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In letter to Cardinal Sarah, pope clarifies new translation norms

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican is not to "impose" a specific liturgical translation on bishops' conferences, but rather is called to recognize the bishops' authority and expertise in determining the best way to faithfully translate Latin texts into their local languages, Pope Francis said in a letter to Cardinal Robert Sarah.

In the letter, released by the Vatican Oct. 22, Pope Francis said he wanted to correct several points made in a "commentary," which Cardinal Sarah sent him and which was published on several websites in a variety of languages.

Cardinal Sarah is prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. The pope's letter noted that most of the websites "erroneously" cited Cardinal Sarah as the author of the commentary.

The commentary looked at changes Pope Francis made to the Code of Canon Law in the process for approving liturgical translations. The changes were ordered in the pope's document, "Magnum Principium" ("The Great Principle"), which was published Sept. 9 and went into effect Oct. 1.

Pope Francis, saying he wanted to "avoid any misunderstanding," insisted the commentary could give an erroneous impression that the level of involvement of the congregation remained unchanged.

However, while in the past "the judgment regarding the fidelity to the Latin and the eventual corrections necessary was the task of the congregation," the pope said, "now the norm concedes to episcopal conferences the faculty of judging the worth and coherence of one or another term in translations from the original, even if in dialogue with the Holy See."

The commentary attributed to Cardinal Sarah insisted on the ongoing validity of the norms for translation contained in "Liturgiam Authenticam," the congregation's 2001 instruction on translations.

But Pope Francis, in his letter, said the changes to canon law take precedence, and "one can no longer hold that translations must conform in every point to the norms of 'Liturgiam Authenticam' as was done in the past."

The texts for Mass and other liturgies must receive a confirmation from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, the pope said, but this "no longer supposes a detailed, word by word examination, except in obviously cases that can be presented to the bishops for further reflection."

Pope Francis also wrote to the cardinal that the "fidelity" called for in translations has three layers: "first, to the original text; to the particular language into which it is being translated; and, finally, to the intelligibility of the text" by the people.

The new process, the pope said, should not lead "to a spirit of 'imposition' on the episcopal conferences of a translation done by the congregation," but should promote cooperation and dialogue.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Health care law: uncertain outcome after multiple diagnoses

IMAGE: CNS photo/Mike Blake, Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Affordable Care Act -- on the examination table since President Donald Trump came into office -- has been poked, prodded and even pronounced dead while the fight to keep it alive keeps going.

President Trump told Cabinet members Oct. 16: "Obamacare is finished. It's dead. It's gone. ... There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore," but that is not how those who want health care reform, including Catholic leaders, see it, and it's not the general public's view either, according to a recent poll.

The Kaiser Family Foundation poll said seven in 10 Americans think it is more important for Trump to help the current health care law work than cause it to fail. Sixty-six percent of Americans want Trump and Congress to work on legislation to bolster the health insurance marketplaces rather than continuing their efforts to repeal and replace the ACA.

The poll, conducted by the Washington-based group that examines key health policy issues, was released Oct. 13, the day after Trump announced some changes to the current health care law. 

By executive order, he directed federal agencies to make regulatory changes to the ACA to allow consumers to buy health insurance through association health plans across state lines and lifting limits on short-term health care plans. He also announced that he was ending federal subsidies to health insurance companies that help pay out-of-pocket health care costs for those with low incomes.

The Obama administration had authorized the subsidies, but in 2016, Republicans filed a lawsuit, saying they were illegal because Congress had not authorized the payments.

The president's plan to end the subsidy payments prompted swift criticism from Democrats, U.S. health care groups and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said the bishops "will closely monitor the implementation and impacts of this executive order by the relevant administrative agencies."

He said flexible options for people to obtain health coverage are important strategies, but he also cautioned that "great care must be taken to avoid risk of additional harm to those who now receive health care coverage through exchanges formed under the Affordable Care Act."

A possible fix to Trump's cuts that would continue federal subsidies to insurance companies through 2019 was offered in a bipartisan Senate proposal by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, and Patty Murray, D- Washington, which Trump initially appeared to support but then backed down from a day later. 

When the Obama administration authorized the subsidies, Republicans filed suit, saying they were illegal because Congress had not authorized the payments.

By Oct. 20, there was no word on when the bill -- which also aims to provide states flexibility to skirt some requirements of the health care law -- might come to the Senate floor for a vote. Several senators have said they are waiting to see more details in the bill's text. Support from the House doesn't seem likely since House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, has said he opposes it.

Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity and president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, a leadership organization of more than 2,000 Catholic hospitals and health care facilities, has been keeping a close eye on the president's action on health care and the response by Congress.

"Working out a deal to keep the subsidies for a longer-term plan is something that is very important and critical to the future, particularly for the most vulnerable among us," she said.

Sister Keehan, who also is a nurse, told Catholic News Service Oct. 18 that she encourages the House and Senate to take immediate action to stabilize the insurance markets and delivery and "allow time for us to have a national conversation" about improving the health care law without letting those now covered with health insurance lost it or for "premiums to go out of sight."

So far, she has only seen parts of the Senate bill, but she said the Catholic Health Association is "willing to do what we can to craft a compromise that will work in the short term until we have a longer-term solution."

The Alexander-Murray bill is not the only text that needs a closer read to understand the future of the country's health care system. The new rules that will be written by federal agencies, per Trump's executive order, will also need a close look. These changes could appear within weeks but are unlikely to take effect before the end of the year.

Dr. Steven White, a pulmonary specialist in Ormond Beach, Florida, who is chairman of the Catholic Medical Association Health Care Policy Committee, said he is awaiting to see how new rules and regulations are written but is hopeful that some changes will be a move in the right direction.

White said his association sees less federal control and more patient control as a good thing and also would like the health law to offer more options, freedom and flexibility.

He told CNS Oct. 18 that pouring more money into health care isn't the solution, but he also echoed Bishop Dewane's concern that changes shouldn't be made on the backs of those with low incomes. He said if Congress backs legislation that supports subsidies, they need to balance that with the realization that such a plan "can't last forever."

"Something has to be done," he said a few times during the interview.

But just what will happen still remains a mystery.

Another finding of the Oct. 13 Kaiser poll showed that despite Americans' support for a bipartisan approach to health care, their confidence that Trump and Congress can work together to make this happen remains low.

Seven in 10 Americans said they are either not too confident or not at all confident that cooperation can happen.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Signs of the Spirit: App teaches blessings, how to pray in ASL

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When Sister Kathleen Schipani found out she was usually the very first person to teach deaf children to pray, she decided there had to be an app to fix that.

Learning to pray usually happens in the family, when a parent or relative recites the words for grace before meals, asks for blessings or requests guidance or protection, the Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary told Catholic News Service in Rome.

But when a child is born deaf into a hearing family, those kids shouldn't have to miss out on learning Catholic prayers or religious terms as they learn American Sign Language, she said Oct. 20.

Sister Schipani, who is director of the office for persons with disabilities and the deaf apostolate at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was in Rome as part of a conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. The gathering Oct. 20-22 was dedicated to sharing best practices in engaging and catechizing persons living with disabilities.

Lots of apps exist for learning ASL, she said, but there is nothing dedicated to religious terms, daily devotions or prayers of blessing, love, thanks and praise. The app meant to fill that gap is called, "Religious Signs for Families," and was to be available from the iTunes App Store and Google Play in early November.

"The locus of learning your faith starts in the family, so this app is really to provide families with the ability" to foster prayer in the home and bond with each other and with God as they pray in ASL, she said. It also will help teachers who want to teach elementary school students how to pray using sign language.

"Deaf people have deep experiences of prayer," she said, particularly because it involves praying with "their whole body" with signing and visualization.

"Deaf people have never heard the language that we speak so they are not hearing the little voice in their head like we are," she said. Instead some people say they pray visually with beautiful imagery or with seeing hands signing in their head.

While sacred music does not have the same ability to draw deaf individuals to prayer, sacred or beautiful art does, she said.

"A lot of deaf people have not been catechized because there was no one to sign to them, and that really is what the sad thing is -- when there is no opportunity for deaf people to know religious language and have an experience of someone teaching them," she said.

Sister Schipani said the beautiful thing about sign language is the signs are often "iconic," reflecting what the thing is and, therefore, they can convey the theology behind the concept.

For example, she said, the sign for "heaven" in the Jewish faith is moving both hands in a way that suggests a semi-circular dome -- the heavens -- overhead.

In the Christian faith, she said, the sign conveys the canopy of heaven, but with the other hand going through and up, "because we believe that Jesus, our savior, has come and we're saved so we can have the possibility of entering heaven."

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Editor's Note: The app has captions and voiceover in English and Spanish. More information can be found at http://deafcatholicphilly.org/religious-sign-app/.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Good works are response to, not reason for God's forgiveness, pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians are holy not because of their good works but because they recognize their sins before God and receive his forgiveness, Pope Francis said.

In his homily at Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae Oct. 20, the pope said that good deeds are "the answer to the freely given love of God, who justifies us and forgives us always."

"It is the Lord; he is the one who has forgiven our original sin and who forgives us every time we go to him," the pope said. "We cannot forgive our own sins with our works, only he can forgive. We can respond to this forgiveness with our works."

The day's Gospel reading from St. Luke, in which Christ warns his disciples about the dangers of hypocrisy, speaks of people trying to appear holy to others, while remaining "all dirty" within, the pope said.

"These people put makeup on their soul, they live off makeup, holiness is makeup for them," he said. "Jesus always asks us to be truthful, but truthful in our hearts."

Jesus, the pope continued, offers a different path than the hypocrites, who are nothing more than "soap bubbles" -- here today and gone tomorrow.

Pope Francis said Christ's warning on the danger of hypocrisy is a call for all men and women to "be consistent in our life, consistent in what we do and what we live," which brings with it the joy of God's forgiveness.

"Truth always in front of God. Always! And this truth in front of God is what makes room so that the Lord forgives us," the pope said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Vetoed bill on reproductive health called 'massive overreach by NARAL'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Mike Nelson, EPA

By

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CNS) -- Religious freedom advocates and pro-life leaders praised California Gov. Jerry Brown for vetoing a bill called the Reproductive Health Nondiscrimination Act that targeted religious employers and their faith-based codes of conduct for employees.

Assembly Bill 569 would have made it illegal for a California employer to discipline or fire employees for "their reproductive health decisions, including, but not limited to, the timing thereof, or the use of any drug, device or medical service."

Alliance Defending Freedom said the bill would have prohibited churches, religious colleges, religious nonprofit organizations and pro-life pregnancy care centers "from having faith-based codes of conduct with regard to abortion and sexual behavior."

The government "should not and cannot tell" employers that they cannot live out their beliefs within their own organizations, said Elissa Graves, legal counsel for the alliance, which is a nonprofit legal group that advocates for religious freedom and sanctity of life and on marriage and family issues.

"Gov. Brown was right to veto this immensely unconstitutional bill, which would have been an unprecedented overreach on the part of the state of California," she added in a statement about the governor's late-night action Oct. 15.

"The First Amendment doesn't allow the state to order churches and other faith-based groups to violate their most deeply held convictions," Graves said. "They have the freedom to live according to their faith and to require those who work for them to do the same."

The California Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's Catholic bishops, called the measure "a massive overreach by NARAL" and an attack on religious liberty. NARAL Pro-Choice America advocates for legal abortion and for expanding access to it.

After A.B. 569 was passed by the California Legislature as its 2017 session ended Sept. 18, the Catholic conference urged Catholics to send a message to Brown calling for him to veto it.

It said the bill "deliberately" targeted religious employers "in a false effort to stop widespread 'reproductive discrimination' but supporters cannot cite a single case in California where such discrimination has actually occurred."

"There are no substantiated claims of discrimination in the secular workforce against women who are pregnant or exercise 'reproductive choices' because such actions have been illegal for decades under the Fair Employment and Housing Act," the conference said.

It noted the bill's supporters could only point to one case in the state in the last decade "implicating a religious employer" and "that matter was settled out of court."

"In a reach unknown in any other legal system, supporters (of A.B. 569) have expanded those who can allege discrimination in court to include anyone in the employee's family and holds supervisors personally and legally responsible for enforcing the policy of employers," the conference said.

"With no restraint in sight," the conference said, the bill did not allow employers to enforce codes of conduct, "even those negotiated with employees as part of union contracts."

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope's pro-life challenge: Respect all life, oppose death penalty

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Jenevieve Robbins, Texas Department of Criminal Justice handout via Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' recent statement that the death penalty is incompatible with the Gospel focused less on a government's role in protecting its people and more on the need to defend the sacredness and dignity of every human life.

At least from the time of Blessed Paul VI in the 1960s, the Catholic Church has been increasingly critical of the use of capital punishment, even while acknowledging centuries of church teaching that a state has a right to punish offenders, including with the death penalty.

St. John Paul II, in his 1995 encyclical letter, "The Gospel of Life," wrote of his alarm at "the extraordinary increase and gravity of threats to the life of individuals and peoples," but said one sign of hope was the increasing opposition around the world to capital punishment.

"There is evidence of a growing public opposition to the death penalty, even when such a penalty is seen as a kind of 'legitimate defense' on the part of society. Modern society, in fact, has the means of effectively suppressing crime by rendering criminals harmless without definitively denying them the chance to reform," he wrote.

Two years later, Pope John Paul had the Catechism of the Catholic Church revised to strengthen its anti-death penalty posture. The text now says that, "given the means at the state's disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender 'today ... are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.'"

Opponents of the death penalty cheered St. John Paul's move, and theologians recognized it as a "development" of church teaching.

Death penalty opponents also welcomed Pope Francis' even stronger position against capital punishment, but his words set off a debate between those who saw his position as a further development of church teaching and those who saw it as a "change" that contradicted both the Bible and the traditional position of the Catholic Church.

Edward Feser, a professor of philosophy at California's Pasadena City College and author of "By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment," told Catholic News Service that St. John Paul's teaching was "a nonbinding prudential judgment," which was in line with centuries of church teaching recognizing the right of states to impose the death penalty.

And, writing in Britain's Catholic Herald Oct. 15, Feser said that if Pope Francis "is saying that capital punishment is always and intrinsically immoral, then he would be effectively saying -- whether consciously or unconsciously -- that previous popes, fathers and doctors of the church, and even divinely inspired Scripture are in error."

But Jesuit Father Jan Dacok, a professor of moral theology and theologian at the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court, said the church always insisted there were limits to the conditions under which a state could legitimately impose the death penalty. St. John Paul, he said, emphasized those limits to the point of saying that now that it is easier to keep a murderer in jail for life, the necessary conditions for legitimacy are "practically nonexistent."

Pope Francis took a further step forward, Father Dacok said. The pope "did not change church teaching, but places it on a higher level and points out the path toward its perfection."

"What is accomplished with the death penalty?" the Slovakian Jesuit asked. "Do you obtain the true repentance of criminals? Do you offer them the possibility of correcting their ways, of asking for forgiveness?"

"No," he said. "With the execution, the death, you irreversibly cancel the entire dynamic of hope" for repentance, conversion and at least some attempt at reparation.

"Obviously, Pope Francis cannot change the laws of individual countries, because that's the competence of legislators," Father Dacok said. "But he can continually encourage respect for the sacredness of every human life, because the death penalty truly is not necessary."

Because security and justice can be served without capital punishment, he said, the urgent matter today is to demonstrate respect for the sacredness of every human life, "even the life of public criminals responsible for the death of others."

Father Robert A. Gahl Jr., a priest of Opus Dei and a professor of ethics at Rome's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, said Pope Francis "continues the recent development of doctrine regarding the centrality of mercy for the Christian faith and the urgency to promote a culture of life in today's throwaway culture," where abortion and euthanasia are widely accepted.

"Pope Francis wants the church to offer a radical example of the defense of all human life," Father Gahl said. And "without condemning all past practices, he vigorously demands the elimination of the death penalty."

The priest noted the church's historic concern for the impact of the death penalty not just on the criminal, but also on judges and executioners.

In fact, the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which was in effect until 1983, listed as those generally barred from priestly ordination "a judge who passed a sentence of death" and "those who take up the task of (execution) and their immediate and voluntary assistants in the execution of a capital sentence."

On the question of whether Pope Francis' statement marks a "development" or a "change," Father Gahl said the pope probably intended to "shake up theologians and to force us to reconsider traditional formulations of permanent teaching in light of this new and authoritative development of mercy and human dignity."

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said Pope Francis was exercising his right and obligation to teach on faith and morals.

"Obviously, the church does not intervene on the level of civil legislation," the archbishop told CNS, "but today the pope authoritatively affirms that from a deeper understanding of the Gospel emerges the contradiction between the death penalty and the gospel of life."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope: Common witness of faith can strengthen Catholics, Methodists

IMAGE: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholics and Methodists can strengthen each other through a shared witness of faith, especially through acts of love toward the poor and the marginalized, Pope Francis said.

The mutual call to holiness shared by both communities "is necessarily a call to communion with others, too," the pope said Oct. 19.

"When, as Catholics and Methodists, we join in assisting and comforting the weak and the marginalized -- those who in the midst of our societies feel distant, foreign and alienated -- we are responding to the Lord's summons," he said.

The pope met at the Vatican with members of the World Methodist Council who were in Rome to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Joint International Methodist-Catholic Dialogue Commission.

Welcoming the delegation members, the pope said that in the Bible, the 50th year is a significant moment for the people of Israel in which liberty is proclaimed throughout the land.

"We are grateful to God because we can say that, in a certain sense, we too have been freed from the slavery of estrangement and mutual suspicion," he said.

Citing the Second Vatican Council, the pope said that since then, both communities have striven to continue along the path of knowledge and mutual esteem through dialogue that is carried out "in a spirit of honesty and integrity" with "love for the truth, with charity and with humility."

"We are brothers and sisters who, following a long separation, are happy once more to see and learn about one another, and to move forward with open hearts," he said.

The pope also recalled the life and example of John Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism, who dedicated his life to helping others "live a holy life."

By recognizing those who dedicate themselves to reading the Bible and to prayer, he said, Catholics "cannot fail to rejoice" when the work of the Holy Spirit is recognized "in other Christian confessions."

Like the disciples awaiting the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Catholics and Methodists must "remain together" in prayer and hope so that the Spirit of God may "bring about the miracle of reconciled unity."

"We have learned to see one another as brothers and sisters in Christ," Pope Francis said. "Now is the time to prepare ourselves, with humble hope and concrete efforts, for that full recognition that will come about, by God's grace, when at last we will be able to join one another in the breaking of the bread."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope: If world insists on success, then make life more just, humane

IMAGE: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Do not fall for the allure of money, which can enslave and alienate like a cult, Pope Francis told business school students.

"And it is also important that you be able to learn today the strength and courage to not blindly obey the invisible hand of the market," he said.

The pope spoke Oct. 19 at the Vatican to a group of students from a private Catholic school, "Institution des Chartreux," in Lyon, France. They are preparing for higher education in business and finance.

The pope said he was pleased they were receiving an education that touched on the "human, philosophical and spiritual" dimensions of life and said these aspects would be essential for their future professional life.

"Learn to remain free from the allure of money, from the slavery" that befalls those who "turn it into a cult," he said.

He called on them to promote and defend more fairness and to manage the world's resources adequately and justly.

"You are able to decide your future," he said, urging them to feel and become more responsible for the world and human life.

"Never forget that every injustice against a poor person is an open wound and diminishes your very dignity," he said.

"Even if this world expects that you strive for success, give yourselves the means and the time to follow paths of fraternity, to build bridges between people rather than walls" and to take part in the building of a more just and human world, he said.

 

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Bishops' migration chairman asks for extension of immigration status

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The head of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration said some migrants from Honduras and El Salvador cannot safely return to their home countries in the near future and should have a special immigration permit extended.

The U.S. government will consider in early November whether to extend, for some migrants hailing from the two countries, what's known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS. The designation is for those who come to the U.S. from certain countries because of a natural disaster, continuing armed conflict or other extraordinary conditions. The status for Honduras and El Salvador is set to expire in early 2018.

"There is ample evidence to suggest that current TPS recipients from Honduras and El Salvador cannot return safely to their home country at this time," said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration. He cited a report issued by bishops' Office of Migration and Refugee Services titled "Temporary Protected Status: A Vital Piece of the Central American Protection and Prosperity Puzzle."

The report recommends that the U.S. government extend TPS for some 257,000 people from El Salvador and Honduras in the U.S., who currently have a work permit and reprieve from deportation.

In a letter of introduction to the report, Bishop Vasquez said: "As you read this report, I urge you to keep the people of El Salvador and Honduras, including TPS recipients, in your thoughts and prayers. I encourage you to engage the administration in requesting a TPS extension for El Salvador and Honduras . . . and to reach out to your elected congressional leaders to request they support a legislative solution for TPS recipients who have been in the United States for many years."

Advocates worry because the Department of Homeland Security, under the Trump administration, has signaled reluctance to extend the status for other countries.

In mid-September, the Trump administration announced the end of TPS for nationals from the North African nation of Sudan, prompting outcry from Catholic groups who say they worry about the conditions the migrants will face upon their return. Though the administration said it is safe for them to return, the U.S. Department of State warned against travel to the country because of "risks of terrorism, armed conflict and violent crime."

Haitians who obtained TPS after the country's devastating 2010 earthquake, also are waiting to learn whether they'll have to return to an unstable country, since DHS also has signaled it plans to end TPS status for the Caribbean nation. Catholic groups and others have said it is not safe for them to return because of instability on the island.

In a similar way, the report says Honduras is a "fragile state" and unable to accommodate the return of a large number of its nationals. El Salvador, too, has a pervasive crime problem, as well as other social ills, and, too, would face hardship with a return of large numbers of nationals, it says.

The report is based on the findings of a delegation from the USCCB and MRS that visited Honduras and El Salvador Aug. 13-19 to examine conditions in those countries and whether they can "adequately receive and integrate the possible return of existing TPS recipients."

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Editors: The full text of the report can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/fact-finding-mission-reports/upload/el-salvador-honduras-report-20171016.pdf.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Faith brings hope even at moment of death, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians can find hope even at the hour of death, which faith teaches is not a closed door but a wide-open passage to a new life with Christ, Pope Francis said.

While all men and women are "small and helpless in front of the mystery of death," Jesus' victory over death assures Christians of the joy of the resurrection, the pope said Oct. 18 during his weekly general audience.

Despite chilly temperatures in Rome, thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square to greet the pope who rode around St. Peter's Square in the popemobile, stopping frequently to greet pilgrims and kiss babies.

Making sure one child was kept warm, the pope pulled up the hood of the baby's jacket before he was taken back to his parents.

Continuing his series of talks on Christian hope, Pope Francis reflected on death, which is "a reality that our modern civilization tends to eradicate" so completely that "when death comes to us or those around us, we are unprepared."

Past civilizations, however, "had the courage to look death in the face," he said, and viewed death not with fear but as "an inescapable reality that forced man to live for something absolute."

Death "shows us that our acts of pride, anger and hatred were vanity: pure vanity," the pope said. "We realize with regret that we have not loved enough and did not look for what was essential."

Before raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus' mourns his friend's death, the pope noted. Christ's behavior shows that despite hope in the resurrection, Christians can "feel sorrowful when a dear person passes away."

"Christian hope draws from the approach that Jesus takes against human death: if this (death) is present in creation, it is nevertheless a gash that disfigures God's plan of love, and the savior wants to heal us of it," the pope said.

In another instance, he continued, Jesus comforts Jairus after his daughter's death because "he knew that man was tempted to react with anger and desperation."

Jesus' invitation to "not be afraid," he said, is a call for all Christians to guard the "small flame" of faith within that keeps them from falling into "the precipice of fear" that comes at the moment of death.

Departing from his prepared remarks, Pope Francis asked pilgrims to close their eyes and "think about our own death and imagine the moment that will come when Jesus will take us by the hand and say, 'Come, come with me, get up.'"

"There hope will end and it will be a reality, the reality of life," Pope Francis said. "Jesus himself will come to each of us and take us by the hand with his tenderness, his meekness, his love."

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