USCCB committee chairmen applaud decision on transgender directive

A gender-neutral bathroom is seen at the University of California, Irvine in this 2014 file photo. (CNS/Reuters)

A gender-neutral bathroom is seen at the University of California, Irvine in this 2014 file photo. (CNS/Reuters)

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The chairmen of two U.S. bishops’ committees Feb. 24 praised President Donald Trump’s repeal of the Obama administration’s directive on transgender access to bathrooms.

The guidance, issued last May by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education, “indicated that public pre-K through 12 schools, as well as all colleges and universities, should treat ‘a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex,'” said the bishops’ joint statement. Continue reading

Posted in U.S.

Pope, top Curia officials launch new style of ‘ad limina’ visit

Pope Francis meets with bishops from Chile during their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican Feb. 20. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis meets with bishops from Chile during their “ad limina” visits to the Vatican Feb. 20. (CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

By Junno Arocho Esteves
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — For decades, the visits bishops are required to make to the Vatican were known for their formality and routine style, but Pope Francis launched “a whole new style of ‘ad limina’ visits,” a Chilean bishop said.

The bishops were expecting “to have a long meeting with a speech and then individual meetings,” as in the past, Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos of Santiago, secretary of the Chilean bishops’ conference, told Catholic News Service Feb. 24.

Instead, the Vatican informed the prelates before their departure from Chile that they were going to have a group meeting with the pope and the prefects of several Vatican congregations and offices.

“We were told that this was going to be a new way of doing things that was beginning with us, that looks for a more fruitful, more incisive dialogue between the representatives of the local churches and the pope with his main collaborators,” Bishop Ramos said. Continue reading

Posted in Vatican

Discovery of Earth-sized planets boosts hope of finding alien life

An artist's depiction shows the possible surface of TRAPPIST-1f, on one of seven newly discovered planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. (CNS/NASA via Reuters)

An artist’s depiction shows the possible surface of TRAPPIST-1f, on one of seven newly discovered planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. (CNS/NASA via Reuters)

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The quest to find life on other planets got a boost when astronomers confirmed the existence of at least seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a red dwarf star just 40 light years away.

Three of the planets are located in the so-called “habitable” zone, a kind of “Goldilocks” sweet spot in that their distance from the sun makes them not too hot, not too cold, but just right for having liquid water — an essential ingredient for life.

The pope’s own astronomers applauded the new discovery around the dwarf star, TRAPPIST-1, named after one of the many telescopes that detected the planets. The study’s results were published in Nature magazine Feb. 22.

“The discovery is important because, to date, it has revealed the highest number of Earth-sized planets revolving around a single parent star,” U.S. Jesuit Father David Brown told Catholic News Service. Continue reading

Posted in Vatican

Promote life by protecting, sharing clean water, pope says

Pope Francis gestures during his Dec. 28 weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican. (CNS/EPA)

Pope Francis gestures during his Dec. 28 weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican. (CNS/EPA)

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Access to clean drinking water is a basic human right and a key component in protecting human life, Pope Francis said.

“The right to water is essential for the survival of persons and decisive for the future of humanity,” the pope said Feb. 24 during a meeting with 90 international experts participating in a “Dialogue on Water” at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

[RelatedVatican invites experts to promote safe, accessible water for everyone]

Looking at all the conflicts around the globe, Pope Francis said, “I ask myself if we are not moving toward a great world war over water.” Continue reading

Posted in Vatican

South Sudan bishops condemn atrocities, appeal for help to prevent famine

Internally displaced people walk on a road close to the outer perimeter of a United Nations mission Feb. 16 outside Juba, South Sudan. (CNS/Reuters)

Internally displaced people walk on a road close to the outer perimeter of a United Nations mission Feb. 16 outside Juba, South Sudan. (CNS/Reuters)

By Simon Caldwell
Catholic News Service

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) — South Sudan’s Catholic bishops asked for the world’s help to prevent mass starvation that threatens the lives of more than 5 million people.

In a separate statement, they also said the looming famine was a man-made catastrophe. They denounced government and rebel troops for attacking the civilian population and at times operating “scorched-earth” policies in defiance of international law.

In a Feb. 23 appeal for humanitarian assistance, the bishops said farmers have fled lands without planting crops as civilians are targeted by both sides in the country’s increasingly bloody three-year civil war. Food shortages have been compounded by problems of unemployment, soaring inflation and poor rains, meaning that the country had now entered a critical time, the bishops said. Continue reading

Posted in World

Literacy center teaches reading, writing, helps students’ self-esteem too

Mario Gamboa, founder of a Spanish literacy center in Washington called CENAES, or El Centro de Alfabetizacion en Espanol, poses for a photo at D.C. Bilingual Public Charter School in Washington. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

Mario Gamboa, founder of a Spanish literacy center in Washington called CENAES, or El Centro de Alfabetizacion en Espanol, poses for a photo at D.C. Bilingual Public Charter School in Washington. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

By Tyler Orsburn
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Mario Gamboa is on the move. There are too many words to read, and too few Latinos who can read them.

His first stop, the Guatemala consulate in Silver Spring, Maryland. His second visit, a Spanish AM radio station across town in Wheaton, Maryland. Last stop, another consulate, but this time in Washington with El Salvador’s diplomat.

The conversation of the day: A Spanish literacy center colloquially known in Spanish as CENAES, or El Centro de Alfabetizacion en Espanol.

“I first got the idea to help migrants read and write Spanish in 2003,” the Peruvian said from his office at Our Lady Queen of the Americas Catholic Church in Washington. Continue reading

Posted in U.S.

Australian archbishops: Leadership on abuse was ‘catastrophic failure’

A display of protest placards sit outside the Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse Feb. 23 in Sydney. (CNS/EPA)

A display of protest placards sit outside the Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse Feb. 23 in Sydney. (CNS/EPA)

By Catholic News Service

SYDNEY (CNS) — Five Australian archbishops testified before a government commission on child sexual abuse, reiterating apologies and taking responsibility for actions that occurred before they were church leaders.

They also said they believed the culture of church and society had changed enough that it would help such abuse from occurring in the future.

The abuse of children in the church was “a catastrophic failure in many respects, but primarily in leadership,” Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth told the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Feb. 23, near the end of three weeks of public hearings. Continue reading

Posted in World