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Washington D.C., Oct 22, 2014 / 12:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Although religious freedom conditions around the globe are worsening, Americans should see this fact as a cause for motivation rather than despair, said a leading scholar on the issue.

“I wish that I could say there has been some improvement in the conditions of religious freedom in the world, but I’m afraid the opposite is true: it’s deteriorated,” said Robert P. George, vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

“The worst offending states seem to be getting even worse,” he told CNA. “The reality has altered not at all.”

He charged foreign policy experts to take action in promoting religious freedom in the face of such discouraging developments, affirming that religious freedom is “not a second or third or fourth class concern that can be bargained away.”

In addition to his role at the commission, George is also the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and has authored books on the defense of marriage, unborn human life and political philosophy.

Reflecting on the current state of international religious freedom, he noted that nearly 75 percent of the world’s population lives under regimes that violate the religious freedom of worship and expression for religious minorities “or standby while mobs and thugs and terrorists persecute and harm people with impunity.”

He pointed to the persecution of minority Muslim communities, Yazidi and Christians in Iraq and Syria as examples of worsening social and political instability driving persecution, as well as continued oppression in countries such as Iran, China, Pakistan, Nigeria and Cuba.

Zeroing in on Iran, George said that President Hassan Rouhani has not made any significant progress in expanding religious freedom in the country, maintaining the captivity of American pastor Saeed Abedini and failing to lift the death sentence of Ayatollah Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi, who had called for a separation of religion and politics.

The imprisonment of the ayatollah is an example of the persecution of Muslims whose views differ from a region’s norm or who do not espouse extremist interpretations of Islam, George said.

“We shouldn’t assume that just because people are Muslim doesn’t mean they’re the oppressors and never the oppressed.”

“Many of the victims of Islamist oppression are Muslims,” he explained, adding that often Muslims are the “ones standing up for human rights” in areas facing persecution of religious minorities.

“I want the American public to understand this,” George said, pointing to the example of Muslims in Egypt who have protected Coptic Christians, forming “rings around Christian churches not to persecute them, but to protect them against being attacked by the radicals.”

George added that he is very concerned about the situation in Europe as well, given a rise of “radical secularism” in the region “that does not bode well,” particularly for Muslim and Jewish communities.

Countries across Europe, he noted, have seen a rise in secular extremist activity and have also begun to restrict religious expression and dress. Some of these countries have also enacted “more extreme” laws that forbid ritual practices such as Kosher or Halaal slaughter or bans on infant circumcision that are integral to community life and religious identity.

The case of circumcision, he explained, is especially important for the maintenance of Jewish communities because of its place as “an essential, non-negotiable practice that goes back to the Jewish covenant with God made by Abraham.”

“Devout Jews simply cannot live in a polity that forbids them from practicing male infant circumcision,” George continued. “If this were carried out and enforced, this would mean that there would be areas where Jews, for all intents and purposes, are forbidden to live. To imagine that happening, is a nightmare.”

However, George said, the worsening state of religious freedom should encourage rather than discourage action to promote religious freedom around the globe.

“Far from demoralizing us, these facts should motivate us to rededicate ourselves to the cause of religious freedom, and fight even harder in the international domain,” he pressed.  

“It’s got to be given a higher priority in our foreign and diplomatic policy,” George urged, saying that while there are other important issues such as trade or political diplomacy, religious freedom “is a first-class issue.”

George also spoke of the need to “put pressure on our own government to use the resources available to it” and to “to put pressure on the offending regimes” to improve religious freedom in offending countries.

“We can do that. We have seen that work in the past,” he stated.

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St. Paul, Minn., Oct 21, 2014 / 07:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Two dioceses in Minnesota have reached undisclosed financial settlements with a victim of clergy abuse, promising to implement and abide by policies intended to protect children, and to report perpetrators.

“I am deeply saddened and profoundly sorry for the pain suffered by victims, survivors and their families,” Archbishop John Nienstedt of Saint Paul and Minneapolis said Oct. 13. He added that the agreement is a “significant step closer” to help survivors heal and “to restore trust with our clergy and faithful.”

He said that the archdiocese’s agreement with an abuse victim is “a historic moment in our efforts to assure the safety of children and vulnerable adults.”

Bishop John Quinn of Winona said his diocese is “ashamed of the horrific crimes” that former priest Thomas Adamson perpetuated against children.

“We are committed to ensuring the safety of the children entrusted to our care in our schools and in our parishes,” he said Oct. 13.

Bishop Quinn said that the diocese has committed to child protection protocols as part of the settlement which will “further help to ensure the safety of all of God’s children.”

Both the settlements, from the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis and from the Diocese of Winona, concerned a lawsuit from a victim of Adamson. Adamson admitted to the sexual molestation of at least ten teens while working as a priest in both dioceses. He said he attempted to abuse even more, the NBC affiliate KARE11 reports.

Although the abuse of the plaintiff took place in the 1970s, the lawsuit could proceed because of a change to state law in 2013. The change expanded a three-year window in the state’s statute of limitations for sex abuse lawsuits, the Associated Press says.

The lawsuits alleged that Catholic leaders created a public nuisance by failing to warn parishioners about Adamson’s sexual abuse.

The legal agreement with the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s attorney Jeff Anderson means the dioceses will abide by a set of child protection protocols developed by diocesan officials and by Anderson’s law firm, Jeff Anderson and Associates.

Archbishop Nienstedt said the agreement will strengthen collaboration to address sex abuse.

“I pray that this local Church will continue to be inspired by the Word of God to respond to the needs of those who have been harmed and seek healing as we move forward toward a new day for this archdiocese as well as for our local community.”

Some of the archdiocese’s existing policies are already more extensive than the settlement’s protocols; these will remain in place.

The agreement requires “ongoing” public disclosure of substantiated allegations of sex abuse. It bars the dioceses from conducting their own internal investigations of abuse and them from interfering with law enforcement investigations.

The agreement also requires the two dioceses to work to secure a signed statement from every member of the clergy in each diocese affirming that they have not committed sexual abuse of a minor. The clergy must also affirm that they have no knowledge of abuse of a minor by another priest of the archdiocese or employee of the archdiocese that has not been reported to law enforcement and to the archdiocese. The protocol exempts knowledge of abuse learned in the confessional.

Bishop Quinn said most of the protocols were previously adopted and implemented by the Winona diocese. He said the agreement “demonstrates our resolve and conviction to take every possible step to ensure the safety of all God’s children.”

The bishop said the Diocese of Winona is committed to providing support and healing for “those who have been tragically abused by clergy.”

“We encourage anyone that has been abused recently or in the past to report the abuse to civil authorities.”

Representatives of both dioceses said that they could declare bankruptcy due to future abuse-related litigation or legal settlements.

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Pope Saint John Paul II
10/22/2014 12:00:00 AM
Saint John Paul II is perhaps one of the most well-known pontiffs in recent history, and is most remembered for his charismatic nature, his love of youth and his world travels, along with his role in the fall of communism in Europe during his 27-year papacy.Karol Józef Wojtyla, known as John Paul II since his October 1978 election to the papacy, was born in the Polish town of Wadowice, a small city 50 kilometers from Krakow, on May 18, 1920. He was the youngest of three children born to Karol Wojtyla and Emilia Kaczorowska. His mother died in 1929. His eldest brother Edmund, a doctor, died in 1932 and his father, a non-commissioned army officer died in 1941. A sister, Olga, had died before he was born.He was baptized on June 20, 1920 in the parish church of Wadowice by Fr. Franciszek Zak, made his First Holy Communion at age 9 and was confirmed at 18. Upon graduation from Marcin Wadowita high school in Wadowice, he enrolled in Krakow's Jagiellonian University in 1938 and in a school for drama.The Nazi occupation forces closed the university in 1939 and young Karol had to work in a quarry (1940-1944) and then in the Solvay chemical factory to earn his living and to avoid being deported to Germany.In 1942, aware of his call to the priesthood, he began courses in the clandestine seminary of Krakow, run by Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, archbishop of Krakow. At the same time, Karol Wojtyla was one of the pioneers of the "Rhapsodic Theatre," also clandestine.After the Second World War, he continued his studies in the major seminary of Krakow, once it had re-opened, and in the faculty of theology of the Jagiellonian University. He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Sapieha in Krakow on November 1, 1946.Shortly afterwards, Cardinal Sapieha sent him to Rome where he worked under the guidance of the French Dominican, Garrigou-Lagrange. He finished his doctorate in theology in 1948 with a thesis on the subject of faith in the works of St. John of the Cross (Doctrina de fide apud Sanctum Ioannem a Cruce). At that time, during his vacations, he exercised his pastoral ministry among the Polish immigrants of France, Belgium and Holland.In 1948 he returned to Poland and was vicar of various parishes in Krakow as well as chaplain to university students. This period lasted until 1951 when he again took up his studies in philosophy and theology. In 1953 he defended a thesis on "evaluation of the possibility of founding a Catholic ethic on the ethical system of Max Scheler" at Lublin Catholic University. Later he became professor of moral theology and social ethics in the major seminary of Krakow and in the Faculty of Theology of Lublin.On July 4, 1958, he was appointed titular bishop of Ombi and auxiliary of Krakow by Pope Pius XII, and was consecrated September 28, 1958, in Wawel Cathedral, Krakow, by Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak.On January 13, 1964, he was appointed archbishop of Krakow by Pope Paul VI, who made him a cardinal June 26, 1967 with the title of S. Cesareo in Palatio of the order of deacons, later elevated pro illa vice to the order of priests.Besides taking part in Vatican Council II (1962-1965) where he made an important contribution to drafting the Constitution Gaudium et spes, Cardinal Wojtyla participated in all the assemblies of the Synod of Bishops.The Cardinals elected him Pope at the Conclave of 16 October 1978, and he took the name of John Paul II. On 22 October, the Lord's Day, he solemnly inaugurated his Petrine ministry as the 263rd successor to the Apostle. His pontificate, one of the longest in the history of the Church, lasted nearly 27 years.Driven by his pastoral solicitude for all Churches and by a sense of openness and charity to the entire human race, John Paul II exercised the Petrine ministry with a tireless missionary spirit, dedicating it all his energy. He made 104 pastoral visits outside Italy and 146 within Italy. As bishop of Rome he visited 317 of the city's 333 parishes.He had more meetings than any of his predecessors with the People of God and the leaders of Nations. More than 17,600,000 pilgrims participated in the General Audiences held on Wednesdays (more than 1160), not counting other special audiences and religious ceremonies [more than 8 million pilgrims during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 alone], and the millions of faithful he met during pastoral visits in Italy and throughout the world. We must also remember the numerous government personalities he encountered during 38 official visits, 738 audiences and meetings held with Heads of State, and 246 audiences and meetings with Prime Ministers.His love for young people brought him to establish the World Youth Days. The 19 WYDs celebrated during his pontificate brought together millions of young people from all over the world. At the same time his care for the family was expressed in the World Meetings of Families, which he initiated in 1994.John Paul II successfully encouraged dialogue with the Jews and with the representatives of other religions, whom he several times invited to prayer meetings for peace, especially in Assisi.Under his guidance the Church prepared herself for the third millennium and celebrated the Great Jubilee of the year 2000 in accordance with the instructions given in the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio adveniente. The Church then faced the new epoch, receiving his instructions in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, in which he indicated to the faithful their future path.With the Year of the Redemption, the Marian Year and the Year of the Eucharist, he promoted the spiritual renewal of the Church.He gave an extraordinary impetus to Canonizations and Beatifications, focusing on countless examples of holiness as an incentive for the people of our time. He celebrated 147 beatification ceremonies during which he proclaimed 1,338 Blesseds; and 51 canonizations for a total of 482 saints. He made Thérèse of the Child Jesus a Doctor of the Church.He considerably expanded the College of Cardinals, creating 231 Cardinals (plus one in pectore) in 9 consistories. He also called six full meetings of the College of Cardinals.He organized 15 Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops - six Ordinary General Assemblies (1980, 1983, 1987, 1990, 1994 and 2001), one Extraordinary General Assembly (1985) and eight Special Assemblies (1980,1991, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998 (2) and 1999).His most important Documents include 14 Encyclicals, 15 Apostolic Exhortations, 11 Apostolic Constitutions, 45 Apostolic Letters.He promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the light of Tradition as authoritatively interpreted by the Second Vatican Council. He also reformed the Eastern and Western Codes of Canon Law, created new Institutions and reorganized the Roman Curia.As a private Doctor he also published five books of his own: "Crossing the Threshold of Hope" (October 1994), "Gift and Mystery, on the fiftieth anniversary of my ordination as priest" (November 1996), "Roman Triptych" poetic meditations (March 2003), "Arise, Let us Be Going" (May 2004) and "Memory and Identity" (February 2005).In the light of Christ risen from the dead, on 2 April a.D. 2005, at 9.37 p.m., while Saturday was drawing to a close and the Lord's Day was already beginning, the Octave of Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday, the Church's beloved Pastor, John Paul II, departed this world for the Father.From that evening until April 8, date of the funeral of the late Pontiff, more than three million pilgrims came to Rome to pay homage to the mortal remains of the Pope. Some of them queued up to 24 hours to enter St. Peter's Basilica.On April 28, the Holy Father Benedict XVI announced that the normal five-year waiting period before beginning the cause of beatification and canonization would be waived for John Paul II. The cause was officially opened by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, on June 28 2005, and he was beatified May 1, 2011.On April 27 , 2014 he was canonized by Pope Francis during a ceremony in St. Peter's Square.In an April 24 message sent to the Church in Poland, Pope Francis gave thanks for the great “gift� of the new Saint, saying of John Paul II that he is grateful, “as all the members of the people of God, for his untiring service, his spiritual guidance, and for his extraordinary testimony of holiness.�
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First Reading - Eph 3: 2-12
10/22/2014 12:00:00 AM
2 If yet you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me towards you: 3 How that, according to revelation, the mystery has been made known to me, as I have written above in a few words; 4 As you reading, may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, 5 Which in other generations was not known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit:6 That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and co-partners of his promise in Christ Jesus, by the gospel: 7 Of which I am made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God, which is given to me according to the operation of his power: 8 To me, the least of all the saints, is given this grace, to preach among the Gentiles, the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 And to enlighten all men, that they may see what is the dispensation of the mystery which hath been hidden from eternity in God, who created all things: 10 That the manifold wisdom of God may be made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places through the church,11 According to the eternal purpose, which he made, in Christ Jesus our Lord: 12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
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