1. Pope Francis Further Diversifies the College of Cardinals: Five new Cardinals hail from Mali, Spain, Sweden, Laos and El Salvador

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2017, Pg. A9

In a surprise announcement, Pope Francis said Sunday he will elevate five men from four continents to the College of Cardinals next month, continuing his practice of adding men from the peripheries of the Catholic world to the body that will elect his successor.

In doing so, the Argentine pope again passed over dioceses in Italy, the U.S. and other countries whose bishops traditionally receive the rank.

The new cardinals, whom the pope will bestow with red hats at a Vatican ceremony June 28, hail from Mali, Spain, Sweden, Laos and El Salvador.


2. Pope Francis Looks to Reconcile With Breakaway Catholic Group:Pontiff tackles schism, rattles liberals and conservatives with outreach to traditionalist Society of St. Pius X

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2017, 7:30 AM

Pope Francis is edging closer to reconciliation with a breakaway traditionalist group, a possible coup for a liberal pope who could succeed where his more conservative predecessors failed.

SSPX has vexed the Vatican since French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, a critic of the modernizing changes brought to the church by the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council, founded it in 1970.

Reconciliation would avoid a permanent schism with a group that today claims hundreds of priests and hundreds of thousands of followers. It would fit the pope’s agenda of bringing marginalized groups and individuals, such as divorced Catholics, back into the church.

“There is reason to believe the moment of full reconciliation is not far off,” said Archbishop Guido Pozzo, a Vatican official assigned to deal with the SSPX.

The Vatican and the SSPX are also closer to an understanding on the thorny theological debate over Vatican II. Statements by Archbishop Pozzo in February indicated that, as a condition of reconciliation, the Holy See is asking the Society to sign a statement of common beliefs, but one that leaves open the most contentious issues, including relations with other faiths and the relationship between church and state.


3. Immigration, religious liberty and synod on agenda for bishops’ meeting

By Rhina Guidos, Catholic News Service, May 22, 2017

The proverbial plate is full of issues for U.S. bishops to tackle at their upcoming spring assembly June 14-15 in Indianapolis.

They will discuss issues ranging from immigration to religious freedom, as well as the Synod of Bishops on youth and the Fifth National Encuentro gathering, both coming up in 2018.

“We’re certainly going to talk about the upcoming convocation in Orlando, some of the specific plans,” said Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, referring to the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America” July 1-4 in Orlando, Florida. “Other topics of interest for all of the bishops have been the fifth Encuentro, coming up in 2018, how things are developing in that.”

Cantu, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will address the persecution of Christians abroad.


4. Five former ambassadors weigh in on Pope/Trump summit

By Inés San Martín, Crux, May 22, 2017

When Pope Francis welcomes President Donald Trump in the Vatican on Wednesday, the eyes of the Western world – and probably beyond – will be on Rome, looking for signs of either agreement or clash between the heads of the world’s biggest temporal superpower and the world’s biggest spiritual superpower.

Few people from the United States’ side are more privy to what transpires in such a meeting than former ambassadors to the Vatican. For this reason, Crux spoke with the last five to hold the post, who gave a preview of what to expect, and shared their hypothetical advice to Trump.

The list includes Ken Hackett and Miguel H. Diaz, who served under Obama, and James Nicholson, Francis Rooney and Mary Ann Glendon, who served under Bush.

Speaking about the meeting in particular, Glendon said she hoped for “strong statements on the steadily worsening persecution of Christians around the world, a topic on which the previous U.S. administration was shamefully silent.”

She also hopes there will be statements on threats to religious freedom in liberal democracies, where it is “currently in danger of being demoted from the status of a fundamental right to just one of many competing interests-one that can all too easily be trumped by other rights, claims and interests.”

Glendon also noted that for Trump, the meeting has particular significance because he received a substantial number of Catholic votes.

Looking at the broader picture, the ambassador highlighted that these meetings are always important because the Holy See, “tiny though it is,” can be “an influential partner on many common fronts.”

Both states are global actors, she said, and one of the shared concerns is improving the lives of people struggling with poverty, hunger and disease.

“The U.S. is the world’s largest donor of humanitarian aid, and the Holy See oversees the world’s largest network of hands-on providers of education, health care and relief,” she noted. “Another concern of huge interest to both is to strengthen the global consensus against terror, and against the use of religion as a pretext for violence.”


5. Catholic young women launch self-led initiatives across U.S. after forum

By Catholic News Service, May 22, 2017, 11:03 AM

Attending a Catholic young women’s leadership forum taught Michelle Nunez, 23, that “our vocation as women is to be receptive to God’s gifts.”

What Nunez learned about the “feminine genius,” a term used by St. John Paul II to describe the gifts of women, helps her, a year later, in her volunteer work with immigrants at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas.

Nunez and 300 young women representing dioceses from all 50 states are using their specific gifts to carry out their “action plans” following the June 2016 Given Forum at The Catholic University of America. An initiative of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, the forum brought young Catholic women together for a weeklong immersion in “faith formation, leadership training and networking.”

“We wanted each (of the attendees) to receive these truths: You are a gift; you have received specific gifts of nature and grace; the church and the world await your unique expression of the feminine genius,” said Sister Bethany Madonna, a Sister of Life and co-chair of the event.

In forming her action plan, Casey Bustamante, 30, saw a need for a “gathering of young adults, active military and spouses.” Bustamante, associate director of young adult ministry with the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, is organizing the first conference for young adults who are military ministry leaders June 16-18 in Northbrook, Illinois.

After the Given Forum, Bustamante considered the ways the conference itself could be a model for developing the military conference. She wanted to incorporate some of the training and tools she had received, such as a session on how to best engage with the press and media, led by Catholic Voices USA, whose mission is to articulate the church’s teaching in the public square.

“Some of the feedback that I’ve received from young adults is that it’s a challenge to talk about the hot-button issues with their peers and among other military members because our society values are changing, and the military culture is not separate from that,” she said.

Bustamante invited Catholic Voices USA to lead a session to encourage the servicemen to freely discuss Catholic issues.


6. Where Trump and Francis see the same evil

By Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post, May 21, 2017, Pg. A21

During his nine-day trip, Trump is touching base with three of the world’s largest religions, visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel and Vatican City. He’s also scheduled to attend a NATO meeting in Brussels and a G-7 conference in Sicily. His itinerary is almost too large to grasp, but grandiosity demands grand plans. And, really, what could possibly go wrong?

The president’s mission includes advancing religious unity and beseeching other nations to join the United States in ending religious persecution and human trafficking, as well as putting an end to the Islamic State.

Most fascinating and compelling, to me at least, is the slated May 24 meeting between Trump and Pope Francis, the figureheads of the secular and spiritual worlds.

The United States has long recognized that where religious freedom is restricted, terrorism and extremism flourish and minorities suffer. And Francis has made human trafficking, which he has called “a plague on the body of contemporary humanity,” one of his key issues. There are today more people living in slavery than at any other time in history, with estimates as high as 27 million.

Trump can make the case that not only is slavery evil in its own right but human trafficking is intricately interwoven with terrorism and religious persecution.

One needn’t be aligned with Catholic theology to recognize the inherent evil of such practices. One only needs to be human. Out of respect for the purposes of Trump’s trip, we should wish the president godspeed and, if you believe in a higher power, lend him your prayers.


7. Planned Parenthood will close 10 clinics in Midwest, Southwest

By Sandhya Somashekhar, The Washington Post, May 21, 2017, Pg. A2

Planned Parenthood affiliates announced the closures of 10 health centers across the Midwest and Southwest this week, citing a variety of reasons including political attacks by anti-abortion lawmakers.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland said it planned to close four clinics across Iowa because of the recent budget signed into law by Gov. Terry Branstad (R), who pledged to “defund” the women’s health organization.

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains announced it would close six clinics in Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico as an efficiency measure largely unrelated to the political climate. One contributing factor was the health-care law enacted under former president Barack Obama, which caused many existing clients who previously paid for their care out-of-pocket to qualify for Medicaid, which offers a lower reimbursement rate, officials said. Another was a desire to consolidate services in a new facility the organization plans to build in New Mexico.

Antiabortion groups celebrated the news that the Iowa clinics would shutter and suggested that other health centers could absorb the patients.

“This is good news for families in the state of Iowa,” Maggie DeWitte, director of Iowans for Life, said in a statement. “There are many quality community health centers in Iowa that provide comprehensive health care to women and families across the state. And they do so without taking the life of precious human beings.”


8. Memo to Pope and Trump: Here’s a breakthrough for you

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux May 21, 2017

When Pope Francis and President Donald Trump meet on Wednesday, the almost irresistible temptation likely will be to focus on the “Odd Couple” dynamic of the encounter. Symbolically, Francis is the third-world man of the people, Trump the incarnation of “America first” swagger.

However, what should not be lost is that this meeting is not just about two personalities colliding, however riveting they may be, but about two institutions: The United States and the Holy See.

By now, everyone knows that Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria are the targets of a genocidal campaign by ISIS extremists. The Islamic State’s ability to carry out that aim may wax and wane with its military fortunes, but there’s no doubt about the ultimate objective of exterminating minority groups in the territory under its control.

Both Francis and Trump have called for solidarity and greater protection for those persecuted Christians, so in broad strokes there would appear to be the basis for some common cause.

What’s less well known, however, is a chronic problem with delivering humanitarian aid to those Christians.

The issue is this: Funding from both the U.S. and the U.N. dedicated to relief for ISIS victims is generally allocated either to governmental bodies or NGOs, and in both cases the aid it buys is usually distributed in large refugee camps, such as those erected in the Kurdish city of Erbil. The problem is that Christians often avoid those camps, out of fear of being further exposed to militants and ISIS sympathizers.

As a result, much of the humanitarian aid flowing into Iraq and Syria never reaches Christians directly, who prefer to receive help from Church facilities such as shelters and convents, where they know they’ll be safe. Were it not for organizations such as Aid to the Church in Need, Catholic Relief Services and the Knights of Columbus (Crux’s principal partner), those local Christian institutions would have run out of help to give a long time ago.

However, one thing a U.S. president could do immediately is to announce that a portion of American overseas humanitarian and development spending earmarked for Iraq and Syria will be allocated to the churches of those two countries, to ensure that Christians get their fair share.

If Pope Francis were to make the case for doing so with Trump and his aides, and if Trump were to bite, it would provide swift relief for suffering people, not to mention a diplomatic win for the Vatican and a rare bit of positive news for Trump – one that should also play well with the religious voters who formed an important part of the president’s electoral base in November.


9. Trump Nominates Callista Gingrich as Envoy to the Vatican

By Associated Press, May 20, 2017, 2:00 PM

President Donald Trump says he will nominate the wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as his ambassador to the Vatican.

Callista Gingrich has been the president and CEO of Gingrich Productions, a multimedia production and consulting company in Arlington, Virginia, since 2007.

She previously worked as a congressional aide in the House of Representatives and is president of The Gingrich Foundation, a charity organization.

She is Newt Gingrich’s third wife and he converted to Catholicism to marry her.