Farewell open house for Msgr. John Richter to be held Sunday in New Ulm at Cathedral parish

NEW ULM - After 53 years of active ministry to the priesthood, Msgr. John Richter, senior associate at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New Ulm, will be retiring. There will be a farewell open house luncheon on Sunday, Aug. 23, from 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. at Leifeld Hall located at the parish. Everyone is invited to attend.

Msgr. Richter was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of New Ulm on Feb. 22, 1964, at the Church of St. Mary in Bird Island by Bishop Alphonse J. Schladweiler.

Following ordination he served the parish communities of New Ulm (Cathedral of the Holy Trinity with teaching duties at Cathedral High School), Hutchinson, Montevideo, Madison, Canby, Sleepy Eye (while also serving as superintendent of St. Mary’s Catholic School and chaplain of Divine Providence Home in Sleepy Eye), Wabasso, Seaforth, Lucan, Wanda, and Searles.

He has served as rector of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New Ulm since 2002 and as sacramental minister, parochial minister, and then pastor of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Searles.

On Sept. 14, 2005, he was named Chaplain to His Holiness with the title of Monsignor by Pope Benedict XVI.

On the diocesan level, Msgr. Richter served as the director of vocations. He has served on several councils and committees including the Evangelization and Catechesis Committee, Priests’ Council, Priest Personnel Board, and Finance Council.

In 1998 Msgr. Richter was awarded the Diocesan Distinguished Service Award by Bishop Raymond A. Lucker.


Fr. Leland Mead dies at age 76

MADISON LAKE, MN - Retired priest of the Diocese of New Ulm Fr. Leland Clarence Mead, age 76, of Madison Lake, died Friday, July 14, 2017, at his home.

Mass of Christian Burial will be 11:00 a.m., Thursday, July 20, 2017, at the Church of St. Peter in St. Peter.  Visitation will be 4-7 p.m. on Wednesday at Mankato Mortuary, and continues one hour prior to the mass at the church on Thursday.  Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery in St. Peter. 

Complete obituary

U.S. Bishops Chairman Calls Senate to “Reject Changes” to Social Safety Net

WASHINGTON(June 27, 2017) - Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, has provided a more detailed critique of the Senate "discussion draft" health care bill, dubbed the "Better Care Reconciliation Act" (BCRA).

"Removing vital coverage for those most in need is not the answer to our nation's health care problems, and doing so will not help us build toward the common good," said Bishop Dewane. "For the sake of persons living on the margins of our health care system, we call on the Senate to reject changes intended to fundamentally alter the social safety net for millions of people."

The BCRA was introduced in discussion draft format on June 22, 2017, and is the Senate's working heath care proposal. Bishop Dewane again highlighted the need for lawmakers to withhold support for provisions that would harm poor and vulnerable people, including changes to Medicaid, in the June 27 letter. He also stressed the need for protections for the unborn in the bill, indicating that "[s]afeguards pertaining to the use of tax credits for plans that include abortion face steep challenges," and that the BCRA "needs to be strengthened to fully apply the longstanding and widely-supported Hyde amendment protections."  Bishop Dewane also noted that coverage for immigrants and conscience protections were lacking in the BCRA.

"The BCRA's restructuring of Medicaid will adversely impact those already in deep health poverty," warned Bishop Dewane. "At a time when tax cuts that would seem to benefit the wealthy and increases in other areas of federal spending, such as defense, are being contemplated, placing a 'per capita cap' on medical coverage for the poor is unconscionable."

The full letter can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/health-care/upload/senate-discussion-letter-health-care-reform-2017-06-27.pdf

US bishops launch 2017 Fortnight for Freedom

Washington D.C.,  (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops have launched a website and video to mark the beginning of this year’s Fortnight for Freedom, focusing on religious freedom issues both at home and abroad.

The video, about ten minutes long and viewable on the Fortnight for Freedom website, features a number of legal, religious, and other personalities discussing the importance of religious liberty. The Fortnight for Freedom takes place June 21 - July 4.

“Religious freedom is one of the basic freedoms of the human person because without religious freedom, the freedom of conscience, all other freedoms are without foundation,” Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami says at the beginning of the video.

“A government that doesn’t acknowledge limits on its own power to regulate religious institutions is probably going to come after other institutions as well,” said Professor Rick Garnett of the Notre Dame Law School.

The video chronicles the struggle between the Little Sisters of the Poor and the HHS mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

“It’s over three now that this issue has been pursuing us,” says Sr. Constance, L.S.P.

Testimonies from beneficiaries of the Sisters’ work are showcased in the video.

“There is a spiritual component in the way that they live their lives that adds to not only enrichment of the residents’ lives but to those who are in contact with them, who work with them, who just hear about them,” says Carmel Kang.

“When religious freedom goes away, and there is no transcendent authority, then the law is the only norm, and the people in power now are always the only power,” says Professor Helen Alvare of George Mason University Law School.

The video emphasizes the United States’ historical connection to freedom of religion.

“The United States is the greatest country in the history of the world precisely because of the exceptional character of its relationship to faith which permeates every dimension of its evolution,” says Eugene Rivers II, an activist and Pentecostal pastor.

The video also highlighted the struggle of religious peoples in other parts of the world.

“Tragically, we see the killings, the martyrdom of Christians in Iraq, and Libya, and Egypt, Syria,” says Archbishop Wenski. The video then showed clips from the video of 21 Coptic Christians being martyred by the Islamic State in early 2015.

Professor Thomas Farr of Georgetown University noted the increased threat since the Obergefell vs. Hodges Supreme Court decision in June 2015, and also observed that viewpoints motivated by religion are being silenced.

The video also summarized Dignitatis humanae, the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on religious freedom, as well as noting Pope Francis’ concern for persecuted Christians around the world.

“We have to bring not just optimism, but genuine Christian hope,” says Archbishop Lori of Baltimore, head of the USCCB’s Committee on Religious Liberty, which was made a permanent structure of the conference at their annual spring meeting last week.

The video closed with a montage of scenes and figures including the Selma to Montgomery March, St. John Paul II, and the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
The USCCB’s Fortnight for Freedom website provides a host of prayer and practical resources on the topic of religious freedom.

The prayer resources are based in Scripture as well as the examples of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, and are available in both English and Spanish.

Among the practical resources is a brief guide to the issue, which seeks to defend and clarify the bishop’s views, responding to concerns that defense of liberty is an affront to treating people “with equal dignity.”

Also included are summaries of religious liberty concerns in the United States and internationally. Domestically, issues listed include the HHS mandate, the right to practice faith in business, and religious institutes’ right to aid undocumented immigrants. Internationally, concerns are presented from the Central African Republic, Myanmar, and Mexico.

On May 4, the National Day of Prayer, President Trump signed an executive order on religious liberty while surrounded by faith leaders, including Cardinal Donald Wuerl of D.C. and the Little Sisters of the Poor. The order called for agencies to consider different enforcement of the mandate and looser enforcement of the Johnson Amendment. It was modified from an earlier, leaked version which critics claimed would have allowed for unjust discrimination of LGBT people.

On May 31, a draft rule providing blanket protection from the mandate was leaked.

The bishops’ website does not include the Johnson Amendment among its concerns.

US bishops urge caution as Senate considers health care bill

By Joe Slama

Indianapolis, Ind., Jun 16, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - The US bishops’ annual meeting (June 14-15) included on Thursday, June 14, a discussion on health care, focusing on efforts in Congress to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, chairman of the domestic justice and human development committee, focused on the underlying principles by which the bishops approach health care.

No law should “compel us or others to pay for the destruction of human life,” he said June 15, explaining respect for life, the first of the four “key principles.”

The other principles he enumerated weretrue access for all, true affordability, comprehensive and high-quality coverage, and no repeal of the Affordable Care Act without an adequate replacement. He also mentioned the importance of conscience protections.

He said those seeking health care should be able to do so “in accord with their means” and noted that “immigrants continue to be left out of this equation in many ways.”

Speaking about true affordability, he noted the bishops’ concern regarding “structural changes in Medicaid that would leave large numbers of people at risk to losing access.”

The Senate is currently considering the American Health Care Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives in May as a repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The US bishops have been cautious about the AHCA, saying in the past that it has “many serious flaws.”

Bishop Dewane enumerated four primary concerns of the bishops regarding the AHCA, staring with changes in Medicaid that would allow states to opt-out of important coverage.

He also discussed protection of the unborn, as the bill faces challenges in this respect in the Senate, and a lack of access to health care for migrants.

Finally, Bishop Dewane noted, “the House bill does not provide any conscience protections.”

The bishop stated that the committees related to health care would continue their collaboration, and to provide resources to bishops to help them “preach and teach” on the issue.

In closing his remarks, Bishop Dewane noted, “the teaching we bring to bear in the questions on health and health care do not fit neatly… into the single party platforms. Because of this, the Church has a unique voice.”

He emphasized that the bishops would continue work for those “most in need at all stages of life.”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the US bishops' conference, said discussion of health care “impacts nearly everyone in our society, but we as bishops strive to engage in this debate as a voice for the voiceless, for the poor, the sick, the unborn. There is still much to be done as the Senate considers a repeal and replacement for the Affordable Care Act.”

Among other bishops who spoke on the topic were Bishop George Thomas of Helena, who said we live in a time of “great gravity” as budget votes draw near which will affect Medicaid and nutritional assistance programs, and called for the bishops to work “by raising up a new degree of public consciousness.” Quoting Robert Frost, he implored the bishops that they “’choose the road less traveled’ for the sake of the people we have been ordained to serve.”

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago also took the floor, saying that “the state has a responsibility of creating solidarity in a country,” and noted that religious sisters working in health care should be consulted in further discussions. Bishop Dewane clarified that this has been the case already.

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego observed a “debasement of language” in the national health care debate, citing that while Bishop Dewane spoke of a “robust access,” the access being offered is only “access in theory, access if you’ve got enough money.”

He also noted that “health care is a fundamental human right,” but said the AHCA has been designed as “a house of sand which will deliberately fall apart in the coming years.” He also said that bishops should automatically oppose any bill which is projected to lower the number of people with access to health care.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City explained that under the Affordable Care Act, his local Church lost all its Catholic hospitals, and said that the ACA’s “Medicaid provisions were not sustainable by the states.”

He noted also that while the Obama administration had promised there would always be an option for a plan that did not offer abortions, that promise turned out to be false.


To read the news releases, agenda, speeches, action items and election results from this year's annual U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) General Assembly, June 14-15, 2017, in Indianapolis, Indiana, visit http://www.usccb.org/about/leadership/usccb-general-assembly/.




U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Releases 2016 Annual Report on the Protection of Children and Young People

June 9, 2017

Washington - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People has released their 2016 Annual Report – Findings and Recommendations on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

The 2016 report for audit year July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016, states that 1,232 adults that came forward with 1,318 allegations. This increase is focused within six dioceses: two dioceses with bankruptcy proceedings and four where the state extended the statute of limitations. These six dioceses received an additional 351 allegations compared to the 2015 audit year. Also, it notes that 1,510 victim/survivors received ongoing support.

Also noted in the report is the ongoing work of the Church in continuing to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults.  In 2016, over 2.4 million background checks were conducted on our clerics, employees, and volunteers. Over 2.3 million adults and 4.2 million children have also been trained on how to identify the warning signs of abuse and how to report those signs.

All dioceses and eparchies that received an allegation of sexual abuse during the 2016 audit year reported them to the appropriate civil authorities.

Twenty-five new allegations came from minors. As of June 30, 2016, two were substantiated, eight were still under investigation, and eleven were unsubstantiated or unable to be proven. Of the remaining four, two were referred to a religious order, one was referred to another diocese, and one investigation was postponed due to an order of confidentiality from the bankruptcy court.

Regarding Charter Compliance, the reported noted the following:

·         Two eparchies did not participate in the audit this year, but have expressed their intention to participate in next year's audit.

·         191 dioceses and eparchies were found compliant with the Charter.

·         All dioceses/eparchies participating in the 129 data collection audits were found compliant with the process.

·         Of the sixty-five dioceses/eparchies participating in the on-site audits, all were found compliant except for two dioceses and one eparchy.

·         One diocese was found non-compliant with respect to Article 2 and one diocese with respect to Article 3. One eparchy was found non-compliant with respect to Articles 2 and 12.

The Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People continues to emphasize that the audit and maintaining zero-tolerance policies are two important tools in the Church's broader program of creating a culture of protection and healing that exceeds the requirements of the Charter.

This is the fourteenth such report since 2002 when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People making a promise to protect and a pledge to heal. 

The full Annual Report can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/child-and-youth-protection/upload/2016-Annual-Report.pdf

U.S. bishops will gather for a Mass of Prayer and Penance for Healing of Survivors of Clergy Sex Abuse; Mass will mark opening of June Plenary Assembly

WASHINGTON — As they begin the Spring General Assembly, Bishops from across the U.S. will gather at Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis for a Mass of Prayer and Penance for survivors of sexual abuse within the Church. The Mass is being held in response to a call from Pope Francis for all episcopal conferences across the world to have a Day of Prayer and Penance for victims of sexual abuse within the Church and will be held June 14, 2017 at 5:00 pm at Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

The bishops will gather together in solidarity to pray for victims and to acknowledge the pain caused by the failures of the Church in the past.  The Mass will mark the opening for the June Plenary Assembly of bishops taking place June 14-15 in Indianapolis. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will be the principal celebrant. Archbishop Wilton D.  Gregory, of Atlanta, and former President of the USCCB, will be the homilist.

In an act of penance and humility, the bishops will also kneel and recite a commemorative prayer that has been written for survivors of abuse in their healing. Intercessory Prayers of the Faithful will also be offered for those who have suffered due to clergy sex abuse. All dioceses and eparchies have been provided the suggested intercessory Prayers of the Faithful for use at any time of their choosing after June 14. 

In addition to this specific Day of Prayer and Penance, many dioceses and eparchies will also schedule their own Masses or other events to promote healing within their diocese/eparchy throughout the year.

The Mass is scheduled to be livestreamed.  The livestream link will be available on the USCCB website.  


US bishops say draft religious freedom rule 'long overdue'

Washington D.C., Jun 5, 2017(CNA/EWTN News) - A draft federal rule from the Trump administration regarding the contraception mandate is “encouraging news” that could help return federal health care policy to a better approach toward matters of conscience, the U.S. bishops have said.

“Regulations like these reflect common sense, and what had been the consistent practice of the federal government for decades to provide strong conscience protection in the area of health care,” Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, said June 1.

The bishops voiced hope that the final version of the regulations would remain strong. The bishops’ conference will analyze the final version in a more careful manner for more formal comment.

“Throughout, our goal will remain to protect both the conscience of individuals and our mission of sharing the Gospel and serving the poor and vulnerable through our ministries,” the bishops said.

Their comments responded to a 125-page draft memo of a religious liberty rule reportedly under consideration at the Department of Health and Human Services. The memo, dated May 23, was leaked and posted to the Vox news and opinion site.

The rule would add to, not replace, an Obama-era HHS rule, announced in late 2011, that required employers’ health plans to include coverage of sterilization and contraception. The mandate included some contraceptives that can cause abortion.

The initial rule’s religious exemption was so narrow it only exempted houses of worship, drawing widespread objections and lawsuits from more than 300 plaintiffs. Among those suing over the mandate is EWTN Global Catholic Network. CNA is part of the EWTN family.

Subsequent revisions allowed changes to the mandate for some religious entities. However, groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor objected that the rule still required their complicity in providing such coverage, which violates their religious and moral ethics. Refusal to comply with the current rule would result in heavy fines.

While the U.S. bishops noted the rule is still not approved, they said it is “long overdue.”

“If issued, these regulations would appropriately broaden the existing exemption to a wider range of stakeholders with religious or moral objections to the mandated coverage – not just houses of worship,” said Archbishop Lori, speaking on behalf of the U.S. bishops.

“This not only would eliminate an unwarranted governmental division of our religious community ‘between our houses of worship and our great ministries of service to our neighbors,’ but would also lift the government-imposed burden on our ministries ‘to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions’.” they said, citing the bishops’ 2012 statement “United for Religious Freedom.”

Other support for the draft rule came from Mark L. Rienzi, an attorney at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the legal group that represents the Little Sisters of the Poor.

He told a May 31 press call that the draft rule acknowledges that, given how widely available the mandated products are, “there is simply no need for the government to force unwilling religious groups who serve the poor to provide them or to pay massive fines that would shut down these types of ministries.”

In 2014, the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision ruled that the mandate violated the religious freedom of closely-held private companies; but this did not apply to the Little Sisters’ case, as their organization is a non-profit.

In May 2016, the Supreme Court ordered a lower court to re-hear the nuns’ case, a decision considered a technical win for the Little Sisters.

Rome conference to address safeguarding children online

By Hannah Brockhaus

Rome, Italy, May 31, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - An international congress in Rome this autumn will bring together experts to focus on the problem of online sexual abuse of minors and how to better safeguard children on the internet.

The Oct. 3-6 meeting is hosted by the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection and will conclude in an audience with Pope Francis during which he will be presented a “Declaration on Child Dignity in the Digital World.”

According to a May 31 statement, there are 3.2 billion internet users worldwide, children making up over one quarter of these – about 800 million users. These children and adolescents “are vulnerable to entirely new forms of harm and abuse such as trolling, cyberbullying, sextortion, and grooming for sexual exploitation.”

The international congress “will focus on the latest scientific research and technical understanding in this field, bringing together global experts and decision makers to discuss the risks and challenges of the digital age and its impact on the dignity of children.”

The invitation-only meeting intends to bring in more than 140 academic experts, leaders in business and civil society, high-level politicians, and religious representatives recognized around the globe.

The four days will include keynotes, plenary sessions, workshops, and a discussion forum focusing on the fields of cyber protection, cyber education, and cyber responsibility.

Afterward, the conference will issue a “Call for Papers” with the hope to stimulate innovative research and solutions to the problem of child protection online.

The congress is organized in partnership with WePROTECT Global Alliance, a movement dedicated to changing the handling of online child sexual exploitation around the world, and Telefono Azzurro, a non-profit whose purpose is the protection of minors from abuse and violence.

Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ, president of the CCP and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said in a statement that “the congress provides an outstanding opportunity to exchange knowledge and good practice on risks and prevention as children navigate this new digital world.”

Ernesto Caffo, the scientific coordinator of the congress, added that they “are proud to bring
together many of the world's leading scholars and researchers in the field of child

Their goal for the conference being to “substantially expand the body of knowledge on these complex issues and generate true global dialogue.”

UK Minister for Internet Safety and Security Joanna Shields said that while our increasingly connected society greatly empowers children, it “also exposes them to risks that compromise their safety and wellbeing.”

“To address these escalating global threats we need a broad coalition of government, faith leaders, academia and industry, all committed to protecting the dignity of children in this digital age.”

The congress follows a day-long seminar held March 23 on the prevention of child abuse, hosted by the CCP and the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

The seminar narrowed in on the importance of education in schools and parishes in the safeguarding of children – not only for teachers, but for parents and children – and on the Church's role.

Q & A on impact that President Trump's recently unveiled budget plan will have on the nation's poor, vulnerable

President Trump released his FY 2018 budget proposal “The New Foundation for American Greatness” on Tuesday, May 23, 2017, calling for a $54 billion increase in defense spending and an increase in immigration enforcement and border security funding along with stark cuts across much of the rest of the government including the elimination of dozens of long-standing federal programs that assist the poor and most vulnerable among us.

In the following Q & A link, Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, emphasizes the moral imperatives involved in such decisions and expresses concerns about their impact on the nation’s poor and vulnerable.


New Age convert to Catholicism shares her story with New Ulm Council of Catholic Women Convention goers

SLEEPY EYE, MINN. - Approximately 241 people were registered to attend the 58th annual New Ulm Diocesan Council of Catholic Women Convention held Saturday, April 29, at the Church of St. Mary in Sleepy Eye. The theme this year was “Proclaim the Word of God.”

The keynote speaker was Cari Donaldson, a wife and homeschooling mother of six residing in Connecticut. Donaldson shared her story of conversion from a two-income quasi-New Age newlywed couple who resolved never to have children or to embrace any form of organized religion, to becoming a large Catholic family.

With intermittent twists of humor, Donaldson told her remarkable tale of being raised Presbyterian in the suburbs of Michigan, to her conversion to Catholicism and the peace she has found as a Catholic.



Pope says Fatima visit is pilgrimage of peace and hope

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In a video message to the people of Portugal, Pope Francis said he would visit Fatima as a pilgrim of peace and to entrust the world to Mary’s immaculate heart.

“I come to you in the joy of sharing with you the Gospel of hope and peace,” the pope said in the message released by the Vatican May 10.

Pope Francis was to embark on a two-day visit to Fatima May 12-13 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions, which began May 13, 1917, when three shepherd children reported seeing the Virgin Mary. Click here to read more.

President Trump to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican on May 24

Vatican City, May 4, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) -  President Donald Trump will meet Pope Francis during a visit to the Vatican later this month.

“His Holiness Pope Francis will receive the Hon. Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, on Wednesday, 24 May 2017, at 8:30 a.m. in the Apostolic Palace,” the Vatican announced Thursday.

“President Trump will then meet with His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.”

The president's trip will also include visits to Israel and Saudi Arabia, according to officials. Trump will also attend a NATO meeting in Brussels on May 25 and a G7 summit in Sicily on May 26.

The president and the pope have sometimes been put at odds.

During a Feb. 18, 2016 in-flight press conference, Reuters reporter Philip Pullella asked the Pope to respond to Donald Trump’s immigration stand.

Pope Francis answered: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.”

The pontiff added he would “give the benefit of the doubt” to the political candidate.

One week prior, Trump had bashed Pope Francis as a “pawn” for the Mexican government and “a very political person” who does not understand the problems of the United States.

Holy See spokesman Father Federico Lombardi on Feb. 19 told Vatican Radio that the Pope’s comment “was never intended to be, in any way, a personal attack or an indication of how to vote” and had repeated a longstanding theme of his papacy, bridge-building.

The U.S. bishops have had a mixed response to the early days of the Trump administration, criticizing his refugee and immigration plan, while praising his pro-life measures.


Washington D.C., May 3, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Wednesday, May 3, sent out a text message alert urging Catholics to sign a petition calling on President Donald Trump to issue an executive order protecting religious freedom.

The petition, hosted by Human Life Action, encourages the president to sign such an executive order, which is rumored to be in the works for Thursday.

Religious freedom advocates have warned that, due to various mandates and rules issued during the Obama administration, religious institutions that uphold traditional marriage or do not cooperate with abortions and contraceptive use could soon face federal action if no executive order is issued to protect them.

A draft of such an executive order was leaked earlier this year, but was reportedly scuttled due to the efforts of Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner.

An executive order could help mitigate the effects of the HHS birth control mandate, which caused hundreds of religious non-profits and other employers to sue the federal government claiming the mandate forced them to violate their consciences.

The Trump administration has not yet stopped defending the mandate in court, although White House advisor Leonard Leo told Axios recently that the administration was not planning to defend the mandate indefinitely, but was rather still considering the best “litigation proof” route for lifting the mandate’s burden on religious employers.

Another reason for an executive order would be the protection of health care providers and crisis pregnancy centers from mandates that they perform abortions or cover them in employee health plans, according to religious freedom advocates.

Currently, the Weldon Amendments bars federal funding of states that force employers to provide abortion coverage for employees. But after California ruled that health care plans – including those of churches and religious organizations – had to include coverage for elective abortions, the head of the Office of Civil Rights at the federal Department of Health and Human Services decided last summer that the state had not violated the Weldon Amendment.

Also at stake is the tax-exempt status of schools and other religious institutions which teach that marriage is one man and one woman.

In 2015 oral arguments in the same-sex marriage case Obergefell v. Hodges, President Obama’s solicitor general Donald Verrilli said that the ability of these colleges to retain their tax-exempt status if same-sex marriage is the law of the land is “certainly going to be an issue.”

Another way an executive order could protect religious freedom would be to protect federal contractors, and dioceses and churches that provide military chaplains, from having to comply with mandates that they support same-sex marriage.

The Russell Amendment had upheld this freedom and was included in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that passed the House, but was removed by Senate Republicans so the bill could pass the Senate.

“Any Executive Order should make it clear that religious freedom entails more than the freedom to worship but also includes the ability to act on one's beliefs,” the U.S. Bishops’ Conference stated earlier this year on the need for an executive order.

“It should also protect individuals and families who run closely-held businesses in accordance with their faith to the greatest extent possible.”

Full text of Pope Francis' in-flight presser from Egypt

Vatican City, Apr 29, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his conversation with journalists on the way back from Egypt, Pope Francis touched on an array of topics, including North Korea, populism and a possible visit from President Donald Trump.

While nothing has been confirmed as far as a meeting with the U.S. president, much of what Francis said in the 32-minute press conference, which took place during his April 29 flight from Cairo to Rome, focused on themes that came up during his two-day visit to Egypt, but which can be applied to some of the major issues up for global discussion today.

CLICK for CNA's full transcript of the Pope's inflight press conference.

Pope Francis refuses bullet-proof vehicle for Egypt trip

Vatican City, Apr 25, 2017 (EWTN News) - Pope Francis will not use a bulletproof vehicle during his trip to Egypt this weekend, despite recent terror attacks against Christians in the country, according to Reuters.  

"The Pope will use a closed car to move around, but not an armoured one," Vatican spokesman Greg Burke confirmed yesterday. "That's how he wanted it."

This is not the first time Pope Francis has done so - he typically prefers to travel in more open vehicles, or ones that are not bulletproof, because he feels that allows him to better interact with the people on the streets.

Pope Francis will be traveling to Cairo, Egypt, April 28-29 for his first international trip of the year. Interfaith dialogue with Muslims and showing solidarity with persecuted Christians will be main priorities of the trip.

His trip comes after several recent attacks on Christian in the country.

In December, a bombing at Cairo's main Coptic cathedral killed at least 25 people and wounded dozens of others, most of them women and children.

On Palm Sunday, the bombing of two Coptic churches killed 43 and injured more than 100 others.

Last week, gunmen attacked security forces near the famous St Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai desert, killing a police officer and injuring three others. This attack and the church bombings were all claimed by ISIS.

Egypt’s president has declared a three-month state of emergency in the country following the Palm Sunday attacks. Despite the risk, the Vatican announced earlier this month that the Pope’s trip to Egypt would continue as planned.

Pope Francis was invited to visit Egypt by Coptic Catholic bishops during their visit at the Vatican Feb. 6. The Pope had also received an invitation to visit Egypt from the country’s president and from the Grand Imam of al Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayyeb, after his visit to the Vatican in the spring of 2016, making a thaw in Vatican-Muslim relations in Egypt.  

During his trip, Pope Francis will meet with the Grand Imama state officials, leaders of Egypt’s Catholic Coptic and Orthodox Coptic churches, and Catholic priests and religious of the country. 

It's official: Pope Francis to canonize Fatima visionaries during May visit

by Elise Harris

Vatican City, Apr 20, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - During his trip to Portugal for the centenary of the Fatima Marian apparitions next month, Pope Francis will canonize visionaries Francisco and Jacinta Marto, making them the youngest non-martyrs to ever be declared saints.

                                                                                  Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto. Public Domain.

                                                                                  Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto. Public Domain.

The children will be canonized during Pope Francis' May 13 Mass in Fatima. The decision for the date was made during a April 20 consistory of cardinals, which also voted on the dates of four other canonizations, in addition to that of Francisco and Jacinta, that will take place this year.

Some martyrs who will soon be saints are diocesan priests Andrea de Soveral and Ambrogio Francesco Ferro, and layman Matteo Moreira, killed in hatred of the faith in Brazil in 1645; and three teenagers – Cristóbal, Antonio, and Juan – killed in hatred of the faith in Mexico in 1529, who will be canonized October 15.

Bl. Angelo da Acri, a Capuchin priest who died in October 1739, and Faustino Míguez, a Piarist priest who founded the Calasanziano Institute of the Daughters of the Divine Shepherd, will also be canonized October 15.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, the Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, is the man who was largely responsible for advancing the visionaries’ cause, paving the way for them to become the first canonized children who were not martyred.

Previously, the Portuguese cardinal told CNA, children were not beatified, due to the belief “that children didn’t yet have the ability to practice Christian heroic virtue like adults.”

But that all changed when the cause for Francisco and Jacinta Marto arrived on his desk.

Francisco, 11, and Jacinta, 10, became the youngest non-martyr children in the history of the Church to be beatified when on May 13, 2000, the 83rd anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, Pope John Paul II proclaimed them "Blessed," officially showing that young children can become Saints.

The brother and sister, who tended to their family’s sheep with their cousin Lucia Santo in the fields of Fatima, Portugal, witnessed the apparitions of Mary now commonly known as Our Lady of Fatima.

During the first apparition, which took place May 13, 1917, Our Lady asked the three children to pray the Rosary and make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. The children did this and were known to pray often, giving their lunch to beggars and going without food themselves. They offered up their sacrifices and even refrained from drinking water on hot days.

When Francisco and Jacinta became seriously ill with the Spanish flu in October 1918, Mary appeared to them and said she would to take them to heaven soon.

Bed-ridden, Francisco requested and received his first Communion. The following day, Francisco died, April 4, 1919. Jacinta suffered a long illness and was eventually transferred to a Lisbon hospital, where she underwent an operation for an abscess in her chest. However, her health did not improve and she died Feb. 20, 1920.

Francisco and Jacinta “practiced Christian virtue in a heroic way,” Cardinal Martins said, explaining that among other things, one of the most obvious moments in which this virtue was apparent for him was when the three shepherd children were arrested and intimidated by their mayor on August 13, 1917.

Government stability in Portugal was rocky following the revolution and coup d’état that led to the overthrow of the monarchy and subsequent establishment of the First Portuguese Republic in 1910.

A new liberal constitution separating Church and state was drafted under the influence of Freemasonry, which sought to omit the faith – which for many was the backbone of Portuguese culture and society – from public life.

It was in this context that, after catching wind of the Virgin Mary’s appearance to Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia, district Mayor Artur de Oliveira Santos had the children arrested on the day Mary was to appear to them, and threatened to boil them in hot oil unless they would confess to inventing the apparitions.
At one point in the conversation at the jailhouse, Jacinta was taken out of the room, leaving Francisco and Lucia alone. The two were told that Jacinta had been burned with hot oil, and that if they didn’t lie, the same would happen to them.

However, instead of caving to the pressure, the children said: “you can do whatever you want, but we cannot tell a lie. Do whatever you want to us, burn us with oil, but we cannot tell a lie.”

“This was the virtue of these children,” Cardinal Martins said, noting that to accept death rather than tell a lie is “more heroic than many adults.”

“There’s a lot to say on the heroicness of children,” he said, adding that “because of this I brought their cause forward.”

Cardinal Martins was also the one to bring Lucia’s cause to the Vatican following her death in 2005. The visionary had spent the remainder of her life after the apparitions as a Carmelite nun.

Typically the must be a five-year waiting period after a person dies before their cause can be brought forward. However, after only three years Martins ask that the remaining two be dismissed, and his request was granted.

Although the diocesan phase of the cause has already been finished, Cardinal Martins – who knew the visionary personally – said Lucia’s process will take much longer than that of Francisco and Jacinta not only due to her long life, but also because of the vast number of letters and other material from her writings and correspondence that needs to be examined.

The cardinal, who will be present in Fatima with the Pope during his May 12-13 visit for the centenary of the apparitions, said he views the occasion as the conclusion of a process that began with him changing a norm regarding the view of children "and their heroic virtue.”

This process is important, he said, because it means there could be other children who practiced heroic virtue that can now be canonized, so “it’s certainly something important.”

“It needs to be seen that (children) are truly capable of practicing heroic virtue,” not only in Fatima, but “in the Christian life,” he said.

Although canonizations, apart from a few exceptions, are typically held in Rome, it was only recently that beatifications began to be held outside of Rome, in the local Church which promoted the new Blessed's cause.

This change was made by Cardinal Martins in September 2005, after receiving the approval of Benedict XVI.

In the past, a beatification Mass in Rome would be presided over by the Cardinal-Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints during the morning, with the Pope coming down to the basilica to pray to the new Blessed in the afternoon. Cardinal Martins said he decided to change this because the beatification and the canonization “are two different realities.”

“While the canonizations had a more universal dimension of the Church, the beatifications have a more local dimension, where they (the Blessed) came from,” he said, noting that this is reflected even in the words spoken during the rites for each Mass.

“Because of this, I made a distinction: the beatification in their (the Blessed’s) own church, in their diocese, and the canonizations in Rome.”

The result was “a fantastic revolution,” he said, explaining that while maybe 2-3,000 people would participate in the beatification ceremonies in Rome, hundreds of thousands started to come for the local beatification Masses of new Blessed in their home dioceses.

The cardinal said that “it’s beautiful” to see people – many times including friends and family members of new Blessed – join in honoring their countryman, asking for their intercession, and seeking to follow their example.

He believes the custom will remain like this, adding that it is beautiful particularly from the standpoint of evangelization.

“The new Blessed says to their brothers, many of whom they knew, ‘I am one of you, one like you, so you must follow my path and live the Gospel in depth’,” the cardinal said, explaining that this is “a formidable act of evangelization, and with everyone happy about the new Blessed, they’ll immediately do what they say!”

Cardinal Martins said the decision was also prompted by the emphasis placed on local Churches during the Second Vatican Council.

“I thought, one of the most effective ways to highlight the importance of local Churches is to conduct in the local diocese the beatification of one of their sons,” he said.

2017 Bishop Lucker Lecture presentation now online!

“The Rise of Sexual Expressionism in the Law” by Prof. Helen Alvaré

REDWOOD FALLS - The 2017 Bishop Lucker Lecture, sponsored by the Diocese of New Ulm, was held March 23 at the Church of St. Catherine in Redwood Falls.

The evening’s presenter was Helen Alvaré, professor of law at George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Va., where she teaches family law, law and religion, and property law. She has also taught law at the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America and the John Paul II Institute of Marriage and Family, both in Washington, D.C.

Alvaré’s talk was entitled “The Rise of Sexual Expressionism in the Law.”

To view Alvaré's presentation, click here.