Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Pope takes questions from children in hurricane-hit Texas, Puerto Rico

ROME — Pope Francis said that there are no easy answers to the suffering and destruction wrought by hurricanes and that while such disasters happen naturally, humankind must also take responsibility for not caring for the environment. In a video chat with young children participating in a program of the international network of "Scholas Occurrentes" Oct. 26, the pope spoke with children from Texas and Puerto Rico, where Hurricanes Harvey and Maria struck hardest. "If God loves us all, why did He make hurricanes and heavy rains?" asked Pedro Garcia, a 9-year-old boy living in Houston who lost his home after Hurricane Harvey struck Texas. The pope said that there are questions even the most intelligent person can't answer and that can only be answered with "solidarity, with a hug and to be close to those who suffer. When I am asked these kinds of questions — I confess with all sincerity — I don't know how to answer. ... The only thing I can do is look at the cross and ask, 'Why did God allow His son to be crucified?'"

Following Jesus is 'true happiness,' priest tells young adults at encuentro

HERNDON, Va. — Father Jose Eugenio Hoyos, director of the Hispanic Apostolate in the Diocese of Arlington, told a group of 600 Hispanic/Latino young adults at a regional encuentro that "true happiness is following Jesus." The daylong encuentro, held at Herndon Middle School Oct. 28, was one of several being held all around the country as part of the U.S. Catholic Church's preparations for the Fifth National Encuentro, known as "V Encuentro," next September in Grapevine, Texas. "You do not need to find happiness in drugs, in pornography, in the internet or in gangs," Father Hoyos told those gathered in Herndon. "True happiness is following Jesus, participating in the Church and being in solidarity to change the current world."

WORLD

Vatican, Lutheran federation announce study on church, Eucharist, ministry

VATICAN CITY — The official Catholic-Lutheran dialogue will begin a deeper exploration of common beliefs and differences on "church, Eucharist and ministry," the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation announced. When Pope Francis joined Bishop Munib A. Younan, then the president of the Lutheran World Federation, for a prayer service in Sweden in 2016, the two noted the pain many of their fellow Catholics and Lutherans — especially Catholics and Lutherans married to each other — experience when they cannot share the Eucharist at each other's services. "We acknowledge our joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger of our people to be one in Christ," the two leaders said in 2016. The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Lutheran World Federation announced Oct. 31 that the next task of their formal dialogue commission would be "to discern in a prayerful manner our understanding on church, Eucharist and ministry, seeking a substantial consensus so as to overcome remaining differences between us."

On contraception, Church must continue to defend life

ROME — The acceptance of artificial contraception by some Christian churches and communities beginning in the 1930s has led "to the monstrosity of what is today known as procreative medicine," which includes abortion, said German Cardinal Walter Brandmuller. Inaugurating an Oct. 28 conference anticipating the 50th anniversary of Blessed Paul VI's encyclical "Humanae Vitae," Cardinal Brandmuller told participants that in ignoring traditional Church teaching men and women today have seated themselves "on the throne of the Creator." In "Humanae Vitae," published in 1968, Pope Paul underlined the responsibility that goes with human sexuality and marriage. While he taught that couples can space the birth of their children for valid reasons, they must use only natural methods of avoiding fertility. Birth control, he said, causes an "artificial separation" of the unitive and procreative aspects of married love. In his speech at the Rome conference, Cardinal Brandmuller said that after the Second Vatican Council, the Church faced significant pressure — including from within its own ranks — to endorse contraception as "morally justifiable."

Assisting victims of war is a work of mercy, pope says

VATICAN CITY — Members of the military and of humanitarian agencies who risk their lives to save others or to alleviate their suffering are precisely those for whom Jesus will say, "Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me," Pope Francis said. For decades, the Geneva Conventions have tried to establish rules to protect innocent civilians in times of war, yet "atrocious crimes" and shocking violations of human dignity continue to occur, the pope told participants at a conference on international humanitarian law. The conference was sponsored by the Italian Ministry of Defense and the Carabinieri, Italy's military police. Pope Francis met Oct. 28 with the 150 conference participants and with 100 officer candidates from the Carabinieri. Despite the ongoing, "praiseworthy attempt" to codify humanitarian law to protect noncombatants, religious and cultural monuments and the environment during periods of strife, the pope said, so many atrocities continue around the globe that it leads to "a certain saturation that anesthetizes and, to some degree, relativizes the seriousness of the problem."

Spanish prelates urge unity; some Catalonian Catholics advocate self-rule

BARCELONA, Spain — Spanish Church leaders reiterated support for their country's unity as the federal government in Madrid imposed direct control over Catalonia. However, Catholic organizations in the breakaway region — which declared independence Oct. 27 — condemned the crackdown and warned government actions could have "incalculable consequences." Cardinal Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Valladolid, president of the Spanish bishops' conference, expressed sadness for the Catalonian declaration of independence and reiterated support "for the constitutional order and ... its restoration, and I ask God for peaceful coexistence among all citizens." His statement, issued Oct. 28, came the day after the Spanish government announced it was dismissing Catalonia's president, Carles Puigdemont, and local officials, and ending the region's self-government under the terms of Spain's 1978 constitution. Spain called for regional elections Dec. 21. Other Church leaders also urged unity.

Pope names bishop of Toronto Chaldean eparchy

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed Auxiliary Bishop Bawai Soro of the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle in San Diego as bishop of the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of Mar Addai of Toronto. Bishop Soro, 63, has been an auxiliary bishop of the San Diego-based eparchy since the the pope named him to the post in January 2014. The appointment was announced Oct. 31 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Assassin happy for beatification of Clarist nun

BANGALORE, India — An Indian nun stabbed to death in 1995 will be beatified Nov. 4, and one of those who will celebrate is her assassin. Clarist Sister Rani Maria Vattalil, 41, was stabbed in front of more than 50 bus passengers on a remote jungle track in Madhya Pradesh state as she was on her way home to Kerala state to visit. Samandar Singh, then 22, murdered her on behalf of money lenders upset with Sister Rani Maria's work setting up self-help groups in the Diocese of Indore. Singh has since been forgiven by the nun's family and was released from prison. "Whatever happened has happened. I am sad and sorry about what I did. But now I am happy that the world is recognizing and honoring Sister Rani," Singh, a Hindu, told Catholic News Service Oct. 30 in a telephone interview from his village of Semlia. Singh was convicted of the murder and initially was sentenced to death; the sentence was later commuted to life in prison. He said Sister Rani Maria's younger sister — Clarist Sister Selmy — formally accepted him as her "brother" while he was in prison and facilitated his early release.

— Catholic News Service 

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