1. New rule: Health workers with religious concerns can refuse to provide care.

By Ariana Eunjung Cha, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, and Amy Goldstein, The Washington Post, May 3, 2019, Pg. A3

President Trump announced a new rule Thursday allowing health-care providers, insurers and employers to refuse to provide or pay for services such as abortion, sterilization or assisted suicide that they say violate their religious or moral beliefs.

The 440-page rule is broad in scope, spelling out specific services that individuals and entities could refrain from providing or paying for based on their beliefs. It also emphasizes parents’ rights to refuse several specific types of care for their children.

Conservative groups welcomed what they call “conscience protections” for health-care workers and others, while LGBTQ and women’s groups warned the rule would reduce services and potentially harm patients if providers refuse to deliver certain care or treat gay and transgender people.

No health-care worker should ever be forced to choose between their practice or their faith,” said Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow at the Catholic Association. “That principle is enshrined in countless laws and regulations but has been violated for far too long.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2019/05/02/trump-touts-new-faith-based-protections-health-care-workers-national-day-prayer-ceremony/

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2. Becoming Catholic as the Church Grapples With Scandal.

By Rick Rojas, The New York Times, May 3, 2019, Pg. A20

The Easter vigil service is when the church welcomes newcomers. There were thousands of people in the New York area going through the same rites of initiation as the group gathered that night in the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark.

The Archdiocese of Newark alone saw more than 1,000 people receiving the sacraments this Easter, roughly the same number of people as have been welcomed fully into the church each year over the past decade. The Diocese of Brooklyn, where just over 1,000 people received sacraments for the first time this Easter, also said its numbers were on par with prior years.

Why convert, and why now? It is not a capricious choice. Converting required months of preparation, diving into the abundance of rituals and traditions of Catholicism and the theology that underpins it all. For each catechumen, there was a different path.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/03/nyregion/converting-catholics-church-scandal.html

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3. Is Catholic ‘Pokémon Go’ Any Fun?, The app isn’t great yet, but it offers lessons about the role of tech in faith.

By Adam O’Neal, The Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2019, Pg. A13, Houses of Worship

The app has been described as a Catholic version of the addictive “Pokémon Go” game. After creating an avatar—with dress options from swimming trunks to camouflage fatigues— a user walks around the real world while being tracked by the app. “Items” show up on the map, but they aren’t captured with Poké Balls. Biblical characters, saints and blesseds, and Marian advocations come with trivia. Get the question right, and the character joins your “Evangelization Team.” It would take hours to collect everything, but the concept loses its novelty after about 20 minutes.

Maybe a smartphone game or virtual-reality simulation can get some otherwise disinterested people intrigued about God. And any good-faith attempt to evangelize, no matter how outside the box, deserves respect. But technology’s most important role will always be finding ways to get people in the door.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/is-catholic-pokemon-go-any-fun-11556837577

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4. Receiving the Food That Makes Martyrs.

By Fr. Roger Landry, The Anchor, May 3, 2019

Fr. Roger J. Landry is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts and the National Chaplain of Catholic Voices USA.

We are now at the time of year in which, in many parts of the country and globe, young people are receiving their first Holy Communion. As pastors and catechists are well aware, the spiritual significance of this event is sometimes obscured by an excessive focus on suits and dresses, parties and photos.

This year, however, the world has received an extraordinary reminder of the importance of this day from the first Communicants in Sri Lanka.

As Catholics were celebrating Easter at St. Anthony Shrine in Colombo and St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, young children were excited to receive for the first time Jesus’ risen body and blood in the Holy Eucharist. Bombs detonated, however, at both Churches at exactly 8:45 am, killing 50 and 93 people respectively. Others were killed by similar terrorist explosions within the next 20 minutes in three hotels and in the evangelical Zion Church in Batticloa.

The Mass, as a priest mentor once told me, is kind of like a game of poker. Jesus says, “I’m all in.” And, even though we may have far fewer chips to play, the only fitting response for us is to go all in, too.

This is something hopefully first Communicants this year will learn well so that they, with us, may live the “joyful and convincing testimony of a consistent Christian life” and cash in on the jackpot of happiness in this world and forever.

http://catholicpreaching.com/receiving-the-food-that-makes-martyrs-the-anchor-may-3-2019/

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5. Pope in Bulgaria, Macedonia may deliver big things in small packages.

By Elise Harris, Crux, May 3, 2019

When Pope Francis sets off for Macedonia and Bulgaria this weekend, it could well be a classic case of big things coming in small packages. Though both nations may seem peripheral and tiny, his visits could have big significance on a variety of levels, both ecclesial and political.

On the one hand, the presence of the pope in two former communist nations where Catholics are a small minority will be an encouragement for the local, and increasingly young, Catholic populations trying to live their faith in a socio-political context in which religious freedom under post-communist rule is in many ways still a developing concept.

His May 5-7 visit will also matter on an ecumenical level, since Orthodox Christians compose the majority in both countries. Ecumenism has been a cornerstone of Francis’s papacy, and his visits with the leaders of the Bulgarian and Macedonian Orthodox churches could help cement the Vatican’s relations with the Orthodox community in Eastern Europe.

https://cruxnow.com/pope-in-bulgaria-and-macedonia/2019/05/03/pope-in-bulgaria-macedonia-may-deliver-big-things-in-small-packages/

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6. Activists demand pope ensure ‘zero tolerance’ in Argentina.

By The Associated Press, May 2, 2019, 6:59 PM

Activist groups are calling on Pope Francis to guarantee the implementation of the Vatican’s “zero tolerance” for sexual abuses by clergy in Argentina, where they say the policy has not been carried out.

The Argentine group Church Without Abuses and the global organizations Ending Clergy Abuse and BishopAccountability.org on Thursday urged Francis to return to his homeland of Argentina, which he hasn’t visited since becoming pope in 2013, to ensure the Roman Catholic Church punishes these crimes and does not protect perpetrators.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/activists-demand-pope-ensure-zero-tolerance-in-argentina/2019/05/02/c7fe8916-6d2d-11e9-bbe7-1c798fb80536_story.html