Wednesday, July 27, 2016

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Krakow, Poland, Jul 27, 2016 / 04:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On his first night in Krakow Pope Francis was already stirring things up with participants in WYD by hosting an off-the-cuff Q and A and telling them to ‘make chaos’ by spreading the joy of their faith.

“You must do your duty and make chaos all night. Show your Christian joy, the joy the Lord gave you to be in the community who follows Jesus,” the Pope told those participating in World Youth Day after arriving to Krakow July 27.

He spoke from the balcony of the Bishop’s Palace, telling the thousands of youth gathered below not to be afraid, but to have faith and spread the joy that comes from following Christ.

Pope Francis is currently in Krakow for this July 27-31 trip to Poland for WYD. Every night when he comes back to the city after the day’s activities, Francis is set to appear on the palace balcony to address youth gathered below.

The tradition was initiated by St. John Paul II, who spoke to youth from the balcony every time he visited his homeland as Pope. It was continued by Benedict XVI when he visited Poland in 2006, and is now being carried on by Francis.

In his brief speech, the Pope first recalled the story of a young man who had studied graphic design for just over two years, but decided to leave his studies in order to volunteer for WYD.

He immediately put his talents to use, designing all of the banners that currently decorate the streets of Krakow in honor of WYD, the Pope said, noting that “images of the patron saints” found on practically every street – St. John Paul II and St. Maria Faustina Kowalska – were done by this young man.

In the process of his work for WYD, the youth rediscovered his faith, but was diagnosed with cancer in November, Pope Francis recalled. He noted how the doctors had amputated the young man’s leg in an effort to save his life, but it didn’t work, and the cancer continued to spread.

This young man “wanted to live through the Pope’s visit” and had even reserved a place on the Krakow tram that the Pope will take later in the week with sick and disabled youth as his special passengers. However, the young man didn’t make it, and died July 2.

“He did a lot of good for everyone,” Francis said, leading the youth below in a moment of silent prayer for the young man who died.

“We must get used to the good things and the bad things. Life is like this, dear young people,” he said, while stressing that “there is something we cannot doubt: the faith of this young man, of our friend, who worked so much for this WYD.”

After leading the youth in a round of applause for the example of the young man, he urged them to give thanks to the Lord “because he gives us examples of courage, of courageous youth who help us to go forward in life.”

“Don’t be afraid, God is great, God is good, and all of us have something good,” he said, and bid the youth farewell before telling them to “make chaos” all night in a show of their Christian joy.

Before going to the balcony, Pope Francis connected virtually with Italian youth participating in WYD as part of the July 26-29 youth festival, during which the youth show their culture through performances, singing, and dancing.

During the conversation, Pope Francis took questions from three Italian youth who gave their testimonies and asked a question afterwards.

He spoke to the first young person of the importance of knowing how to keep going in both good and bad moments, explaining that joy helps saves us from being “neurotic.”

The Pope then heard the testimony of Andrea, a 15-year-old from the Diocese of Bergamo who was teased growing up. As a result she attempted suicide at the age of 13. However, when she was recovering in the hospital she realized that there was nothing wrong with her, but rather with those who teased her, and that she was stronger than she thought.

While she has moved beyond that period in her life, Andrea said she still feels the pain and finds it hard to let go, and asked the Pope how she can learn to completely forgive the people who teased her.

In his response, the Pope said that cruelty is a common problem among children, and even adults. “Children are cruel many times, and they have that capacity to hurt you where it will do the most damage,” he said, noting that cruelty is the “base of all wars.”

This cruelty “kills even the good name of another,” he said, and warned against the “terrorism of gossip.”

“Gossip is terrorism,” Francis said, explaining that when a person gossips, “it destroys the dignity, the fame of a person.” To gossip, he added, is like “throwing a bomb” that explodes and destroys everything around it.

Pope Francis said this temptation is something that must be overcome with peace and forgiveness, but noted that to forgive “isn’t easy, because one can say ‘I forgive, but I don’t forget.’”

“You always carry with you the hurt of this cruelty,” he said, explaining that to completely forgive someone for harm done “is a grace that we have to ask the Lord for. By ourselves we can’t, but we have to ask the lord to give us the grace to forgive, to forgive our enemies.”

The final question Francis received was from a group of youth and a priest who had been in Munich Feb. 22 when an 18-year-old German teenager of Iranian descent killed nine people and injured nearly 30 others after opening fire at the city’s Olympia shopping mall.

After they were forced to cut their trip short and head home, the group still managed to make it to WYD, and asked the Pope how youth can spread peace in a world filled with hate.

In reply, Pope Francis spoke of the difference between peace and hate, explaining that peace always builds bridges, whereas hatred only builds walls.

“We all have a decision to make in life: do I build bridges, or do I build walls?” he said, noting that bridges unite, whereas walls divide.

“In our daily lives the ability to build a bridge when you extend your hand to a friend, you make a bridge. But when you hit, hurt another, you build a wall. Hate always grows with walls,” he said, noting that many times when we reach out our hand to build a bridge, we’re left hanging.

He said there are certain “humiliations” like this that we’ll have to experience in order to truly walk the path of unity, but stressed that we must “always build bridges.”

As the youth gathered to speak to him took up one another’s hands in a concrete show of unity, Francis closed by emphasizing that “we must build bridges, not allow ourselves to fall on the ground. No. Always seek the way to build bridges.” 

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Philadelphia, Pa., Jul 27, 2016 / 03:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Democratic Party platform has drawn the ire of critics – including a member of Barack Obama’s former campaign – who say its extreme positions on abortion shut out millions of pro-life voters.

“It’s morally reprehensible,” Michael Wear, director of faith outreach for Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign, told CNA of the pro-abortion plank. The party had an opportunity “to re-open the big tent” and adopt pro-life policies for pro-life Democrats, but did not, he continued.

The Democratic Party platform acknowledges problems like wage stagnation, racism, and income inequality and calls for a broad range of polices; the list includes promoting abortion-on-demand, a “progressive” vision of religious freedom, supporting a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage, overturning the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, and expanding protections in “sex discrimination law.”

It includes a call for the full abolition of the death penalty, using much stronger language than the 2012 platform, which simply said that capital punishment “must not be arbitrary.”

Absent from the platform was any mention of pornography as a “public health crisis,” as the GOP platform had called it.

The abortion plank in the platform shows a sharp departure from previous years. Gone is the call for abortion to be “rare.” Instead, “reproductive health” is considered “core to women’s, men’s, and young people’s health and wellbeing.”

The platform calls for a broad expansion of abortion access, including overturning the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal dollars from directly funding abortions, and the Helms Amendment, which bans federal dollars from funding abortions abroad. The proposal would overturn decades of U.S. policy.

Dr. Matthew Bunson, EWTN Senior Contributor, noted that when Bill Clinton ran for office in 1996, the Democratic platform mentioned abortion once. This year, abortion is mentioned 19 times in the platform.

“That itself gives us an idea of the seriousness of this issue for them,” he told EWTN News Nightly.

“In that ‘96 platform, there was specific reference to ‘conscience.’ You will not find that word in the Democratic platform in 2016,” he added.

The 2016 language describes “abortion on demand to be a social good worthy of explicit government support with tax dollars from everyone,” added Dr. Charles Camosy, a theology professor at Fordham University.

“I don’t think anyone who is on the side of justice for the vulnerable, of non-violence, could support something like that,” he told CNA.

“The abortion plank in the 2016 Democratic platform effectively marginalizes the voices of 21 million pro-life Democrats,” Kristen Day, executive director of the group Democrats for Life of America, wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed with Camosy.

One positive proposal in the platform was “paid family leave,” Camosy said. The platform calls for “national paid family and medical leave” where employees could receive at least 12 weeks of paid leave for childbirth or for a “serious” health problem of their own or of a family member.

The issue of “family leave” is “something that I think is implied in Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical letter Laborem Exercens,” Camosy said, “when he says that society’s social structures need to be oriented to allow women to serve both their vocation as a mother and as a professional, or worker.”

“And right now, they’re not,” he added, noting that the U.S. ranks behind other developed countries in offering paid maternity leave.

Last week at the Republican National Convention, Ivanka Trump, the daughter of GOP nominee Donald Trump, also brought up working mothers in a speech that discussed wage discrepancies for married women.

Camosy hopes that issue “is something that maybe pro-lifers and certain kinds of Republicans and almost every Democrat could agree on, as a way of not only honoring women per Laborem Exercens, but also creating conditions that would make abortion less likely to be chosen.”

On LGBT issues, the Democratic platform reiterates its support for “gay marriage” but also says there is more work to be done in preventing discrimination.

Some critics voiced concern over language that could be viewed as pitting religious freedom against LGBT interests. The platform says, “We support a progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate.”

The religious freedom section itself primarily focuses on Trump’s “vilification of Muslims,” and condemns any “religious test” administered to immigrants or refugees seeking entry into the U.S. Trump has suggested the policy of a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country as a security measure.

“It violates the religious freedom that is the bedrock of our country and feeds into ISIS’ nefarious narrative. It also alienates people and countries who are crucial to defeating terrorism; the vast majority of Muslims believe in a future of peace and tolerance,” the platform stated.

Michael Wear stressed the need to transcend partisan divides on religious freedom, and not simply recognize some concerns – like a Muslim ban or churches not being able to serve undocumented immigrants – but ignore other concerns, like adoption agencies being forced to close down because they won’t match children with same-sex couples.

“Religious freedom has become so polarized” and “so politicized,” he told CNA. “People of faith” need to start telling their stories, and explaining their contributions to society before they are marginalized from the public square.

“It’s a sincere problem when people think that if Catholic hospitals are no longer able to operate, the free market would fill in the gaps,” he said. “That’s not true. That’s not true in a state like Washington, where they provide over half of the hospital beds.”

“And so there needs to be, I think, an authentic, free, but public way of sharing the pivotal role that we play in this country. And it’s discordant to talk about helping immigrants, and then not appreciate Catholic Relief Services.”

On immigration, the platform emphasizes a “path to citizenship for law-abiding families who are here,” halting roundups, providing “due process” for migrants “fleeing violence in Central America,” and ending family detention centers.

Jeanne Atkinson of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network was “thrilled” with the platform’s immigration plank, hailing its referral to immigrants as “leaders” and its statement of “concrete policy positions.”

The platform showed an “emphasis on family,” she said, noting its call for ending family detention centers and insistence on keeping immigrant families together. “For the Catholic Church, that’s who we are,” she said.

Despite its promises of immigration reform, the Obama administration has drawn criticism from reform advocates for its deportations, particularly its raids on and deportations of migrant families.

“That’s absolutely always a risk,” Atkinson said, acknowledging her concerns of the current administration and a future president not following the party’s immigration platform. However, the platform serves as a good “advocacy tool” that they can use when talking to the administration, she said.

Criminal justice reform is also mentioned in the platform, with policy proposals like reform of mandatory minimums to grant judges more flexibility in sentencing certain offenders, support of the “ban the box” initiative, and “restoring voting rights” to felons after they have served their sentences.

Marijuana should be moved from its status as a “Schedule 1” drug and placed on a “pathway” to “legalization,” the platform continued.

One section of the document deals with “investing in rural America.” The group Catholic Rural Life was pleased that “the agricultural policies relating to greater support for family farms, conservation programs and beginning farmers and ranchers.”

Robert Gronski, policy coordinator for Catholic Rural Life, also praised “the environmental positions for clean energy, using farm-based bio-energy fuel sources.”

“Catholic Rural Life is heartened by the attention given to the situation of farmworkers in our country,” he added. “We began raising the concern about the effects of pesticides and herbicides on farmworkers who are tasked with applying these chemicals, yet not always properly trained or given proper protective attire. It is good to see this mentioned specifically in the platform.”

 

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