part of the Hobby Lobby case.

The St. Louis legal complaint said the ordinance violates other constitutional protections involving free speech, free association, the religion clauses of the First Amendment, due process rights, and equal protection, as well as several state laws.

Pitlyk also faulted the ordinance’s “extremely limited” religious exemptions for housing and employment, and its lack of exemptions for individuals who have “sincere religious, moral or ethical objections to abortion.”

“That is unconstitutional, and directly violates both federal and state law,” she said.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson defended the law in a statement, saying, “We don’t believe the ordinance infringes on the rights of the Archdiocese,” according to the Associated Press.

While backers of the ordinance said it aimed to address discrimination against individuals who have had, or were planning to have abortions, they could not find examples of such.

Pitlyk said the ordinance was “a remedy in search of a problem.”

 

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This Italian nun is helping brides say ‘yes’ to the dress

May 24, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Umbria, Italy, May 24, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Italian brides are finding wedding dresses at an unusual spot hidden in the Umbrian hills, where they are able to pick out their special gown – all for the cost of a donation.

Sister Maria Laura at the Augustinian monastery of St. Rita in Cascia, Italy began running the thrifty wedding dress service out of a surplus of donated wedding dresses.

“It gives me great joy to see a young woman who can fulfill her dream of love with a dress appropriate for the happiest day of her life,” said Sister Maria Laura, according to the DailyMail.  

Since about 1950, brides have been making pilgrimages to St. Rita’s to ask for her special intercession in marriage, and would leave their wedding dresses at the monastery in gratitude. Over the years, the monastery has collected hundreds of dresses.

Sister Maria Laura entered monastic life at the age of 28, having previously been a seamstress and designer in Tuscany. She has been running the bridal dress collection at the monastery for the past few years with the help of other nuns, and uses her skills to alter the dresses to fit each and every bride that comes through.

The sewing sister only sees brides-to-be by appointment, who often bring family members and bridesmaids for their opinion. But, Sister Maria Laura noted her special intuition about each of the dresses.

“I know which one she will take; you can tell from their faces,” she said, according to the New York Times. “If you have a dream and we can make it come true, we’ll do our best.”

Currently, they have about three women a week visit to pick out wedding dresses, while up to 10 dresses a month are donated. All of the dresses are offered for free, but they do ask for a simple donation. According to the New York Times, one donation amounted to $1,200.

The Augustinian monastery is a special spot for brides, as St. Rita is the patron saint of difficult marriages. When Rita was 12, her parents forced her into a marriage with a husband who abused her for years.

After her husband died, Rita entered the monastery of St. Mary Magdalene in Cascia at the age of 36, which is now the same place where brides visit to pray for their own marriages, and try on wedding dresses.

As Italy continues in their recession, the monastery considers their service a charity for economical brides who are getting married but trying to keep costs down.

One bride explained that the second-hand gown service was her only option to buy a dress, saying that “if I can’t find it here, I simply can’t afford to buy one.” Another bride explained how she had “felt at home here from the very first minute.”

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Pope Francis, Trump hold landmark first meeting

May 24, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, May 24, 2017 / 02:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After months of anticipation, Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump finally met at the Vatican Wednesday in a friendly encounter which included an exchange of gifts and an emphasis on peace and unity.

The Pope and Trump met at the Vatican May 24, at 8:30a.m., immediately before the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Trump arrived to Italy May 23 after stopping in both Saudi Arabia and Israel as part of his first international trip. He is also set to attend a NATO meeting in Brussels on May 25 and a G7 summit in Sicily on May 26 before returning to the U.S.

President Trump arrived to the Vatican via the side entrance by Casa Santa Marta around 8:15a.m. Greeted by a group of Swiss Guards in the San Damaso courtyard. After stepping out of the car, Trump and First Lady Melania greeted Cardinal George Ganswein and other Vatican dignitaries before entering the Apostolic Palace.

Pope Francis and Trump smiled as they first greeted each other. They then sat down at the Pope’s desk in the papal library. Pope Francis said, “Welcome!” and Trump responded, “Thank you very much, this is such a great honor.”

Smiling, Francis went on to explain that he doesn’t speak English well and needs to wait for the translator, but added that he was “very happy to meet” Trump.

At this point, they both waited for the cameras to leave before beginning the private part of their conversation, which lasted about 30 minutes, with only the Vatican’s English translator, Msgr. Mark Miles, present.

After their formal conversation, gifts were exchanged between Francis, Trump and the president’s official delegation. There were 12 people in his entourage, including First Lady Melania Trump; daughter Ivanka, his assistant; and son-in-law Jared Kushner, his assistant and senior advisor.

Also present for the meeting with Pope Francis were U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs H.R. McMaster and Louis Bono, American Chargé d’Affaires ad interim to the Holy See until a permanent ambassador is named.

Despite their differing opinions on climate change, Pope Francis gave Trump a copy of his environmental encyclical Laudato Si’, as well as copies of his 2015 Apostolic Exhortation on the family “Amoris Laetitia” and his 2013 exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium.”

In addition to the customary gift of these three documents, Francis also gave President Trump a copy of his message for the 2017 World Day of Peace, saying: “I signed it personally for you.” Trump responded that he would be reading them.

The Pope also gifted the U.S. President with a medallion he said symbolizing peace and unity, which, after the translator explained in English, he added in Spanish: “Have it because you are an instrument of peace.” Trump said that “we can use peace.”

President Trump gifted Pope Francis a set of books by Martin Luther King, Jr. “I think you’ll enjoy them, I hope you do,” he said.

Members of the delegation each received a medal and a rosary from the pontiff. When greeting Francis, First Lady Melania told him that she would afterward be visiting the hospital. Joking, the Pope asked her if they had given her potica, a traditional Slovenian dessert, to eat, to which she responded, “yes, potica,” as they both laughed.

After meeting with Pope Francis, Trump met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Bishop Paul Richard Gallagher, as is customary for heads of state.

Pope Francis went immediately to begin the Wednesday general audience with thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.

After the meeting, First Lady Melania paid a visit to the Vatican-owned Pediatric hospital Bambino Gesu, also known as the “Pope’s hospital.”

Bambino Gesu sits next to the Pontifical North American College on top of Rome’s Gianicolo hill, and is among the most important pediatric hospitals in the world. Founded in 1869 by the Duchess Arabella Salviati, the hospital was donated to Pius XI in 1924, with the aim of giving it a more stable future.

At the same time, Trump’s daughter and high-profile adviser, Ivanka, will make her way to the Roman neighborhood of Trastevere to meet with the Community of Sant’Egidio to discuss efforts to oppose human trafficking.

The Sant’Egidio Community is often praised by Pope Francis for their work with the poor and refugees, in particular.

Ivanka is participating in each of the seven days of Trump’s first trip abroad as president, and was also present for the public portion of his meeting with Francis.

Before leaving with her father on his first international tour, Ivanka hosted an anti-human trafficking roundtable discussion at the White House May 17.

During her meeting with Sant’Egidio, she is expected to meet with several women who are victims of trafficking, and discuss various ways in which the Church and the U.S. government can collaborate on the issue.

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New York City event to discuss how faith, modernity intersect

May 24, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

New York City, N.Y., May 23, 2017 / 08:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An event exploring the interaction of the Christian faith with the modern world – in light of the writings of the founder of Communion and Liberation – will take place in New York City this summer.

The June 22 event, titled Christianity: An Encounter that Shapes Life, is the second annual Giussani series on Faith and Modernity. It will be presented by global ecclesiastical movement Communion and Liberation, Crossroads Cultural Center, and the Sheen Center in New York City.
 
The event is free and will focus on the heart of the Christian faith and true human encounter as described by Monsignor Luigi Giussani in his book, “Generating Traces in the History of the World.”

An Encounter that Shapes Life will feature discussions from Father Solanus Benfatti, a professor of Spirituality and Franciscan Traditions at St. Joseph’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of New York, and Michael Waldstein, PhD, a professor of theology at Ave Maria University in Florida.
 
Communion and Liberation began to emerge in 1954 by Italian priest, Catholic thinker, and educator Msgr. Luigi Giussani. The movement focuses on the actualization of man’s faith by living the Christian presence within community.

In his 1995 book “The Risk of Education,” Msgr. Giussani described the movement as “showing the relevance of faith to life’s needs, and therefore – and this ‘therefore’ is important – showing that faith is rational, implies a specific concept of rationality.”

“When we say that faith exalts rationality, we mean that faith corresponds to some fundamental, original need that all men and women feel in their hearts.”

Crossroads Cultural Center was established in 2004 as an extension of Communion and Liberation. The group’s mission is to foster knowledge of reality and life’s meaning, as seen through the lens of Christian faith.

The event will be held at Sheen Center located in East Village of downtown New York City. The center is named after the previous archbishop of Rochester, Fulton Sheen, and hosts events which align to the truth, beauty, and goodness as expressed by the Catholic Church.

A life stream of the conference will be made available at 7 p.m. Eastern time on Sheen Center’s website: https://sheencenter.org/shows/giussani2/

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Here’s the plan for Melania and Ivanka’s day in Rome

May 23, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, May 23, 2017 / 03:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When U.S. President Donald Trump stops in Rome for a meeting with Pope Francis Wednesday, both his wife Melania and daughter Ivanka will have their own schedules, which include stops at a Vatican hospital and a round-table on human trafficking.

Ivanka serves in her father’s administration in an unpaid position as an assistant to the president.

Pope Francis and Donald Trump will meet at the Vatican May 24 at 8:30 a.m., before the Pope’s General Audience. Melania and Ivanka will both be present for the public portion of the visit, but will each follow their own itinerary after.

Once the meeting is finished, the First Lady will a visit the Vatican-owned pediatric hospital Bambino Gesu. During her tour of the facility, Melania is expected to greet patients and visit one of their playrooms as well as the chapel.  

While Melania visits Bambino Gesu, Ivanka, a high-profile adviser to her father, will make her way to the Roman neighborhood of Trastevere to meet with the Community of Sant’Egidio to discuss efforts to oppose human trafficking.

The Sant’Egidio Community is often praised by Pope Francis for their work, in particular for the projects they lead aimed at helping the poor and refugees.

During her meeting with Sant’Egidio, Ivanka is expected to meet with several women who are victims of trafficking, and discuss various ways in which the Church and the U.S. government can collaborate on the problem.

Before leaving with her father on his first international tour, Ivanka hosted an anti-human trafficking round-table at the White House May 17 that hosted a swath of bipartisan lawmakers and representatives of numerous organizations that deal with human trafficking.  

According to reports, during the discussion Ivanka spoke about the Trump administration’s efforts to combat trafficking not only in the U.S., but throughout the world, telling attendees that “combatting human trafficking and modern slavery is both a moral and strategic interest domestically and abroad.”

That particular round-table was a follow-up to a February discussion on the same topic, which was also organized by Ivanka. At the time, according to reports, President Trump said he would use the “full force and weight” of the U.S. government to fight human trafficking.

Both stops highlight key priorities for Pope Francis, who after his election in 2013 personally requested that the Pontifical Academy of Sciences study the issue of human trafficking. As a result, the institution has held at least two symposiums or conferences on the topic each year.

Francis has also mentioned several times that he is bothered by the suffering of children, saying it is one of life’s mysteries that he still fails to comprehend.

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